This name uses Philippine naming customs for indigenous people. There is no family name, but the sole name is Urduja.
This article is about the legendary heroine. For the animated film about Urduja, see Urduja (film).
Title Princess Urduja
Description Philippine folk heroine
Gender Female
Region Pangasinan

Urduja (ca. 1350–1400 AD) is a legendary warrior princess who is recognized as a heroine in Pangasinan, Philippines. The name Urduja appears to be Sanskrit in origin, and a variation of the name "Udaya", meaning "arise" or "rising sun", or the name "Urja", meaning "breath". A historical reference to Urduja can be found in the travel account of Ibn Battuta (1304 – possibly 1368 or 1377 AD), a Muslim traveler from Morocco.

Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta described Urduja as the ruler of Kaylukari in the land of Tawalisi and leader of the Kinalakian. After reaching Samudra-Pasai Sultanate in what is now Sumatra, Indonesia, Ibn Battuta passed by Tawalisi on his way to China. Princess Urduja was described as a daughter of a ruler named Tawalisi of a land that was also called Tawalisi. The ruler of Tawalisi, according to Ibn Battuta, possessed many ships and was a rival of China, which was then ruled by a Mongol dynasty.[1] Ibn Battuta sailed for 17 days to reach China from the land of Tawalisi.[2]

Ibn Battuta made a pilgrimage to Mecca and he traveled to many other parts of the Islamic world. From India and Sumatra, Ibn Battuta reached the land of Tawalisi. Ibn Battuta described Urduja as a warrior princess whose army was composed of men and women. Urduja was a woman warrior who personally took part in the fighting and engaged in duels with other warriors. She was quoted as saying that she will marry no one but him who defeats her in duel. Other warriors avoided fighting her for fear of being disgraced.[3]

Urduja impressed Ibn Battuta with her military exploits and her ambition to lead an expedition to India, known to her as the "Pepper Country." She also showed her hospitality by preparing a banquet for Ibn Battuta and the crew of his ship. Urduja generously provided Ibn Battuta with gifts that included robes, rice, two buffaloes, and four large jars of ginger, pepper, lemons, and mangoes, all salted, in preparation for Ibn Battuta's sea-voyage to China.[4]

Image of Urduja

Urduja often described as tall and beautiful having golden bronze skin and dark hair, clad in gold and is adept in sword fighting and horseback riding. Leader of the Kinalakihan (warrior women). She is also believed to be multi-dialect which is a common characteristic of the nobles in pre-colonial Philippines.


Modern research by historian William Henry Scott indicates Ibn Batutta's story of Urduja to be pure fiction and the land of Tawalisi to be similarly fictitious.[5] However, the sources relied upon by William Henry Scott was very limited and not definitive; he did not do substantive archaeological work in Pangasinan or a more detailed study of Pangasinan history. Philippine school textbooks used to include Princess Urduja in the list of great Filipinos.

In the late 19th Century, Jose Rizal, national hero of the Philippines, who was also a respected scholar but who did not have access to William Henry Scott's sources, speculated that the land of Tawalisi was in the area of the northern part of the Philippines, based on his calculation of the time and distance of travel Ibn Battuta took to sail to China from Tawalisi. In 1916, Austin Craig, an American historian of the University of the Philippines, in "The Particulars of the Philippines Pre-Spanish Past", who also did not have access to the sources relied upon by William Henry Scott, traced the land of Tawalisi and Princess Urduja to Pangasinan.In the province of Pangasinan, the governor's residence in Lingayen is named "Urduja House".[6] A statue of Princess Urduja stands at the Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan.

Princess Urduja's gifts of rice, buffaloes, ginger, pepper, lemons, mangoes, and salt are products that are abundant in Pangasinan and India. The closely related Ibaloi people have an oral tradition of a woman named Udayan who ruled an ancient alliance of lowland and highland settlements in Pangasinan and the neighboring province of Benguet. Ibn Battuta also mentioned that Urduja had some knowledge of Turkish, which indicates some contact with foreigners. During the time of Ibn Battuta, the influence of the Turkish Ottoman Empire was on the rise in India, but not in the Philippines, which provides a conflicting account of whether Urduja was indeed from the Philippines.

Ibn Batutta's travel account suggests that he also saw elephants in the land ruled by Urduja. Elephants can still be found in Borneo, and may have been gifts or traded in Pangasinan in earlier times. Ancient Malayo-Polynesian sailing vessels (such as the Balangay), like the ones used by the ancient Bugis and those depicted in the Borobudur bas-reliefs, were capable of transporting heavy cargoes, including elephants. There are depictions of such ancient ships in maritime Southeast Asia transporting several elephants for trade.

In Pangasinan, the legendary Urduja has been depicted as the only daughter of a Rajah whose sons lost their lives defending their agricultural settlements in the Agno River valley and sea trade routes to their Srivijaya and Champa allies. Urduja trained in the art of war since she was a child and became an expert with the kampilan and a skilled navigator. She commanded a flotilla of proas to protect her country's maritime trade networks against pirates and threats from Mongol ruled China. With her beauty, she attracted many suitors.

Princesa Urduja, a live-action adventure film based on the legend, was released in 1942.[7]

Urduja, an animated feature based on the legendary princess,[8] was released on June 18, 2008. It stars Regine Velasquez (in the lead role of Princess Urduja), Cesar Montano (as Lim Hang), Eddie Garcia (as Lakanpati), Johnny Delgado (as Wang), Epi Quizon (as Daisuke), Ruby Rodriguez (as Mayumi), Michael V. (as Kukut), Allan K. (as Tarsir) and Jay Manalo (as Simakwel) as voice actors. Joey de Leon wrote the lyrics, and the music was composed by Ogie Alcasid.

See also


  1. Ibn Battuta, The Travels of Ibn Baṭṭūṭa, A.D. 1325–1354, vol. 4, trans. H. A. R. Gibb and C. F. Beckingham (London: Hakluyt Society, 1994), pp. 884–5.
  2. Ibn Battuta, p. 888.
  3. Ibn Battuta, p. 887.
  4. Ibn Battuta, pp. 886–7.
  5. William Henry Scott, Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History, ISBN 971-10-0226-4, p.83
  6. http://www.philstar.com/nation/196317/pangasinan-government-almost-lost-urduja-house-lot
  7. "Princesa Urduja". IMDb. Retrieved 2009-10-07.
  8. Urduja. Accessed August 28, 2008.
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