Portrait of Paduka Batara
Photo courtesy of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts
On October 23, 1417, the "king of the eastern country," Paduka Batara (Pa-tu-ko-pa-ta-la) was buried in Dezhou, Shandong Province, China. Paduka Batara, along with two other kings, Maharajah Kolamating (Ma-ha-la-ch'ih-ko-la-ma-ting) of the "west country" and Paduka Prabhu (Pa-tu-ko-pa-la-bu), the "Cave King", registered in Ming China as a tribute mission from Sulu in 1417. They arrived with a retinue of 340 wives, relatives, ministers, and retainers. This is no small number, considering that polities in the Philippines at the time do not have large populations (barangays have around 100 families, or some 400 people). Meanwhile, the tribute they have is no small matter as well. They gave a memorial inscribed in gold, pearls, a number of precious stones, and tortoise shell. On October 8, 1417, the mission took their leave and went through the Grand Canal with military escorts and gifts such as horses, silk, thousands of copper coins, and gold and silver to fund the trip. However, while on the way back to his "kingdom," Paduka Batara died in a government hostel in Shandong. He was given a memorial by the Ming emperor himself, Zhu Di (official name Yung-lo or Yongle):
Now then, the King, brilliant and sagacious, gentle and honest, especially outstanding and naturally talented, as a sincere act of true respect for the Way of Heaven, did not shrink from a voyage of many tens of thousands of miles to lead his familial household in person, together with his tribute officers and fellow countrymen, to cross the sea routes in a spirit of loyal obedience.
Paduka Batara's tomb
Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin
Yongle also called him as "a brother of the empire" and provided for him a funeral fit for a king. Paduka Batara's family remained in China, and some of their descendants (estimated to be more than 3,000) would only be able to visit the Philippines recently, in 2005. In 2011, the Chinese government raised one billion yuan (6.6 billion pesos) to rehabilitate Paduka Batara's shrine. This year (2017) will be the 600th year since the mission of Paduka Batara to China. To commemorate, three balangay boats were built and launched from Sulu to go to China, tracing the same route once taken by Paduka Batara, and the journey took 17 months. While it can be seen as friendly reminder of Filipino-Chinese relations, one may wonder why a Philippine "king" like him would bother going to a tribute mission to China? It is known that the Chinese tributary system involved China being the "Middle Kingdom" or the center of the world, with the rest of the states as subordinates. While the Chinese did not regard them as colonies, and did not administer them directly, they have become planets which gravitated and began revolving around the Chinese sun. In a way, however, is it perhaps symbolic of the Filipino kowtow (bowing down) to Chinese supremacy? This article will go beyond Paduka Batara, and attempt to explore pre-colonial Philippine foreign relations in general.

Contact with the outside world
It is difficult to trace when the Philippines first appeared in Chinese records, and to think that the Chinese were quite conscious of recording things. The Chinese claims that they have been exploring what is now the Philippines since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). However, the first possible appearance was in 636 (during the Tang Dynasty), when a people called "Hala" (Gala) sent a tribute mission to the Chinese emperor Li Shimin (official name Taizong). Due to the ambiguity of the terms and the distances the Chinese use, it cannot be ascertained whether the "Gala" are from the Philippines at all. Thus, what is considered to this day as the first appearance of the Philippines in Chinese records was in 971 (or 972, during the Song dynasty), when Ma-i (Mindoro) was mentioned as part of the jurisdiction of the "superintendent of maritime trade" in Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Mingzhou. The Song were particular in tariffs and trades. Ten years later, in 982, traders from Ma-i brought goods in Guangzhou (Canton). Of course, there is speculation that the traders were not natives of Ma-i, and may have used only the place as a port. There is even a claim that Islam may have come first to Mindoro before Mindanao, if we are to believe that Arab traders did come to Ma-i, and then proceeded to China. These records were antedated by the Laguna Copperplate, which was dated to be written in 900. The document, inscribed in a copper plate, possibly shows the existence of relations between Luzon and the Srivijaya. However, it just goes to show that the Philippines would only begin to figure in written accounts by this time, unless older evidence surfaces.

