The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
[The Lagoon of Bay.] My second trip took me up the Pasig to the great Lagoon of Bay. I left Manila at night in a banca, a boat hollowed out of a tree-trunk, with a vaulted roof made of bamboo and so low that it was almost impossible to sit upright under it, which posture, indeed, the banca-builder appeared to have neglected to consider. A bamboo hurdle placed at the bottom of the boat protects the traveller from the water and serves him as a couch. Jurien de la Gravičre  compares the banca to a cigar-box, in which the traveller is so tightly packed that he would have little chance of saving his life if it happened to upset. The crew was composed of four rowers and a helmsman; their daily pay was five reals apiece, in all nearly seven pesos, high wages for such lazy fellows in comparison with the price of provisions, for the rice that a hard-working man ate in a day seldom cost more than seven centavos (in the provinces often scarcely six), and the rest of his food (fish and vegetables), only one centavo. We passed several villages and tiendas on the banks in which food was exposed for sale. My crew, after trying to interrupt the journey under all sorts of pretences, left the boat as we came to a village, saying that they were going to fetch some sails; but they forgot to return. At last, with the assistance of the night watchman I succeeded in hauling them out of some of their friends’ houses, where they had concealed themselves. After running aground several times upon the sandbanks, we entered the land and hill-locked Lagoon of Bay, and reached Jalajala early in the morning.
[The Pasig.] The Pasig forms a natural canal, about six leagues long, between the Bay of Manila and the Lagoon of Bay, a fresh water lake, thirty-five leagues in circumference, that washes the shores of three fertile provinces, Manila, Laguna and Cavite. Formerly large vessels full of cargo used to be able to sail right up to the borders of the lake; now they are prevented by sandbanks. Even flat-bottomed boats frequently run aground on the Napindan and Taguig banks.  Were the banks removed, and the stone bridge joining Manila to Binondo replaced by a swing bridge, or a canal made round it, the coasting vessels would be able to ship the produce of the lagoon provinces at the very foot of the fields in which they grow. The traffic would be very profitable, the waters would shrink, and the shallows along the shore might be turned into rice and sugar fields. A scheme of this kind was approved more than thirty years ago in Madrid, but it was never carried into execution. The sanding up of the river has, on the contrary, been increased by a quantity of fish reels, the erection of which has been favored by the Colonial Waterways Board because it reaped a small tax from them.
[A famous plantation.] Jalajala, an estate which occupies the eastern of the two peninsulas which run southward into the lake, is one of the first places visited by strangers. It owes this preference to its beautiful position and nearness to Manila, and to the fantastic description of it by a former owner, De la Gironničre. The soil of the peninsula is volcanic; its range of hills is very rugged, and the watercourses bring down annually a quantity of soil from the mountains, which increases the deposits at their base. The shore-line, overgrown with grass and prickly sensitive-plants quite eight feet high, makes capital pasture for carabaos. Behind it broad fields of rice and sugar extend themselves up to the base of the hills. Towards the north the estate is bounded by the thickly-wooded Sembrano, the highest mountain in the peninsula; on the remaining sides it is surrounded with water. With the exception of the flat shore, the whole place is hilly and overgrown with grass and clumps of trees, capital pasture for its numerous herds–a thousand carabaos, one thousand five hundred to two thousand bullocks, and from six to seven hundred nearly wild horses. As we were descending one of the hills, we were suddenly surrounded by half-a-dozen armed men, who took us for cattle-thieves, but who, to their disappointment, were obliged to forego their expected chance of a reward.
