The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al

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Public Domain Books

Chapter V

[The familiar field for travellers.] The environs of Manila, the Pasig, and the Lagoon of Bay, which are visited by every fresh arrival in the colony, have been so often described that I have restricted myself to a few short notes upon these parts of the country, and intend to relate in detail only my excursions into the south-eastern provinces of Luzon, Camarines, and Albay, and the islands which lie to the east of them, Samar and Leyte. Before doing this, however, it will not be out of place to glance at the map and give some slight description of their geographical conditions.

[Archipelago’s great extent.] The Philippine Archipelago lies between Borneo and Formosa, and separates the northern Pacific Ocean from the China Sea. It covers fourteen and one-half degrees of latitude, and extends from the Sulu Islands in the south, in the fifth parallel of north latitude, to the Babuyans in the north in latitude 19 30’. If, however, the Bashee or Batanes Islands be included, its area may be said to extend to the twenty-first parallel of north latitude. But neither southwards or northwards does Spanish rule extend to these extreme limits, nor, in fact, does it always reach the far interior of the larger islands. From the eastern to the western extremity of the Philippines the distance is about nine degrees of longitude. Two islands, Luzon, with an area of two thousand, and Mindanao, with one of more than one thousand five hundred square miles, are together larger than all the rest. The seven next largest islands are Palawan, Samar, Panay, Mindoro, Leyte, Negros, and Cebu; of which the first measures about two hundred and fifty, and the last about one hundred square miles. Then come Bohol and Masbate, each about half the size of Cebu; twenty smaller islands, still of some importance; and numerous tiny islets, rocks, and reefs.

[Favored by position and conditions.] The Philippines are extremely favored by their position and conditions. Their extension from north to south, over 16 of latitude, obtains for them a variety of climate which the Dutch Indies, whose largest diameter, their extent in latitude north and south of the equator being but trifling, runs from the east to the west, by no means enjoy. The advantages accruing from their neighborhood to the equator are added to those acquired from the natural variety of their climate; and the produce of both the torrid and temperate zones, the palm-tree and the fir, the pine-apple, the corn ear and the potato, flourish side by side upon their shores.

[Harbors and water highways.] The larger islands contain vast inland seas, considerable navigable rivers, and many creeks running far into the interior; they are rich, too, in safe harbors and countless natural ports of refuge for ships in distress. Another attribute which, though not to be realized by a glance at the map, is yet one of the most fortunate the Islands possess, is the countless number of small streams which pour down from the inland hills, and open out, ere they reach the ocean, into broad estuaries; up these watercourses coasting vessels of shallow draught can sail to the very foot of the mountains and take in their cargo. [Soil and sea alike productive.] The fertility of the soil is unsurpassed; both the sea around the coasts and the inland lakes swarm with fish and shell-fish, while in the whole archipelago there is scarcely a wild beast to be found. It seems that only two civets happen to appear: Miro (paradoxurus philippinensis Tem.) and galong (viverra tangalunga Gray). Luzon surpasses all the other islands, not only in size, but in importance; and its fertility and other natural superiority well entitle it to be called, as it is by Crawfurd, “the most beautiful spot in the tropics.”

[Luzon.] The mainland of the isle of Luzon stretches itself in a compact long quadrangle, twenty-five miles broad, from 18 40’ north latitude to the Bay of Manila (14 30’); and then projects, amid large lakes and deep creeks, a rugged promontory to the east, joined to the main continent by but two narrow isthmuses which stretch east and west of the large inland Lagoon of Bay. Many traces of recent upheavals betoken that the two portions were once separated and formed two distinct islands. The large eastern promontory, well-nigh as long as the northern portion, is nearly cut in half by two deep bays, which, starting from opposite points on the south-eastern and north-western coasts, almost merge their waters in the center of the peninsula; the Bay of Ragay, and the Bay of Sogod. In fact, the southern portion of Luzon may be better described as two small peninsulas lying next to one another in parallel positions, and joined together by a narrow neck of land scarcely three miles broad. Two small streams which rise nearly in the same spot and pour themselves into the two opposite gulfs, make the separation almost complete, and form at the same time the boundary between the province of Tayabas on the west, and that of Camarines on the east. The western portion, indeed, consists almost entirely of the first-named district, and the eastern is divided into the provinces of North Camarines, South Camarines, and Albay. The first of these three is divided from Tayabas by the boundary already mentioned, and from South Camarines by a line drawn from the southern shore of the Bay of San Miguel on the north to the opposite coast. The eastern extremity of the peninsula forms the province of Albay; separated from South Camarines by a line which runs from Donzol, on the south coast, northwards across the volcano of Mayon, and which then, inclining to the west, reaches the northern shore. A look at the map will make these explanations clearer.

