The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
[Ports of entry.] In 1830 seven new ports were opened as an experiment, but, owing to great frauds in the charges, were soon afterwards closed again. In 1831 a custom-house was established at Zamboanga, on the south-west point of Mindanao; and in 1855 Sual, in the Gulf of Lingayen, one of the safest harbors on the west coast of Luzon, and Iloilo in Panay, were thrown open; and in 1863 Cebu, on the island of the same name, for the direct communication with foreign countries.
[Old Zamboanga fort.] Before 1635 the Spaniards had established a fort at Zamboanga, which, although it certainly could not wholly prevent the piratical excursions against the colonies, yet considerably diminished them.  Until 1848 from eight hundred to fifteen hundred individuals are stated to have been carried off yearly by the Moros.  The establishment of this custom-house has, therefore, been based upon political rather than commercial motives, it being found desirable to open an easily accessible place to the piratical states of the Sulu Sea for the disposal of their products. [Exports.] Trade, up to the present date, is but of very inconsiderable amount, the exports consisting chiefly of a little coffee (in 1871 nearly six thousand piculs), which, from bad management, is worth thirty per cent. less than Manila coffee, and of the collected products of the forest and of the water, such as wax, birds’-nests, tortoise-shell, pearls, mother-of-pearl, and edible holothuria. This trade, as well as that with Sulu, is entirely in the hands of the Chinese, who alone possess the patience, adaptiveness, and adroitness which are required for the purpose.
[Sual’s foreign trade.] Sual is specially important for its exports of rice; and its foreign trade is therefore affected by the results of the harvests in Saigon, Burma, and China. In 1868, when the harvests in those countries turned out good, Sual carried on only a coasting trade.
[Cebu.] Cebu (with a population of 34,000) is the chief town of the island of the same name, the seat of Government and of the bishop of the Bisayas, and within forty-eight hours from Manila by steamer. It is as favorably situated with regard to the eatern portion of the Bisayan group as Iloilo is for the western, and is acquiring increased importance as the emporium for its products. Sugar and tobacco are obtained from Bohol; rice from Panay; abacá from Leyte and Mindanao; and coffee, wax, Spanish cane, and mother-of-pearl from Misamis (Mindanao). Its distance from Samar is twenty-six, from Leyte two and a half, from Bohol four, and from Negros eighteen miles.
[Cebu island.] The island of Cebu extends over seventy-five square miles. A lofty mountain range traverses it from north to south, dividing the east from the west side, and its population is estimated at 340,000,–4,533 to the square mile. The inhabitants are peaceable and docile; thefts occur very seldom, and robberies never. Their occupations are agriculture, fishing, and weaving for home consumption. Cebu produces sugar, tobacco, maize, rice, etc., and in the mountains potatoes; but the rice produced does not suffice for their requirements, there being only a little level land, and the deficiency is imported from Panay.
[Land tenure.] The island possesses considerable beds of coal, the full yield of which may now be looked for, as the duty on export was abandoned by a decree of the 5th of May, 1869.  While in Luzon and Panay the land is for the most part the property of the peasantry, in Cebu it mostly belongs to the mestizos, and is let out by them, in very small allotments, upon lease. The owners of the soil know how to keep the peasants in a state of dependence by usurious loans; and one of the results of this abuse is that agriculture in this island stands lower than in almost any other part of the archipelago.  [Customhouse data.] The entire value of the exports in 1868 amounted to $1,181,050; of which sugar to the value of $481,127, and abacá to the value of $378,256; went to England, abacá amounting to $112,000 to America, and tobacco to $118,260 to Spain. The imports of foreign goods, mostly by the Chinese, come through Manila, where they purchase from the foreign import houses. The value of these imports amounted in 1868 to $182,522; of which $150,000 were for English cotton stuffs. The entire imports of the island were estimated at $1,243,582, and the exports at $226,898. Among the importations were twenty chests of images, a sign of the deeply-rooted worship of the Virgin. Formerly the products for exportation were bought up by the foreign merchants, mostly Chinese mestizos; but now they are bought direct from the producers, who thus obtain better prices in consequence of the abolition of the high brokerages. To this and to the energy of the foreign merchants, under favorable circumstances, is the gradual improvement of agriculture principally to be ascribed.
[Iloilo.] Iloilo is the most important of the newly opened ports, being the central point of the Bisayan group, and situated in one of the most thickly populated and industrious provinces. Nicholas Loney  estimates the export of goods woven from the fiber of the piña, from Iloilo, and the neighboring provinces, at about one million dollars annually. The harbor is excellent, being completely protected by an island which lies immediately before it; and at high tide there is about twelve feet of water close in shore for vessels to lie in. On account of the bar, however, ships of a deeper draught than this are obliged to complete their loading outside. Previous to the opening of the new harbors, all the provinces were compelled as well to bring their products intended for exportation to Manila, as to receive from the same place their foreign imports; the cost of which therefore was greatly increased through the extra expenses incurred by the double voyage, reloading, brokerage, and wharfage charges. According to a written account by N. Loney, it is shown how profitable, even after a few years, the opening of Iloilo has been to the provinces immediately adjoining–the islands of Panay and Negros.
