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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 exemplified 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 Emmanuel Edralin 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 Malacañang 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] The Tagean-Tallano family had claimed to have legal and historical claims over the Philippines, Sabah, Guam, Marianas, Hawaii, and Palau which they assert that they were part of the "Kingdom of Maharlika".[9]

However, defenders of the current name of the country opposed this idea for being too idealistic and un-historical, citing the claims of the Tallano heirs over the country without any historical provenance and verification from the international historians and experts. They also added that the proposal jeopardizes the unity of the Filipino people by weaning them from their colonial past, which is the key factor to and responsible for the evolution of the Filipino nation. They also see it as "self-flagellation" to the already confused and damaged nationalistic psyche of the people by hating their colonial history.[citation needed]

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 (PDF). 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 Press. 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). 
  9. ^ "Lost Land of Maharlika". EClinik Learning. Retrieved April 29, 2015. 

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2116 news items

Thu, 18 Jun 2015 01:16:09 -0700

A person was killed and three children were injured in a road accident along the Maharlika Highway in Calauag, Quezon, early Thursday, police said. Chief Inspector Noel Divino, Calauag police chief, said a Manila-bound Toyota Hi-Ace Grandia van ...
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Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:33:45 -0700

In September, the passenger ferry Maharlika 2 sank off the coast of Leyte, killing three people. In 1987, the Doña Paz passenger ferry and an oil tanker collided near Leyte, killing more than 4,000 people in one of the worst civilian maritime disasters ...


Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:10:05 -0800

EAST VILLAGE — The health department shut down Filipino restaurant Maharlika after it found live roaches and filth flies at the eatery during a Dec. 4 inspection, records show. The popular restaurant — named one of the 25 best new restaurants in 2011 ...

South China Morning Post (subscription)

South China Morning Post (subscription)
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:27:25 -0700

More recently, in September 2014, the Maharlika II ferry carrying 58 people sank at nightfall after encountering steering problems off Southern Leyte province. Hours after leaving port, the vessel was battered by huge waves and fierce winds whipped up ...


Sun, 05 Jul 2015 05:01:55 -0700

Founder of smash restaurants Maharlika and Jeepney, Nicole Ponseca, voiced the power of owning Filipino food without apology, duck fetuses and all. Matt Grasser and LDLN showed their innovative genius in a live tech demo activating mobile devices to ...

GMA News

Fri, 03 Jul 2015 23:33:45 -0700

LUCENA CITY – At least 10 passengers aboard a Manila-bound bus were hurt in a road accident along Maharlika Highway in Calauag, Quezon after their vehicle ran straight into a roadside coconut tree early morning on Saturday. A Philtranco bus (Plate No.

Metro TV News

Tue, 30 Jun 2015 00:07:30 -0700

VIVA.co.id - PT Citra Maharlika Nusantara Corpora Tbk, sebelumnya bernama PT Cipaganti Citra Graha Tbk, memutuskan untuk mengelola utang perseroan melalui mekanisme restrukturisasi tanggal jatuh tempo dan penjualan aset yang sudah lunas.

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International Business Times
Sat, 13 Sep 2014 09:47:10 -0700

The accident was blamed on rough waters caused by Tropical Storm Luis. There were 58 passengers on the ferry, the MV Maharlika 2, the Philippine Star said in a Facebook post. Citing the government of the Philippines as its source, Agence France-Presse ...

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