I’ve read a lot about Precolonial Philippine society and culture, enough to start writing about… something more concrete. Rather than daydreaming about what my setting could be, I’ll start writing down what my setting actually is like. There is a difference.
I’ll start with this.
There are three social classes, the first and most important being the Datu. They are the head of a settlement, village, or barangay. They act as judge, settling disputes and problems of their people. They are expected to defend their people from enemies, and lead their people in war.
They are the wealthiest in the village and also the most skilled. A Datu takes pride in his skills other than warfare. They are the finest smiths, hunters, and fishermen among their people. They know the most languages, and they use their warships to trade with other nations or chiefdoms during times of peace. A Datu who is unskilled could not lead.
Some Datu rule through fear and oppression, but some Datu are freely followed by loyal vassals, rather than subjects. To become a Datu can be as simple having as having a following. There is no homage needed to be paid to other Datu from nearby barangays, but founding your own Barangay comes with its own set of benefits and problems.
In cases of settlements made up of multiple barangays, the title of Rajah is given to the wealthiest and most powerful Datu in the collective. However, being Rajah doesn’t mean they have power over another Datu’s people.
(This concept for Datus is very simplified for ease of use in a game.)
The second social class is the Timawa. The Timawa are free men. Free to follow their Datu in battle, free to migrate to other barangays, free to accumulate wealth.
Timawa are expected to pay tribute to their Datu, but the Maharlika, trusted confidants and retainers of the Datu from the Timawa class, are exempt.
The third social class is the Oripun. The Oripun is a scale between commoner and slave. All Oripun serve under their master to pay off their utang or debt and become Timawa.
Some Oripun are almost indistinguishable from Timawa, and have their own houses. Some Oripun live with their masters and are given food and clothes. All oripun are given days to work for themselves, the difference is in how many days in a month. The least fortunate Oripun would have 1 out of 4 days to themselves.
Both Timawa and Oripun can gather a following and settle down, making themselves Datu of their own people. However, even an Oripun with his own barangay is obligated to work or pay back their utang.
Common Trades and Other Important Roles
Everyone in a barangay have time to work for themselves, but what kind of work is there in a barangay?
Below is a list of common trades, skills, and supernatural or religious roles inside a barangay. Classes like Fighters, Rangers, and various Spellcasters can be derived from these. For my own group, I’m planning to run this with Whitehack, which gives players a lot of freedom in creating their own character and class, so having a list of jobs is useful.
Almost everyone is effectively a magsasaka or farmer, in addition to practicing their own craft. In the same way, everyone is a mamamangka, for the bangka or boat is the primary mode of travel.
The mangingisda are fishermen who catches the bounties of the sea with nets, traps, and harpoons. The common man’s primary source of protein is fish, so the mangingisda is an important role in a barangay.
The mangangaso are men who hunt game with aso or dogs. They set up various traps (pitfalls, nets, ballistas) which their aso lures prey into.
In times of war or the seasonal raid, the manggugubat or warrior follows their datu to battle. A manggugubat is as proficient in the paddle of a bangka as he is in the sword. In times of peace, the manggugubat ventures as traders or karakal.
The babaylan are shamans who have an extensive knowledge of medicine. When all else fails, they act as a medium to commune with the diwata and anito, gods and ancestor spirits.
The mangkukulam are sorcerers who cast kulam, spells meant to harm or curse. They are usually hermits living in the forest, for the common man is wary of black magic.
The paraawit are expert singers and poets. In a culture where literature is passed on orally, they are keepers of folk lore.
The parawali are the elders of communities, a source of great wisdom.
Craftsmen and artisans are called panday. Below are panday of a specific craft.
The panday sa puthaw are blacksmiths who craft iron tools and weaponry.
The panday sa bulawan are goldsmiths who fashion gold into elegant accessories.
The panday sa kahoy are sculptors of wood.
The panday sa balay are architects who erect town houses usually reserved for datus and other prominent members of the barangay.
The panday sa habul are weavers of clothes and intricately designed textiles.
The panday sa dihoon are sculptors of clay and pottery.
The panday sa bangka are craftsmen of the boat, with which travel and trade flows.
The panday sa batuk are artists of the tattoo, the marks of a true warrior.
I will probably add more to this list the more that I read, but for now, this is a pretty good list.