Samar Animals Icon

February 12, 2022

In Sámar, the flying monkey or lemur (the káguang of the Bisayans—galeopithecus) is not rare.

These animals, which are of the size of the domestic cat, belong to the quadrumana ; but, like the flying squirrels, they are provided with a volucral membrane, which, commencing at the neck, and passing over the fore and hinder limbs, reaches to the tail; by means of which they are able to glide from one tree to another at a very obtuse angle.*

Body and membrane are clothed with a very short fur, which nearly equals the chinchilla in firmness and softness, and is on that account in great request. While I was there, six live káguangs arrived as a present for the pastor (three light grey, one dark brown, and two greyish brown; all with irregularly distributed spots); and from these I secured a little female with her young.

It appeared to be a very harmless, awkward animal. When liberated from its fetters, it remained lying on the ground with all its four limbs stretched out, and its belly in contact with the earth, and then hopped in short awkward leaps, without thereby raising itself from the ground, to the nearest wall, which was of planed boards. Arrived there, it felt about it for a long time with the sharp claw, which is bent inwards, of its fore-hand, until at length it realised the impossibility of climbing it at any part.

It succeeded by means of a corner or an accidental crevice in climbing a foot upwards, and fell down again immediately, because it had abandoned the comparatively secure footing of its hinder limbs before its fore-claws had obtained a firm hold. It received no hurt, as the violence of the fall was broken by the flying membrane which was rapidly extended. These attempts, which were continued with steady perseverance, showed an astonishing deficiency of judgment, the animal endeavouring to do much more than was in its power to accomplish. All its endeavours, therefore, were unsuccessful, though made without doing itself any hurt—thanks to the parachute with which Nature had

  • In Sumatra Wallace saw, in the twilight, a lemur run up the trunk of a tree, and then glide obliquely through the air to another trunk, by which he nearly reached the ground. The distance between the two trees amounted to 210 feet, and the difference of height was not above 35 or 40 feet; consequently, less than 1:5, -( Malay Archipelago," i. 211).

provided it. Had the káguang not been in the habit of relying so entirely on this convenient contrivance, it probably would have exercised its judgment to a greater extent, and formed a more correct estimate of its ability. The animal repeated its fruitless efforts so often that I no longer took any notice of it, and after some time it disappeared : but I found it again in a dark corner, under the roof, where it would probably have waited for the night in order to continue its flight. Evidently it had succeeded in reaching the upper edge of the boarded wall by squeezing its body between this and the elastic covering of bamboo hurdlework which lay firmly imposed upon it; so that the poor creature, which I had rashly concluded was stupid and awkward, had, under the circumstances, manifested the greatest possible skill, prudence, and perseverance.

A padre who was present on a visit from Calbigan promised me so many wonders in his district-abundance of the rarest animals, and Cimarronese uncivilised in the highest degree—that I accompanied him, on the following day, in his journey home. In an hour after our departure we reached the little island of Majáva, which consists of perpendicular strata of a hard, fine-grained, volcanic tuff, with small, bright crystals of hornblende. The island of Buat (on Coello’s map) is called by our mariners Tubigan. In three hours we reached Umáuas, a dependency of Calbígan.

It is situated, 50 feet above the sea, in a bay, before which (as is so often the case on this coast) a row of small picturesque islands succeed one another, and is exactly four leagues from Catbalogan. But Calbigan, which we reached towards evening, is situated two leagues N.N.E. from Umáuas, surrounded by rice-fields, forty feet above the river of the same name, and almost a league and a half from its mouth. A tree with beautiful violet-blue panicles of blossoms is especially abundant on the banks of the Calbigan, and supplies a most valuable wood for building purposes in the Philippines. It is considered equal to teak, like which it belongs

SERPENT-CHARMERS

to the class verbenaceæ ; and its inland name is molave (Vitex geniculata, Blanco).*

Serpent tamers pipe the serpents out of their holes, directing their movements, and stopping and handling them at will, without being injured by them.

