The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al

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Chapter XVII

[Mt. Isaróg.] The Isaróg (pronounced Issaró) rises up in the middle of Camarines, between San Miguel and Lagonoy bays. While its eastern slope almost reaches the sea, it is separated on its western side by a broad strip of inundated land from San Miguel Bay. In circumference it is at least twelve leagues; and its height 1,966 meters. [142] Very flat at its base, it swells gradually to 16°, and higher up to 21° of inclination, and extends itself, in its western aspect, into a flat dome-shaped summit. But, if viewed from the eastern side, it has the appearance of a circular chain of mountains rent asunder by a great ravine. On Coello’s map this ravine is erroneously laid down as extending from south to north; its bearing really is west to east. Right in front of its opening, and half a league south from Goa, lies the pretty little village of Rungus, by which it is known. The exterior sides of the mountain and the fragments of its large crater are covered with impenetrable wood. Respecting its volcanic eruptions tradition says nothing.

[Primitive mountaineers.] The higher slopes form the dwelling-place of a small race of people, whose independence and the customs of a primitive age have almost entirely separated them from the inhabitants of the plain. One or two Cimarrons might occasionally have been attracted hither, but no such instance is remembered. The inhabitants of the Isaróg are commonly, though mistakenly, called Igorots; and I retain the name, since their tribal relationship has not yet been accurately determined; they themselves maintaining that their ancestors always dwelt in that locality. There are some who, in the opinion of the parish priest of Camarines, speak the Bicol language in the purest manner. Their manners and customs are very similar, in many respects, to what they were on the arrival of the Spaniards; and sometimes they also remind one of those prevailing among the Dyaks of Borneo at the present day. [143] These circumstances give rise to the conjecture that they may be the last of a race which maintained its independence against the Spanish rule, and probably also against the little tyrants who ruled over the plain before the arrival of the Europeans. When Juan de Salcedo undertook his triumphal march round North Luzon he found everywhere, at the mouths of the rivers, seafaring tribes living under many chieftains who, after a short struggle, were slain by the superior discipline and better arms of the Spaniards, or submitted voluntarily to the superior race; but he did not succeed in subduing the independent tribes in the interior; and these are still to be found in all the larger islands of the Philippine group.

[Similarity to Indian Archipelago conditions.] Similar conditions are found in many places in the Indian Archipelago. The Malays, carrying on trade and piracy, possess the shore, and their language prevails there; the natives being either subdued by them, or driven into the forests, the inaccessibility of which ensures to them a miserable but independent existence. [144]

[Policy of non-intercourse with heathens.] In order to break down the opposition of the wild races, the Spanish Government forbade its subjects, under the penalty of one hundred blows and two years of forced labor, “to trade or to have any intercourse with the heathens in the mountains who pay no tribute to his Catholic Majesty, for although they would exchange their gold, wax, etc., for other necessaries, they will never change for the better.” Probably this law has for centuries directly contributed to save the barbarians, notwithstanding their small numbers, from complete extermination; for free intercourse between a people existing by agriculture, and another living principally by the chase, speedily leads to the destruction of the latter.

[Christian Mountaineers’ villages.] The number of the Igorots of the Isaróg however, been much diminished by deadly battles between the different ranchos, and by the marauding expeditions which, until a short time since, were annually undertaken by the commissioners of taxes, in the interest of the Government monopoly, against the tobacco fields of the Igorots. Some few have been “pacified" (converted to Christianity and tribute); in which case they are obliged to establish themselves in little villages of scattered huts, where they can be occasionally visited by the priest of the nearest place; and, in order to render the change easier to them, a smaller tax than usual is temporarily imposed upon such newly-obtained subjects.

[Tobacco monopoly wars.] I had deferred the ascent of the mountain until the beginning of the dry season of the year; but I learned in Naga that my wish was hardly practicable, because the expeditions against the ranchos of the mountain, which I have already mentioned, usually occurred about this time. As the wild people could not understand why they should not cultivate on their own fields a plant which had become a necessity to them, they saw in the Cuadrilleros, not functionaries of a civilized State, but robbers, against whom they were obliged to defend themselves by force; and appearances contributed no less to confirm them in their error; for these did not content themselves with destroying the plantations of tobacco, but the huts were burnt to the ground, the fruit-trees hewn down, and the fields laid waste. Such forays never occurred without bloodshed, and often developed into a little war which was carried on by the mountaineers for a long time afterwards, even against people who were entirely uninterested in it–Filipinos and Europeans. The expedition this year was to take place in the beginning of April; the Igorots consequently were in a state of great agitation, and had, a few days previously, murdered a young unarmed Spaniard in the vicinity of Mabotoboto, at the foot of the mountain, by bringing him to the ground with a poisoned arrow, and afterwards inflicting twenty-one wounds with the wood-knife (bolo).

[A policy of peace.] Fortunately there arrived soon after a countermand from Manila, where the authorities seemed to have been gradually convinced of the harmful tendency of such violent measures. It could not be doubted that this intelligence would quickly spread amongst the ranchos; and, acting upon the advice of the commandant (upon whom, very much against his inclination, the conduct of the expedition had devolved), I lost no time in availing myself of the anticipated season of quiet. The Government have since adopted the prudent method of purchasing the tobacco, which is voluntarily cultivated by the Igorots, at the ordinary rate, and, where practicable, encouraging them to lay out new fields, instead of destroying those in existence.

[A populous fertile district.] The next day at noon I left Naga on horseback. The pueblos of Mogarao, Canaman, Quipayo, and Calabanga, in this fertile district follow so thickly upon one another that they form an almost uninterrupted succession of houses and gardens. Calabanga lies half a league from the sea, between the mouths of two rivers, the more southerly of which is sixty feet broad and sufficiently deep for large trading vessels. [145]

[A bare plain and wretched village.] The road winds round the foot of the Isaróg first to the north-east and then to the east. Soon the blooming hedges cease, and are succeeded by a great bare plain, out of which numerous flat hillocks raise themselves. Both hills and plain, when we passed, served for pasturage; but from August to January they are sown with rice; and fields of batata are occasionally seen. After four hours we arrived at the little village of Maguiring (Manguirin), the church of which, a tumble-down shed, stood on an equally naked hillock; and from its neglected condition one might have guessed that the priest was a native.

[Many mountain water courses.] This hillock, as well as the others which I examined, consisted of the débris of the Isaróg, the more or less decomposed trachytic fragments of hornblende rock, the spaces between which were filled up with red sand. The number of streams sent down by the Isaróg, into San Miguel and Lagonoy bays, is extraordinarily large. On the tract behind Maguiring I counted, in three-quarters of an hour, five considerable estuaries, that is to say, above twenty feet broad; and then, as far as Goa, twenty-six more; altogether, thirty-one: but there are more, as I did not include the smallest; and yet the distance between Maguiring and Goa, in a straight line, does not exceed three miles. This accounts for the enormous quantity of steam with which this mighty condenser is fed. I have not met with this phenomenon on any other mountain in so striking a manner. One very remarkable circumstance is the rapidity with which the brimming rivulets pass in the estuaries, enabling them to carry the trading vessels, sometimes even ships, into a main stream (if the expression may be allowed), while the scanty contributions of their kindred streams on the northern side have scarcely acquired the importance of a mill-brook. These waters, from their breadth, look like little rivers, although in reality they consist of only a brook, up to the foot of the mountain, and of a river’s mouth in the plain; the intermediate part being absent.

