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The Classes of the Pre-colonial Philippines

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

We cannot buy happiness through money. But not everyone is in the same situations. Social classes are sets of social hierarchy based on resources, power, and authority. This forms inequality to the status of the people. Social classes in the Philippines goes beyond Pre-Hispanic times. The classes were divided into four: Maginoo (Noble Class), Timawa (freeman or commoner), Maharlika (warrior), and Alipin (servant).

The Maginoo are the royal blooded such as the Datu, which is the leader of the barangay consisting of 100-500 persons. The nobility of the Datu will be passed down to the eldest son or a relative if he has none. They are addressed as Ginoo while Dayang for the women of equivalent. Panginoon was reserved for the most powerful who owns many slaves and owned extensive properties.

Timawa is made up of the commoners of a community. They are given the privilege to acquire property, have any job, pick their own wives, and also have a slave. In return, they were expected to pay taxes and the only class obligated to do so. It was said that Timawa are the illegitimate children of a Datu to another commoner or slave.

Maharlika are well respected warriors of the barangay. They have the same rights as the Timawa but doesn’t pay taxes. Instead, they provide protection to the community and they prepare their own weapons at their own expense. They can move to another barangay if they choose to but will need to pay a certain amount to the current Datu. The Maharlika would be honored through a feast before leaving the community.

Lastly and the least of the classes, the Alipin. They serve anyone who is above their class. They do the work inside a home such as cooking, cleaning, and aiding their masters with their duties. Alipin is divided into two types. Aliping Namamahay have their own quarters inside the property of their master, has the right to choose their husband or wife, can own property, and being paid for their service. Aliping Saguiguilid on the other hand, have no home thus lives with their master, can be sold by their masters, serves without getting paid, and cannot marry without the permission of their master.

As listed, inequality and struggle of social classes in the Philippines goes beyond Spanish colonization. Class struggle happens when there is a tension in the society because of different groups of class. Maginoo have the power among the classes and can only passed down to their family and blood, which leaves no chance for other class to rule. It is a struggle as the way the community works are based on the rules that the noble makes. The Alipin are the lowest of all and the ones who receive most unjust treatment. This conflict can still be seen in today’s social classes in the Philippines, Rich, Upper middle, Middle, Lower middle, and Poor which is based on their monthly income.


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