Emperor Zhenzong
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Meanwhile, tribute missions from the Philippines to China began on March 17, 1001, exactly 520 years before the arrival of the Spanish. This first mission came from Butuan (P'u-tuan), described by the Chinese as a smaller country than Champa (now part of Vietnam) and farther than Ma-i. Butuan's King Kiling (Ch'i-ling) seemed to have the intent of dealing directly with China than having to rely on Champa to handle its trade. As noted by the Chinese, they have not communicated much with Butuan before. Missions to China continued under Kiling. For instance, on October 3, 1003, Minister Li-ihan and Assistant Minister Gaminan presented, among other things, red parrots. By July or August 1007, another envoy by the name of I-hsu-han was sent with a formal request of equal status with Champa. In particular, I-hsu-han noticed that the Champa envoy received two large flags. However, the request was denied, especially since Champa had been tributary of China before Butuan commenced its missions. To placate the Butuan envoy, he was granted five small flags. Interestingly, the Song annals insert this narrative under the section of Champa.  Four years later, in March 1011, Kiling's supposed successor, King Sri Bata Shaja (Hsi-li-pa-ta-hsia-ch'ih), sent another envoy named Li-kan-shieh. He brought with him a memorial engraved in gold (a similar item Paduka Batara would also bring later on), and other products not to be found locally in Butuan such as camphor, cloves, tortoise shell, and red parrots. What surprised the Chinese emperor was Li-kan-shieh's offering of a Kunlun slave when it was time for the imperial sacrifice to the earth god. The emperor at the time, Zhao Heng (official name Zhenzong), felt pity for the slave and decided to send her home. Of course, the imperial sacrifice usually involved artifacts and animals. In July of the same year, Li-ka-shieh was granted the title Cherished Transformed General and had received favors. Was he "transformed" after the incident with the slave? The following month, he set up a memorial honoring his country, just as the other envoys with him did. He also requested flags, pennons, and armor to honor their land, and they were provided. It is speculated that since missions from Butuan ended by this time, the desired recognition from China was granted. Of course, it can also be speculated that Butuan was a relatively new entity, and the stoppage of the missions may indicate trouble back home. Nevertheless, if the Chinese were willing to call Kiling and Sri Bata Shaja as kings (wang), then Butuan must be well established and of good standing. Some of the emperor's relatives were also granted the title of king, and it was used to indicate China's rulers before the Qin Dynasty (which used huangdi皇帝, or emperor). Thus, the title is no small matter. In addition, there is also the issue of interpretation. Did the Butuan envoys speak Chinese? Do they have an interpreter instead? Or perhaps they used a third language like Malay which both of them knew? The same goes for future diplomatic missions.

The Butuan Ivory Seal was dated 1002.
Is it possible that the seal was used by King Kiling?