[Comparison with Javan Mountain district.] The country here is strikingly similar to the remarkable mountain district of the Gelungúng, described by Junghuhn; [146] yet the origin of these rising grounds differs in some degree from that of those in Java. The latter were due to the eruption of 1822, and the great fissure in the wall of the crater of the Gelungúng, which is turned towards them, shows unmistakably whence the materials for their formation were derived; but the great chasm of the Isaróg opens towards the east, and therefore has no relation to the numberless hillocks on the north-west of the mountain. Behind Maguiring they run more closely together, their summits are flatter, and their sides steeper; and they pass gradually into a gently inclined slope, rent into innumerable clefts, in the hollows of which as many brooks are actively employed in converting the angular outlines of the little islands into these rounded hillocks. The third river behind Maguiring is larger than those preceding it; on the sixth lies the large Visita of Borobod; and on the tenth, that of Ragay. The rice fields cease with the hill country, and on the slope, which is well drained by deep channels, only wild cane and a few groups of trees grow. Passing by many villages, whose huts were so isolated and concealed that they might remain unobserved, we arrived at five o’clock at Tagunton; from which a road, practicable for carabao carts, and used for the transport of the abacá grown in the district, leads to Goa; and here, detained by sickness, I hired a little house, in which I lay for nearly four weeks, no other remedies offering themselves to me but hunger and repose.

[Useful friends.] During this time I made the acquaintance of some newly-converted Igorots, and won their confidence. Without them I would have had great difficulty in ascending the mountains as well as to visit their tribe in its farms without any danger. [147] When, at last, I was able to quit Goa, my friends conducted me, as the first step, to their settlement; where, having been previously recommended and expected, I easily obtained the requisite number of attendants to take into their charge the animals and plants which were collected for me.

[A heathen Mountaineers’ settlement.] On the following morning the ascent was commenced. Even before we arrived at the first rancho, I was convinced of the good report that had preceded me. The master of the house came towards us and conducted us by a narrow path to his hut, after having removed the foot-lances, which projected obliquely out of the ground, but were dexterously concealed by brushwood and leaves. [148] A woman employed in weaving, at my desire, continued her occupation. The loom was of the simplest kind. The upper end, the chain-beam, which consists of a piece of bamboo, is fixed to two bars or posts; and the weaver sits on the ground, and to the two notched ends of a small lath, which supplies the place of the weaving beam, hooks on a wooden bow, in the arch of which the back of the lath is fitted. Placing her feet against two pegs in the ground and bending her back, she, by means of the bow, stretches the material out straight. A netting-needle, longer than the breadth of the web, serves instead of the weaver’s shuttle, but it can be pushed through only by considerable friction, and not always without breaking the chains of threads. A lath of hard wood (caryota), sharpened like a knife, represents the trestle, and after every stroke it is placed upon the edge; after which the comb is pushed forward, a thread put through, and struck fast, and so forth. The web consisted of threads of the abacá, which were not spun, but tied one to another.

[A giant fern hedge.] The huts I visited deserve no special description. Composed of bamboos and palm-leaves, they are not essentially different from the dwellings of poor Filipinos; and in their neighborhood were small fields planted with batata, maize, caladium and sugar-cane, and enclosed by magnificent polypody ferns. One of the highest of these, which I caused to be felled for the purpose, measured in the stem nine meters, thirty centimeters; in the crown, two meters, twelve centimeters; and its total length was eleven meters, forty-two centimeters or over thirty-six feet.

[Simple stringed instruments.] A young lad produced music on a kind of lute, called baringbau; consisting of the dry shaft of the scitamina stretched in the form of a bow by means of a thin tendril instead of gut. Half a coco shell is fixed in the middle of the bow, which, when playing, is placed against the abdomen, and serves as a sounding board; and the string when struck with a short wand, gave out a pleasing humming sound, realizing the idea of the harp and plectrum in their simplest forms. Others accompanied the musician on Jews’ harps of bamboos, as accurate as those of the Mintras on the Malay Peninsula; and there was one who played on a guitar, which he had himself made, but after a European pattern. The hut contained no utensils besides bows, arrows, and a cooking pot. The possessor of clothes bore them on his person. I found the women as decently clad as the Filipino Christian women, and carrying, besides, a forest knife, or bolo. As a mark of entire confidence, I was taken into the tobacco fields, which were well concealed and protected by foot-lances; and they appeared to be carefully looked after.

