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Filipino Society and Culture at the Spanish Contact

[brief review of last discussion]

● early contact with people from Asia mainland and the Middle East
● trade with foreign goods that led to growth of local economy: production
increased and diversified, specialization, and establishment of commercial hubs
● gave rise to social stratification, wealth accumulation, intermarriages and
● agorangs - council of elders advised the leaders on important decisions affecting
the community
● bagani political system with well-defined customary laws as basis for its
● complex religious system

[to transition]
● reconstruct in some detail the dominant features of Filipino society and culture at
the time when the Spaniards came
● from historical documents of early Spanish chroniclers - unfortunate that no
native wrote about the impact
● some chroniclers were sympathetic with local practices and beliefs and recorded
faithfully; others were extremely biased
● chroniclers like Pigafetta, Morga (see PI notes)

7: Nature of Early Filipino Communities

Community structure
● Ancient Filipinos were living in big settlements clustered along sheltered bays,
coastal areas and mouth of big rivers
● Residential arrangements were either lineal or composite
● Lineal arrangement was characterized by houses constructed close to each
other in a single file, along the river banks or along the seashore | predominate
the coasts of Cebu, Leyte, Bohol and thost at the mouth of Panay, Cagayan,
Manila and others | described as ‘spanned the length of about one and a half
league along the beach’
● Economic needs appear to be the most important motivating reason - major
source of protein foods such as fish, shrimps, edible shells, eels and others
● Ease of transportation, movement of people and goods | biniray, paraos
● **under ba to ng lineal? isipin mo muna* Land use as another factor that brought
the unnucleated structuring of pre-hispanic communities | kaingin, slash and burn
- it implies: 1) topography, 2) enhanced mobility of farmers, 3) mobility brought
impermanence of settlements and communities, 4) population dispersion
● Composite arrangement was characterized by a nuclear-type of clustering
houses (more dwellings are constructed at the center of the village that at the
periphery) - rare, found in trading areas near the coast or along the coast of
Manila Bay, Rizal, Bulacan, Lingayen, Batangas, and Laguna Lake
● In interior hills and plains, villages were scattered | some houses clustered atop
high promontories and steep ridges | largely influenced by land use, economic
activities, protection from enemies, degree of political consciousness
● Belief in the active participation of spirits in the lives of men - cause of
residential mobility
● 15th - 16th cent. Widening influence of foreign traders, people from hinterlands
were drawn to coastal areas for trade purposes - modified and shaped native
goals and values in life, resulting in abandoning of many interior domiciles and
establishment of new one - people became sedentary agriculturists and
● Large communities part. in trade centers - “walls” made of palm trees and stout
arigues (wooden posts) filled with earth, mounted in various strategic places
were many bronze lantakas (culverines)

● House of prehispanic Filipinos were similar to contemporary structures in many
rural and coastal areas; uniformly constructed, four-walled, one to two-room
dwellings raised about 3 or 4 meters above ground on bamboo or timber posts
● Walls wre made of wood and bamboo; among coastal dwellers, nipa shingles
were used for roofs while among the interior residents, cogon grass was
● Rooms were generally small and residents slept and ate together
● In big houses, there were section called bahandin where valuables are kept; near
the main door were open constructions called batalanes - used for resting and for
entertaining friends and kinsmen during the night, these also served as storage
for household articles such as big baskets, unused sawali mats, fuel and so
● Beside these batalanes, usually facing east, were pegged bamboo or timber
ladders used for going up and down the house; each house was built specifically
to meet the needs of the occupants
● The ground below was enclosed with stakes and bamboo and was used to
shelter domestic animals like carabaos, goats, and fowls at night; in some, used
as a granary and as a work space
● Houses on tree-trunks; most were for unmarried men; constructed primarily for
protection and to house “lookouts” for enemies during inter-community feuds.
Fixed ladder, or vine called balagun. Rare and generally in the interior areas
● House sizes varied according to economic status. Houses of chiefs were big, and
were normally surrounded by smaller ones belonging either to relatives or to
servile debtors
● Datus built their houses more elaborately than anyone else’s and did not allow
any person or family head who did not belong to the class to build more
● Raised above ground on center posts of timber or bamboo stilts called arigues or
palahosan (“to extend beyond”)
● Rafters (sarguntin) were sometimes not placed on the first ridge or pole but were
constructed one one top of the other, in a terrace-like manner
● Floors of ancient dwellings, even on affluent class, were not made of flat boards
rather roughly-sewn timber known as bahaes or bahes