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Of course, there are also low points in our foreign relations. From 1172 to 1173, Visayan (P'i-she-ya or P'i-sho-ye) pirates raided the coast of Fujian (Fukien). The pirates, who assembled by the hundreds, were particularly interested in iron (including doorknobs), spoons, and chopsticks. They tied their javelins with iron spearheads, with their ropes of over a hundred feet (30 meters), so they can retrieve it after throwing. They are also said to be cannibals. Of course, the account of Chao Ju-kua (Zhao Rugua) may not be entirely true. While his account is extensive and helpful to scholars today, he may not even be an eyewitness, and he has not even ventured outside China. Why the interest on iron and processed goods? Is it because they did not possess the needed technologies yet? Oral history may corroborate with this account. In the Bohol epic of Datu Sumanga (or Dato Somangga), he went as far as raiding in Jolo and in China to satisfy the requirements of the binukot Bugbung Humasanun. Is it possible that the Visayans were not after material wealth? Are they after captives, evident in pangagayaw (raids)? Nevertheless, as they documented in 1178, the lands east of the sea were largely unknown to the Chinese. This was during the reign of Emperor Zhao Shen (official name Xiaozong). It would only be later on when the Chinese would further explore what is now the Philippines. In 1206, besides Ma-i (Mindoro), they documented San-hsu (or San-su, three islands), which is said to belong to Ma-i. The three islands were identified as Kia-ma-yen (Calamian), Pa-lau-yu (Palawan), and Pa-ki-nung (Busuanga). Ma-i and each of the San-hsu had a population of a thousand families (around 4,000), which is again relatively large considering that polities in the Philippines at the time do not have large populations (barangays have around 100 families, or some 400 people). Also, while San-hsu was said to belong to Ma-i, each of the settlements of San-hsu are independent. That is, there was no single authority in the area. This is only consistent with the widely accepted idea that the Philippines before the colonial period was not a single entity. Some two decades later, in 1225, more places are documented: Pai-p'u-yen (Babuyan), P'u-li-lu (Polillo), Li-kin-tung (Lingayen), Liu-sin (Luzon), Li-han (Lubang), and Mali-lu (Manila). Of course, even to this day, the equivalent of these place names are still disputed. For instance, the Chinese were exploring for the most part the western side of the Philippines, but Polillo is on the east side, and may not prove to be an excellent port. Also, another observation may be made. All these places are far from Ma-i, but the Chinese all regard them as "belonging to Ma-i." Was it because it was Ma-i which had first contact with them, and then attributed the name to refer to the whole? If each of the San-hsu were just as large as Ma-i, then the basis could have not possibly been population size alone. Also, unlike Butuan or Sulu, Ma-i had no recorded king in Chinese records. Is there a king of Ma-i at all? Chao Ju-kua does note that "The chiefs (of Ma-i) are in the habit of using white umbrellas, for which reason the traders offer them as gifts." The fondness of white umbrellas can be seen among royalty of Indianized polities. Is it possible that the chiefs of Ma-i were more Indianized than Sinicized?

Illustration of Raden Wijaya
Photo courtesy of Jejak Nusantara
Mongol invasion, Ming recognition
In 1206, the newly formed Mongol Empire, led by Genghis Khan (Temujin) invaded China. Seven decades later, in 1279, his grandson Kublai Khan (official name Shizu) established the Yuan dynasty to replace the Song. When Kublai sent envoys to neighboring states to recognize him as their protector and demand tribute, Singhasari ruler Kertanegara refused and mistreated the envoy. Enraged, Kublai Khan sent some 20,000 soldiers and 1,000 ships to an expedition against Singhasari, which was centered at Java (now part of Indonesia), in 1293. Although the Mongol invasion was unsuccessful to bring Java into its circuit, and was Kublai's last major expedition (he died in 1294), it was instrumental in destabilizing Singhasari. This gave rise to the Majapahit Empire, which was founded on November 10, 1293 by Kertanegara's general and son-in-law, Raden Wijaya (official name Kertajasa Jayawardhana). According to the Nagarakretagama (or Nagarakrtagama), written in 1365 by Mpu Prapanca, noted that among the vassals of the Majapahit were Saludung (Selurong, or Manila), and Solot (Sulu). Was Manila and Sulu under the sphere of influence of the Majapahit? Philippine oral history may corroborate this claim. Prior to 1300, a "princess" or "lady" of Namayan (centered in Sta. Ana, Manila), Sasaban, was sent to the Majapahit court to marry the Emperor Soledan (or Anka Widyaya). They had a son named Balagtas, who returned to Namayan and was reputed to have united the Tagalog and the Kapampangan realms (as he appears in the oral history of both areas). There is even an Empress Sasaban Street in Pampanga to this day, named after the mother of Balagtas. Of course, it remains to be known if Anka Widyaya and Raden Wijaya are one and the same person. Meanwhile, in 1368 (or 1369), the Chinese recorded that Sulu raided Brunei (Po-ni, also translated as Borneo, of which coasts are mostly under Majaphit influence), and was driven out by the Majapahit. Does this mean that while Sulu was under Majapahit influence for a while, the raid was intended to defy them? In addition, the Majapahit connection with Manila seem to end with Sasaban. Is it possible that Manila was also intending to break away from Majaphit influence like Sulu? Or perhaps the bond strengthened, for the Chinese did note raids from Wang-chin-chiao-lao (Maguindanao) up north, likely going as far as Luzon?

