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The early centuries in our nation’s history



E CARTOON MAY 23, 2019Communications  Secretary Martn  Andanar  said  Sunday China is looking into helping produce a film about a Filipino datu who went to China many centuries ago and now lies in a tomb in Shandong Province.  Andanar attended in Beijing  the previous week a conference on Asian civilizations, where Chinese officials bared  their interest in helping produce the film.

The  datu’s  story showed that the Philippines and China  already enjoyed good trading relations long before the  Spaniards came in 1521, Andanar  said.  The Beijing conference, he said, discussed various new  ideas, traditions, and cultures. He stressed the need to open our minds to them.

The  datu was one of so many leaders  from  the various  islands  of  our  country who visited China  over  the centuries. The first mission to China from the Philippines is believed to have  come from Butuan  around 1001. There are records of overseas  trade carried out by China’s  Song dynasty  in 1178, of trade with Mindoro,  Palawan, and Basilan in 1206, and with Babuyanes, Lingayen, Liuzon,  Lubang , and Manila (Mali-lu) in 1225.

In 1368, the Ming Dynasty sent emissaries to invite other countries to send  tribute missions to China. Borneo  responded  in 1371, Okinawa in 1372, and Luzon in 1373.  In 1405, Mao-li-wu  (believed to be Mindoro  or  Marinduque)  presented tribute to China. Other missions came from Pangasinan  and  Sulu.

The Sulu mission  of 1417 was a big one with Paduka Pahala leading a group of over 300  ministers, retainers,  wives, and other relatives to pay tribute to Emperor Zhu Di. The  datu  was warmly welcomed  by  the emperor but on his way home, he died in Shandong  province. The emperor commissioned a tomb for the Sulu leader,  which stands in Shandong to this day.

Filipinos  today are well aware of  the Spanish and American  colonial influence on  the Philippines which  the  famed writer Carmen  Guerrero  Nakpil  once described as “300 years of the convent  and 50 years of Hollywood.” Today  we are learning  that long before  the Europeans  came, we were  already  dealing with  nearby nations in what is now Southeast  Asia,  China, and  faraway India.

The languages of  our  various islands  and our social and political concepts show strong  Hindu and Malayan  influences.  We were trading with China, exporting cotton, pearls, shells, abaca and pina cloth, and importing  porcelain, gold, glass beads, iron cooking pans and needles.

We are now increasingly becoming  aware  of those early centuries which are  now hardly  touched upon in our country’s history.  The filming  of  the  life of one Sulu datu who went to China  and  died there  in the 15th century,  long before the Spaniards  came in the 16th century, will help in this effort to round up our knowledge of our country’s history and broaden our outlook as a nation in today’s world.

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