Sunday, June 30, 2019

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Royal Descent and the Value of Genealogical Provenance

People do genealogy for various reasons.

Some people trace their family trees to answer common questions like where their family has been and where they are headed. Some do it hoping to find possible long-lost inheritance or claims to hidden fortunes. A more common reason for doing it is the dream of finding a connection to a famous person, be it a president, a billionaire, or to royalty. In the past, it was a common practice to trace the descent of royalty from the divine: the Japanese Imperial family has long held that they are descended from the Shinto Sun goddess Amaterasu (David Kinsley, 1988); many Roman Emperors and politicians claimed to be from the families descended from the Greek and Roman pantheon (O. Hekster, 2005); the British Royal family is said to be from the Norse god Woden or Odin; or powerful Islamic dynasties would always claim to be the Prophet Mohammad's descendants.

Photo grabbed from SGMA's FB Page

In modern times, people continue to have such fantastical claims to lofty pedigrees. For decades, people would scoff when families like the Macapagals would claim descent from Lakan Dula. Many families, especially those from Bulacan and Pampanga, have always claimed to be descendants of the Manila Lakans or the Super-Principalias. The same could be said for some families in Cebu and Bohol that claim descent from Lapulapu (Mojares, 2018), Humabon (Abellana, 1998), Sikatuna (Dery, 1992), and others.

These claims of descent from antiquity are common in many cultures. And while historians are skeptical of these genealogies, many of these family trees are actually complete with names and details. It may be that some distant court genealogist felt pressured and fabricated these family trees to further consolidate the power of their kings. Or, it may also be that these were from oral histories. Before writing and printing became a common preoccupation of the human race, certain groups of people in many societies were tasked to memorize their histories. Author Alex Haley in his book Roots wrote at the end of his novel about very old men in Africa called "griots" - men who could recite the centuries old village histories, of clan and family stories, of all the great men of their village. Basically, they were what Alex Haley called 'living, walking archives of oral history' (Haley, 1976). Who, then, can tell if this skill has not been passed down through the centuries along certain families in the Philippines?

In truth, many genealogies, no matter how fantastical, have some basis in reality. Many elements of the Lapulapu and Humabon oral traditions can be corroborated by documents found in Spanish and Portuguese archives as proved by historian Danilo Madrid in his book on Ferdinand Magellan.

One such example of oral traditions being backed by archival documents albeit having some discrepancies is the Veloso of Cebu family tree. For years, members of the prominent Veloso family (whose members include no less than the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo R. Duterte, and host of other senators, legislative representatives, and more) believed that their line came from a Portuguese merchant who came to Southeast Asia in the 1600s. The Velosos have a long and documented genealogy. However, in his 2015 scholarly article The Myth of the Portuguese Ancestor: The Veloso Family of Nineteenth-Century Cebu, historian Michael Cullinane expertly provides detailed proof that some of the names of earlier generations of the Veloso family were incorrect. He further provides archival evidence that the Velosos, at least those in the nineteenth century, were racially classified as mestizos sangleyes (Chinese mestizos) and not Portuguese. Considering the practice at that time, racial status was inherited paternally. If the Velosos were indeed Portuguese, this classification would have been carried over to the 19th century. Nevertheless, while Cullinane's work has disproved some of the Veloso family's claimed history, this updated story of their family has even added more details into their genealogy. 

At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong in continuing to believe in oral histories. What is important is that one knows how to delineate between fact and fiction as well as learn to accept when oral traditions are proven to be something else. 

Establishing the Macapagal Genealogy

The Macapagal-Arroyo Family (Photo from SGMA's FB)
One of the best examples of a genealogy that has a mixture of oral and archival documentation is that of the Macapagal genealogy. For decades, the history of the Macapagals has been the subject of many speculation and debate. There are a few who claim that the Macapagal family (in particular the line of President Diosdado) is descended from Lakandula. 

Former MTRCB Chair Alejandro Roces in his eulogy during President Macapagal's necrological service at Malacanang in 1997, stated that “Macapagal was an impoverished royalty because he was of royal descent...” 
This was one of the earliest public recognitions of Macapagal's descent from Lakandula. Seven years earlier, social historian Luciano P.R. Santiago published the authorative journal article The Houses of Lakandula, Matanda, and Soliman (1571-1898): Genealogy and Group Identity. While he traced the descendants of Lakandula and the other superprincipalias down to the 16- to 1700s, he did not go beyond this. In fact, though he mentions that Diosdado Macapagal and Jovito Salonga are known Lakandula descendants, he does not trace how that is so.

Another former government official, National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) chairman Jaime C. Laya, stated in 2001 that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, daughter of Diosdado Macapagal, was the "great, great, great granddaughter 15 times of Don Jose Macapagal" (Vanzi, 2001). Don Jose was the son of Don Juan Macapagal, a proven great (3X) - grandson of Lakandula. He backtracks in his book, Letras y Figuras, when he said that GMA was likely a descendant of Don Jose Macapagal, a great (10X or so)-granddaughter of said Jose Macapagal (Laya, 2001). Laya's backtracking is quite logical. When he said President Arroyo was the great (15X)-granddaughter of Don Jose Macapagal, this was quite problematic. Using the standard 25 - 35 years for every generation, Laya's claim would put President Arroyo as having been born between 2075 and 2215, way in the future! 

