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The Philippines' Hierarchy of Leadership in Ancient Tmes

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 8 (1796 words)
Categories: Leadership, Politics, Religion, Social Class, Social Class Inequality
Downloads: 38
Views: 226

Before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the Philippines in the 16th century, the Barangays were well-organized independent villages – and in some cases, cosmopolitan sovereign principalities, which functioned much like a city-state. The Barangay was the dominant organizational pattern among indigenous communities in the Philippine archipelago. The name barangay originated from balangay, a Malay word meaning “sailboat”.

The Hierarchy of Leadership in Ancient Philippines

The political history of the Philippines begins clearly from the formation of various ethno-linguistic groups with distinct territorial imperatives and traditions.

The political system revolved around a kinship-based power or influence hierarchy headed by a leader called Mampus or Mapalon among the Ivatan, Mabacnang or “Amaen ti ili” among the Ilocano, Apo among the Igorot, Benganganat among the Ilongot, Mingal among the Gaddang, Gator Lakan among the Tagalog, Rajah among the Bisayan, Timuay among the Subanun, Datu among the Lumad and Muslim of Mindanao, and Nakurah among the Sama.

The head was called datu and was the chief executive, legislator, judge and military commander. He made laws, enforced them and judged all cases and trials brought by the villagers. However, he had a council of elders who assisted him in his administration. A person could become a datu through inheritance, wealth, wisdom and bravery.

The written laws were promulgated by the datu and council of elders. A town crier called umalohokan announced the laws to the people. The contents of ancient laws involved family relations, property rights, domestic affairs, inheritance, marriage conflicts, murder and business problems. Punishment for serious crimes was death, slavery or heavy fines. Minor crimes were punished through with exposure to ants, long hours of swimming, whipping or fines.

Supporters of the datu are collectively referred to as sandig sa datu (“beside the datu”). The chief minister or privy counselor of the datu was known as the atubang sa datu(literally “facing the datu”). The steward who collected and recorded tributes and taxes and dispensed them among the household and dependents of the datu was known as the paragahin. The paragahin was also responsible for organizing public feasts and communal work. The bilanggo was the one responsible for maintaining law and order and whose own house served as the community jail (bilanggowan)

Social Classes

In Luzon (Katagalugan Region)

The ancient Filipinos were divided into social classes. These were composing of the Nobles, the Freemen, and the Dependents. The nobles or Maginoo, composed of the chiefs and their families, were the early upper class. They were highly respected in their community. In the Tagalog region, the nobles usually carried the title of Gat or Lakan.

Next to the nobles were the freemen or Maharlika in Tagalog, Cebuanos, Hilagaynons, and Ilokanos, who may be regarded as the society’s middle class during the ancient period of the Philippine History. they were born free individuals or emancipated slaves; and so were their children. They owned their own houses, land, and other pieces of property. They were warriors, artists, craftsmen, farmers, and hunters. They accompanied the datu when he went to war and hunting expeditions. The members of the lowest class were the dependents called Alipin among the ancient Tagalog.

Ways to become an Alipin

The low social status of the dependent was acquired:

  • By captivity in the battle,
  • By failing to pay one’s debt
  • By inheritance
  • By purchase
  • Or by being pronounced guilty of a crime.

Among the Tagalogs, the dependents were classified into Aliping namamahay and Aliping sagigilid. The namamahay had his own house and family. He serves his master by planting and harvesting his master’s crops, by rowing the master’s boat, and helping in the construction of the master’s house. On the other hand, the sagigilid had no house of his own, he lived with his master, and could not marry without the latter’s consent.

In Visayas

In more developed Barangays in Visayas, the social order was divided into three classes. These are the Tumao class, Timawa, Oripun class. The members of the Tumao class (which includes the datu) were the nobility of pure royal descent, The tumao consisted of blood relatives of the datu (community leader) untainted by slavery, servitude, or witchcraft. They were usually descendants of the children of a datu and secondary wives known as sandal.

The Timawa (Spanish: Timagua) were the feudal warrior class of the ancient Visayan societies of the Philippines. The timawa class enjoyed their rights to a portion of the barangay land. Their normal obligation was agricultural labor but they also called to catch fish, to accompany expedition or paddles boats. They were also called out for irregular services like supporting feasts and building houses.

Below the timawa were the Oripun class (commoners and slaves), who rendered services to the tumao and timawa for debts or favors. Among the Visayans, the Oripun were of three kinds: the Tumataban, who worked for his master, when told to do so; the Tumarampuk, who worked one day a week for his master; and the Ayuey, who worked three days a week for his master.

Culture and Civilization

During the pre-colonial time there was already an indigenous spiritual traditions practiced by the people in the Philippines.

