Customary Laws in Lipa, Batangas by Simeona Leus, 1930 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Customary Laws in Lipa, Batangas by Simeona Leus, 1930 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Customary Laws in Lipa, Batangas by Simeona Leus, 1930

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1922 ethnographic paper written by one Ananias L. Chavez from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

Henry Otley-Beyer Collection

[Cover page.]

Customary Law Paper No. 104.
(Tagalog #652)



Simeona Leus

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1. – Domestic Law.
2. – Inheritance Rights.
3. – Customs in Agriculture.
4. – Commerce and Industry.

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February, 1930.

[Table of contents.]


Simeona Leus
(Tag., of Lipa, Batangas.)

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I. Introduction
II. Domestic Law:
1. Customary law regarding marriage:
a. The acceptance of a suitor.
b. Marriage contract.
c. Designation of sponsors.
d. The gift of the god-parents of the bride to be.
e. Personal services to the fiancée’s relatives.
f. The wedding feast.
g. The Sabugan.
h. The transfer of the bride to her new home.
2. Parental authority.
3. Parental and religious respect.
4. Respect for the dead.
III. Rights to Inheritance.
IV. Agricultural transactions and other Rural Customs.
1. Tenancy or Kasama system.
2. The free-for-all harvesting of rice.
3. The Pasaknung.
V. Commercial and Industrial Transactions.
1. Sales on credit.
2. Barter system of commercial intercourse.
3. Loan for commercial project.
VI. Conclusion

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Certain salient features of our customs which constitute

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our law in the past are still prevailing in certain localities of our province. Our ancient customs are fast sinking in the sea of oblivion and traces of those that exist today are observed only by the uneducated, the poor, the low-born classes of people and also those who are slow to imbibe the modern ideas. How tightly our ancestors were bound to their customs is shown by the fact that comparatively, a few cases have been known that occur as a departure from the original practices according to our elders. Our ancestors put too much stress on parental and religious respect in guiding the conduct and also of marriage as essential factors that determine the destiny of the future spouses.

The origin of a few of these customary laws has been lost in the obscurity of tradition and tracing their source is like exploring the infinite space with the eye in an effort to discover the beginning of this great universe. However, the general consensus of opinion is that many of these customs which are embodied in the form of our laws might have taken root before Magellan thought of glorifying himself by establishing a new route to the east which accidentally led to the discovery of a new land rich in the bounties of nature. The fact that our customary laws in Batangas bear many characteristics in common with those of other provinces may be presented as an evidence that the different tribes of Filipinos originated from the same parent stock. It is believed that many of these customary laws were promulgated by our ancient chiefs and

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rajahs. With the implantation of Spain’s authority over our country and her aims of conquest, colonization and spread of Christian doctrines, new elements were blended with our original customs to suit the caprices of the ruling power. Consequently, many of our customs had been modified and a few entirely abandoned. Now, they have been suffering a serious change since the stars and stripes began to wave in our air. It seems as if the fast absorption by our youths today of the Occidental customs now creeping in our country will in the near future, entirely uproot those traces of the old customs preserved for us by time – those traces that will serve as relics of the achievements of our ancient people.

The information embodied in this report was gathered by me mainly from my aged relatives who had the chance to observe many of the features of our ancient customs. This report consists of a synopsis of some of the curious customary laws of Batangas especially when we were still under the yoke of Spain. They may be grouped into Domestic Law, Agricultural transaction and Commercial and Industrial transaction.

1. Customary laws regarding marriage.

a. The acceptance of a suitor. – When Jacob sought for the hand of Rachel, he served Laban, Rachel’s father, for fourteen years. Marriage transactions among our natives are almost the same as those of the patriarchal times. Marriage is made

