Friday, July 16, 2010

Conversion to Roman Catholicism 17th Century

Roel Cantada

A Spanish priest named Pedro Chirino (1604) narrated that a former catalonan named Diego Magsanga (Unabia, 2000) converted to Roman Catholicism and was teaching children cathechism (Doctrina Christiana or Christian Doctrines) in Silang, Cavite. He also reported that a lot of people followed this former catalonan. We can surmise that the catalonan was more convincing than the friars because he was the religious leader of the barangay. Although he was not a priest the likely role the Spanish priest gave him in the church is that of a laity or hermano. We will talk more about this later on.

Not all of the native priests accepted the new religion. In the Visayas it has been reported that in 1621 a babayalan named Tamblot led hundreds of Boholanos in revolt in order to restore the old religion. This was suppressed by 50 Spanish soldiers and 1,500 indios. (Agoncillo & Guerrero 1977, p.119) The chief of Limasawa, Leyte who had converted to Christianity also led a revolt in 1622 to restore the pagan religion but was defeated by again a combined Spanish-indio force. (Agoncillo & Guerrero) We can see that conversion especially for the adults was not an easy thing. It took hundreds of years, a change in generation before the new religion was integrated. Some catalonans were arrested, imprisoned or even executed as witches. Pag-aanitos were raided by the Spanish priests, the likhas wer confiscated and burned. The Spanish priest could force people to stop practicing the old religion because in the Spanish colonial government the church and the state was one. The priest can call soldiers to arrest and punish heretics, sometimes priest even carry swords and went to war. Generally it was the children who were taught by people like Diego Magsanga that trully accepted the new religion. But even then the understanding of the Latin rites of Roman Catholicism and Christianity was generally shallow and mixed with paganism. The form reminds us of the concept of Abangan muslims, which current anthropologist now call Folk-Christianity, a mixture of Christian and pagan beliefs. Even today a lot of nominal Christians believe in aswangs, tiyanaks, and agimats. Some also believe in cult leaders practicing the babaylan/catalonan ritual of possession and healing the sick. Although it is no longer an anito that is said to possess the catalonan but Roman catholic figures like the Virgin Mary, Sto. Niño (child jesus), saints and even dwarves.

What then is Roman Catholicism and where did former catalonans/babaylans fit into this new religion?

The Roman Catholic church believes that it was founded by Jesus and its bishops are successors of the first apostles. The Pope (Papa, or father) is the highest authority and is believed to be the successor of St. Peter. The church’s headquarters is in the Vatican city, Italy.

The RC’s faith can be summed up in the Nicene Creed (or Apostle’s creed) which is shared with other Christian churches. It teaches that the Holy Spirit reveals God's truth through Sacred Scripture (Bible), Sacred Tradition (from the apostles) and the Magisterium or the teaching authority of the Church and includes infallible pronouncements of the pope. They believe that the Pope is guided by the Holy Spirit and cannot be wrong. (Roman Catholic Church in Wikipedia)

The following chart is a simplified diagram of the RC organizational structure in the 17th century.

There were five regular orders in the Philippines namely the Augustinians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Recollects, and the Jesuits. These were all called friars by the indios and they would become powerful in the 18th century. Notice in the above chart that indios occupy the lowest levels of the church hierarchy. Cofradias are lay organizations inside the church. Their original role is to teach cathecisms, prevent backsliding, report to the priests, and finance feasts and masses.

To the eyes of the native RC latin ritual is not too different from pagan beliefs in the use of statues and prayers for the dead. The Catholics pray for the dead because they believe in a place called purgatory where souls wait for judgement. Supposedly if the living prays for the dead he/she could go to heaven faster. The Catholic heaven is a place filled with clouds and angels that look like human beings dressed in white and having halos and wings. St. Peter is supposed to guard the gate and anyone who is to enter is looked up first in the book of life. If your not listed you go to hell. Catholic hell in the middle ages is a terrifying place. Popular belief is that it is ruled by the devil very much like the idea of hades in Greek mythology. There is fire everywhere and the souls are tortured by demons based on their sins. The devil is imagined by Catholics to have horns, pointed tail, and carrying a pitchfork or trident. Of course this is popular belief and the theology of priests could be more sophisticated. But in Catholicism in the past, reading the Bible is not encouraged because it is believed that only the church has the right to interpret the bible, there is no room for personal interpretations.

Obiter dicta:

My reading of the bible does not provide the above visual descriptions of heaven and hell. There is no mention of purgatory either. Most descriptions are prophetic and symbolic. Hell is mentioned only as a lake of fire where even the devil will be punished along with sinners. There is no mention of the devil ruling hell. There is a danger to this belief in that the devil is being equated with God. In my opinion God rules everywhere whether heaven or hell. In fact God is the one who will punish sinners not the devil. It is from God’s punishment that we are saved by him through Jesus Christ because He is merciful. It’s like a father who is about to punish his children who had sinned, but rather than punish the children he asked the eldest child (Jesus) to take all the punishment of the other children. That is why the other children will no longer be punished.


Agoncillo, T.A., & Guerrero, M.C. (1977). History of the Filipino people. (5th Ed.). Quezon city: R.P. Garcia.

Chirino, P. (1604). Relación de las Islas Filipinas (concluded). In Blair and Robertson. The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803,Vol.13.

Unabia, T. P. (2000, Agosto). Silang, kasaysayan at pananampalataya. Cavite Historical Society, p.186-187.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Native Economy 17th Century

Roel Cantada

Antonio de Morga, a Spanish governor general in the early part of Spanish colonization lamented that only thirty-two years after the conquest of the Philippines, due to an unenlightened economic policy, the enterprising indios abandoned their trade and industry, forgetting “much about their farming, poultry and stock-raising, cotton growing and weaving of blankets as they did when they were still pagans.” (As cited in Agoncillo & Guerrero)

Who can blame the indios? The Spaniards did introduce new agricultural technology. They brought new crops like the camote, potato, tobacco, papaya, cocoa etc. from Latin America. They probably encouraged the use of the Chinese plow, and the carabao. They also probably encourage the construction of large stone irrigation systems which included dams, although the Banaue rice terraces tells us that our ancestors were knowledgeable in such matters. But despite the fact that these technologies may have improve agricultural production particularly rice, the natives did not benefit from them. Instead it only increased their labor as they have to feed more non-farming people like the Spaniards, the former datus who now ape the Spaniards and no longer till the soil, the indios whom the Spaniards removed from the fields like the laborers (polistas), native soldiers (regular army), and domestic servants.

It was the timawa who has to bear the brunt of these mouths to feed. And the Spaniards instituted a confiscation system for agricultural crops particularly rice known as the Bandala. “It consisted of the assignment of annual quotas to each province for the compulsary sale of products to the Spanish colonial government. To compound the abuse the prices the government set were lower than the market prices, so that a person who could not fill his quota with his own produce had to buy at a higher price in order to sell at a lower price to the government. And the government seldom pay, they just hand out worthless promissory notes that the government itself will not accept as payment for tributo (tax).” (Constantino 1975) Of course this system of technical confiscation led to the native’s revolts.

