The Laguna Copperplate Inscription

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription

The Laguna Copperplate is a thin piece of blackened metal that was purchased by the National Museum of the Philippines in 1990 after the former owner failed to find a private buyer.

Following a careful examination of the plate, it was found to be a 20 cm square copperplate covered on one side by a ten-line inscription of finely written characters. Unable to decipher it themselves, the museum gave the text to Dutch anthropologist Antoon Postma (who was based in the Philippines with his Filipino wife) to analyse.

Upon careful analysis of the text, Postma discovered that it identified the date of the copperplate’s creation as the “Year of Sakya 822, month of Viasakha”, which translates to April or May in the year 900 in the Gregorian calendar.

Prior to the deciphering of the text on the Laguna Copperplate, historians had almost universally accepted that the history of the Philippines only dated back to 1521, when records had noted the arrival of Magellan and chronicler Antonia Pigafetta on the archipelago. Before this, there had been very little history recorded in a way that would have allowed it to survive. As such, the landmark discovery of the Laguna Copperplate pushed back the start of Filipino history by 600 years.

Aside from the date, the inscription also provided other details about the culture and population of the country in pre-colonial times. Firstly, it was written in a combination of Sanskrit, Old Malay, Old Javanese and Old Tagalog. This fact alone provides conclusive evidence that, at the time of the inscription’s writing, the Philippines was already a society with international trading networks. This is only compounded by mention of the Chief of Medang Kingdom in Indonesia, which implies that pre-Spanish Philippines already had strong cultural and trade links with other empires across Southeast Asia.

Further information was drawn from the subject matter. According to Postma, the copperplate forgives the descendants of Namwaran from a debt of 926.4 grams of gold, as granted by the chief of Tondo (in Manila) and the authorities of a number of locations in Luzon. This also provides evidence for historians, stating outright that the archipelago was a nation with rulers at that time.

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Laguna Copperplate Inscription". 2024. Web.