Indigenous Datu & Warriors

Early settlers who had established themselves in parts of the Philippines instituted barangay chiefs within villages known as Datu and Indigenous Filipinos adopted this system as their own. Datu’s were part of the nobility known as tumao and they would have to demonstrate their exceptional skills in war and leadership over other eligible warriors in order to obtain title as Datu. Eligible feudal warriors known as maginoo, timagua, timawa, or maharlika were by male bloodline birthright rulers over segments of land and their tribal members or kinship groups known as barangays, kedatuan or dulohan. They were in essence similar to royal kings however Datu’s did not practice absolute sovereignty over members in the community. As these positions of authority were inherited, if a community was lacking an appropriate heir, the brothers or relatives succeeded.


People were either ibang tao (outsiders) or hindi ibang tao (one-of-the-tribe). Datu’s would select noble scholared leaders known as sultan, thimuay, rajah, mandadores, or lakan to serve the community under their appointment. Descendants of the Datu were also regarded as noblility including the women and were exempt from services to which freelholders were subjected. Some Datu’s were more powerful than others and each had followers, subjects, districts, and families who all showed their respects and obeyed his chiefdom. Some Datus were friends and communicated with each other while others fought in wars and had quarrels between tribes. In war if a Datu showed more courage than another Datu, they would gain more followers and that Datu would assume his leadership even if they were in respect chiefs of their own barangays. Aside from Datu’s and headmen, other men organised themselves as general soldiers, sentinel, bantay, spies, bila, allies, kagon, mediators, laway, away, and enemy. Each warrior had a special role assigned to them.

"There were no kings or lords throughout these islands who ruled over them as in the manner of our kingdoms and provinces; but in every island, and in each province of it, many chiefs were recognized by the natives themselves. Some were more powerful than others, and each one had his followers and subjects, by districts and families; and these obeyed and respected the chief. Some chiefs had friendship and communication with others, and at times wars and quarrels. These principalities and lordships were inherited in the male line and by succession of father and son and their descendants. If these were lacking, then their brothers and collateral relatives succeeded... When any of these chiefs was more courageous than others in war and upon other occasions, such a one enjoyed more followers and men; and the others were under his leadership, even if they were chiefs. These latter retained to themselves the lordship and particular government of their own following, which is called barangay among them. They had datos and other special leaders [mandadores] who attended to the interests of the barangay." De Morga, Antonio


By the end of the 16th century most claims to Indigenous royalty and nobility had been replaced by a Christianised nobility introduced by Spanish rulers. However in remote parts of the Philippines unhispanisized societies remained and some continued in the traditions of their ancestors either as classless societies, warrior societies, petty plutocracies, or principalities.


Jean Mallat, Les Philippines, histoire, geographie, moeurs, agriculture, industrie et commerce des Colonies espagnoles dans l'oceanie, Paris: 1846, p. 356., p. 53,

Antonio de Morga, The Project Gutenberg EBook of History of the Philippine Islands, Vols. 1 and 2, Chapter VIII.

Laura Lee Junker, "The Organization of Intra Regional and Long Distance Trade in Pre Hispanic Philippine Complex Societies”, Asian Perspectives, 1990, 29 (2): 167–209

Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Philippines”, Accessed 8 June 2018,

Antonio de Morga, The Project Gutenberg EBook of History of the Philippine Islands, Vols. 1 and 2, Chapter VIII

William Henry Scott, Cracks in the Parchment Curtain, Quezon City: 1998, pp. 117-118, p. 139

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