This is on top of the tributo (taxes) which was abused by the collectors—cabeza de barangays, gobernadorcillos and alcalde mayors. They usually collected more than required to put in their pockets. In the early part of the Spanish colonization such tribute can be paid in kind. One form of tribute is cotton cloth which was used by the Spaniards for the large sails of their galleons. So instead of the women weaving cloth for their own families, they had to weave cloth for the Spaniards. This definitely discourage native weaving.

Despite all these abuses the Spaniards could not get rich enough from the natives. Initially they confiscated all the gold and bronze of the natives, even the ones buried in ancient graves. When these were all gone they relied on the Galleon Trade to get rich. The galleon trade is exclusive to the Spaniards. They buy Chinese goods, put them in galleons in Manila and send them to Mexico for sale. It is paid for in Mexican silver. The indios only took part in this trade as sailors and slave labor to build the galleons. And they forbade the indios from trading with their neighbohrs unlike in the 16th century. The large balangay boats were also gone. So most of Spaniards did not encourage industry or large scale agriculture, they were all in Intramuros, Manila waiting for their profits so that they can return to Spain rich. The indios remained poor and exploited by the Spaniards. The Spaniards particularly the friars later on will even have the gall to blame the poverty of the country on the laziness of the indios. An insult on top of injury.


Agoncillo, T.A., & Guerrero, M.C. (1977). History of the Filipino people. (5th Ed.). Quezon city: R.P. Garcia.

Constantino, R. (1975). The Philippines: A Past Revisited, Pre-Spanish-1941. Philippines: Renato Constantino.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Warriors became Soldiers 17th Century Philippines

Roel Cantada

The bayani used to be a hero, a volunteer fighter for the barangay. He had prestige and he fought for his family willingfully, bravely and gallantly. When the Spaniards came they used our warriors to fight their wars. In fact the indios were usually more numerous than the Spaniards in their wars and undoubtedly suffered more casualties.

Zaide reports the following number of indios who fought in the colonization of the Moluccas islands by the Spaniards.

No. of Ships
No. of Filipinos
Source: Zaide 1994 p.,142.

If you remember this has been a strategy of the Spaniards since their attack on Manila in 1570 when they brought Visayans with them to fight the Tagalogs. Later on the warrior would dissapear because of the lost of pandays and their metal weapons and balangay boats. They would be replaced by the draft of soldiers for the Spanish army. They would serve as regulars under Spanish officers. Some of them as Guardia Civil (Civilian Guards equivalent to the police). As salaried soldiers they did not have the same prestige as the bayani.

Here are some of the Spanish wars were the indios served aside from the Moluccas expedition mentioned above:

  1. 1586 and 1570 versus the Portuguese.

  2. 1578 expedition to Borneo and Sulu.

  3. 1600-1747 against the Dutch.

  4. 1626-1642 expedition to Taiwan.

  5. Colonization of Marianas, Palaus and Carolines in the Pacific.

  6. 1574 against the Chinese Lim-Ah-Hong and subsequent Chinese revolts from 1603-1762.

  7. 1762-64 against the British.

  8. 1858-1863 colonization by French of Indochina. 1,500 Filipino soldiers participated.

In all of these wars the indio warrior and later soldier were fighting not for their barangays but for Spain. Later in 1892 the Katipunan will resurrect the idea of a bayani in a different context.

Zaide, S.M. (1994). The Philippines: A unique nation. Manila: All-Nations.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Death of the Pandays 17th Century Philippines

Roel Cantada

The panday played an important role in the 16th century barangay. The panday is any craftsman who specialized in metals e.g. gold, silver, steel; and wood i.e. a master carpenter. He is the person who produces weapons, farm implements, boats, wooden houses, and even jewelry. Without the panday these material culture would not be produced, at least not in the same scale as in the 16th century.

What happened to them in the 17th century. Why do we, the forbears of the converted Christians or indios no longer possess kalises, lantakas and the balangay boats? Why have these technologies been lost? The answer lies in the way the Spaniards treated the pandays. One clue can be found in the narration of a Spaniard named Sebastian de Pineda in 1619. He said the pandays and other carpenters were employed by the Spaniards to build ships for the Spaniards in Cavite. He also said that although they were supposed to be paid, they were not paid for five years, so many have fled and left the land. Others had been caught in the crossfire of the so-called “moro” wars. His report show how much damage this forced labor wrought on the pandays when he said in 1616 there were 1,500 pandays in Cavite. Then in 1617 the moros captured 400 workmen and killed more than 200 others. Many have died through the severe work and in 1618 there were no more than 200 pandays. (De Pineda 1619) There could be around one panday in a barangay, so imagine how many barangays lost their pandays during the Spanish colonization if in only three years 1,300 of them had perished or disappeared.

The system of forced labor imposed by the Spaniards is known as polo y servicios. Men from 16 years old to sixty except datus and their eldest sons were required to serve for forty days each year starting in 1580. (Constantino 1975) Most of them were used by the Spaniards to build ships due to the Dutch wars (1600-1747), the Moro wars (1570-1898) and the Galleon Trade (16th century to 1815).

According to Agoncillo and Guerrero (1977) the implementation of the polo y servicios disrupted the village economy. The population of many villages were drastically reduced and farm lands were laid waste. There was starvation in may barangays. And some indios revolted like the revolt led by Francisco Maniago in 1660 in Pampanga. This was followed by the Pangasinenses led by Andres Malong and Ilocanos led by Pedro Almazan. All these were suppressed by the Spaniards with the help of other indios. (Agoncillo and Guerrero)


Agoncillo, T.A., & Guerrero, M.C. (1977). History of the Filipino people. (5th Ed.). Quezon city: R.P. Garcia.

Constantino, R. (1975). The Philippines: A Past Revisited, Pre-Spanish-1941. Philippines: Renato Constantino.

Report of Sebastian de Pineda. 1619. Blair and Robertson. The Philippine Islands.Vol. 18.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Politics in the 17th Century

Roel Cantada

In the 16th century the datus generally exercised the legislative, judicial and executive power. In the 17th century these powers would be exercised by the Spanish governor general. He had executive power in the Philippines as representative of the King of Spain. He was also the president of the Royal Audiencia which stood as the Supreme court of the colonial government in the country. And as we have stated in a previous lecture he had the “power to suspend the implementation of any royal order if, in his opinion, the conditions in the colony did not warrant its implementation.” This power is called cumplase and is stated as Obedezco pero no cumplo (I obey but I do not execute). (Agoncillo and Guerrero 1977)

Political Stucture of the Spanish colonial government

The former datus were given the title cabeza de barangay (head of the barangay) whose prime duty was to collect tributo (taxes) for the encomendero. Later the Spaniards formed larger local units composed of many barangays into the pueblo centered around a Catholic church. Sometimes the Spaniards used force to relocate entire barangays in order to form the larger unit in a process called reduccion (reduce the number of pueblos). In these pueblos they created the position of gobernadorcillo (little governor) who were elected by a board composed of outgoing gobernadorcillos and twelve members of the principalia. the principlia was a body of prominent land-owining and propertied citizens of the village who could read, write and speak Spanish. (Agoncillo and Guerrero) This is the highest political office an indio could aspire to.

