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The Luções were people from the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Luções (Portuguese pronunciation: [luˈsõjʃ], Spanish: Luzones) was a demonym[1] used by Portuguese sailors in Malaysia[2] during the early 1500s, referring to the people who lived in Manila Bay, which was then called Lusong (Portuguese: Luçon)[3][4][5][2]

Eventually, the term Luções would refer to the peoples Luzon island, and later on, would be exclusive to the peoples of the central area of Luzon (now Central Luzon. None of the Portuguese writers who first used the term in the early 1500s had gone to Lusong themselves,[2] so the term was used specifically to describe the seafarers who settled in or traded with Malay Archipelago at that time.[2] The last known use of the Portuguese term in surviving records was in the early 1520s, when members of Magellan's expedition (notably Antonio Pigafetta, and Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz[6]) used the term to describe seafarers from Lusong whom they encountered on their journeys.[6] This included a "young prince" named Ache[6] who would later become known as Rajah Matanda. There have proposals to rename the current Central Luzon Region of the Philippines into Luções or an abbreviation of the current provinces of the region.[2][7]


Primary sourcesEdit

Surviving primary documents referring to the Luções include the accounts of Fernão Mendes Pinto (1614);[2] Tomé Pires (whose written documents were published in 1944);[2] and the survivors of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition, including expedition members Gines de Mafra[2] and Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz[6][2] and the Italian scholar Antonio Pigafetta[8][2] who served as the expedition's primary scribe, and published his account in 1524.

Maynila as “Luçon”Edit

Portuguese and Spanish accounts from the early[6][9] to mid[2] 1500s state that the Maynila polity was the same as the "kingdom"[Notes 1] that had been referred to as the "Kingdom of Luzon" (Portuguese: Luçon, locally called "Lusong"), and whose residents had been called "Luções".[6][9][2][7][1]

Magellan expedition member Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz's account of the events of 1521 specifically describes[6] how the Magellan expedition, then under the command of Sebastian Elcano after the death of Magellan, captured of one of the Luções:[2] Prince Ache, who would later be known as Rajah Matanda, who was then serving as a commander of the Naval forces of Brunei.[6] Aganduru Moriz described the "young prince" as being "the Prince of Luzon - or Manila, which is the same.[6] corroborated by fellow expedition member Gines de Mafra[2] and the account of expedition scribe Antonio Pigaffetta.[9]

This description of Ache as "King of Luzon" was further confirmed by the Visayan allies of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, who, learning that he wanted to "befriend" the ruler of Luzon, led him to write a letter to Ache, whom he addressed as the "King of Luzon".[2]

Kapampangan scholar Ian Christopher Alfonso,[1] however, notes that the demonym Luções was probably expansive enough to include even Kapampangan sailors, such as the sailors from Hagonoy and Macabebe who would later be involved in the 1572 Battle of Bangkusay Channel.[1]

Contacts with the Portuguese (1510s to 1540s)Edit

The Portuguese first established a presence in Maritime Southeast Asia with their capture of Malacca in 1511,[10] and their contacts with the seafarers they described as Luções (lit. people from "lusong", the area now known as Manila Bay[2]) became the first European accounts of the Tagalog people,[5] as Anthony Reid recounts:

The first European reports on the Tagalogs classify them as “Luzons”, a nominally Muslim commercial people trading out of Manila, and “almost one people” with the Malays of Brunei.[5]

Descriptions of culture, social organization and trade activitiesEdit

Pires noted that they (The Luções or people from Luzon) were "mostly heathen" and were not much esteemed in Malacca at the time he was there, although he also noted that they were strong, industrious, given to useful pursuits. Pires' exploration led him to discover that in their own country, the Luções had "foodstuffs, wax, honey, inferior grade gold," had no king, and were governed instead by a group of elders. They traded with tribes from Borneo and Indonesia and Philippine historians note that the language of the Luções was one of the 80 different languages spoken in Malacca[11] When Magellan's ship arrived in the Philippines, Pigafetta noted that there were Luções there collecting sandalwood.[8]

Naval and military actionsEdit

When the Portuguese arrived in Southeast Asia in the early 1500s, they witnessed the Lucoes or the Lusung's active involvement in the political and economic affairs of those who sought to take control of the economically strategic highway of the Strait of Malacca. For instance, the former sultan of Malacca decided to retake his city from the Portuguese with a fleet of ships from Lusung in 1525 AD.[12] One famous Lucoes is Regimo de Raja, who was appointed by the Portuguese at Malacca as Temenggung (Jawi: تمڠݢوڠ [13]) or Governor and General.

