Chapter 13b

Tribal People Icon

March 15, 2022

I rode from Bátu to Nábua over a good road in half an hour. The country was flat, with rice-fields on both sides of the road.

In Bátu the rice was only just planted. In Nábua, 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 Tagals.

Nábua had 10,875 people. It is intersected by several small streams, whose waters, pouring down from the eastern hills, form a small lake, which empties itself into the Bicol river.

Just after passing the second bridge beyond Nábúa the road, inclining eastwards, wends in a straight line to Yriga, a place lying to the south-west of the volcano of the same name.

I visited a small settlement of pagan natives situated on the slope of the volcano. The lowlanders call them indifferently: Ygorrotes, Cimarrons, Remontados, Infieles, or Montesinos.

None of these names, however, with the exception of the two last, are appropriate ones.

“Igorot” is applied in the north of the island to the mixed descendants of Chinese and Indian parents. “Cimarron” is borrowed from the American slave colonies, where it denotes negroes who have escaped from slavery and are living 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. “Remontado” explains itself, and has the same meaning 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 fellow-men sometimes being some offence against the laws, and sometimes a mere aversion to the duties and labours of village life. Every Indian 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 puéblos into visitas,* and the latter into ranchos.

Until a visit to other ranchos in the neighbourhood corrected my first impression, I took the inhabitants of the slopes of the Yriga for cross-breeds between Indians and negritos. The colour of their skin was not black, but a dark brown, scarcely any darker than that of Indians 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 Marivéles knew nothing whatever about agriculture, lived in the open air, and supported themselves upon the spontaneous products of Nature; but the halfsavages of the Yriga dwell in decent huts, and-cultivate several vegetables and a little sugar-cane.

No pure negritos are in Camarines It is a thickly populated province, only sparsely dotted with lofty hills. It would be ill-suited for nomadic hunting race, ignorant of agriculture.

The ranchos on the Yriga are very accessible. Their inhabitants carry on a friendly intercourse with the Indians ; indeed, if they did not, they would have been long ago exterminated. In spite of these neighbourly communications, however, they have preserved many of their own primitive manners and customs.

The men are 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.f In the larger ranchos the women were decently clad in the usual Indian fashion. Their furniture consisted of a few articles made of bamboo, a few calabashes of cocoa-nut-shell, and an earthen cooking-pot. Although the Ygorrotes are not Christians, they decorate their huts

  • A visita is a small hamlet or village with no priest of its own, and dependent upon its largest neighbour for its religious ministrations.

† Pigafetta mentions that the female musicians of the King of Cebu were quite naked, or only covered with an apron of bark. The ladies of the Court were content with a hat, a short cloak, and a cloth around the waist.

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.* 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.

After a vain attempt to reach the top of the Yríga volcano I started for Buhi, a place situated on the southern shore of the lake of that name. Ten minutes after leaving Yríga 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 Yríga, 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.

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.

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 honour of the occasion. He sat on his horse dressed out in the most absurd manner in a large cocked hat trimmed with coloured 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. Bott 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.

  • Perhaps the same reason induced the Chinese to purchase crucifixes at the time of their first intercourse with the Portuguese; for Pigafetta says: “The Chinese are white, wear clothes, and eat from tables. They also possess crucifixes, but it is difficult to say why or where they got them."

A CHURCH FESTIVAL

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, &c., 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.

Year Value
1819 $15,930
1839 $36,390
1860 $58,954
1844-5 $292,115

The cause of this large increase was that indulgences were then rendered compulsory ; so many being allotted to each family, with the assistance and under the superintendence of the priests and tax-collectors who received a commission of 5-8% on the gross amount collected. It is one of the most shameless abuses of an infamous system.

The Lake of Bubi (300 feet above the sea-level) is extremely picturesque, surrounded as it is on all sides by hills fully a thousand feet high. Its western shore is formed by what still remains of the Yríga volcano. I was informed by the priests of the neighbouring hamlets that the volcano, until the commencement of the seventeenth century, had been completely conical, 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

On January 4, 1641 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 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.”

Perrey, in the “ Mémoires de l’Académie de Dijon,” mentions another outbreak which took place in Camarines in 1628 :

“In 1628, 14 different earthquakes occurred on the same day in 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 neighbourhood was flooded, trees were torn up by the roots, and three miles from the sea-coast the country was one vast sheet of water.”

In a note Perrey gives the original text of his authority, which, oddly enough, does not exactly tally with his account.*

When I was at Tambong, a small hamlet on the shore of the lake belonging to the parochial diocese of Buhi, I made a second unsuccessful attempt to reach the highest point of the Yriga. We arrived in the evening at the southern point of the crater’s edge (1,041 metres above the level of the sea by my barometrical observation), where a deep defile prevented our further progress. Here the Ygorrotes abandoned me, and the Indians 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 cocoa 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 cocoa-nut-leaves in honour of the “Conquistadores del Yríga ;” 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. Here I saw them preparing the fibre 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 outer surface 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 fibre 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 fibre is laid bare. Then, turning the leaf round, she scrapes its back, which now lies upwards, down to the layer of fibre, which she seizes with her hand and draws at once, to its full length, away from the back of the leaf. When the fibre 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 fibre of the lupi.

In this crude manner are obtained the threads for the celebrated web Nipis de Piña, which is considered by experts the finest in the world,

In the Philippines, where the fineness of the work is best understood and appreciated, richly embroidered costumes of this description have fetched more than 2,000 thalers each.*

At Buhi, which is not sufficiently sheltered towards the north* At Fort William, Calcutta, experiments have proved the extraordinary endurance of the pine-apple fibre. A cable eight centimetres in circumference was not torn asunder until a force of 2,850 kilogrammes had been applied to it.-— Report of the Jury, London International Exhibition.

east, it rained almost as much as at Darága. I had found out from the Ygorrotes 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 Malináo, returning along the coast to my quarters, and then, freshly equipped, descend the river Bícol as far as Nága.

Before we parted the Ygorrotes 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 coagulum was again dissolved, by stirring 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 colour. 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.