The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al
Public Domain Books
The night was passed uncomfortably, and in the morning they made an early start down the mountain to reach the native village at its foot, where they were refreshed with a cup of chocolate, cakes, and some dulces, according to the custom of the country. At ten o’clock they reached the mission, where they were received by the padre and Mr. Sturges. The former was greatly astonished to hear that they had really been to the summit, and had accomplished in twenty-four hours what he had deemed a labor of three days. He quickly attended to their wants, the first among which was dry clothing; and as their baggage had unfortunately been left at Santa Cruz, the wardrobe of the rotund padre was placed at their disposal. Although the fit was rather uncouth on the spare forms of our gentlemen, yet his clothes served the purpose tolerably well, and were thankfully made use of. During their absence, Mr. Sturges had been much amused with the discipline he had witnessed at the hands of the church, which here seem to be the only visible ruling power. Two young natives had made complaint to the padre that a certain damsel had entered into vows or engagements to marry both; she was accordingly brought up before the padre, Mr. Sturges being present. The padre first lectured her most seriously upon the enormity of her crime, then inflicted several blows on the palm of her outstretched hand, again renewing the lecture, and finally concluding with another whipping. The girl was pretty, and excited the interest of our friend, who looked on with much desire to interfere, and save the damsel from the corporal punishment, rendered more aggravated by the dispassionate and cool manner in which it and the lecture were administered. In the conversation which ensued, the padre said he had more cases of the violation of the marriage vow, and of infidelity, than any other class of crimes.
After a hearty breakfast, or rather dinner, and expressing their thanks to the padre, they rode back to Santa Cruz, where they arrived at an early hour, and at nine o’clock in the evening they embarked in their bancas for Manila.
[Los Baños.] In the morning they found themselves, after a comfortable night, at Los Baños. Here they took chocolate with the padre, to whom Mr. Sturges had a letter, who informed them that the other party had left the place the evening before for Manila.
This party had proceeded to the town of Baia, where they arrived at daylight on the 15th. Baia is quite a pretty place, and well situated; the houses are clean and comfortable, and it possessed a venerable stone church, with towers and bells. On inquiring for the padre, they found that he was absent, and it was in consequence impossible for them to procure horses to proced to the Volcano of Taal. They therefore concluded to walk to the hot springs at Los Baños, about five miles distant. Along the road they collected a number of curious plants. Rice is much cultivated, and fields of it extend to some distance on each side of the road. Buffaloes were seen feeding and wallowing in the ditches.
At Los Baños the hot springs are numerous, the water issuing from the rock over a considerable surface. The quantity of water discharged by them is large, and the whole is collected and conducted to the bathing-houses. The temperature of the water at the mouth of the culvert was 180°.
The old bath-house is a singular-looking place, being built on the hill-side, in the old Spanish style, with large balconies, that are enclosed in the manner already described, in speaking of the houses in Manila. It is beautifully situated, and overlooks the baths and lake. The baths are of stone, and consist of two large rooms, in each of which is a niche, through which the hot water passes. This building is now in ruins, the roof and floors having fallen in.
Los Baños is a small village, but contains a respectable-looking stone church, and two or three houses of the same material. Here the party found a difficulty in getting on, for the alcalde could not speak Spanish, and they were obliged to use an interpreter, in order to communicate with him. Notwithstanding this, he is a magistrate, whose duty it is to administer laws written in that language. Finding they could not succeed even here in procuring guides or horses, they determined to remain and explore Mount Maquiling, the height of which is three thousand four hundred and fifty feet, and in the meantime to send for their bancas.
The next day they set out on their journey to that mountain, and the first part of their path lay over a gentle ascent, through cultivated grounds. Next succeeded an almost perpendicular hill, bare of trees, and overgrown with a tall grass, which it was difficult to pass through.
Such had been the time taken up, that the party found it impossible to reach the summit and return before dark. They therefore began to collect specimens; and after having obtained a full load, they returned late in the afternoon to Los Baños.
The mountain is composed of trachytic rocks and tufa, which are occasionally seen to break through the rich and deep soil, showing themselves here and there, in the deep valleys which former volcanic action has created, and which have destroyed the regular outline of the cone-shaped mountain. The tufa is generally found to form the gently-sloping plains that surround these mountains, and has in all probability been ejected from them. Small craters, of some two hundred feet in height, are scattered over the plains. The tufa is likewise exposed to view on the shores of the lake; but elsewhere, except on a few bare hills, it is entirely covered with the dense and luxuriant foliage. The tufa is generally of a soft character, crumbling in the fingers, and in it are found coarse and fine fragments of scoria, pumice, etc. The layers are from a few inches to five feet in thickness.
In the country around Los Baños, there are several volcanic hills, and on the sides of Mount Maquiling are appearances of parasitic cones, similar to those observed at the Hawaiian Islands; but time and the foliage have so disguised them, that it is difficult to determine exactly their true character.
I regretted exceedingly that the party that set out for the Lake of Taal was not able to reach it, as, from the accounts I had, it must be one of the most interesting portions of the country. It lies nearly south-west from Manila, and occupies an area of about one hundred and twenty square miles. The Volcano of Taal is situated on an island near the center of it, and is now in action. The cone which rises from its center is remarkably regular, and consists for the most part of cinders and scoria. It has been found to be nine hundred feet in elevation above the lake. The crater has a diameter of two miles, and its depth is equal to the elevation; the walls of the crater are nearly perpendicular, so much so that the descent cannot be made without the assistance of ropes. At the bottom there are two small cones. Much steam issues from the many fissures, accompanied by sulphurous acid gas. The waters of the lake are impregnated with sulphur, and there are said to be also large beds of sulphur. In the opinion of those who have visited this spot, the whole lake once formed an immense crater; and this does not appear very improbable, if we are to credit the accounts we received of the many craters on this island that are now filled with water; for instance, in the neighborhood of San Pablo there are said to be eight or nine.
[The hot springs.] The hot springs of Los Baños are numerous, and in their vicinity large quantities of steam are seen to issue from the shore of the lake. There are about a dozen which give out a copious supply of water. The principal one has been enclosed, and made to flow through a stone aqueduct, which discharges a considerable stream. The temperature of the water as it leaves the aqueduct is 178°. The villagers use it for cooking and washing; the signs of the former employment are evident enough from the quantities of feathers from the poultry that have been scalded and plucked preparatory to cooking. The baths are formed by a small circular building six feet in diameter, erected over the point of discharge for the purpose of securing a steam-bath; the temperature of these is 160° and 140°. A change of temperature is said to have occurred in the latter.
The rocks in the vicinity are all tufa, and some of the springs break out close to the cold water of the lake. Near the aqueduct, a stone wall surrounds one of the principal outlets. Two-thirds of the area thus enclosed is occupied by a pond of warm water, and the other third is divided into two stone reservoirs, built for baths. These baths had at one time a high reputation, and were a very fashionable resort for the society of Manila; but their celebrity gradually diminished, and the whole premises have gone out of repair, and are fast falling to ruin.
The water of the springs has no perceptible taste, and only a very faint smell of sulphur is perceived. No gas escapes from it, but a white incrustation covers the stones over which the water flows.
Some of these waters were obtained, and since our return were put into the hands of Dr. C. T. Jackson, of Boston, who gives the following analysis:
Specific gravity, 1.0043; thermometer 60°; barometer 30.05 in.
A quantity of the water, equal in bulk to three thousand grains of distilled water, on evaporation gave–
Dry salts, 5.95 grains.
A quantity of the water, equal in bulk to one thousand grains of distilled water, was operated on for each of the following ingredients:
Chlorine 0.66 Carbonic acid 0.16 Sulphuric acid 0.03 Soda and sodium 0.97 Magnesia 0.09 Lime 0.07 Potash traces Organic matter ,, Manganese ,, –– 1.98
[Mount Maquiling.] On Mount Maquiling, wild buffaloes, hogs, a small species of deer, and monkeys are found. Birds are also very numerous, and among them is the horn-bill; the noise made by this bird resembles a loud barking; report speaks of them as an excellent bird for the table. Our gentlemen reached their lodging-place as the night closed in, and the next day again embarked for Manila, regretting that time would not permit them to make another visit to so interesting a field of research. They found the lake so rough that they were compelled to return, and remain until eight o’clock. This, however, gave our botanists another opportunity of making collections, among which were beautiful specimens of Volkameria splendens, with elegant scarlet flowers, and a Brugmansia, which expanded its beautiful silvery flowers after sunset. On the shores a number of birds were feeding, including pelicans, with their huge bills, the diver, with its long arched neck, herons, gulls, eagles, and snow-white cranes, with ducks and other small aquatic flocks. Towards night these were joined by large bats, that were seen winging their way towards the plantations of fruit. These, with quantities of insects, gave a vivid idea of the wonderful myriads of animated things that are constantly brought into being in these tropical and luxuriant climates.
Sailing all night in a rough sea, they were much incommoded by the water, which was shipped into the banca and kept them constantly baling out: they reached the Pasig river at daylight, and again passed the duck establishments, and the numerous boats and bancas on their way to the markets of Manila.
Both the parties reached the consul’s the same day, highly pleased with their respective jaunts. To the kindness of Messrs. Sturges and Moore, we are mainly indebted for the advantages and pleasures derived from the excursions.
The instruments were now embarked, and preparations made for going to sea. Our stay at Manila had added much to our collections; we obtained many new specimens, and the officers and naturalists had been constantly and profitably occupied in their various duties.
We went on board on January 20, and were accompanied to the vessel by Messrs. Sturges and Moore, with several other residents of Manila.
We had, through the kindness of Captain Salomon, procured a native pilot for the Sulu Sea, who was to act as interpreter.
On the morning of the 21st, we took leave of our friends, and got under way. The same day, and before we had cleared the bay, we spoke the American ship Angier, which had performed the voyage from the United States in one hundred and twenty-four days, and furnished us with late and interesting news. We then, with a strong northerly wind, made all sail to the south for the Straits of Mindoro.
Sulu in 1842
On the evening of January 21, the Vincennes, with the tender in company, left Manila bay. I then sent for Mr. Knox, who commanded the latter, and gave him directions to keep closely in company with the Vincennes, and at the same time pointed out to him places of rendezvous where the vessels might again meet in case any unavoidable circumstance caused their separation. I was more particular in giving him instructions to avoid losing sight of the Vincennes, as I was aware that my proposed surveys might be impeded or frustrated altogether, were I deprived of the assistance of the vessel under his command.
[Mindoro.] On the 22nd, we passed the entrance of the Straits of San Bernardino. It would have been my most direct route to follow these straits until I had passed Mindoro, and it is I am satisfied the safest course, unless the winds are fair, for the direct passage. My object, however, was to examine the ground for the benefit of others, and the Apo Shoal, which lies about mid-channel between Palawan and Mindoro, claimed my first attention. The tender was despatched to survey it, while I proceeded in the Vincennes to examine the more immediate entrance to the Sulu Sea, off the southwest end of Mindoro.
Calavite Peak is the north point of Mindoro, and our observations made it two thousand feet high. This peak is of the shape of a dome, and appears remarkably regular when seen from its western side. On approaching Mindoro, we, as is usual, under high islands, lost the steady breeze, and the wind became light for the rest of the day. Mindoro is a beautiful island, and is evidently volcanic; it appears as if thrown up in confused masses; it is not much settled, as the more southern islands are preferred to it as a residence.
On the 23rd, we ascertained the elevation of the highest peak of the island by triangulation to be three thousand one hundred and twenty-six fet. The easternmost island of the Palawan group, Busuanga, was at the time just in sight from the deck, to the southwest.
It had been my intention to anchor at Ambolou Island; but the wind died away before we reached it, and I determined to stand off and on all night.
On the 24th, I began to experience the truth of what Captain Halcon had asserted, namely, that the existing charts were entirely worthless, and I also found that my native pilot was of no more value than they were, he had evidently passed the place before; but whether the size of the vessel, so much greater than any he had sailed in, confused him, or whether it was from his inability to understand and to make himself understood by us, he was of no use whatever, and we had the misfortune of running into shoal water, barely escaping the bottom. These dangers were usually quickly passed, and we soon found ourselves again floating in thirty or forty fathoms water.
We continued beating to windward, in hopes of being joined by the Flying-fish, and I resolved to finish the survey towards the island of Semarara. We found every thing in a different position from that assigned it by any of the charts with which we were furnished. On this subject, however, I shall not dwell, but refer those who desire particular information to the charts and Hydrographical Memoir.
