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Rajah Ache (Baybayin: ᜎᜇᜒᜌ ᜀᜐᜒ, Abecedario: Rája Aché),[2] better known by his title Rajah Matanda[3] (1480–1572), was one of the rulers of Maynila, a pre-colonial Indianized Tagalog polity along the Pasig River in what is now Manila, Philippines.

Rajah of Maynila
Reignc. 1521 – August 1572
PredecessorWife of Rajah Salalila (named "Princess Ysmeria" in some oral traditions)
SuccessorRajah Sulayman
Full name
Noble familyRajahnate of Maynila
  • Don Ambrocio Mag-isa Ladyangbata[1]
  • Don Luis Ylao[1]
  • Doña Maria Bolactala[1]

Ache ruled Maynila, together with Rajah Sulayman, and they, along with their cousin Lakan Dula, who was ruler of Tondo, were three "paramount rulers"[2] with whom the Legaspi expedition dealt when they arrived in the area of the Pasig River delta in the early 1570s.[1][4][2]


"Rajah Matandâ" means "old ruler" in Tagalog,[3] and Joaquin points out that the Islamic origin of the term "Rajah" indicates that the noble houses of Maynila at the time was organized according to a Muslim social orientation,[3][5] even if Spanish records indicate that the common folk of Maynila practiced pag-aanito, a religious practice that historians would later call "Anitism".[6]

Spanish records refer to him as Rajah Ache el Viejo (King Ache the Old).[5] He is also sometimes referred to as Rajah Laya,[3] a name derived from Ladyang Matanda – an alternative pronunciation of his title.


Events in Rajah Matanda's life are documented by two different sets of firsthand Spanish accounts.[1]

The better known set of accounts takes place in 1571–72, when the forces of Martin De Goiti, and later Miguel De Legazpi himself, arrived in Manila Bay. These are described in the numerous accounts of the Legazpi expedition, including those by the expedition's designated notary Hernando de Riquel, and by Legazpi himself.[2]

Less known are the accounts of the Magellan Expedition in 1521, by which time Magellan had already been killed and Sebastian Elcano had taken over command of the expedition. These accounts describe how Ache, then serving as commander of naval forces for the Sultan of Brunei, was captured by the men Sebastian Elcano. These events, and the details Ache's interrogation were recorded in accounts of Magellan and Elcano's men, including expedition members Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz,[7] Gines de Mafra, and the expedition's scribe Antonio Pigafetta.[8]

Additional details about Raja Matanda are sometimes derived from genealogical accounts which mention him, but these focus on Ache's genealogy, and so do not provide details about specific events.[2]

Early life, as recounted in the Elcano expeditionEdit

Among the Spanish accounts of Ache's capture, Rodrigo de Aganduru Moriz is considered[2] to be the one which records Ache's statements most extensively. Details of Ache's early life are thus usually based on the Aganduru Moriz account.[2]

According to Aganduru Moriz' account, Ache's father, whose name Aganduru Moriz' did not[7] mention, died when he was still very young, and his mother took his place as leader of the Maynila settlement.[7] In the meantime, Ache was raised alongside his cousin, who was ruler of Tondo[7] – presumed by some to be Bunao Lakandula.

During this time, the "young prince" Ache realized that his cousin, who was ruler of Tondo, was "slyly" taking advantage of Ache's mother, by taking over territory belonging to Maynila. When Ache asked his mother for permission to address the matter, his mother refused, encouraging him to keep his peace instead.[7]

Ache could not accept this and thus left Maynila with some of his father's trusted men, to go to his "grandfather", the Sultan of Brunei, to ask for assistance. The Sultan responded by giving Ache a position as commander of his naval force.[7] Pigaffetta noted that Ache was "much feared in these parts", but especially the non-Muslim locals, who considered the Sultan of Brunei an enemy.[8]