[Los Baņos hot springs.] Beyond Jalajala, on the south coast of the Lagoon of Bay, lies the hamlet of Los Baņos, so called from a hot spring at the foot of the Makiling volcano. Even prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the natives used its waters as a remedy,  but they are now very little patronized. The shore of the lake is at this point, and indeed all round its circumference, so flat that it is impossible to land with dry feet from the shallowest canoe. It is quite covered with sand mussels. North-west of Los Baņos there lies a small volcanic lake fringed with thick woods, called Dagatan (the enchanted lagoon of travellers), to distinguish it from Dagât, as the Tagals call the great Lagoon of Bay. I saw nothing of the crocodiles which are supposed to infest it, but we flushed several flocks of wild fowl, disturbed by our invasion of their solitude. From Los Baņos I had intended to go to Lupang Puti (white earth), where, judging from the samples shown me, there is a deposit of fine white silicious earth, which is purified in Manila and used as paint. I did not reach the place, as the guide whom I had with difficulty obtained, pretended, after a couple of miles, to be dead beat. From the inquiries I made, however, I apprehend that it is a kind of solfatara. Several deposits of it appear to exist at the foot of the Makiling. 
[Talim island.] On my return I paid a visit to the Island of Talim, which, with the exception of a clearing occupied by a few miserable huts, is uninhabited and thickly overgrown with forest and undergrowth. In the center of the Island is the Susong-Dalaga (maiden’s bosom), a dolerite hill with a beautifully formed crest. Upon the shore, on a bare rock, I found four eggs containing fully developed young crocodiles. When I broke the shells the little reptiles made off.
[M. de la Gironničre.] Although the south-west monsoons generally occur later in Jalajala than in Manila, it was already raining so hard that I decided to go to Calauan, on the southern shore of the lake, which is protected by Mount Makiling, and does not experience the effect of the rainy monsoons till later in the season. I met M. de la Gironničre in Calauan, the “gentilhomme Breton” who is so well known for telling the most terrible adventures. He had lately returned from Europe to establish a large sugar manufactory. His enterprise, however, was a failure. The house of the lively old gentleman, whose eccentricity had led him to adopt the dress and the frugal habits of the natives, was neither clean or well kept, although he had a couple of friends to assist him in the business, a Scotchman, and a young Frenchman who had lived in the most refined Parisian society.
[Llanura de Imuc.] There were several small lakes and a few empty volcanic basins on the estate. To the south-west, not very far from the house, and to the left of the road leading to San Pablo, lies the Llanura de Imuc, a valley of dolerite more than a hundred feet deep. Large blocks of basalt enable one to climb down into the valley, the bottom of which is covered with dense growths. The center of the basin is occupied by a neglected coffee plantation laid out by a former proprietor. The density of the vegetation prevented my taking more precise observations. There is another shallower volcanic crater to the north of it. Its soil was marshy and covered with cane and grass, but even in the rainy season it does not collect sufficient water to turn it into a lake. It might, therefore, be easily drained and cultivated. To the south-west of this basin, and to the right of the road to San Pablo, lies the [Tigui-mere.] Tigui-mere. From a plain of whitish-grey soil, covered with concentric shells as large as a nut, rises a circular embankment with gently-sloping sides, intersected only by a small cleft which serves as an entrance, and which shows, on its edges denuded of vegetation, the loose rapilli of which the embankment is formed. The sides of this natural amphitheatre tower more than a hundred feet above its flat base. A path runs east and west right through the center. The northern half is studded with cocopalm trees and cultivated plants; the southern portion is full of water nearly covered with green weeds and slime. The ground consists of black rapilli.
[Leaf imprints in lava.] From the Tigui-mere I returned to the hacienda a bank formed of volcanic lava two feet in thickness and covered with indistinct impressions of leaves. Their state of preservation did not allow me to distinguish their species, but they certainly belonged to some tropical genus, and are, according to Professor A. Braun, of the same kind as those now growing there.
There are two more small lakes half a league to the south-east. The road leading to them is composed of volcanic remains which cover the soil, and large blocks of lava lie in the bed of the stream.
[Maycap Lake.] The first of the two, the Maycap Lake, is entirely embanked with the exception of a small opening fitted with sluices to supply water to a canal; and from its northern side, which alone admits of an open view, the southern peak of San Cristobal may be seen, about 73° to the north-east. Its banks, which are about eighty feet high, rise with a gentle slope in a westerly direction, till they join Mount Maiba, a hill about 500 feet high. The soil, like that of the embankments of the other volcanic lakes, consists of rapilli and lava, and is thickly wooded.
