Maginadano Pearls is a tragic story of Sinag-Tala, who was wrongly charged with theft. She was accused of stealing Lakambini’s pearls. The fact that Lakambini was the rajah’s daughter, made matters worse. The ill will between both women started when Lakambini found out that Sinag-Tala was seeing Walang Gulat, whom the latter had known to be Magiting. Sinag-Tala had no knowledge of Lakambini’s wish to marry the guy nor did she know Magiting was a noble who was actually known as Walang Gulat. Had she known, she would have set a distance between them. Lakambini’s anger led her to set Sinag-Tala up making it look like she stole the princess’s lustrous pearls. When Sinag-Tala had to go through an ordeal to prove her innocence, her father, Pirang Kawayan, got to her first. His stern and embarrassed gaze was aimed at his daughter whom he thought brought disgrace to the unsullied honor of his ancestors. Lakambini was conscience-stricken as she screamed to confess that her pearls weren’t lost; that she hid them but it was too late. Pirang’s hand was quick to throw his dagger that landed onto Sinag-Tala’s breast, leaving her lifeless.
Through this article, I would like to present the richness of Philippine culture through the magnificent story of Magindanao Pearls originally written by Isidro L. Retizos. Stories that continually etch Filipino culture and history into the hearts of Filipinos always brings me delight. I’ve always been curious as much as I want to see how Filipinos lived their lives before the colonizers came. I want to see the wisdom of simple living. And also because I refuse to believe that my ancestors were “indios” as the Spaniards used to call them when they came. Let me then discuss the local color used by Retizos in this story; however, I would only mention some of them as I’d want you to figure out the rest.
PEARLS: Let me begin with Magindanao. Well, this may appear as a misspelling of Maguindanao but I am pretty confident it’s not because it’s how our textbook spelled it. So I had to dig for information and found out that Magindanao is an ethnic group in Muslim Mindanao; one of the biggest actually. Hence, Magindanao is the people while the place is Maguindanao. It was the Spaniards who mangled their name thus naming their place Maguindanao. Now that it’s clarified, I would also like to make sure that you have understood pretty well that the story is not set in Maguindanao but in the old Manila known as Maynilad. Magindanao is but the origin of the pearls that hung in the breasts of women. Magindanao pearls might be a reference to the south sea pearl which is now considered the country’s national gem. Such pearls are distinct from the rest, particularly its glow; the pearls in the story, particularly that of Lakambini are consistently described ‘lustrous’. Thus, the title in itself already made a historical reference to Magindanao and at the same time the use of pearl as an object to paint local color. This would also lead us to answer the question why such pearls have reached Maynilad. That is because in earlier times, our ancestors dwell near the riverbanks and shores to have easy access to trades. This would also tell us how the wealthy like Lakambini, the Rajah’s daughter could easily get their hands on expensive pearls from the south.
The pearl as an object, not only shows nobility but most importantly, especially for women, beauty. Though Sinag-Tala was often called by the village youth as lily-by-the-river to make a metaphor of her beauty, she refuses to believe them because a woman can only be really beautiful if she had pearls hanging around her neck to complement her plump breasts. She had only but one. Since Lakambini has the most pearls around her neck, she is the most beautiful though she had but flat and unappealing breasts. This one here is clearly an implication of what social customs there were about beauty.
RAJAH: The story is abundant with the use of dialect. One of which is rajah, which refers to a ruler, usually heard of in Southeast Asian regions. In the Philippines in the olden times, powerful rulers were only called Datu, Sultan, Lakan or Rajah. Rulers from Visayas and Mindanao are called Datu or Sultan while those in Luzon are Lakan or Rajah. Hence, there weren’t mayors, governors nor a president. Well, these leaders could perhaps be the counterpart of kings as their wives are queens and their children princes and princesses. This should also say one thing; the Filipinos had already an organized community before the colonizers came. A social custom was also highlighted in the story when Walang Gulat (Magiting) tried to save Sinag-Tala from the shame of the trial by bringing gold for her freedom but to no avail because custom says no gold could buy anyone’s freedom if the crime is done to the family of the rajah. Implementation of the laws of the land were strict and unbiased. Moreover, the law was not bent even for a prince like Walang Gulat.
ORDEAL :The Filipino villages were governed by laws and must therefore have crafted a system of judiciary; a trial by ordeal. This is a certain social custom that had been passed on from generation to generation which had been followed with exactness and promptness. In the story, Sinag-Tala had to put her hands on the boiling pot to get the stone found at the bottom of it. If her hands weren’t burned then she is proclaimed innocent. This one I’d say shall call for a miracle. Whose hands wouldn’t burn in such conditions? Well, I think this only calls for one thing; don’t ever steal. I’m not condoning the system, but that’s how it was a long time ago; history taught us that. How the ending of the story shouted the innocence of Sinag-Tala is a call to action. An action to put into thorough thought how the ordeal could go wrong. How the accused would really fail to prove their innocence. This could somehow be the very reason why Pirang Kawayan had to kill his own daughter because he knows there is no getting away with such an ordeal. Pirang’s mannerism could be something unacceptable if we look at it in the modern circumstance but in the eyes of Pirang who’s only wish is to keep the family honor intact, ending his daughter’s life is an honorable thing to do. In this context, family honor weighs heavier than a father’s love for his daughter.
This story would really urge you to scan the history books. Well, ain’t that great? That’s reading with a purpose. Or is it because history really interests me. I always want to find out the truthfulness of what I am reading; or even with those TV series that I watch. I am so tempted to talk about the many local colors used by Retizos throughout the story but I have students whom I also want to make an analysis of this story, so this is all for now. However, I shall urge you to discuss the local color I didn't include; do write them in the comment section. Perhaps you could give this story a chance and listen to me read it for you through my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPVKWKG0DNw&t=615s
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AP Archive. (n.d.). Philippines: Manila: South sea pearl is named country’s national gem. http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/youtube/e543ae01e6bce5eada1c879cb1f79ae5
CAL State East Bay. (n.d.). Magindanao. https://www.csueastbay.edu/museum/virtual-museum/the-philippines/peoples/magindanao.html
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Johnson, D. C. (1916). Courts in the Philippines, Old: New. Michigan Law Review, 14(4), 300–319. https://doi.org/10.2307/1274449
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Limos, M.A. (2019, January 21). Datus, Rajahs, and Sultans: How wealthy and powerful were the pre-colonial Filipino nobility?. Esquire. https://www.esquiremag.ph/the-good-life/pursuits/datus-rajahs-and-sultans-how-wealthy-and-powerful-were-the-pre-colonial-filipino-nobility-a1957-20190121-lfrm
The south sea pearl. (n.d.). https://www.thesouthseapearl.com/