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A History of the Philippines by David P. Barrows

At the head of each barangay was a chief known as the dato


Butuan, on the north coast of Mindanao, seems to have been quite a trading-place resorted to by vessels from all quarters. This country, like many other parts of the Philippines, has produced from time immemorial small quantities of gold, and all the early voyagers speak of the gold earrings and ornaments of the natives. Butuan also produced sugarcane and was a trading-port for slaves. This unfortunate traffic in human life seems to have been not unusual, and was doubtless stimulated by the commerce with Borneo. Junks from Siam trading with Cebu were also encountered by the Spaniards.

Result of this Intercourse and Commerce.--This intercourse and traffic had acquainted the Filipinos with many of the accessories of civilized life long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Their chiefs and datos dressed in silks, and maintained some splendor of surroundings; nearly the whole population of the tribes of the coast wrote and communicated by means of a syllabary; vessels from Luzon traded as far south as Mindanao and Borneo, although the products of Asia proper came through the fleets of foreigners; and perhaps what indicates more clearly than anything else the advance the Filipinos were making through their communication with outside people is their use of firearms. Of this point there is no question. Everywhere in the vicinity of Manila, on Lubang, in Pampanga, at Cainta and Laguna de Bay, the Spaniards encountered forts mounting small cannon, or "lantakas." [15] The Filipinos seem to have understood, moreover, the arts of casting cannon and of making powder. The first gun-factory established by the Spaniards was in charge of a Filipino from Pampanga.

Early Political and Social Life.--The Barangay.--The weakest side of the culture of the early Filipinos was their political and social organization, and they were weak here in precisely the same way that the now uncivilized peoples of northern Luzon are still weak. Their state did not embrace the whole tribe or nation; it included simply the community. Outside of the settlers in one immediate vicinity, all others were enemies or at most foreigners. There were in the Philippines no large states, nor even great rajas and sultans such as were found in the Malay Archipelago, but instead on every island were a multitude of small communities, each independent of the other and frequently waging war.

The unit of their political order was a little cluster of houses from thirty to one hundred families, called a "barangay," and which still exists in the Philippines as the "barrio." At the head of each barangay was a chief known as the "dato," a word no longer used in the northern Philippines, though it persists among the Moros of Mindanao. The powers of these datos within their small areas appear to have been great, and they were treated with utmost respect by the people.

The barangays were grouped together in tiny federations including about as much territory as the present towns, whose affairs were conducted by the chiefs or datos, although sometimes they seem to have all been in obedience to a single chief, known in some places as the "hari," at other times by the Hindu word "raja," or the Mohammedan term "sultan." Sometimes the power of one of these rajas seems to have extended over the whole of a small island, but usually their "kingdoms" embraced only a few miles.


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