[Lake Palakpakan.] Close by is another lake, Palakpakan, of nearly the same circumference, and formed in a similar manner (of black sand and rapilli). Its banks are from thirty to one hundred feet high. From its north-western edge San Cristobal lifts its head 70° to the northeast. Its waters are easily reached, and are much frequented by fishermen.
[Palm brandy.] About nine o’clock, a.m., I rode from Calauan to Pila, and thence in a northeasterly direction to Santa Cruz, over even, broad, and well-kept roads, through a palm-grove a mile long and a mile and a half broad, which extends down to the very edge of the lagoons. The products of these palm trees generally are not used for the production of oil but for the manufacture of brandy. Their fruit is not allowed to come to maturity; but the buds are slit open, and the sweet sap is collected as it drips from them. It is then allowed to ferment, and subjected to distillation.  As the sap is collected twice a day, and as the blossoms, situated at the top of the tree, are forty or fifty feet above the ground, bamboos are fastened horizontally, one above the other, from one tree to another, to facilitate the necessary ascent and descent. The sap collector stands on the lower cross-piece while he holds on to the upper.
[Bought by government.] The sale of palm-brandy was at the time of my visit the monopoly of the government, which retailed it in the Estanco (government sale rooms) with cigars, stamped paper, and religious indulgences. The manufacture was carried on by private individuals; but the whole of the brandy was of necessity disposed of to the administration, which, however, paid such a high price for it that the contractors made large profits.
[Profit in manufacture.] I afterwards met a Spaniard in Camarines who, according to his own account, must have made considerable and easy gains from these contracts. He had bought palm-trees at an average price of five reals apiece (they usually cost more, though they can be sometimes purchased for two reals). Thirty-five palms will furnish daily at least thirty-six quarts of tuba (sugar-containing sap), from which, after fermentation and distillation, six quarts of brandy of the prescribed strength can be manufactured. One man is sufficient to attend to them, and receives for his trouble half the proceeds. The administration pays six cuartos for a quart of brandy. My friend the contractor was in annual receipt, therefore, from every thirty-five of his trees, of 360 × 1/2 × 5 cuartos = $40.50. As the thirty-five trees only cost him $21.875, his invested capital brought him in about 200 per cent.
[Wine and liquor monopoly a failure.] The proceeds of this monopoly (wines and liquors) were rated at $1,622,810 in the colonial budget for 1861; but its collection was so difficult, and so disproportionately expensive, that it nearly swallowed up the whole profit. It caused espionage, robberies of all sorts, embezzlement, and bribery on a large scale. The retail of the brandy by officials, who are paid by a percentage on the consumption, did a good deal to injure the popular respect for the government. Moreover, the imposition of this improper tax on the most important industry of the country not only crippled the free trade in palms, but also the manufacture of raw sugar; for the government, to favor their own monopoly, had forbidden the sugar manufacturers to make rum from their molasses, which became in consequence so valueless that in Manila they gave it to their horses. The complaints of the manufacturers at last stirred up the administration to allow the manufacture of rum; but the palm-brandy monopoly remained intact. The Filipinos now drank nothing but rum, so that at last, in self-defence, the government entirely abandoned the monopoly (January, 1864). Since that, the rum manufacturers pay taxes according to the amount of their sale, but not upon the amount of their raw produce. In order to cover the deficit occasioned by the abandonment of the brandy monopoly, the government has made a small increase in the poll-tax. The practice of drinking brandy has naturally much increased; it is, however, a very old habit.  With this exception, the measure has had the most favorable consequences.
