The PhilippinesApril 30, 2022
TRAVELS IN BÁMAR (CONTINUED).-SOUTH-SEA ISLANDERS CAST AWAY BY srorus –
BURIAL CAVERNS AND FUNERAL CUSTOMS OF THE ANCIENT BISAYANS.—CROCUDILES.– IGNATIUS BEANS.-COCOA-NUT OIL.
In Guiuan, I was visited by some Micronesians. For the last 14 days, they had been in Sulangan on the small neck of land south-east from Guíuan, diving for pearl mussels (mother-of-pearl).
They had sailed from Uleai (Uliai, 7° 20’ N., 143° 57’ E. Gr.) in five boats, each of which had a crew of 9 men and carried 40 gourds full of water, with cocoa-nuts and batata.
Every man received 1 coconut and 2 batatas daily, which they baked in the ashes of the cocoa shells. They caught some fish on the way, and collected a little rain-water.
During the day, they directed their course by the sun, and at night by the stars. A storm destroyed the boats. Two of them sank, together with their crews, before the eyes of their companions, and of these, only one-probably the sole individual rescued—two weeks afterwards reached the harbour of Tandag, on the east coast of Mindanao.
The party remained at Tandag two weeks, working in the fields for hire, and then proceeded northwards along the coast to Cántilang, 8° 25’ N. ; Banóuan (called erroneously Bancuan by Coello), 9° 1’ N.; Tagankan, 9° 25’ N.; thence to Surigáo, on the north point of Mindanao ; and then, with an easterly wind, in two days, direct to Guíuan.
- The following communication appeared for the first time in the reports of a session of the Anthropological Society of Berlin ; but my visitors were there denominated Palao islanders. But, as Prof. Semper, who spent a long time on the true Palaos (Pelew) islands, correctly shows in the “Corresp.-Bl. f. Anthropol.," 1871, No. 2, that Uliai belongs to the group of the Carolinas, I have here retained the more common expression, Mikronesian, although those men, respecting whose arrival from Uliai no doubt existed, did not call themselves Caroline islanders, but Palávs. As communicated to me by Dr. Gräffe, who lived many years in Mikronesia, Paláos is a loose expression like Kanaka and many others, and does not, at all events, apply exclusively to the inhabitants of the Pelew group.
In the German translation of Captain Salmon’s “History of the Oriental Islands” (Altona, 1733), it is stated that
“Some other islands on the east of the Philippines have lately been discovered which have received the name of the New Philippines because they are situated in the neighbourhood of the old, which have been already described.
Father Clain, in a letter from Manila, which has been incorporated in the “ Philosophical Transactions,” makes the following statement respecting them :
It happened that when be was in the town of Guivam, ‘on the island of Samar, he met 29 Palaos (there had been thirty, but one died soon after in Guíuan), or natives of certain recently discovered islands, who had been driven thither by the east winds, which prevail from December to May.
According to their own statement, they were driven about by the winds for 70 days, without getting sight of land, until they arrived opposite to Guivam. When they sailed from their own country, their two boats were quite full, carrying 35 souls, including their wives and children.
But several had died miserably on the way from fatigue. When someone from Guivam wished to go on board to them, they were thrown into such a state of terror that all who were in one of the boats sprang overboard, along with their wives and children.
However, they at last thought it best to come into the harbour ; so they came ashore on the December 28, 1696.
They fed on cocoa-nuts and roots, which were charitably supplied to them, but refused even to taste cooked rice, which is the general food of the Asiatic nations.
Two women who had previously been cast away on the same islands acted as interpreters for them. The people of the country went half naked, and the men painted their bodies with spots and all kinds of devices. As long as they were on the sea they lived on fish, which they caught in a certain kind of fish-basket, with a wide mouth but tapering to a point at the bottom, which was dragged along underneath the boats ; and rainwater, when they could catch it (or, as is stated in the letter itself, preserved in the shells of the cocoa-nut), served them for drink.
