The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al

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Public Domain Books

Chapter XVIII

[Mt. Iriga.] From the Isarog I returned through Naga and Nabua to Iriga, the ascent of which I at length accomplished.

[The ascent.] The chief of the Montesinos had received daily rations for twenty-two men, with whom he professed to make a road to the summit; but when, on the evening of the third day, he came himself to Iriga, in order to fetch more provisions, on the pretext that the work still required some time for execution, I explained that I should endeavor to ascend the mountain on the following morning, and requested him to act as guide. He consented, but disappeared, together with his companions, during the night; the Filipinos in the tribunal having been good enough to hold out the prospect of severe punishment in case the work performed should not correspond to the working days. After fruitless search for another guide, we left Buhi in the afternoon, and passed the night in the rancho, where we had previously been so hospitably received. The fires were still burning, but the inhabitants, on our approach, had fled. About six o’clock on the following morning the ascent began. After we had gone through the forest, by availing ourselves of the path which we had previously beaten, it led us through grass three or four feet in height, with keen-edged leaves; succeeded by cane, from seven to eight feet high, of the same habitat with our Arundo phragmites (but it was not in flower), which occupied the whole of the upper part of the mountain as far as the edge. Only in the ravine did the trees attain any height. The lower declivities were covered with aroids and ferns; towards the summit were tendrils and mosses; and here I found a beautiful, new, and peculiarly shaped orchid. [153] The Cimarrons had cut down some cane; and, beating down our road for ourselves with bolos, we arrived at the summit a little before ten o’clock. It was very foggy. In the hope of a clear evening or morning I caused a hut to be erected, for which purpose the cane was well fitted. The natives were too lazy to erect a lodging for themselves, or to procure wood for a watchfire. They squatted on the ground, squeezed close to one another to warm themselves, ate cold rice, and suffered thirst because none of them would fetch water. Of the two water-carriers whom I had taken with me, one had “inadvertently" upset his water on the road, and the other had thrown it away “because he thought we should not require it.”

[Altitude.] I found the highest points of the Iriga to be 1,212 meters, 1,120 meters above the surface of the Buhi Lake. From Buhi I went to Batu.

[Changes in Batu Lake.] The Batu Lake (one hundred eleven meters above the sea) had sunk lower since my last visit in February. The carpet of algae had increased considerably in breadth, its upper edge being in many places decomposed; and the lower passed gradually into a thick consistency of putrid water-plants (charae, algae, pontederiae, valisneriae, pistiae, etc.), which encompassed the surface of the water so that only through a few gaps could one reach the bank. Right across the mouth of the Quinali lies, in the lake, a bar of black mud, the softest parts of which were indicated by some insignificant channels of water. As we could not get over the bar in a large boat, two small skiffs were bound together with a matting of bamboo, and provided with an awning. By means of this contrivance, which was drawn by three strong carabaos (the whole body of men with evident delight and loud mirth wading knee-deep in the black mud and assisting by pushing behind) we succeeded, as if on a sledge, in getting over the obstacle into the river; which on my first visit overflowed the fields in many places, till the huts of the natives rose out of the water like so many ships: but now (in June) not one of its channels was full. We were obliged in consequence to continue our sledge journey until we were near to Quinali.

[Ascent of Mt. Mazaraga.] At Ligao I alighted at a friendly Spaniard’s, a great part of the place, together with the tribunal and convent, having been burnt down since my last visit. After making the necessary preparations, I went in the evening to Barayong, a little rancho of Cimarrons at the foot of the Mazaraga, and, together with its inhabitants, ascended the mountain on the following morning. The women also accompanied us for some distance, and kept the company in good humor; and when, on the road, a Filipino who had been engaged for the purpose wished to give up carrying a bamboo full of water, and, throwing it away, ran off, an old woman stepped forward in his stead, and dragged the water cheerfully along up to the summit. This mountain was moister than any I had ever ascended, the Semeru in Java, in some respects, excepted; and half-way up I found some rotten rafflesia. [154] Two miserable-looking Cimarron dogs drove a young stag towards us, which was slain by one of the people with a blow of his bolo. The path ceased a third of the way up, but it was not difficult to get through the wood. The upper portion of the mountain, however, being thickly overgrown with cane, again presented great obstacles. About twelve we reached the summit-level, which, pierced by no crater, is almost horizontal, smoothly arched, and thickly covered with cane. [Altitude.] Its height is 1,354 meters. In a short time the indefatigable Cimarrons had built a fine large hut of cane: one room for myself and the baggage, a large assembly-room for the people, and a special apartment for cooking. Unfortunately the cane was so wet that it would not burn. In order to procure firewood to cook the rice, thick branches were got out of the wood, and their comparatively dry pith extracted with great labor. The lucifer-matches, too, were so damp that the phosphorus was rubbed away in friction; but, being collected on blotting-paper, and kneaded together with the sulphurous end of the match-wood, it became dry and was kindled by friction. Not a trace of solid rock was to be seen. All was obstructed by a thick overgrowth from where the path ceased, and the ground covered with a dense bed of damp wood-earth. The following morning was fine, and showed a wide panorama; but, before I had completed my drawing, it again became misty; and as, after several hours of waiting, the heavens were overspread with thick rain-clouds, we set out on our return.