Pinto noted that there were a number of them in the Islamic fleets that went to battle with the Portuguese in the Philippines during the 16th century. The Sultan of Aceh gave one of them (Sapetu Diraja) the task of holding Aru (northeast Sumatra) in 1540. Pinto also says one was named leader of the Malays remaining in the Moluccas Islands after the Portuguese conquest in 1511.[14] Pigafetta notes that one of them was in command of the Brunei fleet in 1521.[8]

However, the Luções did not only fight on the side of the Muslims. Pinto says they were also apparently among the natives of the Philippines who fought the Muslims in 1538.[14]

On Mainland Southeast Asia, Lusung/Lucoes warriors aided the Burmese king in his invasion of Siam in 1547 AD. At the same time, Lusung warriors fought alongside the Siamese king and faced the same elephant army of the Burmese king in the defence of the Siamese capital at Ayuthaya.[15]

Scholars have thus suggested that they could be mercenaries valued by all sides.[5]

Luções as sailorsEdit

The Luções were also pioneer seafarers and it is recorded that the Portuguese were not only witnesses but also direct beneficiaries of Lusung's involvement. Many Luções, as the Portuguese called the people of Lusung, chose Malacca as their base of operations because of its strategic importance. When the Portuguese finally took Malacca in 1512 AD, the resident Luções held important government posts in the former sultanate. They were also large-scale exporters and ship owners that regularly sent junks to China, Brunei, Sumatra, Siam and Sunda. One Lusung official by the name of Surya Diraja annually sent 175 tons of pepper to China and had to pay the Portuguese 9000 cruzados in gold to retain his plantation. His ships became part of the first Portuguese fleet that paid an official visit to the Chinese empire in 1517 AD.[16]

The Portuguese were soon relying on the Lusung bureaucrats for the administration of Malacca and on Lusung warriors, ships and pilots for their military and commercial ventures in East Asia.

It was through the Luções who regularly sent ships to China that the Portuguese discovered the ports of Canton in 1514 AD. And it was on Lusung ships that the Portuguese were able to send their first diplomatic mission to China 1517 AD. The Portuguese had the Luções to thank for when they finally established their base at Macao in the mid-1500s.[17]

The Luções were also instrumental in guiding Portuguese ships to discover Japan. The Western world first heard of Japan through the Portuguese. But it was through the Luções (as the Portuguese called the people of Lusung) that the Portuguese had their first encounter with the Japanese. The Portuguese king commissioned his subjects to get good pilots that could guide them beyond the seas of China and Malacca. In 1540 AD, the Portuguese king's factor in Brunei, Brás Baião, recommended to his king the employment of Lusung pilots because of their reputation as "discoverers."[18] Thus it was through Lusung navigators that Portuguese ships found their way to Japan in 1543 AD. In 1547 AD, Jesuit missionary and Catholic saint Francis Xavier encountered his first Japanese convert from Satsuma disembarking from a Lusung ship in Malacca.

Contact with the survivors of Magellan's expedition (1521)Edit

Aside from the Portuguese, the Luções were also encountered by the survivors of the Magellan Expedition, who were under the command of Sebastian Elcano, in 1521.[8][2] This encounter was mentioned by expedition scribe Antonio Pigafetta and extensively described in an account by expedition members Gines de Mafra, Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz, among others.[2]

The Aganduru Moriz account[6] describes how Elcano's crew was attacked somewhere off the southeastern tip of Borneo[7] by a Bruneian fleet commanded by one of the Luções.[2][7] Historians such as William Henry Scott and Luis Camara Dery assert that this commander of the Bruneian Fleet was actually the young prince Ache of Maynila,[2][7] a grandson of the Bruneian sultan who would later become Maynila's Rajah Lakandula.[2][7]

Ache had just won a naval victory at the time,[7] and was supposed to be on his way to marry a cousin[7][2] - a typical ritual by which Tagalog nobles at that time gained influence and power.[2][19]

