Filipinos (in/and/of) Dunia Melayu

Luis Bienvenido Foronda
2 min readFeb 16, 2021

This article was published in OnlyFacts on February 8, 2020

While I’m still cooking up the challenge from one of our OnlyFans, here’s some trivia for y’all: Did you know Filipinos actually maintained its cultural connections with the rest of Southeast Asia prior to the dawn of Western exploration?

Illustration by Félix Javier (2020).

Dunia Melayu, otherwise known as the Malay World, refers to a cultural and ethnohistorical affinity that belongs to the Malay archipelago that extends from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Some scholars call it Nusantara and its people, Nusantao.

Sources that point to the geophysical Dunia Melayu can be found in 2nd-century Egyptian geographer Claudius Ptolemy’s Golden Khersonese.

Here Ptolemy used ‘Melayu Kulon’ (West Melayu, in Javanese) to refer to an area, somewhere close to Myanmar’s Andaman Sea.

The Serajah Melayu, Ming Annals, and Chau Ju-Kua’s Chu Fan Chi are also some of the popular sources.

18th-century Wang Gunwu used ‘Wu-Lai-Yu’ to refer to an area of a broad range of cultures.

Magellan’s expedition (1521) made a Malay word-list based on people in Brunei, Maluku, and Central Philippines almost knowing the same phrase; it reads ‘cara melayu’ (Malay ways).

To Filipinos, the connection with Malayness is present in (ka)malayan, is consciousness and sentience as Filipinos and citizens of Dunia Melayu. Its root word, malay, in Filipino, means knowledge and awareness for the shared culture within the region that is ours.

In the 19th-century, Jose Rizal used Dunia Melayu to refer to the Filipino as a people connected by its Malay heritage.

He disproved claims by some foreign scholars that there was no civilization before Spanish interaction.

In fact, names bestowed upon Rizal are the Pride of the Malay Race and the Great Malay.

Apolinario Mabini, the Brains of the Revolution, had the ambition to create a “Malay Confederacy” that would include modern-day Malaysia and Indonesia.

In the 2017 Malay World Conference held at the Manila Hotel, Filipino historian Ian Alfonso of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines called for Filipino, Indonesian and Malay scholars to try and look at the intersecting histories far and between those in Island Southeast Asia.

Alfonso also called for a scholarship to be focused between the time of Magellan’s voyage and the Battle of Manila in 1571.

Indeed, the Filipinos’ place in Southeast Asia is something yet to be further explored and represents an interesting prospect of shared cultures, traditions, and histories.


Murad, A.M. (2019). Filipinos and the Malay World. New Straits Times.

Curaming, R.A. (2011). Filipinos as Malay: historicizing an identity. University Brunei Darussalam.