The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al

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Public Domain Books

Chapter XIII

[Batu.] In an hour and a half after leaving Polangui we reached Batu, a village on the north-western shore of the lake of the same name. The inhabitants, particularly the women, struck me by their ugliness and want of cleanliness. Although they lived close to the lake, and drew their daily drinking water from it, they never appeared to use it for the purpose of washing. The streets of the village also were dirty and neglected; a circumstance explained, perhaps, by the fact of the priest being a native.

[The lake.] Towards the end of the rainy season, in November, the lake extends far more widely than it does in the dry, and overflows its shallow banks, especially to the south-west. A great number of water-plants grow on its borders; amongst which I particularly noticed a delicate seaweed [96], as fine as horse hair, but intertwined in such close and endless ramifications that it forms a flooring strong enough to support the largest waterfowl. I saw hundreds of them hopping about and eating the shell fish and prawns, which swarmed amidst the meshes of the net-like seaweed and fell an easy prey to their feathered enemies. The natives, too, were in the habit of catching immense quantities of the prawns with nets made for the purpose. Some they ate fresh; and some they kept till they were putrid, like old cheese, and then used them as a relish to swallow with their rice. These small shell-fish are not limited to the Lake of Batu. They are caught in shoals in both the salt and the fresh waters of the Philippine and Indian archipelagos, and, when salted and dried by the natives, form an important article of food, eaten either in soup or as a kind of potted paste. They are found in every market, and are largely exported to China. I was unable to shoot any of the waterfowl, for the tangles of the seaweed prevented my boat from getting near them.

[A neglected product.] When I revisited the same lake in February, I found its waters so greatly fallen that they had left a circular belt of shore extending all around the lake, in most places nearly a hundred feet broad. The withdrawal of the waters had compressed the tangled seaweed into a kind of matting, which, bleached by the sun, and nearly an inch thick, covered the whole of the shore, and hung suspended over the stunted bushes which, on my first visit, had been under water. I have never either seen elsewhere, or heard any one mention, a similar phenomenon. This stuff, which could be had for nothing, was excellent for rifle-stoppers and for the stuffing of birds, so I took a great quantity of it with me. This time the bird-hunting went well, too.

The native priest of Batu was full of complaints about his parishioners, who gave him no opportunities of gaining an honest penny. “I am never asked for a mass, sir; in fact, this is such a miserable hole that it is shunned by Death itself. In D., where I was for a long time coadjutor, we had our couple of burials regularly every day at three dollars a head, and as many masses at a dollar apiece as we had time to say, besides christenings and weddings, which always brought a little more grist to the mill. But here nothing takes place, and I scarcely make anything.” This stagnant state of things had induced him to turn his attention to commerce. The average native priest, of those I saw, could hardly be called a credit to his profession. Generally ignorant, often dissipated, and only superficially acquainted with his duties, the greater part of his time was given over to gambling, drinking, and other objectionable amusements. Little care was taken to preserve a properly decorous behavior, except when officiating in the church, when they read with an absurd assumption of dignity, without understanding a single word. The conventos are often full of girls and children, all of whom help themselves with their fingers out of a common dish. The worthy padre of Batu introduced a couple of pretty girls to me as his two poor sisters, whom, in spite of his poverty, he supported; but the servants about the place openly spoke of these young ladies’ babies as being the children of the priest.

[The native clergy.] The guiding principle of Spanish colonial policy–to set one class against another, and to prevent either from becoming too powerful–seems to be the motive for placing so many native incumbents in the parsonages of the Archipelago. The prudence of this proceeding, however, seems doubtful. A Spanish priest has a great deal of influence in his own immediate circle, and forms, perhaps, the only enduring link between the colony and the mother-country. The native priest is far from affording any compensation for the lack of either of these advantages. He generally is but little respected by his flock, and certainly does nothing to attach them to Spain; for he hates and envies his Spanish brethren, who leave him only the very worst appointments, and treat him with contempt.

[Nabua.] I rode from Batu to Nabua over a good road in half an hour. The country was flat, with rice-fields on both sides of the road; but, while in Batu the rice was only just planted, in Nabua it already was almost ripe. I was unable to obtain any explanation of this incongruity, and know not how to account for such a difference of climate between two hamlets situated in such close proximity to one another, and separated by no range of hills. The inhabitants of both were ugly and dirty, and were different in these respects from the Tagalogs. Nabua, a place of 10,875 inhabitants, is intersected by several small streams, whose waters, pouring down from the eastern hills, form a small lake, which empties itself into the river Bicol. Just after passing the second bridge beyond Nabua the road, inclining eastwards, wends in a straight line to Iriga, a place lying to the south-west of the volcano of the same name.

