Tomás de Comyn.

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[Skulls from a rock near Basey.] I subsequently learned from the
priest 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 would touch them.

[The cavern's contents.] 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 carcasses clothed with dry fibers of muscle and
skin. It lay upon a mat of pandanus, which was yet recognizable, 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.

[Impressive location of burial cave.] No legend could have supplied
an enchanted royal sepulchre with a more suitable approach than that
of 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.] 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.

[Chinese dishers from a cave.] In Guiuan I had an opportunity of
purchasing four 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.

[Burial caves.] 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 Batinguitan, three 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 Catubig
trinkets of gold have been found, but they have been converted
into modern articles of adornment. One cavern at Lauang, however,
is famous over the whole country on account of the gigantic, flat,
compressed skulls, without sutures, which have been found in it.
[182] 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: -

[Embalming.] 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.

[Burial customs.] According to Gaspar San Agustín (p. 169), 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.

"Their chief idolatry consisted in the worship of those of their
ancestors who had most distinguished themselves by courage and genius,
whom they regarded as deities * * * * They called them humalagar,
which is the same as manes in the Latin * * * Even the aged died under
this conceit, choosing particular places, such as one on the island of
Leyte, which allowed of their being interred at the edge of the sea,
in order that the mariners who crossed over might acknowledge them
as deities, and pay them respect." (Thévenot, Religieux, p. 2.)

[Slaves sacrificed.] "They did not place them (the dead) in the earth,
but in coffins of very hard, indestructible wood * * * Male and female
slaves were sacrificed to them, that they should not be unattended
in the other world. If a person of consideration died, silence was
imposed upon the whole of the people, and its duration was regulated
by the rank of the deceased; and under certain circumstances it was
not discontinued until his relations had killed many other persons
to appease the spirit of the dead." (Ibid., p. 7.)

"For this reason (to be worshipped as deities) the oldest of them
chose some remarkable spot in the mountains, and particularly on
headlands projecting into the sea, in order to be worshipped by the
sailors." (Gemelli Careri, p. 449.)

[Basey and its river.] From Tacloban, which I chose for my headquarters
on account of its convenient tribunal, and because it is well supplied
with provisions, I returned on the following day to Samar, and then
to Basey, which is opposite to Tacloban. The people of Basey are
notorious over all Samar for their laziness and their stupidity, but
are advantageously distinguished from the inhabitants of Tacloban by
their purity of manners. Basey is situated on the delta of the river,
which is named after it. We proceeded up a small arm of the principal
stream, which winds, with a very slight fall, through the plain;
the brackish water, and the fringe of nipa-palms which accompanies
it, consequently extending several leagues into the country. Coco
plantations stretch behind them; and there the floods of water
(avenidas), which sometimes take place in consequence of the narrow
rocky bed of the upper part of the river, cause great devastation,
as was evident from the mutilated palms which, torn away from their
standing-place, rise up out of the middle of the river. After five
hours' rowing we passed out of the flat country into a narrow valley,
with steep sides of marble, which progressively closed in and became
higher. In several places they are underwashed, cleft, and hurled over
each other, and with their naked side-walls form a beautiful contrast
to the blue sky, the clear, greenish river, and the luxuriant lianas,
which, attaching themselves to every inequality to which they could
cling, hung in long garlands over the rocks.

[A frontage.] The stream became so rapid and so shallow that the party
disembarked and dragged the boat over the stony bed. In this manner
we passed through a sharp curve, twelve feet in height, formed by two
rocks thrown opposite to each other, into a tranquil oval-shaped basin
of water enclosed in a circle of limestone walls, inclining inwards,
of from sixty to seventy feet in height; on the upper edge of which a
circle of trees permitted only a misty sunlight to glimmer through the
thick foliage. A magnificent gateway of rock, fifty to sixty feet high,
and adorned with numerous stalactites, raised itself up opposite the
low entrance; and through it we could see, at some distance, the upper
portion of the river bathed in the sun. [A beautiful grotto.] A cavern
of a hundred feet in length, and easily climbed, opened itself in the
left side of the oval court, some sixty feet above the surface of the
water; and it ended in a small gateway, through which you stepped on
to a projection like a balcony, studded with stalactites. From this
point both the landscape and the rocky cauldron are visible, and
the latter is seen to be the remainder of a stalactitic cavern, the
roof of which has fallen in. The beauty and peculiar character of the
place have been felt even by the natives, who have called it Sogoton
(properly, a bay in the sea). In the very hard limestone, which is
like marble, I observed traces of bivalves and multitudes of spines of
the sea-urchin, but no well-defined remains could be knocked off. The
river could still be followed a short distance further upwards; and in
its bed there were disjointed fragments of talcose and chloritic rocks.