Emperor Yongle
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
In 1368, a new dynasty took power in China. The Ming, established by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (official name Hongwu), sent envoys with the same intentions as Kublai Khan - to recognize the new administration and send tribute to the new emperor. Sulu sent a response in 1370, and Luzon sent a response in 1373. Following this example with more energy was the Emperor Yongle (or Yung-lo), who sent out envoys, and supported the journeys of the explorer Zheng He (Cheng Ho) from 1405 to 1424. On October 17, 1405, the envoys of Lu-sung (Luzon) and Mao-li-wu (or Ho-mao-li, traditionally identified with Mindoro or Marinduque) presented tribute with the envoy of Java (still ruled by the Majapahit). They also noted pirates from Wang-chin-chiao-lao (Maguindanao), and mentioned that they raided Mao-li-wu. By this time as well, a king of Mao-li-wu was mentioned, but his name is not recorded. What was recorded was the envoy's name, the Muslim Taonu Makao (Tao-nu-ma-kao). Following them, on September 23, 1406, the Pangasinan (Feng-chia-hsi-lan) chief, Kamayin, sent a tribute mission. In 1407 and 1408, the chiefs Taymey and Liyu also sent tribute missions. In 1411, a state banquet was given by the Chinese to the Pangasinan mission. While recognition was apparent with Pangasinan and Mao-li-wu, Emperor Yongle seemed to have designs for Luzon. In 1405, an embassy to the Philippines was to be established by the "high official" named Ko-ch'a-lao (Xu Chailao). However, this led to the assumption that Yongle did not send a simple ambassador, but a governor for the Ming Dynasty in Luzon. Then again, how can Ko-ch'a-lao be named governor if they recognize Luzon as a country (Lu-sung-kuo), and thus, may imply the existence of a king of Luzon (which the Chinese also did not bother to record the name)? Did Yongle intend to install a Chinese ruler to replace a local ruler in Luzon? Of course, the story begins and ends here. There is no further mention of Ko-ch'a-lao, so it may only be speculated whether he stayed in the Philippines or served his position at all. Nevertheless, it is known to the Chinese by this time that Luzon had, among other things, gold: "Luzon produces gold, which is the reason of its wealth; the people are simple-minded (Ta-lu-sung-kuo), and do not like to go to law." Also, if we are to believe the Ming annals, there were up to 10,000 Chinese in the area. Is it a possible reason for Yongle's interest? The Spanish, at least initially, also thought of Chinese designs in Luzon, which they saw having settlements there when they arrived. As for Mao-li-wu, if it is indeed Mindoro, then what triggered the change of name from Ma-i? Also, it was mentioned that there was a "famous sight" in Mao-li-wu, and it is called Mount Lo-huang (which top is white stone). If we are to believe that Mao-li-wu is Mindoro, then Mindoro's highest peak is Mount Halcon. It was described by Elmer Drew Merill, the first one to have made a documented climb in 1906, as the following:
The origin of most of the mountains in the Philippines is due to volcanic activity, but Halcon is radically distinct from the others in structure. It is a mass of granite, white quartz, schist and marble.
Is Halcon the famous attraction of Mao-li-wu, Mount Lo-huang? At any rate, Chinese records about Luzon, Pangasinan, and Mao-li-wu seem to end in 1411, only to appear again during the Spanish period, when the Chinese pirate Limahong (Lim Hong, Lin Tao-k'ien, Lin-fung, or Ah Hong) attacked in 1574.

