Princess Urduja: The Mother of Ibalois?

Have you ever heard of Princess Urduja? If your elementary teacher was like ours, she would have told you about the warrior princess who is believed to have ruled the Kingdom of Tawalisi way before Magellan begged the Queen of Spain to give him those danged ships to, in the words of George W, circumcise the globe. [Note: The painting above right is a visualization of Urduja by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.]

Princess Urduja and her kingdom [queendom?] was first mentioned in the travel accounts of Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta. Our national hero Jose Rizal then speculated, based on the time and distance it took Battuta to travel from said kingdom to China, that Talawisi was in Luzon. Subsequent scholars placed the kingdom in Pangasinan and its neighboring areas.

Anyway, there is an ongoing debate whether Urduja ever existed and whether the Kingdom of Tawalisi really is modern day Pangasinan. Incidentally, the province of Pangasinan honors the memory of Urduja by naming its capitol the Urduja Palace and by putting up a statue in her honor.

Rather than rehashing the “Is Urduja Fact or Fiction” debate here, you would be better informed if you visit the Pangasinan Blog where this issue is much discussed: The Case for Princess Urduja, Tawalisi in Pangasinan?, Kingdom of Talawisi: It Seems It Existed, Historian Wants Urduja House Renamed.

Now, one evidence being put forward by those who argue that Urduja is real and that Talawisi can be located in the Pangasinan area is the oral history of our Ibaloi kailiyans which traces the Ibaloi ancestry to Urduja.

From Chi Balmaceda Guiterrez’s In Search of a Princess:

Urduja’s name still has great resonance among the Ibaloi, one of the major ethnolinguistic tribes in the Cordillera region. Dr. Morr Tadeo Pungayan, a respected scholar of Ibaloi culture and professor at the St. Louis University of Baguio City, said, “Linguistically, Urduja is Deboxah (pronounced Debuca) in Ibaloi. We’ve always had a woman named Deboxah from time immemorial among the genrations of Ibaloi. The name usually describes a woman of strong quality and character who’s nobly descended. That name is an Ibaloi name. That’s why Ibaloi trace their ancestry from Urduja”.

The Cordillera tribes, also known collectively as Igorots, pride themselves as being the only ethnic group that doesn’t talk about the origin of man according to Spanish chronicles. Among the tribes, genealogy and family history are orally passed history. The Ibaloi, just like other highland tribes, could easily trace their ancestry. This is ensured by their custom of naming newborns after ancestors to help keep their memory alive and evoke affection and protection.

“No Ibaloi will bear the name of an ancestor unless she’s related,” Dr. Pungayan explained. While the Bontoc tribe bestows the name of an ancestor to a grandchild, the Ibaloi style is namesaking the great-grandchild, he added.

A book on the history of Benguet province, written by Anavic Bagamasbad and Zenaida Hamada-Pawid, shows the Benguet genealogy tracing tribal family lines from the year 1380 to 1899. The book says, “The extent of inter-settlement alliances is climaxed in the memory of Tublay informants with the reign of Deboxah, Princess Urduja, in Pinga. She’s acknowledged as the granddaughter of Udayan, an outstanding warrior of Darew. Her death signaled continuous decline of kinship and alliance between highland and lowland settlements.”

Hah! That should put the Urduja doubters in their place, no?

NOTE: If you’re interested in further exploring the Pangasinan-Ibaloi connection, Lovelyn has a very interesting family story here.

SOMEWHAT RELATED POST: Gabriela Silang. IMAGE CREDIT: cream 529.

15 thoughts on “Princess Urduja: The Mother of Ibalois?”

  1. Hi Nashman,
    Ganun ba? Hehe I guess we might be better off not knowing and not shatter the myth (in case it’s a myth). Sort of like the British queen not wanting to have Harry tested to determine whether he is really Charles’ child. Although, kung sakali, wouldn’t we need some dna material from Urduja? Thanks, I don’t know much about this dna thing kasi 🙂

    Hi Anonymous,
    Sana naman hindi kasi de Venecia belongs to the dark side of the force. Eh mukhang nasa good side itong si Urduja. Pero sabagay, Darth Vader and his kids were on opposite sides. Thanks 🙂

  2. Hei, this entry is very timely for me. I have this requirement in school kc and ur blog kind of supports some ideas that I have. Can i qoute some of it? Thanks. C yah later po.


  3. Hi FBI,
    Sure you can quote the post. But if you are quoting Chyt’s article make sure you attribute the quote to her. Glad we’re of help 🙂

  4. Hay naku, alam naman ng lahat na si Harry ay anak ni Capt.James Hewitt.

    Ideally, you’d need DNA from Urduja, but you don’t have to. mDNA is transferred via the mother, so you just have to look at the mDNAs of the southerners and compare it with mDNAs of the northerners. if they match, then the come from the same maternal line….

    Incidentally, my mDNA was cloned and analysed here….(well, I had to do it myself)…my genes are older than those of the whites

  5. Hi!

    I would have the tendency to believe the relationship between Urduja and Ibalois.

    It should also be noted that the present Pangasinan may be a place where Ibalois used to reside.

    In one of the field works, I met a person in sitio Ca’shet, Barangay Dalupirip in Itogon that told me a story about there great grand parents. According to him, their oldies migrated upstream due to a cholera epidemic in Pangasinan. Their old domicile is in the present day Pangasinan.

  6. I doubt that urduja has a relation to Ibaloi tribes,
    I mean common’ , i cant see any evidence nor heard any of Urduja’s names for my ancestors. Every great grandmothers of our tribe doesn’t know her. no offense
    Well except Ms. or Mrs. Deboxah .
    I’ve heard a lot about her from my oldies or great lola’s and lolo’s.

    Guys, i’m just sharing my opinion. hope i’ll gety answers

  7. May mga udayan sa ilocos sur.. According to history ancestors of udayan in ilocos migrated from mt province sagada.. Kung may udayan frm sagada its not far na totoo si princess urduja

  8. there have been a research conducted by expat igorots in the US and Canada, in conjunction with university of michigan and western university in ontario canada. in collaboration with U.B and benget U.
    GOALS: genoelogical and political links between the ancient kingdom of the pangasinan or so called tawalisi lands during the 1300s to the ibaloi and tribes of the cardellereas.
    RESULTS: the igorots were remants of the old kingdom that resisted the muslim and spanish conquest for 4 centuries
    FURTHER RESEARCH: further artifacts to be carbon dated and acheological expeditions to be completed.

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