Idolatry Of The Dead Icon

February 8, 2022

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 Leyté, 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.)

They place the dead in hard coffins of 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.)

This is why 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 as deities. (Gemelli Careri, p. 449.)

From Tacloban, which I chose for my head-quarters on account of its convenient tribunál, and because it is well supplied with provisions, I returned on the following day to Sámar, and then to Basey, which is opposite to Tacloban.

The people of Basey are notorious over all Sámar for their laziness and their endowments. But they are advantageously distinguished from the inhabitants of Taclóban by their purity of manners.

Basey is 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 nipapalms which accompanies it, consequently extending several leagues into the country. Cocoa 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.

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 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 remains 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

Sogóton (properly, a bay in the sea). In the very hard lime. stone, 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.

A few small fishes were obtained with much difficulty; and amongst them was a new and interesting species, viviparous.* An allied species (H. fluviatilis, Bleeker) which I had two years previously found in a limestone cavern on Nusa Kumbangan, 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.

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.

Basey is situated on a bank of clay, about 50 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 Sogóton. From the statements of the cura 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, Genamók and Tapontónan, 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 neighbouring active solfatara at Leyté, must always be of considerable amount.

  • Hemiramphus riviparus, W. Peters (Berlin Monatsb., 16th March, 1865).

As the pastor assured us, there are crocodiles in the river Basey over 30 feet in length, those in excess of 20 feet being .numerous. The obliging father promised me one of at least 24 feet, whose skeleton I would gladly have secured ;

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 fibres of abaca.