Towards evening, I again ran down to the southwest point of the island of Mindoro, and sent a letter on shore to the pueblo, with directions to have it put on board the tender, when she should arrive. We then began to beat round Semarara, in order to pass over towards Panay.
The southern part of Mindoro is much higher than the northern but appears to be equally rough. It is, however, susceptible of cultivation, and there are many villages along its shores.
Semarara is moderately high, and about fifteen miles in circumference; it is inhabited, and like Mindoro much wooded. According to the native pilot, its shores are free from shoals. It was not until the next day that we succeeded in reaching Panay. I determined to pass the night off Point Potol, the north end of Panay, as I believed the sea in its neighborhood to be free of shoals, and wished to resume our running survey early in the morning.
[Panay.] At daylight on the 27th we continued the survey down the coast of Panay, and succeeded in correcting many errors in the existing charts (both English and Spanish). The channel along this side is from twelve to twenty miles wide, and suitable for beating in; little current is believed to exist; and the tides, as far as our observations went, seem to be regular and of little strength.
The island of Panay is high and broken, particularly on the south end; its shores are thickly settled and well cultivated. Indigo and sugar-cane claim much of the attention of the inhabitants. The natives are the principal cultivators. They pay to government a capitation tax of seven reals. Its population is estimated at three hundred thousand, which I think is rather short of the actual number.
On all the hills there are telegraphs of rude construction, to give information of the approach of piratical prahus from Sulu, which formerly were in the habit of making attacks upon the defenceless inhabitants and carrying them off into slavery. Of late years they have ceased these depredations, for the Spaniards have resorted to a new mode of warfare. Instead of pursuing and punishing the offenders, they now intercept all their supplies, both of necessaries and luxuries; and the fear of this has had the effect to deter pirates from their usual attacks.
We remained off San Pedro for the night, in hopes of falling in with the Flying-fish in the morning.
On the morning of the 28th, the Flying-fish was discovered plainly in sight. I immediately stood for her, fired a gun and made signal. At seven o’clock, another gun was fired, but the vessel still stood off, and was seen to make sail to the westward without paying any regard whatever to either, and being favored by a breeze while the Vincennes was becalmed, she stole off and was soon out of sight. 
After breakfast we opened the bay of Antique, on which is situated the town of San José. As this bay apparently offered anchorage for vessels bound up this coast, I determined to survey it; and for this purpose the boats were hoisted out and prepared for surveying. Lieutenant Budd was despatched to visit the pueblo called San José.
On reaching the bay, the boats were sent to different points of it, and when they were in station, the ship fired guns to furnish bases by the sound, and angles were simultaneously measured. The boats made soundings on their return to the ship, and thus completed this duty, so that in an hour or two afterwards the bay was correctly represented on paper. It offers no more than a temporary anchorage for vessels, and unless the shore is closely approached, the water is almost too deep for the purpose.
[San José.] At San José a Spanish governor resides, who presides over the two pueblos of San Pedro and San José, and does the duty also of alcalde. Lieutenant Budd did not see him, as he was absent, but his lady did the honors. Lieutenant Budd represented the pueblo as cleanly and orderly. About fifteen soldiers were seen, who compose the governor’s guard, and more were said to be stationed at San Pedro. A small fort of eight guns commands the roadstead. The beach was found to be of fine volcanic sand, composed chiefly of oxide of iron, and comminuted shells; there is here also a narrow shore reef of coral. The plain bordering the sea is covered with a dense growth of coconut trees. In the fine season the bay is secure, but we were informed that in westerly and southwesterly gales heavy seas set in, and vessels are not able to lie at anchor. Several small vessels were lying in a small river about one and a half miles to the southward of the point on which the fort is situated. The entrance to this river is very narrow and tortuous.
Panay is one of the largest islands of the group. We had an opportunity of measuring the height of some of its western peaks or highlands, none of which exceed three thousand feet. The interior and eastern side have many lofty summits, which are said to reach an altitude of seven thousand five hundred feet; but these, as we passed, were enveloped in clouds, or shut out from view by the nearer highlands. The general features of the island are like those of Luzon and Mindoro. The few specimens we obtained of its rocks consisted of the different varieties of talcose formation, with quartz and jasper. The specimens were of no great value, as they were much worn by lying on the beach.
The higher land was bare of trees, and had it not been for the numerous fertile valleys lying between the sharp and rugged spurs, it would have had a sterile appearance.
The bay of Antique is in latitude 10° 40’ N., longitude 121° 59’ 30’’ E.
It was my intention to remain for two or three days at a convenient anchorage to enable us to make short excursions into the interior; but the vexatious mismanagement of the tender now made it incumbent that I should make every possible use of the time to complete the operations connected with the hydrography of this sea; for I perceived that the duties which I intended should be performed by her, would now devolve upon the boats, and necessarily expose both officers and men to the hazard of contracting disease. I regretted giving up this design, not only on my own account and that of the Expedition, but because of the gratification it would have afforded personally to the naturalists.
The town of San José has about thirty bamboo houses, some of which are filled in with clay or mortar, and plastered over, both inside and out. Few of them are more than a single story in height. That of the governor is of the same material, and overtops the rest; it is whitewashed, and has a neat and cleanly appearance. In the vicinity of the town are several beautiful valleys, which run into the mountains from the plain that borders the bay. The landing is on a bamboo bridge, which has been erected over an extensive mud-flat, that is exposed at low water, and prevents any nearer approach of boats. This bridge is about seven hundred feet in length; and a novel plan has been adopted to preserve it from being carried away. The stems of bamboo not being sufficiently large and heavy to maintain the superstructure in the soft mud, a scaffold is constructed just under the top, which is loaded with blocks of large stone, and the outer piles are secured to anchors or rocks, with grass rope. The roadway or top is ten feet wide, covered with split bamboo, woven together, and has rails on each side, to assist the passenger. This is absolutely necessary for safety; and even with this aid, one unaccustomed to it must be possessed of no little bodily strength to pass over this smooth, slippery, and springy bridge, without accident.
Two pirogues were at anchor in the bay, and on the shore was the frame of a vessel which had evidently been a long while on the stocks, for the weeds and bushes near the keel were six or eight feet high, and a portion of the timbers were decayed. Carts and sleds drawn by buffaloes were in use, and everything gave it the appearance of a thriving village. Although I have mentioned the presence of soldiers, it was observed on landing that no guard was stationed about or even at the fort; but shortly afterwards a soldier was seen hurrying towards the latter, in the act of dressing himself in his regimentals, and another running by his side, with his cartridge-box and musket. In a little while one was passing up and down on his post, as though he was as permanent there as the fort itself.
After completing these duties, the light airs detained us the remainder of the day under Panay, in sight of the bay. On the 29th, at noon, we had been wafted by it far enough in the offing to obtain the easterly breeze, which soon became strong, with an overcast sky, and carried us rapidly on our course; my time would not permit my heaving-to. We kept on our course for Mindanao during the whole night, and were constantly engaged in sounding, with our patent lead, with from thirty to forty fathoms cast, to prevent our passing over this part of the sea entirely unexamined.
[Mindanao.] At daylight on the 31st, we had the island of Mindanao before us, but did not reach its western cape until 5 p.m. This island is high and broken, like those to the north of it, but, unlike them, its mountains are covered with forests to their very tops, and there were no distinct cones of minor dimensions, as we had observed on the others. If they do exist, they were hidden by the dense forest.
I had determined to anchor at Caldera, a small port on the south-west side of Mindanao, about ten miles distant from Zamboanga, where the governor resides. The latter is a considerable place, but the anchorage in its roadstead is said to be bad, and the currents that run through the Straits of Basilan are represented to be strong. Caldera, on the other hand, has a good, though small anchorage, which is free from the currents of the straits. It is therefore an excellent stopping-place, in case of the tide proving unfavorable. On one of its points stands a small fort, which, on our arrival, hoisted Spanish colors.
At six o’clock we came to anchor at Caldera, in seven fathoms water. There were few indications of inhabitants, except at and near the fort. An officer was despatched to the fort, to report the ship. It was found to be occupied by a few soldiers under the command of a lieutenant.
[Caldera fort.] The fort is about seventy feet square, and is built of large blocks of red coral, which evidently have not been taken from the vicinity of the place, as was stated by the officers of the fort; for although our parties wandered along the alluvial beach for two or three miles in each direction, no signs of coral were observed. Many fragments of red, gray, and purple basalt and porphyry were met with along the beach; talcose rock and slate, syenite, hornblend, quartz, both compact and slaty, with chalcedony, were found in pieces and large pebbles. Those who were engaged in dredging reported the bottom as being of coral, in from four to six or eight fathoms; but this was of a different kind from that of which the fort was constructed.
The fort was built in the year 1784, principally for protection against the Sulu pirates, who were in the habit of visiting the settlements, and carrying off the inhabitants as slaves, to obtain ransom for them. This, and others of the same description, were therefore constructed as places of refuge for the inhabitants, as well as to afford protection to vessels.
Depredations are still committed, which render it necessary to keep up a small force. One or two huts which were seen in the neighborhood of the bay, are built on posts twenty feet from the ground, and into them they ascend by ladders, which are hauled up after the occupants have entered.
These, it is said, are the sleeping-huts, and are so built for the purpose of preventing surprise at night. Before our arrival we had heard that the villages were all so constructed, but a visit to one soon showed that this was untrue. The natives seen at the village were thought to be of a decidedly lighter color and a somewhat different expression from the Malays. They were found to be very civil, and more polished in manners than our gentlemen expected. On asking for a drink of water, it was brought in a glass tumbler on a china plate. An old woman, to whom they had presented some trifles, took the trouble to meet them in another path on their return, and insisted on their accepting a basket of potatoes. Some of the houses contained several families, and many of them had no other means of entrance than a notched post stuck up to the door.
The forests of Mindanao contain a great variety of trees, some of which are of large size, rising to the height of one hundred and and one hundred and fifty feet. Some of their trunks are shaped like buttresses, similar to those before spoken of at Manila, from which they obtain broad slabs for the tops of tables. The trunks were observed to shoot up remarkably straight. Our botanical gentlemen, though pleased with the excursion, were disappointed at not being able to procure specimens from the lofty trees; and the day was less productive in this respect than they had anticipated. Large woody vines were common, which enveloped the trunks of trees in their folds, and ascending to their tops, prevented the collection of the most desirable specimens.
The paths leading to the interior were narrow and much obstructed; one fine stream was crossed. Many buffaloes were observed wallowing in the mire, and the woods swarmed with monkeys and numbers of birds, among them the horn-bills; these kept up a continued chatter, and made a variety of loud noises. The forests here are entirely different from any we had seen elsewhere; and the stories of their being the abode of large boas and poisonous snakes, make the effect still greater on those who visit them for the first time. Our parties, however, saw nothing of these reptiles, nor anything to warrant a belief that such exist. Yet the officer at the fort related to me many snake stories that seemed to have some foundation; and by inquiries made elsewhere, I learned that they were at least warranted by some facts, though probably not to the extent that he represented.
Traces of deer and wild hogs were seen, and many birds were obtained, as well as land and sea shells. Among the latter was the Malleus vulgaris, which is used as food by the natives. The soil on this part of the island is a stiff clay, and the plants it produces are mostly woody; those of an herbaceous character were scarce, and only a few orchideous epiphytes and ferns were seen. Around the dwellings in the villages were a variety of vegetables and fruits, consisting of sugar-cane, sweet-potato, gourds, pumpkins, peppers, rice, water and musk melons, all fine and of large size.
The officer at the fort was a lieutenant of infantry; one of that rank is stationed here for a month, after which he, with the garrison, consisting of three soldiers, are relieved, from Zamboanga, where the Spaniards have three companies.
[Zamboanga.] Zamboanga is a convict settlement, to which the native rogues, principally thieves, are sent. The Spanish criminals, as I have before stated in speaking of Manila, are sent to Spain.
The inhabitants of the island of Mindanao, who are under the subjection of Spain, are about ten thousand in number, of whom five or six thousand are at or in the neighborhood of Zamboanga. The original inhabitants, who dwell in the mountains and on the east coast, are said to be quite black, and are represented to be a very cruel and bad set; they have hitherto bid defiance to all attempts to subjugate them. When the Spaniards make excursions into the interior, which is seldom, they always go in large parties on account of the wild beasts, serpents, and hostile natives; nevertheless, the latter frequently attack and drive them back.
The little fort is considered as a sufficient protection for the fishermen and small vessels against the pirates, who inhabit the island of Basilan, which is in sight from Mindanao, and forms the southern side of the straits of the same name. It is said that about seven hundred inhabit it. The name of Moro is given by the Spaniards to all those who profess the Mohammedan religion, and by such all the islands to the west of Mindanao, and known under the name of the Sulu archipelago, are inhabited.