Battle with the Expedition of Sebastian Elcano (1521)Edit

Aganduru Moriz recounts that in 1521, Ache was in command of the Bruneian fleet when they chanced upon what remained of the Magellan expedition, under the command of Sebastian Elcano,[7] somewhere off the southeastern tip of Borneo.[1] Rizal notes that Ache had just won a naval victory at the time, and Rizal and Dery[1] both say Ache was on his way to marry a cousin – a ritual which Scott describes as the usual way that nobles at that time gained influence and power.[2] (Luciano PR Santiago notes that this practice helps explain the close interrelationships among the ruling houses in Manila, Brunei and Sulu.)[1]

Dery notes that Ache's decision to attack must have been influenced by a desire to bring Elcano's ship back to Manila bay,[1] for use as leverage against his cousin, the ruler of Tondo.[1]

Elcano, however, was able to defeat Ache.[7] As a result, Ache was captured and brought onboard Elcano's ship.[7] According to Scott,[2] Ache was eventually released after a ransom was paid.[2]

Term as Rajah (before 1570)Edit

Some time between 1521 and 1570, Ache succeeded his mother and became Paramount datu over Maynila, taking on the title of Rajah.[6]

By the time of the next historical accounts about Ache in 1570, Maynila was also being ruled by his nephew, Sulayman, who also held the title of Rajah. This situation, with Maynila seeming to have two rulers, has been interpreted by scholars in different ways. According to the interpretation of Luis Camara Dery, by the time de Goiti arrived in 1570, Rajah Matanda had already ceded his authority to his nephew and heir apparent, Rajah Sulayman, although Rajah Matanda still retained considerable influence.[1] According to the interpretation of William Henry Scott's take, however, Rajah Sulayman was not proclaimed Paramount ruler until Matanda's death in 1572.[2]

Arrival of De Goiti (1570)Edit

By the late 1560s, Miguel López de Legazpi was already searching for a more suitable place to establish the Spanish colonial capital, having found first Cebu and then Iloilo undesirable because insufficient food supplies and attacks by Portuguese pirates. He was in Cebu when he first heard about a well-supplied, fortified settlement to the north, and sent messages of friendship to its ruler, Rajah Matanda, whom he addressed as "King of Luzon."[2] In 1570, Legazpi put Martín de Goiti in command of an expedition north to Manila and tasked him with negotiating the establishment of a Spanish fort there.[6]

When the forces of de Goiti arrived in 1570, they were initially welcomed by Rajah Matanda. But just as Matanda was receiving de Goiti on the shore, Rajah Sulayman and his party arrived, taking on a much more aggressive stance towards the foreigners. De Goiti began negotiating with Matanda and Sulayman so that the Spanish could set up their base of operations in Manila, but negotiations dragged on for several days.[6]

As negotiations broke down, a misunderstanding between the two parties resulted in Sulayman's forces believing they were under attack, and retaliating against de Goiti's shore party. In the ensuing battle, the fortified city of Manila was burned down, and de Goiti's party temporarily overtook Maynila.[6]

Outnumbered and fearing that a shift in seasonal winds would trap him in Manila, de Goiti decided to sail back to Legazpi instead of pressing his advantage.[6]

Arrival of Legazpi (1571)Edit

The following year, Legazpi himself arrived in Manila. He was welcomed first by Lakandula of Tondo and then by Rajah Matanda. Fearing his presence would exacerbate the conflict between Maynila and the Spanish, Sulayman did not meet with Legazpi face to face until later. The rulers of Maynila and Tondo eventually cut a deal with Legazpi, which allowed him to claim Maynila for the crown of Spain, and the Spanish city of Manila was born in June 1571.[6]

Death (1572) and successionEdit

In August 1572, Rajah Matanda fell ill and requested to be baptised into the Catholic Church.[9] In the same year, he succumbed to his illness.[2][9]

