The Family Economy and Debt Slavery Icon

January 28, 2022

A family consisting of father, mother, and five children requires daily nearly 24 chupas of palay (rice in the husk), which, after winnowing, comes to about 12 chupas.

This at the average price of 4 reals per caban costs about half a real. The price, however, varies.

Sometimes, after the harvest, it is 3 reals per caban. Before it, ten ; and in Albay, even about thirty reals. Then about three cuartos are wanted for extras (as fish, crabs, vegetables, etc.), which, however, are generally collected by the children ; and, lastly, for oil two cu., buyo one cu., tobacco three cu. (three leaves for one cu.), the latter being smoked, not chewed. A woman consumes half as much buyo and tobacco as a man. Buyo and tobacco are less used in Leyté than in Sámar.

For clothing a man requires yearly:

  • four rough shirts of guinara, costing from one to two reals
  • three or four hose, at one to two and a half reals
  • two handkerchiefs for the head, at one and a half real (hats are not worn on the south and west coasts)
  • 1 pair of shoes, seven reals
  • 1 fine shirt, a dollar or more
  • 1 fine hose, four reals.

The last 3 are for the church festivals.

A woman requires:

  • 4-6 camisas of guinara, at 1 real
  • 2-3 sayas of guinara, at 3-4 reals
  • 1-2 sayas of European printed cotton, at 5 reals
  • 2 handkerchiefs, at 1.5-2 reals
  • 1-2 pairs of slippers (chinelas) to go to mass in at 2 reals or more

In addition:

  • 1 fine camisa costing at least 6 reals
  • 1 mantilla for churchgoing, 6 reals (it lasts 4 years)
  • 1 comb, two cu.
  • 2 under-petticoats (nabuas) four reals in all
  • earrings of brass and a rosary

In the poorer localities, such as Láuang, only the home-woven guinaras are worn.

There, a man requires:

  • 3 shirts and 3 hose, which are cut out of 3 pieces of guinara, at 2 reals
  • 1 salacot (hat), generally home made, worth 0.5 real

Women require yearly:

  • 4 sayas, 6 reals
  • 1 camisa, with a finer one for the feasts, 8 reals.
  • Underpetticoats are not worn

Children’s clothing may be estimated at about half of the above rates.

For household furniture, a family has a cooking pot * of unglazed burnt clay, imported by ships from Manila, the cost of which is fixed by the value of its contents in rice;

a supply of bamboo-canes; seven plates, costing between two and five cu.; a carahai (iron pan), three to four reals; cocoa-nut shells serving for glasses; a few small pots, altogether half a real ; a sundang, four to six reals, or a bolo (large wood knife), one dollar; and a pair of scissors (for the women), two reals.

The loom, which every household constructs for itself of bamboo, of course costs nothing.

The rate of daily wages, in the case of native employers, is half a real, without food; but Europeans always have to give one real and food, unless, by favour of the gobernadorcillo, they get polistas at the former rate, which then regularly goes into the public coffers. An ordinary carpenter earns from one to two reals; a skilful man, three reals daily.

The hours of work are from six to noon, and from two to six in the evening.

Almost every village has a rude smith, who understands the making of sundạngs and bolos; but the iron and the coal required for the purpose must be supplied with the order.

No other work in metal is executed. With the exception of a little shipbuilding, hardly any other pursuit than weaving is carried on; the loom is rarely wanting in a household. Guinara, i.e., stuff made of the abaca, is manufactured, as well as also some piña, or figured silk stuffs, the silk being brought from Manila, and of Chinese origin. All these fabrics are made in private homes ; there is no factory.

  • Petzholdt (* Caucasus," i. 203) mentions that in Bosslewi the price of a clay vessel is determined by its capacity of maize.

In places where rice is scarce the lower class of people catch fish, salt and dry them, and barter them for rice. In the chief towns purchases are made with the current money.

But, in the interior, where there is hardly any money, fabrics and dried fish are the most usual means of exchange. Salt is obtained by evaporating the sea-water in small iron hand-pans (carahais), without previous evaporation in the sun.

The navigation between Catbalogan and Manila continues from December to July, and in the interval between those months the ships lie dismantled under sheds. There also is communication by the coast eastwards to Guíuan, northwards to Catárman, and sometimes to Láuang. The crews consist partly of natives, and partly of foreigners, as the natives take to the sea with great reluctance; indeed, almost only when compelled to leave their villages.

Sámar has scarcely any other means of communication besides the navigation of the coast and rivers, the interior being roadless.

Burdens have to be conveyed on the shoulders. An able-bodied porter, who receives a real and a half without food, will carry three arrobas (seventy-five pounds at most) six leagues in a day, but he cannot accomplish the same work on the following day, requiring at least one day’s rest.

A strong man will carry an arroba and a half daily for a distance of six leagues for a whole week.

There are no markets in Sámar and Leyté ; so that whoever wishes to buy seeks what he requires in the several houses, and in like manner the seller offers his goods.

An Indian seeking to borrow money has to give ample security and pay interest at the rate of 1 real for every dollar per month (12.5% monthly). It is not easy for him to borrow more than 5 dollars, for which sum only he can be legally imprisoned.

Trade and credit are less developed in eastern and northern Samar than in the western part of the island, which keeps up a more active communication with the other inhabitants of the Archipelago.

There, current money is rarely lent, but only its value in goods is advanced at the rate of 1 real per dollar per mensem.

