Skip to main content Accessibility help

Pamitinan and Tapusi: Using the Carpio legend to reconstruct lower-class consciousness in the late Spanish Philippines

  • Joseph Scalice


Reynaldo Ileto, in his classic Pasyon and Revolution, sought the categories of perception of the Filipino ‘masses’ that guided their participation in the Philippine Revolution. Among the sources he examined was the Carpio legend, which he unfortunately subsumed to the separate, elite Carpio awit (Tagalog poem). Through a detailed examination of the legend's historical and geographical context, with its invocation of two locations, Pamitinan and Tapusi, I arrive at a different understanding of lower-class consciousness than Ileto. Rather than a counter-rational expression of peasant millenarianism, the legend of Bernardo Carpio was a ‘hidden transcript’ celebrating the history of social banditry in the region.


Corresponding author

Correspondence in connection with this article should be addressed to:


Hide All

The author would like to thank Jeffrey Hadler.



Hide All

1 Ileto, Reynaldo, ‘Religion and anti-colonial movements’, in The Cambridge history of Southeast Asia, vol. 2, part 1, ed. Tarling, Nicholas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 193.

2 Ileto, Reynaldo, Pasyon and Revolution: Popular movements in the Philippines 1840–1910 (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1979), hereafter PAR. Page citations throughout the article are from PAR.

3 A sampling of works to draw inspiration from Ileto's work could include Anderson, Benedict O'G., ‘Cacique democracy in the Philippines’, in The spectre of comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the world (New York: Verso, 1998), pp. 192264; Aung-Thwin, Maitrii, The return of the Galon King: History, law, and rebellion in colonial Burma (Singapore: NUS Press, 2011); Cannell, Fenella, Power and intimacy in the colonial Philippines (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); Comaroff, Jean, Body of power, spirit of resistance: The culture and history of a South African people (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Day, Tony, Fluid iron: State formation in Southeast Asia (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2002); Rafael, Vicente, Contracting colonialism: Translation and Christian conversion in Tagalog society under early Spanish rule (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993); Salman, Michael, The embarrassment of slavery: Controversies over bondage and nationalism in the American colonial Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).

4 Scalice, Joseph, ‘Reynaldo Ileto's Pasyon and Revolution revisited, a critique’, Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia 33, 1 (2018): 2958.

5 Anthology of ASEAN literatures: Philippine metrical romances, ed. Castro, Jovito Ventura (Manila: Nalandangan, 1985), p. 9.

6 For an examination of this urban print-shop production of awit, see Mojares, Resil B., Origins and rise of the Filipino novel: A generic study of the novel until 1940 (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1983), p. 68.

7 Eugenio, Damiana L., Awit and corrido: Philippine metrical romances (Quezon City: University of the Philippines, 1987). This work was originally Eugenio's dissertation at UCLA in 1965.

8 Ileto, Reynaldo C., ‘Bernardo Carpio: Awit and revolution’, in Filipinos and their revolution: Event, discourse and historiography (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1998), p. 9.

9 On the idea of hidden transcripts, see Scott, James C., Domination and the arts of resistance: Hidden transcripts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).

10 Lindsay, H. Hamilton, ‘Testimony of H. Hamilton Lindsay, Esq.’, Appendix II in Paul Proust de la Gironière, Twenty years in the Philippines (New York: Harper & Bros, 1854), pp. 353–4.

11 Rizal, José, El Filibusterismo, trans. Lacson-Locsin, Soledad (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007), p. 36.

12 Miranda, Claudio R., Costumbres populares (Manila: Cultura Filipina, 1911), pp. 62–3; unless otherwise indicated all translations are mine.

13 Ileto, Reynaldo C., ‘Rizal and the underside of Philippine history’, in Moral order and the question of change: Essays on Southeast Asian thought, ed. K. Wyatt, David and Woodside, Alexander (New Haven: Yale University, Southeast Asia Studies, 1982), p. 41.