The most famous individual amongst them, however, had been carried off by the sea-pirates a short time before; another had run away to the Cimarronese in the mountains; and the third, whose reputation did not appear to be rightly established, accompanied me on my excursion, but did not justify the representations of his friends. He caught two poisonous serpents, which we encountered on the road, by dexterously seizing them immediately behind the head, so that they were incapable of doing harm; and, when he commanded them to lie still, he took the precaution of placing his foot on their necks. In the chase I hurt my foot so severely against a sharp-pointed branch which was concealed by the mud that I was obliged to return to Catbalogan without effecting my object.

The inhabitants of Calbigan are considered more active and circumspect than those on the west coast, and they are praised for their honesty. I found them very skilful; and they seemed to take an evident pleasure in making collections and preparing plants and animals, so that I would gladly have taken with me a servant from the place; but they are so reluctant to leave their village that all the efforts of the pastor to induce one to ride with us were fruitless.

At a short distance north-west from Catbalogan a most luxuriant garden of corals is to be observed in less than two fathoms, at the ebb. On a yellow carpet of calcareous polyps and sponges, groups of leather-like stalks, finger-thick, lift themselves up like

  • The specimens which were sent to the Herbarium at Berlin are not to be found.

† According to W. Peters, Tropidolænus Philippinensis, Gray.

stems of vegetable growth ; their upper ends thickly covered with polyps (Sarcophyton pulmo Esp.), which display their roses of tentacula wide open, and resplendent with the most beautiful varying colours, looking, in fact, like flowers in full bloom. Very large serpulites extend from their calcareous tubes, elegant red, blue, and yellow crowns of feelers, and, while little fishes of marvellously gorgeous colour dart about in this fairy garden, in their midst luxuriantly grow delicate, feathered plumulariæ.

Bad weather and the flight of my servant, who had gambled away some money with which he had been entrusted at a cockfight, having detained me some days in the chief town, I proceeded up the bay, which extends southwards from Catbalogan and from west to east as far as Paránas. Its northern shore consists of ridges of earth, regular and of equal height, extending from north to south, with gentle slopes towards the west, but steep declivities on the east, and terminating abruptly towards the sea. Nine little villages are situated on this coast between Catbalogan and Paránas.

From the hollows, amidst cocoa and betel palms, they expand in isolated groups of houses up the gentle western slopes, and, on reaching the summit, terminate in a little castle, which hardly affords protection against the pirates, but generally forms a pretty feature in the landscape. In front of the southern edge of the bay, and to the south-west, many small islands and wooded rocks are visible, with the mountains of Leyté in the high-ground, constituting an ever-shifting series of views.

As the men, owing to the sultry heat, the complete calm, and almost cloudless sky, slept quite as much as they rowed, we did not reach Paranas before the afternoon. It is a clean village, situated on a declivity between twenty and a hundred and fifty feet above the sea. The sides, which stand perpendicularly in the sea, consist of grey banks of clay receding landwards, and overspread with a layer of fragments of mussels, the intervals between which are filled up with clay, and over the latter is a solid breccia,

cemented with lime, composed of similar fragments. In the clay banks are well-preserved petrifactions, so similar in colour, habitat, and aspect to many of those in the German tertiary formations that they might be taken for them. The breccia also is fossil, probably also tertiary; at all events, the identity of the few species which were recognisable in it—Cerithium, Pecten, and Venus—with living species could not be determined. *

On the following morning I proceeded northwards by a small canal, through a stinking bog of rhizophora (mangroves), and then continued my journey on land to Loquilócun, a little village which is situated in the forest. Half-way we passed through a river, twenty feet broad, flowing east to west, with steep banks rendered accessible by ladders. As I still continued lame (wounds in the feet are difficult to heal in warm countries), I caused myself to be carried part of the way in the manner which is customary hereabouts. The traveller lies on a loose mat, which is fastened to a bamboo frame. A III represents the contrivance ; the middle stroke is the hanging mat, and the two others are the frame, the projecting ends of which are borne on the shoulders of four robust polistas. About every ten minutes the bearers are relieved by others. As a protection against sun and rain, the frame is furnished with a light roof of pandanus.

