Si Diwayen

In my endeavor to help my daughter learn about Philippine history, I came across the Seryeng Batang Historyador, a set of five books published by Adarna House.  I bought all the books of the series from National Book Store (each book costs PhP 75).

For the first book Si Diwayen, Noong Bago Dumating ang mga Espanyol, I’ve prepared a set of questions about the story, a list of vocabulary words, and a worksheet on these words.  Although the story has an English translation, you may want to keep the vocabulary list handy as you read the story with your child.

Si Diwayen_Mga Tanong at Talasalitaan :  You may print the pages of this pdf file for your students or children, but please do not distribute them for profit.

In this post, I’ve also pointed out several points of discussion on the pre-colonial societies in the Philippines.  If you are a teacher or parent, you may use the story as a pre-activity.


The book Si Diwayen, Noong Bago Dumating ang mga Espanyol (Diwayen, Before the Spaniards Arrived) is written by Augie Rivera and illustrated by Paolo Lim.  The book is one of five books in a series called Seryeng Batang Historyador (Young Historian Series). The books were first published in 2001 by Adarna House in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The series aims to depict, through the use of historical fiction made for children in Grades 4 to 6, the personal experiences of five Filipino children in five crucial times in Philippine history—before the arrival of the Spaniards (pre-colonial period), during the Spanish, American, and Japanese regimes, and before the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

The stories also aim to teach the rights of a Filipino child, some of which are listed in Filipino on the first page of each book.  The rights of a Filipino child are listed in the Presidential Decree No. 603 of 1974, called the Child and Youth Welfare Code, signed by the former president Ferdinand E. Marcos.

On the other hand, the Convention of the Rights of a Child (CRC), the most ratified international treaty in the world, was ratified by almost all of the member countries of the United Nations in 1989.  Currently, over 190 countries have signed the CRC. The Philippines signed the CRC in 1990.

It should be noted by the readers of the Seryeng Batang Historyador that Filipino children’s rights were not politically recognized prior to 1974 and that the five fictional stories in this series take place prior to this time.  So when one reads these stories with these rights in mind, it’s not a matter of identifying which children’s rights were provided but which are denied or violated.

The first story of the series Si Diwayen, Noong Bago Dumating ang mga Espanyol is about a young girl in a pre-colonial society who is made to serve as an alipin in the house of a datu.  She befriends the datu’s daughter and acts as the princess’s savior.  In the end, Diwayen was rewarded her freedom because of the courage she demonstrated.

There are several aspects of the story and illustrations that may be used as points of discussion (in an Araling Panlipunan or Sibika at Kultura class) about the pre-colonial society in the Philippines or the practices of our early Filipino ancestors.

I surmise that Diwayen belonged to a pre-colonial society in the Visayas because of the following: (1) the mention of a Visayan goddess, (2) the use of words of Visayan origin, and (3) the practice of tattooing which is depicted in the book’s illustrations.

Before I continue, there are a couple of points in the story that appear to be questionable to me.  The girls and women were illustrated wearing the traditional tube cloth called malong.  The malong is known to be traditionally used by the Maranaw, the tribes in Mindanao.  I am not certain if the malong was also worn by the people in Visayas.

It was also claimed by Diwayen that she goes hunting with her father in the forest.  This probably explains why she was brave enough to scare and injure the animal that threatened her friend.  I do not know much about the education of children in pre-colonial societies.  I assumed that boys (Diwayen has three younger brothers) were taught by their father how to farm and hunt for food and that girls were taught by their mother how to maintain the household.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not implying that girls are weaker than boys.

The Visayan Goddess Lalahon

The goddess Lalawon, who was believed to have sent locusts to destroy the crops, was mentioned in the beginning of the story.  I think the text was pertaining to the Visayan goddess Lalahon.  The book The Philippine Islands 1493-1803 (Volume 5 of 55, 1582-1583) mentions Lalahon:

It is said that the divinity Lalahon dwells in a volcano in Negros island, whence she hurls fire. The volcano is about five leagues from the town of Arevalo. They invoke Lalahon for their harvest; when she does not choose to grant them good harvests she sends the locusts to destroy and consume the crops. This Lalahon is a woman.

Known to be a deity of harvest, fire, and volcanoes, Lalahon is the agricultural deity of ethnic groups that lived near Mount Kanlaon in Negros.  Lalahon is described in the webpage Visayan Mythologies of the Philippines.

Use of Certain Visayan Terms

The words gaon and binukot used in the text were classified in the UP Diksyonaryong Filipino as originating from an early Visayan society.  Gaon refers to an item that is pawned.  In this story, the term is used to describe Diwayen.  Binukot refers to a a girl or woman of nobility who lives alone or separate from others. The wife or daughter of a datu may be referred to as a binukot.

The Tradition of Tattooing

The men illustrated in the book were shown to have tattooed bodies, including the datu and Diwayen’s father.  Spanish writers called the Visayans whom they encountered Pintados (“the painted ones”) because of extensive tattoos that covered most of their bodies.

The photo below is a photo of the tattooed Visayans from the Boxer Codex.  The Boxer Codex is a manuscript volume bought by Professor Charles R. Boxer in 1947.  Dated late 16th century, the Boxer Codex has 75 colored drawings of the people of China, the Philippines, Java, Moluccas (Spice Islands), the Ladrone Islands (Mariana Islands), and Siam (now Thailand).  The text in the Codex describes these places, its inhabitants and their customs.