What did they got out of this? They remained higher than the ordinary timawa at least ceremonially. They acted as a padrinos (middle man) between the Spaniards and Timawas. Their families were exempted from tributo (taxes) and forced labor. They were also given a small salary, but they could use his position to enrich themselves by taking some of the collected taxes and other means.

Not all datus accepted this situation but the pattern of their struggle can be illustrated with the revolt of Lakandula in 1574 during the siege of Manila by the Chinese Limahong. He led a revolt for personal grievances but was easily dissuaded and even fought with the Spaniards. Later in 1587 datus from Tagalog barangays around Manila plotted to overthrow the Spaniards but was betrayed by another datu. The plotters were executed, exiled to other islands and their properties confiscated. The datus from the conquered barangays would not be able to lead revolts again.

Agoncillo, T.A., & Guerrero, M.C. (1977). History of the Filipino people. (5th Ed.). Quezon city: R.P. Garcia.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Changes in the Social Structure in the 17th Century Philippines

Roel Cantada

Take a look at the figure above and compare the 16th century social structure of the Philippines with that of the 17th century. What changed? What happened to the Datu? Timawa? Alipin? Who occupied the highest and lowest social statuses?

These questions are what we will try to answer in this lesson. Notice that the highest social status is now occupied by the Spaniards and all the natives are below them. This means that wealth is not the only basis of the social classes but race as well. The implication is that no matter how wealthy a native gets he will never be equal or higher than a Spaniard in the colonial society. The racial barrier is something that will never be overcome unless the Spaniards are removed from the country.

What if a native marry a Spaniard will their children be considered Spaniards? The answer is no, the Spaniards consider only pure blooded Spaniards, and half-breeds whom will be called mestizos later on (creoles in Latin America) will not be accepted equal to Spaniards. But in the 17th century there is not enough half-breeds to constitute a separate class.

During this time the Spaniards coined three terms to refer to the natives of the Philippines. They called the natives who had converted to Catholicism indios, the muslim moros, and the pagans of the Cordilleras in Luzon, igorots. All three terms had bad connotations and should be avoided today. Both the datu’s family and the timawa are now called indios which when translated in the native languages would be equivalent to Tagalog, Visaya, Bikolano etc. The word indio is a word used by the Spaniards to refer to the natives of Latin America, wherein Columbus I think made a mistake when he thought that he was in India when in fact he was in another continent. In English it is the same as calling the natives of North America Indians. It is also related to the terms Indonesia, East Indies (Philippines and Indonesia) , and West Indies (Cuba, Haiti etc.).

Returning to our figure, you would have noticed that the lowest class is now occupied by the timawas. What happened to the alipins? They were freed or natimawa by the Spaniards. The King of Spain issued a proclamation banning slavery (esclavitud in Spanish), and the Pope also issued a bull stating the same and even threatening excommunication for anyone keeping a native slave. But these proclamations where not automatically enforced because there was one curious thing about the implementation of Spanish laws in the Philippines: the governor general can decide which laws to implement and when given the current conditions and because of the distance from Spain. It takes months before communication with Spain arrives and consultation would have been impossible for emergencies. It probably took a hundred years before slavery dissapeared. Until the 17th century some Pampangan datus were reported to have filed cases in Manila against their slaves who had escaped. The Spaniards being weak and under threat from Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and muslims tribes from the south did not want to alienate their datu allies. Rather it was the next generation who had converted to Catholicism and integrated the values of Christianity taught by the church that had resulted in the freeing of slaves.

Of course for the Timawa the implication was not good, they had become the lowest class and lost prestige. In fact by the 17th century the word timawa is no longer associated with being free or freedom, something positive, but with being destitute, poor, and always hungry. Today no one wants to be called timawa, because it has been equated with being a slave rather than being free. But as late as 1896 during the Philippine revolution Andres Bonifacio used it in his poem to mean free. Later on they would coin the new word malaya (free) to avoid the negative connotations of the word timawa.

The datus did not go unscathed by the freeing of the slaves. The power of the datus in the 16th century was based on slavery. The slaves did the extra farm work that provided more crops and they served as rowers in the balangay boat for warfare. Without the slaves the datus lost prestige, wealth and military power. Later on we will talk about how the Spaniards substituted other institutions for datus to remain higher than the timawas.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

17th Century Changes in the Writing and Speech of Natives of the Philippines

Roel Cantada

When the natives of the Islands were defeated by the Spaniards, they adopted some of their conqueror’s culture. This could be explained as a form of acculturation by a subordinate culture to a dominant culture. The Spaniards had acquired the highest socio-political status in the country and the natives tried to copy them in order to reach a higher social status.

One of the most fundamental cultural element is language. We have known from our earlier studies that the natives have many languages and used baybayin to write in the 16th century. Throughout the 17th century baybayin would disappear due to disuse and neglect by the natives. The last time baybayin was used in the Tagalog provinces was around the end of the 18th century. The natives would then adopt the latin alphabet of the Spaniards called Abecede that still used today.

Not only did they change their writing but also their speech. Even Tagalogs of old did not distinguish between “o” and “u”, “e” and “i” much like the Visayans today. We can still find this in words like lalake, lalaki, babae, babai. Aside from this they also did not distinguish between "d” and “r”, and they could not pronounce two or more consonants like “cr” in cruz (cross), or “gr” in gracia (grace). They would pronounce the two words ku-rus and ga-ra-si-ya because the language demands syllables made up of consonants and vowels.

The Tagalogs particularly changed the way they spoke not so much because of Spanish education but because of immitation and the teachings of dalubasa(s), or people who are good at speaking and translating two languages. Bienvenido Lumbera calls bilingual natives who worked mostly with Spanish missionaries during the early Spanish colonization ladinos. (as cited in Rafael 1988) One prominent dalubasa is Tomas Pinpin, a Tagalog from Bataan who wrote and published in 1610 the book Librong Pagaaralan nang manga Tagalog nang uicang Castila (The book with which Tagalogs can learn Castilian). In this book he taught Tagalogs to distinguish “e” from “i”, “o” from “u”, and “d” from “r”.