The roads were pretty nearly as bad as those at the Salta Sangley; and, with the exception of the sea-shore, which is sometimes available, there appear to be none better in Sámar. After three hours we reached the Loquilócun, which, coming from the north, here touches its most southerly point, and then flows southeast to the great ocean. Through the kind care of the governor, I found two small boats ready, which were propelled with wonder

  • V. Martens identified amongst the tertiary mussels of the banks of clay the following species, which still live in the Indian Ocean :- Venus (Hemitapes) hiantina, Lam.; V. squamosa, L.; Arca cecillei, Phil.; A. inæquivalvis, Brug.; A. chal. canthum, Rv., and the genera Yoldia, Pleurotoma, Cuvieria, Dentalium, without being able to assert their identity with living species.

ful dexterity by two men squatted at the extreme ends, and glided between the branches of the trees and rocks into the bed of the rapid mountain torrent. Amidst loud cheers both the boats glided down a cascade of a foot and a half in height without shipping any water.

The little village of Loquilócun consists of three groups of houses on three hillocks. The inhabitants were very friendly, modest, and obliging, and so successful in collecting that the spirits of wine which I had with me was quickly consumed. In Catbalogan my messengers were able with difficulty to procure a few small flasks. Through the awkward arrangements of a too obliging friend, my own stores, having been sent to a wrong address, did not reach me until some months afterwards; and the palm-wine, which was to be bought in Sámar, was too weak. One or two boats went out daily to fish for me; but I obtained only a few specimens, which belonged to almost as many species and genera. Probably the bad custom of poisoning the water in order to kill the fish (the pounded fruit of a Barringtonia here being employed for the purpose) is the cause of the river being so empty of fish.

After a few days we left the little place about half-past nine in the forenoon, packed closely in two small boats; and, by seven minutes past one when we reached an inhabited hut in the forest, we had descended more than forty streams of a foot and a foot and a half and more in depth. The more important of them have names which are correctly given on Coello’s map; and the following are their distances by the watch :-At ten o’clock we came to a narrow, rocky chasm, at the extremity of which the water falls several feet below into a large basin ; and here we unloaded the boats, which hitherto had, under skilful management, wound their way, like well-trained horses, between all the impediments in the bed of the river and over all the cascades and waves, almost without taking any water ; only two men remain

ing in each boat, who, loudly cheering, shot downwards; in doing which the boats were filled to the brim.

Opposite this waterfall a bank of rubbish had been formed by the alluvium, in which, besides fragments of the subjacent rock, were found well-rounded pieces of jasper and porphyry, as well as some bits of coal containing several pyrites, which had probably been brought during the rain from higher up the river. Its origin was unknown to the sailors. From fifty-six minutes past eleven to twelve o’clock there was an uninterrupted succession of rapids, which were passed with the greatest dexterity, without taking in water.

Somewhat lower down, at about three minutes past twelve, we took in so much water that we were compelled to land and bale it out. At about fifteen minutes past twelve, we proceeded onwards, the river now being on the average sixty feet broad. On the edge of the wood some slender palms, hardly ten feet high, were remarkable by their frequency, and many phalænopses by their display of blossoms, which is of rare occur- . rence. Neither birds, nor apes, nor serpents were observed; but large pythons, as thick as one’s leg, are said to be not unfrequent.

About 12:36 we reached one of the most difficult places—a succession of waves, with many rocks projecting out of the water, between which the boats, now in full career, and with rapid evolutions, glided successfully. The adventure was accomplished with equal skill by the two crews, who exerted their powers to the utmost.

At 17 minutes past one we arrived at Dini, the most considerable waterfall in the whole distance; and here we had to take the boats out of the water; and, availing ourselves of the lianas which hung down from the lofty forest trees like ropes, we dragged them over the rocks. At twenty-one minutes past two we resumed our journey ; and from twenty-two minutes past to half-past eight we descended an irregular stair composed of several ledges, shipping much water. Up to this point the Loquilócun Aowed in a rocky bed,

with (for the most part) steep banks, and sometimes for a long distance under a thick canopy of boughs, from which powerful tendrils and ferns, more than a fathom in length, were suspended. Here the country was to some extent open ; flat hillocks, with low underwood, came to view, and, on the north-west, loftier wooded mountains. The last two hours were notable for a heavy fall of rain, and, about half-past five, we reached a solitary house occupied by friendly people, where we took up our quarters for the night.