[The monsoons.] There are two seasons in the Philippines, the wet and the dry. The south-west monsoon brings the rainy season, at the time of our summer, to the provinces which lie exposed to the south and west winds. On the northern and eastern coasts the heaviest downpours take place (in our winter months) during the north-eastern monsoons. The ruggedness of the country and its numerous mountains cause, in certain districts, many variations in these normal meteorological conditions. The dry season lasts in Manila from November till June (duration of the north-east monsoon); rain prevails during the remaining months (duration of the south-west monsoon). The heaviest rainfall occurs in September; March and April are frequently free from rain. From October to February inclusively the weather is cool and dry (prevalence of N.W., N., and N.E. winds); March, April, and May are warm and dry (prevalence of E.N.E., E., and E.S.E. winds); and from June till the end of September it is humid and moderately warm.

There has been an observatory for many years past in Manila under the management of the Jesuits. The following is an epitome of the yearly meteorological report for 1867, for which I am indebted to Professor Dove:

Barometrical readings.–The average height of the mercury was, in 1867, 755.5; in 1865, 754.57; and in 1866, 753.37 millimeters.

In 1867 the difference between the highest and lowest barometrical readings was not more than 13.96 millimetres, and would have been much less if the mercury had not been much depressed by storms in July and September. The hourly variations amounted to very few millimeters.

Daily reading of the barometer.–The mercury rises in the early morning till about 9 a.m., it then falls up to 3 or 4 p.m., from then it rises again till 9 p.m., and then again falls till towards day-break. Both the principal atmospheric currents prevalent in Manila exercise a great influence over the mercury in the barometer; the northern current causes it to rise (to an average height of 756 millimeters), the southern causes it to fall (to about 753 millimeters).

Temperature.–The heat increases from January till the end of May, and then decreases till December. Average yearly temperature, 27.9 C. The highest temperature ever recorded (on the 15th of April at 3 p.m.) was 37.7 C.; the lowest (on the 14th of December and on the 30th of January at 6 a.m.), 19.4 C. Difference, 18.3 C. [59]

Thermometrical variations.–The differences between the highest and lowest readings of the thermometer were, in January, 13.9; in February, 14.2; in March, 15; in April, 14.6; in May, 11.1; in June, 9.9; in July, 9; in August, 9; in September, 10; in October, 11.9; in November, 11.8; and in December, 11.7.

Coolest months.–November, December and January, with northerly winds.

Hottest months.–April and May. Their high temperature is caused by the change of monsoon from the north-east to the south-west. The state of the temperature is most normal from June to September; the variations are least marked during this period owing to the uninterrupted rainfall and the clouded atmosphere.

Daily variations of the thermometer.–The coolest portion of the day is from 6 to 7 a.m.; the heat gradually increases, reaches its maximum about 2 or 3 p.m., and then again gradually decreases. During some hours of the night the temperature remains unchanged, but towards morning it falls rapidly.

[Winds.] The direction of the wind is very regular at all seasons of the year, even when local causes make it vary a little. In the course of a twelvemonth the wind goes around the whole compass. In January and February north winds prevail; in March and April they blow from the south-east; and in May, June, July, August, and September, from the south-west. In the beginning of October they vary between south-east and south-west, and settle down towards the close of the month in the north-east, in which quarter they remain tolerably fixed during the two following months. The two changes of monsoon always take place in April and May, and in October. As a rule, the direction of both monsoons preserves its equilibrium; but in Manila, which is protected towards the north by a high range of hills, the north-east monsoon is often diverted to the south-east and north-west. The same cause gives greater force to the south-west wind.

[Sunshine and rain.] The sky is generally partially clouded; entirely sunny days are of rare occurrence, in fact, they only occur from January to April during the north-east monsoons. Number of rainy days in the year, 168. The most continuous and heaviest rain falls from June till the end of October. During this period the rain comes down in torrents; in September alone the rainfall amounted to 1.5 meters, nearly as much as falls in Berlin in the course of the whole year, 3,072.8 millimeters of rain fell in the twelve month; but this is rather more than the average.

The evaporation only amounted to 2,307.3 millimeters; in ordinary years it is generally about equal to the downfall, taking the early averages, not those of single months.

The average daily evaporation was about 6.3 millimeters.

[Storms.] The changes of monsoons are often accompanied with tremendous storms; during one of these, which occurred in September, the velocity of the wind was as much as thirty-seven or thirty-eight meters per second. An official report of the English vice-consul mentions a typhoon which visited the Islands on September 27, 1865, and which did much damage at Manila, driving seventeen vessels ashore.


[Provinces and districts.] The Philippines are divided into provinces (P), and districts (D), each of which is administered by an alcalde of the 1st (A1), 2nd (A2), or 3rd class (A3) (de termino, de ascenso, de entrada); by a political and military governor (G), or by a commandant (C). In some provinces an alcalde of the 3rd class is appointed as coadjutor to the governor. These divisions are frequently changed.