Paduka Batara: his identity and his mission
Until Paduka Batara, chiefs and kings in the Philippines opted to stay and contented themselves with sending envoys. Of course, it has to be noted that centuries of foreign relations have been established long before Paduka Batara, and he may well be following their example. Still, unless additional evidence shows, Paduka Batara may well be the first Philippine leader to go to a mission abroad, predating the official trips of Filipino presidents. However, there are also questions that may need answering in this case. For instance, is Paduka Batara his real name, or at least his complete name? Paduka is a title which means "highness" or "excellency", while Batara is a title which means "lord." Did he have a personal name? There is the assumption, mainly forwarded by Cesar Majul, that Paduka Batara is really Rajah Sipad the Younger, either a son or a descendant of Rajah Sipad the Older. In turn, Sipad was derived from Sri Paduka (or Shripaduka). Of course, this may not corroborate well with the tarsilas (genealogies). It is stated that during Rajah Sipad's reign, a certain Tuan Masha'ika arrived in Sulu, supposedly initiating the spread of Islam in Mindanao. He even married Rajah Sipad's daughter, and they had three children. While there are only estimates of Tuan Masha'ika's arrival, since the tarsilas are not exact in periodization, the date is accepted to be around 1280, and he died in 1310. Meanwhile, Majul estimates that Tuan Masha'ika arrived fifty years before Rajah Baguinda, or in 1340. Both dates are still quite far from the supposed reign of Rajah Sipad. Were the tarsilas mistaken? Is it possible that Tuan Masha'ika met the elder Sipad, not the younger?

The first mosque in the Philippines
Photo courtesy of the Sheikh Karim ul-Makhdum Mosque
Of course, even if the issue with Tuan Masha'ika is resolved by assuming that he met Rajah Sipad the Elder, there is another issue to be observed. More or less a hundred years after Tuan Masha'ika, in 1380, a certain Karim ul-Makhdum (or Makhdum Karim) arrived also in Sulu. This time, he met with the Sulu rulers, who then adopted Islam and had the first mosque built. Now called the Sheikh Karim ul-Makhdum Mosque, only the pillars were preserved of the oldest mosque in the Philippines. Ten years later, in 1390, the foreigner Rajah Baguinda (or Baginda Ali) arrived in Sulu. While he came from Sumatra, it is unknown whether he is Sumatran. At first, the Sulu rulers resisted him because they thought Baguinda is not Muslim. So, Baguinda stayed in what is now Buansa Shoal. Soon, when the Sulu rulers realized his affiliation, they made peace. In 1395, five years later, the Majapahit ruler (recorded in the tarsila as King of Java) Wikramawardhana presented a gift of two elephants to Sulu's new ruler, who was Baginda himself. Apparently, the Sulu chiefs yielded to him. Was this recognition of Baginda's newfound position? It has to be noted that while the Sulu chiefs were supposedly Muslims, they did not grant Baginda the title of sultan. Rather, they gave them the Indianized title of Rajah. To be fair, none of the Sulu rulers who met Baginda had the title of Rajah. Proof that Islam was a relatively new phenomenon in the area, and Tuan Masha'ika, who arrived earlier, did not really spread Islam that much? Also, was Sulu already in good terms with Majapahit after the former's raids in Brunei because of a new leadership with Baginda? Still, there is also the notion that the gifts to Baginda were not from Java, but from a Majapahit vassal who intends to break away from the influence of Java, particularly Brunei, which might have seen Sulu's military power firsthand (when it raided in 1368). A alliance proposal perhaps? Besides, if Majapahit claims Sulu to be under their sphere of influence, then the more logical act is to demand tribute, not to send gifts.