The day we spent at Caldera was employed in surveying the bay, and in obtaining observations for its geographical position, and for magnetism. The flood tide sets to the northward and westward, through the straits, and the ebb to the eastward. In the bay we found it to run two miles an hour by the log, but it must be much more rapid in the straits.
At daylight on February 1st, we got under way to stand over for the Sangboys, a small island with two sharp hills on it. One and a half miles from the bay we passed over a bank, the least water on which was ten fathoms on a sandy bottom, and on which a vessel might anchor. The wind shortly after failed us, and we drifted with the tide for some hours, in full view of the island of Mindanao, which is bold and picturesque. We had thus a good opportunity of measuring some of its mountain ranges, which we made about three thousand feet high.
In the afternoon, a light breeze came from the southwest, and before sunset I found that we were again on soundings. As soon as we had a cast of twenty fathoms, I anchored for the night, judging it much better than to be drifting about without any knowledge of the locality and currents to which we were subjected.
On the morning of the 2nd, we got under way to proceed to the westward. As the bottom was unequal, I determined to pass through the broadest channel, although it had the appearance of being the shoalest, and sent two boats ahead to sound. In this way we passed through, continuing our surveying operations, and at the same time made an attempt to dredge; but the ground was too uneven for the latter purpose, and little of value was obtained.
[Sulu.] Shortly after passing the Sangboys, we had the island of Sulu in sight, for which I now steered direct. At sunset we found ourselves within five or six miles of Soung Harbor; but there was not sufficient light to risk the dangers that might be in our course, nor wind enough to command the ship; and having no bottom where we were, I determined again to run out to sea, and anchor on the first bank I should meet. At half-past eight o’clock, we struck sounding in twenty-six fathoms, and anchored.
At daylight we determined our position by angles, and found it to correspond with part of the route we had passed over the day before, and that we were about fifteen miles from the large island of Sulu. Weighing anchor, we were shortly wafted by the westerly tide and a light air towards that beautiful island, which lay in the midst of its little archipelago; and as we were brought nearer and nearer, we came to the conclusion that in our many wanderings we had seen nothing to be compared to this enchanting spot. It appeared to be well cultivated, with gentle slopes rising here and there into eminences from one to two thousand feet high. One or two of these might be dignified with the name of mountains, and were sufficiently high to arrest the passing clouds; on the afternoon of our arrival we had a singular example in the dissipation of a thunderstorm.
Although much of the island was under cultivation, yet it had all the freshness of a forest region. The many smokes on the hills, buildings of large size, cottages, and cultivated spots, together with the moving crowds on the land, the prahus, canoes, and fishing-boats on the water gave the whole a civilized appearance. Our own vessel lay, almost without a ripple at her side, on the glassy surface of the sea, carried onwards to our destined anchorage by the flowing tide, and scarce a sound was heard except the splashing of the lead as it sought the bottom. The effect of this was destroyed in part by the knowledge that this beautiful archipelago was the abode of a cruel and barbarous race of pirates. Towards sunset we had nearly reached the bay of Soung, when we were met by the opposing tide, which frustrated all our endeavors to reach it, and I was compelled to anchor, lest we should again be swept to sea.
As soon as the night set in, fishermen’s lights were seen moving along the beach in all directions, and gliding about in canoes, while the sea was filled with myriads of phosphorescent animalcula. After watching this scene for two or three hours in the calm and still night, a storm that had been gathering reached us; but it lasted only for a short time, and cleared off after a shower, which gave the air a freshness that was delightful after the sultry heat we had experienced during the day.
The canoes of this archipelago were found to be different from any that we had heretofore seen, not only in shape, but in making use of a double outrigger, which consequently must give them additional security. The paddle also is of a different shape, and has a blade at each end, which are used alternately, thus enabling a single person to manage them with ease. These canoes are made of a single log, though some are built upon. They seldom carry more than two persons. The figure on the opposite page will give a correct idea of one of them.
We saw the fishermen engaged in trolling and using the line; but the manner of taking fish which has been heretofore described is chiefly practised. In fishing, as well as in all their other employments, the kris and spear were invariably by their side.
[Sulu harbor.] The next morning at eight o’clock we got under way, and were towed by our boats into the bay of Soung, where we anchored off the town in nine fathoms water. While in the act of doing so, and after our intentions had become too evident to admit of a doubt, the Sultan graciously sent off a message giving us permission to enter his port.
Lieutenant Budd was immediately despatched with the interpreter to call upon the Datu Mulu or governor, and to learn at what hour we could see the Sultan. When the officer reached the town, all were found asleep; and after remaining four hours waiting, the only answer he could get out of the Datu Mulu was, that he supposed that the Sultan would be awake at three o’clock, when he thought I could see him.
During this time the boats had been prepared for surveying; and after landing the naturalists, they began the work.
At the appointed time, Captain Hudson and myself went on shore to wait upon the Sultan. On our approach to the town, we found that a great proportion of it was built over the water on piles, and only connected with the shore by narrow bridges of bamboo. The style of building in Sulu does not differ materially from that of the Malays. The houses are rather larger, and they surpass the others in filth.
[Pirate craft.] We passed for some distance between the bridges to the landing, and on our way saw several piratical prahus apparently laid up. Twenty of these were counted, of about thirty tons burden, evidently built for sea-vessels, and capable of mounting one or two long guns. We landed at a small streamlet, and walked a short distance to the Datu’s house, which is of large dimensions and rudely built on piles, which raise it about six feet above the ground, and into which we were invited. The house of the Datu contains one room, part of which is screened off to form the apartment of his wife. Nearly in the center is a raised dais, eight or ten feet square, under which are stowed all his valuables, packed in chests and Chinese trunks. Upon this dais are placed mats for sleeping, with cushions, pillows, etc.; and over it is a sort of canopy, hung around with fine chintz or muslin.
The dais was occupied by the Datu, who is, next to the Sultan, the greatest man of this island. He at once came from it to receive us, and had chairs provided for us near his sanctum. After we were seated, he again retired to his lounge. The Datu is small in person, and emaciated in form, but has a quick eye and an intelligent countenance. He lives, as he told me, with all his goods around him, and they formed a collection such as I could scarcely imagine it possible to bring together in such a place. The interior put me in mind of a barn inhabited by a company of strolling players. On one side were hung up a collection of various kinds of gay dresses, here drums and gongs, there swords, lanterns, spears, muskets, and small cannon; on another side were shields, buckler, masks, saws, and wheels, with belts, bands, and long robes. The whole was a strange mixture of tragedy and farce; and the group of natives were not far removed in appearance from the supernumeraries that a Turkish tragedy might have brought together in the green-room of a theatre. A set of more cowardly-looking miscreants I never saw. They appeared ready either to trade with us, pick our pockets, or cut our throats, as an opportunity might offer.
The wife’s apartment was not remarkable for its comforts, although the Datu spoke of it with much consideration, and evidently held his better half in high estimation. He was also proud of his six children, the youngest of whom he brought out in its nurse’s arms, and exhibited with much pride and satisfaction. He particularly drew my attention to its little highly-wrought and splendidly-mounted kris, which was stuck through its girdle, as an emblem of his rank. He was in reality a fine-looking child. The kitchen was behind the house, and occupied but a small space, for they have little in the way of food that requires much preparation. The house of the Datu might justly be termed nasty.
We now learned the reason why the Sultan could not be seen; it was Friday, the Mahomedan Sabbath, and he had been at the mosque from an early hour. Lieutenant Budd had been detained, because it was not known when he would finish his prayers; and the ceremonies of the day were more important than usual, on account of its peculiar sanctity in their calendar.
[Visiting the Sultan.] Word had been sent off to the ship that the Sultan was ready to receive me, but the messenger passed us while on our way to shore. After we had been seated for a while, the Datu asked if we were ready to accompany him to see the Sultan; but intimated that no one but Captain Hudson and myself could be permitted to lay eyes on him. Being informed that we were, he at once, and in our presence, slipped on his silken trousers, and a new jacket, covered with bell-buttons; put on his slippers, strapped himself round with a long silken net sash, into which he stuck his kris, and, with umbrella in hand, said he was ready. He now led the way out of his house, leaving the motley group behind, and we took the path to the interior of the town, towards the Sultan’s. The Datu and I walked hand in hand, on a roadway about ten feet wide, with a small stream running on each side. Captain Hudson and the interpreter came next, and a guard of six trusty slaves brought up the rear.
When we reached the outskirts of the town, about half a mile from the Datu’s, we came to the Sultan’s residence, where he was prepared to receive us in state. His house is constructed in the same manner as that of the Datu, but is of larger dimensions, and the piles are rather higher. Instead of steps, we found a ladder, rudely constructed of bamboo, and very crazy. This was so steep that it was necessary to use the hands in mounting it. I understood that the ladder was always removed in the night, for the sake of security. We entered at once into the presence-chamber, where the whole divan, if such it may be called, sat in arm-chairs, occupying the half of a large round table, covered with a white cotton cloth. On the opposite side of the table, seats were placed for us. On our approach, the Sultan and all his council rose, and motioned us to our seats. When we had taken them, the part of the room behind us was literally crammed with well-armed men. A few minutes were passed in silence, during which time we had an opportunity of looking at each other, and around the hall in which we were seated. The latter was of very common workmanship, and exhibited no signs of oriental magnificence. Overhead hung a printed cotton cloth, forming a kind of tester, which covered about half of the apartment. In other places the roof and rafters were visible. A part of the house was roughly partitioned off, to the height of nine or ten feet, enclosing, as I was afterwards told, the Sultan’s sleeping apartment, and that appropriated to his wife and her attendants.
The Sultan is of middle height, spare and thin; he was dressed in a white cotton shirt, loose trousers of the same material, and slippers; he had no stockings; the bottom of his trousers was worked in scollops with blue silk, and this was the only ornament I saw about him. On his head he wore a small colored cotton handkerchief, wound into a turban, that just covered the top of his head. His eyes were bloodshot, and had an uneasy wild look, showing that he was under the effects of opium, of which they all smoke large quantities. His teeth were as black as ebony, which, with his bright cherry-colored lips,  contrasted with his swarthy skin, gave him anything but a pleasant look.
On the left hand of the Sultan sat his two sons, while his right was occupied by his councillors; just behind him, sat the carrier of his betel-nut casket. The casket was of filigree silver, about the size of a small tea-caddy, of oblong shape, and rounded at the top. It had three divisions, one for the leaf, another for the nut, and a third for the lime. Next to this official was the pipe-bearer, who did not appear to be held in such estimation as the former.
[Treaty with United States.] I opened the conversation by desiring that the Datu would explain the nature of our visit, and tell the Sultan that I had come to make the treaty which he had some time before desired to form with the United States. 
The Sultan replied that such was still his desire; upon which I told him I would draw one up for him that same day. While I was explaining to him the terms, a brass candlestick was brought in with a lighted tallow candle, of a very dark color, and rude shape, that showed but little art in the manufacture. This was placed in the center of the table, with a plate of Manila cigars. None of them, however, were offered to us, nor any kind of refreshment.
Our visit lasted nearly an hour. When we arose to take our leave, the Sultan and his divan did the same, and we made our exit with low bows on each side.
I looked upon it as a matter of daily occurrence for all those who came to the island to visit the Sultan; but the Datu Mulu took great pains to make me believe that a great favor had been granted in allowing us a sight of his ruler. On the other hand, I dwelt upon the condescension it was on my part to visit him, and I refused to admit that I was under any gratitude or obligation for the sight of His Majesty the Sultan Mohammed Damaliel Kisand, but said that he might feel grateful to me if he signed the treaty I would prepare for him.
On our return from the Sultan’s to the Datu Mulu’s house, we found even a greater crowd than before. The Datu, however, contrived to get us seats. The attraction which drew it together was to look at Mr. Agate, who was taking a sketch of Mohammed Polalu, the Sultan’s son, and next heir to the throne. I had hoped to procure one of the Sultan, but this was declared to be impossible.
The son, however, has all the characteristics of the Sulu, and the likeness was thought an excellent one. Mohammed Polalu is about twenty-three years of age, of a tall slender figure, with a long face, heavy and dull eyes, as though he was constantly under the influence of opium. So much, indeed, was he addicted to the use of this drug, even according to the Datu Mulu’s accounts, that his strength and constitution were very much impaired. As he is kept particularly under the guardianship of the Datu, the latter has a strong interest in preserving this influence over him, and seems on this account to afford him every opportunity of indulging in this deplorable habit.