When they were about to be taken into the presence of the Father, whom, from the great respect which was shown to him, they took for the governor, they coloured their bodies entirely yellow, an operation which they considered highly important, as enabling them to appear as persons of consideration. They are very skilful divers, and now and then find pearls in the mussels which they bring up; which, however, they throw away as useless things.”
But one of the most important parts of Father Clain’s letter has been omitted by Capt. Salmon :-“ The oldest of these strangers had once before been cast away on the coast of the province of Caragan, on one of our islands (Mindanáo); but as he found only heathens (infidels), who lived in the mountains or on the desert shore, he returned to his own country.”
In a letter from Father Cantova to Father d’Aubenton, dated from Agdana (i.e. Agaña, of the Marianne Islands), March 20, 1722, describing the Carolina and Pelew Islands, it is said :
“The fourth district lies to the west. Yap (9° 25’ N., 138° 1’ E. Gr.),* which is the principal island, is more than forty leagues in circumference. Besides the different roots which are used by the natives of the island instead of bread, there is the batata, which they call camote, and which they have acquired from the Philippines, as I was informed by one of our Carolina Indians, who is a native of the island. He states that his father, named Coorr, …. three of his brothers, and himself had been cast away in a storm on one of the provinces in the Philippines, which was called Bisayas ; that a missionary of our society (Jesus) received them in a friendly manner …. that on returning to their own island they took with them the seeds of different plants, amongst others the batata, which multiplied so fast that they had sufficient to supply the other islands of the Archipelago with them.”
• Dumont d’Urville, “ Voyage to the South Pole,” v. 206, remarks that the natives call their island Gouap or Ouap, but never Yap; and that the husbandry
ima ha had been in the South San. in that place was superior to anything he had seen in the South Sea.
Murillo Velarde states that in 1708 some Palaos were wrecked in a storm on Palapag (north coast of Sámar); and I personally had the opportunity, in Manila, of photographing a company of Paláos and Carolina islanders, who had been the year before cast on the coast of Sámar by foul weather.
Apart from the question of their transport, whether voluntary or not, these simply were six examples, such as still occur occasionally, of Mikronesians cast up on the shore of the Philippines ; and probably it would not be difficult to find several more; but how often, both before and after the arrival of the Spaniards, might not vessels from those islands have come within the influence of the north-east storms, and been driven violently on the east coasts of the Philippines without any record of such facts being preserved ? *
Even as, on the west side of the Archipelago, the type of the race seems to have been modified by its long intercourse with China, Japan, Lower India, and later with Europe, so likewise may Polynesian influences have operated in a similar manner on the east side; and the further circumstance that the inhabitants of the Ladronest and the Bisayans | possess the art of colouring their teeth black, seems to point to early intercourse between the Bisayans and the Polynesians. $
- The voyages of the Polynesians were also caused by the tyranny of the victorious parties, which compelled the vanquished to emigrate. † Pigafetta, p. 51.
I Morga, f. 127. ♡ “ The Bisayans cover their teeth with a shining varnish, which is either black, or of the colour of fire, and thus their teeth become either black, or red like cinna. bar; and they make a small hole in the upper row, which they fill with gold, the latter shining all the more on the black or red ground.”—(THÉVENOT, Religieux, 54). Of a king of Mindanao, visited by Magellan at Massana, it is written :-” In every tooth he had three machie (spots ?) of gold, so that they had the appearance of being tied together with gold;" which Ramusio interprets—“On each finger he had three rings of gold.”–PIGAFETTA, p. 66; and compare also Carletti, “ Voyages," i. 163.
A BEAUTIFUL STRAIT.
At Guíuan, I sailed for Tacloban, the chief town of Leyté.
At Nipa-Nipa, a small hamlet two leagues from Basey, they project into the sea in a succession of picturesque rocks, above one hundred feet in height, which, rounded above like a dome, thickly covered with vegetation, and corroded at the base by the waters of the sea, rise out of the waves like gigantic mushrooms. A peculiar atmosphere of enchantment pervades this locality, whose influence upon the native mariner must be all the more powerful when, fortunately escaping from the billows outside and the buffeting of the north-east wind, he suddenly enters this tranquil place of refuge. No wonder that superstitious imagination has peopled the place with spirits.
