The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al

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Chapter XXII

[The Bisayans.] The Bisayans–at least the inhabitants of the Islands of Samar and Leyte (I have not become closely acquainted with any others)–belong to one race. [197] They are, physically and intellectually, in character, dress, manners and customs, so similar that my notes, which were originally made at different points of the two Islands, have, after removal of the numerous repetitions, fused into one, which affords a more complete picture, and affords, at the same time, opportunity for the small differences, where they do occur, to stand out more conspicuously.

[Mountaineers.] There are no Negritos either in Samar or Leyte, but Cimarronese, who pay no tribute, and who do not live in villages, but independently in the forests. Unfortunately I have had no personal intercourse with them, and what I have learned respecting them from the Christian inhabitants of Samar is too uncertain to be repeated. But it does seem certain that all these Cimarronese or their ancestors have traded with the Spaniards, and that their religion has appropriated many Catholic forms. Thus, when planting rice, and, according to ancient practices, setting apart some of the seed to be offered in the four corners of the field as sacrifice, they are accustomed to repeat some mutilated Catholic prayers, which they appear to consider as efficacious as their old heathenish ones. Some have their children baptized as well, as it costs nothing; but, save in these respects, they perform no other Christian or civil obligations. They are very peaceable, neither making war with one another, nor having poisoned arrows. Instances of Cimarronese, who go over to Christianity and village life, together with tribute and servitude, are very rare; and the number of the civilized, who return to the forests in order to become Cimarronese, is, on the other hand, very inconsiderable indeed–still smaller than in Luzon, as the natives, from the dull, almost vegetating life which they lead, are not easily brought into such straitened circumstances as to be compelled to leave their village, which, still more than in Luzon, is all the world to them.

[Rice-farming.] The culture of rice follows the seasons of the year. In some places where there are large fields the plough (arado) and the sod-sod (here called surod) are employed; but, almost universally, the rice-field is only trodden over by carabaos in the rainy season. Sowing is done on the west coast in May and June, planting in July and August, and reaping from November to January. One ganta of seed-corn gives two, sometimes from three to four, cabanes (i.e., fifty, seventy-five, and a hundred fold). In the chief town, Catbalogan, there are but very few irrigated fields (tubigan, from tubig, water), the produce of which does not suffice for the requirements, and the deficiency is made up from other places on the coasts of the Island. On the other hand, Catbalogan produces abaca, coco-nut oil, wax, balate (edible holothuria, sea cucumber), dried fish, and woven stuffs. On the north and east coasts sowing takes place from November to January, and reaping six months later. During the remaining six months the field serves as pasture for the cattle; but in many places rice culture goes on even during these months, but on other fields. A large portion of this rice is frequently lost on account of the bad weather.

[Land tenure.] Purchases of land are seldom made, it being generally acquired by cultivation, by inheritance, or forfeiture. In Catbalogan the best rice land was paid for at the rate of one dollar for a ganta of seed-corn, and, on the north coast of Lauang, a field producing yearly one hundred cabanes was purchased for thirty dollars. Reckoning, as in Naga, one ganta of seed-corn at four loanes, and seventy-five cabanes of produce at one quiñon, the eastern rice land costs, in the first instance, three thalers and a third, in the second three thalers. The owner lets the bare property out on leases, and receives one-half the harvest as rent. [198] The cultivation of rice in Leyte is conducted as in Samar, but it has given way to the cultivation of abacá; the governors, while they were allowed to trade, compelled the natives to devote a part of their fields and of their labor to it. Should a peasant be in arrears, it is the prevalent custom in the country for him to pay to the dealer double the balance remaining due at the next harvest.

[Mountain rice.] Mountain-rice culture, which in Catbalogan is almost the only cultivation, requires no other implement of agriculture than the bolo to loosen the soil somewhat, and a sharp stick for making holes at distances of six inches for the reception of five or six grains of rice. Sowing is done from May to June, weeding twice, and five months later it is cut stalk by stalk; the reaper receiving half a real daily wages and food. The produce is between two and three cabanes per ganta, or fifty to seventy fold. The land costs nothing, and wages amount to nearly five reals per ganta of seed-corn. After a good harvest the caban fetches four reales; but just before the harvest the price rises to one dollar, and often much higher. The ground is used only once for dry rice; camote (batata), abacá, and caladium being planted on it after the harvest. Mountain rice is more remunerative than watered rice about in the proportion of nine to eight.