Dery suggests that Ache's decision to attack must have been influenced by a desire to bring Elcano's ship back to Manila bay,[7] for use as leverage against his cousin, the ruler of Tondo,[7] who was usurping territory from Ache's mother,[6] who was ruling Maynila at the time.[6]

Elcano, however, was able to defeat and capture Ache.[6] According to Scott, Ache was eventually released after a ransom was paid.[2]

End of historical references (after 1571)Edit

Portuguese references to the "Luções" ended after the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi to Manila, notes Anthony Reid:[5]

"Luzons disappear from descriptions of the archipelago after the Spanish conquest of Manila in 1571, presumably assimilating to the Malay diaspora."[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Scott (1994) notes that Spanish chroniclers continued to use the terms "king" and "kingdom" to describe the polities of Tondo and Maynila until late 1571, when Martin de Goiti's first forays into Bulacan and Pampanga clarified to the Spanish that the alliances of the Tondo and Maynila polities with the Kapampangan polities did not include territorial claim or absolute command. San Buenaventura(1613, as cited by Junker, 1990 and Scott, 1994) later noted that Tagalogs only applied the term Hari (King) to foreign monarchs, rather than their own leaders.


  1. ^ a b c d Alfonso, Ian Christopher B. (2016). The Nameless Hero: Revisiting the Sources on the First Filipino Leader to Die for Freedom. Angeles: Holy Angel University Press. ISBN 9789710546527.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.
  3. ^ Pires, Tomé (1944). Armando Cortesao (translator) (ed.). A suma oriental de Tomé Pires e o livro de Francisco Rodriguez: Leitura e notas de Armando Cortesão [1512 - 1515] (in Portuguese). Cambridge: Hakluyt Society.
  4. ^ Lach, Donald Frederick (1994). "Chapter 8: The Philippine Islands". Asia in the Making of Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46732-5.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Reid, Anthony (1995). "Continuity and Change in the Austronesian Transition to Islam and Christianity". In Peter Bellwood; James J. Fox; Darrell Tryon (eds.). The Austronesians: Historical and comparative perspectives. Canberra: Department of Anthropology, The Australian National University.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m de Aganduru Moriz, Rodrigo (1882). Historia general de las Islas Occidentales a la Asia adyacentes, llamadas Philipinas. Colección de Documentos inéditos para la historia de España, v.78-79. Madrid: Impr. de Miguel Ginesta.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dery, Luis Camara (2001). A History of the Inarticulate. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. ISBN 971-10-1069-0.
  8. ^ a b c d Pigafetta, Antonio (1969) [1524]. "First voyage round the world". Translated by J.A. Robertson. Manila: Filipiniana Book Guild.
  9. ^ a b c Pigafetta, Antonio (1524). Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo.
  10. ^ Newton, Arthur Percival (1929) The Cambridge History of the British Empire p. 11 [1]
  11. ^ Chinese Muslims in Malaysia, History and Development by Rosey Wang Ma
  12. ^ Barros, Joao de, Decada terciera de Asia de Ioano de Barros dos feitos que os Portugueses fezarao no descubrimiento dos mares e terras de Oriente [1628], Lisbon, 1777, courtesy of William Henry Scott, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994, page 194.
  13. ^ Turnbull, C.M. (1977). A History of Singapore: 1819-1975. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-580354-X.
  14. ^ a b Pinto, Fernao Mendes (1989) [1578]. "The travels of Mendes Pinto". Translated by Rebecca Catz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  15. ^ Ibidem, page 195.
  16. ^ *21. Ibidem, page 194.
  17. ^ Pires, Tome, A suma oriental de Tome Pires e o livro de FranciscoRodriguez: Leitura e notas de Armando Cortesao [1512 - 1515], translated and edited by Armando Cortesao, Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1944.
  18. ^ Bayao, Bras, Letter to the king dated Goa 1 November 1540, Archivo Nacional de Torre de Tombo: Corpo Cronologico, parte 1, maco 68, doc. 63, courtesy of William Henry Scott, Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society, Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994, page 194.
  19. ^ Santiago, Luciano P.R (March 1990). "The Houses of Lakandula, Matanda, and Soliman [1571–1898]: Genealogy and Group Identity". Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society. 18 (1).

Additional sourcesEdit