[Population.] The population is estimated approximately at about five millions.

[Language and dialects.] In spite of the long possessions of the Islands by the Spaniards their language has scarcely acquired any footing there. A great diversity of languages and dialects prevails; amongst them the Bisayan, Tagalog, Ilocano, Bicol, Pangasinan, and Pampangan are the most important.

[Luzon Provinces and their languages and populations.]

Island of Luzon

Rank of Rank of Name Prevailing Population Pueblos Official District Dialect

G.          P.          Abra            Ilocano         34,337        5
A1.         P.          Albay           Bicol          330,121       34
A2.         P.          Bataan          Tagalog,
                                        Pampangan       44,794       10
A1.         P.          Batangas        Tagalog        280,100
            D.          Benguet         Igorot,
                                        Pangasinan       8,465
            D.          Bontoc          Suflin,
                                        Igorot           7,052
A1.         P.          Bulacan         Tagalog        240,341       23
A1.         P.          Cagayan         Ibanag,
                                        Malaneg         64,437       16
A2.         P.          Camarines Norte Tagalog,
                                        Bicol           25,372        7
A2(?)       P.          Camarines Sur   Bicol           81,047       31
A3.         P.          Cavite          Spanish,
                                        Tagalog        109,501       17
A1.         P.          Ilocos Norte    Ilocano,
                                        Tinguian       134,767       12
A1.         P.          Ilocos Sur      Ilocano        105,251       18
C.          D.          Infanta         Tagalog          7,813        2
G.          P.          Isabela         Ibanag,
                                        Tagalog         29,200        9
A1.         P.          Laguna          Tagalog,
                                        Spanish        121,251       25
            D.          Lepanto         Igorot,
                                        Ilocano          8,851       48
3A1.        P.          Manila          Tagalog,
                                        Chinese        323,683       23
C.          D.          Morong          Tagalog         44,239       12
A2.         P.          Nueva Ecija     Tagalog,
                                        Ilocano         84,520       12
A3.         P.          Nueva Vizcaya   Gaddan,
                                        Ilongote        32,961        8
A1.         P.          Pampanga        Pampangan,
                                        Ilocano        193,423       24
A1.         P.          Pangasinan      Pangasinan,
                                        Ilocano        253,472       25
            D.          Porac           Pampangan        6,950        1
C.          D.          Principe        Tagalog,
                                        Ilongote         3,609        3
            D.          Saltan          Gaddan           6,540
A2.         P.          Tayabas         Tagalog,
                                        Bicol           93,918       17
            D.          Tiagan          Different
                                        dialects         5,723
G.          P.          Union           Ilocano         88,024       11
A2.         P.          Zambales        Zambal,
                                        Pangasinan      72,936       16


Islands between Luzon and Mindanao

G a3.       P.          Antique (Panay) Bisayan         88,874       13
G a3.       P.          Bohol           Bisayan        187,327       26
            C.          Burias          Bicol            1,786        1
G a3.       P.          Capiz (Panay)   Bisayan        206,288       26
G a2.       P.          Cebu            Bisayan        318,715       44
G a3.       P.          Iloilo (Panay)  Bisayan        565,500       35
G a3.       P.          Leyte           Bisayan        170,591       28
            D.          Masbate, Ticao  Bisayan         12,457        9
A2.         P.          Mindoro         Tagalog         23,050       10
G a3.       P.          Negros          Cebuan,
                                        Bisayan        144,923       31
            D.          Romblon         Bisayan         21,579        4
G a3.       P.          Samar           Bisayan        146,539       28


            D.          Cotabato        Spanish,
                                        Manobo           1,103        1
G a3.       D.          Misamis (J)     Bisayan         63,639       14
G a3.       D.          Surigao (J)                     24,104       12
            D.          Zamboanga (J)   Mandaya,
                                        Spanish          9,608        2
G a3.       D.          Davao           Bisayan          1,537

[Outlying Islands.]

Distant Islands

G a3. P. Batanes Ibanag 8,381 6 G a3. P. Calamianes Coyuvo, Agutaino Calamiano 17,703 5 G. P. Marianas Chamorro, Carolino 5,940 6

[Unreliability of government reports.] The statistics of the above table are taken from a small work, by Sr. [Vicente] Barrantes, the Secretary-General of the Philippines; but I have arranged them differently to render them more easily intelligible to the eye. Although Sr. Barrantes had the best official materials at his disposal, too much value must not be attributed to his figures, for the sources from which he drew them are tainted with errors to an extent that can hardly be realized in Europe. For example, he derives the following contradictory statements from his official sources:–The population of Cavite is set down as 115,300 and 65,225; that of Mindoro as 45,630, and 23,054; that of Manila as 230,443, and 323,683; and that of Capiz as 788,947, and 191,818.


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