Pattern of Settlement and Colonization

By Kert

(Image via John’s Thoughts and Deeds)

The coming of the Europeans in Southeast Asia caused a lot of changes especially when they started colonizing the polities that used to compose the present-day Southeast Asia. They imposed laws, organizations, rules, hegemonies and ideologies which were mostly alien to the Southeast Asians of the time.

The pattern of settlement is perhaps the most greatly affected by the colonization. And with this, the changes in other matters followed – such as transformations in leadership, intensification of the effects of imposing a new religion by the colonizers, and even groups were separated because of this.

So how was pattern of settlement changed? Territories were clearly demarcated by the Europeans for they divided Southeast Asia then among themselves. Groups were moved from their original settlement – some were forced to come down from the mountains, some were removed from their homes and villages and some were lumped together in places with other groups which result into conflict and disputes.

In the Philippines, this can be clearly observed in the Spanish implementation of reduccion. Centers were built by the Spanish and the landscapes were carefully planned. Indios – as they called the native Filipinos then – were removed from their houses and were forcibly resettled in the centers so they can be easily monitored and ideologies can be easily perpetuated. Confession and conversion to Christianity became easier for the Spanish within this set-up. Those who did not belong in the clear demarcation of the Spanish center’s territory was said to be barbaric.

Form of leadership is an example of the things changed during the colonization. With the change in patterns of settlement came the change in the form of kinship ties and leadership. In the center, not everyone is “family”. The “datu” or the headman is no longer a kin-member. The leader is no longer seen as “family” but someone who is superior and someone who could collect tax.

Change in patterns of settlement was transcendent as it affected many other things. The colonizers transformed it to suit their needs and to further subsume and extend their power towards the inhabitants of Southeast Asia.

*This was submitted as a minor requirement for SEA 30 (A.Y. 2010-2011), a general elective course in UP Diliman

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