Posted by: vip | November 30, 2008

The cabeza de barangay

18-Dec-2007 11:28 am

The cabeza de barangay

Did some background reading*. Well then, so, balañgay was the Visayan word for a particular boat. It appears that as early as Limasawa in 1521, Pigafetta had already written down this word as Visayan denoting this “boat”. But when the Spaniards reached Manila on their second coming (1570), they found the Tagalogs called the boat a barangay. At the same time, the term also referred to the Tagalogs’ smallest political unit. Since the Tagalogs were “people of the river”, we can conjecture that being a member of a barangay may have also meant access to that particular boat–or barangay–on its trips up and down the river.

As Manila ascended to pre-eminence as the new capital, the Spaniards must have been quick to appreciate that this native freightage convention was actually a very useful approach to organize the country, and the colonizers began to use the term and concept of barangay throughout the country. Thus, barangay was institutionalized as the country’s smallest political unit, mainly as channel of administration and tribute collection. This move spoke well of the first Spaniards’ adaptability and keen ruling sense, perhaps prerequisite traits for successful colonizers–even as balangay still referred to the Visayan boat.

It is with this background that we find the earliest parish records in Carcar (mid-1700s to early 1800s) to already use the term barangay. These early records would refer to an individual as living in a certain place and belonging to a particular cabeza de barangay. The record would thus read “Juan de la Cruz de lugar de Latid, del Barangay de Don Tal Fulano.” Later, the term used was for a person to be empadronado to a barangay (of a cabeza), such that the phrase became “Juan de la Cruz, empadronado del Barangay de Don Tal Fulano”.

[There must have been an urgent call to use empadronado because before that our scribes were beginning to just say Juan de la Cruz , sacop de Barangay etc. No kidding. By the way, Tal Fulano (or Fulano de Tal) is the Spanish equivalent of the English John Doe. And the Spanish-speaking world still uses the term. Even we non-Spanish-speaking Filipinos still do.]

Because of this curious formula–where the person mentioned is said to be from a certain place and belonging to a cabeza de barangay–we can draw the conclusion that the barangay in this early period was not a geographical division that it is today but rather, we understand barangay to very simply be a social or tax group headed by its cabeza.

Records would refer to Don Tal Fulano as the cabeza of certain individuals from, say, Latid, but other records would point to him also as cabeza of still others in some other places far from Latid. So, to recap: barangay then was not a geographical entity but was a group of persons (probably with origins of clan-ship) under the control of the cabeza, and thus, membership in a particular barangay cut across geographical lines. We can say these people could ride the boat led by this cabeza.

By the same token, there would be not just one but a number of cabezas with jurisdiction over various persons in a given place, say, Latid as our example.

In 1852, cabezas with authority over individuals in Latid were Luciano Alcoy, Hilario Aldepolla, Antonio Alega (also of Mulag), Martin Alfafara, Marcelo Alesna, Silverio Quilario (also of Cabancalan and Montepase), Vicencio Genovea, Gabriel Laure, Mateo Sasa (also of Pamitagan), and probably others. In contemporary terms, were Latid the barangay,  it would have only one cabeza.

Martin Alfafara’s direct descendant still using the surname is great-great-grandson, Jerry Martin N. Alfafara.

Meanwhile, Cogon had Estanislao Aleson, Arcadio Barcelo, Claudio Barcelo, Narciso Barcenilla, Salustiano Barrera, Betecian Canencia, among others.

Daanglungsod: Pedro Federico, Domingo Laña, Pablo Lapira, Donato Regis and others.

Other cabezas of the period were: Gregorio Dayondon and Domingo Gemperoso of Bacsiji, Mariano/Marciano Alfafara (brother of Martin) of Banica and also Tapon, Felipe Aldaya and Marcelo Caballero of Bolinauan (the latter also had patronage in Caipilan), Roman Sarmiento in Cambuntan, Pedro Embarnacen and Gortacio Genosa of Catadman, Bonifacio Satorre of Minaga, Jabillo Gentero of Montepase, Geronimo Canencia, Marcelo Cañete, Placido Embalsado and Enrique Oapan of Napo,and Juan Emnace of Tapon. And again, there must be others.

Mariano Alfafara’s present-day direct descendant, through his granddaughter Ruperta Alegrado, is his great-great-great-grandson Gibb Lorens Lapinid, the photographer and our carcarfamilies member. Roman Sarmiento’s descendants are the Valencia family of the Tisa House, and the Urgellos, among them, the retired Army commander Lt. Gen. Raul Urgello and former Vice Gov. John-John Osmeña, among others.

Of these cabezas, Roman Sarmiento and Domingo Gemperoso were future mayors (gobernadorcillo).

Those names were not the only cabezas of that period, I am sure. (Incidentally, no one that I’ve asked knows what Latid is known presently. I would suspect present-day Guadalupe because that area is the only one not mentioned at all in the records.)

It was only later on that a geographically-based political subdivision evolved—the barrio–and its head, the teniente del barrio. And years later, the term barrio was once again changed to barangay, and the teniente promoted to captain and so we had the barangay captains. Today, it is either Punong Barangay or Barangay Chairman, so I can imagine it may even evolve to CEO. Everything is possible in these shores.

Anyway, what may at once be noticeable to the reader is the spelling used, as I have been using the spelling of places and names as found in the parish books of 1852: Bacsiji, Bolinauan, Montepase, Mulag, etc.

Naturally, the spellings were very Spanish-based. Thus, you would see Bolinauan, Barauidan, etc. These are now spelled with a “w”, but back then, “w” in Spanish would have been pronounced“v”. Same thing with Oasaoas and Oasay. Meanwhile, some of the Day- surnames would later evolve to other spellings: Dayapera to Diapera, Daytec to Daitec. Even a number of Dayanan were misspelled to Dainan even during the Spanish period and the variant stuck on some branches of the family.

Maybe I’ll tackle surnames on my next.

*William Henry Scott, Barangay (1994)


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