Posted by: vip | January 15, 2009

The cabeza de barangay 3

One cannot mistake the hint of boorish-ness, but actually it is so awkward when you hear a person inject the phrase, “like I said”…repeating himself. To repeat oneself means either you think you were not clear the first time (s), or you don’t realize nobody listened at all. When you think about it–extremely embarrassing, either way. Thus, I hate repeating myself.

But since I’m also not one to give in to baser instincts like hate, thus the 2), and now 3) after my titles. Anyway, the idea came late and … might as well.

Here are some photos of Carcar church records that show as example three cabezas, each having authority over  individuals living (or making a living) in different places in Carcar. This somehow demonstrates that Barangay at this time was an organization that was not defined by territory but rather by mere association to the cabeza. The records are all in the year 1850 and the signatures in them belong to Don Doroteo Lasala, coadjutor, with the authority of the cura Don Benito Perez.

[Priests were addressed with the honorific Don, and in fact are still so entitled in Spain today. But in colonial Philippines where nobody ever made the jump to the wee-est grade nobility, that Don title was the Holy Grail itself. So much so that entire families have been dubbed “elite” by the mere evidence of a member having been called a Don in records, not minding the other fact that the rest of his family were not Dons at all. And especially unmindful that every cabeza de barangay throughout the country rated the Don, too]

Back to the records. In this baptism for his son, Don Roman Sarmiento is shown to be a cabeza actual (current) as well as a resident of a place called Latid. He was known as Roman Protacio before the Claveria decree.


There are two candidates for what name Latid is now known as—Guadalupe or the poblacion. I have yet to confirm some information that the street now called Santa Catalina was in the 1870s called calle Real, but in  the late 1880s was calle de Latid. The genealogist and Argao historian Todd Sales had told me the poblacion area of Argao used to be called Latid also. Incidentally, the infant Juan Sarmiento died and was buried Feb. 10, two days later. Anyway, in this next record, Don Roman has patronage also over an Alcover family in Bolinauan.


Here’s another example interesting for the family (and its history) involved. The present Avila family of Cebu City and Carcar started from Don Andres Avelino (pre-Claveria decree name). When the decree was implemented he had the new name Andres Jimena (sometimes spelt Ximena in other records). Around the 1870s, records already show Don Andres and family had a new surname—Avila. Before that, there was a transition when he was named Andres Ximena Avila.

A grandson of Don Andres was Don Jose Avila, who built a cinema house empire and whose Cebu City family still has extensive landholding in the city to this day.

Here, Don Andres is cabeza of a family in Cogon …


… and of another in Tubud.


Meanwhile, the Barcenas family was already prominent even before the arrival of the Cebu City families (3 gobernadorcillos). Here in March 1850, Don Vito Barcenas, still known as Vito Modesto, the former gobernadorcillo, is cabeza of a family in Cogon …


… in Mantalongon…


… and, already with the Barcenas surname, also in Taug.


This may or may not mean anything but did you notice that in February 1850, Roman Sarmiento already had the surname but Vito Barcenas by March was still Vito Modesto? My guess is Cebu City was able to implement the decree ahead of the towns and thus the Sarmientos of Cebu City–where Roman also originated from–got their name ahead of Carcar folks like the Barcenas family.



  1. The places shown here (Latid and Bolinauan for Sarmiento; Cogon and Tubud for Avila; and Cogon, Mantalongon and Taug for Barcenas), are all only sitios of different present-day barangays. Except Bolinauan which is a barangay. But at the time of these records, these were the most prominent and populated places of the town.

    The latter territorial barrio was formed by combining adjoining places (now called sitios). The examples shown here for each cabeza though are far from each other and do not belong to any one barangay, thus to bring the point across.

  2. Spanish nobility. Unlike Great Britain where land magnates and later, merchants were granted titles (the former even reached dukedoms), for a long time, Spain reserved its aristocracy along the line of military service. However in recent history, Spanish civil servants, usually prime ministers, made the jump from commoner straight to dukes, while Britain have been more elitist and former prime ministers first merely rate a baroncy.

  3. I’m speaking only for the written records I saw. So I cannot speak for the oral protocol of the time. So I suppose one’s rank in the society then entitled one to the Don. Although in speech, don is used followed by the first name (Don Peary), in documents it is the full name (Don Peary Aleonar)and no ordinary person was ever written with a Don on his name in Spanish-time documents in the Philippines. Basically, it meant being a member of the principalia (equivalent to municipal government) which includes the cabezas the barangay. It’s really funny because when one ceases to become a cabeza, he is also no longer written with the Don. But I noticed that most everyone in the town who was ever the town chief executive (gobernadorcillo, etc) at one time or another was called Don etc. etc. way beyond retirement age. However all Spaniards were written as Don even at the time of his Baptism (Bishop Juan Gorordo was Don Juan Perfecto Gorordo in his own baptism record). In oral tradition, people either called the VIP (not me) Don Jose or Nyor Peping. But the mayors were Capitan, or ‘Tan Peping. That’s a more exclusive club there. One of my scheduled next posts will be on the capitan.

  4. Vip,

    How do Filipinos acquire the title “don”? Do they just look at their bank account one day and decide they have enough money to bestow the title upon themselves? Or is there an institute that approves the title?

    I’ve spoken to people from Spain and Latin America, and they all tell me that they use “don” followed by the first name, and it is a less formal way of addressing a person than the more formal title, Señor. And it applies to everyone — rich and poor.

    For example, to address you formally would be “Señor Peary Aleonar.” The less formal way would be “Don Peary,” but still more formal than just calling you “Peary.”

    This is how, as I understand it, is the contemporary usage of “Don,” except in the Philippines, where the protocol has not changed since the days of Don Quixote when only the upper class may be called “Don.”


    • If I may venture a thought: your input about people in Spain being called Dons may indicate the democratization but of its still extant aristocratic tendencies. Why call them Don still? But I don’t quite agree with you that the protocol is still in use in our country. The Philippines doesn’t use that now, you can look and listen around. Except Chinese merchants who look up to it as having arrived to the top. Thus, the only Dons you’ll find here were only the Spanish-time principalia.

  5. Vip,

    I stumbled across this eBook that states the Cabeza was the tax collector. See

  6. Certainly, among other duties. The biggest lookouts for the Spanish authorities, along with signs of unrest, would arguably be tribute collection because not only does it go towards the administration of the entire country but a good portion of it must have been remitted to Spain, too. When the authorities built churches, doubtless the cabeza would be at the forefront in money as well as labor contribution. The good cabeza would have been one who could keep his men under control while digging into their pockets.

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