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Ma-i / Ma-Yi- / Mindoro

The Sung Chinese called the Philippines Ma-i. The book Chu Fan Chi (Zhu Fan Zhi or Description of Various Foreigners) written by customs official Zhao Rukuo (Chao Ju-kua) in 1225, which narrates pre-Hispanic Philippine history during the Song dynasty (960-1279). Mindoro had been known to the ancients as Ma-i, and was formally called Mait. Its existence was written in the Chinese chronicles in 1225 (775 A.D.). The province was well-known to the Chinese traders as a major anchorage in the Southeast Asia trade route before the pre-Philippines period when Chinese, Arab, and merchants traded with the natives. Patanne noted that : “Toward the end of the Yuan dynasty (1280-1368 AD) Ma-i / Mait is replaced on Chinese maps with Lu-sung (probably referring to Luzon, the biggest island in the Philippines), which during the previous period the Ming Annals recorded (as having) sent tribute missions to China.”

The first real description of the island comes from the account of Chau Ju Kua, written about 1225 but probably based on information collected in the previous century. The salient points of this account, plus a few notes from later Chinese sources, are as follows:

"The island of Ma-i is north of Borneo. It has high mountains and flat land, intersected by small rivers. A portion of the island is flat and broad and is watered by a double branched stream. The soil is rich, and the climate is rather hot. The fields are very fertile and produce more than in any other country.

"The people live together in villages. Both men and women do up their hair in a knot behind, and they wear long dresses and sarongs of different colors. [A later account here says, "They wear a blue cotton shirt." This was the costume of the common people of Madjapahit.] There are bronze images of gods, of unknown origin, scattered about in the grassy jungle.

"Pirates seldom come to this country. When tradingships enter the anchorage, they stop in front of the officials' place [or place of the mandarins], for that is the bartering-place of the country. There is a great market there. After a ship has been boarded, the natives mix freely with the ship's folk. The chiefs are in the habit of using white umbrellas, for which reason the traders offer them as gifts.

"The custom of the trade is for the barbarian traders to assemble in crowds and carry the goods away with them in baskets; and, even if one cannot at first know them and can but slowly distinguish the men who remove the goods, yet there will be no loss. The barbarian traders will after this carry these goods on to other islands for barter, and, as a rule, it takes them as much as eight or nine months till they return, when they repay the traders on shipboard with what they have obtained for the goods. Some, however, do not return within the proper term, for which reason vessels trading with Ma-i are the latest in reaching home.

"The products of the country consist of yellow wax [beeswax], cotton, pearls, tortoise-shell, medicinal betelnuts and yuta fiber cloth [probably einamay]. The goods used in trading are porcelain, trade-gold, iron caldrons,» lead, colored glass beads, iron needles, pieces of iron, colored cotton stuffs, red taffetas, ivory, silks of different colors, copper pots, sycee shoes and the like. The people boil sea-water, to make salt, and make wine of the fermented juice of sugar-cane [bdsi]." The later account — from a book of 1349, but probably composed at a somewhat earlier date — adds the following interesting particulars: "In their customs they are chaste and good. When a husband dies, his wife shaves her head and fasts for seven days, lying beside the body. Most of them nearly die, but if, after seven days, they are not dead, their relatives urge them to eat. Should they get quite well, they may not remarry during their whole lives. There are some even who, to make manifest their wifely devotion, on the day when the body of their dead husband is burned, throw themselves into the fire and die also."

The custom of suttee must have been introduced into Ma-i from Sri-Vishaya or Java. Since the earlier writer does not mention it, it may possibly have been introduced between the times of the two accounts—provided, indeed, that our record is correct and has not been confused with that of some other Indian state. In connection with the Chinese name for Mindoro, it is interesting to note that the same name is still current among the pagan inhabitants of the southern part of that island, who call it Ma-it; also that the old Tagalog family name Gatmaitan means simply "Lord, or Prince, of Ma-it".