Truth of the matter is, there has never been a concrete illustration of the descent from Lakandula to President Macapagal despite everyone claiming it as such. Even the biography of Diosdado Macapagal by Cecilia P. Serrano simply rehashes the old general claims of Macapagal’s descent from Lakandula but makes no detailed illustration of this.

Interestingly, Macapagal did descend from Lakandula but, unlike the claims of Laya and Serrano, not through the aforementioned Jose (or Joseph) Macapagal. President Diosdado Macapagal was the great (11X) – grandson of Lakandula, making President Gloria M. Arroyo the 12X great-granddaughter of Lakandula. There is clear and valid archival provenance for former President Gloria M. Arroyo’s family tree up to her great-great-grandfather Quirino Macapagal. The baptismal record of Arroyo’s father, former President Diosdado Macapagal, still exists and shows the name of PGMA’s grandparents and great-grandparents (Lubao baptismal register, 1910).

The baptismal record of Gloria’s grandfather, Urbano Macapagal, also exists and shows the name of Don Quirino Macapagal (Lubao baptismal register, 1877). Thus, in these 2 baptismal records alone, we can see the proof of descent of the Macapagals in 5 generations. It is the first key to connecting the line of PGMA to Lakandula. Urbano’s grandfather as listed in his baptismal record was Don Qurino Macapagal who was, though not mentioned in the record, not from Lubao but from San Simon, Pampanga. Don Quirino Macapagal’s own baptismal record is the next and most important key in the Macapagals’ Lakandula descent, an indisputable proof of PGMA’s descent from Lakandula. Clearly stated in the record is the inclusion of Quirino’s parents in the “barangay de Lacandola”. The barangay de Lacandola, or more formally the gremio de Lacandola, was the administrative grouping of proven descendants of the three great rulers of Manila. The Spanish authorities decided to put this up in order to keep track of who exactly were the descendants of the Super-principalias as well as safeguard these families as they were prone to various abuses and exploitation by local Spanish and indio functionaries alike.

Portion of Quirino Macapagal's baptismal record showing his parents to be
part of the barangay de Lacandola
The last provenance in PGMA’s tree is the marriage record of Pedro Macapagal and Ma. Gracia Paguio, which gives us the names of both their parents. Once again, they are both listed as being members of the Lacandola barangay, Pedro from the gremio de Lacandola in San Luis, Pampanga, while Ma. Gracia from San Simon.

So whatever other families who claim that a) the line of Diosdado Macapagal is a “bogus” Macapagal line, b) that the Macapagals are just servants of the Gatbontons, the “real” descendants of the royal Lakans of Manila, or c) that the Macapagals of Lubao are not related to the Macapagals descended from Lakandula, all these are irrelevant. The fact is very few families can provide detailed archival proof like PGMA’s family. Even if one cannot connect her directly to Lakandula (which we can), the fact that several records show that Gloria’s direct ancestors were registered in the gremio or barangay de Lacandolas is enough proof of her descent from the famed Lakandula of Tondo.

Proving the Macapagal Descent from Lakandula

Thanks to the efforts of the late Luciano P.R. Santiago as well as those of Luis C. Dery, it is now easier to extend PGMA’s family tree further using their scholarly works. Don Quirino Macapagal, his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all appear in Santiago’s research. Using this and other research materials, we can further extend Don Quirino Macapagal’s line to Don Eugenio Lapira Macapagal and his wife Doña Cathalina Sinacumanglugod. Don Eugenio L. Macapagal was the father of the aforementioned Don Juan Macapagal, the father of Jose or Joseph Macapagal from which PGMA has been erroneously said to be descended. In fact, it is from another son of Don Eugenio, Don Miguel Lapira Macapagal, where President Arroyo’s line is from.

Don Eugenio Macapagal was the great-great-grandson of Lakandula. His line going up to Lakandula, Matanda, and Soliman and several of his descendants may be traced using the secondary sources Descendientes de Don Carlos Lacandola, the only existing cache of documents in the Philippine National Archives that specifically trace the family trees of the Lakandulas, Matandas, and Solimanes.

PGMA’s Descent from Royalty

From PGMA, we count 6 generations up to Don Jose Macapagal whose name is the last name we see in primary sources. Using secondary sources as well as the previously researched genealogies by various scholars, we can further connect Don Jose Macapagal 8 generations further up to Don Carlos Lacandola. In other words, former President and outgoing Speaker of the House Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a 14th generation descendant of Lakandula.

Culling from the writings of Isabelo de los Reyes, H. Otley Beyer, Luther Parker, and Mariano Henson, it has been generally accepted that Lakan Dula, Ladia Matanda, and Rajah Soliman II were brothers, and that the younger Soliman, Soliman III, was Lakan Dula’s and Matanda’s nephew. They were descendants of the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu and in fact there were several intermarriages among the royal houses of Manila and Tondo, Sulu, and Brunei, and Matanda, Lakandula, and Soliman were descendants of Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei and Sultan Sharif al-Hashim of Sulu.