Tattooed Visayans

It is known that the tattoos served both as ornamentation and as symbols of a warrior’s bravery, status, or battle experience.  Tattoos on warriors were equivalent to modern-day war medals.  A good discussion on the ancient tradition of tattooing in pre-colonial Philippines may be found here.  Please note that some Filipino ethnic groups in other parts of the Philippines also practice tattooing.

Since Diwayen’s father also had tattoos, could he have been a warrior, too?

This practice of tattooing may also be discussed in Art Class.  Students can identify or describe the types of lines used in body and face tattoos.  You can also search the Internet for homemade henna tattoos if you can find henna powder.  Don’t worry, these tattoos are temporary.

Social Classes in Pre-colonial Philippines

Another point of discussion is the social classes that existed in pre-colonial Philippines.  We are familiar with the three social classes.  At the top of the society were the datus and the maginoo, the chieftains and the noblemen.  Next were the freeman called timawa (timagua) or maharlika (mahadlika).  Also included in this class were the dependents who regained their freedom.  The lowest class in society were the alipin or dependents.

Though the translation of alipin is “slave,” the alipin in pre-colonial society should not be thought of as being equivalent of the slave in the European sense, who were bought and sold like merchandise and were often oppressed.

Professor of history John Leddy Phelan (1924-1976) states that the term “slavery” is misleading when describing the labor organization in pre-colonial Philippines.  Phelan points out that the arrangement in these early societies are more related to debt peonage and sharecropping than it did with chattel slavery in Europe, where a slave literally becomes one’s complete property, something that can be bought and sold.

Peonage is a former system used in Latin America and the Southern United States under which a debtor was forced to work for a creditor until a debt was paid off.  Chattel is a movable article of personal property.

Note that some slaves in pre-colonial Philippines were sold but they were treated differently when compared to the treatment of slaves in the slave trade of Europe at that time.

Since the story Si Diwayen is about a slave girl, students can discuss the conditions or situations in pre-colonial societies in which one becomes a slave or how one regains his or her freedom from slavery.

How does someone become a slave?  History books tell us that a person becomes a slave by inheritance (If your parents or one of your parents is a slave, there’s a chance that you’ll be a slave, too. Bummer!), by committing a crime such as theft, murder, or adultery, by failing to pay a debt, or by being captured or seized during a battle or an attack by another village.

The Spaniards claimed that in pre-colonial societies in the Philippines, a person may also become a slave for transgressing rules regarding rites or ceremonies, forbidden practices, insulting a woman of rank, or not coming quickly enough when he or she is called upon by the chief.

For crimes committed such as theft where the penalty is a fine in money, if the transgressor is not able to pay the fine, slavery for the transgressor and his or her family is the punishment.  In times of famine, poor people would offer themselves as slaves to their wealthy relatives in order to have sustenance.

According to the early accounts of the Spaniards, in pre-colonial societies in Visayas, there were three types of slaves: the ayuey, the tumaranpoc (tumarampuk), and the tomataban (tumataban).  The ayuey works three out of four days for the master.  The tumaranpoc resides in his or her own house and only works one out of four days for the master.  During the remaining three days, the tumaranpocs could work for themselves.  The tomataban works in the house of the master only when there is a banquet.  These slaves also work for their master five days each month.

An important aspect of this social arrangement is that a person can move or shift up or down a social class depending on his or her deeds.  For instance, once the debt is paid off, the alipin could return to being a timawa. This brings me to the proof of this type of debt payment—the Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI) which is dated 900 C.E. (C.E. stands for Common Era, which is an alternative way of expressing A.D.)

Found on the shore of Laguna de Bay in 1989, the LCI is a thin black copperplate with inscriptions that were different from the Tagalog script baybayin.  Dutch national Antoon Postma, with the help of other Dutch and Indonesian experts, has deemed the LCI authentic.

The inscriptions on the plate were translated and it was revealed that the plate is an official document given to a certain person named Namwaran and his family, clearing them of a large debt incurred by Namwaran.

Although there was no mention of slavery or slave in the LCI, it is believed that since the document bears to certify that Namwaran and his descendants were cleared of the said debt, they have regained their freedom and social status (if indeed they were slaves).  You may find more information about the LCI here.

I plan to post about the next book in the series which is Si Segunda, Noong Panahon ng mga Espanyol.  If you found this review or commentary helpful, please leave a comment.

The image of the book cover of Si Diwayen was obtained from the website of Adarna House.  The Boxer Codex photo was obtained from Wikipedia.  A digital version of the Boxer Codex may be seen here.


This Post Has 6 Comments


    This is very useful especially the young ones or the non-readers….

  2. Chris Amador

    Thanks for sharing this, very helpful to our homeschooling family :)

    1. samutsamot_mom

      You’re welcome, Chris! I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to make new worksheets on the next book of the series, but I’m glad I was able to help in your homeschooling. Thanks!

  3. Kris

    Maraming salamat sa post na ito. I have a 5 yr old daughter and we do not live in the Phils. All these exercises helps me teach. Some friends brought us 4 books of the Adarna series for Grade 1. She enjoys them. I will buy more when we come home.

    1. samutsamot_mom

      You’re welcome, Kris! Yes, Adarna books are great and Adarna is coming up with more titles for the young readers. I apologize for not updating my blog on posts on this series. I’ve been busy with my own mommy matters. Thanks for visiting my blog!

      1. Kris

        No worries, I can relate. We never run out of things to do :-)

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