Philippine Superhero Series: Princess Urduja
Are you a fan of strong women? Then you’ll love Princess Urduja. Leader, fighter, navigator, and mighty general – Princess Urduja is the Philippines’ very own warrior princess.
While the Philippines certainly does not lack strong female figures, Urduja holds a special place in Filipinos’ heart because she is one of the earliest and most powerful ones.
Like classic comic book hero, Wonder Woman, Princess Urduja ruled over her own kingdom and commanded an army of Amazonian warriors known for their great prowess in battle. No documents indicate that she possesses a “Rope of Truth” or any magical powers, but you can be sure that if she existed today, evildoers would tremble at the very sound of her name.
Princess Urduja was once considered a historical figure, born around 1320, many Filipinos particularly Pangasinenses- continue to insist that she is.
However, there is only one solid record of her existence, and many scholars now assert that she is nothing more than a myth. Some hold to the alternative opinion that Urduja isn’t from Pangasinan at all, but rather, from Cambodia.
Many believe that Pangasinan’s heroine should actually be a Pangasinense princess, Kabontatala, who aided the Chinese pirate Lim Ah Hong escape from the pursuing Spanish authorities. Regardless of whether Urduja actually existed in real life, or only in the imaginations of her people, Urduja lives on in the hearts and minds of today’s Filipinos.
Princess Urduja – Ruler of Tawalisi
- According to Moroccan adventurer Ibn Battuta, Urduja’s kingdom was warring with China’s Mongol dynasty
- Ibn Battuta also mentioned that Urduja led expeditions into India
- Technically, the American historian William Henry Scott, who insisted that Urduja is nothing more than a myth, can be considered her “enemy” because his work indicated that she never existed
- The Ibaloi people who were said to have descended from Urduja’s line
- Ibn Battuta; he claims that Urduja’s father appointed him as an honorary kingdom of Tawalisi, and his writings are the only explicit accounts of Urduja’s existence
- The national hero of the Philippines, polymath Jose Rizal, doubted Ibn Battuta’s accuracy, but agreed that Tawalisi probably existed in and around Pangasinan
- Urduja’s unnamed father
- The Srivijaya empire of Sumatra was said to have allied with Tawilisi
- The Kingdom of Champa extended across Laos and Vietnam, and was also said to have allied with Tawilisi
- Proved herself as a superior warrior to her brother, the original heir to the leadership of Tawalisi
- Refused to marry any man who could not defeat her in battle; her prowess was so great that few had the courage to meet her in battle.
- Led an army of woman warriors to defend her kingdom
- Created a powerful army and navy to ensure her continued dominion
- Brokered peace among the many peoples of Tawalisi and created a kingdom as mighty as the then-Chinese empire, stretching from Pangasinan, over the Cordillera mountain range, and across Luzon
- Also known as Udayan, Deboxah or Debuca in Ibaloi, she is believed to be the mother of the Ibaloi people of Pangasinan and the Cordillera uplands
Princess Urduja’s existence continues to polarize historical scholars, fascinate feminists, and entrance the imagination. In fact, she’s such an interesting figure in the Philippine imagination’s landscape that her character has been adapted and recreated numerous times.
The latest retelling of Urduja’s story (2008) is actually more Princess Kabontatala’s than the warrior princess’, and it’s the first full-length animated feature film produced in Philippine cinema.
You can watch the film’s trailer, complete with English subtitles here: