In the Philippines, a unit of dry capacity. Also spelled kavan and caban. It was defined by the Spanish colonial government in the 19th century¹ as = 75 liters (a cube 422 millimeters on a side, about 2.13 U.S. bushels) and, though officially the Philippines became entirely metric, the cavan was still in use at this value in the 20th century². chart symbol In the late 19th century, as a measure for rice it was reported3 at 98.28 liters.

There seems also to have been a difference between the cavan of Manila, and the “provincial” cavan, which was larger. (Some say 1½ times larger; some say 2 times larger. See examples notes 1, 3 and 4).

Various 19th century sources describe the cavan as a unit of mass: for rice, 133 pounds, about 60.33 kilograms; for cocoa, 83½ pounds, about 37.87 kilograms. Other sources say 58.2 kilograms. In all likelihood this is a case in which some commodities began to be traded by weight instead of volume, and a “cavan of rice” became a certain mass rather than a certain volume. One source5 states that after 1973 a cavan of any type of rice weighed 50 kilograms, but before 1973, a cavan of rough rice weighed 44 kg and a cavan of milled rice weighed 56 kg. We have no idea what happened in 1973.

1. Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department.
Fourth Annual Report of the Philippine Commission. 1903.
Washington (DC): U.S.G.P.O. 1904.
Page 898. See source 1, below.

2. United Nations, 1966.

In “Hunter-Gatherer/Farmer Exchange” (American Anthropologist, vol 80, 1978, page 349), Jean Treloggen Peterson, working in the remote Palanan region, stated “One cavan equals approximately 36.37 liters (2.12 bushels).” 2.12 U.S. bushels is actually 74.7 liters, which agrees pretty closely with the cavan's usual value, but that leaves open the question of what the “36.37 liters” represents.

3. Nelkenbrecher (1890), page 608.

4. F. W. Clarke.
Weights, Measures, and Money of All Nations.
New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1877.
Page 59. Doursther (1840) says on the average 60 kg for rice and 38 kg for cacao.

5. Beth Rose.
Appendix to
Randolph Barker and Robert W. Herdt.
The Rice Economy of Asia.
Washington (DC): Resources for the Future, 1985.



Decreto del Gobierno Superior de 1.o de Noviembre de 1861.

A este fin y de conformidad con el voto del Real Acuerdo celebrado en el dia 23 de Mayo último, éste Gobierno Superior civil dispone:

1.o Se declara única medida legal de capacidad para áridos, en todas las provincias de éstas Islas, á contar del 1.o de Enero de 1861, el cavan que se úsa en Manila desde la misma fecha de 1860, igual exactamente a setenta y cinco litros, ó que en forma de cubo tiene 422 milímetros por lado interior, ó sea 5990 96/110 pulgadas cúbicas de capacidad, y cuya correspondencia con las medidas usadas en 1859, consta en los estados que siguen á éste decreto.

El cavan continua dividido en 25 gantas, equivalentes cada una á tres litros, y la ganta en 8 chupas.

Miguel Rodriguez Berriz.
Diccionario de la Administracion de Filipinas. Tome XI.
Manila: Estab. Tipo-Lit. de M. Perez, 1887.
Pages 44-45.



At present, owing to the late scarcity of rice in Camarines and Leyte, the price of paddy at Iloilo has risen to 10 rials per province cavan, which is equal to one and a half of the measure (cavan del rey) used at Manila.

Sir John Bowring.
A Visit to the Philippine Islands.
London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1859.
Page 389.


In September 1982, Guiang and Andres Dulay executed a contract of lease over the property. As annual rental over the landholding, Dulay obliged himself to deliver to Guiang 48 cavans of palay (50 kilos per cavan).

Supreme Court. Republic of the Philippines. G.R. No. 169372.  December 6, 2006.


In its decision the court ordered defendant-appellant to execute a deed of sale by public instrument of a portion of one hectare from lot 2086, for the sum of P50 plus twenty-seven cavans and one fanega of palay (provincial measure at the rate of 150 liters per cavan) in favor of Consolacion Cocjin with the right to repurchase up to April 13, 1949, which portion was still in the possession of Agripina as lessee thereof, with the understanding that if within ten days after the decision became final Agripina failed or refused to comply with the order, Atty. Ramon A. Espino was designated to execute the corresponding deed of sale which was to have equal efficacy as though executed by Agripina herself.

Supreme Court. Republic of the Philippines. G.R. No. L-4250. August 21, 1952.


After the judgment became final, the question arose as to whether the cavans mentioned contained 75 liters or 150 liters each. Citing the Spanish dictionary, counsel for the plaintiff contended that a cavan contains 75 liters. Indeed, Commonwealth Act No. 617, approved June 4, 1941, provides that “the ganta shall contain three liters.” The intervenor, on the other hand, contended that what she claimed was the 30 cavans and 6 gantas which the sheriff had taken away from her and which contained 150 liters a cavan, as stated by the sheriff himself in his return.

Supreme Court. Republic of the Philippines. G.R. No. L-48414. October 22, 1941.


In the Philippines, a unit of land area, = 3600 square brazas (about 10,602 square meters). In concept the amount of land which would be sown with a cavan of seed (thus a seed measure of land).



It is to be noted that a cavan of seed, used as a measure of agricultural land, is 3,600 square brazas, equivalent to 10,602 square meters, or 1 hectare 62 centares (Act No. 1519, section 3 paragraph u), for which reason the land measuring six cavanes which was sold by Miguela Tolentino to the defendant herein, the only land which she had inherited from her father, only contains 6 hectares, 3 ares and 72 centares, and not 12 hectares as was set forth by the defendant in the document Exhibit 1, which he prepared and had signed by the vendor without her knowing its contents, for the reason that she could neither read nor write.

Supreme Court. Republic of the Philippines. G.R. No. L-11045 . July 28, 1916.

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