THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
Our newest possession, the Philippine
Archipelago, in a way, is also our oldest, for the
islands were discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521,
about twenty-nine years after the great discovery of
Columbus. Magellan called at several islands,
among them Mindanao and Cebú. He anchored
in the harbor on which the city of Cebú now stands.
He seems to have been treated in a very friendly manner
by the natives of Cebú, but when he crossed to
a near-by island he was attacked and killed. The
friendship of the King of Cebú was not very steadfast,
for after Magellan’s death several of his officers
were put to death by the king’s order.
For two hundred and forty years the
islands were a possession of Spain; then they were
captured by a British fleet. They were soon restored
to Spain, however, and remained a Spanish possession
until 1898, when they were ceded to us after the Spanish-American
There are more than three thousand
islands in the archipelago, and they are the partly
covered tops of a mountainous and rugged plateau.
Many volcanoes testify to the volcanic origin of the
plateau; indeed, the surface of the plateau seems
to be a thin crust over well, over trouble;
for the dozen or more volcanoes are never quiet long
enough to be forgotten. Perhaps it was proper
to name the islands after Philip II of Spain, for
he, too, had his full measure of trouble.
The archipelago is of pretty good
size. The whole plateau, land and water, is about
as large as that part of the United States east of
Chicago; and the islands themselves are pretty nearly
as large as the State of Texas. Luzon, the largest
island, is about as large as Pennsylvania, and Mindanao
is a bit smaller. Then there are Samar, Panay,
Palawan, and Cebú every one large enough
to make a State of fair size, and every one with enough
people to make a State.
There are about seven million people
all told, most of whom are of the Malay race.
As a rule, they are pretty well along toward civilization;
some of them are educated. There are also tribes
of the black race Negritos, they are called who
are just plain savages. They are the original
inhabitants of the islands, and it is most likely that
they are the descendants of people from New Guinea.
In the southwest is the Sulu group, inhabited by Malays,
called Moros. They are Muhammadans in religion
and are the last of the Malays who came to the islands.
Of all the Malay peoples, the Tagalogs
of Luzon have been the foremost to learn the arts
of western civilization. They have surpassed their
near relatives, the Visayans, who live in the central
part of the islands. Perhaps it is the closer
contact with the Spanish that has given the Tagalogs
their great progress. At all events they have
become well to do and prosperous as measured by other
The Moros, who live mainly in the
southern part, have scarcely reached civilization.
In the Sulu islands they have their own government,
at the head of which is a native sultan. In many
parts of the islands there are tribes governed by
chiefs called “dattos.” Some of the
natives are prosperous farmers, but many of them are
A great deal has been said about the
misrule and cruelty of the Spanish governors and officials.
Being soldiers and task-masters it is likely that
they did many things that will not stand the searchlight
of civilization. But the work of the priests
will always leave a pleasant flavor. For three
hundred years they braved every danger and suffered
every hardship in their work. For every one that
fell a victim to disease, or to the bolo, there was
another ready to fill his place. They not only
converted the natives to Christianity, but they also
taught them to be thrifty farmers and prosperous business
men. As a result the Filipinos are the only Asian
people of considerable numbers that have yet become
When the Philippine Islands became
a possession of the United States, one of the first
things done was to establish several thousand schools.
A thousand American teachers were at first employed.
Training schools for teachers were established, and
in the course of a few years more than five thousand
Filipino teachers were conducting native schools.
English is taught in all the schools, and there are
special schools in which agriculture, mechanical trades,
and commerce are taught.
There is good reason for all this,
for the islands have wonderful resources. Gold,
silver, copper, and iron are abundant. The forests
have an abundance of hard woods that sooner or later
will find a market both in Europe and America.
The rice-fields will easily produce enough grain for
the whole population, and a considerable amount to
sell in addition, when all the rice-lands are cultivated.
For want of good wagon roads and railways only a small
part of the rice-lands are cultivated.
There is an abundance of good grazing
land that will produce meat for twice the present
population. Most of the cattle now grown in the
islands are of the kind found in India.
The most common beast of burden, however,
is the carabao, or water-buffalo. What an ugly
looking beast it is! It is as clumsy as a hippopotamus,
as ugly as a rhinoceros, and as kind and gentle as
an old muley cow. Harnessed to a dray or a wagon,
it shuffles along, its big, flat feet seeming to walk
all over the road. But those same big feet are
the animal’s chief stock in trade. They
enable him to walk through both sand and deep mud mud
so soft and deep that a horse or a mule would sink
to its body. Nothing but the carabao’s flatboat-like
feet could drag ploughs through the soft mud of the
Carabaos are easily trained to
farm work, and even children can drive them or
ride on their backs in going to school. The milk
of a carabao is as good and wholesome as that of an
ordinary cow; the meat is pretty tough, but it is
One thing, however, the carabao must
have, and that is a bath several times a day.
Deprived of its bath, the animal at first becomes restless;
then it breaks away in a half-crazed condition for
the nearest water, where it buries itself, all but
its head. Native drivers know just how to manage
their animals and drive them to the nearest water several
times a day.
