Published: February 3, 2012
Like the free states of today, our pre-Spanish independent barangays had relations of peace and war. As Dr. Antonio de Morga, Spanish historian-jurist, said: “Some chiefs had frindship and communication with other, and at times wars and friendship.”
The baranagays concluded pacts of alliance and friendship. Such pacts were sealed between datus by the ceremony of the blood compact called sandugo. Those barangays that were on friendly terms carried on commerce, communication, and other intercourse with one another.
At times, wars and quarrels broke out between barangays. The chief causes of barangay wars were as follows:
1. maltreament of a man from another barangay.
2. the abduction of the wife of a man by another man who was native of another barangay
3. when a trader from one barangay came to another barangay for purposes of trade and was there insulted, the trader’s barangay would declare war on the insulting barangay.
Social Classes in the Barangay
The people of the barangay were divided into three social classes, namely:
The Nobility. The highest class in the barangay consisted of the nobles called maharlika. They were the datu, his family, relatives, and the rich and powerful families. The men bore the title of gat, which was equivalent to the Spanish don; while the women were called dayang, equivalent to the Spanish doña. The princess of the barangay was known as the lakambini and the prince, lakan.
The Freemen. Next to the nobility were the freemen, who were called timawa. They were persons who were born free and emancipated slaves. They owned houses, lands, jewelries, and other property. They accompanied the datu in the wars or in fishing and hunting.
The Slaves. The slaves constituted the lowest social class in the barangay. They were called alipin. Among the ancient Tagalogs, the slaves were of two kinds, namely; (1) aliping namamahay, and (2) aliping saguiguilid. The aliping namamahay were not really slaves, but serfs. They could own property, could marry at will, and could not be sold by their masters. The real slaves were the aliping saguiguilid, who could not own property, could not marry without the master’s consent, and could be sold anytime by their master.
Among the ancient Bisayans, there were three kinds of slaves, namely: (1) the ayuey, who worked all their time for their master; (2) the tumaranpuk, who worked one day for themselves and three days for their master; and (3) the tumatabang who worked only when summoned by their master.
Slavery in pre-Spanish Philippines was not as harsh and cruel as that in other countries. The horrible barbarities of slavery which stain the annals of America were unknown in our nation’s history. Padre Colin, a Spanish Jesuit historian, attested that the slaves were treated well and, in many cases, were regarded “in the light of relatives.”
A slave could easily obtain his freedom through the following means: (1) purchase, (2) marriage, and (3) emancipation by the master. Thus a slave could secure his freedom by paying his master a certain amount of money for his release. A slave woman automatically became free by marrying a freeman. Likewise, a slave could be emancipated by his master as a reward for his long years of loyalty or for certain notable services rendered.
The causes of slavery were: (1) birth, (2) captivity in wars, (3) debt, and (4) penalty for crimes committed. Accordingly, any person whose parents were slaves, who was capture in war, who could not pay his debt, or who was convicted of a serious crime became a slave.
Although social stratification existed, there was no rigid caste system as was the case in India. In our pre-Spanish barangays, a man who was born a slave could rise to the higher classes; he could be a freeman, and a freeman could become a datu.