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People classified as 'blancos' (whites) were the Filipinos (a person born in the Philippines of pure Spanish descent), peninsulares (a person born in Spain of pure Spanish descent), Espanol mestizos (a person born in the Philippines of mixed Austronesian and Spanish ancestry), and tornatras (a person born in the Philippines of mixed Austronesian, Chinese and Spanish ancestry). Manila was racially segregated, with blancos living in the walled city of Intramuros, un-Christianized sangleys in Parian, Christianized sangleys and mestizos de sangley in Binondo, and the rest of the 7,000 islands for the indios, with the exception of Cebu and several other Spanish posts. Only mestizos de sangley were allowed to enter Intramuros to work for whites (including mestizos de espanol) as servants and various occupations needed for the colony. Indio was a general term applied to native Austronesians, but as a legal classification, it was only applied to those who embraced Roman Catholicism and Austronesians who lived in proximity to the Spanish colonies.

People who lived outside of Manila, Cebu, and the major Spanish posts were classified as such: 'Naturales' were Catholic Austronesians of the lowland and coastal towns. The un-Catholic Negritos and Austronesians who lived in the towns were classified as 'salvajes' (savages) or 'infieles' (the unfaithful). 'Remontados' (Spanish for 'situated in the mountains') and 'tulisanes' (bandits) were indigenous Austronesians and Negritos who refused to live in towns and took to the hills, all of whom were considered to live outside the social order as Catholicism was a driving force in Spanish colonials everyday life, as well as determining social class in the colony.

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