The Culture of the Indigenous Elite
By Carmen Guerrero Nakpil
Source: Kabayan On Line
THE first statement that needs to be made about the indigenous elite at the time of the Philippine Revolution and the First Philippine Republic is that they were a paradox. The most Westernized section of the inhabitants of the
archipelago, they were also the most anti-West. They were the most Hispanized yet they devoted their lives to fighting to be free from Spain. They fought for the independence of their country using the language of the oppressor, the tools of a borrowed culture. They were the most modernized yet they continually invoked a glorious if buried past.
Who composed this indigenous elite in the revolutionary Philippines of a hundred years ago?
They were a very small minority, comprising certainly not more than five percent out of a total population, as reported by various sources, of anywhere between 6.5 million and 8 million, the figure that appears in the Treaty of Paris of 1898.
The upper class consisted of several sub-classes:
1. The principalia (the principals) who by virtue of descent from the pre-Spanish ancient ruling nobility
of the datu and rajah, or of their positions in the Spanish government, as town mayors or heads of
villages, exerted both power and influence. For instance, Emilio Aguinaldo who became president of
the First Philippine Republic, was the son of a gobernadorcillo, a Spanish title for a small town mayor,
and himself became capitan municipal executive in the province of Cavite.
2. The so-named ilustrados (the enlightened) whose possession of higher or tertiary education
endowed them with learning.