There are horses in the islands, but
not many. Most of them are very much like the
mustang. The Spanish brought Andalusian ponies
to the islands many years ago, but they did not prove
very useful. Within a few years American horses
were introduced, but they could not live on Philippine
grasses. Mexican mustangs and Mongolian ponies
were much better, however, but they are used chiefly
as riding animals.
Of all the beasts of burden in the
Philippine Islands, none is in the same class with
John Chinaman. Everywhere his bland smile is seen;
his patience has no end and, apparently,
his work has none. The Filipino farmer works
merely to keep body and soul together; John Chinaman
works to save hard cash, and he saves it. Wherever
there is any money to be made, John is pretty certain
to be near by. He is the cook and “maid-of-all-work”
in the house of the foreign resident, the stevedore
on the dock, the clerk in the forwarding house, the
“boss” in the rice plantation, the handy
man in the tobacco factory, and the store-keeper in
the remote Filipino village. Sixteen hours of
hard work every day and Sunday seem to make him grow
fat; the rest of the time he just works for fun and
Long before the Chinese coolie came
to the United States the Spanish raised the cry “The
Chinese must go.” The Spanish made short
work of them, killing them by thousands and tens of
thousands. But in a year or two John was on hand
again, smiling and working sixteen hours a day strictly
for cash. And he is in the Philippine Islands
As a rule the Filipinos rarely live
isolated as do the American farmers. Almost always
they cluster in villages of one or two hundred people.
The Filipino is not likely to cultivate a big farm.
Two or three acres will supply the family with all
the food required, and the Chinese merchant will buy
enough of his produce to provide a few dollars in cash
and the cloth for the family wearing apparel.
In the smaller villages there is an open place that
answers for a street, but the houses are apt to be
scattered about without much regularity of arrangement.
The houses, like those of the Pacific
islands generally, are built of bamboo frames heavy
pieces for the framework itself and woven bamboo splints
for the side sheathing. The roof is carefully
thatched with the leaves of the nipa-palm and these
are sewn into a thick mat with ratan. In places
where the ground is likely to be overflowed, each house
is set on posts so that the floors are several feet
from the ground. In this case the “pig”
does not “live in the parlor”; the pigs
and chickens occupy the “ground floor.”
All told, the Filipino village mansion may not be
very ornate, but it is extremely comfortable.
The larger villages and cities are
built much alike. There is a plaza or public
square. Around the four sides, and facing the
plaza, are the church, government buildings, and stores.
The more pretentious residences are near by.
Further away these give place to the Filipino, or
“nipa houses,” as they are called.
The street surrounding the plaza is broad and well
kept; elsewhere the streets are quagmires in the rainy,
and dust holes in the dry season. Pretty nearly
always there is a Chinese quarter that is crowded
and dirty; quite likely, too, the best stores in the
town are kept by Chinese merchants. That is the
way the Spaniards laid out their cities and towns
in Spain; they did not change the plan in the Philippines.
The houses built for them in the islands are much
like those in Spanish towns adobe walls
plastered with stucco, and roofed with tiles.
Manila is the capital and commercial
centre of the islands. It is a city about as
large as Seattle, and is situated at the head of a
landlocked body of water, Manila Bay. Corregidor
Island, a little dark-green islet, guards the entrance
to the bay; and one cannot see the wicked guns that
are ready to pour a raking fire into a hostile fleet
until one is within a few hundred yards of the island.
The only thing visible at a distance is a flag flying
from a high mast; but it is the Stars and Stripes that
bends to the east wind. The bay is a good-sized
bit of water, too. In the middle of it one can
just barely see the gray, misty hills that surround
it. Then the shore line begins to take shape and
the mouth of Pasig River seems to open in front of
the incoming steamship. In a few minutes the
harbor of the city is in sight. Steamships, with
their painted stacks and funnels, and sailing vessels,
with every sort of mast and rigging, crowd the harbor.
Row-boats by the hundred are moving in every direction,
and little steam-launches and motor-boats are spitting
viciously as they go back and forth.
The lower part of the city is almost
like Amsterdam; it is traversed by canals, great and
small, in which are fishing-smacks waiting to have
the catch taken to market. Puffy, wheezy tugs
are making fast to huge cascoes, or lighters; for
the cargoes must be taken from the docks to the steamships
and sailing-vessels out in the harbor.
The Pasig is only ten or twelve miles
in length. It flows from a near-by lake, and
both sides of the river are lined with villages, and
market-gardens, and duck-hatcheries.
The business streets are crowded with
carts and drays. Here and there are smart-looking
carriages carrying well-groomed men, who talk little
and look rich. There could not be more style and
ceremony about them if they were in New York, London,
or Paris. Trim-looking soldiers in khaki uniforms,
native Filipinos in white suits, Chinese in silk gowns
and long sleeves, native women wearing red skirts
and black shawls, native coolies in loose blouses
and short pantaloons all go to make up the
throng of the streets.
