Customs

Marriage and birth. All over the Philippines it seems to have been the custom for the prospective bridegroom to present dowries to the bride’s relatives, but before this stage was reached he was required to spend a period in her family, during which the two young people were not allowed to speak to one another. This practice which is still followed in certain provinces (e.g. on Panay) enabled the girl’s parents to see whether the young man was a good worker. All discussions between the two fathers on the terms of the contract were conducted through a go-between. After the marriage the young couple went to live with the groom’s parents. Pregnancy and birth were accompanied by various rituals and precautions designed to secure the favour of the spirits, which had also been concerned in the conception. When a girl menstruated for the first time a ceremony lasting several days was performed to ensure that she would become a good wife.

Death and burial. The dead man was surrounded by valuable objects jewellery, china, etc. to ensure a favourable reception in the other world. Sometimes a slave might be killed and buried along with his master under the house. The body was at once washed, perfumed if the family were wealthy enough, wrapped in a shroud and placed in a coffin or a large jar. The coffin and the entrances to the village were guarded to ward off the influence of evil spirits, and the services of women weepers might be enlisted. Silence was maintained throughout the village a custom still practised by some mountain tribes. During the period of mourning the immediate family usually fasted, abstaining from any form of alcohol or meat; they might also wear a piece of woven cane on their arms, legs or neck. Among the Tagalogs the mourning colour was black; among the Visayans it was white. The Visayans also shaved their hair and eyebrows in token of mourning. The period of mourning depended on the social status of the dead man; where death was the result of murder it lasted until the crime had been avenged.

Succession; legitimate children shared equally in the inheritance from their parents. Illegitimate children were not entitled to anything more than the rightful heirs were prepared to give them.