Power, Control, and Marriage: The Catholic Utilization of Indigenous Wives in Early Colonial Philippines


Author: Steven James Fluckiger

Email: steven.fluckiger@gmail.com



Catholic missionaries encountered indigenous systems of marriage and sexuality that conflicted with Iberian marital and sexual practices during initial colonization. Consequently, missionaries demanded that indigenous Philippine men and women submit to these Iberian practices and encouraged them to be baptized. Enforcing these Iberian practices of morality had become especially difficult with men in polygynous marriages and men who refused to accept the Catholic faith. To combat this, Catholic missionaries went to the wives of these men. These wives wielded feminine power that enabled them to control certain aspects of their marriages. When these women converted to Christianity, they were able to convince their husbands to accept Catholic practices of morality. The opposite was true as well: women could convince their husbands to not adopt Christianity or its practices because of the influence they had. Accordingly, this paper argues that Catholic missionaries appropriated indigenous women’s influence in marriage to convince men to accept Catholicism.

Keywords: Christianization, Dowry, Penis Pins, Polygyny, Women and Property.

Author’s Bionote

Steven James Fluckiger is a historian of early colonial Philippines history emphasizing in the Christianization of women and gender-crossing indigenous peoples. He served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pangasinan in 2011, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from Brigham Young University in 2016, and completed his master’s degree in Southeast Asian History at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in 2018. Currently, he works in the educational and legal fields while continuing private research of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century Philippines.

TALA Vol 3. No. 1 Cover

How to cite (Chicago Manual of Style):

Fluckiger, Steven. “Power, Control, and Marriage: The Catholic Utilization of Indigenous Wives in Early Colonial Philippines.” TALA 3:1 (2020): 1-18. http://talakasaysayan.org/Tala_Archives/Third_Volume/1/vol3-no1-art1_Power-Control-and-Marriage.pdf