[Other products.] Next to rice the principal articles of sustenance are camote (convolvulus batatas), ubi (dioscorea), gabi (caladium), palauan (a large arum, with taper leaves and spotted stalk). Camote can be planted all the year around, and ripens in four months; but it takes place generally when the rice culture is over, when little labor is available. When the cultivation of camote is retained, the old plants are allowed to multiply their runners, and only the tubers are taken out of the ground. But larger produce is obtained by cleaning out the ground and planting anew. From eighteen to fifteen gantas may be had for half a real.

[Abacá.] Although there are large plantations of abacá, during my visit it was but little cultivated, the price not being sufficiently remunerative.

[Tobacco.] Tobacco also is cultivated. Formerly it might be sold in the country, but now it has to be delivered to the government.

[Balao oil.] A resinous oil (balao or malapajo) is found in Samar and Albay, probably also in other provinces. It is obtained from a dipterocarpus (apiton), one of the loftiest trees of the forest, by cutting in the trunk a wide hole, half a foot deep, hollowed out into the form of a basin, and from time to time lighting a fire in it, so as to free the channels, through which it flows, of obstructions. The oil thus is collected daily and comes into commerce without any further preparation. Its chief application is in the preservation of iron in shipbuilding. Nails dipped in the oil of the balao, before being driven in, will, as I have been assured by credible individuals, defy the action of rust for ten years; but it is principally used as a varnish for ships, which are painted with it both within and without, and it also protects wood against termites and other insects. The balao is sold in Albay at four reals for the tinaja of ten gantas (the liter at eight pence). A cement formed by the mixture of burnt lime, gum elemi, and coconut oil, in such proportions as to form a thick paste before application, is used for the protection of the bottoms of ships; and the coating is said to last a year. [199] [Wax.] Wax is bartered by the Cimarronese. The whole of Samar annually yields from two hundred to three hundred piculs, whose value ranges between twenty-five and fifty dollars per picul, while in Manila the price is generally five to ten dollars higher; but it fluctuates very much, as the same product is brought from many other localities and at very irregular intervals of time.

[Scarcity of stock.] There is hardly any breeding of cattle, notwithstanding the luxuriant growth of grasses and the absence of destructive animals. Horses and carabao are very rare, and are said to have been introduced late, not before the present century. As in Samar there are hardly any other country roads than the seashore and the shallow beds of rivers (it is better in the north of Leyte), the carabao is used only once every year in treading over the earth of the rice-field. During the year he roams at large on the pastures, in the forest, or on a small island, where such exists, in the neighborhood. Some times in the year one may see several carabaos, attached to the large trunk of a tree, dragging it to the village. Their number, consequently, is extremely small. Carabaos which tread the rice land well are worth as much as ten dollars. The mean price is three dollars for a carabao, and five to six dollars for a caraballa. Horned cattle are only occasionally used as victims at festivals. The property of several owners, they are very limited in number, and live half-wild in the mountains. There is hardly any trade in them, but the average price is three dollars for a heifer, and five or six dollars for a cow. [Swine.] Almost every family possesses a pig; some, three or four of them. A fat pig costs six or seven dollars, even more than a cow. Many Filipino tribes abstain strictly from beef; but pork is essential to their feasts. Grease, too, is so dear that from three to four dollars would, under favorable circumstances, be got on that account for a fat animal. [Sheep and goats.] Sheep and goats thrive well, and propagate easily, but also exist only in small numbers, and are hardly utilized either for their wool or their flesh. Creoles and mestizos are for the most part too idle even to keep sheep, preferring daily to eat chicken. The sheep of Shanghai, imported by the governor of Tacloban, also thrive and propagate famously. [Poultry.] A laying hen costs half a real, a rooster the same, and a game cock as much as three dollars, often considerably more. Six or eight hens, or thirty eggs, may be bought for one real.

