We don’t hear the word maharlika very much
anymore. Its origin goes all the way back to the ancient
language of India called Sanskrit, from the word,
maharddhika, meaning, "a man of wealth, knowledge or
Today it is generally accepted to mean "nobility or
aristocracy." The venerable Tagalog dictionary of Leo
James English gives us this example: Ang mga harì at
prinsipe ay kabilang sa mga maharlikâ. [Kings and princes
belong to the nobility.]
That’s the modern definition, but back in the days
when there really was a maharlika class in the Philippines,
it was actually a lower class of nobility that served the
datus, or chiefs, in times of war. The maharlikas belong to
the “kings and princes” and not the other way around.
… And this is what our report is all about.
Among the Tagalogs, there were military leaders
who exhibited thier powers by sheer bravery alone. They
were called bayani or heroes. The rich gave feasts or
celebrations in their honor.
The people would show their appreciation by
crowning their hero with a gold covered carabao horn.
Many of these heroes come from the maharlika or the
class of warriors.
The maharlika were a martial class of
Freemen. Like the timawa, they were free vassals
of their datu who were exempt from taxes and
tribute but were required to provide military
service. The brave and the strong compose the
It was the duty of the maharliks to help the
datu maintain peace and order in the barangay by
defending their territory from other barangays. In
return, the maharlika was exempted from paying
tribute to the datu.
The maharlika may also be occasionally
obliged to work on the lands of the datu and assist
in projects and other events in the community.
In times of war, the maharlika were
obligated to provide and prepare weapons at their
own expense and answer the summons of the
datu, wherever and whenever that might be. They
accompanied their ruler in battles as comrades-atarms and were given a share of the spoils.
Warriors had certain trademarks. Visayan
warriors, for instance, could be recognized by
numerous tattoos all over their body. The warrior
with the most number of tattoos meant that he
was the bravest warrior since he was able to kill
the most number of enemies.
Meanwhile, only the best warrior among
the Tagalogs could wear a red “putong” (a small
cloth on his head).
The historian William Henry Scott believes
that the class originated from high-status warriors
who married into the maginoo blood or were perhaps
remnants of the nobility class of a conquered line.
Similar high-status warriors in other
Philippine societies like that of the Bagobo and the
Bukidnon did not inherit their positions, but were
acquired through martial prowess.[
Although they were partly related to the
nobility, the maharlikas were technically less free
than the timawas because they could not leave a
datu’s service without first hosting a large public feast
and paying the datu between 6 to 18 pieces of gold – a
large sum in those days.
Trivia: During the Marcos Regime, the former
president recommended to change the name of the
Philippines into “Maharlika”.
… Now we know.
One Country One People 5, 4 th edition
Maharlika and the Ancient Class System by P. Morrow
We shall be giving papers
for you to fill in with the
answers. Please do not
forget to write your name.