[Remontados.] I visited a small settlement of pagans situated on the slope of the volcano. The people of the plains call them indifferently Igorots, Cimarrons, Remontados, Infieles, or Montesinos. None of these names, however, with the exception of the two last, are appropriate ones. The first is derived from the term applied in the north of the Island to the mixed descendants of Chinese and Filipino parents. The word Cimarron (French, marrow) is borrowed from the American slave colonies, where it denoted negroes who escaped from slavery and lived in a state of freedom; but here it is applied to natives who prefer a wild existence to the comforts of village life, which they consider are overbalanced by the servitude and bondage which accompany them. The term Remontado explains itself, and has the same signification as Cimarron. As the difference between the two states–on account of the mildness of the climate, and the ease with which the wants of the natives are supplied–is far less than it would be in Europe, these self-constituted exiles are more frequently to be met with than might be supposed; the cause of their separation from their fellowmen sometimes being some offence against the laws, sometimes annoying debts, and sometimes a mere aversion to the duties and labors of village life. Every Filipino has an innate inclination to abandon the hamlets and retire into the solitude of the woods, or live isolated in the midst of his own fields; and it is only the village prisons and the priests–the salaries of the latter are proportionate to the number of their parishioners–that prevent him from gradually turning the pueblos into visitas, [97] and the latter into ranchos. Until a visit to other ranchos in the neighborhood corrected my first impression, I took the inhabitants of the slopes of the Iriga for cross-breeds between the low-landers and negritos. The color of their skin was not black, but a dark brown, scarcely any darker than that of Filipinos who have been much exposed to the sun; and only a few of them had woolly hair. The negritos whom I saw at Angat and Mariveles knew nothing whatever about agriculture, lived in the open air, and supported themselves upon the spontaneous products of nature; but the half-savages of the Iriga dwell in decent huts, and cultivate several vegetables and a little sugar-cane. No pure negritos, as far as I could ascertain, are to be met with in Camarines. A thickly-populated province, only sparsely dotted with lofty hills, would be ill-suited for the residence of a nomadic hunting race ignorant of agriculture.

[Iriga settlements.] The ranchos on the Iriga are very accessible, and their inhabitants carry on a friendly intercourse with the lowlanders; indeed, if they didn’t, they would have been long ago exterminated. In spite of these neighborly communications, however, they have preserved many of their own primitive manners and customs. The men go about naked with the exception of a cloth about the loins; and the women are equally unclad, some of them perhaps wearing an apron reaching from the hip to the knee. [98] In the larger ranchos the women were decently clad in the usual Filipino fashion. Their household belongings consisted of a few articles made of bamboo, a few calabashes of coconut-shell, and an earthen cooking-pot, and bows and arrows. [Poison arrows.] These latter are made very carefully, the shaft from reeds, the point from a sharp-cut bamboo, or from a palm-tree, with one to three sharp points. In pig-hunting iron-pointed poison arrows are used. [Crucifixes.] Although the Igorots are not Christians, they decorate their huts with crucifixes, which they use as talismans. If they were of no virtue, an old man remarked to me, the Spaniards would not employ them so numerously. [99] The largest rancho I visited was nominally under the charge of a captain, who, however, had little real power. At my desire he called to some naked boys idly squatting about on the trees, who required considerable persuasion before they obeyed his summons; but a few small presents–brazen earrings and combs for the women, and cigars for the men–soon put me on capital terms with them.

[Mt. Iriga.] After a vain attempt to reach the top of the Iriga volcano I started for Buhi, a place situated on the southern shore of the lake of that name. Ten minutes after leaving Iriga I reached a spot where the ground sounded hollow beneath my horse’s feet. A succession of small hillocks, about fifty feet high, bordered each side of the road; and towards the north I could perceive the huge crater of the Iriga, which, in the distance, appeared like a truncated cone. I had the curiosity to ascend one of the hillocks, which, seen from its summit, looked like the remains of some former crater, which had probably been destroyed by an earthquake and split up into these small mounds.

[Advertising.] When I got to Buhi the friendly priest had it proclaimed by sound of drum that the newly-arrived strangers wished to obtain all kinds of animals, whether of earth, of air, or of water; and that each and all would be paid for in cash. The natives, however, only brought us moths, centipedes, and other vermin, which, besides enabling them to have a good stare at the strangers, they hoped to turn into cash as extraordinary curiosities.

