De(scribing) Maharlikha provides an overview of pre-colonial Philippines through the lens of ancient spirituality. This work will draw attention to belief systems that inevitably influence the Filipino people’s ancient practice of healing arts, agriculture and societal norms. The question that will drive this research is, “Who are we before we became Filipinos?”
The current name, Philippines is derived from its colonizer, King Philip II, a long-dead Spanish monarch who symbolizes colonialism. There’s been petitions to rename our country from Philippines to Maharlikha by the current Philippine administration, and many ask, why now? What does Maharlikha mean to us?
Maharlikha is a profound spiritual word that comes from the Sanskrit prefix maha (great) and the Indo-Malayan suffix likha, which means creation. Hence, Mahalikha, a kingdom that was said to comprise the Philippines, Brunei, South Borneo, Hawaii, Indonesia, Malaysia, Spratly Islands, and Sabah before becoming colonies of Europe, really means “the great creation”. Its existence remain a theory as evidence and documentation was not of importance before written history. For this reason, I will use Maharlikha as a symbol, an unknown number in a mathematical sequence, that represent oral stories told yet considered simply theory and/or myth.
At an early age, I learned of the different gods and goddesses representing various natural elements. I was fascinated with the spiritual realms and how these affect all the affairs of every life on earth. After colonization, mythology has lost its immediate relevance to the community and has evolved away from sacred importance. Mythology became a folktale or bedtime stories. The elders in the community believed in these stories, yet my parents would say that these are simply “old wife's tales”. This makes sense considering my parents are devout Catholics, a result of Spanish colonization. My parents and many others affected by the Spanish era, even centuries later, have lost their faith in the ancient beliefs.
The Filipino people have suffered 400 years of colonization, slavery, and oppression. Since then, stories have been erased, temples have been destroyed and used to rebuild Christian churches. I believe that this plays a big part in the modern day Filipino’s loss of identity, self-hate, and an internalized racial hierarchy in the form of colorism.
Modern society questions the validity and accuracy of pre-colonial history. Unless inscribed, documented, cited, proved, then stories are not given the same weight of significance. This is particularly true when it comes to mythology, a word that came from the West. Before our practices completely vanish, before oral traditions are forgotten, I would like to describe and inscribe, De(scribing) Maharlikha.
De(scribing) Maharlika is work commissioned by Swarthmore College.