14 The Katipunan was the revolutionary organisation organised by Bonifacio to fight for national independence.

15 A British businessman, living in Manila at the time, wrote: ‘To-day is the beginning of Easter Week, nearly all of whose days are holidays or holy days. This is one of the closest-observed seasons of the year, and on next Thursday and Friday, if you will believe it, no carriages are allowed to appear in the streets either of Manila or the other cities … It seems the proper thing to do to make arrangements with some of the English colony to take a trip off into the mountains.’ Stevens, Joseph Earle, Yesterdays in the Philippines (London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1898), pp. 58–9.

16 Ileto, ‘Rizal and the underside of Philippine history’, p. 63.

17 Tangherlini, Timothy R., ‘“It happened not too far from here …”: A survey of legend theory and characterization’, Western Folklore 49, 4 (1990): 385.

18 de los Angeles, Sixto, ‘Exhibit C: Sources of Manila's water supply’, in Fourth annual report of the Philippine Commission, 1903, vol. 3 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904), p. 221, emphasis added.

19 On Pamitinan, Sasocsungan and the cave, see Buzeta, Manuel, Diccionario geografico-estadistico-historico de las Islas Filipinas (Madrid: Imprenta de D. Jose C. de la Pena, 1850), s.vv., ‘Pamitinan’, ‘Mateo’ (San).

20 de Bevoise, Ken, Agents of apocalypse: Epidemic disease in the colonial Philippines (Quezon City: New Day, 1995), p. 29.

21 This story was subsequently published separately from Les milles et un fantômes and all succeeding editions of Les milles lacked the story of M. Olifus. Thus Andrew Brown's delightful recent translation, Dumas, Alexandre, One thousand and one ghosts (London: Hesperus, 2004), with its ghastly ruminations on the persistence of consciousness in guillotined heads, does not contain Olifus's narrative or the encounter with Gironière. Les marriages was translated into English and published as Alexandre Dumas, The man with five wives (Philadelphia: T.B. Peterson and Bros, n.d.).

22 On this point see Hobsbawm, Eric, Bandits, rev. ed. (New York: New Press, 2000).

23 In which journal it was serialised in 1855.

24 Sullivan, Rodney J., Exemplar of Americanism: The Philippine career of Dean C. Worcester (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, CSEAS, 1991), p. 56.

25 Examples include Bowring, John, A visit to the Philippine Islands (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1859), pp. 101–2; Ellis, Henry T., Hong Kong to Manilla and the lakes of Luzon, in the Philippine Isles, in the year 1856 (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1859), p. 103; Oliphant, Laurence, Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's mission to China and Japan in the years 1857, ’58, ’59, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1860), pp. 88–9; Jagor, Fedor, Travels in the Philippines (London: Chapman & Hall, 1875), p. 29.

26 Gironière is not only an important source of historical information; he was an important literary influence. He wrote a small privately published work late in his life, Mœurs Indiennes et quelques pensées philosophiques pendant un voyage a Majaijai (Iles Philippines) (Nantes: Vincent Forest et Émile Grimaud, 1862). It received no notice in the nineteenth century, but wound up as item 1184 in T.H. Pardo de Tavera's Biblioteca Filipina. The ilustrado community in Madrid would thus have had access to this text. It tells of a journey to Majayjay, the site of the Cofradía de San Jose uprising, and of Gironière's encounter with a bandit, with whom he has a lengthy discussion about legal and illegal means of changing society. The dialogue parallels the Ibarra–Elias dialogue of Rizal's Noli me tangere (1887) very closely. The work was translated into English as de la Gironière, Paul, Journey to Majayjay, trans. Aguilar, E. Cruz (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1983); see the dialogue with the bandit, pp. 19–31.

27 de la Gironière, Paul, Twenty years in the Philippines (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1962), p. 113; all of the following is taken from this account, pp. 113–17.

28 Owen, Norman G., Prosperity without progress: Manila hemp and material life in the colonial Philippines (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1984).

29 de la Gironière, Paul, Vingt années aux Philippines: Souvenirs de Jala-Jala (Paris: Comptoir des Imprimeurs Unis, 1853).

30 de Huerta, Félix, Estado geográfico, topográfico, estadıstico, histórico-religioso de la santa y apostólica provincia de S. Gregorio Magno (Binondo: Imprenta de M Sánchez y Co., 1863), p. 573.