In Politics

The form of government during the precolonial period was the barangay. A barangay was ordinarily composed of 30 to 100 families and was based on kinship. Most of the barangays were located along the coast but some were located along the plains, foothills, or near bodies of water. Each barangay had it’s own chief who served as it’s political leader;a religious leader; who was usually a woman; and an economic leader, usually a blacksmith, who crafted all the metal tools in the community. The political leader was also the military leader whose duty is to preserve peace and order in the barangay.

In Religion

During the pre-colonial time there was already an indigenous spiritual traditions practiced by the people in the Philippines. Generally, for lack of better terminology prehistoric people are described to be animistic. Their practice was a collection of beliefs and cultural mores anchored in the idea that the world is inhabited by spirits and supernatural entities, both good and bad, and that respect be accorded to them through nature worship thus; they believed that their daily lives has a connection of such beliefs.

These spirits are said to be the anito or diwata that they believed to be good and bad. The good spirits were considered as their relatives and the bad were believed to be their enemies. Some worship specific deities like Bathala a supreme god for the Tagalog, Laon or Abba for the Visayan, Ikasi of Zambal, Gugurang for the people of Bicol and Kabunian of Ilocano and Ifugao. Aside from those supreme deities they also worship other gods like Idialao as god of farming, Lalaon of harvest, Balangay god of rainbow and Sidapa god of death.

Babaylan is a Visayan term identifying an indigenous Filipino religious leader, who functions as a healer, a shaman, a seer and a community “miracle-worker” (or a combination of any of those). The babaylan can be male, female, or male transvestites (known as asog, bayoc, or bayog), but most of the babaylan were female. Marriage rituals are officiated by a “babaylan” or “catalonan” (priest) who also performs burial rites for the dead.

Systems of Writing


The early inhabitants of the Philippine archipelago had a native alphabet or syllabary which among the Tagalogs was called baybayin, an inscription akin to Sanskrit. It was through the baybayin that literary forms such as songs, riddles and proverbs, lyric and short poems as well as parts of epic poems were written. The bulk of these early literature however was just passed on through oral recitation and incantation and were transcribed into the Roman alphabet only centuries later by Spanish chroniclers and other scholars. It is believed that replacement of the baybayin by the Roman alphabet must have obliterated a significant aspect of indigenous Philippine literature.

It’s consisted of 3 vowels and 14 consonants, with the total of 17 letters. The writing system was horizontal, from left to right. The writing instrument used was a sharp pointed iron locally known as the Sipol. With this iron instrument, the natives engraved words on bamboo shafts, wooden boards, leaves of plants, pottery, and metal. Philippine History by M.C HALILI pp. 47

Belief in Afterlife

The ancient Filipinos believed that all objects had spirits or were inhabited by such. Even inanimate objects like rocks, mountains, lakes, etc., and natural phenomena like wind, thunder and fire were said to be inhabited by particular spirits, or to be governed by certain gods.

Practically, all the early Filipinos had a belief in the afterlife. Generally, it was believed that the good went to heaven, while the evil went to hell. Sometimes, the good soul, rather than ascending to heaven, would take residence in a local tree or similar spot to watch over their loved ones, or take care of unfinished business. The soul would travel to another world to receive due reward or punishment. The good soul will go to kalwalhatian (state of bliss) according to the Tagalogs and ologan, to the Visayans. The bad soul would go to a place of doom called kasamaan by the Tagalogs and Solad in the Visayans.

However, in many cases, there was a belief that each individual had more than one soul. Among the Bagobo, each person had a right-hand soul and a left-hand soul. The right-hand soul was the good side of the individual and went to heaven after death. The left-hand soul was the evil in each person and at death it went either to the underworld, or stayed on earth to vex the living. The Ilokanos believed in three sould in the body. The eternal soul that continued after death was known as Kararwa according to Calip, while Alingaas the soul that is found at places one has been previously; and Karma the soul that inhabits the living body. There also existed an idea of dying persons leaving a “portion” of themselves with other family members, followers or students.

For example, if a person is born near the time of the death of relative, and that person happens to have some characteristics of the deceased relative, then the child is said to have received a portion of the deceased’s spirit. Likewise, if a child is so sick that appears that it will not survive, but then it happens that someone in the family, or close to the family, dies while the baby survives, the child is said to have been saved by part of the deceased’s spirit. They all eventually work their way up to the highest heaven, which usually is the one right below that inhabited by the Supreme God. Philippine History by M.C HALILI pp. 58

Cite this essay

The Philippines’ Hierarchy of Leadership in Ancient Tmes. (2016, Apr 19). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/the-philippines-hierarchy-of-leadership-in-ancient-tmes-essay

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