[Butterflies.] Numerous butterflies swarmed around the summit. We could, however, catch only a few, as the passage over the cane-stubble was too difficult for naked feet; and, the badly-stitched soles of two pairs of new shoes which I had brought from Manila having dropped off some time before I reached the summit, I was compelled to perform the journey to Ligao barefoot.

[Native contempt for private Spaniards.] On the following day my Spanish host went twice to the tribunal to procure the carabao carts which were necessary for the furtherance of my collections. His courteous request was unsuccessful; but the command of the parish priest, who personally informed the Gobernadorcillo in his house, was immediately obeyed. The Filipino authorities have, as a rule, but little respect for private Spanish people, and treat them not seldom with open contempt. An official recommendation from the alcalde is usually effectual, but not in all the provinces; for many alcaldes do hurt to their own authority by engaging the assistance or connivance of the native magistrates in the furtherance of their personal interests.

[Giant bats.] I here shot some panikes, great bats with wings nearly five feet wide when extended, which in the day time hang asleep from the branches of trees, and, among them, two mothers with their young sucking ones uninjured. It was affecting to see how the little animals clung more and more firmly to the bodies of their dying parents, and how tenderly they embraced them even after these were dead. The apparent feeling, however, was only self-interest at bottom, for, when their store of milk was exhausted, the old ones were treated without respect, like empty bottles. As soon as the young ones were separated, they fed on bananas, and lived several days, until I at length placed them in spirits.

[A muddy dry season.] Early in the morning I rode on the priest’s horse to Legaspi, and in the evening through deep mud to the alcalde at Albay. We were now (June) in the middle of the so-called dry season, but it rained almost every day; and the road between Albay and Legaspi was worse than ever. During my visit information arrived from the commandant of the faluas on the south coast that, as he was pursuing two pirate vessels, [Power of Moro pirates.] six others suddenly made their appearance, in order to cut off his return; for which reason he bad quickly made his way back. The faluas are very strongly manned, and provided with cannon, but the crews furnished by the localities on the coast are entirely unpractised in the use of fire-arms, and moreover hold the Moros in such dread that, if the smallest chance offers of flight, they avail themselves of it to ensure their safety by making for the land. The places on the coast, destitute of other arms than wooden pikes, were completely exposed to the pirates, who had firmly established themselves in Catanduanes, Biri, and several small islands, and seized ships with impunity, or robbed men on the land. Almost daily fresh robberies and murders were announced from the villages on the shore. During a plundering expedition the men caught are employed at the oars and at its close sold as slaves; and, on the division of the spoil, one of the crew falls to the share of the dato (Moro chief) who fitted out the vessel. [155] The coasting vessels in these waters, it is true, are mostly provided with artillery, but it is generally placed in the hold of the ship, as no one on board knows how to use it. If the cannon be upon deck, either the powder or the shot is wanting; and the captain promises to be better prepared next time. [156] The alcalde reported the outrages of the pirates by every post to Manila, as well as the great injury done to trade, and spoke of the duty of the [No protection from Government.] Government to protect its subjects, especially as the latter were not permitted to use fire-arms; [157] and from the Bisayan Islands came the same cry for help. The Government, however, was powerless against the evil. If the complaints were indeed very urgent, they would send a steamer into the waters most infested; but it hardly ever came in sight of pirates, although the latter were carrying on their depredations close in front and behind.

[Government steamer easily eluded.] At Samars, the principal town, I subsequently met with a Government steamer, which for fourteen days past had been nominally engaged in cruising against the pirates; but the latter, generally forewarned by their spies, perceive the smoke of the steamers sufficiently soon to slip away in their flat boats; and the officers knew beforehand that their cruise would have no other result than to show the distressed provinces that their outcry was not altogether unnoticed. [158]

[Steam gunboats more successful.] Twenty small steam gunboats of light draught had shortly before been ordered from England, and were nearly ready. The first two indeed arrived soon after in Manila (they had to be transported in pieces round the Cape), and were to be followed by the rest; and they were at one time almost successful in delivering the archipelago from these burdensome pests; [159] at least, from the proscribed Moros who came every year from the Sulu Sea, mostly from the island of Tawitawi, arriving in May at the Bisayas, and continuing their depredations in the archipelago until the change of the monsoon in October or November compelled them to return. [160] [Renegades join pirates and bandits.] In the Philippines they gained new recruits among vagabonds, deserters, runaway criminals, and ruined spendthrifts; and from the same sources were made up the bands of highway robbers (tulisanes), which sometimes started up, and perpetuated acts of extraordinary daring. Not long before my arrival they had made an inroad into a suburb of Manila, and engaged with the military in the highways. Some of the latter are regularly employed in the service against the tulisanes. The robbers are not, as a rule, cruel to their victims when no opposition is offered. [161]