[The people and their crops.] The result of my familiarity with this people, both before and after this opportunity, may be briefly summed up: They live on the higher slopes of the mountain, never, indeed, below 1,500 feet; each family by itself. It is difficult to ascertain how many of them there may now be, as but little intercourse takes place amongst them. In the part of the mountain belonging to the district of Goa, their number is estimated at about fifty men and twenty women, including the children: but twenty years before the population was more numerous. Their food consists principally of batata, besides some gabi (caladium). A little maize is likewise cultivated, as well as some ubi (dioscorea), and a small quantity of sugar-cane for chewing.

[Batatas.] In laying out a batata field, a wood is partially cleared, the earth loosened with the blunt forest knife (bolo), and the bulbs or layers then planted; and within four months the harvest begins, and continues uninterruptedly from the time the creeping plant strikes root and forms tubers. [Rotation of crops.] After two years, however, the produce is so much diminished that the old plants are pulled up, in order to make room for new ones obtained from the runners. The field is then changed, or other fruits cultivated thereon, but with the addition of manure. A piece of land, fifty brazas long, and thirty wide, is sufficient for the support of a family. Only occasionally in the wet season does this resource fail, and then they resort to gabi, which appears to be as easily cultivated on wet as on dry ground, but is not so profitable as batata. The young shoots of the gabi are planted at distances of a vara, and if consumed in a proper manner, ought not to be cropped till after a year. Each family kills weekly one or two wild hogs. Stags are rare, although I obtained a fine pair of horns; and they do not use the skin. Bows and arrows are used in hunting; some poisoned, and some not. Every rancho keeps dogs, which live principally on batata, and also cats to protect the fields against rats; and they also have poultry, [Game cocks a Spanish innovation.] but no game cocks; which, having been first introduced into the Philippines by the Spaniards are seldom if ever, wanting in the huts of the Filipinos; but the inhabitants of the Isaróg are as yet free from this passion.

[Trade.] The few products of a more advanced civilization which they require, they obtain by the sale of the spontaneous productions of their forests, chiefly wax and resin (pili), [149] apnik, dagiangan (a kind of copal), and some abacá. Wax, which is much in request for church solemnities, fetches half a dollar per catty; and resin averages half a real per chinanta. Business is transacted very simply. Filipinos, having intercourse with the Igorots, make a contract with them; and they collect the products and bring them to a place previously agreed on, where the Filipinos receive them, after paying down the stipulated price.

[Religion.] Physicians and magicians, or persons supposed to be possessed of secret powers, are unknown; every one helps himself. In order to arrive at a clear understanding of their religious views, a longer intercourse would be necessary. But they certainly believe in one God, or, at least, say so, when they are closely questioned by Christians; and have also loosely acquired several of the external practices of Catholicism, which they employ as spells.

[Respect for women and aged.] Hunting and hard labor constitute the employment of man in general, as well as in the Philippines. The practice of employing women as beasts of burden–which, although it exists among many of the peoples of Europe, for example, the Basques, Wallachians, and Portuguese, is almost peculiar to barbarous nations,–seems to have been lost in the Philippines as far back as the time of its discovery by the Spaniards; and even among the wild people of the Isaróg, the women engage only in light labor, and are well treated. Every family supports its aged and those unfit for labor. [Medicine.] Headaches and fevers were stated to me as the prevalent maladies; for which burnt rice, pounded and mixed to a pap with water, is taken as a remedy; and in case of severe headache they make an incision in the forehead of the sufferer. Their prevalence is explained by the habit of neutralizing the ill effects of drinking water in excess, when they are heated, by the consumption of warm water in large doses; and the rule holds with regard to coco-water; the remedy for immoderate use of which is warm coco-water. Their muscular power is small, and they are not able to carry more than fifty pounds weight to any considerable distance.

[Manufactures.] Besides the chase and agriculture, their occupations are restricted to the manufacture of extremely rude weapons, for which they purchase the iron, when required, from the Filipinos, and of the coarse webs made by the women, and of wicker work. Every father of a family is master in his own house, and acknowledges no power higher than himself. In the event of war with neighboring tribes, the bravest places himself at the head, and the rest follow him as long as they are able; there is no deliberate choosing of a leader.