[A church procession.] The following day I was the spectator of a gorgeous procession. First came the Spanish flag, then the village kettle-drums, and a small troop of horsemen in short jackets and shirts flying in the wind, next a dozen musicians, and finally, as the principal figure, a man carrying a crimson silk standard. The latter individual evidently was deeply conscious of his dignified position, and his countenance eloquently expressed the quantity of palm wine he had consumed in honor of the occasion. He sat on his horse dressed out in the most absurd manner in a large cocked hat trimmed with colored paper instead of gold lace, with a woman’s cape made of paper outside his coat, and with short, tight-fitting yellow breeches and immense white stockings and shoes. Both his coat and his breeches were liberally ornamented with paper trimmings. His steed, led by a couple of cabezas, was appointed with similar trappings. After marching through all the streets of the village the procession came to a halt in front of the church.

[Papal concessions to Spain.] This festival is celebrated every year in commemoration of the concession made by the Pope to the King of Spain permitting the latter to appropriate to his own use certain revenues of the Church. The Spanish Throne consequently enjoys the right of conferring different indulgences, even for serious crimes, in the name of the Holy See. This right, which, so to speak, it acquired wholesale, it sells by retail to its customers (it formerly disposed of it to the priests) in the estanco, and together with its other monopolies, such as tobacco, brandy, lottery tickets, stamped paper, etc., all through the agency of the priests; without the assistance of whom very little business would be done. The receipts from the sale of these indulgences have always been very fluctuating. In 1819 they amounted to $15,930; in 1839 to $36,390; and in 1860 they were estimated at $58,954. In the year 1844-5 they rose to $292,115. The cause of this large increase was that indulgences were then rendered compulsory; so many being alloted to each family, with the assistance and under the superintendence of the priests and tax-collectors who received a commission of five and eight per cent on the gross amount collected. [100]

[Lake Buhi.] The Lake of Buhi (300 feet above the sea-level) presents an extremely picturesque appearance, surrounded as it is on all sides by hills fully a thousand feet high; and its western shore is formed by what still remains of the Iriga volcano. I was informed by the priests of the neighboring hamlets that the volcano, until the commencement of the seventeenth century, had been a closed cone, and that the lake did not come into existence till half of the mountain fell in, at the time of its great eruption. This statement I found confirmed in the pages of the Estado Geografico:–"On the fourth of January, 1641–a memorable day, for on that date all the known volcanoes of the Archipelago began to erupt at the same hour–a lofty hill in Camarines, inhabited by heathens, fell in, and a fine lake sprang into existence upon its site. The then inhabitants of the village of Buhi migrated to the shores of the new lake, which, on this account, was henceforward called the Lake of Buhi.”

[1628 Camarines earthquake.] Perrey, in the Mémoires de l’Académie de Dijon, mentions another outbreak which took place in Camarines in 1628: “In 1628, according to trustworthy reports, fourteen different shocks of earthquake occurred on the same day in the province of Camarines. Many buildings were thrown down, and from one large mountain which the earthquake rent asunder there issued such an immense quantity of water that the whole neighborhood was flooded, trees were torn up by the roots, and, in one hour, from the seashore all plains were covered with water (the direct distance to the shore is two and one-half leagues). [101]

[A mistranslation.] It is very strange that the text given in the footnote does not agree with A. Perrey’s translation. The former does not mention that water came out of the mountains and says just the contrary, that trees, which were torn up by the roots, took the place of the sea for one hour on the shore, so that no water could be seen.

[Unreliable authorities.] The data of the Estado Geografico are apt to create distrust as the official report on the great earthquake of 1641 describes in detail the eruptions of three volcanoes, which happened at the same time (of these two were in the South of the Archipelago and one in Northern Luzon) while Camarines is not mentioned at all. This suspicion is further strengthened by the fact that the same author (Nierembergius) whose remarks on the eruptions of 1628 in Camarines are quoted, gives in another book of his a detailed report on the events of 1641 without mentioning this province. If one considers the indifference of the friars toward such events in Nature, it is not improbable that the eruptions of 1641 when a mountain fell in in Northern Luzon and a lake took its place, has been transferred on the Iriga. To illustrate the indifference it may be mentioned that even the padres living at the foot of the Albay could not agree upon the dates of its very last eruptions.