[Cost of food.] A family consisting of father, mother, and five children requires daily nearly twenty-four chupas of palay (rice in the husk), which, after winnowing, comes to about twelve chupas. This at the average price of four reals per cavan costs about half a real. The price, however, varies. Sometimes, after the harvest, it is three reals per cavan; before it, ten; and in Albay, even about thirty reals. Then about three cuartos are wanted for extras (as fish, crabs, vegetables, etc.), which, however, are generally collected by the children; and, lastly, for oil two cuartos, buyo one cuarto, tobacco three cuartos (three leaves for one cuarto), the latter being smoked, not chewed. A woman consumes half as much buyo and tobacco as a man. Buyo and tobacco are less used in Leyte than in Samar.

[Clothing cost.] For clothing a man requires yearly–four rough shirts of guinara, costing from one to two reals; three or four pairs of trousers, at one to two and a half reals; two kerchiefs for the head, at one and a half real (hats are not worn on the south and west coasts), and for the church festivals generally one pair of shoes, seven reals; one fine shirt, a dollar or more; and fine pantaloons, at four reals. A woman requires–four to six camisas of guinara, at one real; two to three sayas of guinara, at three to four reals, and one or two sayas of European printed cotton, at five reals; two head-kerchiefs at one and a half to two reals; and one or two pairs of slippers (chinelas) to go to mass in, at two reals and upwards.

[Women’s extras.] The women generally have, besides, a fine camisa costing at least six reals; a mantilla for churchgoing, six reals (it lasts four years); and a comb, two cuartos. Many also have under skirts (nabuas), two pieces at four reals, and earrings of brass and a rosary, which last articles are purchased once for all. In the poorer localities, Lauang for instance, only the home-woven guinaras are worn; and there a man requires–three shirts and three pairs of trousers, which are cut out of three pieces of guinara, at two reals, and a salacot (hat), generally home made, worth half a real; while a woman uses yearly–four sayas, value six reals; and a camisa, with a finer one for the festivals, eight reals. Underskirts are not worn; and the clothing of the children may be estimated at about half of the above rates.

[Household furniture.] For household furniture a family has a cooking pot [200] of unglazed burnt clay, imported by ships from Manila, the cost of which is fixed by the value of its contents in rice; a supply of bamboo-canes; seven plates, costing between two and five cuartos; a carahai (iron pan), three to four reals; coconut shells serving for glasses; a few small pots, altogether half a real; a sundang, four to six reals, or a bolo (large forest knife), one dollar; and a pair of scissors (for the women), two reals. The loom, which every household constructs for itself of bamboo of course costs nothing.

[Wages.] The rate of daily wages, in the case of Filipino employers, is half a real, without food; but Europeans always have to give one real and food, unless, by favor of the gobernadorcillo, they get polistas at the former rate, which then regularly goes into the public coffers. An ordinary carpenter earns from one to two reals; a skilful man, three reals daily. The hours of work are from six to noon, and from two to six in the evening.

[Industries.] Almost every village has a rude smith, who understands the making of sundangs and bolos; but the iron and the coal required for the purpose must be supplied with the order. No other work in metal is executed. With the exception of a little ship-building, hardly any other pursuit than weaving is carried on; the loom is rarely wanting in a household. Guinara, i.e., stuff made of the abacá, is manufactured, as well as also some piña, or figured silk stuffs, the silk being brought from Manila, and of Chinese origin. All these fabrics are made in private homes; there are no factories.

[Barter.] In places where rice is scarce the lower class of people catch fish, salt and dry them, and barter them for rice. In the chief towns purchases are made with the current money; but, in the interior, where there is hardly any money, fabrics and dried fish are the most usual means of exchange. Salt is obtained by evaporating the seawater in small iron hand-pans (carahais), without previous evaporation in the sun. The navigation between Catbalogan and Manila continues from December to July, and in the interval between those months the ships lie dismantled under sheds. [Communication.] There also is communication by the coast eastwards to Guian, northwards to Catarman, and sometimes to Lauang. The crews consist partly of natives, and partly of foreigners, as the natives take to the sea with great reluctance; indeed, almost only when compelled to leave their villages. Samar has scarcely any other means of communication besides the navigation of the coast and rivers, the interior being roadless; and burdens have to be conveyed on the shoulders. An able-bodied porter, who receives a real and a half without food, will carry three arrobas (seventy-five pounds at most) six leagues in a day, but he cannot accomplish the same work on the following day, requiring at least one day’s rest. A strong man will carry an arroba and a half daily for a distance of six leagues for a whole week.

[No markets.] There are no markets in Samar and Leyte; so that whoever wishes to buy seeks what he requires in the houses, and in like manner the seller offers his goods.