31 Gironière, Twenty years in the Philippines, p. 128.

32 Among the 19th century European accounts of journeys to the cave are MacMicking, Robert, Recollections of Manilla and the Philippines during 1848, 1849, and 1850 (London: Richard Bentley, 1851), pp. 107–8; Stevens, Yesterdays in the Philippines, pp. 89–90; Burritt, Charles H., Abstract of the mining laws in force in the Philippine archipelago (Manila: Bureau of Public Printing, 1902), p. 113; von Drasche, Richard, Fragmente zu einer Geologie der Insel Luzon (Philippinen) (Vienna: Karl Gerold's Sohn, 1878).

33 This manuscript was translated and edited as Julio Nakpil and the Philippine Revolution, ed. Alzona, Encarnacion (Makati: Carmelo & Bauermann, 1964). Images of Nakpil's handwritten manuscript and score are included. Relevant material can be found on pp. 12, 45–9, 66 and the score of Pamitinan on p. 109.

34 Rizal, José, El Filibusterismo (Manila: National Historical Institute, 1996), p. 217.

35 Census of the Philippine Islands taken under the direction of the Philippine Commission in the year 1903, in four volumes, vol. 1: Geography, history, and population (Washington: United States Bureau of the Census, 1905), p. 474.

36 Ethnologue: Languages of the world, 15th ed., ed. Gordon, Raymond G. Jr. (Dallas: SIL International, 2005), s.v. ‘agta, remontado’.

37 ‘In fact, we did a lexicostatistical analysis of it, Tagalog, and Bicol and found that this was the language that was the missing link in the glottochronological and lexicostatistical numbers from Bisaya to Bicol to Tagalog. In other words, linguists had always noted the consistent degree of difference between Ilonggo and Cebuano and Cebuano and Waray and Waray and Bicol. But the gap from Bicol to Tagalog was so much bigger. Tagarug fit right in between Bicol and Tagalog.’ Rodrigo Dar, 23 Jun. 1996,!topic/soc.culture.filipino/E8nGJSjTPAY (last accessed 17 May 2009).

38 Conant, Carlos Everett, ‘The pepet law in Philippine languages’, Anthropos: Ephemeris internationalis ethnologica et linguistica 7 (1912): 920–47.

39 Llamzon, Teodoro A., ‘The importance of dialects in historical linguistics: Conant's Pepet Law in Philippine languages as a case in point’, in Actes de XXIX e Congrès international des Orientalistes: Indonésie, ed. Lombard, Denys, vol. 3 (Paris: L'Asiathèque, 1976): 134–9.

40 Ibid., p. 136.

41 Ugaldezubiaur, D. Santiago, Comision de la flora y estadistica florestal, memoria descriptiva de la provincia de Manila (Madrid: Imprenta de Ramon Moreno y Ricardo Rojas, 1880), p. 28.

42 Himes, Ronald S., ‘The relationship of Umiray Dumaget to other Philippine languages’, Oceanic Linguistics 41, 2 (2002): 275–94.

43 Report of the Philippine Commission to the Secretary of War, 1908, in two parts, vol. 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1909), p. 415; Note that garay is Sinauna for ‘waterfall’. Reid, Lawrence A., ‘Possible non-Austronesian lexical elements in Philippine Negrito languages’, Oceanic Linguistics 33, 1 (1994): 42.

44 The tobacco monopoly in the Philippines: Bureaucratic enterprise and social change, 1766–1880, ed. de Jesus, C. (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1980), pp. 116–17, emphasis added.

45 Headland, Thomas N. et al. , ‘Hunter-gatherers and their neighbors from prehistory to the present’, Current Anthropology 30, 1 (1989): 47.

46 Reid, ‘Possible non-Austronesian lexical elements in Philippine Negrito languages’; this substrate consists largely of the specialised vocabulary for local biota and ‘secret’ words such as penis, vagina, etc.

