Epitome-concluding Observations of the Philippines Icon

January 6, 2022

The Philippines was discovered by Magellan on March 16, 1521 on St. Lazarus’s day.* But it was not until 1564, after many previous efforts had miscarried, was it put under Spain.

Legaspi left New Spain with 5 ships took possession of the Archipelago in the name of Philip 2nd in 1564.

Magelland named the islands after the Lazarus.

  • But this name never grew into general use.
  • The Spaniards persistently called them the Western Islands—Islas del Poniente
  • The Portuguese called them Islas del Oriente.

Legaspi gave the current name in honour of Philip II who gave the islands the extinct name of New Castile.t

Legaspi first of all annexed Cebú, and then Panáy. Six years later, in 1571, he first subdued Manila, which was at that time a village surrounded by palisades. He then built a fortified town.

The subjection of the remaining territory was effected so quickly that, upon the death of Legaspi (in August, 1572), all the western parts were in possession of the Spaniards.

• Magellan fell on the 27th April, struck by a poisoned arrow, on the small island of Mactan, lying opposite the harbour of Cebú. His lieutenant, Sebastian de Elcano, doubled the Cape of Good Hope, and on the 6th September, 1522, brought back one of the five ships with which Magellan set sail from St. Lucar in 1519, and eighteen men, under Pigafetta, to the same harbour, and thus accomplished the first voyage round the world in three years and fourteen days.

† “ According to recent authors they were also named after Villalobos in 1543.“MORGA, p. 5.

Numerous wild tribes in the interior, however, the Islamic states of Mindanao and the Sulu group, for example, have to this day preserved their independence. The character of the people, as well as their political disposition, favoured the occupancy.

There was no mighty power, no old dynasty, no influential priestly domination to overcome, no traditions of national pride to suppress.

The natives were either:

  • heathens, or
  • recently converted superficially to Islam

They lived under many petty chiefs who:

  • ruled them despotically
  • made war on one another and
  • were easily subdued.

One such community is called Barangay. To this day, though in a considerably modified form, it is the foundation of the constitutional laws.

The Spaniards:

  • limited the power of the petty chiefs
  • upheld slavery
  • abolished hereditary nobility and dignity, substituting in its place an aristocracy created by themselves for services rendered to the State

They did all these changes very gradually and cautiously.

According to Morga (p. 140) there was neither king nor governor. Each island and province had many persons of rank, whose dependants and subjects were divided into quarters (barrios) and families.

These petty rulers had to render homage by ineans of tributes from the crops (buiz), also by socage or personal service: but their relations were exempted from such services as were rendered by the plebeians (timauas).

The dignities of the chieftains were hereditary. Their honours descended also to their wives. If a chief particularly distinguished himself, then the rest followed him. But the Government retained to themselves the administration of the Barangays through their own particular officials.

Concerning the system of slavery under the native rule, Morga says (p. 41, abbreviated),-”

The natives are divided into three classes:

  • nobles
  • timawas or plebeians
  • the slaves of the timawas.

There were different kinds of slaves:

  1. Saguiguilires

These were in complete slavery who work in the house, as also their children.

  1. Namamahays

These live with their families in their own houses and render service to their lords as:

  • farm labor
  • boatmen
  • house builders, etc.

They must attend as often as they are required, and give their services without pay or recompense of any kind. Their duties and obligations descend to their children and successors.

Of these Saguiguilires and Namamahayes a few are full slaves, some half slaves, and others quarter slaves.

If one parent was free and one was a slave, then the only son would be half free, half slave.

If there were several sons, the first one inherits the father’s position. The second that of the mother. When the number is unequal the last one is half free and half slave. The descendants born of such half slaves and those who are free are quarter slaves. The half slaves, whether baguiguilires or namamahayes, serve their lords equally every month in turns.

Half and quarter slaves are partially free. They can compel their lord to give them their freedom at a previously determined and unfluctuating price. But full slaves do not possess this right.

A namamahay is worth half as much as a saguiguilid. All slaves are natives."

The old usages and laws, so long as they did not interfere with the natural course of government, remained untouched and were operative by legal sanction. Even in criminal matters, their validity was equal to those emanating from the Spanish courts.

To this day, the chiefs of Barangay, with the exception of those bearing the title of “don”. They have no privileges save exemption from the poll-tax and socage service.

They are virtually tax-collectors, excepting that they are not paid for such service, and their private means are made responsible for any deficit.

The prudence of such a measure might well be doubted, without regard to the fact that it tempts the chiefs to embezzlement and extortion; and it must alienate a class of natives who would otherwise be a support to the Government.

Since the measures adopted in alleviation of the conquest and occupancy succeeded in so remarkable a manner, the governors and their subordinates of those days, at a time when Spain was powerful and chivalrous, naturally appear to have been distinguished for wisdom and high spirit. Legaspi possessed both qualities in a marked degree.

Hardy adventurers were tempted there, as in America, by privileges and inducements which power afforded them; as well as by the hope, which, fortunately for the country, was never realised, of its being rich in auriferous deposits.

In Luzon, for instance, Hernando Riquel stated that there were many gold-mines in several places which were seen by the Spaniards; “the ore is so rich that I will not write any more about it, as I might be suspected of exaggerating. But I swear by Christ that there is more gold on this island than there is iron in all Biscay.”

They received no pay from the kingdom; but a formal right was given them to profit by any territory which was brought into subjection by them. Some of these expeditions in search of conquest were enterprises undertaken for private gain, others for the benefit of the governor; and such service was rewarded by him with grants of lands, carrying an annuity, offices, and other benefits (encomiendas, ofícios y aprovechamiéntos).

The grants were at first made for 3 generations in New Spain for four), but were very soon limited to two; when Di los Rios pointed this out as being a measure very prejudicial to the Crown, “since they were little prepared to serve his Majesty, as their grand-children had fallen into the most extreme poverty.”

After the death of the feoffee:

  • the grant reverted to the State
  • the governor thereupon disposed of it anew.
“A slave who has children by her lord is thereby freed together with her children. The latter, however, are not considered well born, and cannot inherit property; nor do the rights of nobility, supposing in such a case the father to possess any, descend to them."

The whole country at the outset was completely divided into these livings, the defraying of which formed by far the largest portion of the expenses of the kingdom.

Investitures of a similar nature existed, more or less, in a territory of considerable extent, the inhabitants of which had to pay tribute to the feoffee; and this tribute had to be raised out of agricultural produce, the value of which was fixed by the feudal lord at a very low rate, but sold by him to the Chinese at a considerable profit.

The feudal lords were not satisfied with these receipts. They held the natives in slavery until forbidden by a Bull of Pope Gregory 14th on April 18, 1591.

However, caffre and negro slaves imported by the Portuguese via India, were still permitted.

The original holders of feudal tenures amassed considerable booty. Zuñiga relates that as early as the time of Labezares, who was provisional governor between 1572 and 1575, he visited the Bisayas and checked the covetousness of the encomenderos, so that at least during his rule they relaxed their system of extortion.

Towards the end of Lasande’s government (1575-80) a furious quarrel broke out between the priests and the encomendéros. The priests preached against the oppression of the encomendéros and memorialised Philip 2nd.

The king commanded that the natives should be protected, as the extortionate greed of the feudal chiefs had exceeded all bounds; and the natives were then at liberty to pay their tribute either in money or in kind.

The result of this well-intentioned regulation appears to have produced a greater assiduity both in agriculture and trade, “ as the natives preferred to work without coercion, not on account of extreme want.”