Pinpin also gives us a clue why Filipinos today incorporated a lot of Spanish words in their language but cannot speak Spanish. The way they learned Spanish words is by memorizing poems that has one word in Tagalog and it’s equivalent in Spanish. This technique is still used in comedy skits with songs. Here is an excerpt of Pinpin’s awit:

...ang palad (palm), la palma, bayiqui (mumps), papera, ang bao (skull), el casco, bonbonan (pate), mollera, ang pigi (buttocks), y, las nalgas, ang tae (shit), la mierda, anopat di ang puit (ass), la parte trasera, ang Bayan (town), el pueblo... (Pinpin 1910)

The farthest any native went in learning Spanish can be seen in the pidgin Spanish language called Chavacano, which is spoken by a small group in Cavite city (Tagalog + Spanish) and Zamboanga city (Visayan + Spanish). This language is very much like Taglish today.
Why did the Tagalogs try to learn Spanish? As I have said above they consider it a prestige language like English today. They hoped it would open doors of opportunities for them to go higher in society. They would be able to understand the conquerors and be able to negotiate with them both in business and politics. In its most practical and serious use they would be able to apply and read land titles, a matter of life and death for a family during those times when agriculture was the only means of livelihood. In the book of Pinpin the first lesson was about numbers and money, something according to Pinpin the natives love to learn.

“Dito sa unang cabanata, isisilid co ang manga pagbilang nang dilan balang na, munti’t, marami; ang sa pilac at ang sa dilan tinatacal; at ang siya ngang naiibig ninyong onahing pagaralan.” (Pinpin. 1910)

(Here in this first chapter, I will talk about the numbers for counting everything, be it little or a lot; for silver and for everything measurable; for this is what you love to study first. (Rafael, 1988))

Therefore we can infer that Filipinos wanted to learn Spanish to be equal with Spaniards. So that they can not be outwitted by the Spaniards in legal and business matters, or so they can outwit the Spaniards. But the Spaniards never taught the natives their language in a systematic and enthusiastic manner like in Latin America. Why? Because the Spaniards knew from their experience in Latin America that once the natives learned their language they begin to demand equality. The Spaniards would find it difficult to use land titles to grab land, or deny natives positions in the civil service (something reserved mostly for Spaniards). The Spaniards did not want the natives to become equal with them but to remain below them in status. The natives wanted the opposite, to become equal with the Spaniards, and this will lead later on to revolution where language will again play a part.


Rafael, V.L. (1988). Contracting colonialism. Translation and Christian conversion in Tagalog society under early Spanish rule. Quezon city: Ateneo de Manila University.

Pinpin, T. (1910). Librong pagaaralan nang mga Tagalog nang Uicang Castila. In La primera imprenta en Filipinas. Artigas y Cuerva, M. Manila: Tipo-Litografia Germania. (Original work published 1610).

Thursday, July 8, 2010



Roel Cantada

In this post I will try to reconstruct the everyday life of the timawa in the barangay society. Then I will discuss the social structure.

Timawa Life

In a small barangay near a river there is a small cluster of nipa huts. It is early in the morning and the cock crows. In one of these huts live a timawa family. The mother Inanibakal is slowly waking up in the only family room. She sleeps with his first born son Bakal on a banig (sleeping mat). She gets up and wakes up the child. They roll the mat (lulon) and put it in one corner of the hut. The hut is made up of two rooms. The main living room and the batalan. The mother goes to the batalan to wash her face. Then she gets some tuyo (dried fish) and unhusked rice for breakfast. She goes out of the hut and is greeted by her aliping sagigilid Anakdalita.

The mother tells the slave to start a fire in the clay stove. She then pounds the unhusked rice in a lusong (big wooden mortar & pestle) to remove its husk. She puts the clean rice in a palayok (clay pot) lined with pandan leaves. After the rice is cooked, she throws the dried fish on the coals until they are roasted. Ginger is pounded and boiled to serve as a drink called salabat. The father has not returned yet because he went out fishing by moonlight.

The table is set inside the hut, in the same place they slept in. A dulang (low table) is in the middle of the room. A piece of banana leaf is placed on the dulang to serve the food in. The child and the slave eat on clay plates but the mother eats on a chinese porcelain plate which they got from last year’s trading. They eat with their hands. The meal is finished off with bananas.

The family then goes to the small bukid (farm) to weed their gabi (taro) and rice. The work is back breaking so Inasibakal feels so envious of the datu’s family that has lots of timawang namamahayto help them. Because of the hard times they fell into they would even have to sell their one and only timawang sagigilid to pay off debts. They are greeted by the father Amanibakal who just came in with some bangus (milk fish). The mother pulls some gabi for the sinigang and tells the son to get some sampalok (tamarind).

Lunch is a simple sinigang (sour soup). Afterwards the father chops wood with the help of the alipin. The mother decides to continue her looming and brings out the habihan (backstrap loom) to finish the bahag of her husband. The son goes with his friends to the river to play. The other women in the barangay joins her and some are making clay pots. They sing traditional songs to while away the time.

Before sunset the son returns with a hito (catfish) and it is immediately roasted. The family eats it with the left overs from lunch. As the sun sets some of the old men would talk about the past and far away places. And it is time to sleep again, the mat is unrolled and the kingke (oil lamp) is lit. It slowly burns out and the entire barangay is enveloped in darkness. The sound of frogs and crickets lulls young Bakal to sleep.

Social Structure

The datu or datus along with his/their families are at the highest level of society as shown above. I say datus because there can be more than one datu in a barangay. The greatest datu is usually he who is the wealthiest, he who can satisfy the demands of people in times of need. Whenever he cannot do this, then the people will follow another datu. Social status is inherited so the children of the datu belong to the datu’s class.

The datu is not a king. In barangays with Muslim rulers like Manila, their hari (king) can be considered the Sultan of Brunei. The datu is more of clan leader. He is a person who oversees the common farms of the barangay. He is a person who sees to it that people have food during times of famine. He is a leader in warfare. The greatest datu is at times legislator and judge. But as we have said above he is not a king. He must consult with other datus and at times even the timawas. Today the descendants of Tagalog datus are known by their surname that starts with the affix Gat, like Gatdula, Gatpandan, Gatlabayan, Gatchalian, Gatbonton, and Gatmaitan.

The timawas are free men. They serve as warriors under the command of the datu. They have their own farm and they can pass their property as inheritance to their children. The children of timawas will be timawas.

The slaves or alipins are of two kinds. The higher status is aliping namamahay. Literally means slave living in his own house. These people are more like serfs than slaves are because they cannot be bought or sold. They are usually used as farm hands. The lowest social status is that of the aliping sagigilid. Literally slave who lives at the side of the master’s house. Sagigilids can be bought and sold. They usually do household chores but will do whatever their master’s bid them to do. Slaves serve as rowers in balangay boats especially during times of war.

How does one become a datu, timawa and slave? Well usually one is born into such a status especially the datu. Datus come from a family with a long line of remembered descent. Ancestry of a person was probably remembered by old people or with Muslims kept in a tarsila (geneological record). Just like in today's society going up to this level of the society is difficult. Going down the social ladder is easier.

If one is captured by another barangay in war, and he/she is not ransomed he/she will end up a slave no matter what his/her status was in his old barangay. The most common form of slavery is debt slavery. There are a lot of laws dealing with the enslavement of people who cannot pay their debts. But if one is able to pay his/her debt then he or she will become a timawa. Slavery is also a punishment against criminals.

