Princess Urduja: A princess story with no prince

February 6, 2017 at 2:22 pm Leave a comment


By Yolanda Sotelo
DAGUPAN CITY – This is a princess story with a twist: That a woman can be strong, brave and beautiful and there was no man to match her prowess, so she remained single all her life.
It is the story of Princess Urduja whose existence is still debated on – whether she was real or was just a figment of some travellers’ imagination. But she remains in the consciousness of Pangasineses as a maiden warrior who ruled the province a long time ago.
If she existed, she must be far ahead of the women empowerment  movements  as she was a warrior of no mean caliber. And she did not need a man by her side to win battles to preserve her kingdom that was called Tawalisi.
If she was a fairy tale princess, she is far different from the other princesses as she needed no prince to kiss her, or bring her  shoes, or dance with her and carry her off to his castle.
Several Princess Urduja accounts had no mention at all of a man in her life, or of being fragile and sweet who needed a prince or someone stronger.
Instead, she was described as “fierce,” “brave,” “intelligent,”  “kind” and “exceedingly beautiful of fair Malay complexion of golden hue, with traces of black, smooth hair reaching down her heels.”
She was not wanting of suitors as many came to ask for her hand.
But Urduja told them: “I will marry only the man who can defeat me. My husband must be braver, stronger, and wiser than myself.”
No one qualified, so she remained unmarried all her life, for no one wished to be beaten by a woman..
Accounts of Morrocan  traveller and scholar Ibn Batuta showed that on his way to China in 1345, he stopped at her kingdom called Tawalisi somewhere in northern Luzon. He did not want to go down his vessel to partake of the banquet prepared for him by the kingdom dwellers who he thought were “infidels.”
Offended, Princess Urduja  had him summoned. He was surprised by what he saw: The princess was robed in her richest and best, decked with precious  stones and surrounded by brave and loyal men and women, and spoke to the visitors in Arabic.

“You behold me, seated around my throne, the elderly ladies who are my counselors. Do their chairs of sandal-wood, does my silk canopied and gold-plated throne, suggest the court of a barbarous people?”she told the stunned scholar.
But what she added must be the most telling about her as a warrior princess: “ You have been told about me. You know that I am governor of this port in place of my brother because, with my army of free women, slave girls and female captives – all of whom fought just as well as men could – I won a big battle. And you have heard, too, I’m sure, that I am still unmarried because I will marry no man except him who shall conquer me, and all the eligible suitors in this vicinity are afraid to try for fear of being beaten by a girl.”
Was she real? National hero Jose Rizal thought so. Professor Maria Crisanta Nelmida-Flores said when the story about Princess Urduja was retold in the writings of Rizal and his notable biographer Austin Craig, the story gained legitimacy. Rizal even made his own calculations that Urduja’s kingdom must be in the neighborhood of the northern part of the Philippines, she said.
The account of historian Zoila Galang gave a more detailed description of the Amazon warrior and her kingdom, Nelmida-Flores said.
But it starts like most fairy tales do: When Pangasinan was a kingdom, about seven hundred years ago, there lived a famous woman ruler in that dominion. Young, beautiful and well-educated. Princess Urduja was reputed to be a good warrior who personally led her soldiers to the battlefields
Unlike most fairytales however, there was no prince in the Princess Urduja story.
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Entry filed under: News.

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