On the following morning the journey was continued down the river. Within ten minutes we glided down the last waterfall, between white calcareous rocks of a kind of marble, covered with magnificent vegetation. Branches, completely covered with phalænopses (P. Aphrodite, Reichb. As.), projected over the river, their flowers waving like large gorgeous butterflies over its foaming current. Two hours later the stream became two hundred feet broad, and, after leaping down a ladder of fifty metres in height from Loquilócun, it steals away in gentle windings through a flat inundated country to the east coast ; forming a broad estuary, on the right bank of which, half a league from the sea, the district of Jubásan or Paríc (population 2,300) is situated.

The latter give their names to the lower portion of the stream. Here the excellent fellows of Loquilócun left me in order to begin their very arduous return journey.

Owing to bad weather, I could not embark for Túbig (population 2,858), south of Paríc, before the following day; and, being continually hindered by difficulties of land transit, I proceeded in the rowboat along the coast to Borongan (population 7,685), with the equally intelligent and obliging pastor of which I remained some days, and then continued my journey to Guíuan (also Guiuang, Guiguan), the most important district in Samar (population 10,781), situated on a small neck of land which projects from the south-east point of the island into the sea.

Close to the shore at the latter place a copious spring bursts out of five or six openings, smelling slightly of sulphuretted hydrogen. It is covered by the sea during the flow, but is open during the ebb, when its salt taste is hardly perceptible. In order to test the water, a well was formed by sinking a deep kottomless jar, and from this, after the water had flowed for the space of half an hour, a sample was taken, which, to my regret, was afterwards lost.

The temperature of the water of the spring, at eight o’clock in the forenoon, was 27.7°; of the atmosphere, 28.7°; of the sea-water, 31:2° C. The spring is used by the women to dye their sarongs. The materials, after being steeped in the decoction of a bark abounding in tannin (materials made of the abacá are first soaked in a calcareous preparation), and dried in the sun, are placed in the spring during the ebb, taken out during the flow, re-dried, dipped in the decoction of bark,

and again, while wet, placed in the spring ; and this is repeated for the space of three days; when the result is a durable, but ugly inky black (gallussaures, oxide of iron).

At Loquilócun and Borongan, I bought 2 live macaucos.* These extremely delicate and rare little animals belong to the class of semi-apes found only in Sámar. They live exclusively on charcoal.

My first mago was, in the beginning, somewhat voracious, but he disdained vegetable food, and was particular in his choice of insects, devouring live grasshoppers with delight.†

It was extremely ludicrous, when he was fed in the daytime, to see the animal standing, perched up perpendicularly on his two thin legs with his bare tail, and turning his large head-round as a ball, and with very large, yellow, owl-like eyes—in every direction, looking like a dark lantern on a pedestal with a circular swivel.

Only gradually did he succeed in fixing his eyes on the object presented to him ; but, as soon as he did perceive it, he immediately extended his little arms sideways, as though somewhat bashful, and then, like a delighted child, suddenly seizing it with hand and mouth at once, he deliberately tore the prey to pieces. During the day the mago was sleepy, short-sighted, and, when disturbed, morose ; but with the decreasing daylight he expanded his pupils, and moved about in a lively and agile manner, with rapid noiseless leaps, generally sideways.

He soon became tame, but to my regret died after a few weeks; and I succeeded only for a short time in keeping the second little animal alive.

  • Tarsius spectrum, Tem.; in the language of the country- mago.
  • The old Father Camel mentions that the little animal is said to live only on coal, but that it was an error, for he ate the ficus Indica (by which we here understand him to mean the banana) and other fruits. (Camel de quadruped. Phil. Trans., 1706—7. London.) Camel also gives (p. 194) an interesting account of the kagúang, which is accurate at the present day.-Ibid., ž. S. 2197.