During our visit, the effects of a pipe of this drug were seen upon him; for but a short time after he had reclined himself on the Datu’s couch and cushion, and taken a few whiffs, he was entirely overcome, stupid, and listless. I had never seen any one so young, bearing such evident marks of the effects of this deleterious drug. When but partially recovered from its effects he called for his betelnut, to revive him by its exciting effects. This was carefully chewed by his attendant to a proper consistency, moulded in a ball about the size of a walnut, and then slipped into the mouth of the heir apparent.
[Interior travel prohibited.] One of the requests I had made of the Sultan was, that the officers might have guides to pass over the island. This was at once said to be too dangerous to be attempted, as the datus of the interior and southern towns would in all probability attack the parties. I understood what this meant, and replied that I was quite willing to take the responsibility, and that the party should be well armed. To this the Sultan replied that he would not risk his own men. This I saw was a mere evasion, but it was difficult and would be dangerous for our gentlemen to proceed alone, and I therefore said no more. On our return to the Datu’s, I gave them permission to get as far from the beach as they could, but I was afterwards informed by them that in endeavoring to penetrate into the woods, they were always stopped by armed men. This was also the case when they approached particular parts of the town, but they were not molested as long as their rambles were confined to the beach. At the Datu’s we were treated to chocolate and negus in gilt-edged tumblers, with small stale cakes, which had been brought from Manila.
After we had sat some time I was informed that Mr. Dana missed his bowie-knife pistol, which he had for a moment laid down on a chest. I at once came to the conclusion that it had been stolen, and as the theft had occurred in the Datu’s house, I determined to hold him responsible for it, and gave him at once to understand that I should do so, informing him that the pistol must be returned before the next morning, or he must take the consequences. This threw him into some consternation, and by my manner he felt that I was serious.
Captain Hudson and myself, previous to our return on board, visited the principal parts of the town. The Chinese quarter is separated by a body of water, and has a gateway that leads to a bridge. The bridge is covered by a roof, and on each side of it are small shops, which are open in front, and thus expose the goods they contain. In the rear of the shops were the dwellings of the dealers. This sort of bazaar contained but a very scanty assortment, and the goods were of inferior quality.
We visited some blacksmith-shops, where they were manufacturing krises and spears. These shops were open sheds; the fire was made upon the ground, and two wooden cylinders, whose valves were in the bottom, served for bellows; when used, they had movable pistons, which were worked by a man on an elevated seat, and answered the purpose better than could have been expected.
The kris is a weapon in which this people take great pride; it is of various shapes and sizes, and is invariably worn from infancy to old age; they are generally wavy in their blades, and are worn in wooden scabbards, which are neatly made and highly polished.
The market was well stocked with fruit and fish. Among the former the durian seemed to predominate; this was the first time we had seen it. It has a very disagreeable odour, as if decayed, and appears to emit a sulphuretted hydrogen gas, which I observed blackened silver. Some have described this fruit as delicious, but if the smell is not enough, the taste in my opinion will convince any one of the contrary.
Mr. Brackenridge made the following list of their fruits: Durian, Artocarpus integrifolia, Melons, water and musk, Oranges, mandarin and bitter, Pineapples, Carica papaya, Mangosteen, Bread-fruit, Coco and Betelnut. The vegetables were capsicums, cucumbers, yams, sweet-potatoes, garlic, onions, edible fern-roots, and radishes of the salmon variety, but thicker and more acrid in flavor.
[A stolen granite monument.] In walking about the parts of the town we were permitted to enter, large slabs of cut granite were seen, which were presumed to be from China, where the walls of canals or streamlets are lined with it. But Dr. Pickering in his rambles discovered pieces that had been cut as if to form a monument, and remarked a difference between it and the Chinese kind. On one or two pieces he saw the mark No. 1, in black paint; the material resembled the Chelmsford granite, and it occurred to him that the stone had been cut in Boston. I did not hear of this circumstance until after we had left Sulu, and have little doubt now that the interdiction against our gentlemen visiting some parts of the town was owing to the fear they had of the discovery of this plunder. This may have been the reason why they so readily complied with my demands, in order to get rid of us as soon as possible, feeling themselves guilty, and being unprepared for defence; for, of the numerous guns mounted, few if any were serviceable.
The theft of the pistol was so barefaced an affair, that I made up my mind to insist on its restoration. At the setting of the watch in the evening, it had been our practice on board the Vincennes to fire a small brass howitzer. This frequently, in the calm evenings, produced a great reverberation, and rolled along the water to the surrounding islands with considerable noise. Instead of it, on this evening, I ordered one of the long guns to be fired, believing that the sound and reverberation alone would suffice to intimidate such robbers. One was accordingly fired in the direction of the town, which fairly shook the island, as they said, and it was not long before we saw that the rogues were fully aroused, for the clatter of gongs and voices that came over the water, and the motion of lights, convinced me that the pistol would be forthcoming in the morning. In this I was not mistaken, for at early daylight I was awakened by a special messenger from the Datu to tell me that the pistol was found, and would be brought off without delay; that he had been searching for it all night, and had at last succeeded in finding it, as well as the thief, on whom he intended to inflict the bastinado. Accordingly, in a short time the pistol was delivered on board, and every expression of friendship and good-will given, with the strongest assurances that nothing of the kind should happen again.
[Marongas island.] As our naturalists could have no opportunity of rambling over the island of Sooloo, it was thought that one of the neighbouring islands (although not so good a field) would afford them many of the same results, and that they could examine it unmolested. Accordingly, at an early hour, they were despatched in boats for that purpose, with a sufficient guard to attend them in case of necessity. The island on which they landed, Marongas, has two hills of volcanic conglomerate and vesicular lava, containing angular fragments embedded. The bottom was covered with living coral, of every variety, and of different colors; but there was nothing like a regular coral shelf, and the beach was composed of bits of coral intermixed with dead shells, both entire and comminuted. The center of the island was covered with mangrove-bushes; the hills were cones, but had no craters on them. The mangroves had grown in clusters, giving the appearance of a number of small islets. This, with the neighboring islands, were thought to be composed in a great part of coral, but it was impossible for our gentlemen to determine the fact.
The day was exceedingly hot, and the island was suffering to such a degree from drought that the leaves in many cases were curled and appeared dry. On the face of the rocky cliff they saw many swallows (hirundo esculenta) flying in and out of the caverns facing the sea; but they were not fortunate enough to find any of the edible nests, so much esteemed by Chinese epicures.
At another part of the island they heard the crowing of a cock, and discovered a small village, almost hidden by the mangroves, and built over the water. In the neighborhood were several fish-baskets set out to dry, as well as a quantity of fencing for weirs, all made of rattan. Their shape was somewhat peculiar. After a little while the native fishermen were seen approaching, who evidently had a knowledge of their visit from the first. They came near with great caution in their canoes; but after the first had spoken and reconnoitered, several others landed, exhibiting no signs of embarrassment, and soon motioned our party off. To indicate that force would be resorted to, in case of refusal, at the same time they pointed to their arms, and drew their krises. Our gentlemen took this all in good part, and, after dispensing a few trifling presents among them, began their retreat with a convenient speed, without, however, compromising their dignity.
The excursion had been profitable in the way of collections, having yielded a number of specimens of shrubs and trees, both in flower and fruit; but owing to the drought, the herbaceous plants were, for the most part, dried up. Among the latter, however, they saw a large and fine terrestrial species of Epidendrum, whose stem grew to the height of several feet, and when surmounted by its flowers reached twelve or fifteen feet high. Many of the salt-marsh plants seen in the Fijis, were also observed here. Besides the plants, some shells and a beautiful cream-colored pigeon were obtained.
During the day we were busily engaged in the survey of the harbor, and in making astronomical and magnetical observations on the beach, while some of the officers were employed purchasing curiosities, on shore, at the town, and alongside the ship. These consisted of krises, spears, shields, and shells; and the Sulus were not slow in comprehending the kind of articles we were in search of.
Few if any of the Sulus can write or read, though many talk Spanish. Their accounts are all kept by the slaves. Those who can read and write are, in consequence, highly prized. All the accounts of the Datu of Soung are kept in Dutch, by a young Malay from Tarnate, who writes a good hand, and speaks English, and whom we found exceedingly useful to us. He is the slave of the Datu, who employs him for this purpose only. He told us he was captured in a brig by the pirates of Basilan, and sold here as a slave, where he is likely to remain for life, although he says the Datu has promised to give him his freedom after ten years.
Horses, cows, and buffaloes are the beasts of burden, and a Sulu may usually be seen riding either one or the other, armed cap-a-pie, with kris, spear, and target, or shield.
They use saddles cut out of solid wood, and many ride with their stirrups so short that they bring the knees very high, and the riders look more like well-grown monkeys than mounted men. The cows and buffaloes are guided by a piece of thong, through the cartilage of the nose. By law, no swine are allowed to be kept on the island, and if they are bought, they are immediately killed. The Chinese are obliged to raise and kill their pigs very secretly, when they desire that species of food; for, notwithstanding the law and the prejudices of the inhabitants, the former continue to keep swine.
[Natives.] The inhabitants of Sulu are a tall, thin, and effeminate-looking race: I do not recollect to have seen one corpulent person among them. Their faces are peculiar for length, particularly in the lower jaw and chin, with high cheek-bones, sunken, lack-lustre eyes, and narrow foreheads. Their heads are thinly covered with hair, which appears to be kept closely cropped. I was told that they pluck out their beards, and dye their teeth black with antimony, and some file them.
Their eyebrows appear to be shaven, forming a very regular and high arch, which they esteem a great beauty.
The dress of the common people is very like that of the Chinese, with loose and full sleeves, without buttons. The materials of which it is made are grass-cloths, silks, satins, or white cotton, from China. I should judge from the appearance of their persons, that they ought to be termed, so far as ablutions go, a cleanly people. There is no outward respect or obeisance shown by the slave to his master, nor is the presence of the Datu, or even of the Sultan himself, held in any awe. All appear upon an equality, and there does not seem to be any controlling power; yet it may be at once perceived that they are suspicious and jealous of strangers.
The Sulus, although they are ready to do any thing for the sake of plunder, even to the taking of life, yet are not disposed to hoard their ill-gotten wealth, and, with all their faults, cannot be termed avaricious.
They have but few qualities to redeem their treachery, cruelty, and revengeful dispositions; and one of the principal causes of their being so predominant, or even of their existence, is their inordinate lust for power. When they possess this, it is accompanied by a haughty, consequential, and ostentatious bravery. No greater affront can be offered to a Sulu, than to underrate his dignity and official consequence. Such an insult is seldom forgiven, and never forgotten. From one who has made numerous voyages to these islands, I have obtained many of the above facts, and my own observation assures me that this view of their character is a correct one. I would, however, add another trait, which is common among them, and that is cowardice, which is obvious, in spite of their boasted prowess and daring. This trait of character is universally ascribed to them among the Spaniards in the Philippines, who ought to be well acquainted with them.
The dress of the women is not unlike that of the men in appearance. They wear close jackets of various colors when they go abroad, and the same loose breeches as the men, but over them they usually have a large wrapper (sarong), not unlike the pareu of the Polynesian islanders, which is put round them like a petticoat, or thrown over the shoulders. Their hair is drawn to the back of the head, and around the forehead it is shaven in the form of a regular arch, to correspond with the eyebrows. Those that I saw at the Sultan’s were like the Malays, and had light complexions, with very black teeth. The Datu thought them very handsome, and on our return he asked me if I had seen the Sultan’s beauties. The females of Sulu have the reputation of ruling their lords, and possess much weight in the government by the influence they exert over their husbands.
[Superiority of women.] It may be owing to this that there is little jealousy of their wives, who are said to hold their virtues in no very great estimation. In their houses they are but scantily clothed, though women of rank have always a large number of rings on their fingers, some of which are of great value, as well as earrings of fine gold. They wear no stockings, but have on Chinese slippers, or Spanish shoes. They are as capable of governing as their husbands, and in many cases more so, as they associate with the slaves, from whom they obtain some knowledge of Christendom, and of the habits and customs of other nations, which they study to imitate in every way.
The mode in which the Sulus employ their time may be exemplified by giving that of the Datu; for all, whether free or slave, endeavor to imitate the higher rank as far as is in their power. The datus seldom rise before eleven o’clock, unless they have some particular business; and the Datu Mulu complained of being sleepy in consequence of the early hour at which we had disturbed him.
On rising, they have chocolate served in gilt glassware, with some light biscuit, and sweetmeats imported from China or Manila, of which they informed me they laid in large supplies. They then lounge about their houses, transacting a little business, and playing at various games, or, in the trading season, go to the meeting of the Ruma Bechara.
