The Fraudulent Povedano Calendar

This is a drawing of a supposedly ancient Filipino calendar which was "discovered" with other documents by Jose E. Marco and was acquired by the Philippine Library and Museum in 1914. It was included in a parchment manuscript dated 1572 and bearing the title La Isla de Negros y las Costumbres de los Visayos y Negritos  or "The Island of Negros and the Customs of the Visayans and Negritos" by Diego Lope Povedano.  It was destroyed in the Second World War but a complete photographic copy survives in the Robertson Collection in the Manuscript Department of the William R. Perkins Library at Duke University, Durham, N.C., U.S.A.


Even though Povedano wrote that he had copied the calendar “with great exactness and it is thus", the script here is difficult to read because the characters are poorly drawn, crowded together and oddly abbreviated. Notice that there are no kudlíts, the small diacritical marks that should appear above or below the baybayin letters. No NGa character can be seen either. They are missing because the words have been spelled alphabetically not syllabically. That is to say, the writing is a letter for letter transcription of words spelled using Spanish conventions.

This reveals the author's complete ignorance of the very basics of Filipino writing in the 1500's. Also, the Povedano documents are the only ones of the Spanish period that were were written on leather parchment. Paper was the medium of choice by that time.

The calendar shows a twelve month year in the wheel and seven day week above it. This is highly unlikely. Early Spanish accounts say that ancient Filipinos had completely different ways for marking the passage of time. Povedano also listed the names of the months in his manuscript but in two cases these names don’t match what is written on the calendar in baybayin script. Yet, all the names on this calendar are listed correctly  266 years later in Fr. Pavón’s Leyendas of 1838-39. Furthermore, when Pavón described this calendar he happened to write this about the month of November:

They [the ancient Filipinos] called it a bad month, for it brought air laden with putrefied microbes of evil fevers.

It was not until the 1850's that Louis Pasteur developed his theory that infectious germs were transmitted through the air and the word microbe itself was not invented until 1878 by Dr. Charles E. Sédillot.

From where did it come?

When the Philippine Library & Museum acquired the manuscript containing this calendar from Marco in 1914, he said that it had the same provenance as Povedano’s 1572 map of Negros (which was also a fake). That map was said to have been discovered in a lead box when the walls of the prison in Himamaylan, Negros were torn down in 1833. However, an inventory of the contents of that box, written at that time, did not mention this calendar nor the manuscript which contained it. Nor was it explained where the map had been between 1572 and whenever it was placed in the prison wall.

The inventory of 1833 stated that, “All items were left with Don M.V. Morquecho" and it was indeed signed by Manuel Valdivieso y Morquecho and two witnesses. However, according to the archives in Madrid and Seville, Don M.V. Morquecho was still in Cadiz, Spain as late as 1847 petitioning Queen Isabella II. He was asking her not to send him to the Philippines at all. He did become governor of Negros but not until 1849. Through a series of thefts the map, and presumably this calendar, ended up in 1898 in the hands of a former servant of Governor Valdivieso who supposedly sold it to José E. Marco in late 1913.

Later in life, Marco had a completely different story for the origin of this Povedano manuscript. In 1954 he said that he had got it from the same old cook (see "Kalantiaw the Hoax") who had stolen the books of Father Pavón  from the convent of Himamaylan, Negros in 1899. The old cook was supposedly given the manuscript by the family of Father Ramón Andrés who was given the manuscript by Povedano himself. Throughout his life José Marco tried to explain the source of his many "discoveries" with several conflicting variations of this same story.

Main information source:
Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, Revised Edition, 1984
by William Henry Scott.