47 For notions of upstream and downstream communities, see Bronson, Bennet, ‘Exchange at the upstream and downstream ends: Notes toward a functional model of the coastal state in Southeast Asia’, in Economic exchange and social interaction in Southeast Asia: Perspectives from prehistory, history, and ethnography, ed. Hutterer, Karl L. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, CSEAS, 1977), pp. 3952.

48 Canseco, Telesforo, Kasaysayan ng Paghihimagsik ng Mga Pilipino sa Cavite, trans. Rhommel, Jose B. Hernandez (Quezon City: Philippine Dominican Center of Institutional Studies, 1999), p. 64. The published version is a Spanish–Tagalog diglot of the Spanish original. I have translated the passage into English.

49 de Noceda, Juan and de Sanlucar, Pedro, Vocabulario de la lengua Tagala (Manila: Imprenta de Ramirez y Giraudier, 1860), p. 416, s.v. ‘tulisan’.

50 Medina, Isagani, Cavite before the Revolution, 1571–1896 (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2002), pp. 62, 224; Soledad Masangkay Borromeo, ‘El Cadiz Filipino: Colonial Cavite, 1571–1896’ (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1973), p. 197; Quinn, George, The learner's dictionary of today's Indonesian (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 2001), p. 1139, s.v. ‘tulis’. The Proto-Austronesian (PAN) root for sharp is *Cazém, which reflects to the Tagalog talim as well as tulis, and to the Malay tajam. Talim is sharp-edged, while tulis is sharp-pointed. This is a much more plausible reconstruction than Laurent Sagart's proposed Proto-Sino-Austronesian (PSAN) root, from which Old Chinese (OC) supposedly derived *ləih, ‘to pencil the eyebrows’. Ross, Malcom, ‘Some current issues in Austronesian linguistics’, in Comparative Austronesian dictionary: An introduction to Austronesian studies, part 1, fascicle 1, ed. Tyron, Darrel T. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), pp. 96–8.

51 This was not an unusual origin for the word for writing. Both the Latin scribo and the Greek grapho had an etymological significance of ‘to incise with a sharp point’, while the Sanskrit likh, literally meant to scratch.

52 The word tulisan, as banditry, was appropriated by the Spanish. Felix Ramos y Duarte in his 1898 dictionary defined ‘tulis’ as ‘ladron, ratero’ (bandit, pickpocket). See Duarte, Diccionario de mejicanismos (Mejico, 1898), s.v. ‘tulis’. Tulis, rather than tulisan, had entered Mexican Spanish by the late nineteenth century as a word meaning bandit. The Diccionario Porrúa attributes the origin of the word ‘tulises’ to a ‘grupo de bandoleros del Edo. De Durango’ (most notably, the bandolero El Cucaracho) who escaped from the jail of the town of San Andres de Teúl, in approximately 1859. See Diccionario Porrúa de historia, biografıa y geografıa de México quinta edición (México, D.F.: Editorial Porrúa), p. 3013, s.v. ‘tulises’. From Teúl the dictionary derives the word ‘tulis’ as bandit. Gironière, among others, was already using ‘tulisan’ as a Tagalog word for bandit long before these events in Teúl, thus ruling out this etymological reconstruction. Paloma Albalá Hernández suggests instead a Náhuatl origin for the word, deriving ‘tulisán’ from ‘tule, plant from which is made bedrolls, which etymologically proceeds from the Náhuatl tullin or tolin, according to Molina (1571), sedge or bulrush, and according to Siméon (1885) tollin or tullin, rush, sedge, reed-grass’. See Hernández, , Americanismos en las Indias del Poniente: Voces de origen indıgena americano en las lenguas del Pacıfico (Vervuert: Iberoamericana, 2000), pp. 106, 173. No further explanation is given for this proposed etymology, but it would seem that petate, bedrolls, were considered a standard item of the bandolero, and since these bedrolls were made from tule, the bandoleros became known as tulis. Teresita A. Alcantara, ‘The Spanish American Lexicons in Filipino’ (paper presented at Philippine Latin American Studies Conference, Pamantasan Lungsod ng Maynila, December 2008, p. 6), follows the same path for the entrance of ‘tulis’ into Tagalog. This etymology seems far-fetched. It would seem likely that the word ‘tulisan’ travelled from Manila to Acapulco in the final years of the galleon trade. Teul, in the Estado de Durango, was on the west coast of the Mexican isthmus, north of Acapulco. En route, the word also entered Chamorro, as ‘tulisan’ rather than ‘tulis’. Chamorro is an Austronesian language and its speakers would have found the desinence -an familiar. Regardless of the path taken by the word tulisan in its trans-Pacific peregrination, what is important is that there was a specific historical phenomenon in the nineteenth century in both Mexico and the Philippines with which the word was associated: social banditry.