[Fishing.] A few small fishes were obtained with much difficulty;
and amongst them was a new and interesting species, viviparous. [183]
An allied species (H. fluviatilis, Bleeker) which I had two years
previously found in a limestone cavern on Nusa Kambangan, in Java,
likewise contained living young ones. The net employed in fishing
appears to be suited to the locality, which is a shallow river, full of
transparent blocks. It is a fine-meshed, longish, four-cornered net,
having its ample sides fastened to two poles of bamboo, which at the
bottom were provided with a kind of wooden shoes, which curve upwards
towards the stems when pushed forwards. The fisherman, taking hold of
the upper ends of the poles, pushes the net, which is held obliquely
before him, and the wooden shoes cause it to slide over the stones,
while another person drives the fish towards him.

[Fossil beds.] On the right bank, below the cavern, and twenty
feet above the surface of the water, there are beds of fossils,
pectunculus, tapes, and placuna, some of which, from the fact of
their barely adhering by the tip, must be of very recent date. I
passed the night in a small hut, which was quickly erected for me,
and on the following day attempted to pass up the river as far as the
limits of the crystalline rock, but in vain. In the afternoon we set
out on our return to Basey, which we reached at night.

[Recent elevation of coast.] Basey is situated on a bank of clay,
about fifty feet above the sea, which towards the west elevates itself
into a hill several hundred feet in height, and with steep sides. At
twenty-five to thirty feet above the sea I found the same recent beds
of mussels as in the stalactitic cavern of Sogoton. From the statements
of the parish priest and of other persons, a rapid elevation of the
coasts seems to be taking place in this country. Thirty years ago
ships could lie alongside the land in three fathoms of water at the
flood, whereas the depth at the same place now is not much more than
one fathom. Immediately opposite to Basey lie two small islands,
Genamok and Tapontonan, which, at the present time, appear to be
surrounded by a sandbank at the lowest ebb-tide. Twenty years ago
nothing of the kind was to be seen. Supposing these particulars to
be correct, we must next ascertain what proportion of these changes
of level is due to the floods, and how much to volcanic elevation;
which, if we may judge by the neighboring active solfatara at Leyte,
must always be of considerable amount.

[Crocodiles.] As the priest assured us, there are crocodiles in the
river Basey over thirty feet in length, those in excess of twenty
feet being numerous. The obliging father promised me one of at least
twenty-four feet, whose skeleton I would gladly have secured; and he
sent out some men who are so practised in the capture of these animals
that they are dispatched to distant places for the purpose. Their
contrivance for capturing them, which I, however, never personally
witnessed, consists of a light raft of bamboo, with a stage, on which,
several feet above the water, a dog or a cat is bound. Alongside
the animal is placed a strong iron hook, which is fastened to the
swimming bamboo by means of fibers of abacá. The crocodile, when
it has swallowed the bait and the hook at the same time, endeavors
in vain to get away, for the pliability of the raft prevents its
being torn to pieces, and the peculiar elasticity of the bundle of
fibers prevents its being bitten through. The raft serves likewise
as a buoy for the captured animal. According to the statements of
the hunters, the large crocodiles live far from human habitations,
generally selecting the close vegetation in an oozy swamp, in which
their bellies, dragging heavily along, leave trails behind them which
betray them to the initiated. After a week the priest mentioned that
his party had sent in three crocodiles, the largest of which, however,
measured only eighteen feet, but that he had not kept one for me,
as he hoped to obtain one of thirty feet. His expectation, however,
was not fulfilled.

