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The Maharlika were the feudal warrior class in ancient Tagalog society in Luzon the Philippines. They belonged to the lower nobility class similar to the Timawa of the Visayan people. In modern Filipino, however, the term itself has erroneously come to mean "royal nobility", which was actually restricted to the hereditary Maginoo class.[1]


In various Indo-Malayan languages (including the languages of the Muslim areas of the Philippines) the cognates mardika, merdeka, merdeheka, or maradika mean "freedom" (as opposed to servitude).[2]

The Merdicas (also spelled Mardicas or Mardikas), whose name comes from the same etymon, were also the Catholic natives of the islands of Ternate and Tidore of the Moluccas, converted during the Portuguese occupation of the islands by Jesuit missionaries. A number of Merdicas were resettled by the Spanish in the communities of Ternate and Tanza, Cavite, Manila in 1663.[2]


The Maharlika were a martial class of Freemen.[3] Like the Timawa, they were free vassals of their Datu who were exempt from taxes and tribute but were required to provide military service. In times of war, the Maharlika were obligated to provide and prepare weapons at their own expense and answer the summons of the Datu, wherever and whenever that might be, in exchange for a share in the war spoils (ganima). They accompanied their ruler in battles as comrades-at-arms and were always given a share. 1/5 of the spoils goes to the Ginoo and the 4/5 will be shared among the Maharlikans who participated, who in turn will subdivide their shares to their own warriors. The Maharlika may also occasionally be obligated to work on the lands of the Datu and assist in projects and other events in the community.[1]

Unlike the Timawa, however, the Maharlika were more militarily-oriented than the Timawa nobility of the Bisayas.[4] While the Maharlika could change allegiances by marriage or by emigration like the Timawa, they were required to host a feast in honor of their current Datu and paid a sum ranging from six to eighteen pieces of gold before they could be freed from their obligations. In contrast, the Timawa were free to change allegiances at any time,[1] as exemplied by the action of Rajah Humabon upon the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan.[citation needed]

History and current usage[edit]

The only contemporary account of the Maharlika class was by the Franciscan friar Juan de Plasencia in the 16th century. He distinguished them from the hereditary nobility class of the Tagalogs (the maginoo class, which included the datu). The historian William Henry Scott believes that the class originated from high-status warriors who married into the maginoo blood or were perhaps remnants of the nobility class of a conquered line. Similar high-status warriors in other Philippine societies like that of the Bagobo and the Bukidnon did not inherit their positions, but were acquired through martial prowess.[5][4]

During the “New Society Movement” (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan) era in the Philippines, former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos used the word Maharlika to uphold Filipino nationalism, incorrectly claiming that it referred to the ancient Filipino nobility and included the kings and princes of ancient Philippine society. Apart from recommending changing the name of the Philippines into "Maharlika", Marcos was influential in making "maharlika" a trendy name for streets, edifices, banquet halls, villages and cultural organizations. Marcos himself utilized the word to christen a highway, a broadcasting corporation, and the reception area of the Malacañan Palace.[1]

Marcos's utilization of the word started during the Second World War. Marcos claimed that he had commanded a group of guerrillas known as the Maharlika Unit. Marcos also used maharlika as his personal nom de guerre, depicting himself as the most bemedalled anti-Japanese Filipino guerrilla soldier during World War II. During the Martial Law Period in the Philippines, the Philippine film industry produced a film entitled Maharlika to present his “war exploits”.[1][6]

Despite the misconception of its meaning, "Maharlika" as a proposed new name for the Philippines remains popular among Muslim Filipinos, the Lumad, and other Filipino ethnic groups who fought the Spanish colonization. They view the name "Philippines" as a colonialist reminder of the ruler of their previous colonial masters.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Paul Morrow (January 16, 2009). "Maharlika and the ancient class system". Pilipino Express. Retrieved July 18, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b John. M. Lipski, with P. Mühlhaüsler and F. Duthin (1996). "Spanish in the Pacific". In Stephen Adolphe Wurm & Peter Mühlhäusler. Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas: Texts, Volume 2. Walter de Gruyter. p. 276. ISBN 9783110134179. 
  3. ^ Samuel K. Tan (2008). A History of the Philippines. UP Press. p. 40. ISBN 9789715425681. 
  4. ^ a b William Henry Scott (1994). Barangay: sixteenth-century Philippine culture and society. Ateneo de Manila University Pres. ISBN 9789715501354. 
  5. ^ Laura Lee Junker (2000). Raiding, Trading, and Feasting: The Political Economy of Philippine Chiefdoms. Ateneo de Manila University Press. p. 126–127. ISBN 9789715503471. 
  6. ^ Quimpo, Nathan Gilbert. Filipino nationalism is a contradiction in terms, Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality and Ethnocentrism, Part One of Four, "Kasama" Vol. 17 No. 3 / July–August–September 2003 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network, cpcabrisbance.org
  7. ^ Wolfgang Bethge. "King Philipp II and the Philippines". Literary Bridge Philippines. Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  8. ^ Nathan Gilbert Quimpo (2003). "Colonial Name, Colonial Mentality and Ethnocentrism". Kasama 17 (3). 

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54 news items

The Daily Meal

The Daily Meal
Wed, 13 Aug 2014 15:18:45 -0700

I had wanted to try Maharlika for a while now, but as a Filipina myself, I unfortunately have to skip out on many traditional dishes since soy sauce is such a prominent ingredient. All my problems were solved when I tweeted my distress to @MaharlikaNYC ...
Eater National
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:00:00 -0700

... marketplace will feature traditional and modern Asian street food from Pichet Ong (New York City), Cedric Vongerichten (Perry St, New York City) and Miguel Trinidad (Maharlika, New York City) as well as chefs from Raku, Sweets Raku and Chada Thai.
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 06:52:30 -0700

The event was backed up by the City Government of Davao through Sports Development Division of the City Mayor's Office, In Christ Community Family Fellowship, Lavilla-Mendiola Estates, Maharlika Sports Development Institute, Inc., SM Lanang and ...
BusinessWorld Online Edition
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700

DPWH said that contract packages 3 and 4 will complete the about 24-kilometer highway running from North Luzon Expressway in Balagtas, Bulacan to Daang Maharlika in San Rafael, Bulacan. These two contract packages are components of Arterial Road ...
Mon, 04 Aug 2014 09:41:15 -0700

Midmor Hospitality's Will Malnati (whom we snapped with Maharlika and Jeepney owner Nicole Ponseca) started with Willow Road, serving market-fresh, seasonal ingredients all the way on Tenth Avenue in Chelsea. Then came his Spanish tapas spot, Toro, ...


Wed, 27 Aug 2014 01:50:38 -0700

Oscar Lactao (PMA “Maharlika” Class '84). Lactao will be replaced by Brig. Gen. Angelito de Leon (PMA Class '84), current chief of Command Center of the Armed Forces. Visaya formerly commanded the 104th Brigade based in Mindanao and 901st Brigade ...
Pilipino Star Ngayon
Sat, 16 Aug 2014 09:07:30 -0700

... Philippines – Nag-alok ng pabuyang P1-milyon ang gobernador ng Nueva Ecija sa ikadarakip sa dalawang killer ng warden ng provincial jail na inambus at napatay noong Miyerkules ng gabi habang pauwi sakay ng motorsiklo sa kahabaan ng Maharlika ...
Manila Bulletin
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 06:52:30 -0700

Malolos City, Bulacan — A composite team of police operatives arrested last Friday afternoon four men who yielded drugs and an assortment of firearms in Barangay Look 2nd, here. Arrested were Eugene Eugenio Pajo, of Matungao, Bulakan town; Alberto ...

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