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Legend of the 10 Datus

By Ayesha - Posted on 28 July 2010

It was said that in the 12th century, 10 datus or tribal chiefs loaded their balangays with their families, warriors, slaves and supplies and sailed in the cover of night.  They secretly left Borneo (Malaysia) to flee the tyranny of Rajah Makatunaw.  These 10 Datus sailed north and landed on the southern tip of Panay, near present day San Joaquin, Iloilo.  From there they traveled inland and at a lake met an Ati fisherman who introduced them to the local ruler, King Marikudo and his Queen Maniwangtiwang.   


The Atis with their short stature, dark skin and curly hair are nomadic hunters and gatherers who also practice slash and burn agriculture (kaingin).  They were first wary of the foreigners who are tall, from the sea and dressed differently.  “The men wore kerchiefs wound 4 times around their heads, grandiose jewelry… The women wore their heads parted in the middle and knotted in two like horns of a cow’s calf perched on each ear. They had long sleeved blouses and they had long, ornately colored skirts called tapis”(1). 


The Datus wanted to buy land, and as a sign of peace, they offered the Ati’s friendship and bales of cloth, jewels, and other tributes.  To the King, the Malays offered a gold salakot (native helmet), and to his Queen, they offered gold sumangyad (necklace) and other trinkets.  This and given a large and expansive island, the Atis agreed to the purchase (referred by historians as the Barter of Panay). The Datus were to have the plains and rivers while the Atis retained and retreated to their favored areas of forests and mountains, where they can still be found today. 


A big three day feast and celebration followed wherein the Malays painted their fair skin with soot to resemble their hosts.   To this date, this peaceful incident is celebrated in the form of Ati-atihan festival throughout the island. 



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