[Santa Cruz.] Santa Cruz is a lively, prosperous place (in 1865 it contained 11,385 inhabitants), through the center of which runs a river. As the day on which we passed through it was Sunday, the stream was full of bathers, amongst them several women, their luxuriant hair covered with broad-brimmed hats to shade them from the sun. From the ford the road takes a sharp turn and inclines first to the east and then to the south-east, till it reaches Magdalena, between which and Majaijai the country becomes hilly. Just outside the latter, a viaduct takes the road across a deep ravine full of magnificent ferns, which remind the traveller of the height–more than 600 feet–above the sea level to which he has attained. The spacious convento at Majaijai, built by the Jesuits, is celebrated for its splendid situation. The Lagoon of Bay is seen to extend far to the north-east; in the distance the Peninsula of Jalajala and the Island of Talim, from which rises the Susong-Dalaga volcano, terminate the vista. From the convento to the lake stretches an endless grove of coco-trees, while towards the south the slope of the distant high ground grows suddenly steeper, and forms an abruptly precipitous conical hill, intersected by deep ravines. This is the Banajao or Majaijai volcano, and beside it Mount San Cristobal rears its bell-shaped summit.
[Scenery along Lucban-Maubon road.] As everybody was occupied with the preparations for an ensuing religious festival, I betook myself, through Lucban on the eastern shore, to Mauban, situated amidst deep ravines and masses of lava at the foot of Mount Majaijai. The vegetation was of indescribable beauty, and the miserable road was enlivened with cheerful knots of pedestrians hastening to the festival. 
[Lucban.] I reached Lucban in three hours; it is a prosperous place of 13,000 inhabitants, to the north-east of Majaijai. A year after my visit it burnt to the ground. The agricultural produce of the district is not very important, owing to the mountainous nature of the country; but considerable industrial activity prevails there. The inhabitants weave fine straw hats from the fibre of the leaf of the buri palm-tree (corypha sp.), manufacture pandanus mats, and carry on a profitable trade at Mauban with the placer miners of North Camarines. The entire breadth of the road is covered with cement, and along its center flows, in an open channel, a sparkling rivulet.
[Java-like rice fields.] The road from Lucban to Mauban, which is situated on the bay of Lamon, opposite to the Island of Alabat, winds along the narrow watercourse of the Mapon river, through deep ravines with perpendicular cliffs of clay. I observed several terrace-formed rice-fields similar to those so prevalent in Java, an infrequent sight in the Philippines. Presently the path led us into the very thick of the forest. Nearly all the trees were covered with aroides and creeping ferns; amongst them I noticed the angiopteris, pandanus, and several large specimens of the fan palm.
[Mapon river.] Three leagues from Lucban the river flows under a rock supported on prismatically shaped pillars, and then runs through a bed of round pebbles, composed of volcanic stone and white lime, as hard as marble, in which impressions of shell-fish and coral can be traced. Further up the river the volcanic rubble disappears, and the containing strata then consist of the marble-like pebbles cemented together with calcareous spar. These strata alternate with banks of clay and coarse-grained soil, which contain scanty and badly preserved imprints of leaves and mussel-fish. Amongst them, however, I observed a flattened but still recognizable specimen of the fossil melania. The river-bed must be quite five hundred feet above the level of the sea.
[Bamboo raft ferry.] About a league beyond Mauban, as it was getting dusk, we crossed the river, then tolerably broad, on a wretched leaking bamboo raft, which sank at least six inches beneath the water under the weight of our horses, and ran helplessly aground in the mud on the opposite side.
[Visitors to festival.] The tribunal or common-house was crowded with people who had come to attend the festival which was to take place on the following day. The cabezas wore, in token of their dignity, a short jacket above their shirts. A quantity of brightly decorated tables laden with fruit and pastry stood against the walls, and in the middle of the principal room a dining-table was laid out for forty persons.
[Hospitality of tribunal.] A European who travels without a servant–mine had run away with some wages I had rashly paid him in advance–is put down as a beggar, and I was overwhelmed with impertinent questions on the subject, which, however, I left unanswered. As I hadn’t had the supper I stood considerably in need of, I took the liberty of taking a few savory morsels from the meatpot, which I ate in the midst of a little knot of wondering spectators; I then laid myself down to sleep on the bench beside the table, to which a second set of diners were already sitting down. When I awoke on the following morning there were already so many people stirring that I had no opportunity of performing my toilet. I therefore betook myself in my dirty travelling dress to the residence of a Spaniard who had settled in the pueblo, and who received me in the most hospitable manner as soon as the description in my passport satisfied him that I was worthy of a confidence not inspired by my appearance.