[Death customs.] On the whole, they are peaceful and honorable towards each other, although the idle occasionally steal the fruits of the fields; and, should the thief be caught, the person robbed punishes him with blows of the rattan, without being under any apprehensions of vengeance in consequence. If a man dies, his nearest kinsmen go out to requite his death by the death of some other individual, taken at random. The rule is strictly enforced. For a dead man a man must be killed; for a woman a woman; and for a child a child. Unless, indeed, it be a friend they encounter, the first victim that offers is killed. Latterly, however, owing to the unusual success attained by some of them in representing the occurrence of death as an unavoidable destiny, the custom is said to have fallen into desuetude; and the relatives do not exact the satisfaction. This was easy in the case of the deceased being an ordinary person; but, to the present day, vengeance is required in the event of the death of a beloved child or wife. If a man kills a woman of another house, her nearest kinsman endeavors to kill a woman of the house of the murderer; but to the murderer himself he does nothing; and the corpse of the victim thus slain as a death-offering is not buried, nor is its head cut off; and her family, in their turn, seek to avenge the death by murder. This is reckoned the most honorable course. Should the murderer, however, be too strong to be so overcome, any weaker person, be it who it may, is slain in retaliation; and hence, probably, the comparatively small number of women.

[Marriage.] Polygamy is permitted; but even the most courageous and skilful seldom or never have more than one wife. A young man wishing to marry commissions his father to treat with the father of the bride as to the price; which latterly has greatly increased; but the average is ten bolos, costing from four to six reals each, and about $12 in cash; and the acquisition of so large a sum by the sale of wax, resin, and abacá, often takes the bridegroom two years. The bride-money goes partly to the father, and partly to the nearest relations; every one of whom has an equal interest. If there should be many of them, almost nothing remains for the father, who has to give a great feast, on which occasion much palm-wine is drunk.

[Sexual crimes.] Any man using violence towards a girl is killed by her parents. If the girl was willing, and the father hears of it, he agrees upon a day with the former, on which he is to bring the bride’s dowry; which should he refuse to do, he is caught by the relations, bound to a tree, and whipped with a cane. Adultery is of most rare occurrence; but, when it does take place, the dowry is returned either by the woman, who then acquires her freedom, or by the seducer, whom she then follows. The husband has not the right to detain her, if he takes the money, or even if he should refuse it; but the latter contingency is not likely to arise, since that sum of money will enable him to buy for himself a new wife.

[Basira ravine.] In the afternoon we reached a vast ravine, called “Basira,” 973 meters above Uacloy, and about 1,134 meters above the sea, extending from south-east to north-west between lofty, precipitous ranges, covered with wood. Its base, which has an inclination of 33°, consists of a naked bed of rock, and, after every violent rainfall, gives issue to a torrent of water, which discharges itself violently. Here we bivouacked; and the Igorots, in a very short time, built a hut, and remained on the watch outside. At daybreak the thermometer stood at 13.9° R. [150]

[At the summit.] The road to the summit was very difficult on account of the slippery clay earth and the tough network of plants; but the last five hundred feet were unexpectedly easy, the very steep summit being covered with a very thick growth of thinly leaved, knotted, mossy thibaudia, rhododendra, and other dwarf woods, whose innumerable tough branches, running at a very small height along the ground and parallel to it, form a compact and secure lattice-work, by which one mounted upwards as on a slightly inclined ladder. The point which we reached * * * was evidently the highest spur of the horseshoe-shaped mountain side, which bounds the great ravine of Rungus on the north. The top was hardly fifty paces in diameter, and so thickly covered with trees that I have never seen its like; we had not room to stand. My active hosts, however, went at once to work, though the task of cutting a path through the wood involved severe labor, and, chopping off the branches, built therewith, on the tops of the lopped trees, an observatory, from which I should have had a wide panoramic view, and an opportunity for taking celestial altitudes, had not everything been enveloped in a thick mist. The neighboring volcanoes were visible only in glimpses, as well as San Miguel Bay and some lakes in the interior. Immediately after sunset the thermometer registered 12.5° R. [151]

[The descent.] On the following morning it was still overcast; and when, about ten o’clock, the clouds became thicker, we set out on our return. It was my intention to have passed the night in a rancho, in order next day to visit a solfatara which was said to be a day’s journey further; but my companions were so exhausted by fatigue that they asked for at least a few hours’ rest.

