Rice Cultivation Icon

January 31, 2022

The inhabitants of Sámar and Leyté (I have not become closely acquainted with any others) belong to one race.*

They are, physically and intellectually, in character, dress, manners and customs, so similar that my notes, which were originally made at different points of the two islands, have, after removal of the numerous repetitions, fused into one, which affords a more complete picture. It also shows their small differences.

There are no negritos either in Sámar or Leyté, but many Cimarronese. They pay no tribute and do not live in villages, but independently in the forests. Unfortunately I have had no personal intercourse with them, and what I have learned respecting

  • Pintados or Bisayos, according to a native word denoting the same, must be the inhabitants of the islands between Luzon and Mindanao, and must have been 80 named by the Spaniards froin their practice of tattooing themselves.

Crawford (“ Dict.” 339) thinks these facts not firmly established, and they are certainly not mentioned by Pigafetta ; who, however, writos, p. 80 :-“He (the king of Zubu) was… painted in various ways with fire." Purchas (“ Pilgrimage," fo. i. 603)“ The king of Zubut had his skinne painted with a hot iron pensill;" and Morga, fo. 4—“Traen todo il cuerpo labrado con fuego."

They appear to have tattooed themselves in the manner of the Papuas, by burning in spots and stripes into the skin. But Morga states in another place (f. 138)-.“ They are distinguished from the inhabitants of Luzon by their hair, which the men cut into a pigtail after the old Spanish manner, and paint their bodies in many patterns, without touching the face."

The custom of tattooing ceased with the introduction of Christianity. The clergyman so often quoted (Thévenot, p. 4) describes it as unknown, and is not regarded as a characteristic of the Bisayans. Tribes of the northern part of Luzon tattoo at the present day.

them from the Christian inhabitants of Sámar is too uncertain to be repeated. But it does seem that all these Cimarronese or their ancestors have traded with the Spaniards, and that their religion has appropriated many Catholic forms.

Thus, when planting rice, and, according to ancient practices, setting apart some of the seed to be offered in the four corners of the field as sacrifice, they are accustomed to repeat some mutilated Catholic prayers, which they appear to consider as efficacious as their old heathenish ones. Some have their children baptized as well, as it costs nothing; but, save in these respects, they perform no other Christian or civil obligations.

They are very peaceable, neither making war with one another, nor having poisoned arrows. Instances of Cimarronese, who go over to Christianity and village life, together with tribute and servitude, are extremely rare; and the numA Bisayan Indian. Camisa of guinara ; saya of European cotton; ber of the Indians, who reand hat of Nito (lygodium).

turn to the forests in order to become Cimarronese, is, on the other hand, very inconsiderable indeed—still smaller than in Luzon, as the natives, from the dull, almost vegetating life which they lead, are not easily brought into such straitened circumstances as to be compelled to leave their village, which, still more than in Luzon, is all the world to them.


The culture of rice follows the seasons of the year. In some places. where there are large fields the plough (arado) and the sodsod (here called surod) are employed;

but, almost universally, the rice-field is only trodden over by buffaloes in the rainy season. Sowing is done on the west coast in May and June, planting in July and August, and reaping from November to January. One ganta of seed-corn gives two, sometimes from three to four, cabanes (i.e., fifty, seventy-five, and a hundred fold). In the chief town, Catbalogan, there are but very few irrigated fields (tubigan, from tubig, water), the produce of which does not suffice for the requirements, and the deficiency is made up from other places on the coasts of the island.

On the other hand, Catbalogan produces abaca, cocoa-nut oil, wax, balate (edible holothuria, sea cucumber), dried fish, and woven stuffs. On the north and east coasts sowing takes place from November to January, and reaping six months later.

During the remaining six months the field serves as pasture for the cattle ; but in many places rice culture goes on even during these months, but on other fields. A large portion of this rice is frequently lost on account of the bad weather.

Purchases of land are seldom made, it being generally acquired by cultivation, by inheritance, or forfeiture. In Catbalogan the best rice land was paid for at the rate of one dollar for a ganta of seed-corn, and, on the north coast of Láuang, a field producing yearly one hundred cabanes was purchased for thirty dollars. Reckoning, as in Nága, one ganta of seed-corn at four loanes, and 75 cabanes of produce at 1 quiñon, the eastern rice land costs, in the first instance, 3 thalers and a third, in the second three thalers. The owner lets the bare property out on leases, and receives 1/2 the harvest as rent.*

The cultivation of rice in Leyté is conducted as in Sámar, but it has given way to the cultivation of abaca ; the governors, while they were allowed to trade, compelled the natives to devote a

  • Mezzeria (Italian); inétayer (French).

part of their fields and of their labour to it. Should a peasant be in arrears, it is the prevalent custom in the country for him to pay to the dealer double the balance remaining due at the next harvest.