The description of the Kalamian (now Culion) group is associated with that of Mindoro and runs as follows: "The San-hen [or "Three Islands") belong to Ma-i; their names are Kia-ma-yen [Kalamian, or Culion], Pa-lau-yu [probably Penon de Coron] and Pa-ki-nung [probably Busuanga], and each has its own tribes scattered over the islands. When ships arrive there, the natives come out to trade with them. "Their local customs are about the same as those of Ma-i. Each tribe consists of about a thousand families. The country contains many lofty ridges, and ranges of cliffs rise steep as the walls of a house. The natives build wattled huts perched in lofty and dangerous spots, and, since the hills contain no springs, the women may be seen carrying on their heads two or three jars, one above the other, in which they fetch water from the streams, and with their burdens mount the hills with the same ease as if they were walking on level ground.

"In the remotest valleys there lives another tribe called Hai-tan [Negritos, Ai-ta\. They are small in stature and their eyes are round and yellow; they have curly hair and their teeth show between their lips. They nest in treetops. Sometimes parties of three or five lurk in the junggle, from whence they shoot arrows on passers-by, without being seen, and many have fallen victims to them. If thrown a porcelain bowl, they will stoop to pick it up and go away leaping and shouting for joy.

"Whenever foreign traders [that is, Chinese or Arabs] arrive at any of the settlements, they live on board ship and do not venture to go on shore. Their ships are moored in midstream, and they announce their presence to the natives by beating drums. Upon this the savage natives race for the ship in small boats, carrying cotton, yellow wax, native cloth and coconut-husk mats, which they offer for barter. If the prices cannot be agreed upon, the chief of the traders must go in person in order to come to an understanding. This being reached, the natives are offered, presents of silk umbrellas, porcelain and rattan baskets; but the foreigners still retain on board one or two natives as hostages. After that they go on shore to traffic, and, when they have finished, they return the hostages. A ship will not remain at anchor longer than three or four days, after which it proceeds to another place; for the savage settlements along the coasts of Sanhsii are not connected by a common jurisdiction. The coast faces southwest, and during the southwest monsoon the surge dashes against the shore, and the rollers rush in so rapidly that vessels cannot anchor there. It is for this reason that those who trade to San-hsu generally prepare for the return trip during the fourth or fifth moon [that is, in. May or June].

After mentioning the articles used in trade, Chau Ju Kua then inserts the following paragraph: "P'u-li-lu, [perhaps meaning the northern end of Palawan, though some authorities believe it to be Polillo or Bohol] is connected with San-hsii, but its settlements are more populous; most of the people are of a cruel disposition and given to robbery [piracy?]. The sea thereabout is full of bare ribs of rock with jagged teeth like blasted trees, their points and edges sharper than swords and lances; when ships pass by, they tack out in time, in order to steer clear of them. From here come coral-trees of two varieties; but they are very difficult to get. The local customs and commercial usages are the same as in San-hsu."

Considering the description of the Negritos, the mode of carrying water-jars, and other customs, no one can doubt that the above-described localities are in the Philippines. The geographical details also correspond well with local identifications, but the last word on this subject must await further research.

Mindoro used to be under the administration of Bonbon, now Batangas. In 1892, Mindoro was made into a province. Under Republic Act 505 (1950), the island was divided into Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. The entire island of Mindoro, which is separated from the Southern Luzon mainland, is composed of Occidental Mindoro and Oriental Mindoro. These two provinces are separated by a mountain range, running through the entire length of the island, which serves as a natural and political boundary.

Occidental Mindoro is situated along the western part of the island, located south of the province of Batangas in Southern Luzon. On the north, it is bounded by Verde Island Passage, on the west and the south by Mindoro Strait, and on the east by Oriental Mindoro. The topography of Occidental Mindoro is generally rugged, with narrow strips of coastal lowlands. Its terrain is characterized by successive mountain ranges, valleys, and elongated plateaus, with rolling lands along the coastal region.

