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.
  • Glossary: Sapa

    Words related to sapa and saba occur widely throughout insular Southeast Asia as placenames were they are derived from a root having meanings such as "estuary, river-mouth, creek, brook, canal, place where fish enter."

    The words sapa and saba may be the origin of the Arabic Zabag. Michael Jan de Goeje and Gabriel Ferrand, followed by Paul Wheatley, Roger Blench, Waruno Mahdi and others, believe that Zabag was derived from an earlier Sabag.

    Sabag, in turn, was an Arabization of the word Savaka the Tamil name for the people of Zabag. The suffix "-ka" here would be a common one in Sanskrit and Prakrit used to describe a people from a certain locality, thus Yona-ka means "people or person from Yona (Greece)."

    Savaka would then mean "people from Sapa/Saba" or "the people who dwell in estuaries or at river-mouths."

    De Goeje and Ferrand suggested that a group mentioned in early Islamic texts known as the Sayabidja or Sayabiga, were pre-Islamic settlers in the Sind and Persian Gulf from Zabag. Sayabiga was stated to be the plural form of Saibagi which in one text is said to be pronounced sometimes as Sabag.

    The Sayabiga were described as leaders of "marines" in warships, soldiers, prison and treasury guards and mercenaries. They were noted as faithful to those they served.

    Apparently they had come from southern India and settled in the Sind where they became closely associated with another group known as the Zutt or Zott. Others were found at various locations along the Persian Gulf coast during the time of Caliph Abu Bakr.

    Eventually the Zutt and Sayabiga, both apparently known as buffalo herders, are found at various locations serving mostly in military or police capacity including Bahrain and Basra. Both groups were devout Shi'as.

    Sayabiga and the Assassins

    Earlier in this blog, it was noted that Nusantao influence in Europe during medieval times may have flowed significantly through the Templars. The Templar connection in the Middle East might have been through the group famously known as the Assassins, a "fanatical" Shi'ite sect holed up in the mountains of Syria.

    The Caliph Muawiya settled groups of Zutt and Sayabiga in Antioch after he had deposed the Shah of Iran. These folk acted mainly as buffalo herders and were again forced to move when the Greeks conquered the area.

    Some were said to have ended up in Syria. The Zutt of Syria became the Dom Gypsies.

    The possible link between the Zutt and Sayabiga with the Assassins has been suggested by Ivanow who noticed the infusion of "Tantric" elements into certain sects of Islam:

    "We find numerous parallels in such widely differing ethnic, linguistic and social groups as the sects of Ali-Ilahi of Kurdistan, Nusayris of Syria, and Tantric cults, more particularly those of the worshippers of Shakti in India, in addition to avowedly mobile and wandering darwish organizations. It looks as if there is, after all, a mysterious connection between all these. The Tantric cults are believed to be the remnants of the ancient, pre-Aryan religion of India, gradually submerged, modified and partly re-modeled by orthodox Hinduism, the religion of the invaders."

    Ivanow suggested that this influence might be connected with the migrations from the Sind discussed above although he mentions only the Zutt. "Persian darwishes show remarkably strong ties with similar organisations in India, chiefly in Sind, and it is quite possible that certain ideas could have been imported through such channels. It appears, however, that such importations would have been made at an early date."

    When the Assassin holdouts in Syria were destroyed by the Mongols, the vast majority of the group went to India where they placed themselves eventually in the service of the Aga Khan.

    If some Sayabiga found their way into the Assassin group it could easily explain the Templar link with Zabag. Although admittedly there is no way to know whether these Shi'ite Sayabiga maintained any ties or loyalty to their old homeland.

    However, such a relationship would not be any stranger than that which existed between the Templars and the Assassins. The former were consistently accused of conspiring with the latter even though both groups represented what are generally considered as the most fanatic defenders of their respective religions.

    Even the Templar founder Hugh de Payens was accused of responsibility in forging the pact between Baldwin II of Jerusalem and the Assassins. When Christian fortunes waned in the Holy Land many in Europe cast a suspicious eye on the Templars.

    The historian M. Von Hammer has even suggested that the Templars modeled themselves after the Assassin order. He cites similar organization, dress, and practices. Godfrey Higgins later noted that both groups had certain gnostic and tantric beliefs in common. Both seemed to have deistic and pantheistic leanings.

    The two groups had similar colors which had great significance to the heraldry-conscious medieval Europeans. They both wore white garments, the Assassins with a red girdle and the Templars with a red cross. Both orders were divided into three classes: the Assassins into the Fedavee, Dais and Refeek, and the Templars into the knights, chaplains and servers. The Templar master and priors would conform to the Assassin sheik and Dais al-Kebir.

    Most controversial was the so-called "tribute" payed by the Assassins to the Templars. Although the latter claimed to have forced the hand of the Assassins in this matter, the question of the payment never failed to raise suspicion.

    Whatever the ultimate reason for the destruction of the Templars in France, no doubt their curious relationship with the Assassins had helped in the final decision against them.

    If we take it then that the Sayabiga and Zutt were among the members of the Assassins and responsible for Tantric elements in their doctrine, the passing of Nusantao knowledge would have survived mainly in Portugul. It was here that the Templar order was able to persist through nothing more than a subtle name change.

    Like the heathen Flegtanis of Toledo who acted as informant of Kyot and, through the latter, Wolfram von Eschenbach, the Sayabiga acted as informants of the Templars.

    The Templars of Portugal, or Knights of Christ as they became known after the holocaust in France, constituted the driving force behind the country's advances in maritime navigation.

    The Sayabiga hypothesis thus lies on the similarity of the name with Savaka and Zabag, their marine and mercenary nature which closely resembles the behavior of the Luções centuries later in Southeast Asia, their settlements along coastal areas, and their Tantric linkages (Suvarnadvipa/Zabag). The relationship between the Sayabiga and the Assassins and the latter's links with the Templars are fuzzy but this explanation would solve the riddle of Templar and Assassin tantric/Indic influence.

    Paul Kekai Manansala


    Barber, Malcolm. The Trial of the Templars, Cambridge University Press, 2003.

    William and Robert Chambers, "Secret societies of the Middle Ages," Chambers Papers for the People, Edinburgh: William and Robert Chambers, 1850.

    de Goeje, Michael Jan. Memoires d'histoire et de geographie orientales, No. 3, Leiden, 1903.

    Ferrand, Gabriel. E.J. Brill's First Encyclopedia of Islam s.v. "Sayabidja" (p. 200-1), The Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1927, 1993.

    Ivanow, W. "Satpanth," Collectanea Vol. 1. 1948, Published for the Ismaili Society by E. I. BRILL, Onde Rijn, 33a, Leiden, Holland.

    Wasserman, James. The Templars and the Assassins, Muze Inc., 2005.

    For Sayabiga, see also: Wheatley, Paul The Places Where Men Pray Together: Cities in Islamic Lands, Seventh Through the Tenth Centuries, The University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 44; Blench, Robert and Matthew Spriggs. Archaeology and Language III: Artefacts, Language and Texts, London: Routledge, 1999, p. 271.