According to the article Cebu, a Port City in Prehistoric and in Present Times,

The Visayan Islands had earlier encounter [sic] with the Greek traders in 21 A.D.

This is repeated in the Wikipedia article Prehistory of the Philippines almost word for word but with a specific reference to the island of Cebu, 'discovered' in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan who died there at the end of a bamboo spear. The same sentence also appears in History of the Philippines (900–1521).

The original source for all the above is a 1973 book History of Panay by Felix B Regalado and Quintin B Franco. A review of this book in the Journal of Asian and African Studies (1980) is less than complimentary in parts, notably:

the book is interspersed with a number of careless, trifling assertions

The reviewer also (rather uncharitably) describes the authors' English as "deplorable".

Unfortunately, despite being in the Philippines, I can't get my hands on a copy of this book to see from where the authors got the information about Greek traders in 21 AD. Nor have I been able to find any other clear reference to these Greek traders.

My searching did turn up several references to the Philippines relating to the geographer Ptolemy's map, including this claim:

According to Jose Rizal (national hero), on Ptolemy's map, which was made before the second century A.D., the group of islands now known as the Philippines was called Tawalisi.

Ptolemy's source was apparently a sailor called Hippalus, but there is no reference in the Wiki article to him venturing beyond the Indian ocean. Also, the Wiki article on Tawalisi says we can only guess at the location of this kingdom.

Finally, according to this Wiki page, Ptolemy referred to another Philippine island, Mindoro ('Island of Gold'), as 'Chryse' but there is no further information. Also, looking at Ptolemy's map hasn't helped (maybe because I'm hopeless at deciphering the text).

None of these references, though, are evidence of Greek (or Roman) traders having actually visited any of the Philippine islands. The only source which says this is History of Panay, the credibility of which seems to be in some doubt. However, the reference 21 AD is quite specific...

Is there any evidence to support the reference to Greek (or Roman) traders having visited any of the Philippine islands during the 1st (or even the 2nd) century AD?

3 Answers 3


History of Panay was published by Central Philippine University (Jaro, Iloilo City). I'll leave the interpretation up to you other than to say there's nothing here to support the question's claim. From page 77-78:

The early Filipinos had trade relations with the neighboring countries of Borneo, China, Japan, and Siam. Business was carried on chiefly by barter. Long before the time of Columbus, Filipinos were already known in Mecca, Egypt, the Balkans, Macedonia, and England as "traders from the East."

As early as A.D. 31 the Ptolemy of Egypt, according to the records of ancient geographers, had knowledge of the traders from the East who were reputed to be honest, intelligent, healthy in their earnest dealings. These traders were known as "Manila-men" because they came from "Manila" or "Maniola", names encountered in the records of the most ancient geographers. The word "Manila" or "Maynila", according to the Chinese geographer Chau-Ju-Kua, came from the word "Mai", the name of all islands north of Borneo....

These traders exported to Egypt sinamay cloth, wax, mirrors, silk, sulphur, gold, silver, and pearls. They established their trading bases on the Koramandel and Malabar coasts....

Professor Austin Craig, eminent student of Philippine history, said that the ancient traders of the Philippines exported sinamay cloth to Greece in A.D. 21 and Strabo, a Roman geographer of the First Century, referred to the commodity as "Ta see sika", or 'flex combed from the trees'. Manila hemp was well known to the Caesars of Rome, and sinamay cloth was once sold to the museum of Dresden, Germany for its antiquity.

San Francisco Public Library got me a copy from University of Nevada, Reno, where it is inexplicably filed under Basque Studies. Somewhat unusually for a library book, this copy contains a bit of its own provenance in the form of a formal receipt showing that it cost 30 pesos cash in 1977.

As for Austin Craig, he wrote A Thousand Years of Philippine History Before the Coming of the Spaniards, which discusses these links in rather oblique language on the very first page. Enjoy.

  • Good find. It seems History of Panay read more into Craig than there is (which doesn't seem to be much at all), and it's clear that the internet sources (which seem to stem from one person) have pretty much fabricated this claim. One point, though: the question does not make any claims, it simply asked for evidence (of which, you have shown, there is none). Jul 7, 2018 at 1:16

Since embassies from the Roman and the Byzantine empires are recorded to have arrived in China on a few occasions, It was obviously possible for persons to travel overland from Roman territory to China, or to travel from Roman territory to India in Greco-Roman ships and then get other transportation to eventually arrive in China from the south, and thus by sea.

Thus it was obviously possible for individuals of Greek or other ethnicity from Roman territory to arrive at the Philippines in antiquity, and some might have actually reached some specific city in the Philippines at some specific date. So the claim that Greek or Roman traders visited Cebu in the Philippines in 21 AD is certainly possible, but unproven without more evidence than you have found so far.

  • 11
    Before we get "more evidence" what about the slightest trace of evidence in the first place?
    – fdb
    Jun 19, 2018 at 22:06
  • 1
    @fdb Did you know that 1 > 0 ? One is more than zero? Really, we need to be polite here, and mindful that not everyone has perfect English skills. Jun 19, 2018 at 23:51
  • 3
    The request for actual evidence is always appropriate -- far too many assertions ultimately depend on nothing but oft repeated surmise. OTOH, it's definitely valuable to show that something is possible or plausible.
    – Mark Olson
    Jun 30, 2018 at 11:39

what do you think about the Greek armors found in Mindanao https://www.greecehighdefinition.com/blog/2019/6/28/ancient-greek-armour-in-the-philippines

  • 3
    Welcome to the site @Peej! Do you want this to be an answer to the existing question (in which case please revise to make that clear), or are you asking a new question ( you may wish to consult help center to make the question less subjective and more likely to elicit an authoritative answer. In either case, thanks for the input.
    – MCW
    Nov 1, 2019 at 11:46
  • The Tokay Gecko is not native to the Mediterranean.
    – justCal
    Nov 1, 2019 at 14:01
  • The weapon design is decidedly not Greek also. Junk video.
    – justCal
    Nov 1, 2019 at 14:50

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