At sunset they take their principal meal, consisting of stews of fish, poultry, beef, eggs, and rice, prepared somewhat after the Chinese and Spanish modes, mixed up with that of the Malay. Although Moslems, they do not forego the use of wine, and some are said to indulge in it to a great extent. After sunset, when the air has become somewhat cooled by the refreshing breezes, they sally forth attended by their retainers to take a walk, or proceed to the bazaars to purchase goods, or to sell or to barter away their articles of produce. They then pay visits to their friends, when they are in the habit of having frequent convivial parties, talking over their bargains, smoking cigars, drinking wine and liquors, tea, coffee, and chocolate, and indulging in their favorite pipe of opium. At times they are entertained with music, both vocal and instrumental, by their dependants. Of this art they appear to be very fond, and there are many musical instruments among them. A datu, indeed, would be looked upon as uneducated if he could not play on some instrument.
It is considered polite that when refreshments are handed they should be partaken of. Those offered us by the Datu were such as are usual, but every thing was stale. Of fruit they are said to be very fond, and can afford to indulge themselves in any kinds. With all these articles to cloy the appetite, only one set meal a day is taken; though the poorer classes, fishermen and laborers, partake of two.
[Government.] The government of the Sulu Archipelago is a kind of oligarchy, and the supreme authority is vested in the Sultan and the Ruma Bechara or trading council. This consists of about twenty chiefs, either datus, or their next in rank, called orangs, who are governors of towns or detached provinces. The influence of the individual chiefs depends chiefly upon the number of their retainers or slaves, and the force they can bring into their service when they require it. These are purchased from the pirates, who bring them to Sulu and its dependencies for sale. The slaves are employed in a variety of ways, as in trading prahus, in the pearl and bêche de met fisheries, and in the search after the edible birds’ nests.
A few are engaged in agriculture, and those who are at all educated are employed as clerks. These slaves are not denied the right of holding property, which they enjoy during their lives, but at their death it reverts to the master. Some of them are quite rich, and what may appear strange, the slaves of Sulu are invariably better off than the untitled freemen, who are at all times the prey of the hereditary datus, even of those who hold no official stations. By all accounts these constitute a large proportion of the population, and it being treason for any low-born freeman to injure or maltreat a datu, the latter, who are of a haughty, overbearing, and tyrannical disposition, seldom keep themselves within bounds in their treatment of their inferiors. The consequence is, the lower class of freemen are obliged to put themselves under the protection of some particular datu, which guards them from the encroachment of others. The chief to whom they thus attach themselves, is induced to treat them well, in order to retain their services, and attach them to his person, that he may, in case of need, be enabled to defend himself from depredations, and the violence of his neighbors.
Such is the absence of legal restraint, that all find it necessary to go abroad armed, and accompanied by a trusty set of followers, who are also armed. This is the case both by day and night, and, according to the Datu’s account, frequent affrays take place in the open streets, which not unfrequently end in bloodshed.
Caution is never laid aside, the only law that exists being that of force; but the weak contrive to balance the power of the strong by uniting. They have not only contentions and strife among themselves, but it was stated at Manila that the mountaineers of Sulu, who are said to be Christians, occasionally make inroads upon them. At Sulu, however, it did not appear that they were under much apprehension of these attacks. The only fear I heard expressed was by the Sultan, in my interview with him; and the cause of this, as I have already stated, was probably a desire to find an excuse for not affording us facilities to go into the interior. Within twenty years, however, the reigning sultan has been obliged to retire within his forts, in the town of Sulu, which I have before adverted to.
These people are hostile to the Sulus of the coast and towns, who take every opportunity to rob them of their cattle and property, for which the mountaineers seek retaliation when they have an opportunity. From the manner in which the Datu spoke of them, they are not much regarded. Through another source I learned that the mountaineers were Papuans, and the original inhabitants of the islands, who pay tribute to the Sultan, and have acknowledged his authority, ever since they were converted to Islamism. Before that time they were considered extremely ferocious, and whenever it was practicable they were destroyed. Others speak of an original race of Dyacks in the interior, but there is one circumstance to satisfy me that there is no confidence to be placed in this account, namely, that the island is not of sufficient extent to accommodate so numerous a population as some ascribe to it.
The forts consist of a double row of piles, filled in with coral blocks. That situated on the east side of the small stream may be said to mount a few guns, but these are altogether inefficient; and in another, on the west side, which is rather a rude embankment than a fort, there are some twelve or fifteen pieces of large calibre; but I doubt very much if they had been fired off for years, and many of the houses built upon the water would require to be pulled down before these guns could be brought to bear upon any thing on the side of the bay, supposing them to be in a good condition; a little farther to the east of the town, I was informed they had a kind of stockade, but none of us were permitted to see it.
[Population.] According to our estimates, and the information we received while at Sulu, the island itself does not contain more than thirty thousand inhabitants, of which the town of Soung may have six or seven thousand. The whole group may number about one hundred and thirty thousand. I am aware, however, that it is difficult to estimate the population of a half-civilized people, who invariably exaggerate their own strength; and visitors are likewise prone to do the same thing. The Chinese comprise about an eighth of the population of the town, and are generally of the lower class. They are constantly busy at their trades, and intent upon making money.
At Soung, business seems active, and all, slaves as well as masters, seem to engage in it. The absence of a strong government leaves all at liberty to act for themselves, and the Ruma Bechara gives unlimited freedom to trade. These circumstances promote the industry of the community, and even that of the slave, for he too, as before observed, has a life interest in what he earns.
Soung being the residence of the Sultan, as well as the grand depot for all piratical goods, is probably more of a mart than any of the surrounding towns. In the months of March and April it is visited by several Chinese junks, who remain trading until the beginning of the month of August. If delayed after that time, they can scarcely return in safety, being unable to contend with the boisterous weather and head winds that then prevail in the Chinese seas. These junks are said to come chiefly from Amoy, where the cottons, etc., best suited for the Sulus are made. Their cargoes consist of a variety of articles of Chinese manufacture and produce, such as silk, satin goods, cottons, red and checked, grass-cloth clothing, handkerchiefs, cutlery, guns, ammunition, opium, lumber, china and glass-ware, rice, sugar, oil, lard, and butter. In return for this merchandise they obtain camphor, birds’ nests, rattans, bêche de mer, pearls, and pearl-shells, coco, tortoise-shell, and wax; but there is no great quantity of these articles to be obtained, perhaps not more than two or three cargoes during the season. The trade requires great knowledge of the articles purchased, for the Chinese and Sulus are both such adepts in fraud, that great caution and circumspection are necessary.
[Customs dues.] The duties on importation are not fixed, but are changed and altered from time to time by the Ruma Bechara. The following was stated to me as the necessary payments before trade could be carried on:
A large ship, with Chinese on board, pays $2,000 A large ship, without Chinese on board, pays 1,800 Small ships 1,500 Large brig 1,000 Small brig 500 Schooners from 150 to 400
This supposes them all to have full cargoes. That a difference should be made in a vessel with or without Chinamen, seems singular; but this, I was told, arose from the circumstance that English vessels take them on board, in order to detect and prevent the impositions of the Sulus.
Vessels intending to trade at Soung should arrive before the Chinese junks, and remain as long as they stay, or even a few days later. In trading with the natives, all operations ought to be carried on for cash, or if by barter, no delivery should be made until the articles to be taken in exchange are received. In short, it is necessary to deal with them as though they were undoubted rogues, and this pleases them much more than to appear unsuspicious. Vessels that trade engage a bazaar, which they hire of the Ruma Bechara, and it is advisable to secure the good-will of the leading datus in that council by presents, and paying them more for their goods than others.
There are various other precautions necessary in dealing with this people; for they will, if possible, so act as to give rise to disputes, in which case an appeal is made to their fellows, who are sure to decide against the strangers. Those who have been engaged in this trade, advise that the prices of the goods should be fixed upon before the Sultan, and the scales of the Datu of Soung employed; for although these are quite faulty, the error is compensated by the articles received being, weighed in the same. This also secures the Datu’s good-will, by the fee (some fifty dollars) which he receives for the use of them. Thus it will be perceived that those who desire to trade with Sulu, must make up their minds to encounter many impositions, and to be continually watchful of their own interests.
Every possible precaution ought to be taken; and it will be found, the treatment will depend upon, or be according to the force or resolution that is displayed. In justice to this people it must be stated, there have been times when traders received every kindness and attention at the island of Sulu, and I heard it even said, that many vessels had gone there to refit; but during the last thirty or forty years, the reigning sultans and their subjects have become hostile to Europeans, of whom they plunder and destroy as many as they can, and this they have hitherto been allowed to do with impunity.
Although I have described the trade with Sulu as limited, yet it is capable of greater extension; and had it not been for the piratical habits of the people, the evil report of which has been so widely spread, Sulu would now have been one of the principal marts of the East. The most fertile parts of Borneo are subject to its authority. There all the richest productions of these Eastern seas grow in immense quantities, but are now left ungarnered in consequence of there being no buyers. The cost of their cultivation would be exceedingly low, and I am disposed to believe that these articles could be produced here at a lower cost than anywhere else.
Besides the trade with China, there is a very considerable one with Manila in small articles, and I found one of our countrymen engaged in this traffic, under the Spanish flag. To him I am indebted for much information that his opportunities of observation had given him.
The materials for the history of Sulu are meagre, and great doubt seems to exist in some periods of it. That which I have been able to gather is as follows:
[History.] The island of Sulu is generally believed to have been originally inhabited by Papuans, some of whom, as I have already stated, are still supposed to inhabit the mountainous part. The first intercourse had with them was by the Chinese, who went there in search of pearls. The Orang Dampuwans were the first of the Malays to form settlements on the islands; but after building towns, and making other improvements, they abandoned the islands, in consequence, it is said, of the inhabitants being a perfidious race, having previously to their departure destroyed as many of the natives as they could.
The fame of the submarine riches of this archipelago reached Banjar or Borneo, the people of which were induced to resort there, and finding it to equal their expectation, they sent a large colony, and made endeavors to win over the inhabitants, and obtain thereby the possession of their rich isle. In order to confirm the alliance, a female of Banjarmassing, of great beauty, was sent, and married to the principal chief; and from this alliance the sovereigns of Sulu claim their descent. The treaty of marriage made Sulu tributary to the Banjarmassing empire.
After the Banjars had thus obtained possession of the archipelago, the trade in its products attracted settlers from the surrounding islands, who soon contrived to displace the aborigines, and drive them to the inaccessible mountains for protection.
When the Chinese took possession of the northern parts of Borneo, under the Emperor Songtiping, about the year 1375, the daughter of that prince was married to a celebrated Arabian chief named Sheriff Alli, who visited the shores of Borneo in quest of commerce. The descendants of this marriage extended their conquests not only over the Sulu Archipelago, but over the whole of the Philippines, and rendered the former tributary to Borneo. In three reigns after this event, the sultan of Borneo proper married the daughter of a Sulu chief, and from this union came Mirhome Bongsu, who succeeding to the throne while yet a minor, his uncle acted as regent. Sulu now wished to throw off the yoke of Borneo, and through the intrigues of the regent succeeded in doing so, as well as in retaining possession of the eastern side of Borneo, from Maludu Bay on the north, to Tulusyan on the south, which has ever since been a part of the Sulu territory.
This event took place before Islamism became the prevailing religion; but which form of idolatry, the Sulus pretend, is not now known. It is, however, believed the people on the coasts were Buddhists, while those of the interior were Pagans.
The first sultan of Sulu was Kamaludin, and during his reign one Sayed Alli, a merchant, arrived at Sulu from Mecca. He was a sherif, and soon converted one-half of the islanders to his own faith. He was elected sultan on the death of Kamaludin, and reigned seven years, in the course of which he became celebrated throughout the archipelago. Dying at Sulu, a tomb was erected to him there, and the island came to be looked upon by the faithful as the Mecca of the East, and continued to be resorted to as a pilgrimage until the arrival of the Spaniards.
[Tawi Tawi.] Sayed Alli left a son called Batua, who succeeded him. The latter had two sons, named Sabudin and Nasarudin, who, on the death of their father, made war upon each other. Nasarudin, the youngest, being defeated, sought refuge on Tawi Tawi, where he established himself, and built a fort for his protection. The difficulties were finally compromised, and they agreed to reign together over Sulu. Nasarudin had two sons, called Amir and Bantilan, of whom the former was named as successor to the two brothers, and on their deaths ascended the throne. During his reign another sherif arrived from Mecca, who succeeded in converting the remainder of the population to Islamism. Bantilan and his brother Amir finally quarrelled, and the latter was driven from Sulu to seek refuge in the island of Basilan, where he became sultan.
