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Lakan of Tondo
Reign c. 1521–1571
Successor Agustin de Legazpi
Full name
ᜊᜓᜈᜂ ᜎᜃᜈ᜔ᜇᜓᜎ
Bunao Lakandula
Born c. 1503
Died 1575 (aged 71–72)
Noble family Tondo

Batang Dula
Dionisio Capulong
Magat Salamat
Phelipe Salonga
Maria Poloin
Martin Lakandula

Luis Taclocmao (sometimes referred to as Luis Salugmoc)

Lakandula (Baybayin: ᜎᜃᜈ᜔ᜇᜓᜎ, Abecedario: Lácandólá) was the regnal name of the last Lakan (paramount ruler) of pre-colonial Tondo when the Spaniards first conquered the lands of the Pasig River delta in the Philippines in the 1570s.

The firsthand account of Spanish Royal Notary Hernando Riquel says that he introduced himself to the Spanish as "Sibunao Lacandola", indicating for later Filipino historians that his given name was "Bunao". However, the word Lakan which in current Tagalog form means gentleman, was a title equivalent to prince meaning he was Prince Dula. He later converted to Christianity and was baptised Carlos Lacandola. Another common variation of the name is Gat Dula (alternatively spelled as a single word, Gatdula). He is sometimes erroneously referred to as Rajah Lakandula, but the terms "Rajah" and "Lakan" have the same meaning, and in this domain the native Lakan title was used, making the use of both "Rajah" and "Lakandula" at the same time redundant and erroneous.

Along with Rajah Matanda and Rajah Sulayman, he was one of three rulers who played significant roles in the Spanish conquest of the Pasig River delta polities during the earliest days of the Philippines' Spanish colonial period.

While it is unclear whether the entire name "Lakandula" represented a single titular name during his own lifetime, a few of his descendants in the first few generations after his death came to refer to themselves as the "Lakandula of Tondo", taking that name on as a noble title.

Name and title

Over time, Lakandula's name has come to be written in several ways. However, according to the firsthand account written by Hernando Riquel, the royal notary who accompanied Miguel López de Legazpi, the Lord of Tondo specifically identified himself as "Sibunao Lacandola, lord of the town of Tondo" when he went onboard Legazpi's ship with the lords of Manila on May 18, 1571. The lords of Manila introduced themselves as "Rajah Ache the Old and Rajah Soliman the Young, lords and principals of the town of Manila"

In page 13 of "Cracks in the Parchment Curtain", preeminent historian William Henry Scott quotes Riquel's original text, which he found in the Spanish archives under "Archivo General de Indias Seccion Patronato leg. 24, no 24." The relevant part of the text read:

...declaracion llamarse Raha Ache el Viejo y Raha Solimane el Mozo, senores y principales del pueblo de Manila, y Sibunao Lacandola, principal del pueblo de Tondo...(emphasis added)

Modern historians routinely remove the Filipino word "si", an article used for personal names, from recorded names in this era because Spanish writers who had not yet learned the local languages often mistakenly included it in Filipino names. Sibunao thus likely comes from "[Ako] si Bunao" = "[I] am Bunao". Historians thus take this to mean that the Lakan introduced himself as "Bunao Lakandula."

Etymology of "Lakandula"

Banaw was the given name of the lord of Tondo at the time of the Spanish advent, and his title "Lakan" denoted a "paramount ruler" (or more specifically, "paramount datu") of one of the large coastal settlements (known as a "bayan" or "large barangay") of the Tagalog people. This leaves the matter of the addendum "dula" to be settled. This could not have been a family name such as Filipinos use today, because family names were only introduced to the Filipino culture later, by Governor General Narciso Clavería y Zaldúa on November 11, 1849. Historian Jose N. Sevilla y Tolentino, however, suggested that Dula was not a personal name at all, but a local word for "Palace," such that "Lakandula" was the local-language title, "Lord of the Palace" of the rulers of Tondo. Analogously, Rajah Ache was also referred to as Rajah Matanda (Old Rajah), while Rajah Sulayman was sometimes referred to as Rajah Muda or Rajamora (Young Rajah).

In the Gatdula variant of the name, the word or prefix Gat is a shortened version of the Tagalog honorific "Pamagat", which at the time meant "nobleman," such that the variant literally read "Nobleman of the Palace", which meant essentially the same thing as the Kapampangan version.