[Another attempt at mountain climbing.] When I was at Tambong, a small hamlet on the shore of the lake belonging to the parochial district of Buhi, I made a second unsuccessful attempt to reach the highest point of the Iriga. We arrived in the evening at the southern point of the crater’s edge (1,041 meters above the level of the sea by my barometrical observation), where a deep defile prevented our further progress. Here the Igorots abandoned me, and the low-landers refused to bivouac in order to pursue the journey on the following day; so I was obliged to return. Late in the evening, after passing through a coco plantation, we reached the foot of the mountain and found shelter from a tempest with a kind old woman; to whom my servants lied so shamelessly that, when the rain had abated, we were, in spite of our failure, conducted with torches to Tambong, where we found the palm-grove round the little hamlet magically illuminated with bright bonfires of dry coconut-leaves in honor of the Conquistadores del Iriga; and where I was obliged to remain for the night, as the people were too timorous or too lazy to cross the rough water of the lake.

[Pineapple fiber preparations.] Here I saw them preparing the fiber of the pine-apple for weaving. The fruit of the plants selected for this purpose is generally removed early; a process which causes the leaves to increase considerably both in length and in breadth. A woman places a board on the ground, and upon it a pine-apple-leaf with the hollow side upwards. Sitting at one end of the board, she holds the leaf firmly with her toes, and scrapes its outersurface with a potsherd; not with the sharp fractured edge but with the blunt side of the rim; and thus the leaf is reduced to rags. In this manner a stratum of coarse longitudinal fiber is disclosed, and the operator, placing her thumb-nail beneath it, lifts it up, and draws it away in a compact strip; after which she scrapes again until a second fine layer of fiber is laid bare. Then, turning the leaf round, she scrapes its back, which now lies upwards, down to the layer of fiber, which she seizes with her hand and draws at once, to its full length, away from the back of the leaf. When the fiber has been washed, it is dried in the sun. It is afterwards combed, with a suitable comb, like women’s hair, sorted into four classes, tied together, and treated like the fiber of the lupi. In this crude manner are obtained the threads for the celebrated web nipis de [Piña.] Piña, which is considered by experts the finest in the world. Two shirts of this kind are in the Berlin Ethnographical Museum (Nos. 291 and 292). Better woven samples are in the Gewerbe Museum of Trade and Commerce. In the Philippines, where the fineness of the work is best understood and appreciated, richly-embroidered costumes of this description have fetched more than $1,400 each. [102]

[Rain prevents another ascent.] At Buhi, which is not sufficiently sheltered towards the north-east, it rained almost as much as at Daraga. I had found out from the Igorots that a path could be forced through the tall canes up to the summit; but the continual rain prevented me; so I resolved to cross the Malinao, returning along the coast to my quarters, and then, freshly equipped, descend the river Bicol as far as Naga.

[Mountaineers’ arrow poison.] Before we parted the Igorots prepared for me some arrow poison from the bark of two trees. I happened to see neither the leaves nor the blossoms, but only the bark. A piece of bark was beaten to pieces, pressed dry, wetted, and again pressed. This was done with the bare hand, which, however, sustained no injury. The juice thus extracted looked like pea-soup, and was warmed in an earthen vessel over a slow fire. During the process it coagulated at the edges; and the coagulated mass was again dissolved, by stirring it into the boiling fluid mass. When this had reached the consistency of syrup, a small quantity was scraped off the inner surface of a second piece of bark, and its juice squeezed into the vessel. This juice was a dark brown color. When the mass had attained the consistency of a thin jelly, it was scraped out of the pot with a chip and preserved on a leaf sprinkled with ashes. For poisoning an arrow they use a piece of the size of a hazel-nut, which, after being warmed, is distributed uniformly over the broad iron point; and the poisoned arrow serves for repeated use.

[Sapa river.] At the end of November I left the beautiful lake of Buhi, and proceeded from its eastern angle for a short distance up the little river Sapa [103], the alluvial deposits of which form a considerable feature in the configuration of the lake. Across a marshy meadow we reached the base of the Malinao or Buhi mountain, the slippery clay of the lower slope merging higher up into volcanic sand. [Leeches.] The damp undergrowth swarmed with small leeches; I never before met with them in such numbers. These little animals, no stouter when streched out than a linen thread, are extraordinarily active. They attach themselves firmly to every part of the body, penetrating even into the nose, the ears, and the eyelids, where, if, they remain unobserved, they gorge themselves to such excess that they become as round as balls and look like small cherries. While they are sucking no pain is felt; but afterwards the spots attacked often itch the whole day long. [104] [Fig-trees.] In one place the wood consisted for the most part of fig-trees, with bunches of fruit quite six feet in length hanging from the stems and the thicker branches; and between the trees grew ferns, aroids, and orchids. After nearly six hours’ toil we reached the pass (841 meters above the sea level), and descended the eastern slope. The forest on the eastern side of the mountain is still more magnificent than that on the west. From a clearing we obtained a fine view of the sea, the Island of Catanduanes, and the plain of Tabaco. [Prison as hotel.] At sunset we reached Tibi, where I quartered myself in the prison. This, a tolerably clean place, enclosed with strong bamboos, was the most habitable part of a long shed which supplied the place of the tribunal destroyed in a storm two years before. At Tibi I had an opportunity of sketching Mount Malinao (called also Buhi and Takit), which from this side has the appearance of a large volcano with a distinct crater. From the lake of Buhi it is not so clearly distinguishable.