[Trade in molaze.] My friendly host carried on no trifling business. Two English ships were at that moment in the harbor, which he was about to send to China laden with molave, a species of wood akin to teak.
[Butucan waterfall.] On my return I visited the fine waterfall of Butucan, between Mauban and Lucban, a little apart from the high road. A powerful stream flows between two high banks of rocky soil thickly covered with vegetation, and, leaping from a ledge of volcanic rock suddenly plunges into a ravine, said to be three hundred and sixty feet in depth, along the bottom of which it is hurried away. The channel, however, is so narrow, and the vegetation so dense, that an observer looking at it from above can not follow its course. This waterfall has a great similarity to that which falls from the Semeru in Java. Here, as there, a volcanic stream flowing over vast rocky deposits forms a horizontal watercourse, which in its turn is overshadowed with immense masses of rock. The water easily forces its way between these till it reaches the solid lava, when it leaves its high, narrow, and thickly-wooded banks, and plunges into the deep chasm it has itself worn away. The pouring rain unfortunately prevented me from sketching this fine fall. It was raining when I reached the convento of Majaijai, and it was still raining when I left it three days later, nor was there any hope of improvement in the weather for another month to come. “The wet season lasts for eight or nine months in Majaijai, and during the whole period scarcely a day passes without the rain falling in torrents."–Estado geograph.
[Majaijai.] To ascend the volcano was under such circumstances impracticable. According to some notes written by the Majaijai priest, an ascent and survey of Mount Banajao was made on the 22nd of April, 1858, by Senors Roldan and Montero, two able Spanish naval officers, specially charged with the revision of the marine chart of the archipelago. From its summit they took observations of Manila cathedral, of Mayon, another volcano in Albay, and of the Island of Polillo. They estimated the altitude of Banajao to be seven thousand and twenty Spanish feet, and the depth of its crater to be seven hundred. The crater formerly contained a lake, but the last eruption made a chasm in its southern side through which the water flowed away. 
[Calauan.] I reached Calauan in the pouring rain, wading through the soft spongy clay upon wretched, half-starved ponies, and found I must put off my water journey to Manila till the following day, as there was no boat on the lake at this point. The next morning there were no horses to be found; and it was not till the afternoon that I procured a cart and a couple of carabaos to take me to Santa Cruz, whence in the evening the market-vessel started for Manila. One carabao was harnessed in front; the other was fastened behind the cart in order that I might have a change of animals when the first became tired. Carabao number one wouldn’t draw, and number two acted as a drag–rather useless apparatus on a level road–so I changed them. As soon as number two felt the load it laid down. A few blows persuaded it to pick itself up, when it deliberately walked to the nearest pool and dropped into it. It was with the greatest trouble that we unharnessed the cart and pushed it back on to the road, while our two considerate beasts took a mud bath. At last we reloaded the baggage, the carabaos were reharnessed in the original positions, and the driver, leaning his whole weight upon the nose-rope of the leading beast, pulled with might and main. To my great delight the animal condescended to slowly advance with the cart and its contents. [Pila.] At Pila I managed to get a better team, with which late in the evening, in the midst of a pouring rain, I reached a little hamlet opposite Santa Cruz. The market-vessel had left; our attempts to get a boat to take us across to the village only led to barefaced attempts at extortion, so I entered one of the largest of the hamlet’s houses, which was occupied by a widow and her daughter. After some delay my request for a night’s lodging was granted. I sent for some oil, to give me a little light, and something to eat. The women brought in some of their relations, who helped to prepare the food and stopped in the house to protect its owners. The next morning I crossed the river, teeming with joyous bathers, to Santa Cruz, and hired a boat there to take me across the lake to Pasig, and from thence to Manila. A contrary wind, however, forced us to land on the promontory of Jalajala, and there wait for the calm that accompanies the dawn. [Earthquake evidences.] Betwixt the extreme southern point of the land and the houses I saw, in several places, banks of mussels projecting at least fifteen feet above the surface of the water, similar to those which are so frequently found on the sea-coast;–a proof that earthquakes have taken place in this neighborhood.