[Plants from Berlin.] In Legaspi I found awaiting me several chests with tin lining, which had been sixteen months on their passage by overland route, instead of seven weeks, having been conveyed from Berlin by way of Trieste, on account of the Italian war. Their contents, which had been intended for use in the Philippines exclusively, were now for the most part useless. In one chest there were two small flasks with glass stoppers, one filled with moist charcoal, and the other with moist clay, both containing seeds of the Victoria Regia and tubers of red and blue nymphae (water-lily). Those in the first flask were spoiled, as might have been expected; but in that filled with moist clay two tubers had thrown out shoots of half an inch in length, and appeared quite sound. I planted them at once, and in a few days vigorous leaves were developed. One of these beautiful plants, which had been originally intended for the Buitenzorg Garden in Java, remained in Legaspi; the other I sent to Manila, where, on my return, I saw it in full bloom. In the charcoal two Victoria seeds had thrown out roots above an inch in length, which had rotted off. Most likely they had been torn up by the custom-house inspectors, and had afterwards rotted, for the neck of the bottle was broken, and the charcoal appeared as if it had been stirred. I communicated the brilliant result of his mode of packing to the Inspector of the Botanical Gardens at Berlin, who made a second consignment direct to Java, which arrived in the best condition; so that not only the Victoria, but also the one which had been derived in Berlin from an African father and an Asiatic mother, now adorn the water-basins of Java with red pond-roses (the latter plants probably those of the Philippines also).

[Carpentering difficulties.] Being compelled by the continuous rain to dry my collections in two ovens before packing them, I found that my servant had burned the greater part, so that the remains found a place in a roomy chest which I purchased for a dollar at an auction. This unfortunately lacked a lid; to procure which I was obliged, in the first place, to liberate a carpenter who had been imprisoned for a small debt; secondly, to advance money for the purchase of a board and the redemption of his tools out of pawn; and even then the work, when it was begun, was several times broken off because previous claims of violent creditors had to be discharged by labor. In five days the lid was completed, at the cost of three dollars. It did not last long, however, for in Manila I had to get it replaced by a new one.

[Off to Samar.] At Legaspi I availed myself of an opportunity to reach the island of Samar in a small schooner. It is situated south-east from Luzon, on the farther side of the Strait of San Bernardino, which is three leagues in breadth. At the moment of my departure, to my great regret, my servant left me, “that he might rest a little from his fatigue,” for Pepe was good-natured, very skilful, and always even-tempered. [Losing a clever assistant.] He had learned much from the numerous Spanish soldiers and sailors resident in Cavite, his native place, where he used to be playfully called the “Spaniard of Cavite.” Roving from one place to another was his delight; and he quickly acquired acquaintances. He knew especially how to gain the favor of the ladies, for he possessed many social accomplishments, being equally able to play the guitar and to milk the carabao-cows. When we came to a pueblo, where a mestiza, or even a “daughter of the country” (creole), dwelt, he would, when practicable, ask permission to milk a cow; and after bringing the seņora some of the milk, under pretext of being the interpreter of my wishes, he would maintain such a flow of ingeniously courteous conversation, praising the beauty and grace of the lady, and most modestly allowing his prodigious travelling adventures to be extracted from him, that both knight and esquire beamed with brilliant radiance. A present was always welcome, and brought us many a little basket of oranges; and carabao milk is excellent with chocolate: but it seemed as if one seldom has the opportunity of milking a cow. Unfortunately Pepe did not like climbing mountains, and when he was to have gone with me he either got the stomach-ache or gave away my strong shoes, or allowed them to be stolen; the native ones, however, being allowed to remain untouched, for he knew well that they were fit only for riding, and derived comfort from the fact. In company with me he worked quickly and cheerfully; but, when alone, it became tedious to him. Particularly he found friends, who hindered him, and then he would abandon his skinning of the birds, which therefore became putrid and had to be thrown away. Packing was still more disagreeable to him, and consequently he did it as quickly as possible, though not always with sufficient care, as on one occasion he tied up, in one and the same bundle, shoes, arsenic-soap, drawings, and chocolate. Notwithstanding trifling faults of this kind, he was very useful and agreeable to me; but he did not go willingly to such an uncivilized island as Samar; and when he received his wages in full for eight months all in a lump, and so became a small capitalist, he could not resist the temptation to rest a little from his labors.


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