When the Spanish arrived in the Philippines, there were essentially four classes of society: datus or royals; maharlika or nobles; commoners or freemen; and slaves, prisoners of war or debtors. Since the Spaniards were severely outnumbered, they accepted the authority of the already existing local leaders to maintain order and collect taxes and supplies.
The datus and nobles worked with the Spanish government and accepted and benefitted from this arrangement because they maintained their power and place in society. These municipal leaders developed into the principalia class, and they enjoyed a tax exemption, the title of Don, and control of local government.
The mayor of a town was called a gobernadorcillo, who also served as justice of the peace and notary public. They were assisted by lieutenants, tenientes del barrio and cabezas de barangay, who were also part of the principalia class. Gobernadorcillos were later called capitán municipal.
In his Baboom collection of tipos del pais (types of the country, native dress) paintings, No. 3 (1833), Damián Domingo painted the image here of two gobernadorcillos titled Un Indio Capitano, Gobernadorcillo del Pueblo. Our description of Domingo and the Baboom collection is in our previous installment 18.1.
The gobernadorcillo on the left is dressed in formal or gala wear, which is Napoleonic in style. He wears a military morning coat, waistcoat (vest), shirt and tie, breeches, stockings, slippers, tricorn hat, and he carries a gold tasseled cane to show his authority. This outfit is quite heavy, uncomfortable and impractical for the tropical climate. Its purpose was more to draw attention, impress and signal power and societal status.
The gobernadorcillo on the right is dressed in ordinary or daily wear. He wears a Barong Tagalog with neckerchief, a short coat on top of his barong, wide leg saya saya trousers with gold embroidery on the bottom, slippers, top hat and he carries a bamboo staff to show his authority. This is a relaxed mode of dress with more ventilation points through an untucked barong and wide leg pants. Wearing a jacket over a barong was a privilege specifically given to the principalia by Spanish edict to show their authority and social class.