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directly with [a] girl’s parents and never with her. Frequently, a man marries a girl without having had the chance of meeting her in a formal conversation. The suitor shows his love for the girl by giving gifts and offering his services at the same time. He helps in plowing the field and planting the seed much the same as what Jacob did when he desired Rachel to be his wife. He helps him also in pounding rice, splitting wood for fuel and getting water from the well or spring. After Jacob had served Laban for a month, [the] latter asked, “Shoudst thou serve me for no right? Tell me, what shall thy wages be?” To these questions, Jacob replied, “I will serve thee for Rachel.” Questions with the same meaning as those put to Jacob by Laban are also asked by our suitor by the girl’s father after he has served him for about a week. If the suitor is accepted, he is obliged by customary law to render his personal services preparatory to marriage for at least one to three years. A suitor serving for a girl of a minor age has to extend his period of service for many years until she reaches the marital age. A girl’s father who has a personal grudge against the suitor penalizes him by lengthening his years of service. Cases have been known in which the lover serves the girl’s parents for five to ten years. On the other hand, there are instances whereby the period of rendering his personal services is shortened if he gains the sympathy and confidence of the girl’s parents and her relatives. Besides these personal services

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the suitor’s parents give valuable gifts to the girl’s family especially when the latter holds a party or otherwise which involves an expenditure of money such as a baptismal party, local fiesta or a banquet.

After these preliminary services have been fulfilled by the suitor, his parents are related elders are summoned to a formal meeting at the home of the girl. In this formal meeting (buluñgan), the marriage contract is agreed between the parents of the girl and those of the suitor.

b. Marriage contract. – This is a verbal contract fixed by the parents and elders of the future spouses. The parents of the girl designate the dowry which usually takes the form of money or property. Sometimes, the suitor’s parents are required to build a new home for the future couple. This dowry (bilang) is turned over to the fiancée’s parents on the eve of the marriage. When no dowry is asked of the parents of the bridegroom-to-be, it is understood that they are required to give their own son on the eve of the marriage any amount of money or property (bigaycaya) with which the future mates can start [a] business.

There are many instances in which the girl’s parents designated a certain amount of money or property for their daughter, and they in turn expect that the boy’s parents will designate an equal or greater value in money or property for their son. The designated sums of money, wills or documentary papers stating the money value of [a] certain property are turned

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over to the spouses on the day of marriage. This contract [is] known as (tuayan) is observed mostly by well-to-do people.

c. Designation of sponsors. – The next order of business transacted in the meeting mentioned above is the appointment of sponsors. Generally, spouses of age and of good social standing in the community are asked to sponsor the marriage ceremony in the church. As is the custom, the sponsors have to give a certain amount of money or valuable gift to the newly-weds during the wedding feast.

d. The gift to the god-parents of the bride-to-be. – The natives regard the godparents as the second parents of their sons and daughters. Like the mother, the godmother of the fiancée is believed to have helped her mother in the molding of her character. The good and bad traits of the goddaughter are attributed partly to the good and bad character of the godmother. Since the godmother is considered the second mother of the bride-to-be, she therefore plays also an important role in the marriage of the goddaughter. Some valuable gifts are given her by her future godson-in-law. Besides this, a rich lunch or supper is served at the house of the godmother of the fiancée. In return for this gift, the spouses receive a certain sum of money from the godmother during the wedding feast.

e. Personal services to the fiancée’s relatives. – These preliminary services are rendered in the form of (pakahoy) and (patubig). While the suitor renders his personal services

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the girl’s family, he invites his friends and relatives to perform the (pakahoy) and (patubig) to the near relatives of the girl such as uncles and aunts in order that he may win more and more sympathy. This phase of our customary law is not neglected because any dissenting word from any of near relatives sometimes results in the breaking of the marriage contract. (Pakahoy) and (Patubig) are the supplying of the home of the parents and near relatives of the girl with fuel and water, respectively.

f. The wedding feast. – The wedding feast is held alternately in the homes of the bride and bridegroom. The first and best part of the feast is held in the bride’s home on the eve of the marriage. The expenses involved in this feast are defrayed by the suitor and his parents. The feast in the bride’s home is extended to breakfast on the following day. After the newly-weds have arrived from the church where the nuptial is solemnized, breakfast is served.

g. The Sabugan. – This is one of the most curious customary laws practiced by our ancestors and which is observed even to this day in some wedding feasts. After the visitor and relatives of the couple have taken their breakfast at the bride’s home, an announcement is made by one of the figures prominently in the community about the observance of this old custom. Immediately, the relatives of the bridegroom assemble and surround the bride. The relatives of the bride do likewise and surround the bridegroom. A relative of the

