Monday, January 30, 2012

Taste Test: The Kadatohan

A datu inspects his sword. Image taken from Amaya, a
television series by GMA
Villages and towns located in the islands of Kalupaan are called barangays. Such villages subsist by living off the bounty of the land and sea, by trading with each other, and by raiding for necessary resources that they cannot afford. Trades and raid wars determine the predisposition of a member of one barangay when dealing with those of other islands, and the friendships and enmities gained from these can sometimes exceed generations. The seas paradoxically act as natural barriers as well as transportation means from one barangay to another, thus its rulers tend to become independent of one another. The ruler of each barangay functions as a monarch in his own right, and these individuals who rise to the top call themselves datus. These datus are generally able warriors, for their prowess in battle is what makes the barangay loyal to him.

The datus, together with their immediate families, are known as the kadatohan.

Like the islands that they rule, the kadatohan are not few in number. The offspring of just about any datu have a rightful claim to calling themselves ginoo (princes) or bai (princesses). As most player characters are privileged in their own right, it would not be amiss for some or most of them to have a royal heritage themselves. This article presents the nobility of the kadatohan, which may provide a rich background to both players who wish to have royal blood and to game masters who wish to populate their game with noble NPCs in the Buan Campaign Setting.

The Datu and His Family

Datus, like traditional monarchs, take pride in the purity of their lineage. Alliances between barangays are oftentimes sealed through marriages between the kadatohan, and they groom their offspring as their successors to their authority. But while his authority is a product of his blood, his riches gained through mercantile or raiding prowess define the scope of his power. More than one datu has been abandoned by his charges when it becomes apparent that he lacks sufficient skills for battle, and new lineages sometimes arise when a timawa (freeman) achieves notoriety and gains a sufficient following.

Class: Datus and the offspring that are expected to succeed them typically hail from classes with a martial bent. Warlords are the most common, as they display skill with weapons as well as a natural capacity to inspire their allies, but fighters are a popular choice as well. Champions of warrior gods or primal spirits are rarer but just as effective; avengers, paladins, and warpriests have been known to rise as datu, though most such characters are not born into their position.

The binokot bai (princesses) are under the heavy protection of their datu fathers, who are wary of timawa who would want to legitimize a claim to the datu title by abducting or seducing the pureblood daughters and turning them into their wives. For this reason, the binokot are segregated from the rest of the barangay by dwelling in heavily guarded rooms. (Binokot literally means "segregated.") Here they learn the arts of song and wit to charm legitimate suitors worthy of their blood. Many gain the arcane power of bards. Daughters that are particularly favored by their fathers may even be taught the arts of warfare and succeed in melding magic and swordplay.

Bai Marikit unconsciously reveals herself as something
catches her attention. Image taken from Amaya, a
television series by GMA

The voice of the binokots are the stuff of legend. The common folk do not see binokots whilst they are unmarried. They are completely covered in veils in the rare times that they leave their secluded rooms, and if their feet are ever made to touch the ground, it is seen as a personal insult to their father datu. Because of this, they are generally transported in draped litters. The mystery of the binokot adds to their allure. That binokot player characters are free to wander about usually means that this relationship with her datu father has been compromised, either through the father's death, or because the bai willingly wishes to insult the datu.

The Sandig

Scene from Amaya, a television series by GMA

No individual can rule alone. To help him rule his barangay, he selects a staff of people as his sandig. These people are chosen from the tumao, a class that is between the free timawa and the noble kadatohan. Tumao are born from the datu and his secondary wives, or are descendants of the same union. The distinction between tumao and timawa are blurred, and sometimes particularly able timawa are chosen as sandig. They also constitute his honor guard, for they always fight at his side in times of war.

The sandig consists of the following positions:
  • Atubang, the datu's chief minister and advisor.
  • Paragahin, the distributor of wealth taken from taxes and raids.
  • Bilanggo, his sheriff.
  • Paratawag, his herald.
The Ponongdatu

From time to time, a datu and his fleet can become sufficiently feared or respected that other datus simply defer to his authority. In a sense they come to be the highest-ranked among the datus of his region, and he is likened to the trunk (pono) to the other datu's branches. These powerful monarchs distinguish themselves by adopting more prestigious titles, such as rajah, lakan, or sultan. This can be misleading, however, as many datus are self-styled rajahs. Those who do have the clout to back up their claims exercise effective control over the neighboring datus, and by extension the subordinate datus' subjects. But the laws of his barangay do not, by themselves, extend to his subjects' domains.

There are three major territories in Kalupaan. The scattered islands of Hiyasan, home of the vicious, tattooed raiders known as the pintados, have known many rajahs. The people of Hiyasan are as fractured as their islands, and rajah dynasties barely last up to three generations, if at all, before a new datu rises higher in influence to challenge the title. The continent of Lumahon is ruled by the mercantile lakans, a group of related datus who share (and thus dilute) their power. The continent of Maghari boasts the longest lineage of ponongdatu, for their Sultanate has persisted for hundreds of harvests and claim their descent from the first prophet of Sinaghari the sun god.


A rajah. Taken from Amaya,
a television series from GMA
The datus of the Hiyasan islands are each other's competitors. Depending on the fertility of the land, personal vendetta, or ambition, datus enact alliances and harass one another in consistent raid wars that are only hampered by extreme typhoon seasons. Rajahs come and go, for it takes a very acute wit to maintain one's status for a lifetime, which includes but is not limited to blood compacts and intermarriages.