Economic subsistence
● Agriculture
○ Slash and burn in the interior and higher coastal place
○ Wet rice agriculture in the lower sections of countrysides except in the
highland area of central Cordillera (rice terracing)
○ Agri work followed changes in seasons which led to development of a
system of reckoning parts of the year
○ Rituals
○ Irrigation - stream into the rice fields
○ Millet, barona, cropisa (tuber like a sweet potato), bananas, sweet potato,
areca nuts, oil, cotton, wine and vinegar from cultivated palms like coconut
● Fishing and hunting
○ Hardlines, use of nets, and poisoning
● Mining and trade
○ Foodstuff and gold
○ Shrewd businessmen and trusted no “reckoning” but their own
○ Second class gold - malubai - 2 spanish pesos; bielu - 3 pesos, linguingui
- 4 pesos
○ Best kind of gold - oregeras, known as penica among Chinese traders
worth 5 pesos
○ Jewelry - placed second to gold
○ Guinogulan - lord of golds 22 carats
○ Mainland China, Chinese broung porcelain, mirrors, jade
○ Acquired filipino goods ranging from almaciga gums, honey and fowls to
8: Community Organization

Demographic features
● Communities varied in sizes
● Taken as a whole, entire archipelago was densely-populated, esp at coastal
● Important trade centers with flourishing commercial relations with foreign
● Ancient Philippines was such a market

The barangay
● The ancient barangay was the dominant organizational pattern among
indigenous communities in the archipelago.
● Had broader political, economic, and religious features than the family.
● Originally used to refer to a number of things:
○ A boat (also known as balangay, biniray) which people used to move
○ Group who came via the boat of the same name
○ Kinship units within the community

Inter-barangay relationship
● Inter-barangay relationships varied.
● In some areas, the relationships was peaceful & friendly.
○ Alliances were formed through marriages and blood compacts
(known as sandugo)
● In other communities, barangays were hostile.
○ Frequent infightings and surprise raids occurred.
○ Causes of inter-barangay conflicts:
i. Unwarranted killing of residents in another community
ii. Stealing wives from other barangays
iii. Treachery
○ A positive result of such conflicts: elaboration of custom laws which
governed the behavior of the people

● Leadership was assumed by the oldest member of the kin group
● Also based on kinship, age, and knowledge of local lore
Social class
● Social stratification system - datu and commoners
● However further, subgroupings based on wealth: datu class or chiefly
group, maharlika or free men, timagua or the common class, alipin (also
ayuey) or dependent class
● Datu class: people for leadership in economic, military, social, and
religious activities
● Maharlika: the nobility-concept from feudal Europe; free men, did not pay
taxes or tributes to the datu but accompanied him in war at their own
● Timawa: common masses; neither chiefs nor servile debtors; if he desires
to live in a certain village, he simply joined one of the chiefs in any
community of his own choice
● Alipin (tagalog) / uripon (bisaya) : least privileged, “slaves”, “servile
debtors”, “peons”, “dependent groups”
○ Alipin: saguiguilir (resided in master’s house and did all work) and
namamahay (lived in their own houses, summoned)
○ Uripon: ayuey (most exploited), tumaranpoc (allowed to live in their
own houses), and tumataban (worked in master’s house only when
there was feasting or revel)
○ Alipin were treated accdg to status; some were sold, likely to
remain with the family; ayueys sold at 2 gold taels or 12 pesos,
same with tumaranpoc; tumataban worth one tael or 6 pesos
○ Tagalog - general price for a saguiguililr was about 10 taels of good
gold or 80 pesos, namamahay, half the sum
○ What makes an alipin?
■ Punishment for a major crime like adultery, disobedience,
thievery, capture in raids, inability to pay debt, being born
into it

9: Elements of Social Organization

Kinship system
· Kinship and common ritual interests were the basic organizational principles
underlying community life and social activities in pre-Spanish Filipino society and
· An individual traced his descent from two lateral groups – the father’s side and
the mother’s side.
· The range and size of the bilaterally extended kin group was very important to
ancient Filipinos. This was further reinforced through blood-brotherhood pacts
(sandugo) and food-feeding ceremonies.
· The rights and obligations from ritual kinship were as binding as those obtained
from biological relations.

Life Cycle
Pregnancy and birth – It is believed that the spirits actively participate in the
procreative activities of humans. The anito is believed to participate in making the
woman pregnant or preventing her from becoming so.

Pregnant women observed elaborate ceremonies involving complicated rituals and

prayers. Oftentimes, the entire community participated in the affair. Such ceremonies
were complemented by the observance of all kinds of preventive measures. For
1. Pregnant women avoid certain foods like sea turtles, land tortoise, fish
without scales, etc.;
2. Pregnant women were not allowed to enter the house unless they
melted a pinch of salt in their mouths or chewed buyo;
3. Pregnant women didn’t eat “twin” banana fruits;
4. Members of the family should avoid putting plates one over the other in a
pile; and
5. Husbands should not have their hair cut until their wives have delivered
their babies.