Oriental Mindoro (Filipino: Silangang Mindoro; Spanish: Mindoro Oriental) is a province of the Philippines located in the island of Mindoro under MIMAROPA region in Luzon, about 140 km southwest of Manila. The province is bordered by the Verde Island Passage and the rest of Batangas to the north, by Marinduque, Maestro del Ocampo Island, Tablas Strait and the rest of Romblon to the east, by Semirara and the rest of Caluya Islands, Antique to the south, and by Occidental Mindoro to the west. Calapan City, the only city in the island, is the provincial capital.

Legend has it that long before the Spaniards discovered the Philippines, Mindoro was already among the islands that enchanted pilgrims from other countries. It was said that vast wealth was buried in the area, and mystic temples of gold and images of anitos bedecked the sacred grounds of this relatively unknown land. The Spaniards even named the island Mina de Oro, believing it had large deposits of gold.

Historians believed that the first inhabitants of Mindoro were the Indonesians who came to the island 8,000 to 3,000 years ago. After the Indonesians, the Malays came from Southeast Asia around 200 B.C. The Malays were believed to have extensive cultural contact with India, China and Arabia long before they settled in Philippine Archipelago. The indigenous people in the province are the Mangyans (Manguianes in Spanish, Mañguianes in Old Tagalog), consisting of 7 distinct tribes. They occupy the interior, specially the highlands. Mangyans have inhabited the island since pre-history. They are believed to have originally traveled from Indonesia and settled down for good in the island.

Records have it that Chinese traders were known to be trading with Mindoro merchants. Prior to the coming of the Spaniards in 1571, Mindoro was already known to the Chinese merchants who plied the waters to conduct their commercial expeditions. Trading relationship existed between the Philippines and China, particularly, in the eastern part of the island. Trade relations with China where Mindoro was known as Mai started when certain traders from "Mai" brought valuable merchandise to Canton in 892 A.D. The geographic proximity of the island to China Sea had made possible the establishment of such relations with Chinese merchantmen long before the first Europeans came to the Philippines. Historians claimed that China-Mindoro relations must have been earlier than 892 A.D., the year when the first ship from Mindoro was recorded to have sailed for China.

The Chinese first traded with Ma-i on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines, when the archipelago was not a single polity, but a group of polities. Ma-i or Mait, as the Mangyans call it, is Mindoro. Under Ma-i were the islands of Pa-lao-yu (Palawan), Ka-may-en (Calamian) and Pa-chi-neng (Busuanga). Chinese records show that regular and active trade between China and the Philippines took place only in the tenth century. Earlier trade between China and the Philippines had to be transacted mainly through the Champa (Vietnam) coast.

Traders from Ma-i visited Canton, China in 971 and 982. Mai-i (Mindoro) traders who previously went through Vietnam before proceeding to China decided in 972 to circumvent Vietnam and instead to trade directly with China by sailing into Canton. In order to do so, Mindoro traders had to secure the blessing of the Chinese emperor with a tribute mission. They gifted the emperor with exotic gifts like pearls, frankincense, myrrh, and colorful animals. Thereafter Mindoro delegation was treated as state guests and enlisted as feudatory princes of the empire. They were bestowed with corresponding seals and patents of office.

No doubt, the ceremonial acknowledgment of Chinese imperial suzerainty by tributary missions was good politics, it was in turn rewarded by the grant of accreditation to Mindoro traders to engage in direct commercial activities with China. From the standpoint of the Philippine side, the Mai-i trade mission, the Butuan and Sulu missions were attempts by separate Philippine chieftains or polities not only to bypass Champa as a trade entrepot but to establish themselves as new centers of international trade.

The Chinese traders favored Ma-i as the wholesale trading center in the Philippines, even though the more populous Pu-li-lu was nearby, because Ma-i natives were honest. None of their goods were lost or stolen, and the traders sold their goods on credit. Economic exchanges with the southern countries were so lucrative and extensive that in 972 the first emperor of Sung Dynasty established offices of maritime trade in Kwangchow, Hangchow, and Minchow with separate superintendents to deal with all Arab, Achen, Java, Borneo, Ma-i (Mindoro), and Srivijaya “barbarians.