[Ferns and orchids.] On the upper slope I observed no palms with the exception of calamus; but polypodies (ferns) were very frequent, and orchids surprisingly abundant. In one place all the trees were hung, at a convenient height, with flowering aërids; of which one could have collected thousands without any trouble. The most beautiful plant was a Medinella, of so delicate a texture that it was impossible to preserve it.

[Carbonic acid spring.] Within a quarter of an hour north-east of Uacloy, a considerable spring of carbonic acid bursts from the ground, depositing abundance of calcareous sinter. Our torches were quickly extinguished, and a fowl covered with a cigar-box died in a few minutes, to the supreme astonishment of the Igorots, to whom these phenomena were entirely new.

[Farewell to mountaineers.] On the second day of rest, my poor hosts, who had accompanied me back to Uacloy, still felt so weary that they were not fit for any undertaking. With naked heads and bellies they squatted in the burning sun in order to replenish their bodies with the heat which they had lost during the bivouac on the summit; for they are not allowed to drink wine. When I finally left them on the following day, we had become such good friends that I was compelled to accept a tamed wild pig as a present. A troop of men and women accompanied me until they saw the glittering roofs of Maguiring, when, after the exchange of hearty farewells, they returned to their forests. The natives whom I had taken with me from Goa had proved so lazy and morose that nearly the whole task of making the path through the forest had fallen upon the Igorots. From sheer laziness they threw away the drinking water of which they were the porters; and the Igorots were obliged to fetch water from a considerable distance for our bivouac on the summit. In all my troublesome marches, I have always done better with Cimarrons than with the civilized natives. The former I have found obliging, trustworthy, active and acquainted with localities, while the latter generally displayed the opposite qualities. It would, however, be unjust to form a conclusive opinion as to their comparative merits from these facts; for the wild people are at home when in the forest; what they do is done voluntarily, and the stranger, when he possesses their confidence, is treated as a guest. [Forced labor.] But the Filipinos are reluctant companions, Polistas, who, even when they receive a high rate of wages, consider that they are acting most honorably when they do as little as possible. At any rate, it is no pleasure to them to leave their village in order to become luggage-porters or beaters of roads on fatiguing marches in impracticable districts, and to camp out in the open air under every deprivation. For them, still more than for the European peasant, repose is the most agreeable refreshment. The less comfort any one enjoys at home, the greater is the reluctance with which he leaves it; and the same thing may be observed in Europe.

[A petition for liquors.] As the Igorots were not permitted to have cocoa-palms for the preparation of wine, vinegar and brandy, so that they might not infringe the monopoly of the government, they presented me with a petition entreating me to obtain this favor for them. The document was put together by a Filipino writer in so ludicrously confused a manner that I give it as a specimen of Philippine clerkship. [152] At all events, it had the best of results, for the petitioners were accorded twice as much as they had prayed for.

[Winds and planting season.] The south-west monsoon lasts in this region (district of Goa) from April to October. April is very calm (navegación de señoras). From June to August the south-west winds blow steadily; March, April, and May are the driest months; there are shifting winds in March and the beginning of April; while from October to December is the time of storms; “S. Francisco (4th October) brings bad weather.” Rice is planted in September and reaped in February.


Preface  •  Chapter I  •  Chapter II  •  Chapter III  •  Chapter IV  •  Chapter V  •  Chapter VI  •  Chapter VII  •  Chapter VIII  •  Chapter IX  •  Chapter X  •  Chapter XI  •  Chapter XII  •  Chapter XIII  •  Chapter XIV  •  Chapter XV  •  Chapter XVI  •  Chapter XVII  •  Chapter XVIII  •  Chapter XIX  •  Chapter XX  •  Chapter XXI  •  Chapter XXII  •  Chapter XXIII  •  Chapter XXIV  •  Chapter XXV  •  Chapter XXVI  •  Chapter XXVII