Urn depicts ancient Filipino epic?

An ancient urn unearthed 20 years ago is linked to a local folktale about a heroic king and the beginnings of agricultural society in the Philippines, according to an anthropological study.

Ancient burial urn retells Bicol epic
Philippine Inquirer, 13 December 2007


The king of the folktale, Handiong, is the protagonist of an epic story by the Ibalon people in Bicol, the central-eastern portion of the archipelago. The figures on the urn’s cover was interpreted by ethnologist Zeus Salazar as elements of the Handiong epic. The urn itself was dated to 10 AD.

It narrates the mystical origins of the first man and woman of Aslon and Ibalon (now the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Catanduanes and Masbate), and the exploits of the warrior-leader Handiong, one of the heroes of Ibalon.

Handiong, as the epic goes, fought a giant cyclops for 10 months, defeated the winged Tiburon and the fierce Sarimao, and won over the seductive serpent Oriol before starting a village.

However, there have been some doubts cast on the authenticity of the urn, as its provenance is not known and neither has any dating method been applied to it. Read more about the Handiong urn here.

Related Books:
Glances: Prehistory of the Philippines by J. T. Peralta
The Tinge of Red: Prehistory of Art in the Philippines by J. T. Peralta
Filipino Prehistory : rediscovering precolonial heritage by F. L. Jocano

Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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