Later on, another Muslim foreigner arrived in Sulu. While his personal name was known to be Abu Bakr (Sayyid Abubakar Abirin, or Zein ul-Abirin), he is better known for his official name, Sharif ul-Hashim. However, there is the notion that Abu Bakr did not arrive in 1450, as was accepted, but sometime between 1407 and 1436, as forwarded by Najeeb Saleeby. He arrived and supposedly asked the people, "Where is your town and where is your place of worship?" They answered, "At Buansa." Buansa is west of Jolo. So, he went there and met Rajah Baginda. He might also had a glimpse of the first mosque, which he was searching for anyway. Of course, the disparity between the dates are quite large. If Abu Bakr arrived in 1407, he might have met a younger Rajah Baginda. If Abu Bakr arrived in 1450, he might have met an older Rajah Baginda, who might have even outlived most of his contemporaries, and have been in power for some fifty to sixty years. There is also the notion that Rajah Baginda arrived later than 1390, but before 1410, as forwarded by Majul. What is more definite in the narrative was Abu Bakr's marriage to Baginda's daughter, Paramisuli. Apparently, Baginda had no male heir to succeed him, and so he was willing to name his son-in-law as his successor. This time, he named him sultan. That is, Paduka Mahasari Maulana al Sultan Sharif ul-Hashim (His Excellency, His Majesty, Protector and Sultan, Sharif of Hashim). With this, the Sultanate of Sulu was established. Sharif ul-Hashim was said to live thirty more years, and then succeeded by his son Kamalud Din (Kamal ud-Din). His tomb, still intact to this day, had no date of death. Where does Paduka Batara figure here?

Current political map of Sulu
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
If as early as 1402, Emperor Yongle had been sending envoys to demand tribute, then Sulu seemed to respond late. Luzon had sent a tribute mission as early as 1405. Brunei, seeking to break away from Majapahit influence, also sent a mission in 1410. Is it possible that Sulu took time to respond because of internal conflict? Fitting the tarsilas with foreign records, is it possible that Paduka Batara and the two other kings with him were in an alliance? The narrative of Baginda's arrival show that there are a number of rulers in Sulu, and while those in Buansa recognized his authority, it cannot be said with the rest of the areas. If Paduka Batara was really Rajah Sipad, then his sphere of influence would be centered in Maimbung, just bordering Buansa, and extending to the eastern part of Sulu (perhaps even beyond Jolo Island). Thus, Paduka Batara as "king of the eastern country." Also, just like Baginda, Sipad having the title of Rajah means he is the paramount ruler of his area. Meanwhile, Maharajah Kolamating may have been ruling west of Sulu (perhaps even beyond Jolo Island), thus "king of the western country." However, he might be the only Maharajah in Sulu at the time, and the title supposedly trumps that of Rajah Sipad and Rajah Baginda because Maharajah meant "great king." Why did the Chinese recognize Paduka Batara as superior to the other kings? Paduka Prabhu may have been ruling the interior of Sulu, thus "Cave King", even though he may have not really ruled from a cave, but perhaps somewhere near Bud Dajo (Mount Dajo). The resulting scenario of this divided Sulu may be seen as the following:

  • The Tagimahas, hailing from Basilan in the north, were newcomers to Sulu, and occupied Buansa, just near Jolo.
  • Buansa, once divided into a number of Tagimaha chiefs (Sayk Ladun, Sayk Sahdu, and Sayk Bajsala were regarded as second class chiefs) and other rulers (Datu Layla Ujan, Datu Sana, Datu Amu, Datu Sultan, Datu Basa, Datu Ung on one side, regarded as first class chiefs; Tuan Jalal, Tuan Akmat, Tuan Saylama, Tuan Hakim, Tuan Buda, Tuan Da'im, Tuan Bujang on the other side, regarded as ministers of the datus), were united under the foreigner Rajah Baginda. Perhaps they were quick to unite under Baginda not only because he was Muslim, but because he was a Menangkabau (or Minangkabau) prince. They may have thought that he can bring in aid against their opponent.
  • The earliest inhabitants of Sulu (called Buranun or Budanun) centered in Maimbung, and provided that Paduka Batara is Rajah Sipad the Younger, then the domain must be well established by the time Rajah Baginda arrives. When Baginda arrived, he saw at least four divisions vying for power in Sulu (Buranun, Tagimaha, Baklaya, Bajaw/Badjao/Samal), as corroborated by the tarsila.
  • Meanwhile, since the Tagimahas were newcomers, it is also possible that they have come into conflict even before Baginda arrived. Was it because of religion, or something else? While there is indication that the Buansa chiefs were Muslim, there is no indication that Paduka Batara was Muslim. Even the titles of all three kings were Indianized titles.