On the arrival of the Spaniards in 1566, a kind of desultory war was waged by them upon the various islands, in the hope of conquering them and extending their religion. In these wars they succeeded in gaining temporary possession of a part of Sulu, and destroyed the tomb of Sayed Alli. The Spaniards always looked upon the conversion of the Moslems to the true Catholic faith with great interest; but in the year 1646, the sultan of Magindanao succeeded in making peace, by the terms of which the Spaniards withdrew from Sulu, and were to receive from the sultan three cargoes of rice annually as a tribute.
In 1608, the small-pox made fearful ravages, and most of the inhabitants fled from the scourge. Among these was the heir apparent, during whose absence the throne became vacant, and another was elected in his stead. This produced contention for a short time, which ended in the elected maintaining his place.
This tribute continued to be paid until the flight of Amir to Basilan, about the year 1752, where he entered into a secret correspondence with the authorities at Zamboanga, and after two years a vessel was sent from Manila, which carried him to that capital, where he was treated as a prisoner of state.
[The English treaty.] In June, 1759, an English ship, on board of which was Dalrymple, then in the service of the East India Company, arrived at Sulu on a trading voyage. Dalrymple remained at Sulu for three months, engaged in making sales and purchases. The Sultan Bantilan treated him with great kindness, and sought the interest of Dalrymple to obtain the liberation of his brother, who was now held prisoner by the Spaniards at Manila, by telling him of the distress of his brother’s wife, who had been left behind when Amir quitted the island, and had been delivered of twins, after he had been kidnapped by the Spaniards. Dalrymple entered into a pledge to restore Amir, and at the same time effected a commercial treaty between the East India Company and the Sulu chiefs. By this it was stipulated that an annual cargo should be sent to Sulu, and sold at one hundred per cent. profit, for which a return cargo should be provided for the China market, which should realize an equal profit there, after deducting all expenses. The overplus, if any, was to be carried to the credit of the Sulus. This appears to have been the first attempt made by the English to secure a regular commercial intercourse with this archipelago.
In the year 1760, a large fleet of Spanish vessels sailed from Manila, with about two thousand men, having the Sultan Amir on board, to carry on a war against Sulu.
On their arrival, they began active operations. They were repelled on all sides, and after seven days’ ineffectual attempts, they gave up their design. They returned to Manila, it is said, with a loss of half their number, and without having done any injury to the Sulus. Not discouraged with this failure, the Spaniards, about two years after, organized a still larger force, which is estimated by some accounts as high as ten thousand men. Although this failed in its attempts on the fort at Soung, the Spaniards obtained possession of Tanjong Matonda, one of the small ports on the island, where they erected a church and fort. Here they established a colony, and appointed a governor. The inhabitants upon this deserted their habitations in the neighborhood, and fled to the mountains, which, it is said, excited the mountaineers, a host of whom, with their chief, whose name was Sri Kala, determined to rush upon the Spaniards, and annihilate them. Having to contend against disciplined troops, it was not an easy task to succeed. But Sri Kala had a follower, named Sigalo, who offered to lead the host to battle against the Spaniards, and to exterminate them, or die in the attempt. The chief accepted his offer, and Sigalo, with a chosen few, marched towards the fort, leaving the rest of the mountaineers in readiness to join them at an appointed signal, and rush into the fort en masse.
[Victory over Spaniards.] Sri Kala and Sigalo, in order to lull the watchfulness of the Spaniards, took with them a young woman, of exquisite beauty, named Purmassuri. The lustful Spaniards were thus thrown off their guard, the signal was given, and the host, rushing forward, entered the fort, every Spaniard within which was slain. A few only, who were on the outside, escaped to the vessels, which set sail, and after encountering various mishaps, returned to Manila.
Some time after this the Sultan Bantilan died, and his son Alim-ud-deen was proclaimed sultan. Dalrymple did not return until 1762, with a part of the appointed cargo; but the vessel in which the larger part had been shipped, failed to arrive, from not being able to find Sulu, and went to China. Thence she proceeded to Manila, and afterwards to Sulu. The captain of the latter vessel gave a new credit to the Sulus, before they had paid for their first cargo; and on the arrival of Dalrymple the next time, he found that the small-pox had carried off a large number of the inhabitants, from which circumstance all his hopes of profit were frustrated. He then obtained for the use of the East India Company, a grant of the island of Balambangan, which lies off the north end of Borneo, forming one side of the Straits of Balabac, the western entrance to the Sulu Sea. Here he proposed to establish a trading post, and after having visited Madras, he took possession of this island in 1763.
In October, 1762, the English took Manila, where the Sultan Amir was found by Dalrymple, who engaged to reinstate him on his throne, if he would cede to the English the north end of Borneo, as well as the south end of Palawan. This he readily promised, and he was, in consequence, carried back to Sulu and reinstated; his nephew, Alim-ud-deen, readily giving place to him, and confirming the grant to the East India Company, in which the Ruma Bechara joined.
After various arrangements, the East India Company took possession of Balambangan, in the year 1773, and formed a settlement there with a view of making it an emporium of trade for Eastern commodities. Troops and stores were sent from India, and the population began to increase by settlers, both Chinese and Malays, who arrived in numbers. In the year 1775, the fort, notwithstanding all the treaties and engagements between Dalrymple and the Sultan, was surprised by the Sulus, and many of the garrison put to death. [Victory over English.] This virtually put an end to the plans of the English, although another attempt was made to re-establish the settlement by Colonel Farquhar, in 1803; but it was thought to be too expensive a post, and was accordingly abandoned in the next year. This act of the Sulus fairly established their character for perfidy, and ever since that transaction they have been looked upon as treacherous in the highest degree, and, what is singular, have been allowed to carry on their piracies quite unmolested. The taking of Balambangan has been generally imputed to the treacherous disposition and innate love of plunder among the Sulus, as well as to their fear that it would destroy the trade of Sulu by injuring all that of the archipelago. But there are strong reasons for believing that this dark deed owed its origin in part to the influence of the Spaniards and Dutch, who looked with much distrust upon the growth of the rival establishment. Such was the jealousy of the Spaniards, that the governor of the Philippines peremptorily required that Balambangan should be evacuated. The Sulus boast of the deed, and admit that they received assistance from both Zamboanga and Ternate, the two nearest Spanish and Dutch ports. These nations had great reasons to fear the establishment of a power like that of the East India Company, in a spot so favorably situated to secure the trade of the surrounding islands, possessing fine harbors, and in every way adapted to become a great commercial depot. Had it been held by the East India Company but for a few years, it must have become what Singapore is now.
The original planner of this settlement is said to have been Lord Pigot; but the merit of carrying it forward was undoubtedly due to Dalrymple, whose enterprising mind saw the advantage of the situation, and whose energy was capable of carrying the project successfully forward.
Since the capture of Balambangan, there has been no event in the history of Sulu that has made any of the reigns of the Sultans memorable, although fifteen have since ascended the throne.
Sulu has from all the accounts very much changed in its character as well as population since the arrival of the Spaniards, and the establishment of their authority in the Philippines. Before that event, some accounts state that the trade with the Chinese was of great extent, and that from four to five hundred junks arrived annually from Cambojia, with which Sulu principally traded. At that time the population is said to have equalled in density that of the thickly-settled parts of China.
The government has also undergone a change; for the Sultan, who among other Malay races is usually despotic, is here a mere cipher, and the government has become an oligarchy. This change has probably been brought about by the increase of the privileged class of Datus, all of whom were entitled to a seat in the Ruma Bechara until about the year 1810, when the great inconvenience of so large a council was felt, and it became impossible to control it without great difficulty and trouble on the part of the Sultan. The Ruma Bechara was then reduced until it contained but six of the principal Datus, who assumed the power of controlling the state. The Ruma Bechara, however, in consequence of the complaints of many powerful Datus, was enlarged; but the more powerful, and those who have the largest numerical force of slaves, still rule over its deliberations. The whole power, within the last thirty years, has been usurped by one or two Datus, who now have monopolized the little foreign trade that comes to these islands. The Sultan has the right to appoint his successor, and generally names him while living. In default of this, the choice devolves upon the Ruma Bechara, who elect by a majority.
[Piracies] From a more frequent intercourse with Europeans and the discovery of new routes through these seas, the opportunities of committing depredations have become less frequent, and the fear of detection greater. By this latter motive they are more swayed than by any thing else, and if the Sulus have ever been bold and daring robbers on the high seas, they have very much changed.
Many statements have been made and published relative to the piracies committed in these seas, which in some cases exceed, and in others fall short, of the reality. Most of the piratical establishments are under the rule, or sail under the auspices of the Sultan and Ruma Bechara of Sulu, who are more or less intimately connected with them. The share of the booty that belongs to the Sultan and Ruma Bechara is twenty-five per cent. on all captures, whilst the Datus receive a high price for the advance they make of guns and powder, and for the services of their slaves.
The following are the piratical establishments of Sulu, obtained from the most authentic sources, published as well as verbal. The first among these is the port of Soung, at which we anchored, in the island of Sulu; not so much from the number of men available here for this pursuit, as the facility of disposing of the goods. By the Spaniards they are denominated Illanun or Lanuns pirates.  There are other rendezvous on Pulo Toolyan, at Bohol, Tonho, Pilas, Tawi Tawi, Sumlout, Pantutaran, Parodasan, Palawan, and Basilan, and Tantoli on Celebes. These are the most noted, but there are many minor places, where half a dozen prahus are fitted out. Those of Sulu, and those who go under the name of the Lanuns, have prahus of larger size, and better fitted. They are from twenty to thirty tons burden, and are propelled by both sails and oars. They draw but little water, are fast sailers, and well adapted for navigating through these dangerous seas. These pirates are supposed to possess in the whole about two hundred prahus, which usually are manned with from forty to fifty pirates; the number therefore engaged in this business, may be estimated at ten thousand. They are armed with muskets, blunderbusses, krises, hatchets, and spears, and at times the vessels have one or two large guns mounted. They infest the Macassar Strait, the Celebes Sea, and the Sulu Sea. Soung is the only place where they can dispose of their plunder to advantage, and obtain the necessary outfits. It may be called the principal resort of these pirates, where well-directed measures would result in effectually suppressing the crime.
Besides the pirates of Sulu, the commerce of the eastern islands is vexed with other piratical establishments. In the neighboring seas, there are the Malay pirates, who have of late years become exceedingly troublesome. Their prahus are of much smaller size than those of Sulu, being from ten to twelve tons burden, but in proportion they are much better manned, and thus are enabled to ply with more efficiency their oars or paddles. These prahus frequent the shores of Malacca Straits, Cape Roumania, the Carimon Isles, and the neighboring straits, and at times they visit the Rhio Straits. Some of the most noted, I was informed, were fitted out from Johore, in the very neighborhood of the English authorities at Singapore; they generally have their haunts on the small islands on the coast, from which they make short cruises.
They are noted for their arrangements for preventing themselves from receiving injury, in the desperate defences that are sometimes made against them. These small prahus have usually swivels mounted, which, although not of great calibre, are capable of throwing a shot beyond the range of small-arms. It is said that they seldom attempt an attack unless the sea is calm, which enables them to approach their victims with more assurance of success, on account of the facility with which they are enabled to manage their boats. The frequent calms which occur in these seas between the land and sea breezes, afford them many opportunities of putting their villanous plans in operation; and the many inlets and islets, with which they are well acquainted, afford places of refuge and ambush, and for concealing their booty. They are generally found in small flotillas of from six to twenty prahus, and when they have succeeded in disabling a vessel at long shot, the sound of the gong is the signal for boarding, which, if successful, results in a massacre more or less bloody, according to the obstinacy of the resistance they have met with.
In the winter months, the Malacca Straits are most infested with them; and during the summer, the neighborhood of Singapore, Point Rumania, and the channels in the vicinity. In the spring, from February to May, they are engaged in procuring their supplies, in fishing, and refitting their prahus for the coming year.
