The Philippines on the Eve of Spanish Contact


philippines.natives.painting.jpg (29061 bytes)

An illustration of Visayan mountain natives
from Mallat/Bayotes, Bisayas Sauvages ou des Montagnes

  • Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in the mid 1500s, the barangay (which consisted of 30-100 families that were interrelated by blood or marriage and debt bondage) existed as a basic social unit in more than 7,000 scattered islands of what is now known as the Philippines
  • A barangay is ruled a datu whose political power rested on heredity, military prowess, or magical abilities. 
  • In other parts of the archipelago, there were also territories ruled by a sultan whose sultanate were linked with neighboring territories such as Brunei and Borneo.
  • Trade was extensive between autonomous barangays and neighboring territories in Southeast Asia (such as the autonomous sultanates in Borneo)   and China.
  • Islamic influence had spread in coastal areas of the Visayan islands, including parts of what became Manila, as well as major sultanates of Sulu and Mindanao.


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