Communications 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.