Chapter 14c

The Domestic Philippine Economy Icon

March 5, 2022

The details of domestic economy may be narrated as follows:

For cooking purposes

An earthen pot is used for cooking. It costs between 3 and 10 cuartos. When cooking rice, is closed firmly with a banana-leaf, so that the steam of a very small quantity of water is sufficient.

The poor have no other cooking utensil. Those better off have a few cast-iron pans and dishes.

In the smaller houses, the hearth consists of:

  • a portable earthen pan or a flat chest, frequently of an old cigar-chest full of sand
  • 3 stones as a tripod.

In the larger houses, it is in the form of a bedstead, filled with sand or ashes, instead of a mattrass.

The water in small households is carried and stored in thick bamboos.

In his bolo (wood-knife), moreover, every one has an universal instrument, which he carries in a wooden sheath made by himself, suspended by a cord of looselytwisted bast fibres tied round his body.

This, and the ricemortar (a block of wood with a similar cavity), together with pestles and a few baskets, constitute the whole of the household furniture of a poor family ; sometimes a large snail, with a rush wick, is also to be found as a lamp.

They sleep on a mat of pandanus (fan-palm, Corypha) or on the splittings of bamboo, with which the house is floored.

By the poor oil for lighting is rarely used ; but torches of resin, which last a couple of days, are bought in the market for 0.5 cuarto.

  • Buyo is the preparation of betel for the mouth. A leaf of betel pepper (Chavica betel), of the form and size of a bean-leaf, is smeared over with a small piece of burnt lime of the size of a pea, and rolled together from both ends to the middle. when, one end of the roll being inserted into the other, a ring is formed, into which a smooth piece of areca nut of corresponding size is introduced.

A woman wears:

  • a camisa de guinára (a short shift of abaca fibre)
  • a patadíon (a gown reaching from the hip to the ancles)
  • a cloth
  • a comb.
Item Cost Notes
A piece of guinára 1 real gives two shifts
the coarsest patadíon 3 reals
a cloth 1 real at the highest
a comb 2 cuartos

These total 4 reals, 12 cuartos.

Women of the better class wear:

Item Cost Notes
A camisa 1-2 real
A patadíon 6 real
cloth between 2-3 real
a comb 2 cuartos

The men wear a shirt, 1 r., hose, 3 r., hat (tararura) of Spanish cane, 10 cu., or a salacot (a large rain-hat, frequently decorated), at least 2 r.—often, when ornamented with silver, as much as 50 dollars. At least three, but more commonly four, suits are worn out yearly; the women, however, taking care to weave almost the whole quantity for the family themselves.

The daily wages of the common labourer are 1 real, without food

His hours of work are from 6 to 12, and from 2 to 6 o’clock.

The women perform no field labour, but plant out the rice and assist in the reaping.

Their wages on both occasions being equal to those of the men. Wood and stone-cutters receive 1.5 r. per day, and calkers 1.75 r.

The Tercio is a pretty general contract in the cultivation of the land. The owner simply lets arable land for the third part of the crop. Some mestizoes possess several pieces of ground; but they are seldom connected together, as they generally acquire them as mortgages for sums bearing but a small proportion to their real value.

Under the head of earnings I give the income of a small family.

The man earns daily 1 real. The woman, if she weaves coarse stuff, į r. and her food (thus a piece of guinára, occupying the labour of two days, costs half a real in weavers’ wages).

The most skilful female weaver of the finer stuffs obtains 12 r. per piece; but it takes a month to weave; and the month, on account of the numerous holy-days, must be calculated at the most as equal to twenty-four working days; she consequently earns į r. per day and her food.

For the knitting of the fibres of the ananas for the piña web (called sugot) she gets only an eighth of a real and her food.

All the pueblos have schools. The schoolmaster is paid by the Government at 2 dollars per month, without board or lodging.

In large pueblos, the salary is 3.5 dollars. Out of this, an assistant must be paid.

The schools are under the supervision of the local Church. Reading and writing are taught, the writing copies being Spanish.

The teacher, who has to teach his scholars Spanish exactly, does not understand it himself, while the Spanish officers, on the other hand, do not understand the local language.

The priests do not alter this state of things because they use it for influence.

Almost the only Indians who speak Spanish are those who have been in the service of Europeans. A kind of religious horn-book is the first that is read in the language of the country (Bicol); and after that comes the Christian Doctrine.

The reading-book called Casayayan.

On an average, half of all the children go to school, generally from the 7th-10th year.

They learn to read a little; a few even write a little. But they soon forget it again. Only those who are afterwards employed as clerks write.

Some priests do not permit boys and girls to attend the same school. In this case they pay a second teacher, a female, 1 dollar a month.

The natives learn arithmetic very quickly, generally aiding themselves by the use of mussels or stones, which they pile in little heaps before them and then count through.

The women seldom marry before the 14th year, 12 years old is the legal limit.

In the church-register of Polangui I found a marriage recorded (January, 1837) between an Indian and an Indian woman having the ominous name of Hilaria Concepcion, who at the time of the performance of the marriage ceremony was, according to a note in the margin, only 9 years and 10 months old.

Usually people live together unmarried, because they cannot pay the expenses of the ceremony. Girls who have children by Europeans esteem it quite as an honour; and still greater is it when the priest is the parent, the cura always maintaining his children, though under an assumed name. In cases of matrimonial infidelity, which not seldom occur, the guilty woman generally is cudgelled, and the seducer escapes scot-free; appeal being rarely made to the law for redress.

The men are for the most part debauched. One woman induced the paramour of her husband, by great persuasion, to confess her guilt; and thereupon, with the scissors which she bad ready to her hand, she cut off the whole of her hair; and this was the only instance of revenge which had occurred during the previous year. European females, and even mestizes, never seek husbands amongst the Indians. The women generally are well treated, doing only light work, such as sewing, weaving, embroidery, and managing the household; while all the heavy labour, with the exception of the beating of the rice, falls to the men. The public maidens associate with the wives, and often get married themselves; and sometimes fathers offer their daughters to Europeans in seeking a loan ; whereupon they are taken into the house as sempstresses.

Instances of longevity are frequent amongst the Indians, particularly in Camarines.

The Journal of Manila of March 13, 1866, mentions an old man in Darága (Albáy) whom I knew well—Juan Jacob, born in 1744, married in 1764, and a widower in 1845.

He held many public posts up to 1840, and had 13 children, of whom five are living.

He has 170 direct descendants. He is now 122 years old is still vigorous, with good eyes and teeth.

Extreme unction was administered to him seven times!

The first excrement of a new-born child is carefully preserved, and under the name of triaca (theriacum) is held to be a highly efficacious and universal remedy for the bites of snakes and mad dogs. It is applied to the wound externally, and at the same time is taken internally.

Many children die in the first 2 weeks after birth. Statistical data are lacking. But according to the opinion of one of the first physicians in Manila, at least 1/4 die.

This mortality arises from great uncleanliness and impure air; since in the chambers of the sick, and of women lying-in, the doors and windows are so closely shut that the healthy become sick from the stench and heat, and the sick recover with difficulty.

Every aperture of the house is closed up by the husband early during travail, in order that Patianac may not break in-an evil spirit who brings mischief to lying-in women, and endeavours to hinder the birth.

The custom has been further maintained even amongst many who attach no belief to the superstition, but who, from fear of a draught of air through a hole, have discovered a new explanation for an old custom, -namely, that instances of such practices occur amongst all people.

One very widely-spread malady is the itch which is easily cured. It is said to be caused by the low diet of the natives (The Bicol natives even more than the Tagal).