“The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past.”
- Barack Obama
The pre-colonial Philippine society has been regarded as primitive and backward from the Western point of view. Most history books, starting from elementary level, depict and portray how primeval and prehistoric early Filipino lives were. And sadly, a lot of Filipinos render this idea as true, concise, and accurate where in fact, it’s the other way around.
Early Filipinos may not speak the Spanish language from Latin and Greek roots, but they certainly have a system of writing known as the Alibata, which is derived from Malay. They may not build big ships used for expedition but they certainly construct trading ships that can withstand the rage of Monsoon wind. Lastly, they may not have known God, but they certainly believe in Bathala, the creator of all.
What makes pre-colonial Philippine society vibrant and developed is the fact that it has a system in the three main aspects of civilization, namely; 1) social class, 2) trade and agriculture, and lastly, 3) warfare and weaponry. These three ideas will be tackled in this paper.
The system of social class is very evident in the early Filipino society. In each barangay, there is a ruler who leads the community known as the Datu. His family, court officials, babaylans, and other royalties fall in the class called the Maharlikas. The freemen who live in the community are the Timawas. And lastly, the slaves, either Namamahay or Saguguilid, complete the communal hierarchy.
Similarly in the European context, the king heads the nation together with his family and other royalties. The barons, dukes, counts, lords, and church officials fall under the class, nobility. Under them were the warriors who fight for the country and for the king. And lastly, the slaves, who are composed of peasants and colonies, dominate the lower class.
The resemblance of these two different contexts proves how developed social aspect was in the early Filipino times. Everyone knows exactly where to stand, who to follow, and what to do in order for the community to function and to develop. There are also rules mandated by the Datu that citizens must follow or else, punishment awaits them. There is a sense of fear and respect towards their leader that barbaric people don’t have. No doubt, pre-colonial Filipinos are not, as claimed to be, primeval.
Secondly, the system of trade and agriculture has dominated the early Filipino society. Even before the arrival of galleons, pre-colonial Filipinos participate in a vibrant and active trade-offs mostly between the Chinese, Siamese, Vietnamese, Malays, and Indians. Also, a scheme of exchange has been developed known as the barter system, where people from different countries swap a good to gain another good. Products include gold, silver, rice, ornaments, cloth, and certain types of food. Raja Soliman even orders Martin de Goiti to pay tax when the latter’s ships dock in Manila Bay.
Aside from trading, agriculture has also flourished in the early Philippine society. Even with the lack of modern technology, the Ifugaos has successfully built the renowned Banaue Rice Terraces, man-made hydraulic works, small dams, and irrigations. In terms of aquaculture, early Filipinos are known for their salambao, a type of raft with a large fishing net.
Economically speaking, the pre-colonial Filipino society has thriven and blossomed. There is no way that this type of living can be considered as primitive. It is even said that Spaniards were amazed on how prosperous and developed it was, even with the lack of modern equipment.
Lastly, the system of warfare and weaponry in the pre-colonial times is undoubtedly impressive. Certain strategic actions are done to ensure victory against enemies. One example is ambush, wherein warriors will conduct a surprise attack on their enemies usually during forsaken hours. In this case, there is greater chance of winning and...
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