[Igabo hot spring.] Not far from Tibi, exactly north-east of Malinao, we found a small hot spring called Igabo. In the middle of a plot of turf encircled by trees was a bare spot of oval form, nearly a hundred paces long and seventy wide. The whole space was covered with stones, rounded by attrition, as large as a man’s head and larger. Here and there hot water bubbled out of the ground and discharged into a little brook; beside it some women were engaged in cooking their food, which they suspended in nets in the hottest parts of the water. On the lower surfaces of some of the stones a little sulphur was sublimated; of alum hardly a trace was perceptible. In a cavity some caolin had accumulated, and was used as a stain.

[Naglegbeng silicious springs.] From here I visited the stalactite springs, not far distant, of Naglegbeng. [105] I had expected to see a calcareous fountain, but found the most magnificent masses of silica of infinite variety of form; shallow cones with cylindrical summits, pyramidal flights of steps, round basins with ribbed margins, and ponds of boiling water. One spot, denuded of trees, from two to three hundred paces in breadth and about five hundred in length, was, with the exception of a few places overgrown with turf, covered with a crust of silicious dross, which here and there formed large connected areas, but was generally broken up into flaky plates by the vertical springs which pierced it. In numerous localities boiling hot mineral water containing silica was forcing itself out of the ground, spreading itself over the surface and depositing a crust, the thickness of which depended on its distance from the center point. In this manner, in the course of time, a very flat cone is formed, with a basin of boiling water in the middle. The continuous deposit of dross contracts the channel, and a less quantity of water overflows, while that close to the edge of the basin evaporates and deposits a quantity of fine silicious earth; whence the upper portion of the cone not only is steeper than its base, but frequently assumes a more cylindrical form, the external surface of which on account of the want of uniformity in the overflow, is ribbed in the form of stalactites. When the channel becomes so much obstructed that the efflux is less than the evaporation, the water ceases to flow over the edge, and the mineral dross, during the continual cooling of the water, is then deposited, with the greatest uniformity, over the inner area of the basin. When, however, the surface of the water sinks, this formation ceases at the upper portion of the basin; the interior wall thickens; and, if the channel be completely stopped up and all the water evaporated, there remains a bell-shaped basin as even as if excavated by the hand of man. The water now seeks a fresh outlet, and bursts forth where it meets with the least obstruction, without destroying the beautiful cone it has already erected. Many such examples exist. In the largest cones, however, the vapors generated acquire such power that, when the outlet is completely stopped up, they break up the overlying crust in concentrically radiating flakes; and the water, issuing anew copiously from the center, deposits a fresh crust, which again, by the process we have just described is broken up into a superimposed layer of flakes. In this manner are formed annular layers, which in turn are gradually covered by fresh deposits from the overflowing water. After the pyramid of layers is complete and the outlet stopped up, the water sometimes breaks forth on the slope of the same cone; a second cone is then formed near the first, on the same base. In the vicinity of the silicious springs are seen deposits of white, yellow, red, and bluish-grey clays, overlaying one another in narrow strata-like variegated marl, manifestly the disintegrated produce of volcanic rocks transported hither by rain and stained with oxide of iron. These clays perhaps come from the same rocks from the disintegration of which the silicious earth has been formed. Similar examples occur in Iceland and in New Zealand; but the products of the springs of Tibi are more varied, finer, and more beautiful than those of the Iceland Geysers.

[A world wonder.] The wonderful conformations of the red cone are indeed astonishing, and hardly to be paralleled in any other quarter of the world. [106]


Preface  •  Chapter I  •  Chapter II  •  Chapter III  •  Chapter IV  •  Chapter V  •  Chapter VI  •  Chapter VII  •  Chapter VIII  •  Chapter IX  •  Chapter X  •  Chapter XI  •  Chapter XII  •  Chapter XIII  •  Chapter XIV  •  Chapter XV  •  Chapter XVI  •  Chapter XVII  •  Chapter XVIII  •  Chapter XIX  •  Chapter XX  •  Chapter XXI  •  Chapter XXII  •  Chapter XXIII  •  Chapter XXIV  •  Chapter XXV  •  Chapter XXVI  •  Chapter XXVII