The LCI Was Dug Up Here

by Oliver Carlos

The Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI) is the oldest written document dug up here in the Philippines. It was accidentally found by a laborer near the mouth of the Lumban River in a dredging operation in 1989. Lumban is a small town in Eastern Laguna which is more known for its hand-embroidered Barong Tagalog cottage industry. The LCI, as its name suggests is a copper plate the size of a short bond paper, with engraved characters that looked wiggly worms. There are 10 lines that were written in an ancient language older than Tagalog. Experts peg the date of the LCI at around 900 CE (900 AD), or more than 1,100 years ago! That’s 600 years before Magellan and Lapu-lapu.

This is the Lumban River where the Laguna Copperplate Inscription was found. (photo by Maffy Castillo)

What exactly is written on the LCI? It’s not actually a page from an ancient history book, but it’s an ancient receipt! It mentioned a citizen named Namwaran, who became a slave because of a debt in gold that he owed to his chieftain. Namwaran lived in the kingdom of Dewata, which I believe is the old pre-colonial name of Los Banos. But because he had worked to pay his debt off, he and his descendants were declared scotch-free from slavery. Witnesses to the declaration included some local chieftains from the kingdoms of Tundun (Tondo), Pailah (Pila), and Puliran (Pulilan), among others.

Namwaran could have carried around his ancient receipt wherever he travelled in the places now known as the Tagalog provinces. Most likely, he handed the document down to his children so they would have proof that they’re a free family. The LCI was passed down from generation to generation until it got buried in where it was dug up in Lumban. This makes sense because we know that the precolonial Filipinos built settlements along bodies of water.

The LCI is significant to us modern-day Filipinos because it’s an evidence that we had a flourishing civilization centuries ago, way before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. It gives us clues on how our ancestors’ lives looked like. It teaches us that gold was used as a currency back then, the kingdoms had diplomatic ties among one another, they had an ancient system of marking the months and years, and most importantly, it shows that our ancestors were literate- they could read and write. Good thing the LCI was unearthed. It adds up to our national identity and pride, the same way the ancient archeological discoveries did in other nations.

There’s a similar story in the Bible. In ancient Judah (Southern Israel), during the time of King Josiah, an ancient book was discovered by his men. It’s the Book of the Law which contained Moses’ teachings. It was passed down from generation to generation of the Levites or priests. But somewhere down the line, it got hidden, lost, or neglected in the temple. The nation actually lived without that book guiding them and their leaders for the past 350 years. Good thing that book was found, its discovery sparked a great spiritual revival in Judah, under the leadership of King Josiah. We can read his in 2 Chronicles 34:30–32 (ERV):

“All the people…were with Josiah. He read to them all the words in the Book of the Agreement. That book was found in the Lord’s Temple. Then the king stood up in his place. He made an agreement with the Lord. He agreed to follow the Lord and to obey his commands, laws, and rules. He agreed to obey with all his heart and soul the words of the agreement written in this book. Then Josiah made all the people…to accept the agreement. The people of Jerusalem obeyed the agreement of God, the God their ancestors obeyed.”

Do you want to discover similar words of encouragement and experience fresh spiritual revival? You can have these longed-for “feel good” moments when you read the Bible daily. What you’re looking for is just there waiting to be discovered by you. Let God fill you with his peace and joy as you read his words each day.

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Oliver Carlos wears many hats. He's a history professor, a life coach to young adults, an athlete, a sports media practicioner, and a loving family man.

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Blog is Life

Oliver Carlos wears many hats. He's a history professor, a life coach to young adults, an athlete, a sports media practicioner, and a loving family man.