  • Paduka Batara, ruling south and east of Sulu, may indeed be regarded as the most powerful of all the Sulu rulers, as noted by the Chinese, but the unification of the northern chiefs centered at Buansa threatened his domain.
  • The threat may have also been perceived further west, where Maharajah Kolamating is consolidating his realm. Of course, it is also possible that Kolamating's realm is beyond Jolo Island itself. For instance, the first mosque is not built in Jolo Island, but in Simunul Island (now part of Tawi-Tawi) in the south. His territory might be larger than any of the other kings, and this may reinforce his title as Maharajah, but Paduka Batara might have a stronger military.
  • There is also the possibility that Paduka Batara and Maharajah Kolamating are related somehow. In the tarsila, it is stated that two brothers once ruled Sulu, Datu Sipad (Rajah Sipad the Older) and Datu Narwangsa. Sipad may have taken the eastern side, and Narwangsa the western side. Thus, in the Chinese records, there is the "eastern king" and the "western king."
  • Provided the domain of the "Cave King" was indeed the Sulu interior centered near Bud Dajo, and not really a cave, then the threat is more immediate for Paduka Prabhu, since Baginda might begin uniting the rest of Sulu and his domain, bordering Buansa and Maimbung, will be caught in the conflict.
  • There is also the possibility that Paduka Prabhu is not a major contender at all, since the title "Cave King" alone is downgrading enough, even if there was no direct statement from the Chinese that Paduka Prabhu is the weakest, because it means Paduka Prabhu is on a different level than the other kings. An installed leader by Paduka Batara to gain some edge?
  • In any case, Paduka Prabhu had to choose between the newfound power of Rajah Baginda and the established power of Paduka Batara. The choice was quite obvious.
  • There is also the possibility that Paduka Batara and Paduka Prabhu are related somehow, especially because of their similar titles (Paduka).
  • These three rulers unite, even though there might have been not much history of cooperation between them, against the foreigner Baginda.
  • They go to China not for recognition alone, but perhaps even for aid against their common foe. Perhaps neither Paduka Batara nor Rajah Baginda was gaining advantage? Besides, if Baginda was from Menangkabau in the south, it is only logical that they cannot send a mission there. This is not new. The mission of Brunei in 1410 showed that Brunei wanted to overthrow the yoke of the Majapahit, and sought favor from China to achieve this objective.
  • If the Sulu raid in 1368 was the work of either Rajah Sipad the Elder or Rajah Sipad the Younger, and the Majapahit still had memories of the raid, then the gifts of the "King of Java" to Baginda may be symbolic of Majapahit recognition, perhaps even an alliance. This leaves Rajah Sipad no choice but to go north.
  • These may be reasons why no Rajah Baginda nor Sharif ul-Hashim figured in Chinese records. Their eventual victory, however, shifted the center of power from Maimbung to Buansa.

Japanese for "Luzon Kingdom"
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Of course, this is all speculation. All the Chinese needed to record was that Paduka Batara and company wanted to pay tribute to the new emperor. However, after Paduka Batara's death, they seemed to take interest in Sulu politics. The emperor sent a "high commissioner", Chang Ch'ien, to the Philippines on December 15, 1417. Initially, it appeared that Chang Ch'ien's main mission was to bring back Paduka Batara's eldest son and successor, Tumahan. However, he had another mission to accomplish. He was to bring Kumalalang (now in Zamboanga del Sur) in line with China. He presented gifts to King Kanlai Ipentun, and on November 16, 1420, he followed Paduka Batara's example by going to China himself with a large entourage. However, just like Paduka Batara, Kanlai Pentun died in China on May 27, 1421. His son, La-Pi, was named as his successor. The Chinese mission also seemed to have effects in Sulu. In 1420, the "western king" (supposedly Maharajah Kolamating, but this time the king was named as Ta-Ming i'-t'ung-chih) sent another tribute mission. A year later, to coincide with Kanlai Pentun's visit, Paduka Batara's brother (Paduka Suli) went on a mission to China on May 14. He captured the Chinese fancy by bringing a seven-ounce pearl, and with this, he was granted a gold seal. Later, on 1424, the new Kumalalang king, La-Pi, sent Chief Batikisan (also with an entourage) to present a memorial engraved in gold. Following this was the mission of Chief Sheng-ya-li-pa-yu, also from Sulu. While there is the assumption that the name was actually Sangilaya, who came from Buayan at the time of Rajah Baginda, there are two of them who came to Sulu: Sangilaya Bakti and Sangilaya Mansalah. Who is the Sulu chief mentioned here?