Children of the enslaved before their enslavement maintain their status. If they are timawa, they will remain timawas. But the children after enslavement of the parents become slaves. And the parents would have to pay extra for freeing their later children.

Usually the children of datus to a slave are timawa. But one account curiously states that children of mixed marriages get alternating statuses. That is if you are the child of a timawa and an alipin, your first born child is timawa, the second is alipin and so on. If there is an odd child i.e. third, fifth, seventh etc. that child is considered half alipin and half timawa.

Let me emphasize at this point that the social structure of the barangay may at times be strict but only as far as tradition is maintained. And the status of a person is only known within his barangay. If he moves to another barangay where he/she is not known his status may changed. The statuses are never recorded and are left to the memory of members of the barangay.

The social structure affects the pattern of life of people. For example let us take a look at three development stages in human life namely, birth, marriage and death.

When women give birth they usually hold a maganito which is very costly because you have to hold a feast and kill a pig. You would also have to pay the midwives handsomely supposedly so that the child would not grow up a cry-baby. (Jocano, p.211) Slaves, and timawas do not have the means to do this and they probably just have the baby without fanfare.

Although everyone must pay a dowry to the women’s family, which the new couple would get when they have a baby there is difference in the ceremony itself. In marriage the datus hold a more elaborate celebration. The woman is fetched by the grooms family and brought to the groom’s house. And along the way she is bribed with gifts to proceed with the ceremony. During the feast an old man would say “So-and-So marries so-and-so, but on the condition that if the man should through dissolute conduct fail to support his wife, she will leave him, and shall not be obliged to return anything of the dowry that he has given her; and she shall have freedom and permission to marry another man. And therefore, should the woman betray her husband, he can take away the dowry that he gave her, leave her, and marry another woman. Be all of you witnesses for me to this compact.” When the old man (Jocano, p.96) has ended his speech, they take a dish filled with clean, uncooked rice, and an old woman comes and joins the hands of the pair, and lays them upon the rice. Then, holding their hands thus joined, she throws the rice over all those who are present at the banquet. Then, holding their hands thus joined, she throws the rice over all those who are present at the banquet. Then the old woman gives a loud shout, and all answer her with a similar shout; and the marriage contract or ceremony is completed. The old woman is probably a babaylan.

Timawas do not observe the ceremony of joining hands because it is reserved for the datus. Instead they drink wine from the same cup. Then they give a shout, and all the guests depart and they are considered married. (Jocano, p. 97)

With aliping sagigilids who are poor they marry each other without drinking and without any go-between. They observe on ceremony but simply say to each other, “Let us marry.” Slaves of different masters can be arranged by their masters. The master gives them an earthen jar or three or four dishes. The children will be divided between the masters as slaves.

Even in death there are differences. Datus are buried with lots of ceremonies and with many artifacts. They are even buried in balangays. Timawas have less. The slaves are sometimes buried alive with the datus.


Jocano, F.L. (Ed.). (1975). The Philippines at the Spanish contact, Some major accounts of early Filipino society and culture. Manila: MCS Enterprises.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Strange Material Culture of Natives of the Philippines in the 16th Century

The Strange Material Culture of Natives of the Philippines in the 16th Century
Roel P. Cantada

We are going to look at selected material culture of Philippine 16th century society. Culture is defined by sociologists as the patterned ways of thinking, feeling, and acting which people share and communicate to one another. It has two essential components: the non-material culture and the material culture. (McNall & McNall, 1992)

The non-material culture may include our likes, dislikes, modes of thought, systems of belief, and education. While the material culture includes as an example our houses, tools and clothes. (McNall & McNall) The material and non-material culture are tightly related. That is, our ways of thinking and feeling are reflected in our material culture. For example, the rooms in our contemporary houses have different uses and they reflect our mores, ethics and belief about what is public and private. We entertain guest in the sala, it is the room for the public. On the other hand sex is done in the bedroom because it is private. (McNall & McNall) Other cultures will have a different layout of rooms in their houses and would reflect their values and even their religious belief.

Some of the assumptions held by sociologists about culture are the following:

  1. Culture must be learned, and therefore the material objects will also tell us what children during the 16th century had to learn to survive.
  2. Culture changes. Our 21st century culture is different from the culture of our 16th century ancestors, and we will find out in this lecture how different that is, and also how similar.
  3. Culture is transcendent. It endures while people die. Our ancestors may no longer be here but there are still legacies that they have left behind. Some of their culture may have even survived if not in the Philippines, perhaps in our brother tribes in Malaysia and Indonesia.
  4. Culture may also die, or parts of it may no longer be sustained. We must also realize that if some of our ancestor’s cultural practices ceased to exist, ours could also. And this is part of what were going to try to learn in this course, whether our ancestors changed their culture willingly or were they merely passive receivers of foreign cultures. Were they simply forced to give up their culture or did they voluntarily gave it up for some reason?
  5. Culture varies. Different societies have different cultures. And in the Philippines, there are variations in the cultures of different tribes. One should not expect to find one homogenous culture in the country. Because there are 55 languages and 142 dialects, and (Pittman as cited in Zaide & Zaide, p.20) each language group represents a distinct tribe.

Okay. In this paper we will take a look at some of our ancestors’ ways of body modification, clothes, houses, and their most important means of transportation—the balangay boat. Some of these material culture and their beliefs behind its use may appear shocking to us today. But I did not select these artifacts in order to make a mockery of our ancestors but to provide an interesting but at the same time objective presentation of their culture. According to Panopio et. al. “the perception among people is that cultures with low level of technological development are inferior and nonprogressive and thus, are considered backward, while those with a high level of technology are advanced and progressive.” (1995) This IMHO is a fallacious perspective. We must always remember that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. We wouldn’t be here if not for them, and we build upon what they have accomplished. We should not judge their technological development by comparing their material culture with ours, because most of our so called “high-tech” devices had not been invented yet during their time, and neither did the science exist at that time. Secondly is that we should not compare them with their contemporary western societies’ material culture without reminding ourselves that our ancestors’ culture was their response to their tropical environment, while the westerners had temperate and frigid climates. The simple fact that it is hot and humid in the Philippines while it is cold in western countries would immediately tell us that there are differences in the flora and fauna of our country and the west. And the resources available to our ancestors were different from theirs. This difference would then reflect in our clothes, houses, and the belief system associated with these objects. I will speak more on this later.

Body Modification. Let us start with material objects close to the skin. I will describe seven body modifications practiced by different tribes, but mostly by the Visayans. These are skull moulding, decorative dentistry, ear piercing, circumcision, penis pins, tattooing and hair styles.

