Barbara. Urduja was even adopted as symbol of the Women Development Foundation in Pangasinan and so are national feminist groups in Manila including Gabriela and Samakana. I even have a first cousin named Urduja from San Carlos married to a Braganza of Alaminos.
But what is the importance of Princess Urduja and her Kingdom of Tawalisi in this day and age?
As a symbol, Princess Urduja is the articulation of women (not only in Pangasinan but women throughout the country) of a romanticized glorified matriarchal amazonic past. This articulation stems from the reality of gender inequality which from a feminist perspective is a given under a patriarchal system of relations.
But Princess Urduja as a symbol goes beyond feminism for her story has been believed, constructed, reproduced even by men. The historical narrative of Ibn Batuta has been eclipsed by literary stories about this exoticized maiden warrior with a colorful tapestry of a kingdom that explicitly displays its power and wealth. The myth of kingdoms and princesses are actually defensive responses to the onslaught of Hispanization. Anacbanua writer/scholars like Catalino Catanaoan and Antonio del Castillo in the 20th century reinforce the belief in a kingdom of colonial elites under Spain like Rizal who perhaps, romanticized a glorious Philippine pre-hispanic past as a reaction to Eurocentrism. In short, the significance of Princess Urduja and her Kingdom of Tawalisi does not depend anymore on whether these are historical truths or just myths because as symbol and discourse, Princess Urduja and her Kingdom underscore the powerful truth about our colonization and the reality of patriarchal relations.
The province of Pangasinan has always been known for its Nuestra Seňora de Manaoag. It is also famous for its many healers, whether locally known as managtambal or nationally and internationally recognized as faithhealers. The province is often described as very religious and conservative, producing a significant number of priests and seminarians annually. Lately, with the awareness on local tourism, the political administration takes pride in the Virgin’s Well and the much talked about Pyramid of Asia. All these situated in the town of Manaoag. With the replication of the Image of the Our Lady of Manaoag throughout the country, this popular devotion through the aid of both print and visual communication has reached wider audiences, unprecedented since its first canonical celebration in 1926. But what appears to be simply a Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin who performs miracles, is a rich text that echoes the traditions of an ancient past, the conundrum of a colonial religious icon, and the appropriation of a people in their quest for peace and freedom.
The original 17th century Spanish Nuestra Seňora to 20th century Our Lady of Manaoag, is indeed a religious symbol. Its symbology is culled from centuries of cultural encounters within a colonial setting. The ivory image brought to our shores through the missionary zeal of Fr. Juan de San Jacinto, O.P. glamorized the ancient concept of po-on, but on the other hand, personalized a stoic icon on the retablo. Precolonial ‘Tipan ng Mahal na Ina’ has her spirit descend upon a material representation in the Nuestra Seňora yet her loving and maternal care never wavered for those who truly believe in