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bridegroom who partakes in this custom drops a certain amount of money on the tray placed before the bride. Similarly, the relatives of the bride drop money on the tray assigned to the bridegroom. The money collected from this (sabugan) helps the couple to start a new life. Cases have been known in which the collection reaches several thousand pesos.

h. The transfer of the bride to her new home. – After the (sabugan), the relatives of the bridegroom take the couple to their new home. This parting of the parents and their daughter is a sad spectacle. The mother counsels her daughter to be absolutely careful in treading her new path of life – a life of tremendous responsibility. The mother and daughter part from each other with tears in their eyes. In the bridegroom’s home, the last part of the wedding feast is held.

2. Parental Authority.

The parents exercise their authority and control over their children. The father of the family is vested with absolute power and can dispose of the property of the family at will. His children are under obligation to follow his whims and desires without question. But although he is clothed with absolute power, he rarely turns despotic and abuse his authority. His children are under his full control even though they have reached the legal age. His son’s earnings are at his disposal and he is never emancipated until he gets married. Although married, his son cannot enter into serious transactions or contracts without his sanction.

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A display of a complete and absolute parental control is that exercised by the parents over our women. A woman is confined in the [blurred word] of her surroundings. She is not allowed to transact matters outside of her own home or can go to distant places in the absence of her parents or a trusted relative. She is never emancipated. When she marries, she falls under the power of her husband and his parents, which in some cases are more despotic than hers. An old woman, on being asked why women of her generation are not given much freedom of going away from their own homes, and of transacting affairs strictly their own replied, “Well, a woman is by nature physically weak and to safeguard her, we cannot give her this freedom. She cannot marry at will for she is inexperienced and her ignorance of [the] married state of life may eventually lead her in a wrong choice which may ultimately cause her future home to fall in ruins.”

3. Parental and Religious respect.

A very characteristic customary law in our province is the habit of children to kiss the hands of their parents and elders after performing their prayers. On the day of our Lord’s nativity, the children visit and kiss the hands of their aged relatives. In return for this respect, they receive Christmas presents from them.

The natives show great respect and timidity to persons who by reason of education, power and wealth are superior to

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them. In this respect, our ancestors made a great mistake. The timidity of character of many of us, Batangueños, is a result of showing profound respect for men of superior class. This principle is contrary to our doctrine today that “all men are equal before God and the law.”

The people respect sanctuaries and other places made sacred by ecclesiastical authority. Persons who cross or walk along the street before the church or chapel pause for a while, make the sign of the cross, utter a brief prayer, and then bow before the church.

Respect for the Dead.

The people in Batangas respect the dead more than they do the living. When a person meets a funeral procession, he takes off his hat and says a short prayer for the peaceful repose of the soul in the region of eternity.

The relatives, neighbors and friends meet either in the home of the deceased or in the church to hold a novena every day for nine days for the eternal rest of the soul that has been called to the Great Beyond. After the last novena, they sit at a banquet.

It has been the practice among the natives that neighbors, relatives and friends of the deceased give a certain of money to the principal member of the family. This money, called (pacandila) is used to purchase candles believed to illuminate the long and meandering way of the soul towards

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the region of salvation. The amount collected is always more than what is necessary for the candles. The surplus is spent for the burial ceremonies.

Near relatives of the deceased wear mourning dresses of black cloth for a year after which period they meet again [to] say their last prayers for the dead and then sit at another banquet. In this last meeting, they take off their mourning dresses.


With regards to the rights of sons and daughters to inheritance of their parents’ property, it has been customary in Batangas to give the best and the largest share to the son. The daughter takes a minor role as a participant in the inheritance of [the] father’s property unless she is the only child or a favorite of the deceased father. The sons, if there are many in the family, often do not get equal shares. The most favorite son gets the best share of the inherited property. If a married man is childless, the nearest relative inherits his wealth after his death. The inheritance property of a woman comes under the administration of her husband she marries. He can dispose of this property to suit his caprices but though vested with this power, he rarely does it.