Most of the houses are two stories
in height with arcades or awnings that shelter the
sidewalks. And such narrow sidewalks! they
are hardly wide enough for more than three people
to walk abreast. But even the business houses
are built for comfort. The roof has a broad overhang,
and quite likely there is a covered veranda.
Many of the Filipinos of Manila are
educated and prosperous. Their houses are said
to be furnished in European style, and likewise their
clothing. Sure enough everything bears a “made
in Germany” mark, but everything looks distinctly
Filipino. The head of the family wears a suit
of spotless white duck, but it has a military cut and
perhaps he goes about the house barefoot; if so, he
knows what real comfort is.
Mother and daughters wear skirts of
beautiful brocaded silk, very wide and full; above
the skirt is a loose garment much like a shirt-waist
cut low at the neck, and over this a lace cape with
a wide, flowing collar. Possibly they wear heelless
slippers, but just as likely they, too, are barefoot when
no visitors are present. Perhaps such suits are
not quite so becoming as the trim, tailor-made suits
in New York, but they are a lot more comfortable.
A short distance from the Escolta,
or chief business street, is one of the many markets
of Manila. The whole space is laid off with rows
of bamboo booths. Pretty nearly everything to
eat, to wear, or to furnish the house is on hand or
rather in loose piles fish, duck’s
eggs, meat, rice, pinole, fruit of forty kinds, straw
hats, straw sandals, straw raincoats, tin ware from
America, wooden ware from Holland, and clay stoves
“made in Manila.”
Every alley has its own wares, and
John Chinaman with his baskets balanced on a long
pole puts a finishing touch to the market. A Filipino
cannot be emphatic in an ordinary tone of voice.
Buyer and seller work themselves up to high C pitch
until it seems as though nothing short of a fit would
overtake both. Bedlam is turned loose in every
part of the market. Usually a man and his wife
are required to conduct the business at a booth.
Their bare feet sticking out from the skirts bob up
and down, beating time to the clatter of their voices.
Here comes a man whose sole stock
in trade consists of a single article, namely, a python.
His goods are twined about a pole with a cross piece
for a perch, but the snake’s tail has a loving
twist around the owner’s neck. What for? well,
the python has a sweet tooth for rats and mice and
the sweet tooth of this particular snake is on edge
for a square meal. Years ago foreign ships brought
rats from various countries. In the course of
time rats and mice became so numerous that it became
a question whether Manila should exterminate the rats
or the rats exterminate Manila.
Now, those same ships ought to have
brought some cats along, too. But it is just
as well that they did not, for one python is worth
half a dozen cats or rat terriers when business is
on hand. The only drawback occurs when the python
insists on getting into bed with his owner to keep
When in Manila, go to Duck-town by
all means. It is only a short distance from the
near-by market. The feeding grounds and hatcheries
extend for two miles along the river. Hundreds
of thousands of ducks are reared at the hatcheries,
some for eggs, and others for food. The ducks
are fed on shell-fish, and foreigners imagine that
both the meat and the eggs have a fishy flavor.
Eggs and edible bird’s nests are also brought
from neighboring sea-cliffs to the Manila markets;
and both are considered great delicacies.
Manila is the largest city of the
Philippines, but there are also several other cities
of good lusty growth. Bauan, Lipa, Laoag, and
Batangas all in Luzon and Ilo-ilo
in Panay are growing in population and business as
the resources of the islands develop. Since the
American occupation, Uncle Sam has done a great deal
to make these ports centres of business; harbors have
been deepened; railways have been extended; good roads
have been built; and rivers have been made navigable.
There are several exports that will
always tend to make the Philippines rich. Tobacco
is an important crop and the Manila leaf, as it is
called, is of very fine quality. There are those
who whisper it about that much of the leaf is shipped
to Cuba to be made into “Havana” cigars.
Sugar is also a great export crop, and when the railways
now under way are completed sugar will become one
of the foremost exports. The export of copra,
or dried cocoanut, is a leading industry, and the Philippine
Islands produce a large part of the world’s product.
One Philippine product, however, connects
the islands with almost all the rest of the world,
namely, Manila hemp. That is, it is called “hemp,”
but it is not hemp at all; the fibre is obtained from
a plant very closely related to the banana. White
leaves or husks grow closely around the stalk of the
plant, forming a tightly fitting case. This envelope
is composed of thousands of long, strong fibres that,
when cleaned and dried, are the hemp that makes the
strongest and best rope in the world.
After the pulpy leaves are stripped
from the stalk, the pulp is squeezed out of them and
the fibres are left in the sun to dry. The best
fibre is as soft and fine as silk. Some of it
is used in making a fine cloth; the coarser fibre
is used for rope and hawsers. More than fifteen
million dollars worth of Manila hemp is sold yearly.
In the treaty with Spain, by which
Uncle Sam acquired the islands, twenty million dollars
was paid to Spain. But the exports from the Philippines
have averaged nearly thirty million dollars a year