- In one of these cliffs, sixty feet above the sea, beds of mussels were found: ostrea, pinna, chama ; according to Dr. V. M.-0. denticulata, Bron.; 0. cornucopia, Chemn.; 0. rosacea, Desh.; Chama sulfurea, Reeve; Pinna Nigrina, Lam. (3).
Rocks in the Sea near Nipa-Nipa. In the caverns of these rocks the ancient Pintados interred the corpses of their heroes and ancestors in well-locked coffins, surrounded by those objects which had been held in the highest regard by them during life. Slaves were also sacrificed by them at their obsequies, in order that they might not be without attendance in the world of shadows ;* and the numerous coffins, implements, arms, and trinkets, protected by superstitious terrors, continued to be undisturbed for centuries, No boat ventured to cross over without the observance of a religious ceremony, derived from heathen times, to propitiate the spirits of the caverns who were believed to punish the omission of it with storm and shipwreck.
- In the Athenæum of January 7, 1871, Captain Ullmann describes a funeral ceremony (tiwa) of the Dyaks, which corresponds in many points with that of the ancient Bisayans.
The coffin is cut out of the branch of a tree by the nearest male kinsman, and it is so narrow that the body has to be pressed down into it, lest another member of the family should die immediately after to fill up the gap. As many as possible of his effects must be heaped on the dead person, in order to prove his wealth and to raise him in the estimation of the spirit world ; and under the coffin are placed two vessels, one containing rice and the other water.
One of the principal ceremonies of the tiwa consisted formerly (and does still in some places) in human sacrifices. Where the Dutch Government extended these were not permitted ; but sometimes buffaloes or pigs were killed in a cruel manner, with the blood of which the high priest smeared the forehead, breast, and arms of the head of the family. Similar sacrifices of slaves or pigs were practised amongst the ancient Philippinese, with peculiar ceremonies by female priests (Catalonas).
About 30 years ago a zealous young ecclesiastic, to whom these heathen practices were an abomination, determined to extirpate them by the roots. With several boats well equipped with crosses, banners, pictures of saints, and all the approved machinery for driving out the Devil, he undertook the expedition against the haunted rocks, which were climbed amidst the sounds of music, prayers, and the reports of fireworks. A whole pailful of holy water first having been thrown into the cave for the purpose of confounding the evil spirits, the intrepid priest rushed in with elevated cross, and was followed by his faithful companions, who were fired with his example. A brilliant victory was the reward of the well-contrived and carefully executed plot. The coffins were broken to fragments, the vessels dashed to pieces, and the skeletons thrown into the sea ; and the remaining caverns were stormed with like results. The objects of superstition have indeed been annihilated, but the superstition itself survives to the present day.
I subsequently learned from the pastor at Basey that there were still some remains on a rock, and a few days afterwards the worthy man surprised me with several skulls and a child’s coffin, which he had had brought from the place. Notwithstanding the great respect in which he was held by his flock, he had to exert all his powers of persuasion to induce the boldest of them to engage in so daring an enterprise. A boat manned by sixteen rowers was fitted out for the purpose; with a smaller crew they would not have ventured to undertake the journey. On their return home a thunderstorm broke over them, and the sailors,
believing it to be a punishment for their outrage, were prevented only by the fear of making the matter worse from throwing coffin and skulls into the sea. Fortunately the land was near, and they rowed with all their might towards it; and, when they arrived, I was obliged to take the objects out of the boat myself, as no native was permitted to touch them.