53 Hobsbawm, Bandits, p. 20.

54 Ellis, Hong Kong to Manilla, pp. 170–73, emphasis added.

55 Alvarez, Santiago V., The Katipunan and the Revolution: Memoirs of a general, with the original Tagalog text, trans. Carolina, Paula S. Malay (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1992), p. 156.

56 Ibid., p. 98.

57 Paterno, Pedro A., El Pacto de Biyak-na-Bato (Manila: Imprenta ‘La República’, 1910), p. 72.

58 On Paterno, see the excellent Mojares, Resil B., Brains of the nation: Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes and the production of modern knowledge (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2006); and Reyes, Portia L., ‘A “treasonous” history of Filipino historiography: The life and times of Pedro Paterno, 1858–1911’, South East Asia Research 14, 1 (2006): 87122.

59 Ileto, ‘Rizal and the underside of Philippine history’, p. 39.

60 This makes even more embarrassing the strange New Age academic attempt to ‘revive’ this tradition. Consolacion Rustia Alaras, a professor of literature at the University of the Philippines, in her work Pamathalaan: Ang pagbubukas sa tipan ng Mahal na Ina (Quezon City: Bahay-Saliksikan ng Kasaysayan, 1988) based on Pasyon and Revolution, has advocated the revitalisation of the nation through sacred sojourns to ‘Tapusi’, in the steps of Bonifacio, who was a great spiritual leader. She leads these treks every year. These sojourns seem more reminiscent of the wide-eyed jaunts into the wild made by European tourists in the late nineteenth century than anything to do with Bonifacio.

61 Reynaldo C. Ileto, ‘History and criticism: The invention of heroes’, in Filipinos and their Revolution, p. 217; Ileto, Reynaldo C., ‘“Methodological” implications of a dispute on Andres Bonifacio’, Anuaryo/Annales 1, 3 (1982): 12; Ileto, Reynaldo C., ‘Bonifacio, the text, and the social scientist’, Philippine Sociological Review 32, 1–4 (1984): 27–8.

62 Ileto, ‘“Methodological” implications of a dispute on Andres Bonifacio’: 12.

63 Ronquillo, Carlos, Ilang talata tungkol sa Paghihimagsik nang 1896–97, ed. Medina, Isagani (Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1996).

64 ‘Palibhasa'y salitaan, ay nagagsihinto at inantabayanan ang pulutong ni Bonifacio na manggagaling sa bundok ng Tapusi na pawing barilan na siyang mangunguna sa buong pulutong; subalit nang dumating na ang taning na oras hanggang sa magliliwanag na ang araw ay di dumarating’ (ibid., p. 216).

65 ‘Ang sinasabing ito ni Bonifacio ay isang malaking kasinungalingan pagkat ni tao ni baril ay wala sa Tapusi at ni siya naman ay di nakarating doon. Ito'y isang kalupitang pandaya lamang sa tao! Ronquillo’ (ibid., p. 684); the footnote is Ronquillo's, as indicated by the initials CVR.

66 Salazar, Zeus A., Agosto 29–30, 1896: Ang pagsalakay ni Bonifacio sa Maynila (Quezon City: Miranda Bookstore, 1994), p. 96.

67 For all of these justifications, see ibid., pp. 108–11.

68 Ponce, Mariano, Cartas sobre La Revolución 1897 –1900 (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1932), pp. 13.

The author would like to thank Jeffrey Hadler.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Pamitinan and Tapusi: Using the Carpio legend to reconstruct lower-class consciousness in the late Spanish Philippines

  • Joseph Scalice


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.