Skull moulding or cranial reformation is the reshaping of a baby’s head using a board called sipit or saop in Bikol. The Visayans use a comb like set of thin rods called tangad. They bind the board to the baby’s forehead creating a receding forehead and a flat nose (occipito frontal type). Skulls showing this practice had been found in Albay, Marinduque, Samar, Cebu, Bohol, Surigao and Davao. But it was also practiced in non-Muslim parts of Sumatra, by the Melanau of Sarawak, and the Minahasa of Sulawesi. (Scott, 1991)

This is possible because an infant’s skull has 45 separate bones as oppose to the 28 bones of an adult. As we grow up the bones fuse together and connective tissues, fontanelles, or bumbunan in Tagalog are replaced by bones. Mothers know that if a baby’s head is continuously laid in the same position it will be flattened on that side, a condition called positional plagiocephaly in medicine and talipya by Tagalogs. But the Tagalogs do not practice skull moulding.

Now let’s turn to decorative dentistry. The Visayans either file or drill their teeth and they also color the teeth black or red. Ther were two ways to file the teeth. First is that the canines are filed flat. This is done because they thought canines make a person look like an animal, like dogs. Or they file all the front teeth to make them pointed. Some suggested in a study of Bornean tribes that “pointed teeth made them warlike at times of tribal war.” (Jones, 2001)

As for the color of the teeth, Visayans didn’t like white teeth because to them it looked like animal teeth. So they chew anipay root to make them black, or apply a tar-based coating called tapul. Chewing betel nut preparation called nganga in Tagalog makes it red, or they use red lakha ant eggs. (Scott) These stains have been known to preserve the teeth and prevent caries.

They drill the front of the teeth in order to insert gold wires. They can also crown or plate the teeth. Pusad was the general Visayan term for teeth goldwork. (Scott)

These practices are common in archipelagic Southeast Asia. The Tagalogs practiced it (Scott) and it has been observed in Bornean tribes, the Mentawai tribe in Siberut Island near Sumatra, and even the Balinese. In Bali it is an important ritual ceremony called metatah. Women’s canines are filed after their first menstruation while men’s are before marriage. They consider canine teeth, caling in Balinese, [or pangil in Tagalog] a symbol of bad behavior, uncivilized behavior, and even ‘evil’. (99 Bali)

The ceremony is described this way: “The sangging, who is the expert at tooth filing, puts a small cylinder of sugarcane in the patient’s mouth, wedged between the teeth, to keep the jaws open. The sangging may joke with the participant as he works. He then take his small file, kikir (kikil in Tagalog), and with his index finger on the flat of the file, sets to work filing. The only teeth that are modified are the two canine teeth in the upper jaw and the four incisors between them, six teeth (symbolizing the sad ripu (six enemies of human’s soul): lust, greed, anger, drunkeness, confusion, and jealousy). Reducing the influence of these six will help an individual live a healthy, well-adjusted existence as part of a closely knit family and community, and this behavior will insure reincarnation into a better future life. (99 Bali) The Balinese are Hindus that’s why they believe in reincarnation. You may want to google for a metatah ceremony at YouTube.

The third type of body modification is very common, pierced ears to wear earrings. Both men and women in the Visayas wear earrings [but another source said only women do]. Its difference with ordinary piercing is that you can either insert two fingers or an entire fist into the hole. (Scott) The Tagalogs practiced this as well and called it “malambing na tainga”. Tainga is the ear and lambi is the ear lobe. Today the modern day equivalent is called “tunnel” piercing.

According to Scott the hole was produced this way. The ear was pierced with a copper needle. “The first holes in the earlobes were made soon after birth, while the rest of the holes before the second year.” They could have as many as four earrings. “A thick cotton thread was looped through the hole to keep it from closing. After the wound had healed, the thread was replaced with a series of gradually thicker bamboo or hardwood splints until the hole was as large as the circumference of the little finger. It was slowly extended to the desired size by inserting leaves tightly rolled up, spring like, to exert steady gentle pressure outward.”

Now I want to turn to the fourth type of body modification—circumcision. Circumcision is the removal of some or all the foreskin or prepuce from the penis. It comes from the Latin word circum meaning around and cædere, to cut. (Wikipedia) It is known to all Christians as a commandment of God to Abraham and his children, but scholars believe it is even older than that and may have been practiced by other tribes without contact with the Hebrews. Among the Hebrews, the ceremony of circumcision is called brit milah, which literally means “covenant of circumcision”. It is usually performed by a ritual circumciser or mohel to a baby on the eight day after birth. (Wikipedia)

In 16th century Philippine society, it is called the same in Tagalog and Visaya, that is, tuli. The cut is done lengthwise the prepuce. But the Visayans have another method called girlo, where the prepuce is actually removed. (Scott) As is today, to be circumcised in the Philippines is a sign of manhood, but for other than the Muslims, it has lost its religious significance. Peer pressure keeps the practice alive as uncircumcised adults are teased and considered immature boys rather than men. They are taunted as pisot in Visayan and supót in Tagalog [accent on the last syllable otherwise it will mean a bag].

The Tagalog method that was probably used is known as pukpok. Since mine was done by a doctor, I would narrate to you the procedure described to me by an elder. What is interesting is that he and his friends circumcised each other at the age of eleven. They swam in the river first to soften the prepuce, and then a stake made of guava wood is used as a cutting board or pangaw. Guava is known for its antiseptic properties, so while doing the process they chew guava leaves. The upper part of the foreskin is then placed or hanged over the pangaw and a sharp knife was placed above it lengthwise. Then the knife is struck (pukpok) with another piece of wood creating a cut. The one being circumcised then spits guava leaf juice at his wound, and then jumps back to the river. Why they went back to the river with a bleeding penis is unexplained.

The more controversial circumcision is female circumcision called sonat. Today it is also called female genital cutting or female genital mutilation. According to Scott, it was practiced by the Tagalogs and the Pampangans and was similar to that practiced in Borneo. The Pampangans called it gitang.

The procedure is probably similar to that practiced by Indonesian Muslim women. It has been categorized as WHO Type I and IV. Type I means the removal or splitting of the clitoral hood with or without cutting off the clitoris. And Type IV is only a symbolic pricking of blood release using either a blood lancet or a sewing needle. (Wikipedia) It usually takes place within the first year of the baby, often on day 36 or 40 after birth, depending on local traditions. In some areas, however, it is performed on girls up to ten years of age. (US Department of State, 2001)

The symbolic pricking of blood has an interesting similarity with the Jewish “hatafat dam brit”, which means “drop of the blood of the covenant”. It is performed on male converts who had been circumcised outside of the ceremony of the brit milah. The mohel draws a symbolic drop of blood from the penis where the prepuce should have been. (Wikipedia)

It is said that female circumcision predates Islam and Christianity and its origins are unknown. Scott did not say why it was practiced by the Tagalogs and Pampangans; perhaps it came with the Indonesian brand of Islam. The Indonesian’s experience may give us a clue.

“According a study, Kemayoran community women in Jakarta believe that the practice is mandated or recommended by Islam. The more educated mothers believe the practice is sunnah (recommended or encouraged by the prophet Muhammad). The less educated mothers believe the practice is wajib (mandatory).

The rural mothers of the West Java community of Cijeruk said the procedure was performed according to sunnah and was meant to purify female babies. It was also regarded as a local custom and believed to promote good hygiene.