[Suppression of pirates.] I have frequently heard plans proposed for the suppression of these pirates, particularly of those in the neighborhood of the settlements under British rule. The European authorities are much to blame for the quiescent manner in which they have so long borne these depredations, and many complaints are made that Englishmen, on being transplanted to India, lose that feeling of horror for deeds of blood, such as are constantly occurring at their very doors, which they would experience in England. There are, however, many difficulties to overcome before operations against the pirates can be effective. The greatest of these is the desire of the English to secure the good-will of the chiefs of the tribes by whom they are surrounded. They thus wink at their piracies on the vessels of other nations, or take no steps to alleviate the evils of slavery. Indeed the language that one hears from many intelligent men who have long resided in that part of the world is, that in no country where civilization exists does slavery exhibit so debasing a form as in her Indian possessions. Another difficulty consists in the want of minute knowledge of the coasts, inlets, and hiding-places of the pirates, and this must continue to exist until proper surveys are made. This done, it would be necessary to employ vessels that could pursue the pirates everywhere, for which purpose steamers naturally suggest themselves.
What will appear most extraordinary is, that the very princes who are enjoying the stipend for the purchase of the site whereon the English authority is established, are believed to be the most active in equipping the prahus for these piratical expeditions; yet no notice is taken of them, although it would be so easy to control them by withholding payment until they had cleared themselves from suspicion, or by establishing residents in their chief towns.
[The Bajows.] Another, and a very different race of natives who frequent the Sulu Archipelago, must not be passed by without notice. These are the Bajow divers or fishermen, to whom Sulu is indebted for procuring the submarine treasures with which her seas are stored. They are also very frequently employed in the bêche de mer or trepang fisheries among the islands to the south. The Bajows generally look upon Macassar as their principal place of resort. They were at one time believed to be derived from Johore, on the Malayan peninsula; at another, to be Buguese; but they speak the Sulu dialect, and are certainly derived from some of the neighboring islands. The name of Bajows, in their tongue, means fishermen. From all accounts, they are allowed to pursue their avocations in peace, and are not unfrequently employed by the piratical datus, and made to labor for them. They resort to their fishing-grounds in fleets of between one and two hundred sail, having their wives and children with them, and in consequence of the tyranny of the Sulus, endeavor to place themselves under the protection of the flag of Holland, by which nation this useful class of people is encouraged. The Sulu Seas are comparatively little frequented by them, as they are unable to dispose of the produce of their fisheries for want of a market, and fear the exactions of the Datus. Their prahus are about five tons each. The Bajows at some islands are stationary, but are for the most part constantly changing their ground. The Spanish authorities in the Philippines encourage them, it is said, to frequent their islands, as without them they would derive little benefit from the banks in the neighboring seas, where quantities of pearl-oysters are known to exist, which produce pearls of the finest kind. The Bajows are inoffensive and very industrious, and in faith Mahomedans.
The climate of Sulu during our short stay, though warm, was agreeable. The time of our visit was in the dry season, which lasts from October till April, and alternates with the wet one, from May till September. June and July are the windy months, when strong breezes blow from the westward. In the latter part of August and September, strong gales are felt from the south, while in December and January the winds are found to come from the northward; but light winds usually prevail from the southwest during the wet season, and from the opposite quarter, the dry, following closely the order of the monsoons in the China seas. As to the temperature, the climate is very equable, the thermometer seldom rising above 90° or falling below 70°.
Diseases are few, and those that prevail arise from the manner in which the natives live. They are from that cause an unhealthy-looking race. The small-pox has at various times raged with great violence throughout the group, and they speak of it with great dread. Few of the natives appeared to be marked with it, which may have been owing, perhaps, to their escaping this disorder for some years. Vaccination has not yet been introduced among them, nor have they practiced inoculation.
Notwithstanding Soung was once the Mecca of the East, its people have but little zeal for the Mahomedan faith. It was thought at once time that they had almost forgotten its tenets, in consequence of the neglect of all their religious abservances. The precepts which they seem to regard most are that of abstaining from swine’s flesh, and that of being circumcised. Although polygamy is not interdicted, few even of the datus have more than one wife.
Soung Road offers good anchorage; and supplies of all kinds may be had in abundance. Beef is cheap, and vegetables and fruits at all seasons plenty.
Our observations placed the town in latitude 6° 01’ N., longitude 120° 55’ 51’’ E.
Having concluded the treaty and other business that had taken me to Sulu, we took our departure for the Straits of Balabac, the western entrance into this sea, with a fine breeze to the eastward. By noon we had reached the group of Pangootaaraang, consisting of five small islands. All of these are low, covered with trees, and without lagoons. They presented a great contrast to Sulu, which was seen behind us in the distance. The absence of the swell of the ocean in sailing through this sea is striking, and gives the idea of navigating an extensive bay, on whose luxuriant islands no surf breaks. There are, however, sources of danger that incite the navigator to watchfulness and constant anxiety; the hidden shoals and reefs, and the sweep of the tide, which leave him no control over his vessel.
[Cagayan Sulu.] Through the night, which was exceedingly dark, we sounded every twenty minutes, but found no bottom; and at daylight on the 7th, we made the islands of Cagayan Sulu, in latitude 7° 03’ 30’’ N., longitude 118° 37’ E. The tide or current was passing the islands to the west-southwest, three quarters of a mile per hour; we had soundings of seventy-five fathoms. Cagayan Sulu has a pleasant appearance from the sea, and may be termed a high island. It is less covered with undergrowth and mangrove-bushes than the neighboring islands, and the reefs are comparatively small. It has fallen off in importance; and by comparing former accounts with those I received, and from its present aspect, it would seem that it has decreased both in population and products. Its caves formerly supplied a large quantity of edible birds’ nests; large numbers of cattle were to be found upon it; and its cultivation was carried on to some extent. These articles of commerce are not so much attended to at the present time, and the bêche de mer and tortoise-shell, formerly brought hither, are now carried to other places. There is a small anchorage on the west side, but we did not visit it. There are no dangers near these small islands that may not be guarded against. Our survey extended only to their size and situation, as I deemed it my duty to devote all the remainder of the time I had to spare to the Balabac Straits.
[Balabac straits.] After the night set in, we continued sounding every ten minutes, and occasionally got bottom in from thirty to seventy fathoms. At midnight, the water shoaled to twenty fathoms, when I dropped the anchor until daylight. We shortly afterwards had a change of wind, and a heavy squall passed over us.
In the morning we had no shoal ground near us, and the bank on which we had anchored was found to be of small size; it is probable that we had dropped the anchor on the shoalest place. Vessels have nothing to fear in this respect.
At 9:00 a.m. of the 8th, we made the Mangsee Islands ahead of us, and likewise Balabac to the north, and Balambagan to the south. Several sand-banks and extensive reefs were also seen between them. On seeing the ground on which we had to operate, of which the published charts give no idea whatever, I determined to proceed, and take a central position with the ship under the Mangsee Islands; but in order not to lose time, I hoisted out and dropped two boats, under Lieutenant Perry, to survey the first sand-bank we came to, which lies a few miles to the eastward of these islands, with orders to effect this duty and join me at the anchorage, or find a shelter under the lee of the islands.
At half-past two p.m. we anchored near the reef, in thirty-six fathoms water. I thought myself fortunate in getting bottom, as the reefs on closing with them seemed to indicate but little appearance of it.
The rest of the day was spent in preparing the boats for our operations. I now felt the want of the tender. Although in the absence of this vessel, great exposure was necessary to effect this survey, I found both officers and men cheerful and willing. The parties were organized,–the first to proceed to the north, towards Balabac Island, to survey the intermediate shoals and reefs, under Lieutenant Emmons and Mr. Totten; the second to the south, under Lieutenants Perry and Budd; and Mr. Hammersly for the survey of the shoals of Balambangan and Banguey, and their reefs. The examination of the Mangsee Islands, and the reefs adjacent, with the astronomical and magnetic observations, etc., devolved on myself and those who remained on board the ship.
The weather was watched with anxiety, and turned out disagreeable, heavy showers and strong winds prevailing; notwithstanding, the boats were despatched, after being as well protected against it as possible. We flattered ourselves that these extensive reefs would produce a fine harvest of shells; but, although every exertion was made in the search, we did not add as many to our collections as we anticipated. Some land-shells, however, were found that we little expected to meet with, for many of the trees were covered with them, and on cutting them down, large quantities were easily obtained. Mr. Peale shot several birds, among which was a Nicobar pigeon; some interesting plants and corals were also added. On the island a large quantity of drift-wood was found, which with that which is growing affords ample supplies of fuel for ships. No fresh water is to be had, except by digging, the island being but a few feet above high-water mark.
Although the time was somewhat unfavorable, Lieutenant Emmons and party executed their orders within the time designated, and met with no other obstructions than the inclemency of the weather. This was not, however, the case with Lieutenant Perry, who, near a small beach on the island of Balambangan, encountered some Sulus, who were disposed to attack him. The natives, no doubt, were under the impression that the boats were from some shipwrecked vessel. They were all well armed, and apparently prepared to take advantage of the party if possible; but, by the prudence and forbearance of this officer, collision was avoided, and his party saved from an attack.
[Balambangan.] The island of Balambangan was through the instrumentality of Mr. Dalrymple, as heretofore stated, obtained from the Sulus for a settlement and place of deposit, by the East India Company, who took possession of it in 1773. Its situation off the northern end of Borneo, near the fertile district of that island, its central position, and its two fine ports, offered great advantages for commerce, and for its becoming a great entrepot for the riches of this archipelago. Troops, and stores of all kinds, were sent from India; numbers of Chinese and Malays were induced to settle; and Mr. Herbert, one of the council of Bencoolen, was appointed governor. It had been supposed to be a healthy place, as the island was elevated, and therefore probably free from malaria; but in 1775 the native troops from India became much reduced from sickness, and the post consequently much weakened. This, with the absence of the cruisers from the harbor, afforded a favorable opportunity for its capture; and the wealth that it was supposed to contain created an inducement that proved too great for the hordes of marauding pirates to resist. Choosing their time, they rushed upon the sentries, put them to death, took possession of the guns, and turned them against the garrison, only a few of whom made their escape on board of a small vessel. The booty in goods and valuables was said to have been very large, amounting to nearly four hundred thousand pounds sterling.
Although Borneo offers many inducements to commercial enterprise, the policy of the Dutch Company has shut themselves out, as well as others, by interdicting communication. In consequence, except through indirect channels, there has been no information obtained of the singular and unknown inhabitants of its interior. This, however, is not long destined to be the case.
Mr. Brooke, an English gentleman of fortune, has, since our passage through these seas, from philanthropic motives, made an agreement with the rajah of Sarawack, on the northern and western side of Borneo, to cede to him the administration of that portion of the island. This arrangement it is believed the British government will confirm, in which event Sarawack will at once obtain an importance among the foreign colonies, in the Eastern seas, second only to that of Singapore.
The principal inducement that has influenced Mr. Brooke in this undertaking is the interest he feels in the benighted people of the interior, who are known under the name of Dyack, and of whom some extraordinary accounts have been given.
A few of these, which I have procured from reputable sources, I will now relate, in order that it may be seen among what kind of people this gentleman has undertaken to introduce the arts of civilization.
[The Dyacks.] The Dyacks are, by all accounts, a fine race, and much the most numerous of any inhabiting Borneo. They are almost exclusively confined to the interior, where they enjoy a fine climate, and all the spontaneous productions of the tropics. They are believed to be the aborigines of the island. The name of Dyack seems to be more particularly applied to those who live in the southern section of Borneo. To the north they are called Idaan or Tirun, and those so termed are best known to the Sulus, or the inhabitants of that part of the coast of Borneo over which the Sulus rule. In personal appearance, the Dyacks are slender, have higher foreheads than the Malays, and are a finer and much better-looking people. Their hair is long, straight, and coarse, though it is generally cropped short round the head. The females are spoken of as being fair and handsome, and many of those who have been made slaves are to be seen among the Malays.
In manners the Dyacks are described as simple and mild, yet they are characterized by some of the most uncommon and revolting customs of barbarians. Their government is very simple; the elders in each village for the most part rule; but they are said to have chiefs that do not differ from the Malay rajahs. They wear no clothing except the maro, and many of them are tattooed, with a variety of figures, over their body. They live in houses built of wood, that are generally of large size, and frequently contain as many as one hundred persons. These houses are usually built on piles, divided into compartments, and have a kind of veranda in front, which serves as a communication between the several families. The patriarch, or elder, resides in the middle. The houses are entered by ladders, and have doors, but no windows. The villages are protected by a sort of breastwork.
Although this people are to be found throughout all Borneo, and even within a few miles of the coast, yet they do not occupy any part of its shores, which are held by Malays, or Chinese settlers. There is no country more likely to interest the world than Borneo. All accounts speak of vast ruins of temples and palaces, throughout the whole extent of its interior, which the ancestors of the present inhabitants could not have constructed. The great resemblance these bear to those of China and Cambojia has led to the belief that Borneo was formerly peopled by those nations; but all traditions of the origin of these edifices have been lost; and so little is now known of the northern side of Borneo, that it would be presumption to indulge in any surmises of what may have been its state during these dark ages. Even the Bugis priests, who are the best-informed persons in the country, have no writings or traditions that bear upon the subject; and the few scattered legends of Eastern origin, can afford no proof of the occurrence of the events they commemorate in any particular locality.