1. Tenancy of (kasama) system.

In general, men who are hired as (kasamas) or tenants are poor and uneducated. Owing to their constant attachment

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to the farms which are mostly located in remote localities, their ways are too primitive and generally do not recognize their rights. A kasama builds his house on the farm and the landowner furnishes him with implements and work animals. He is not paid for his work on the farm. Instead, he gets one-half of the harvest.

The tenant sometimes does not get enough harvest with which his family can subsist. This being the case, it has been the custom among peasants to borrow money or rice from the owner of the land promising the latter to pay him at the end of the harvest season. Oftentimes, the tenant gradually increases his debt with [the] passing years until he is unable to redeem his promise. He is, therefore, bound to attach himself to the farm until his debts are paid. Some tenants offer the services of their sons and daughters as household servants of the landowner with little remuneration in order to shorten the time of paying their debt. Wealthy landowners sometimes abuse their power. Instead of attempting to better the condition of the peasants, they reduce them to misery and extreme poverty. On the other hand, there are landowners who help their tenants from being stuck in the mire of poverty by giving them the chance to engage in swine or cattle project.

They are given the animals to be taken care of and multiplied on the farm. One half of the offspring of these animals are theirs by customary law.

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2. The Free-for-all Harvesting of Rice.

It has been customary here during the rice harvest to rally the people to the field and help in harvesting the rice. After threshing the rice with their feet, they present their harvest to the tenant who divides it into four or five equal parts. One part goes to the harvester and the other parts to be divided equally between tenant and landowner.

3. The Pasaknung.

The (pasaknung) is effected in the following mannter. A tenant’s friend or relative volunteers to him for the management of harvesting rice. This volunteer solicits the help of his friends and neighbors in this work. He feeds them, but they harvest in return for their service, do not get any share of the harvest. Threshed rice is divided into four equal parts and, as usual, the supervisor of harvesting rice gets one part of the harvest.

1. Sales on Credit.

A display of great confidence in men is that which is shown by most merchants in their customers. The merchants risk their goods by disposing [of] them on credit without any written note or contract. Although the agreement is only verbal, cases in which the customers fail to redeem their promises are rare.

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2. Barter System of Commercial Intercourse.

The origin of [the] barter system of trade has been traced back to the recorded history of ancient Filipinos during the pre-Spanish era. In those times, Chinese junks loaded with works of art and other articles of commerce dropped anchor at our shores. The Chinese traded with the natives by exchanging their goods for our gold and forest products. This system of trade by barter is still observed by many of our farmers in Batangas. They exchange their rice for fish, salt, brown sugar and farm implements.

3. Loan for Commercial Products.

A person interested in business borrows money from small capitalists and engages himself in commerce. As is the custom, the capitalist releases his money without interest but gets one-half of the profit realized from the business. At the end of every year, the person actually engaged in commerce reports the progress of his business. If he fails in his business, the money borrowed stands as a permanent loan repayable with or without interest according to the liberality of the capitalist.


Although our customary laws bear many primitive characteristics, there is no doubt that some of them are good and their preservation will not only serve as a recollection

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of the achievements of our ancestors but will also prove beneficial to a certain extent.

There are many phases of our customary law regarding marriage which need a total reformation. The dowry, (bilang) should not be included in the marriage contract. Marriage is a sacramental union of a man and woman and should be resorted to only when love and understanding exist between them. This giving of dowry to the parents of the bride appears as if matrimonial ties can be bought by money. The other phase of the marriage customs are neither good nor bad but it seems that the services preliminary to marriage are unnecessary and tedious on the part of the lover.

In my opinion, the authority exercised by parents over their daughter should be limited to an extent of giving her independence of conscience and ideas especially when she reaches the legal age. The narrow-mindedness of their daughter in the secrets of men and nature is the result of confining her in a limited sphere of the house. She must only be watched and counseled to refrain from indulging in habits that will cause others to look upon her with suspicion.

The other customary laws are of minor importance. Their adoption or abandonment should depend upon our discretion and, in so doing, I believe that we will not impair our merit as a people.

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February, 1930.

Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Customary Laws in Lipa, Batangas,” by Simeona Leus, 1930, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
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