If the debtor fails to pay within the time appointed, he frequently has to part with one of his children, who is obliged to serve the lender for his bare food, without wages, until the debt has been extinguished.

I saw a young man who had so served for the term of five years, in liquidation of a debt of five dollars which his father, who had formerly been a gobernadorcillo in Paranas, owed to a mestize in Catbalogan. On the east coast a pretty young girl, who, for a debt of 3 dollars due by her father, had then, for two years, served a native, who had the reputation of being a spendthrift.

I was shown in Borongan a coconut plantation of 300 trees, which was pledged for a debt of 10 dollars about 20 years ago, since which period it had been used by the creditor as his own property. It was only a few years since that, upon the death of the debtor, his children succeeded, with great difficulty, in paying the original debt and redeeming the property.

It is common for a native to borrow 2.5 dollars in order to purchase his exemption from the 40 days of annual service. He then fails to repay the loan punctually and is obliged to serve his creditor for a whole year.

A statute passed in 1848 (Leg. ult, i. 144):

  • prohibits usurious contracts with servants or assistants
  • threatens with heavy penalties all those who, under the pretext of having advanced money, or of having paid debts or the poll-tax or exemption from service:
    • keep either individual natives or whole families continually dependent on them
    • always increase their obligations by not allowing them ways to satisiy the claims against them.

The non-enforcement of this statue leads to debt slavery.

The inhabitants of Sámar and Leyté are:

  • immediately idler and filthier than those of Luzon
  • as much behind the Bicols as the Bicols are behind the Tagalogs.

Tacloban has a more active trade with Manila. These qualities there are less pronounced. The women, who are agreeable, bathe frequently.

For the rest, the inhabitants of the two islands are friendly, obliging, tractable, and peaceable. Abusive language or violence very rarely occurs. In case of injury, information is laid against the offender at the tribunal.

Great purity of manners seems to prevail on the north and west coasts, but not on the east coast, nor in Leyté. External piety is universally conspicuous, through the training imparted by the priests.

The families are very united. The women have great influence and are principally engaged in household employments. They are skillful in weaving, and to whom only the lighter labours of the field are assigned.

The authority of the parents and of the eldest brother is supreme. The younger sisters never oppose it. Women and children are kindly treated.

The natives of Leyté cling as strongly to their native soil as those of Sámar, like them, have no partiality for the sea, though their antipathy to it is not quite so manifest as that of the inhabitants of Sámar. *

There are no benevolent institutions in either of the two islands.

Each family maintains its own poor and crippled, and treats them tenderly. In Catbalogan, the chief town of the island, with five to six thousand inhabitants, there were only eight recipients of charity; but in Albáy mendicants are not wanting. In Láuang, when a Spaniard, on a solemn festival, had caused it to be proclaimed that he would distribute rice to the poor, not a single applicant came forward.

The honesty of the inhabitants of Sámar is much commended.

Obligations are said to be contracted almost always without written documents, and never forsworn, even when they make default in payment. Robberies are of rare occurrence in Sámar, and thefts almost unknown. There are schools also here in the pueblos, which accomplish quite as much as they do in Camarines.

• Formerly it appears to have been different with them. “ These Bisayans are a people little disposed to agriculture, but practised in navigation, and eager for war and expeditions by sea, on account of the pillage and prizes, which they call inangubas,’ which is the same as taking to the field in order to steal.”—Morga, f. 138.

Of the public amusements cock-fighting is the chief, but it is not so eagerly pursued as in Luzon. At the church festivals they perform a drama translated from the Spanish, generally of a religious character; and the expense of the entertainment is defrayed by voluntary contributions of the wealthy.

The chief vices are:

  • play
  • drunkenness
    • Even women and young girls occasionally get drunk.

The marriage feasts combine song and dance, often continue for several days and nights where they enjoy food and drink.

The suitor has to serve in the house of the bride’s parents 2-5 years, before he takes his bride home. Money cannot purchase exemption from this onerous restriction.

He boards in the house of the bride’s parents who furnish the rice, but he has to supply the vegetables himself.*

At the expiration of his term of service he builds, with the assistance of his relations and friends, the house for the family which is about to be newly established.

Though adultery is frequent, jealousy is rare, and never leads to violence. The injured individual generally goes with the culprit to the minister, who, with a severe lecture to one, and words of consolation to the other, sets everything straight again. Married women are more easily accessible than girls, whose prospect of marriage, however, is hardly diminished by a false step during single life.

While under parental authority girls, as a rule, are kept under rigid control, doubtless in order to prolong the time of servitude of the suitor. External appearance is more strictly regarded among the Bisayans than by the Bicols and Tagalese.

  • Nl-usage prevails to a great extent, although prohibited by a stringent law; the non-enforcement of which by the alcaldes is charged with a penalty of 100 dollars for every single case of neglect. In many provinces the bridegroom pays to the bride’s mother, besides the dower, an indemnity for the mother’s milk which the bride has enjoyed (bigay susu). According to Colin (" Labor Evangelico," p. 129) the penhimuyat, the present which the mother received for night-watching and care during the bringing up of the bride, amounted to one-fifth of the dowry.

Here also the erroneous opinion prevails, that the number of the women exceeds that of the men.

Instances occur of girls of twelve being mothers; but they are rare; and the women bear twelve or thirteen children, many of whom, however, do not live. So much so is this the case, that families of more than six or eight children are very rarely met with.