The accounts of the habits of the Dyacks are discrepant. Some give them credit for being very industrious, while others again speak of them as indolent. They are certainly cultivators of the soil, and in order to obtain the articles they need, will work assiduously. Many of them are employed in collecting gold-dust, and some in the diamond mines; and they will at times be found procuring gums, rattans, etc., from their native forests for barter. They are a people of great energy of character, and perseverance in the attainment of their object, particularly when on war-parties, or engaged in hunting.
Their food consists of rice, hogs, rats, snakes, monkeys, and many kinds of vermin, with which this country abounds.
Their chief weapon is the parang or heavy knife, somewhat like the kris. It is manufactured of native iron and steel, with which the coast of the country is said to abound. They have a method of working it which renders it unnecessary for them to look to a foreign supply; the only articles of foreign hardware that they are said to desire, are razors, out of which to make their cockspurs. One thing seems strange: although asserted upon good authority, that the iron and steel of the coast are thought to be superior by foreigners, they are not to be compared with that which is found in the interior, and manufactured by the Dyacks. All the best krises used by the Malay rajahs and chiefs, are obtained from the interior. Some of these are exquisitely manufactured, and so hard that, without turning the edge, they cut ordinary wrought iron and steel.
Among their other weapons is the sumpit, a hollow tube, through which they blow poisoned arrows. The latter are of various kinds, and those used in war are dipped in the sap of what the natives term the “upo.” The effect of this poison is almost instantaneous, and destroys life in four or five minutes. Those who have seen a wound given accidentally, describe the changes that the poison occasions as plainly perceptible in its progress. Before using the arrow, its poisoned point is dipped in lime-juice to quicken it. The range of the sumpit is from fifty to sixty yards. Although the arrows are poisoned, yet it is said they sometimes eat the games they kill with them, parboiling it before it is roasted, which is thought to extract the poison. Firearms, respecting which they have much fear, have not yet been introduced among them; indeed, it is said that so easily are they intimidated by such weapons, that on hearing a report of a gun they invariably run away. Each individual in a host would be impressed with the belief that he was the one that was to be shot.
[The diwatas.] They address their prayers to the maker of the world, whom they call Dewatta, and this is all the religion they have. There are many animals and birds held by them in high veneration, and they are close observers of the flight of birds, from which they draw prognostics. There is in particular a white-headed eagle or kite, upon whose flight and cries they put great reliance, and consult them in war or on any particular expedition. For this purpose they draw numbers of them together, and feed them by scattering rice about. It is said their priests consult their entrails also on particular occasions, to endeavor to look into future events.
In the performance of their engagements and oaths, they are most scrupulous. They seem to have some idea of a future life, and that on the road to their elysium they have to pass over a long tree, which requires the assistance of all those they have slain in this world. The abode of happy spirits is supposed to be on the top of Kini Balu, one of their loftiest mountains, and the portals are guarded by a fiery serpent, who does not suffer any virgin to pass into the celestial paradise.
Polygamy does not exist among them, but they have as concubines slaves, who are captured in their wars or rather predatory expeditions. If a wife proves unfaithful to her husband, he kills several of his slaves, or inflicts upon her many blows, and a divorce may be effected by the husband paying her a certain price, and giving up her clothes and ornaments, after which he is at liberty to marry another. The women, however, exercise an extraordinary influence over the men.
[Headhunting.] But of all their peculiar traits, there is none more strange than the passion they seem to indulge for collecting human heads. These are necessary accompaniments in many transactions of their lives, particularly in their marriages, and no one can marry unless he has a certain number of heads; indeed, those who cannot obtain these are looked upon with disdain by the females. A young man wishing to wed, and making application to marry her for whom he has formed an attachment, repairs with the girl’s father to the rajah or chief, who immediately inquires respecting the number of heads he has procured, and generally decides that he ought to obtain one or two more, according to his age, and the number the girl’s father may have procured, before he can be accepted. He at once takes his canoe and some trusty followers, and departs on his bloody errand, waylaying the unsuspecting or surprising the defenceless, whose head he immediately cuts off, and then makes a hurried retreat. With this he repairs to the dwelling of his mistress, or sends intelligence of his success before him. On his arrival, he is met by a joyous group of females, who receive him with every demonstration of joy, and gladly accept his ghastly offering.
Various barbarous ceremonies now take place, among which the heads undergo inspection to ascertain if they are fresh; and, in order to prove this, none of the brain must be removed, nor must they have been submitted to smoke to destroy the smell. After these preliminaries, the family honor of the bride is supposed to be satisfied, and she is not allowed to refuse to marry. A feast is now made, and the couple are seated in the midst naked, holding the bloody heads, when handfuls of rice are thrown over them, with prayers that they may be happy and fruitful. After this, the bridegroom repairs in state to the house of the bride, where he is received at the door by one of her friends, who sprinkles him with the blood of a cock, and her with that of a hen. This completes the affair, and they are man and wife.
[Cremation.] Funerals are likewise consecrated by similar offerings, the corpse remaining in the house until a slave can be procured, by purchase or otherwise, whom they design to behead at the time the body is burnt. This is done in order that the defunct may be attended by a slave on his way to the other world or realms of bliss. After being burnt, the ashes of the deceased are gathered in an urn, and the head of the slave preserved and placed near it.
In some parts, a rajah or chief is buried with great pomp in his war habiliments, and food and his arms are placed at his side. A mound is erected over him, which is encircled with a bamboo fence, upon which a number of fresh heads are stuck, all the warriors who have been attached to him bringing them as the most acceptable offering; and subsequently these horrid offerings are renewed.
The Dyacks are found also in the Celebes island, but there, as in Borneo, they are confined to the interior. I have already mentioned that they were supposed to have been the original inhabitants of the Sulu Archipelago. The Sulus speak of the country of the Dyacks as being exceedingly fertile and capable of producing every thing. The north end of Borneo is particularly valuable, as its produce is easily transported from the interior, where much of the land is cultivated. I have obtained much more information in relation to this people, in a variety of ways, from individuals as well as from the published accounts, which are to be found at times in the Eastern prints; but as this digression has already extended to a great length, I trust that enough has been said to enable the reader to contrast it with the natives who inhabit the islands that dot the vast Pacific Ocean, and to make him look forward with interest to the developments that the philanthropic exertions of Mr. Brooke may bring to light.
Having completed our duties here, the boats were hoisted in, after despatching one to leave orders for Mr. Knox of the Flying-Fish, in a bottle tied to a flagstaff.
On the afternoon of the 12th, we got under way to proceed direct to Singapore, and passed through the channel between the reef off the Mangsee Islands, and those of Balambangan and Banguey. We found this channel clear, and all the dangers well defined.
As the principal objects of my visit were to ascertain the disposition and resources of the Sulus for trade, and to examine the straits leading into the Sulu seas, in order to facilitate the communication with China, by avoiding on the one hand the eastern route, and on the other the dangers of the Palawan Passage, it may be as well to give the result of the latter inquiry, referring those who may be more particularly interested to the Hydrographical Atlas and Memoir.
The difficulties in the Palawan Passage arising from heavy seas and fresh gales do not exist in the Sulu Sea, nor are the shoals so numerous or so dangerous. In the place of storms and rough water, smooth seas are found, and for most of the time moderate breezes, which do not subject a vessel to the wear and tear experienced in beating up against a monsoon.
The Balabac Straits may be easily reached, either from Singapore, or by beating up along the western shore of Borneo. When the straits are reached, a vessel by choosing her time may easily pass through them by daylight, even by beating when the wind is ahead. Once through, the way is clear, with the exception of a few coral lumps; the occasional occurrence of the north wind will enable a vessel to pass directly to the shores of the island of Panay. A fair wind will ordinarily prevail along the island, and, as I have already mentioned, it may be approached closely. The passage through to the eastward of Mindoro Island may be taken in preference to that on the west side through the Mindoro Strait, and thus all the reefs and shoals will be avoided. Thence, the western coast of Luzon will be followed to the north, as in the old route.
I do not think it necessary to point out any particular route through the Sulu Sea, as vessels must be guided chiefly as the winds blow, but I would generally avoid approaching the Sulu Islands, as the currents are more rapid, and set rather to the southward. Wherever there is anchorage, it would be advisable to anchor at night, as much time might thus be saved, and a knowledge of the currents or sets of the tides obtained. Perhaps it would be as well to caution those who are venturesome, that it is necessary to keep a good look-out, and those who are timid, that there does not appear to be much danger from the piratical prahus, unless a vessel gets on shore; in that case it will not be long before they will be seen collecting in the horizon in large numbers.
[Advantages of Sulu treaty.] The treaty that I made with the Sultan, if strictly enforced on the first infraction, will soon put an end to all the dangers to be apprehended from them. To conclude, I am satisfied that under ordinary circumstances, to pass through the Sulu Sea will shorten by several days the passage to Manila or Canton, and be a great saving of expense in the wear and tear of a ship and her canvass.
On the 13th, we passed near the location of the Viper Shoal, but saw nothing of it. It is, therefore, marked doubtful on the chart. As I had but little time to spare, the look-outs were doubled, and we pursued our course throughout the night, sounding as we went every fifteen minutes; but nothing met our view.
On the 14th, although we had the northeast monsoon blowing fresh, we experienced a current of twenty-two miles setting to the north. This was an unexpected result, as the currents are usually supposed to prevail in the direction of the monsoon. On the 15th. we still experienced it, though not over fifteen miles. On the 16th, we found it setting west, and as we approached the Malayan Peninsula it was found to be running southwest.
On the 18th, we made Pulo Aor and Pulo Pedang, and arriving off the Singapore Straits, I hove-to, to await daylight. In the morning at dawn, we found ourselves in close company with a Chinese junk. The 19th, until late in the afternoon, we were in the Singapore Straits, making but slow progress towards this emporium of the East. The number of native as well as foreign vessels which we passed, proved that we were approaching some great mart, and at 5:00 p.m. we dropped our anchor in Singapore Roads. Here we found the Porpoise, Oregon, and Flying-Fish, all well: the two former had arrived on January 22nd, nearly a month before, and the latter three days previously. Before concluding this chapter, I shall revert to their proceedings since our separation off the Sandwich Islands.
The instructions to the brigs have been heretofore given; but it may not be amiss to repeat here that the object in detaching them was, that they might explore the line of reefs and islands known to exist to the northward and westward of the Hawaiian Group, and thence continue their course towards the coast of Japan. Had they effected the latter object, it would have given important results in relation to the force of the currents, and the temperature of the water. It was desirable, if possible, to ascertain with certainty the existence on the coast of Japan of a current similar to the Gulf Stream, to which my attention had been particularly drawn.
The first land they made was on December 1, 1841, and was Necker Island. Birds, especially the white tern, had been seen in numbers prior to its announcement. Necker Island is apparently a mass of volcanic rocks, about three hundred feet high, and is destitute of any kind of vegetation, but covered with guano. It is surrounded by a reef, three miles from which soundings were obtained, in twenty fathoms water. The furious surf that was beating on all sides of the island, precluded all possibility of a landing being made. By the connected observations of the vessels it lies in longitude 164° 37’ W., and latitude 23° 44’ N.
The French-Frigate Shoal was seen on the 3rd; the weather proved bad, and they were unable to execute the work of examining this reef. The sea was breaking furiously upon it.
On the 7th, the Maro Reef was made in latitude 25° 24’ 29’’ N., longitude 170° 43’ 24’’ W. Bottom was found at a distance of four miles from the reef, with forty-five fathoms of line. On the 8th, they passed over the site of Neva Isle, as laid down by Arrowsmith, but no indications of land were seen.
[Arrival at Singapore.] On the 11th, Lieutenant-Commandant Ringgold determined, on account of the condition of the brigs, and the continuance of bad weather, it was impossible to keep their course to the northward and westward towards the coast of Japan; he, therefore, hauled to the southward, which was much to be regretted, and followed so very nearly in the same track as that pursued by the Vincennes, towards the China seas, that nothing new was elicited by them.
After a passage of fifty-six days from the Sandwich Islands, they dropped their anchors in Singapore on January 19, 1842, all well. Here they found the United States ship Constellation, Commodore Kearney, and the sloop of war Boston, Captain Long, forming the East India squadron.