[Ignatius bean.] In the environs of Basey the Ignatius bean grows
in remarkable abundance, as it also does in the south of Samar and
in some other of the Bisayan islands. It is not met with in Luzon,
but it is very likely that I have introduced it there unwittingly. Its
sphere of propagation is very limited; and my attempts to transplant
it to the Botanical Garden of Buitenzorg were fruitless. Some large
plants intended for that purpose, which during my absence arrived
for me at Daraga, were incorporated by one of my patrons into his
own garden; and some, which were collected by himself and brought
to Manila, were afterwards lost. Every effort to get these seeds
(kernels), which are used over the whole of Eastern Asia as medicine,
to germinate miscarried, they having been boiled before transmission,
ostensibly for their preservation, but most probably to secure the
monopoly of them.

[Strychnine.] According to Flueckinger, [184] the gourd-shaped
berry of the climbing shrub (Ignatia amara, L. Strychnos Ignatii,
Berg. Ignatiana Philippinica. Lour.) contains twenty-four irregular
egg-shaped seeds of the size of an inch which, however, are not so
poisonous as the Ignatius beans, which taste like crack-nuts. In
these seeds strychnine was found by Pelletier and Caventou in 1818,
as it subsequently was in crack-nuts. The former contained twice as
much of it as the latter, viz. one and a half per cent; but, as they
are four times as dear, it is only produced from the latter.

[Cholera and snake-bite cure.] In many households in the Philippines
the dangerous drug is to be found as a highly prized remedy, under the
name of Pepita de Catbalonga. Gemelli Careri mentions it, and quotes
thirteen different uses of it. Dr. Rosenthal ("Synopsis Plantarum
Diaphor." p. 363) says: - "In India it has been employed as a remedy
against cholera under the name of Papecta." Papecta is probably a
clerical error. In K. Lall Dey's "Indigenous Drugs of India," it is
called Papeeta, which is pronounced Pepita in English; and Pepita is
the Spanish word for the kernel of a fruit. It is also held in high
estimation as an antidote for the bite of serpents. Father Blanco
("Flora of the Philippines," 61), states that he has more than once
proved its efficacy in this respect in his own person; but he cautions
against its employment internally, as it had been fatal in very many
cases. It should not be taken into the mouth, for should the spittle
be swallowed, and vomiting not ensue, death would be inevitable. The
parish priest of Tabaco, however, almost always carried a pepita in
his mouth. From 1842 he began occasionally to take an Ignatius bean
into his mouth as a protection against cholera, and so gradually
accustomed himself to it. When I met him in 1860 he was quite well,
and ascribed his health and vigor expressly to that habit. According to
his communication, in cases of cholera the decoction was successfully
administered in small doses introduced into tea; but it was most
efficacious when, mixed with brandy, it was applied as a liniment.

[Superstitions regarding the "Bisayan" bean.] Huc also ("Thibet,"
I. 252) commends the expressed juice of the kouo-kouo (Faba
Ign. amar.) both for internal and external use, and remarks that it
plays a great part in Chinese medicine, no apothecary's shop being
without it. Formerly the poisonous drug was considered a charm, as
it is still by many. Father Camel [185] states that the Catbalogan
or Bisayan-bean, which the Indians call Igasur or Mananaog (the
victorious), was generally worn as an amulet round the neck, being
a preservative against poison, contagion, magic, and philtres, so
potent, indeed, that the Devil in propia persona could not harm the
wearer. Especially efficacious is it against a poison communicated by
breathing upon one, for not only does it protect the wearer, but it
kills the individual who wishes to poison him. Camel further mentions
a series of miracles which superstition ascribed to the Ignatius bean.

[Coconuts.] On the southern half of the eastern border, on the shore
from Borongan by Lauang as far as Guiuan, there are considerable
plantations of cocos, which are most imperfectly applied to the
production of oil. From Borongan and its visitas twelve thousand
pitchers of coconut oil are yearly exported to Manila, and the nuts
consumed by men and pigs would suffice for at least eight thousand
pitchers. As a thousand nuts yield eight pitchers and a half, the
vicinity of Borongan alone yields annually six million nuts; for
which, assuming the average produce at fifty nuts, one hundred-twenty
thousand fullbearing palms are required. The statement that their
number in the above-mentioned district amounts to several millions
must be an exaggeration.