[Sugar.] The higher prices which can be obtained for directly exported sugar, combined with the facility and security of the trade as contrasted with the late monopoly enjoyed by Manila, have occasioned a great extension of the cultivation of that article. Not only in Iloilo, but also in Antique and Negros, many new plantations have arisen, and the old ones have been enlarged as much as possible; and not less important has been the progress in the manufacture. In 1857 there was not one iron mill to be found on the island; so that, in working with the wooden mill, about thirty per cent. of the sap remained in the cane, even after it had thrice passed through. The old wooden presses, which were worked by steam or carabaos, have now been supplanted by new ones; and these the native planters have no difficulty in obtaining, as they can get them on credit from the warehouses of the English importers. Instead of the old Chinese cast-iron pans which were in use, far superior articles have been imported from Europe; and many large factories worked by steam-power and with all modern improvements have been established. In agriculture, likewise, creditable progress is noticeable. Improved ploughs, carts, and farming implements generally, are to be had in plenty. These changes naturally show how important it was to establish at different points, extending over two hundred miles of the Archipelago, commercial centers, where it was desirable that foreigners should settle. Without these latter, and the facilities afforded to credit which thereby ensued, the sudden rise and prosperity of Iloilo would not have been possible, inasmuch as the mercantile houses in that capital would have been debarred from trading with unknown planters in distant provinces, otherwise than for ready money. A large number of half-castes, too, who before traded in manufactured goods purchased in Manila, were enabled after this to send their goods direct to the provinces, to the foreign firms settled there; and as, ultimately, neither these latter nor the Chinese retail dealers could successfully compete with them, the result has been that, as much to their own profit as to that of the country, they have betaken themselves to the cultivation of sugar. In this manner important plantations have been established in Negros, which are managed by natives of Iloilo: but there is a scarcity of laborers on the island.
[Land disputes.] Foreigners now can legally acquire property, and possess a marketable title; in which respect the law, until a very recent period, was of an extremely uncertain nature. Land is to be obtained by purchase, or, when not already taken up, by “denuncia" (i.e. priority of claim). In such case, the would-be possessor of the land must enter into an undertaking in the nearest of the native Courts to cultivate and keep the said land in a fit and serviceable condition. Should no other claim be put in, notice is thereupon given of the grant, and the magistrate or alcalde concludes the compact without other cost than the usual stamp duty.
[Lack of capital for large plantations.] Many mestizos and natives, not having the necessary capital to carry on a large plantation successfully, sell the fields which they have already partially cultivated to European capitalists, who are thus relieved of all the preliminary tedious work. Evidently the Colonial Government is now sincerely disposed to favor the laying out of large plantations.
[Lack of roads.] The want of good roads is particularly felt: but, with the increase of agriculture, this defect will naturally be remedied; and, moreover, most of the sugar factories are situated on rivers which are unnavigable even by flat freight boats. The value of land in many parts of the country has doubled within the last ten years. 
[Sugar prices.] Up to 1854 the picul of sugar was worth in Iloilo from $1.05 to $1.25 and seldom over $2.00 in Manila; in 1866, $3.25; and in 1868, $4.75 to $5.00 in Iloilo. The business in Iloilo therefore shows an increase of $1.75 per picul. 
[Negros.] At the end of 1856 there were as many as twenty Europeans established on the island of Negros as sugar planters, besides a number of mestizos. Some of them were working with steam machinery and vacuum pans. The general rate of pay is from $2.05 to $3.00 per month. On some plantations the principle of acsa, i.e. part share, is in operation. The owner lets out a piece of ground, providing draught cattle and all necessary ploughing implements, to a native, who works it, and supplies the mill with the cut cane, receiving as payment a share, generally a third, of the product. In Negros the violet cane is cultivated, and in Manila the white (Otaheiti). The land does not require manuring. On new ground, or what we may term virgin soil, the cane often grows to a height of thirteen feet. A vast improvement is to be observed in the mode of dress of the people. Piña and silk stuffs are beoming quite common. Advance in luxury is always a favorable sign; according to the increase of requirements, industry flourishes in proportion.
[The future sugar market.] As I have already mentioned, California, Japan, China, and Australia appear designed by nature to be the principal consumers of the products of the Philippine Islands. Certainly at present England is the best customer; but nearly half the account is for sugar, in consequence of their own custom duties. Sometimes it happens that not more than one-fourth of the sugar crop is sufficiently refined to compete in the Australian and Californian markets with the sorts from Bengal, Java, and the Mauritius; the remaining three-fourths, if particularly white, must perforce undertake the long voyage to England, despite the high freight and certain loss on the voyage of from ten to twelve per cent. through the leakage of the molasses. The inferior quality of the Philippine sugar is at once perceived by the English refiners, and is only taxed at 8s. per cwt., while purer sorts pay 10s. to 12s. 
[A valuable by-product.] In this manner the English customs favor the inferior qualities of manufactured sugar. The colonial Government did not allow those engaged in the manufacture of sugar to distil rum from the molasses until the year 1862. They had, therefore, little inducement to extract, at a certain expense, a substance the value on which they were not permitted to realize; but under ordinary circumstances the distillation of the rum not only covered the cost of refining, but gave, in addition, a fair margin of profit.