In any case, most contemporary historians continue to refer to him as Lakandula. Where historians such as Dery and Scott explain that his given name is Banaw, they then continue to refer to him as Lakandula. Joaquin does something similar, explaining that the Lakan's given name is Banaw, and then proceeding to call him Lakan Dula (separate words) throughout his "Manila, My Manila" manuscript.

"Lakan" instead of "Rajah"

With the term "Rajah" and "Lakan" meaning the same thing, the "Rajah Lakandula" variation of the title was also never used in the original sources pertaining to Lakan Dula, and Filipino historian and national artist for literature Nick Joaquin takes pains to point out that the term Lakan, not Rajah, was used by the rulers of Tondo.

Life before the arrival of the Spanish

Little is known about the early life of Banaw Lakandula before the arrival of Legazpi. According to National Artist Nick Joaquin "he is presumed to be of native birth," with mixed Tagalog and Kapampangan descent. Joaquin adds that "He was said to be a descendant of King Balagtas."

Joaquin further speculates on Lakandula's religious beliefs:

"Tondo's Lakan Dula may have been unusual in being neither foreign nor muslim. This was indicated by his use of the native term Lakan instead of the foreign title Rajah. Lakan dula can be presumed… to have been reared in the anito cults. One guess is that he converted to islam, then changed his mind and returned to his native faith."

Joaquin also expounds on the economic context of Lakandula's reign over Tondo:

"Tondo had replaced Namayan as the chief port of entry on Manila Bay. Tondo was right on the seaside. This was the advantage it had over Namayan, which was upriver inland. So the merchant ships that came into the bay preferred to unload their goods at the port of Tondo. And now it was the king of Tondo who was responsible for sending the merchandise upriver to the lakeside communities, there to be traded for local products. Tondo was thus the distributing center, or entrepot, on the delta... At the time of Lakan Dula, Tondo was at the height of its career as an entrepot…."

According to Scott (1982), when ships from China came to Manila bay, Lakandula would remove the sails and rudders of their ships until they paid him duties and anchorage fees, and then he would then buy up all their goods himself, paying half its value immediately and then paying the other half upon their return the following year. In the interim, he would trade these goods with peoples further upstream, the end result being that other locals were not able to buy anything from the Chinese directly, but from Lakandula, who made a tidy profit as a result.

William Henry Scott notes that Augustinian Fray Martin de Rada Legaspi says that the Tagalogs were "more traders than warriors", and elsewhere notes that Maynila's ships got their goods from Tondo and then dominated trade through the rest of the archipelago. People in other parts of the archipelago often referred to Maynila's boats as "Chinese" (Sina or Sinina) because they came bearing Chinese goods.

Arrival of Legazpi, May 1571

When Miguel Lopez de Legazpi came to Manila Bay in May 1571, Lakandula was there to meet him. The two first met on May 17, the day after Legazpi's arrival on the bay, when Lakandula and Rajah Matanda came aboard Legazpi's ship to discuss terms with him. Part of these discussions specified that the Spanish would not land in Tondo, and would instead land in Maynila, which had been burned to the ground the year before. Joaquin suggests that Lakandula would "have seen that Legaspi was being practical. Burned down and emptied, Maynila would be a better spot to fortify, being more strategic."In fact, Manila wasn't conquered, but it was occupied through a peace pact that joined Legazpi and the three kings Lakandula, Rajah Ache and Rajah Sulayman.

On May 18, 1571, Rajah Sulayman, Rajah Matanda, and Lakan Dula acknowledged the sovereignty of Spain over the islands and proclaimed themselves the vassals of Spain. On the following day, May 19, Legazpi landed in Manila and took ceremonial possession of the land in the presence of Soliman, Matanda, and Lakandula.

Lakandula helped make a house for Legazpi, and a fort for the Spanish, giving them fourteen pieces of artillery and twelve jars of gunpowder, a gift much appreciated by the Spanish, who were running low on ammunition.

Soon after, Lakandula and his sons became baptized as Catholics. The Spanish had Manila's artillery and arquebuses discharged in honor of the ceremony. Bunao Lakandula took on the name Don Carlos Lacandola after Charles I of Spain.

