Pedro A. Monteclaro's "Foreword to the Readers" of


Maragtas was written by Pedro Alcantara Monteclaro in 1907 as a collection of the legends of the island of Panay in the Philippines. He wrote it in a mixture of Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a, the languages of his birthplace, Miag-ao in the south of Panay. However, many translators of the book have selectively mistranslated or omitted parts in order to make it appear that the book was an ancient manuscript written at the time of the events described in it.

The full title of the book is:

Maragtás kon (historia) sg pulô nga Panay kutub sg iya una nga pamuluyö, tubtub sg pag-abut sg mga taga Borneo nga amó ang ginhalinan sg mga bisayâ, kag sg pag-abut sg mga Katsilâ. (Note: sg should be written with a tilde (~) above the word. It is short for sang.)

“Maragtas or (history) of Panay Island from the first inhabitants, until the arrival of the Borneans from which the Bisayans are descended, to the arrival of the Spaniards”. 

The Original Preface to Maragtas

Here is Pedro Monteclaro’s own foreword to Maragtas. It is a corrected translation taken from William Henry Scott’s Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History (Revised Edition, 1984). The underlining and bold typeface are added by the present author.

Foreword to the Readers

    I wrote this Maragtas, a history of the first inhabitants of the island of Panay, with great reluctance for fear I might be considered too presumptuous. I would therefore have refrained from writing it but for my burning desire to reveal to the public the many data which I gathered from records about the first inhabitants of the island of Panay, the arrival of the Datus from Borneo, their possession and settlement of our land, their spread to different parts of the Island, and their customs and habits until the Spaniards came and ruled the Philippines.

    In order that readers of this Maragtas should not accuse me of having merely composed this book from imagination, I wish to mention two manuscripts I found. One of these was given to me by an 82 year old man, who had been the first teacher of the town and who said it had been given him by his father, who in turn got it from his father, the old man’s grandfather. The long years through which the manuscript must have passed wore out the paper so much that it was almost impossible to handle. Worse yet, it was only written in a black dye and smeared with sap which had burned the paper and made it almost useless. The other manuscript I found in a bamboo tube where my grandfather used to keep his old papers. This manuscript, however, was hardly legible at all, and was so brittle I could hardly handle it without tearing it to pieces. Having located one manuscript, I concluded there would most likely be another copy somewhere, so I decided to inquire of different old men and women of the town. My search was not in vain for I then came across the afore-mentioned old man in the street, who even gave me the manuscripts dealing with what happened in the town of Miag-ao from the time of its foundation. I copied these records in a book on 12 June 1901, as a memoir for the town of Miag-ao, but did not publish them for the reasons stated. Besides, I was waiting for someone better qualified to write a history of the Island of Panay from the time of its first inhabitants.

    I should like my readers to know that my purpose in writing this Maragtas is not to gain honor for myself but to transmit to others what I read in the records I collected.

This corrected translation was prepared after Scott consulted with the eminent Ilonggo anthropologist, Felipe Landa Jocano; Trinidad Molavin, granddaughter of Pedro Monteclaro; and Dr. Juan C. Orendain. It was based on the following English translations:

  1. H. Otley Beyer Collection: Visayan ethnography paper No. 25 by Encarnacion J. Gonzaga, Natividad Rosado, Ramón P. Locsin and Ismael Golez, 1916.
  2. A pre-Spanish history of the Island of Panay, translated for the Research Commission from the vernacular version of Pedro Monteclaro, Philippine Executive Commission, Department of Education, Health and Public Welfare, Manila, typewritten, by Manuel Carreon, 1943.
  3. A pre-Spanish history of the Island of Panay, Philippines Review, , vol. 2, No. 4 and No. 5  by Manuel Carreon, July and August 1944. Reprinted as Maragtas: pre-Spanish history of the Island of Panay in Encyclopedia of the Philippines, by Zoilo M. Galang, 2nd edition, revised, Vol. 15, 1950 .
  4. Maragtas by Eva M. Bayoneta in Supplementary readings on A short history of the Filipino people by Teodoro Agoncillo, 1960.

Sins of Omission

None of the translations listed above included the last chapter or the epilogue of Monteclaro’s book where he gave a list of Spanish officials from 1687 to 1808 and mentioned various dates from the 1700’s in the town of Miag-ao. The 1916 translation made for Otley Beyer (#1) did not include Pedro Monteclaro’s foreword either. 

The second work on this list did include these chapters in its original typewritten form but the final chapters were suppressed when it was actually published in the Sarawak Museum Journal, Vol. 8, 1957 under the misleading title, Maragtas: the Datus from Borneo (the earliest known Visayan text). An introduction was added by the journal’s editor, anthropologist Tom Harrison, where he referred to Monteclaro not as the author of Maragtas but merely the transcriber of  an ancient Philippine legend.

Deceptive Translations

Even when translators did include Monteclaro’s preface, they often took great liberties with the text which only served to mislead readers. For instance, the phrase shown above in bold lettering, ...I wish to mention two manuscripts I found – is a faithful translation of the original phrase:

...akon diri igasambit nga duha ka talamdan ang akon naayap.

However, in Manuel Carreon’s article of 1957 this is translated as “the two manuscripts on which I based my work”. And in The Ten Datus of Madiaas (1963) by Juan C. Orendain it reads, “I am here presenting two writings which I have been able to find.” The truth is that Monteclaro wrote in the foreword that one manuscript was “almost useless” and the other was “hardly legible at all”. Thus he could not have “presented” or “based his work on" either of these documents.

Orendain went on to write in the preface of his 1963 book that, “He [Monteclaro] claimed he copied the Maragtas.” However, when William Henry Scott interviewed Orendain in 1966 he admitted that Monteclaro’s foreword did not actually make that claim.


Paul Morrow

16 December 2001
Latest update: 8 July, 2003