Besides the Chinese, the Japanese can also be seen taking interest in the Philippines by this time. Of course, before the colonial period, the Japanese did not have records as extensive as the Chinese. However, they did note trading with Okinawa and Luzon as early as 1440. The Spanish also discovered that in Cagayan, Chinese and Japanese traders have already figured in their trade. Nevertheless, like the Chinese Limahong, Japanese wokou (wako, or pirates) also raided in the Philippines, and left a negative imprint as well. Meanwhile, official interest in the Philippines would only begin during the colonial period, particularly during the Sengoku period (Sengoku jidai) when Toyotomi Hideyoshi demanded tribute.

Seal of the Department of Foreign Affairs
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Relevance in Filipino foreign affairs
Evidently, the Philippines has been involved in foreign relations long before the colonial period. To answer the initial question regarding Paduka Batara's mission, it appears that he might not be seeking Chinese protection or administration, since there was only one possible instance where the Chinese seemed to attempt asserting government in the Philippines (the Ko-ch'a-lao mission). The trip to China was apparently a bid for recognition and power. China was, and is, the largest country in the world in terms of population (more or less half of the world population then was in China), and garnering good relations with them is success in itself. It did not signify our kowtow to China, but showing a lasting impression to the world that we exist, and we can participate in the international arena. Besides, the Chinese mentality of "tribute" from the outside world applies to all, even to larger countries like Britain (when they considered the king's gifts as "tribute"). In the view of our ancestors, we are establishing foreign relations and doing them well. This goes not only for Paduka Batara, but to all the Philippine leaders before him who sent diplomatic missions abroad. Did we not awe the Chinese when Paduka Suli brought the largest pearl they have ever seen? Was not Paduka Batara regarded as the empire's friend? Of course, there are issues which remain to be clarified and expounded. For instance, was the silence of the records equivalent to a mission accomplished or a mission failed? The gap between Kiling and Paduka Batara was around 300 years, and the gap between Paduka Batara and the Spanish colonial period was another 100 years or so. These may not even be scratching the surface, since we are yet to find more records from our side of the story.

It is also observed how the Chinese, and other countries for that matter, were slow to react on such diplomatic missions. Envoys stay for months, up to years, during their respective missions. They were also careful in providing recognition and establishing relations with those arriving in their courts. For instance, while most leaders in Mindanao were called "kings" (wang), most leaders in Luzon and Visayas were called only "chiefs", as if they were lower class rulers. In Chinese views, a king is a ruler of a country, while a chief is a ruler of a tribe or a clan. If there were any indication of having "kings" in Luzon (the Chinese only had memories of raiding Visayan pirates), they did not bother naming them, which is unlike those in Mindanao (who even had impressive titles). Was the southern Philippines perhaps more developed at the time? Was the southern Philippines perhaps more friendly or more valuable to the Chinese at the time? The same goes for other empires, like the Majapahit, which regard Manila and Sulu as subordinates. The Sulu raid later may have been the only anomaly in their claim, while Manila seemed to have not equaled this feat. A decisive military action as an instrument in the negotiations? At any rate, Paduka Batara may be the first ruler to actually go on a diplomatic mission himself, and this set a landmark precedent for all following leaders. Even Filipino presidents to this day go on official trips abroad to meet other world leaders. To this day, these countries, like China, Japan, and Indonesia, still figure in Filipino foreign relations. We can learn from past experiences in foreign affairs when dealing with the rest of the world in the present and in the future. See the references used here.