[Debts.] A Filipino seeking to borrow money has to give ample security and pay interest at the rate of one real for every dollar per month (twelve and one-half per cent. monthly); and it is not easy for him to borrow more than five dollars, for which sum only he is legally liable. Trade and credit are less developed in eastern and northern Samar than in the western part of the island, which keeps up a more active communication with the other inhabitants of the Archipelago. There current money is rarely lent, but only its value in goods is advanced at the rate of a real per dollar per mensem. If the debtor fails to pay within the time appointed, he frequently has to part with one of his children, who is obliged to serve the lender for his bare food, without wages, until the debt has been extinguished. I saw a young man who had so served for the term of five years, in liquidation of a debt of five dollars which his father, who had formerly been a gobernadorcillo in Paranas, owed to a mestizo in Catbalogan; and on the east coast a pretty young girl, who, for a debt of three dollars due by her father, had then, for two years, served a native, who had the reputation of being a spendthrift. I was shown in Borongan a coconut plantation of three hundred trees, which was pledged for a debt of ten dollars about twenty years ago, since which period it had been used by the creditor as his own property; and it was only a few years since that, upon the death of the debtor, his children succeeded, with great difficulty, in paying the original debt and redeeming the property. It is no uncommon thing for a native to borrow two dollars and a half from another in order to purchase his exemption from the forty days of annual service, and then, failing to repay the loan punctually, to serve his creditor for a whole year. [201]

[People of Samar and Leyte.] The inhabitants of Samar and Leyte, who are at once idler and filthier than those of Luzon, seem to be as much behind the Bicols as the latter are behind the Tagalogs. In Tacloban, where a more active intercourse with Manila exists, these qualities are less pronounced, and the women, who are agreeable, bathe frequently. For the rest, the inhabitants of the two islands are friendly, obliging, tractable, and peaceable. Abusive language or violence very rarely occurs, and, in case of injury, information is laid against the offender at the tribunal. Great purity of manners seems to prevail on the north and west coasts, but not on the east coast, nor in Leyte. External piety is universally conspicuous, through the training imparted by the priests; the families are very united, and great influence is wielded by the women, who are principally engaged in household employments, and are tolerably skilful in weaving, and to whom only the lighter labors of the field are assigned. The authority of the parents and of the eldest brother is supreme, the younger sisters never venturing to oppose it; women and children are kindly treated.

[Leyte.] The natives of Leyte, clinging as strongly to their native soil as those of Samar, like them, have no partiality for the sea, though their antipathy to it is not quite so manifest as that of the inhabitants of Samar. [202]

[Public charity not accepted.] There are no benevolent institutions in either of the two islands. Each family maintains its own poor and crippled, and treats them tenderly. In Catbalogan, the chief town of the island, with five to six thousand inhabitants, there were only eight recipients of charity; but in Albay mendicants are not wanting. In Lauang, when a Spaniard, on a solemn festival, had caused it to be proclaimed that he would distribute rice to the poor, not a single applicant came forward. The honesty of the inhabitants of Samar is much commended. Obligations are said to be contracted almost always without written documents, and never forsworn, even if they make default in payment. Robberies are of rare occurrence in Samar, and thefts almost unknown. There are schools also here in the pueblos, which accomplish quite as much as they do in Camarines.

[Amusements.] Of the public amusements cock-fighting is the chief, but it is not so eagerly pursued as in Luzon. At the church festivals they perform a drama translated from the Spanish, generally of a religious character; and the expense of the entertainment is defrayed by voluntary contributions of the wealthy. The chief vices of the population are play and drunkenness; in which latter even women and young girls occasionally indulge. The marriage feasts, combining song and dance, often continue for several days and nights together, where they have a sufficient supply of food and drink. [Suitor’s service.] The suitor has to serve in the house of the bride’s parents two, three, and even five years, before he takes his bride home; and money cannot purchase exemption from this onerous restriction. He boards in the house of the bride’s parents who furnish the rice, but he has to supply the vegetables himself. [203] At the expiration of his term of service he builds, with the assistance of his relations and friends, the house for the family which is about to be newly established.