Some religious leaders believe that the removal or partial removal of the clitoris is beneficial to marriage because a woman would be more likely to remain faithful to her husband if she had no sexual drive. Some religious Islamic leaders consider this practice a mandate of Islam. Other religious leaders believe that this practice is recommended by Islamic teachings but not mandated.” (US Department of State)

Let us now discuss the fifth type of body modification—penis pins. This device is made of two parts. A metal pin called by Visayans and Bikolanos tugbuk. And end-pieces known among the said tribes as sakra. The sakras had been described to look like cowboy’s boot spurs or a tailors tracing wheel. One dug up in Iloilo has eight knobby protrusions with a diameter of 5 centimeters. (Scott)

Although shocking to most who have heard of it for the first time, it is a widespread practice in Southeast Asia. It is practiced by the Toradja and Sadang in Sulawesi (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online), Indonesia where it is known as Kambi or Kambiong. In southern Borneo it was Kaleng and while the Kenyah called it Aja; the Kayan called it Uttang or Oettang. (King, 2002) It’s most famous name is from the Iban of Borneo—Ampallang or Palang, which means “crossbar” (Morrison) (pahalang in Tagalog) or the tugbuk. In the Indian Kama Sutra it is called Apadravya.

Paolo Mantegazza (as cited in Morrison) described the procedure of acquisition of the tugbuk as follows (the veracity of this still needs verification): "the operation is performed only on adults. The skin is forced back; the penis is placed between two small planks of bamboo and for ten days it is covered with rags dipped in cold water. Then the glans is perforated with a sharp bamboo needle; a feather dipped in oil, is placed in the wound until it heals. Wet compresses are used all the while. When the Dayaks travel and work they carry a feather in this canal.” When they need to use the penis pin, they pull the feather out and replace it with the ampallang.

The Tagalogs have a similar device; they embed a small metal ball in the glans of the penis. It is now called by a Spanish name bolitas meaning “small ball bearings”. The Alfur of Sulawesi had been reported to do the same. (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online)

The main function of these devices is for sexual pleasure. If you wish to know more about it, you may want to read Henry Scott’s book Barangay, Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society.

Okay. The next type of body modification is tattooing. It is very common. The Visayans called it batuk, which may be related to the word batik in Tagalog. The Visayans were the most tattooed tribe in the Philippines, that is why the Spaniards called them “Pintados”, meaning painted people, while the Tagalogs called them Lipong because to them they looked like Li-pong Chinese Jars which had blue designs. Their bayani had batuk from head to foot. Even their faces were tattooed. Women also had tattoos but only on their hands. Other tribes also tattooed themselves except the Tagalog [and probably other Muslim tribes], who at the time of the coming of the Spaniards do not practice tattooing perhaps due to Islamic influence.

“Tattoo work was done by a skillful artist ... He began by tracing the designs on the body with an ink made from pitch soot” (Scott), perhaps collected by holding a jar or pot coated with oil over a flame. “Then he pricked them into the skin with a small tool set with a number of short needles like the teeth of a comb, and then rubbed soot into the fresh wounds.” The soot and ink was called biro. (Scott) In Polynesia the tool looks more like a toothbrush and it is placed above the design while using another small stick to repeatedly strike the other stick with needles onto the flesh. Among the Apayao the tool is called igihisi, which has 1-5 pins attached to a rattan (Casal The operation was not performed all in one sitting but in installments, but even so, often caused a high fever and occasionally infection and death. (Scott)

Why did they do it? Because these tattoos were symbols of male valor; they were applied only after a man had performed in battle with fitting courage, (Scott) and were like the medals of soldiers today. In some literature it is said that the amount of tattoo a Visayan warrior has was equal to the number of enemies he had killed. Today people with some sort of tattoos are also feared, but they got them in jail using oddly enough the same method that was used in ancient times. I think they call the tattoos “komiks” from comics because there are lots of drawings on the inmate’s skin.

Finally we turn to hair styles. Hair styles differed from one tribe to another, and between one barangay and another. Although in one barangay perhaps there is only one accepted style. Individualism was probably very rare. But for the whole barangay, hair styles just like today could go in and out of fashion quickly. They could be hanging loose in one decade and knotted in the next.

Visayan men had long hair while Tagalogs had short hair. The Sambals of Zambales wore their hair like their contemporary Chinese, with the front half of the skull shaved while the back is allowed to grow long.

Women always had very long hair. They put them up into a chignon or pusod in Tagalog. They had combs or suklay made of wood or ivory with intricate carvings. Visayan women used fragrant flowers to perfume their hair, and sesame seed oil to encourage luxuriant growth (Scott). Even today Filipinos are aware of indigenous hair care products like gugo, a vine which is crushed and dried and then soaked in water to extract the juices to be used as shampoo. Sabila or aloe vera for hair growth and coconut oil.

Facial hair is removed with tweezers or a pair of clam shells and Visayan men and women had their eyebrows shaved into thin arcs likened to a crescent moon. (Scott) Tagalog men grow mustaches or misay, but remove beards or gumi.

Before moving on to clothing let me ask you first what you think about our ancestor’s concept of beauty and other values and beliefs that are behind their body modification. How does it compare to those of modern teenagers. Why do you do things like body piercing?

Clothing. How do you imagine our ancestor’s clothing? Do this exercise. Get a piece of paper and try to draw what our ancestors ancestors wore. After the discussion of our next topic compare what you have drawn with descriptions from historical accounts.

For this lecture I will use the Tagalog clothing as a representative of the kind of clothing worn in the Philippines in the 16th century. But remember that there will always be variations from tribe to tribe, and barangay to barangay.

The male attire is composed of the baro, a long sleeved collarless shirt and the bahag or G-string. The Tagalog bahag is probably similar to the Visayan which is much wider than the Ifugao’s. There was also a mantle called tapi (Scott), which was wrapped around the waist like a short malong. This is familiar to Tagalogs when they say “nakatapi ng tuwalya”, wrapped in a towel. The headdress is called putong and is narrower and shorter than the pudong of the Visayans. The putong is similar to the headdress of Indonesians which is like a scarf tied around the head. The verb iputong means to put on the head. These clothes are commonly made of cotton, from the kápok tree or if imported is made of silk. Tagalog men also wear an alampay, a long scarf thrown across the shoulders. It is covered with embroidery or perhaps weaving design done by their wives. There is no known surviving sample of Tagalog textile design and we are left with the tribal designs of surviving indigenous tribes. For accessories men wore necklaces (kuwintas), bracelets (galang), armlets (kalumbiga), rings (singsing), and a sort of chainlet for the leg worn below the knee called a bitik. These alahas or jewelry is usually made of gold except the bitik which is made of brass.

