HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 62 no. 1 (2016)

Perspectives on Visayan Women from Francisco Ignacio Alcina’s Historia de las Islas e Indios de Bisayas

Marya Svetlana T. Camacho



The historiography of women in the Philippines during the early decades of Spanish colonization seems to present more questions than answers. Localizing the inquiry into those early decades of Philippine-Spanish encounter, this paper examines Historia de las Islas e Indios de Bisayas (c. 1668- 1670) by the Jesuit Francisco Ignacio Alcina (1610-1674), who spent more than three decades in Eastern Visayas. Alcina’s work was patterned on similar works in the Americas, combining a genuine interest in indigenous society and culture with missionary zeal. The ethnographic value of this work stands out within the author’s perspective of demonstrating the development of the Visayans to a more civilized, hence Christian, society. This paper explores Alcina’s depiction of Visayan women, which in many instances is historically comparative, distinguishing between what was “antiguamente” (formerly or in olden times) and “agora” (now or the present). Alcina’s work reveals changes and continuities in the condition of women in the given period.