· Although children were wanted, birth control was also practiced.

· Some extreme methods were practiced in the belief that it would control
pregnancy: making a hole through the genitals and placing a tin tube inside, to which
they fasten a spur-like wheel -- a full palm in circumference.
· Abortions were done by affluent members of the community.

Childhood and puberty – Children were given names after certain events related to
their birth, place-names, desired traits, or objects that the baby presumably was like
after being born.

As soon as the first child was born to the parents, they latter were known as father of
(name of child) [also known as pat’ama] or mother of (name of child) [also known as
· Mothers taught daughters the female roles in the family and in the community, while
the fathers took care of training their sons for warfare.
· Killing was part of the vendetta-complex having to do with the protection of the
family and the avenging of its honor or that of one of its members, thus the training of
the young in warfare started early.

· The onset of menstruation was marked with elaborate rituals:

· Girls were enclosed with mantles and windows were covered. Their eyes
were covered, and were not allowed to talk to anybody during the
ceremonies. For four days, they were only allowed to eat two eggs or four
mouthfuls of rice in the morning and the same amount at night. Each
morning before dawn, a member of the community carries the girl
blindfolded on his shoulder to the river where the girl was immersed in
eight times. Then, she is seated on a chair built on the river, which is
crowded with paper and cloth buntings. The blindfold is removed
afterwards and the girl covers her eyes with her own hands until she is
blindfolded again. Once finished, the girl is once again carried on the
shoulders and returned to the house. She is then rubbed with ointments.
This was presided by the catalonan.
· These ceremonies were done to ensure fertility and to make the girls
attractive so that they could find husbands.

Adolescence and marriage – ancient Filipinos married young. Many were

monogamous, although some were polygamous.
· Child marriages were frequent. Some marriages were contracted even before
the children are born.
· The custom of the groom working for the prospective bride’s family was
prevalent in theprecolonial days. This was called panghagad in the Bisayas.
· Dowries, or bigay-kaya, were also given.
· Tagalogs – Plasencia reports that if a man had several sons, the amount of
dowry each had during marriage varied according to the current wealth of the father
and the social status of the prospective bride.
· Bisayans – Loarca contradicted Plasencia’s accounts. He stated that the dowry
was initially given to the father-in-law, but this reverted back to the couple as soon
as children were born.

Death and burial – Persons with high ranks or those who belonged to the chiefly class
had elaborate ceremonies during vigils for the dead and complex funeral rites during
· The body of the dead was sponged with a concoction from boiled and pounded
leaves and tubers, and was carefully embalmed and wrapped in blankets.
· Ritual criers went around the village to announce the death to the people.
· The poor were buried in ordinary graves dug underneath the house.
· The well-to-do were put inside coffins of hardwood. These coffins were kept in
one of the following places:
1. Upper part of the house with the jewels;
2. Lower part of the house, raised from the ground; or
3. In the ground itself, in an open hole, surrounded with a small railing,
without covering the coffin over with earth.
· Boxes filled with the best clothing of the deceased and food were placed near
the coffins.
Plasencia reported a slightly different practice among the Tagalogs:
· If the deceased had been a warrior, a living slave was tied beneath his body
until in this wretched way he died. For many days, the relatives of the dead man
mourned, sang dirges and praises of his good qualities until they got tired.
· If the dead man was a chief, he was not buried right away. The bereaved
mourned for four days. As soon as the fourth day was over, the body is laid in a boat
which served as the coffin, placed beneath the porch, while a slave watched over
· If the cause of the person’s death was murder, the mourning taboos were not
lifted until his death was avenged. People wore rattan foot-and-hand rings. They
also cut their hair short. They withdrew into the house of the deceased or that of his
nearest relatives. They covered themselves with old blankets. They lay their faces
down on the floor and remained in this position without talking or eating for three
days. During this time, they only drink. After three days, they eat nothing which has
come contact with fire until they have taken vengeance or observed their customs.
· Mourning among the Tagalogs was symbolized by wearing black and among
the Bisayans, white.
· The Bisayans shaved their heads and eyebrows. Silence was also imposed on
the entire village. Anyone who broke the silence or trespassed tabooed grounds
were speared to death or severely punished.
· Pabaon – done during the interment. Gold rings, chains, bracelets, clothing, and
other goods were buried with the dead.

Inheritance – Loarca provided a detailed account regarding inheritance in central

· If a man died and left 4 children, the property and slaves were divided into 4
equal parts.
· If the man left a bastard child, the child would receive only what his brothers
voluntarily give him.
· If the dead man left no children, all his brothers inherited, having equal shares.
· If he had no brothers, his cousins and all his kinsmen received their shares.
· Adopted children also shared the inheritance with their foster parents. They
inherit double of what was paid for their adoption.

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