Laguna Copperplate Inscription

laguna copperplate inscription
Laguna Copperplate Inscription | @museomuntinlupa via Image: Xena Cabahug

Laguna Copperplate Inscription

In 1989, Ernesto Legisma, a man from Lumban Laguna found an uncovered blackened roll of metal while he was dredging sand at the Lumbang River in Wawa Barangay near Laguna De Bay. He offered the copperplate to one of the antique dealers in the area and the dealer eventually sold it to the Philippine National Museum for 2,000 pesos in 1990.

The inscription in the copperplate was later translated by Antoon Postma, a Dutch Anthropologist expert in Philippine Scripts and Mangyan writing, the copperplate came to be known as the Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI).

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI) is an ancient legal document with an inscription written in a mix of Old Malay language using Old Kawi Script, an ancient Javanese writing system. The translation indicates a pardon issued by the Chief of Tundun, which is now Tondo in Metro Manila, to clear a person named Namwaran, his family, and all the descendants of a debt he had incurred which is equivalent to 926.4 grams of gold.

To this day, the LCI is considered a national treasure and is currently on display as part of the permanent exhibition of the National Museum of Anthropology in Manila.

Text: Denise Cerdeña

The Laguna Copper-Plate was discovered by a quarry company in the Lumbang River, Laguna in 1989 in an ancient grave site, where gold ornaments, stone tools, bronze images, coins, stone adzes, porcelains, potteries, jade and other artifacts were also found. Ten lines of characters cover one side of the plate, probably impressed or hammered, representing a script already rarely used by 900 A.D. (Postma 1991). Separate studies made by Antoon Postma, a Dutch researcher of the Mangyan ambahan for over 50 years and Dr. Johannes Gijsbertus de Casparis, a Dutch paleographer identify the main language as old Malay mixed with Sanskit, old Javanese and old Tagalog terms.

Postma, translates the artifact’s writing as Old Javanese script (Sanskrit Kawi) with Old Malay words (1991). It is about a case of partial debt payment in gold by a person of nobility, Namwran, to a Chief of Dewata representing the Chief of Mdang. The inscription was made as a document and witnessed by the leaders of Puliran (now Pulilan), Kasumuran, the leader of Pailah, Ganasakti and the leader of Binwangan, Bisruta.

Because of its significance, the Laguna Copper Plate was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 2010. It is displayed at the Baybayin Gallery at the National Museum of Anthropology.

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