The Battle of Bangkusay, June 1571

When the Spaniards first came to Manila they were kindly accepted, but over time the natives understood that it had meant subservience to them. It wasn't long before Spanish power in Luzon was challenged. A first battle took place on 24 May 1570 where the natives were defeated. A month later, Tarik Sulayman of Macabebe attacked Manila, convincing Rajah Sulayman to join the battle against Legazpi. Macabebe and Sulayman's forces were defeated, and the Datu of Macabebe was killed in what history would record as the Battle of Bangkusay Channel. (The similarity of names has caused some confusion between these two leaders, but Tarik Sulayman and Rajah Sulayman were different individuals – one survived the battle, and the other did not.)

Lakandula had refused to join Macabebe and Sulayman's coalition, but among the prisoners taken by the Spanish after the battle were two of his nephews and a number of his officers. When questioned, they said that they had been on the scene only as observers, not as combatants. Legazpi let them go to demonstrate his confidence in Lakandula.

Joaquin notes that this was a wise choice on Legaspi's part:

"If he had been playing a double game before, Lakan Dula now became earnest in supporting the Spanish. It may be he who persuaded the fugitive Soliman to surrender and return to the good graces of Legazpi."

Expedition to Pampanga and Bulacan, late 1571

Later that year, Legaspi sent Martin de Goiti to spread Spanish rule to the peoples of what are now the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga, particularly the territories of Lubao with Macabebe, Guagua on September 14, 1571. One month later they conquered Calumpit and Malolos in November 14 of the same year. Legazpi conceded these settlements under Spanish rule. He sent Lakandula and Sulayman with him, because, as one account has it, "if so great a chief should go with him, when the Tagalogs and Pampangos saw that he had given obedience to His Majesty, they would give it also."

The account continues:

"Lacandola agreed to go, and served with two ships provided at his cost, and distinguished himself by performing much service for His Majesty, and went along so the said Pampangos would give him obedience, as in fact they did."

These boats were joangas (karakoa), a type of seacraft capable of carrying 300 men each, which, as Dery points out, were common in Maritime Southeast Asia.

Attack by Limahong, 1574

Lakandula's close association with the Spanish continued despite Legaspi's death on August 20, 1572, and his replacement as governor by Guido de Lavezares, who had been the colony's treasurer. The possession of the Islands was unsuccessfully disputed by a rival expedition under the command of a Chinese, Li-ma-hong, a pirate, who had been outlawed by the Celestial Emperor of China. Lakandula was on hand to help repel the invading corsair Limahong when he came to try and sack Manila in 1574.Lakandula was able to raise a rebellion against the Spaniards. The natives of Mindoro Island revolted too but all these disorders were solved by a detachment of soldiers.


Mentions of Lakandula's death are few, but Scott indicates that he died in 1575, "three years after" Legazpi and Rajah Matanda, who both died in 1572.

Lakandula's role as ruler of Tondo was then taken up by his grandnephew, and Rajah Soliman's adopted son, Agustin de Legazpi.

Agustin de Legazpi, who was married to the cousin of Sultan Bolkiah, would lead Tondo as a territory under Spanish rule until he rose up against them in 1587–1588 Revolt of the Lakans, and was deposed and killed as a result.

According to Fray Gaspar de San Agustin in "Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas 1565–1615", as cited by Kimuell-Gabriel (2013), Lakandula had ruled Tondo from an elevated site near Manila bay, facing the shore and fronted by fishermen's dwellings. According to local oral histories, this site eventually became the site of the Sto Niño of Tondo Parish church.


Gawad Lakandula
The insignia of the Order of Lakandula
  • The Order of Lakandula is one of the highest honors given by the Republic of the Philippines. It is an order of political and civic merit, awarded in memory of Lakan Dula's dedication to the responsibilities of leadership, prudence, fortitude, courage and resolve in the service of one's people.
  • The BRP Rajah Lakandula (PF-4) was the destroyer escort / frigate and is the only ex-USN Edsall-class destroyer escort that served the Philippine Navy. It was also the flagship of the Philippine Navy from 1981 to 1988. Struck from the Navy List in 1988, it was still in use as stationary barracks ship in Subic Bay as of 1999.
  • A number of Lakan Dula elementary and secondary schools are named after Lakan Dula, notably in the City of Manila, and the Province of Pampanga, both closely associated with Banaw Lakan Dula.
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