[Getting coco oil.] The oil is obtained in a very rude manner. The
kernel is rasped out of the woody shell of the nut on rough boards,
and left to rot; and a few boats in a state of decay, elevated on posts
in the open air, serve as reservoirs, the oil dropping through their
crevices into pitchers placed underneath; and finally the boards are
subjected to pressure. This operation, which requires several months
for its completion, yields such a bad, dark-brown, and viscid product
that the pitcher fetches only two dollars and a quarter in Manila,
while a superior oil costs six dollars. [186]

[Oil factory.] Recently a young Spaniard has erected a factory
in Borongan for the better preparation of oil. A winch, turned by
two carabaos, sets a number of rasps in motion by means of toothed
wheels and leather straps. They are somewhat like a gimlet in form,
and consist of five iron plates, with dentated edges, which are
placed radiating on the end of an iron rod, and close together,
forming a blunt point towards the front. The other end of the rod
passes through the center of a disk, which communicates the rotary
motion to it, and projects beyond it. The workman, taking a divided
coconut in his two hands, holds its interior arch, which contains the
oil-bearing nut, with a firm pressure against the revolving rasp, at
the same time urging with his breast, which is protected by a padded
board, against the projecting end of the rod. The fine shreds of the
nut remain for twelve hours in flat pans, in order that they may be
partially decomposed. They are then lightly pressed in hand-presses;
and the liquor, which consists of one-third oil and two-thirds water,
is caught in tubs, from which, at the end of six hours, the oil,
floating on the surface, is skimmed off. It is then heated in iron
pans, containing 100 liters, until the whole of the water in it has
evaporated, which takes from two to three hours. In order that the
oil may cool rapidly, and not become dark in color, two pailfuls of
cold oil, freed from water, are poured into it, and the fire quickly
removed to a distance. The compressed shreds are once more exposed
to the atmosphere, and then subjected to a powerful pressure. After
these two operations have been twice repeated, the rasped substance
is suspended in sacks between two strong vertical boards and crushed
to the utmost by means of clamp screws, and repeatedly shaken up. The
refuse serves as food for pigs. The oil which runs from the sacks is
free from water, and is consequently very clear, and is employed in
the cooling of that which is obtained in the first instance. [187]

[Limited output.] The factory produces fifteen hundred tinajas of
oil. It is in operation only nine months in the year; from December to
February the transport of nuts being prevented by the tempestuous seas,
there being no land communication. The manufacturer was not successful
in procuring nuts from the immediate vicinity in sufficient quantity
to enable him to carry on his operations without interruption, nor,
during the favorable season of the year, could he lay up a store for
the winter months, although he paid the comparatively high price of
three dollars per thousand.

[Illogical business.] While the natives manufactured oil in the manner
just described, they obtained from a thousand nuts three and a half
pots, which, at six reals each, fetched twenty-one reals; that is three
reals less than was offered them for the raw nuts. These data, which
are obtained from the manufacturers, are probably exaggerated, but
they are in the main well founded; and the traveller in the Philippines
often has the opportunity of observing similar anomalies. For example,
in Daet, North Camarines, I bought six coconuts for one cuarto, at
the rate of nine hundred and sixty for one dollar, the common price
there. On my asking why no oil-factory had been erected, I received
for answer that the nuts were cheaper singly than in quantities. In
the first place, the native sells only when he wants money; but he
knows that the manufacturer cannot well afford to have his business
suspended; so, careless of the result, he makes a temporary profit,
and never thinks of ensuring for himself a permanent source of income.

[Sugar venders.] In the province of Laguna, where the natives prepare
coarse brown sugar from sugar-cane, the women carry it for leagues to
the market, or expose it for sale on the country roads, in small loaves
(panoche), generally along with buyo. Every passenger chats with the
seller, weighs the loaf in the hand, eats a bit, and probably passes
on without buying any. In the evening the woman returns to her home
with her wares, and the next day repeats the same process.

[Disproportionate prices.] I have lost my special notes, but I
remember that in two cases at least the price of the sugar in these
loaves was cheaper than by the picul. Moreover, the Government of the
day anticipated the people in setting the example, by selling cigars
cheaper singly than in quantities.



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