There are currently three datus that arguably have the power of a rajah in Hiyasan:

  • Mapalad, a tumao who has recently risen to power after his rajah subjugated himself to a green dragon. Upon the death of the dragon at the hands of adventurers led by Ginoong Kampilan, he was chosen among the disgraced datu's sandig as the only one who did not bow to the creature. He has since revealed that he has a snake twin, an albino python that shares his newfound throne. However, rumors abound that the talking snake is not the primal spirit it claims to be. Race: human
  • Rajah Tabak, the only one to have actually claimed the title of rajah. He is Kampilan's father, who disowned his son for refusing to kill his brother to claim the right of succession. He hates the increasing number of datus that ally himself with Mapalad, and he is on the verge of taking drastic measures to maintain his claim. Race: Human
  • Datu Makano, the son of the deposed rajah who was Mapalad's predecessor. He has taken his own cadre of loyal tumao and sailed to a nearby island to establish his own barangay. Thus far he is an ally of Mapalad, but he resents the choosing of Mapalad over him to succeed the rulership of his father's barangay. Race: Tiefling


A lakan. Taken from Wikipedia
From time to time, the datus encourage their offspring to branch off and begin a new barangay using their own cadre of followers, as Datu Makano had done. Usually, this is a solution to a problem that may arise when there are multiple candidates for succession - by having all rightful offspring rule over their own lands, the datu avoids competition over one throne.

The lakans of Lumahon take this to an extreme level. The continent of Lumahon is vast in terms of land space, after all, and awarding land is always easier than the potential sibling rivalry. As such, the lakans of Lumahon, though each ideally commanding other datus in the same way a rajah does, share a confusing power structure that never fails to confound the people of Lumahon. Nevertheless, money talks - and the control of the lakans over the river trading ports, as well as their blood relations, have ensured that no conflict arises between them. So far.

The ancient Lakantanda is the patriarch of the lakans, although he has long given up on ruling over the Lumahon barangays. His son, Lakantulin, rules in his stead. His daughter Dayang Ysapi rules as lakambini in the barangay that is named after her, which is strategically located near the fork that separates the major river of the land into two. In addition, two grand nephews rule as lakans in their own right nearby.

It should be noted that the lakans, even with their dilution, effectively controls only a portion of Lumahon. There are known barangays deeper inland and in the mountains that are effectively too expensive to conquer - so in true lakan fashion they peaceably trade with them instead.


Among the lands of Kalupaan, the Sultanate lineage of Maghari is arguably the most consistent. Five hundred harvests ago, a prophet known as Apoei began preaching about the sun, Sinaghari, as the one true deity among the many spirits that the people of Kalupaan venerated. This mythical figure is believed to have had instinctive control over the element of fire, and backed by religious dogma, he was able to convert the various datus to his beliefs. As a ponongdatu, he declared his son sultan, while refusing to take on the mantle of leadership himself. The sultans of the Nagthari people are descended from this figure, or so they claim. Certainly, they have a natural penchant for magic, and the lineage has seen its fair share of sorcerers that wielded elemental fire. Perhaps there is truth to the claim.

While the lineage has been unbroken (Apoei married into the kadatohan, and his successor-descendants only chose binokot born of Maghari to this day), the sultanate nevertheless do not directly control the barangays under its sway. Like the barangay system in general, individual rulership is left to the datus. For a long time, the sultanate has actively discouraged warfare amongst the Maghari, but five hundred harvests of repressed inter-familial insults are about to boil over, and the current sultan is considering the removal of this ban on violence in order to save the datu's respect for him.

The influence of the Sinaghari religion is beginning to spread. The lakans have accepted this as their faith, although they have not enforced it upon their people in for fear of retaliation from the babaylan, priestesses of the traditional faith. The competing rajahs of Hiyasan, on the other hand, are considering the organized faith as a tool for their ambitions.

  • If you are interested in other treatments of Philippine nobility, I heartily recommend Hari Ragat. It's not meant for D&D, but as a fellow RPG setting inspired by the Philippines, many parallels will exist. As Hari Ragat (as far as my knowledge goes) focuses on the activities of the Orang Dakila, the nobility there is a lot more fleshed out than how I have it here.
  • The three major nation-states are by no means exhaustive. Mountain-dwellers of Lumahon, predominantly elves but consisting of other races as well, have barangays of their own after all. And the islands of Hiyasan are vast, and many barangays do not even take part of the conflict between the three competing rajahs.
  • On the same note, the barangays of Kalikasan (tikbalang, eladrin) are not considered here. Tikbalangs as detailed in our pdf product have a kapatiran rather than baranganic structure, and eladrin are similarly familial. The mysterious nuno (gnomes) are, well, a mystery. (aka I'm still thinking about it.)
  • As with all taste test articles, this is a work in progress. Currently Lumahon, Hiyasan, and Maghari are the major islands that comprise of the tropical world of Kalupaan. Other nations that had a considerable influence of the Philippines might exist as well, but are generally smaller in scope and are not given attention here.
  • Of course, kalupaan can be adapted into just about any setting by reducing it to the size of the Philippines, and injecting them in the tropical portion of the campain world.
  • Finally, there is something to be said about how the religion plays out in the attitudes of the katadohan. I touched upon it here, but ultimately I'm leaving it for when I write about the babaylans.