These connections to the genealogy of Brunei and Sulu thus stretches the family tree of PGMA further. Lakandula was the grandson of Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei and Princess Leila Menchanai (or Menjanai) of Sulu, in turn the granddaughter of the founder of the Sultanate of Sulu, Sultan Sharif al-Hashim, said to be the son of Shariff Ali Zainal Abidin from Yemen. Shariff Abidin is further said to be the father of Shariff Muhammad Kabungsuan, the founder of the Sultanate of Maguindanao.  The tarsila of the Sultans of Maguindanao further shows the descent of Shariff Abidin, the father of their founder Shariff Muhammad Kabungsuan, from the Prophet Muhammad. Thus, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is at the 34th generation from the Prophet Muhammad.

Many Moslem historians believe that the genealogy of Muhammad can be traced to Ismail, one of the the sons of Abraham. Between Ismail and Muhammad are seventy generations. However, there seems to be some debate on Muhammad's ancestry. Some scholars believe that the lineage of Prophet Muhammad actually has three versions: the first was authenticated by biographers and genealogists and states that Prophet Muhammad's genealogy has been traced to Adnan. The second is subject to controversies as to which son of Ismael the Prophet really descends from. It traces his lineage beyond Adnan back to prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). The third version, traces his lineage beyond Ibrahim back to Aadam (Adam). Genealogists differ from which son of Isma'il عليه السلام the line of descent came as well as in the names on the line of descent. So, while the exact descent of the Prophet Muhammad cannot be established for now, it is nevertheless interesting to note that PGMA can further connect herself to another royal line due to her descent from Muhammad.

Fatima’s son, Shariff Al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī ibn Abi Talib, married Shahrbānū, who was a Sassanid princess and the daughter of Yazdegerd III, the last Emperor of the Sassanid dynasty of Persia (now Iran). The Sasanian dynasty was named after Sasan, the ancestor of the dynasty. It was founded by Ardashir I in 224, who defeated the last Parthian king Artabanus IV and ended when the last Sasanian monarch, Yazdegerd III (632–651), lost a 19-year struggle to drive out the early Arab Caliphate, which was the first of the Islamic empires.

Because the Macapagals are descended from Don Quirino Macapagal, himself a descendant of Don Eugenio Lapira Macapagal, who was the great-great-grandson of Lakandula, himself a grandson of Princess Laila Menjanai of Sulu who was a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, they can count as their blood relatives the royal families of Sulu, Maguindanao, Brunei, Jordan, the United Kingdom (although Queen Elizabeth’s descent from Mohammad is debated), and a host of other families that have been traced to Muhammad.

This genealogical writeup is just a simple thank you to former President and outgoing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her service to the Filipino people. Her full genealogy with generation per generation illustration of descent from all abovementioned families will be featured in the author’s upcoming books UNANG PAMILYA: Brief Genealogies of Philippine Presidential Families and Descendants of the Super-Principalias.

Primary sources:

  1. Church records of Saint Augustine in Lubao, Pampanga, Philippines.
  2. Church records of of Saint Simon San Simon, Pampanga, Philippines.
  3. Church records of of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, San Luis, Pampanga, Philippines.

Other References:

  1. H. Otley Beyer. Philippine History Quarterly, 1919.
  2. Luther Parker. "The Gats and the Lakans." Philippine Magazine, 504-505. Manila, Philippine Magazine, January 1931.
  3. Luther Parker. "The Lakandolas." Philippine Magazine, 572-573. Manila, Philippine Magazine, February 1931.
  4. Luther Parker. "The Last of the Lakans." Philippine Magazine, 628-629. Manila, Philippine Magazine, March 1931.
  5. Mariano A. Henson. "Genealogy of the Rulers of Central Luzon as Related in the Will of Fernando Malang Balagtas." The Province of Pampanga and Its Towns (A.D. 1300-1955), 163-168. Manila: Villanueva Book Store, 1955.
  6. Luciano P.R. Santiago. "The Houses of Lakandula, Matanda, and Soliman (1571-1898): Genealogy and Group Identity." Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, Volume 18, No. 1, 39-73. Cebu City: USC Press, 1990.
  7. Jaime C. Laya. "The Lacandola Papers in the National Archives." Letras Y Figuras: Business in Culture, Culture in Business, 54-55. Pasig City: Anvil Publishing, Inc., 2001.
  8. Luis C. Dery. "Isang-Dugo: Kinship and the Origin of the Filipino People." A History of the Inarticulate: Local History, Prostitution, and Other Views from the Bottom, 1-20. Quezon City, New Day Publishers, 2001.
  9. Cecilla P. Serrano. "Ancestors." Beating the Odds: The Life, the Times, and the Politics of Diosdado P. Macapagal, 1-5. Quezon City, New Day Publishers, 2005.

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