Cabeza de Barangay explained
The Cabeza de Barangay (Spanish for "head of the barangay") was the leader or chief of a barangay in Spanish Philippines. The post was inherited from the first datus who became cabezas de barangay when the many independent barangays fall under the rule of the Spanish Crown. King Philip II, after whom the Philippines was named, decreed that the native nobilities of the country should retain the honors and privileges they had before their conversion and subjection to the Spanish Crown. Since in the new form of government introduced by Spain several ancient, neighboring barangays were combined to form a municipality, the Cabezas de Barangay participated in the governance of the town and formed part of the elite ruling class called the Principalía. From among their ranks the head of the town, the Gobernadorcillo or Capitan Municipal, was elected. Furthermore, only the members of their class could elect the Gobernadorcillo. The office of the Cabeza de Banrangay was hereditary.  When the office of the Cabeza de Barangay falls vacant either for lack of an heir or through the resignation of the incumbent, a substitute is appointed by the superintendent if the barangay is near the capital of the province. In distant areas, the appointment was done by the respective delegate, but at the proposal of the Gobernadorcillo and other cabezas. The cabezas, their wives, and first-born sons enjoyed exemption from the payment of tribute to the Spanish Crown. 
With the change of government (from monarchy to democracy) when the Americans took over the rule of the Philippines, the post became elective and anyone could become the head of the barangay, which came to be called a "bario". The former Cabezas de Barangay and the rest of the members of the Principalía and their descendants lost their traditional status, privileges and powers.
Under the democratic rule, the head of the smallest unit of the Filipino society no was no longer called "Cabeza de Barangay". Furthermore, the "Barrio Captains" (or Capitán del barrio as these local leaders were then called) though exercising the same leadership function, no longer retained the aristocratic quality that was associated to this office during the pre-conquest and the colonial periods.
During the incumbency of President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the term "barangay" was re-adopted. However, the title "Cabeza de Barangay" was not used to refer to the office of the political leaders of the barangay. Instead, the term "Barangay Captain" (Tagalog: punong-baranggay) came into use until the present.
Notes and References
- In a law signed on 11 June 1594, Philip II ordered that the honor and privilege to rule pertaining to this native Filipino nobles should be retained and protected. He also ordered the Spanish governors in the islands to show these native nobles good treatment, and even ordered the natives to pay respect and tribute due to these nobles as they did before the conquest without prejudice to the things that pertain to King himself or to the encomenderos. The royal decree says: It is not right that the Indian chiefs of Filipinas be in a worse condition after conversion; rather they should have such treatment that would gain their affection and keep them loyal, so that with the spiritual blessings that God has communicated to them by calling them to His true knowledge, the temporal blessings may be added, and they may live contentedly and comfortably. Therefore, we order the governors of those islands to show them good treatment and entrust them, in our name, with the government of the Indians, of whom they were formerly lords. In all else the governors shall see that the chiefs are benefited justly, and the Indians shall pay them something as a recognition, as they did during the period of their paganism, provided it be without prejudice to the tributes that are to be paid us, or prejudicial to that which pertains to their encomenderos. Felipe II, Ley de Junio 11, 1594 in Recapilación de leyes, lib. vi, tit. VII, ley xvi. Also cf. Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, The Philippine Islands (1493-1898), Cleveland: The A.H. Clark Company, 1903, Vol. XVI, pp. 155-156.
- Cf. H. de la Costa, S. J., Reading in Philippine History, Manila 1973, pp. 182-183. Also cf. Gregorio F. Elizalde, Pageant of Philippine History, Vol. I, p. 294. Also cf. Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, The Philippine Islands (1493-1898), Cleveland: The A.H. Clark Company, 1903, Vol. XVII, p. 326.
- The cabecería, i.e., headship of the barangays, was a more ancient institution of native nobilities that pre-dates the Spanish conquest and was doubtless hereditary. The increase of population during the Spanish regime consequently needed the creation/ election of new cabezas. The emergence of the mestizo culture (both Spanish mestizos and Chinese mestizos) had also necessitated this and even the subsequent creation of separate institutions or offices of Gobernadorcillos for the different mestizo groups and for the natives living in the same territories or cities with large population. Cf. Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, The Philippine Islands (1493-1898), Cleveland: The A.H. Clark Company, 1903, Vol. XVII, pp. 324- 326.
- Cf. Principalía in Encyclopedia Universal Ilustrada Europeo-Americana, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, S.A., 1991, Vol. XLVII, p. 410.