Today in Philippine History, September 21, 1974, the Barrio was renamed back to Barangay through PD No. 557

Tuesday January 09, 2018 ()

On September 21, 1974, President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 557, declaring Barrios all over the country as Barangays, reviving the name which existed as the basic political unit of our forebears even before the arrival of the Spaniards, until its renaming by the Americans in the 19th century, to the Barrio.

The name Barangay originated from balangay, a Malay word meaning "sailboat". It originally meant a group of boats and their passengers that came to the pre-Spanish Philippines. Each boat is loaded with family and friends and their slaves, headed by the "Datu". Later on Barangay came to mean a village inhabited by these settlers.

The Balangay
(An artist imaginative depiction of the balangay)

The first Barangays started as relatively small communities of around 50 to 100 families. By the time of contact with Spaniards, many of these Barangays have developed into large communities. Some of these Barangays had large populations except for inland communities where Barangays have less number of people.

Most of the ancient Barangays were coastal or near river banks. This is because most of the people were relying on fishing for supply of food. They also traveled mostly by water up and down rivers, and along the coasts. Trails always followed river systems, which were also a major source of water for bathing, washing, and drinking.

The coastal barangays were more accessible to trade with foreigners. These were ideal places for economic activity to develop. Business with traders from other countries also meant contact with other cultures and civilizations, such as those of Japan, Han Chinese, Indian people, and Arab people. These coastal communities acquired more cosmopolitan cultures, with developed social structures, ruled by established royalties and nobilities.

During the Spanish rule, through a resettlement policy called the Reducción, smaller scattered barangays were consolidated and thus "reduced" to form compact towns. Each Barangay was headed by the Cabeza de Barangay (barangay chief), who formed part of the Principalía - the elite ruling class of the municipalities of the Spanish Philippines. This position was inherited from the first Datus, and came to be known as such during the Spanish regime.

When the Americans arrived, changes in the structure of local government was effected. Later, Rural Councils with 4 councilors were created to assist the Cabeza de Barangay, now renamed Barrio Lieutenant. The Rural Council was later renamed Barrio Council. The Barangay itself was called Barrio.

Barrio is a Spanish word meaning neighborhood. In Spain and several Latin American countries, the term is also used officially to denote a division of a municipality.

The Americans used Barrio during its occupation of the Philippines until this decree by President Marcos in 1974.

Presidential Decree No. 557, s. 1974



WHEREAS, the Barangay was the basic political unit existing in the Philippines before the arrival of the Spaniards;

WHEREAS, it was through the Barangays that our forebears consulted on matters of community interests;

WHEREAS, the revival of the Barangays under Presidential Decree No. 86 has contributed considerably in awakening the interest of our people and broadening their participation in government affairs, the conduct of their officials, and other matters of public interest;

WHEREAS, the term “barrio” is of foreign origin and consequently there have been various representations from the Barangays all over the country to declare all barrios as Barangays:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers in me vested by the Constitution, do hereby decree and order the following:

Section 1. Any provision of existing laws to the contrary notwithstanding, all existing barrios or barrios that may hereafter be created are hereby declared as Barangays and all references to the barrio in any existing laws shall henceforth be understood as references to the Barangay: Provided, however, That in the case of the City of Manila and other chartered cities where there are no barrios, all existing Barangays therein created under Presidential Decree No. 86, as amended, shall continue as such Barangays.

Section 2. Republic Act No. 3590, as amended, otherwise known as the Revised Barrio Charter, is hereby adopted as the Barangay Charter.

Section 3. All powers and rights vested in or exercised by the barrio assembly, barrio council and all barrio officials pursuant to Republic Act No. 3590, and such other powers and rights, appertaining to or conferred upon them by other laws, shall henceforth be exercised by the Barangay Assembly, Barangay Council and Barangay officials, and all duties and responsibilities vested in or conferred upon them by existing laws shall likewise be performed by the Barangay assemblies, Barangay councils, and Barangay officials.

Section 4. The officials of the barrio as constituted pursuant to Republic Act No. 3590 shall now be known as Barangay Captain, Barangay Councilman, Barangay Secretary and Barangay Treasurer.

Section 5. This Decree shall take effect immediately upon approval.

DONE in the City of Manila, this 21st day of September, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and seventy-four.

President of the Philippines

By the President:

Acting Executive Secretary


  • Politics and Social Change, International Studies in Sociology and Social Anthropology, Leiden E. J. Brill, 1966, Netherlands
  • Presidential Decree No. 557, s. 1974, Declaring All Barrions in the Philippines as Barangays and For Other Purposes (


Comments (Today in Philippine History, September 21, 1974, the Barrio was renamed back to Barangay through PD No. 557)