Notwithstanding, I was the next morning successful in finding some resolute individuals who accompanied me to the caverns. In the first two which we examined we found nothing; the third contained several broken coffins, some skulls, and potsherds of glazed and crudely painted earthenware, of which, however, it
was impossible to find two pieces that belonged to each other. A narrow hole led from the large cavern into an obscure space, which was so small that one could remain in it only for a few seconds with the burning torch. This circumstance may
explain the discovery, in a coffin which was eaten to pieces by worms, and quite mouldered away, of a well-preserved skeleton, or rather a mummy, for in many places there were carcases clothed with dry fibres of muscle and skin. It lay upon a mat of pandanus, which was yet recognisable, with a cushion under the head stuffed with plants, and covered with matting of pandanus. There were no other remains of woven material. The coffins were of three shapes and without any ornament. Those of the first form, which were of excellent molave-wood, showed no trace of worm-holes or decay, whereas the others had entirely fallen to dust; and those of the third kind, which were most numerous, were distinguishable from the first only by a less curved form and inferior material.
No legend could have supplied an enchanted royal sepulchre with a more suitable approach than that to the last of these caverns. · The rock rises out of the sea with perpendicular sides of marble, and only in one spot is to be observed a natural opening made by the water, hardly two feet high, through which the boat passed at once into a spacious court, almost circular, and over-arched by the sky, the floor of which was covered by the sea, and adorned with a garden of corals. The steep sides are thickly hung with lianas, ferns, and orchids, by help of which one climbs upwards to the cavern, sixty feet above the surface of the water.
To add to the singularity of the situation, we also found at the entrance to the grotto, on a large block of rock projecting two feet above the ground, a sea-snake, which tranquilly gazed at us, but which had to be killed, because, like all genuine sea-snakes, it was poisonous. Twice before I had found the same species in crevices of rock on the dry land, where the ebb might have left it; but it was strange to meet with it in this place, at such a height above the sea. It now reposes, as Platurus fasciatus Daud., in the Zoological Museum of the Berlin University.
In Guíuan I bought 4 richly painted Chinese dishes which came from a similar cavern, and a gold signet ring.
The latter consisting of a plate of gold, originally bent into a tube of the thickness of a quill with a gaping seam, and afterwards into a ring as large as a thaler, which did not quite meet. The dishes were stolen from me at Manila.
There are similar caverns which have been used as burial-places in many other localities in this country; on the island of Andog, in Borongan (a short time ago it contained skulls); also at Batinguítan, 3 hours from Borongan, on the banks of a little brook; and in Guiuan, on the little island of Monhon, which is difficult of approach by reason of the boisterous sea.
In Catúbig, trinkets of gold have been found, but they have been converted into modern articles of adornment. One cavern at Láuang, however, is famous over the whole country on account of the gigantic, flat, compressed skulls, without sutures, which have been found in it.** It will not be uninteresting to compare the particulars here described with the statements of older authors; and for this reason I submit the following extracts :
Mas (Informe, i. 21), who does not give the sources of his information, thus describes the customs of the ancient inhabitants of the archipelago at their interments:—They sometimes embalmed their dead with aromatic substances . . . . . and placed those who were of note in chests carved out of a branch of a tree, and furnished with well-fitted lids. ….. The coffin was placed, in accordance with the wish of the deceased, expressed before his death, either in the uppermost room of the house, where articles of value were secreted, or under the dwelling-house, in a kind of grave, which was not covered, but enclosed with a railing; or in a distant field, or on an elevated place or rock on the bank of a river, where he might be venerated by the pious. A watch was set over it for a certain time, lest boats should cross over, and the dead person should drag the living after him.
According to Gaspar, the dead were rolled up in cloths, and placed in clumsy chests, carved out of a block of wood, and buried under their houses, together with their jewels, gold rings, and some plates of gold over the mouth and eyes, and furnished with provisions, cups, and dishes. They were also accustomed to bury slaves along with men of note, in order that they might be attended in the other world.
- In the chapter “ De monstris et quasi monstris" . . . of Father Camel, “ Lon. don Philos. Trans.," p. 2269, it is stated that in the mountains between Guiuan and Borongan, footsteps, three times as large as those of ordinary men, have been found. Probably the skulls of Lauang, which are pressed out in breadth, and covered with a thick crust of calcareous sinter, the gigantic skulls (skulls of giants) have given rise to the fable of the giants’ footsteps.