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THE LOST CODEX OF SINGHAPALA             During my college days, I used to work for former Secretary of Education and National Artist Alejan...

THE LOST CODEX OF SINGHAPALA



THE LOST CODEX OF SINGHAPALA
 

          During my college days, I used to work for former Secretary of Education and National Artist Alejandro R. Roces (1924-2011) as parttime researcher. It was convenient since I was studying at the University of Santo Tomas, which has a very good library.

          Aside from being a literary genius, “Tito Anding” Roces liked compiling historical information. I learned a lot from him, including some of my writing styles, and the things that one needs to consider in researching. I, on the other hand, was a trivia and general information aficionado, and like to collect all sorts of information, as I was joining quiz contest and was a member of the UST Engineering Quiz Team.

          I remember in one of our review huddles, one teammate nonchalantly asked as a banter: “Who killed Magellan?” The answer was, “It was probably Lapu-Lapu or his warriors, but no one exactly knows, really.” It was, however, stated in one reference that he was shot with an arrow in the knee. The next question was “Who shot the arrow?” I answered, from what I recalled of Tito Anding’s note, “Dagit!” All of them replied “Sino iyon? (Who is he?)” Then one of them jokingly said “Baka Danggit, kasi Lapu-Lapu eh!” That is in reference to the fish, danggit, abundant in Cebu, as there are also species of groupers locally called lapu-lapo .

          There was this one-inch-thick stitched-up notebook I used to have where I wrote every piece of trivia and information I gathered as a sort of reviewer for quiz contests. I opened it and looked it up. There – “Dagit!” He was “the first-born son of Lapu-Lapu Dimantag, and first grandson of Lakan Isurong Dimantag.” He “shot the arrow that hit the back of Magellan’s knee during the Battle of Mactan” The reference written there was “Codex of Singhapala.” My teammates did not bother to inquire about the reference. Then another question followed, Eh ang asawa ni Lapu-Lapu, anong pangalan? ( What about Lapu-Lapu’s wife, what’s her name?). I also had that in my “notes” book: There are four entries, Maraha, Maruha, Miraha and Miruha.

          Recently, I wrote the scripts for a historical comic book, Lapu-Lapu, and I again encountered the item – Codex of Singhapala. I lost most of the copied notes that I compiled while working with Tito Anding during the 2010 habagat flood. I tried re-searching it, but not even the vast reaches and resources of the Internet has even a single notable file about it, only bits and pieces. So, I relied on the few surviving notes and memory of my conversations with Tito Anding to recall what was it all about.

          Roughly translated from Tamil and Old Malay, Singhapalamay either mean “Lions’ domain” or “Gathering of Lions,” as the Tagalog description was “Pigingan ng mga Leon.” If we look at some history files, Raha Lumay established the “Rajahnate of Singhapala” around 1452. Again, there is very little information about it.

          Among Tito Anding’s collections of research materials were photocopies of the notes and “artifacts” of Gregorio C. Coching (1889-1961), which includes among others the Codex of Singhapala.

          Thought to be lost, the existing codex (or codices) was a set of three parchments, which according to Coching was made of a combination of woven materials and possibly goatskin. There were supposed to be seven parchments but the whereabout of the others are unknown.

          Coching was trying to research his ancestry. With the help of Teodoro Virrey, his co-writer at Liwayway magazine, their search led them to Sabah, Malaysia. Here they met a man in possession of three obscure parchments, very old and unkempt but still intact. The man told them that the parchments contain historic accounts of the Philippines. They bought them and had the contents, written in Baybayin, transcribed. While there was no mention of the lineage of Coching’s supposed ancestry, the contents  astounded them. They have found part of the lost Codex of Singhapala.

          The Codex of Singhapala, written in the middle of the 13th century to about the third quarter of the 16th century, narrated the stories about the Chola Kingdom in Sumatra dating back several dynasties, the migration of member of lower royalties including Raha Lumay, the founding of Singhapala, family lineages, possessions, accounts of alliances, marriages, treaties, trade agreements, blood compacts, battles, and many more. Coching took inspiration from this ancient written relics to write some of his tales of adventures like Hara-Siri, Salima: Prinsesa ng Sarawak, and Asur: Ang Batang Sultan.

          Coching’s more famous son, Francisco V. Coching (1919-1998), made used of the elder Coching’s notes on the codex to write the historical komiks novel, Lapu-Lapu, serialized in Pilipino Komiks in 1954. Many unknown information about who is considered the “First Filipino Hero” were found in the codex, including Lapu-Lapu’s lineage, from his grandfather to his grandson, the names of his parents, Isurong Dimantag and Indan Laginaya, his confidant and warrior chief Mangal Palao and the name of his first wife (as some part of the parchment were barely readable, the name as mentioned earler, could be Maraha, Maruha, Miraha or Miruha). Coching chose the name “Miraha” for his komiks novel. It also contained narratives of the chronicles between Lapu-Lapu and Humabon, Lapu-Lapu’s exploits, Humabon’s blood compact with Magellan, and the accounts of the Battle of Mactan, the rape of Humabon’s niece and other women of Sugbo (Cebu) by the Spaniards, and the massacre at Humabon’s banquet.

          Some entries in the codex though incomplete because of the missing parchments had similarities with the accounts given by the survivors of the Magellan’s expedition, but, on the other hand, contradict some of the narrations in the journals of Antonio Pigafetta (1491-1531). I remember Tito Anding made notes about them, but I couldn’t recall everything.

          From what I remember of my conversation with Tito Anding. The three parchments of the Codex of Singhapala in the possession of Gregorio Coching may no longer exist. Either of two things, it could have been lost in a fire, which would make it forever lost. Or it was sold. When Tito Anding was still at the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), he told me he lost his photocopy and most of the subsequent xerox copies of the codex  to termites. All I remember saying was “sayang!” He, however, had a lead as to the person that may have bought the parchments and asked me to help, but it led to a dead end.

          As of this writing, I’m still hoping the codex still exist, or at least a photocopy. It’s a valuable part of Philippine History.



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