[Morals.] Though adultery is not unknown, jealousy is rare, and never leads to violence. The injured individual generally goes with the culprit to the minister, who, with a severe lecture to one, and words of consolation to the other, sets everything straight again. Married women are more easily accessible than girls, whose prospect of marriage, however, it seems is not greatly diminished by a false step during single life. While under parental authority girls, as a rule, are kept under rigid control, doubtless in order to prolong the time of servitude of the suitor. External appearance is more strictly regarded among the Bisayans than by the Bicols and Tagalogs. Here also the erroneous opinion prevails, that the number of the women exceeds that of the men. Instances occur of girls of twelve being mothers; but they are rare; and though women bear twelve or thirteen children, many of these, however, do not live. [Great infant mortality.] So much so is this the case, that families of more than six or eight children are very rarely met with.

[Superstitions.] Superstition is rife. Besides the little church images of the Virgin, which every Filipina wears by a string round the neck, many also have heathen amulets, of which I had an opportunity of examining one that had been taken from a very daring criminal. It consisted of a small ounce flask, stuffed full of vegetable root fibres, which appeared to have been fried in oil. This flask, which is prepared by the heathen tribes, is accredited with the virtue of making its owner strong and courageous. The capture of this individual was very difficult; but, as soon as the little flask was taken from him, he gave up all resistance, and allowed himself to be bound. In almost every large village there are one or more [Ghouls.] Asuang families who are generally dreaded and avoided, and regarded as outlaws, and who can marry only amongst themselves. They have the reputation of being cannibals. [204] Perhaps they are descended from such tribes? At any rate, the belief is very general and firmly rooted; and intelligent old natives when questioned by me on the subject, answered that they certainly did not believe that the Asuangs ate men at the present time, but that their forefathers had assuredly done so. [205]

[Ancient Literature.] Of ancient legends, traditions, or ballads, it is stated that there are none. It is true they have songs at their dances, but these are spiritless improvisations, and mostly in a high key. They have not preserved any memorials of former civilization. “The ancient Pintados possessed no temples, every one performing his anitos in his own house, without any special solemnity"–(Morga, f. 145 v). Pigafetta (p. 92) certainly mentions that the King of Cebu, after his conversion to Christianity, caused many temples built on the seashore to be destroyed; but these might only have been structures of a very perishable kind. [Festivals and shrines.] On certain occasions the Bisayans celebrated a great festival, called Pandot, at which they worshipped their gods in huts, which were expressly built for the purpose, covered with foliage, and adorned with flowers and lamps. They called these huts simba or simbahan (the churches are so called to the present day), “and this is the only thing which they have similar to a church or a temple"–(Informe, I., i., 17). According to Gemelli Careri they prayed to some particular gods, derived from their forefathers, who are called by the Bisayans Davata (Divata), and by the Tagalogs Anito; one anito being for the sea and another for the house, to watch over the children. [206] [Ancestor worship.] In the number of these anitos they placed their grandfathers and great-grandfathers, whom they invoked in all their necessities, and in whose honor they preserved little statues of stone, wood, gold, and ivory, which they called liche or laravan. Amongst their gods they also reckoned all who perished by the sword, or were killed by lightning, or devoured by crocodiles, believing that their souls ascended to heaven on a bow which they called balangas. Pigafetta thus describes the idols which were seen by him:–"They are of wood, and concave, or hollow, without any hind quarters, with their arms extended, and their legs and feet bent upwards. They have very large faces, with four powerful teeth like boars’ tusks, and are painted all over.” [207]

In conclusion, let me take a brief account of the religion of the ancient Bisayans from Fr. Gaspar San Agustin (Conquest, 169):

[Old religion.] The daemon, or genius, to whom they sacrificed was called by them Divata, which appears to denote an antithesis to the Deity, and a rebel against him. Hell was called Solad, and Heaven (in the language of the educated people) Ologan * * * The souls of the departed go to a mountain in the province of Oton, [208] called Medias, where they are well entertained and served. The creation of the universe is thus explained. [Creation myth.] A vulture hovering between heaven and earth finds no place to settle himself upon, and the water rises towards heaven; whereupon Heaven, in its wrath, creates islands. The vulture splits a bamboo, out of which spring man and woman, who beget many children, and, when their number becomes too great, drive them out with blows. Some conceal themselves in the chamber, and these become the Datos; others in the kitchen, and these become the slaves. The rest go down the stairs and become the people.


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