Before Magellan arrived, the ancient peoples of the Philippine islands lived in separate kingdoms, rajahnates, principalities, confederations and sultanates. These small maritime states flourished from as early as the 1st Millenium, and traded with present-day China, India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.


(image from the Bulwagan Foundation)
Sugbu or the Rajahnate of Sugbu, a classical Philippine state that existed on the island of Cebu prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. Its people and their language are called Bisaya.


The Rajahnate of Sugbu was founded by Sri Lumay, also known as Rajamuda Lumaya, a minor prince of the Chola dynasty, which ruled Sumatra. He was sent by the maharajah to establish a base for expeditionary forces; but he rebelled and established his own independent rajahnate.

[Inconsistency: Sri Lumay is said to have been a native of Sumatra in Indonesia and at the same time a member of the Chola Dynasty, which ruled Southern India. The empire that ruled Sumatra and nearby islands is, not the Chola Dynasty, but the Sri Vijaya, from which the people of Sugbu got their name, Bisaya.]

An animation of Sri Lumay
(image by AKOPITO)
According to Visayan folklore, Sri Lumay descended from a royal family who practiced Hinduism. He settled in the Visayas and had several sons. One of his son was Sri Alho, who ruled a land known as Sialo, which included the present-day towns of Carcar and Santander in the southern region of Cebu. Sri Ukob ruled a kingdom known as Nahalin, which included the present-day towns of ConsolaciĆ³n, Liloan, Compostela, Danao, Carmen and Bantayan in the north. He died in battle fighting with the tribal group known as magalos from Mindanao.

The youngest of his sons was Sri Bantug. He ruled a kingdom known as Singhapala, in the region now known as Cebu City. He died of disease and was succeeded by his son Sri Hamabar, also known as Rajah Humabon.

Sri Bantug had a brother called Sri Parang, the limp, but the latter could not govern the kingdom because of his infirmity. Parang handed his throne to his nephew Humabon, who thereby became the rajah (king) of Cebu. However, it was Sri Parang's son, Sri Tupas, who succeeded Humabon as king of Cebu.

The Rajahnate of Cebu was dissolved in 1565, during the reign of Rajah Tupas, when it was attacked by the forces of Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legaspi.


The Bisaya worshipped a pantheon of diwatas or spirits of Nature. Like other Philippine tribes, the Bisaya believe that everything in Nature has a soul, and the very spirit of an element of Nature — the sea, the wind, the sun — is its diwata. Religious authority rests on the babaylans, the native priests, who consisted initially of women.

Gods and Goddesses

The Major Deities of the Bisaya
Foremost among the diwatas of the Bisaya are Kaptan, the Heaven, who is the grandfather of the gods, and Magwayen, the Abyss, the grandmother. Kaptan's son, Lihangin the Wind, wedded the daughter of Magwayen, the goddess of the sea Lidagat. Out of the couple's union came the Earth, the Sun, the Moon and the Stars.

Would you be interested in reading a full-length English novel about the Kingdom of Sugbu? Care to critique the opening? Click here.