Rice culture, which in Catbalogan is almost the only harvest gained, requires no other implement of agriculture than the wood knife, to loosen the soil somewhat, and a sharp stick for making holes at distances of six inches for the reception of five or six grains of rice. Sowing is done from May to June, weeding twice, and five months later it is cut stalk by stalk; the reaper receiving half a real daily wages and food. The produce is between two and three cabanes per ganta, or fifty to seventy fold.

The land costs nothing, and wages amount to nearly five reals per ganta of seed-corn. After a good harvest the caban fetches four reals ; but just before the barvest the price rises to one dollar, and often much higher. The ground is used only once for dry rice; camote (batata), abaca, and caladium being planted on it after the harvest. Mountain rice is more remunerative than rice of the valley, about in the proportion of nine to eight.

Next to rice the principal articles of sustenance are camote (convolvulus batatas), ubi (dioscorea), gabi (caladium), paláuán (a large arum, with taper leaves and spotted stalk). Camote can be planted all the year round, and ripens in four months; but it takes place generally when the rice culture is over, when little labour is available. When the cultivation of camote is retained, the old plants are allowed to multiply by their runners, and only the tubers are taken out of the ground. But larger produce is obtained by cleaning out the ground and planting anew. From eight to fifteen gantas may be had for half a real, and a sack for about three to six sgr. *

Although there are large plantations of abaca, during my

  • With us the sack of potatoes costs on the average, in the country, ten, in the town, twenty sgr.

visit it was but little cultivated, the price not being sufficiently remunerative.

Tobacco also is cultivated. Formerly it might be sold in the country, but now it has to be delivered at the hacienda.

A resinous oil, balão or malapájo, is found in Sámar and Albáy, probably also in other provinces. It is obtained from a dipterocarpus (apiton), one of the loftiest trees of the forest, by cutting in the trunk a wide hole, half a foot deep, hollowed out into the form of a basin, and from time to time lighting a fire in it, so as to free the channels through which it flows of obstructions. The oil thus drained is collected daily and comes into commerce without any further preparation.

Its chief application is in the preservation of iron in ship-building. Nails dipped in the oil of the baláo, before being driven in, will, as I have been assured by credible individuals, defy the action of rust for ten years.

But it is principally used as a varnish for ships, which are painted with it both within and without, and it also protects wood against termites and other insects. The balão is sold in Albáy at four reals for the tinaja of ten gantas (the litre at eight pence). A cement formed by the mixture of burnt lime, gum elemi, and cocoa-nut oil, in such proportions as to form a thick paste before application, is used for the protection of the bottoms of ships ; and the coating is said to last a year. *

Wax is bartered by the Cimarronese. The whole of Sámar annually yields from two hundred to three hundred picos, whose value ranges between twenty-five and fifty dollars per pico, while in Manila the price is generally five to ten dollars higher ; but it fluctuates very much, as the same product is brought from many other localities and at very irregular intervals of time.

There is hardly any breeding of cattle, notwithstanding the * In China an oil is procured from the seeds of vernicia montana, which, by the addition of alum, litharge, and steatite, with a gentle heat, easily forms a valuable varnish, which, when mixed with resin, is employed in rendering the bottoms of vessels watertight. P. Champion, “ Indust. Anc. et Mod. de l’Emp. Chinois," 114.

luxuriant growth of grasses and the absence of destructive animals. Horses and buffaloes are very rare, and are said to have been introduced late, not before the present century. As in Sámar there are hardly any other country roads than the seashore and the shallow beds of rivers (it is better in the north of Leyté), the buffalo is used only once every year in treading over the earth of the rice-field. During the rest of the year he roams at large on the pastures, in the forest, or on a small island, where such exists, in the neighbourhood. It is very rare to see several buffaloes, attached to the large trunk of a tree, dragging it to the village, and their number, therefore, is extremely small. Buffaloes which tread the rice land well are worth as much as ten dollars.

The mean price is 3 dollars for a buffalo-bull, and 5-6 dollars for a buffalo-cow.

Horned cattle are only occasionally used as victims at festivals. The property of several owners, they are very limited in number, and live half-wild in the mountains. There is hardly any trade in them, but the average price is three dollars for a heifer, and five or six dollars for a cow. Almost every family possesses a pig; some, three or four of them. A fat pig costs six or seven dollars, even more than a cow.

Many native tribes abstain strictly from beef. But pork is essential to their feasts.

Grease, too, is so dear that from three to four dollars would, under favourable circumstances, be got on that account for a fat animal.

Sheep and goats thrive well and propagate easily, but also exist only in small numbers, and are hardly utilised either for their wool or their flesh.

Creoles and mestizes are for the most part too idle even to keep sheep, preferring daily to eat fowls.

The sheep of Shanghai were imported by the governor of Taclóban. They also thrive and propagate famously.

Both a laying hen and a cock costs half a real. A game cock costs often more than 3 dollars. Six or eight hens, or thirty eggs, may be bought for one real.