Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Alipin is Not a Slave

Now that I have spent the past few hours perusing through the relevant chapters of not only Looking for the Pre-Hispanic Filipino (as recommended by Dominique/Idiot Savant), but William Henry Scott’s two other books; Slavery in the Spanish Philippines and Cracks in the Parchment Curtain and Other Essays in Philippine History, I am even more convinced that there is no such thing as factual knowledge claims and objective truths.

Far from arriving at the same conclusions as Idiot Savant, I read an entirely different insinuation from this American historian. Which really goes to show that we are all colored by our own individual mental/ideational maps. Which probably means it’s pointless to argue this point at all, because we not only see eye to eye, but see through different kinds of eyes entirely.

I think I see where Dominique might have made his conclusion about the existence of the alipin sa gigilid class and the contemporary culture of dependence. In the chapter entitled “Oripun and Alipin in the Sixteenth Century Philippines” of LPHF, Scott concludes:
"Nowadays however, the progressive economist or social scientist might label their class. Noting that they supported a sea-raiding elite with pretensions to royalty and personal interests in maritime trade, he would recognize them as “the masses.” The Visayan oripun and Tagalog alipin, in short, were the Filipino people (1992: 101)."
However, far from equating in our minds the European concept of “slave,” of person-as-property, Scott actually goes to great lengths to differentiate the Visayan oripin and the Tagalog alipin from the person-as-property, or worse, the useless, lazy, dependent waiting for the next meal from his master.

First, the Filipino alipin was “a man in debt to another man. His subordination was therefore obligatory, not contractual: the other man was technically his creditor rather than his lord…(93).” This highlights the difference from the known European concept of slave at the time. For detailed difference of the Spanish concept of slave, see Chapter 1 of Slavery in the Spanish Philippines (SSP).

Scott then goes on to describe different kinds, functions and levels of being alipin depending on the cause/gravity of indebtedness. There are half and quarter slaves. There are the napaaalipin (voluntary indenture) as opposed to naaalipin (foricible indenture). There are also various ways for the alipin to pay of his/her debt.

Another claim consistent in all three books is the upward mobility of the alipin class. There are varied way for the alipin sa gigilid to graduate into the aliping namamahay or even higher. The aliping sa gigilid is considered the lowest of all ranks, literally stationed at the hearth. The aliping namamahay is one that pays tribute to his master, but can live in his own house and gain his own living tilling his own land.

The distinction between the aliping namamahay and the aliping sa gigilid is only one of division of labor. One worked the fields while the other performed domestic chores. “The terms gigilid and namamahay, therefore, more accurately distinguished a man’s residence than his economic status…(97).”

A crucial statement made by Scott may have caused Dominique to make the conclusion that aliping sa gigilid were dependent and merely relied on their master for dole outs.
“They were members of their master’s household who, unlike namamahay householders, ate out of their master’s pot. They were as dependent upon him as his own children, and from this circumstance arose his moral right to sell them. In actual practice however, he rarely did… (96).”
While this statement may be easily interpreted as the total dependence of a slave to his master, I take it to mean Scott’s emphasis on the difference of being alipin-as-person-indebted and slave-as-property. From being a thing owned, to a person with whom one has a complex social relationship.
“The main sources of alipin sa gigilid recruitment were the children born in their master’s house, not infrequently natural children by his own alipin. (96).”
This implies that master literally treat their alipin as their own children because they grew up in his household.

This complex relationship is further highlighted in SSP:
“Two particular aspects of Philippine slavery attracted Spanish attention, and the first was its apparently arbitrary nature. Besides taking captives in raids, powerful datus seized men as slaves for minor infractions of rules they themselves decreed…The second aspect was the lightness of its demands. An Augustininan friar reported in 1572 that, ‘because Pedro is as good as his master, they eat together from the same plate…so what the indios they call slaves suffer in these islands isn’t really slavery, for they only do what they want without their lord or master forcing them to do more than they feel like doing (12-13).”
So what kind of slave does as he pleases? One that has an extremely lax master?

If master-slave live in one house and eat the same food, can one conclude that the master-slave relation is a complete misnomer? Is Scott implying a complex social bond mid-way between family and non-family ties? One characterized by “utang na loob (debt of gratitude)” that may be “gintubos (paid off)” in the future?

Finally, and going back to conclusions of dependence and laziness, Scott writes:
“The members of this non-oripun elite ruled, administered, fought or traded according to their roles and opportunities, but they all had one thing in common—they did not produce their own rice. Oripun were the basic producers in society. By their labor in fields, forests and fishing grounds they produced foodstuffs for local consumption or exchange in domestic markets, and by their exploitation of natural resources and handicrafts, they produced the export products marketed by non-oripun (LFPF, 99-100).”
This goes against the mistaken notion that the alipin is dependent on dole out. Scott actually states it is the other way around.

Now let’s just reiterate what was earlier said, but now with an established context:
Nowadays however, the progressive economist or social scientist might label their class. Noting that they supported a sea-raiding elite with pretensions to royalty and personal interests in maritime trade, he would recognize them as “the masses.” The Visayan oripun and Tagalog alipin, in short, were the Filipino people (1992: 101)
If Scott’s agenda hasn’t been made crystal by now, let me state what he writes in the chapter entitled “Filipino Class Structure in the 16th Century” in Crack in the Parchment Curtain (1982):
“All these details which distinguish Tagalog from Visayan social structure would appear to reflect an intensification of agricultural production, a decrease in slave-raiding activities, and an increase in the power of the ruling class. And, in retrospect, consideration of the details which portray the societies themselves would appear to present, in a single century, cameo versions of those stages through which the economic determinist usually pursues the course of human history across three millennia (126).”
And if you do not know what he means by economic determinist, it means Marxist.

Is Scott implying that the march of history, the coming of the Spaniards and the gradual destruction of social bonds of pre-colonial/pre-capitalist Philippines made way for the pre-requisites of a capitalist society: intensification of agricultural production, increased differentiation and power of the ruling class and the complete and total disenfranchasiment of former lunch-mate and almost-family, the "alipin"?

Can we then, in turn, make the claim that the destruction of these social bonds led to their reconfiguration, "bastardization" if you will, into what are now perceived to be unsavory values? Utang na loob being one?

1 comment:

Chino said...

Just saw this blog after getting my copy of Scott's book and searching about the topic on the Net. I like Scott's book and I believe it's made of the facts only. I chose it over a book by a Pinoy author, because that other author treated the Kalantiaw Code as truth. Anything that acknowledges the Kalantiaw Code as a falsehood is more credible to me.

This chapter about the alipin and oripun makes me realize why some Filipinos are fond of borrowing money and then not paying it back later. The old attitude of the oripun/alipin of paying a debt by labor or favor is still there. They think they can incur debt and not pay back anymore. Guys, hello? This system doesn't work anymore today...