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PRE-COLONIAL PHILIPPINES (B EF OR E TH E CON QU ER OR S CA M E)There are a number of distinctions between the modernBarangay or Barrio, and the city-states and independentprincipalities encountered by the Spanish when they firstarrived in 1521 and established relatively permanentsettlements in 1574. The most glaring difference would bethat the modern entity represents a geographical entity,the pre-colonial barangays represented loyalty to aparticular head (datu). Even during the early days ofSpanish rule, it was not unusual for people living besideeach other to actually belong to different barangays. Theyowed their loyalty to different Datus. Also, while themodern barangay represents only the smallestadministrative unit of government, the barangay ofprecolonial times was either independent, or belonged towhat was only a loose confederation of several barangays,over which the rulers picked among themselves who wouldbe foremost - known as the Pangulo or Rajah. In most cases,his function was to make decisions which would involvemultiple barangays, such as disputes between members oftwo different barangays. Internally, each datu retained hisjurisdiction.
THE FIRST COMMUNITIES Historically, the first barangays started as relatively small communities of around 50 to 100 families. Most villages have only thirty to one hundred houses and the population varies from one hundred to five hundred persons. When the Spaniards came, they found communities with twenty to thirty people only. They also encountered large and prestigious principalities. Theories, as well as local oral traditions, say that the original “barangays” were coastal settlements formed as a result of the migration of these Malayo-Polynesian people (who came to the archipelago) by boat from other places in Southeast Asia (see chiefdom). Most of the ancient barangays were coastal or riverine in nature. This is because most of the people were relying on fishing for supply of protein and for their livelihood. They also travelled mostly by water up and down rivers, and along the coasts. Trails always followed river systems, which were also a major source of water for bathing, washing, and drinking.
The coastal villages were more accessible to trade with foreigners. These were ideal places for economic activity to develop. Business with traders from other Countries also meant contact with other cultures and civilizations, such as those of Japan, Han Chinese, Indian people, and Arab people. In time, these coastal communities acquired more advanced cultures, with developed social structures (sovereign principalities), ruled by established royalties and nobilities.
SOCIAL ORGANIZATION AND STRATIFICATION The barangays in some coastal places in Panay, Manila, Cebu, Jolo, and Butuan, with cosmopolitan cultures and trade relations with other Countries in Asia, were already established Principalities before the coming of the Spaniards. In these regions, even though the majority of these barangays were not large settlements, yet they had organized societies dominated by the same type of recognized aristocracy (with birthright claim to allegiance from followers), as those found in established Principalities. The aristocratic group in these pre-colonial societies was called the Datu Class. Its members were presumably the descendants of the first settlers on the land or, in the case of later arrivals, of those who were Datus at the time of migration or conquest. Some of these Principalities have remained, even until the present, in unhispanized and mostly Islamized parts of the Philippines, in Mindanao.
In more developed Barangays in Visayas, e.g., Panay, Bohol and Cebu (which were never conquered by Spain but were accomplished as vassals by means of pacts, peace treaties, and reciprocal alliances), the "Datu" Class was at the top of a divinely sanctioned and stable social order in a "Sakop" (elsewhere referred to as Barangay). This social order was divided into three classes. The members of the Datu Class were compared by the Boxer Codex to the titled Lords (Señores de titulo) in Spain. As Agalon or Amo ( Lords), the Datus enjoyed an ascribed right to respect, obedience, and support from their "Oripun" (Commoner) or followers belonging to the Third Order. These Datus had acquired rights to the same advantages from their legal "Timawa" or vassals (Second Order), who bind themselves to the Datu as his seafaring warriors. "Timawas" paid no tribute, and rendered no agricultural labor. They had a portion of the Datus blood in their veins. The above-mentioned Boxer Codex calls these "Timawas": Knights and Hidalgos. The Spanish conquistador, Miguel de Loarca, described them as "free men, neither chiefs nor slaves". In the late 1600s, the Spanish Jesuit priest Fr. Francisco Ignatio Alcina, classified them as the third rank of nobility (nobleza).
To maintain purity of bloodline, Datus marry only among their kind, often seeking high ranking brides in other Barangays, abducting them, or contracting brideprices in gold, slaves and jewelry. Meanwhile, the Datus keep their marriageable daughters secluded for protection and prestige. These well-guarded and protected highborn women were called "Binokot", and the Datus of pure descent (four generations) were called "Potli nga Datu" or "Lubus nga Datu".
SOCIAL ORGANIZATION ANDSTRATIFICATION OF PRE-COLONIAL PRINCIPALITIES IN THE TAGALOG REGION The different type of culture prevalent in Luzon gave a less stable and more complex social structure to the pre-colonial Tagalog barangays of Manila, Pampanga and Laguna. Enjoying a more extensive commence than those in Visayas, having the influence of Bornean political contacts, and engaging in farming wet rice for a living, the Tagalogs were described by the Spanish Augustinian Friar Martin de Rada as more traders than warriors.
The more complex social structure of the Tagalogs was less stable during the arrival of the Spaniards because it was still in a process of differentiating. A Jesuit priest Francisco Colin made an attempt to give an approximate comparison of it with the Visayan social structure in the middle of the seventeenth century. The term Datu or Lakan, or Apo refers to the chief, but the noble class to which the Datu belonged or could come from was the Maginoo Class. One maybe born a Maginoo, but he could become a Datu by personal achievement. In the Visayas, if the Datu had the personality and economic means, he could retain and restrain competing peers, relatives, and offspring. The term Timawa came into use in the social structure of the Tagalogs within just twenty years after the coming of the Spaniards. The term, however, was being applied to former Alipin (Third Class) who have escaped bondage by payment, favor, or flight. The Tagalog Timawas did not have the military prominence of the Visayan Timawa. The warrior class in the Tagalog society was present only in Laguna, and they were called the Maharlika Class. At the early part of the Spanish regime, the number of their members who were coming to rent land from their Datus was increasing.
Unlike the Visayan Datus, the Lakans and Apos of Luzon could call all non-Maginoo subjects to work in the Datu’s fields or do all sorts of other personal labor. In the Visayas, only the Oripuns were obliged to do that, and to pay tribute besides. The Tagalog who works in theDatu’s field did not pay him tribute, and could transfer their allegiance to another Datu. 
The Visayan Timawa neither paid tribute nor performed agricultural labor. In a sense, they were truly aristocrats. The Tagalog Maharlika did not only work in his Datu’s field, but could also be required to pay his own rent. Thus, all non- Maginoo formed a common economic class in some sense, though this class had no designation. There are two types of persons belonging to the alipin class . The Aliping Namamahay who served his master in his own fields, and Aliping Saguiguilid who lived in the peripheral areas of his masters house.
HISPANIZATION (A R R I V A L O F T H E S P A N I A R D S Upon the arrival of the Spanish, smaller ancient barangays were combined to form towns. Every barangay within a town was headed by the cabeza de barangay (barangay chief), who formed part of the Principalía - the elite ruling class of the municipalities of the Spanish Philippines. This position was inherited from the first datus, and came to be known as such during the Spanish regime. The Spanish Monarch ruled each barangay through the Cabeza, who also collected taxes (called tribute) from the residents for the Spanish Crown.