Monday, December 12, 2005

Article: Social hierarchy in Pampanga

The following reconstruction of social hierarchy in Pampanga based on Bergano and various other sources should be helpful in understanding the political situation in pre-contact Lusung.


The Pagbansag were hereditary titles, the "pag-" prefix indicating those titles that are passively obtained i.e. by birth. Many of the pagbansag are related to the clan or village that first settled an area or mountain. Pagbansag connected with the land cannot be given away or taken away in native thought as they belong to the ancestors. This caused quite a bit of friction over the concept of land "ownership" during colonial times.

  • Pagbansagan -- The highest title in the land meaning "the one who bestows hereditary titles (pagbansag)". In the common practice, the Pagbansangan is the lawgiver and the supreme judge in matters of law. Also, in most cases the person is also an heriditary priest or shaman and grants priesthoods to others. The Pagbansagan of Pinatubo would grant titles for the sulip (banua) of Pinatubo, or those districts (danay) primarly fed by the rivers and streams of that volcano. When a tipon is called between these districts the Pagbansagan naturally officiates and carries "veto" power. In a national crisis, the Pagbansagan appoints commanders and deputies, while the danay provide their own troops and supplies.

  • Calili -- Hereditary priest/priestess.

  • Ari -- This title means literally "king" or "queen." An Ari is an hereditary ruler as the word Ariyan means "of royal blood, prince, princess." The Ari generally rule over geographical districts. The Pagbansagan is the Ari of the sulip/banua. None of the Ari, including the Pagbansagan, had autocratic power but ruled through a combination of political, legal and spiritual portfolios. When clans were able to attain rulership over lands outside the traditional danay, the clan leaders known as Dapu or Nunu became rulers in a thalassocracy.

  • Dapu -- Also known as Nunu or "grandparents" these were the leaders of clans who could hold power across danay or establish their own kingdoms in other lands. These titles were hereditary but also had elective qualities and did not involve the Pagbansagan. The Dapu or Nunu of major clans were very powerful. The genealogy of the clan could also be called nunu. It was generally traced back to the Talampacan or great-great-grandparents and reckoned bilaterally. However, clans could unite through blood pacts usually involving a marriage, or the ritual drinking by the Dapu of a bit of each other's blood mixed with native wine (alac or sasa).

  • Dayang -- A "Lady" or "Dona." May be related to the word daya "blood" indicating bilineal or matrilineal inheritance of certain titles.

  • Laquin -- A "great man," probably a contraction of lalaqui-an. These titles often connoted some kind of spiritual lordship over some element, activity, object, etc.

  • Gat -- Possibly a foreign title as Bergano lists neither gat or pamagat. Also, some of the words compounded with "Gat-" look foreign i.e., maitam in Gatmaitam may come from the Moro languages in the South. These surnames may represent the ancient marriages with nobility from Brunei and Sulu. Gat has a connotation similar to "Don" in Spanish.

  • Basal -- A governor, apparently related to the blacksmith caste.

  • Punsalang -- A captain, probably hereditary, related to the old noble clan of Pinatubo and Apung Mallari.

  • Hereditary offices. These were all honorable positions although some may be difficult to understand as such today. For example the pagbansag Manalang means "the one who propagates the Talang tree," which alone does not sound very noble until one understands that the Talang was very sacred in this region.

  • Bansag

    These were appointed offices. Some like the title of Ucum could also be granted as hereditary titles.

  • Alili -- Appointed priest/priestess.

  • Ucum -- Also probably Nucum. A judge, a "mayor" of a large population center or ucuman.

  • Bansagan -- General or Captain-General.

  • Bansag -- Captain or Maestro-de-Campo.

  • Guinu -- A chief or lord. The equivalent of "datu" in other areas. Usually the ruler of at least a barangay. The Guinu were established mostly by merit although a good genealogy was always helpful.

  • Datu -- The title of Datu also existed in some areas. Originally this meant the captain of a ship known as a barangay, and also the settlement of the same name. As with the Guinu, the power of the Datu could vary widely. One barangay might be dozens of times larger than another. Some datus might command a "fleet" of barangays. The position of Datu was generally earned.

  • Una -- A captain, especially of a land force.

  • Biuisan -- Anyone who receives taxes or tribute (buis) for any reason. Some of the pagbansag were also Biuisan.

  • Other appointed offices similar to those of the pagbansag in most cases, but not hereditary.