Women wear the baro as upper garment and two tapis. An ankle length white one and a shorter colored one over it. Then they wore a talukbong or shawl very much like the Muslim women today. For accessories they wore the alahas mentioned above except the bitik, and they wore hikaw or earrings, which were large and dangling which accentuates their “malambing na tainga”. Women also wear makeup—tana eyebrow paint, pupól face powder, red kamuntigi nail polish, and yellow bárak (curcuma zedoaria) root to rub on the body as skin lotion. (Scott) Men and women don’t wear shoes but may have borrowed the concept of wooden clogs from Chinese, bakya. But people cannot wear that while walking on the rice fields, the forest or while fishing.

Women weave the textile using the backstrap loom.

Houses. Today people believe that Filipinos of the past lived only in bahay kubo or nipa huts. But the Tagalog word for a big wooden house is dálam. Unfortunately we have no surviving examples of this. But you may want to do some research on beautiful Maranao and Ifugao wooden houses to get an idea of the architecture of ancient people of the Philippines.

The Tagalog house like other tribes is raised on the ground by poles. The space underneath the house is called silong and is used to raise chickens or pigs. One could enter the house through a ladder that is pulled up at night. A tapayan, big jar of water was usually near the ladder for washing the feet before going up. The house was usually made up of two rooms, or if there is a daughter a third room, silid is reserved for her. Entertaining guests, eating on dulang, low tables, and sleeping on mats called banig are all done in the same room called the bulwagan. Another room called a batalan was for washing stuff and peeing as it has slated bamboo floors. The floor is called sahig, the roof is bubong or atip, and the walls are dingding. It seems that there were no doors and windows because the words for these are all Spanish. Cooking was probably done outside. Filipinos ate with their hands, and used locally made clay pots or imported Chinese porcelain. Defecating was done outdoors in the wide wide world.

What does the layout of these houses tell us about their attitude towards privacy and individuality?

Balangay boat. If the low land people of the Philippines were not in their homes, rice fields, or the forest they’re probably in their boats. Tagalog after all came from the word taga-ilog or river dweller, while Pampangan means beach dweller.

The best known boat of our people is the balangay or balanghai boat. The term for a village, barangay came from the balangay boat. Ancient remains of these boats had been found in Butuan, Agusan del Norte in Mindanao. One boat was carbon-14 dated to about 320 A.D. while another was dated to 1250 (Casal,

The balangay is a flat bottomed plank boat. It could be around 15 meters long and 4 meters wide. The planks are connected by the Visayans through the use of pegs, while the Tagalogs had been reported to drill holes on the side of the planks and sew their boats. Holes and gaps are then plugged with some sort of pitch. This method of boat building is similar to those by ancient Egyptians and Vikings of Scandinavia.

The sail is made of woven nipa palm which is probably the same as sleeping mats. A common feature of Pacific boats is the outrigger called katig in Tagalog. It is attached to a long bamboo raft or wood called a batangan, which is where rowers sit.

Boats are built by specialist called pandays.

Open discussion.

Now that we’ve had a survey of some of the material culture of 16th century people in the Philippines, let me ask you how do you think these objects relate to their non-material culture and their environment?


  1. 99 Bali. Tooth filing. Retrieved December 6, 2007, from

  1. Casal, G.S., Dizon, E.Z, Ronquillo, W.P., & Salcedo, C.G. (1998) The ingenious Filipino boat. In Kasaysayan, The story of the Filipino people, Vol. 2. Hong Kong: Asia Publishing, Company Limited.

  1. Circumcision. In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 6, 2007, from

  1. Female genital cutting. In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 6, 2007, from

  1. Jones, A. (2001, July 28). Dental transfigurements in Borneo. In British Dental Journal, 191 (2). Retrieved December 6, 2007, from

  1. King, P. (2002). History of body piercing – The Ampallang. In The Point, The Official Newsletter for the Association of Professional Piercers, 22.,%20Sept%202002.pdf.

  1. McNall, S.G., & McNall, S.A. (1992). Sociology. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

  1. Morrison, C. Palang & Apadravya piercing aftercare and history. Retrieved December 6, 2007, from

  1. Panopio, I.S., Cordero-MacDonald, F.V., & Raymundo, A.A. (1995). General sociology, focus on the Philippines (3rd. ed.). Quezon City: Ken.

  1. Penis pin (ornament). In Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Retrieved December 6, 2007, from

  1. Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library. Penis pin, Borneo, 1880-1920. Retrieved December 6, 2007, from{1A6EC03A-508D-EC37-D9AE-BAEE5A8383FE}&Mode=HotBox&ArticleID={6A63A591-5EEB-480A-8609-C06B4A0779DF}&viewby=images.

  1. Scott, W. H. (1991) Barangay, sixteenth century Philippine culture and society. Quezon City: Ateneo De Manila University.

  1. US Department of State (2001, June 1). Indonesia: Report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or Female Genital Cutting (FGC). Retrieved, December 10, 2007, from

  1. Zaide, S.M., & Zaide, G.F. (1994). The Philippines: A unique nation. Manila: All-Nations.

Readings: Description of Tagalogs

They have better houses and buildings, more orderly, although located in swampy land or along river banks. The Moros are dressed with cotton clothes and are not naked like the Bisayans. Their clothes consist of [words not understood] and without collars; and with their sleeves and their [word not understood] they come dressed, although they wear below the waist some mantle well located, which covers the flesh up to the knees, because below that their legs protrude. From the calf of the knees they wear many chainlets often made of brass which they call bitiques; these are worn only by the men who regard them as very stylish. They also wear many golden chains around the neck, specially if they are chiefs, because these are what they value most, and there are some who wear more than ten or twelve of these chains. They wear a head-dress of small cloth which is neither wide nor long and which they wrap once around the head with a knot. They do not have long hair because they cut it as in Spain. They are not accustomed to wearing a beard, nor allowing it to grow although in general they are all hairy; what grows is carefully removed; and the Bisayans do likewise. The Moros wear only mustaches which they do not remove and allow to grow all they can. The Bisayans in no manner are accustomed to wear any shoes nor do the men wear ear holes as do the Bisayans; the women carry much gold jewelry because they are richer than the Bisayans. Men and women also wear many bracelets and chains of gold in the arms. They are not used to wearing them on the legs. Women likewise carry around the neck golden chains that men do. The Moros do not paint any part of their body.

... The dress of women are not as neat nor as elegant as that of the Bisayans, because they wrap a cotton or taffeta mantle around the body with very little polish. They wear jackets and skirts in the same way we have told as the Bisayans. They also wear their dress over the skin, gathering it at the waist and the breast because they use no chemise or shoes. The [wives of] chiefs, when going out of their houses, are customarily carried on the shoulders of their slaves and in this manner travel through the streets. All carry over their dress some small mantles which reach the waists; they are of cotton and colored, and some are of satin, and taffeta and damask obtained from China.

... Women are used to carry on their heads over their hair, which they wear loose, diadems made of gold, this if of the chief’s women; if of others, the diadems are made of tortoise or conch shell. These are very elegant.


Customs and usages of Moros in the Philippine isles of the west. In Jocano, F.L. (Ed.), The Philippines at the Spanish contact, Some major accounts of early Filipino society and culture. Manila: MCS Enterprises, pp. 195-199.