After Miguel Lopez de Legaspi discovered the island in 1569, Goiti, as master of camp, sailed to Mindoro on May 8, 1570, and encountered the Chinese merchants. But even as they transacted business with the islanders, to the amazement of the Spaniards, there had already been signs of Hindu and Pagan influence in the place.

The earnest conquest of Mindoro began in 1570 in the district of Mamburao, when Juan de Salcedo subjugated the inhabitants under the Spanish authority. The early names of Mindoro were Mai and Mina de Oro. The latter is a contraction of the Spanish description of the phrase which means ""gold mine."" Although there were no major gold discoveries, panners and Mangyans have found gold in small quantities in the rivers of Baco, Binaybay, Bongabong, and Magasawan Tubig.

Some historians believe that Balayan, in modern Batangas province on Luzon Island, was a center of the ancient polity of Ma-i. Tradition has it that in 1394 Datu Balensucla settled in barrio Pooc and “founded” Balayan, then inherited by Datu Kumintang labor. The natives, the Sagubangas and the Tayakads then live the Tayakads then live the fabled and majestic Batulao Mountain or the Mountain of Gold called “Batung-Dilaw,” the abode of the mythical fairy princess Dalisay, daughter of King Suay and Queen Tagaytay. Then the land near the sea was settled by people who came from mainland Asia or Tagalogs, as the place was a trading port of neighboring countries.

The word “Balayan” came from the word Ba-I or balai which means house in Sri-Visayan dialect. The tagalog term “bai” for the Batangas area was replaced by the Visayan people under the leadership of Datu Balensucla and Datu Dumagsil in the middle of the 13th century, as told in tradition or in the Maragtas. Later the Filipino suffix “an” was added, thus the word Balayan was coined. This can also mean a group of house or settlement. During the early days, the natives used to construct their houses on stills above the waters of Balayan Bay. It is said that when the Spaniards arrived the shores of Balayan it was already populated by the descendants of the two Bornean datus who settled in this place.

The historic beginnings of Balayan which date back to the early 11th to 13th century as chronicled by Chinese historic accounts was a trading port as what they termed the “South Seas” of the barbarians, where Malayas, Mongolians and Australians transported their goods for barter with products of the natives, which is believed to be the adobe of the “Tayakads” and the “Sagubangs”, the early inhabitants of Balayan who fled to the mythical mountain called Batulao, the home of King Suay and Queen Dalisay, the parents of Pricess Tagaytay when the Bornean 2atus arrived.

The settlement lies on the shores of a vast body of water which was later on called “Kumintang” or “Bonbon”. The people lived along the lands of the sea as well as on the lands of a big river coming from the fabled mountain of “ Batung Dilao”, where Datu Balensusa and Datung Dumangsil, two of the ten datus who purchase Panay, arrived and settled when they were blowned by winds when they tried to returned home. Later Datu Dumangsil sailed northward and Datu Balensusa was left behind in what was then called Bonvon. The last Malayan ruler, one of his descendants, Datu Kumingtang, stayed in what is now called Pook and died there.

The old province of Batangas from Balayan to the far eastern region in Laguna including part of Camarines Norte was the most prosperous and civilized area in the Philippines. When the Spaniards first came, Nasugbu, Balayan, Batangas, Taal, Cavite, Bacoor, Pasig, Marikina, Cainta, Nagcarlan, Lilio, Pilar, Bai, Pangil, Majayjay, Paracale, etc. were the first towns and centers of commerce and industries in the island.

In 1581 Balayan became a province for almost 200 years. The province of Balayan extended up to province of what Batangas, Marinduque, Mindoro, southern parts of Laguna and Quezon up to Camarines. The people had their own civilization and culture much advanced than those from other places at that time. The institutional hub of the seat of the town proper was moved and fortified from the shorelines to its present site for security purpose and haven for refuge against natural calamities as the rampaging waters and manmade hostilities brought by the Muslim attackers at that time.



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