Before he died, Legazpi granted Rajah Matanda's wish that Rajah Sulayman be declared Paramount ruler of Maynila. The unnamed author of the "Anonymous 1572 Relacion" (translated in Volume 3 of Blair and Robertson)[6] explains that this was in keeping with indigenous laws, which allowed inheritances to be passed on to "legitimate" children. While Rajah Matanda did in fact have children, they were not born of his "legitimate wife". The unnamed author of the relacion, explaining the custom as he understood it, says:[6]

There is a law among these natives [...] that however many wives a man has, among them all he regards one as his legitimate wife; and if, when he dies, he has no children by this woman, the children of the others do not inherit. In illustration of the truth of this, one may cite the death of Laya, whom I have already mentioned. When this man died, a Christian, he had no children by his legitimate wife, and although he had many by his other wives, they did not inherit; therefore his property descended to a legitimate nephew of his. It is true, however, that the bastard children may deprive them of their property.[6]


According to archival research of historian Luis Camara Dery,[10] Rajah Matanda had at least two sons and one daughter: Don Ambrocio Mag-isa Ladyangbata, Don Luis Ylao, and Doña Maria Bolactala.

Dery theorizes[10] that unlike their father who had befriended the Spanish, these siblings "appeared to be lukewarm to the Spaniards", so that the privileges and exemptions granted to Matanda's descendants by Legazpi were only claimed by their children and grandchildren – the third (as of 1612) and fourth (as of 1679) generation from Rajah Matanda.

As of 1696, Rajah Matanda's descendants had fallen on hard times,[11][12] as Dery notes:

From their vast domains in Manila and Bulacan, Rajah Matanda's descendants were displaced and transferred to the outlying towns of Malate and Ermita. Their appointments as Maestras de Campo, Capitanes de Infanteria, Cabezas de Barangay, etc. brought them innumerable expenses, impoverishment, and imprisonment. Their appointments to said positions forced them to shoulder numerous expenses for and in behalf of the colonial government which the latter failed or conveniently forgot to recompense. The passage of time eventually found the descendants [...] so destitute that they could not even pay the media anata (title fee to be paid before the recipient could enjoy colonial excemption).[10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Dery 2001, p. 5
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.
  3. ^ a b c d Joaquin, Nick (1990). Manila, My Manila. Vera-Reyes, Inc.
  4. ^ Joaquin, Nick (1990). Manila, My Manila: A History for the Young. City of Manila: Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-971-569-313-4.
  5. ^ a b Rodil, Awang Romeo Duana (April 18, 2008). "The Muslim Rulers of Manila". Retrieved October 4, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Blair, Emma Helen; Robertson, James Alexander, eds. (1903). Relation of the Conquest of the Island of Luzon. The Philippine Islands, 1493–1898. 3. Ohio, Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Company. p. 145.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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.
  8. ^ a b Pigafetta, Antonio (1524). Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo.
  9. ^ a b Molina, Antonio M. (1960). The Philippines through the centuries, Volume 1. U.S.T. Cooperative.
  10. ^ a b c Dery, Luis Camara (2001). A History of the Inarticulate. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. ISBN 971-10-1069-0.
  11. ^ "Cedulario, 1696–1698. Reserva de tributo polos y servicios personales a Don Joseph Punsalan y Doña Ynes de Robles naturales del pueblo de Malate Jurisdicion de Tondo. Manila 2 de Mayo 1696" as cited by Dery, Luis Camara (2001) "A History of the Intarticulate." Manila: New Day Publishers.
  12. ^ "Cedulario, 1696–1698. Reserva de tributo polos y servicios personales a Don Thadeo de Herrera, Don Dionisio de los Santos, y Doña Cathalina Hiyas y Consortes por decendientes de Ladya Matanda Principales del Pueblo de Tagui. Manila, 23 de Noviembre 1696" as cited by Dery, Luis Camara (2001) "A History of the Intarticulate." Manila: New Day Publishers.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Wife of Rajah Salalila
Rajah of Maynila
c.  after 1521 to 1572
Succeeded by
Rajah Sulayman