Chapter 4d

Bamboo Icon

April 17, 2022

Bamboos with luxuriant leafy tops grow plentifully by the huts in the rice-fields which fringe the banks of the river.

The bamboo possesses, in proportion to its lightness, an extraordinary strength ;

  • Boyle, in his “ Adventures among the Dyaks,” mentions that he actually found pneumatic tinder-boxes, made of bamboo, in use among the Dyaks; Bastian met with them in Burma. Boyle saw a Dyak place some tinder on a broken piece of earthenware, holding it steady with his thumb while he struck it a sharp blow with a piece of bamboo. The tinder took fire. Wallace observed the same method of striking a light in Ternate,

the result of its round shape, and the regularity of the joints in its stem. The parallel position and toughness of its fibres render it easy to split, and when split its pieces are of extraordinary pliability and elasticity.

It gets its durability from the gravelly soil on which it grows. Its firm, even, and always clean surface, the brilliancy and colour of which improve by use.

And finally, it is a great thing for a population with such limited means of conveyance that the bamboo is to be found in such abundance in all kinds of localities and of all dimensions, from a few millimetres to ten or fifteen centimetres in diameter, even sometimes to twice this amount.

It can floating power, it is pre-eminently fitted for locomotion in a country poor in roads but rich in watercourses.

A blow with a pruning-knife is generally enough to cut down a strong stem. If the thin joints are taken away, hollow stems of different thicknesses can be slid into one another like the parts of a telescope. From bamboos split in half, gutters, troughs, and roofing tiles can be made. Split into several laths, which can be again divided into small strips and fibres for the manufacture of baskets, ropes, mats, and fine plaiting work, they can be made into frames and stands.

Two cuts in the same place make a round hole through which a stem of corresponding diameter can be firmly introduced (a). If a similar opening is made in a second upright, the horizontal stem can be run through both (6). Gates, closing perpendicularly or horizontally in frames moving without friction on a perpendicular or horizontal axis, can be made in this way.

Two deep cuts give an angular shape to the stem (c); and when its two sides are wide enough apart to admit of a crossstem being placed between them, they can be employed as roof. ridges (d), or for the framework of tables and chairs; (e), a quantity of flat split pieces of bamboo being fastened on top of them with chair-cane. These split pieces then form the seats of the chairs and the tops of the tables, instead of the boards and large bamboo laths (f) used at other times. It is equally easy to make an oblong opening in a large bamboo in which to fit the laths of a stand (9).

A couple of cuts are almost enough to make a fork, a pair of tongs (h), or a hook (i).

If one makes a hole as big as the end of one’s finger in a large bamboo close under a joint, one obtains by fastening a small piece of cloth to the open end, a syphon or a filter (k).

If a piece of bamboo is split down to the joint in strips, and the strips be bound together with others horizontally interlaced, it makes a conical basket (1). If the strips are cut shorter, it makes a pedlar’s pack basket. If a long handle is added, and it is filled with tar, it can be used as a signal torch (m).

If shallower baskets of the same dimensions, but with their bottoms cut off or punched out, are placed inside these conical ones, the two together make capital snare baskets for crabs and fish (n). If a bamboo stem be cut off just below the joint, and its lower edge be split up into a cogged rim, it makes, when the partition of the joint is punched out, an earth borer (0), a fountain-pipe, and many things of the kind.

The drawings on pages 177, 193, and 210 of my “Sketches of Travel” show several ingenious samples of bamboo construction.

Prisoners have certainly little cause to grumble. The only inconvenience to which they are exposed are the floggings which the local authorities very liberally dispense for the most trifling offences.

Except the momentary bodily pain, however, these appear in most cases to make little impression on the natives, who have been accustomed to corporal punishment from their youth upwards. Their acquaintances stand round the sufferers, while the blows are being inflicted, and mockingly ask them how it tastes.

A long residence amongst the earnest, quiet, and dignified Malays, who are most anxious for their honour, while most submissive to their superiors, makes the contrast in character exhibited by the natives of the Philippines, who yet belong to the Malay race, all the more striking.

Spanish rule has led to a change in their nature. The same characteristics are observed in Spanish America natives.

The class distinctions and the despotic oppression prevalent under their former chiefs made the Philippinians of the past more like the Malays of today.