Pierre Sonnerat’s Voyage aux Indes orientales et à la Chine, ...
... depuis 1774 jusqu'en 1781: dans lequel on traite de moeurs, de la religion, des sciences & des arts des Indiens, ... les Philippines & les Moluques, & de recherches sur l'histoire naturelle de ces pays.
À Paris: Chez l'ateur, M.DCC.LXXXII. 2 vols. Plates. 4°, 1782
PHILIPPINES AND MOLUCCAS.
I follow M. le Gentil in giving the position, latitude, and seasons of the principal of these islands. This judicious observer has made a particular study of the subject, and his work appears to me correct.
The Philippines and Moluccas are commonly divided into two distinct Archipelagos; but, in my opinion, all these islands in reality form but one; and if they were all under one Sovereign, they would, doubtless, be comprehended under one designation.
The Philippines are attached to the crown of Spain, and the Dutch possess the Moluccas. These last are more deserving of consideration, and richer than the first. They owe their fertility to the industry of a nation laborious, commercial, and addicted to cultivation. Every thing, on the contrary, in the Philippines, indicates the indolence of a people who direct all their efforts to religion, and whose sole object seems to be to acquire proselytes.
Luçon lies to the north of all the others: it is like-wise the largest, being not less than 450 miles in length, and about 85 att its least breadth. The Spaniards have upon this island established Manila, the capital of their settlements in the Archipelago. Its advantageous position for the commerce of China, and that of other parts of India, ought to render this city the richest in the world; but what Spaniard would occupy his time in the pursuit of transitoy riches, which must be acquired by the assiduities of commercial industry, and at the expense of his national prejudices?
Mania lies in 40° 30‘ N. latitude. The climate is nearly the same as that of Pondicherry and Madras; the town is large and well built; the houses are handsome, and the streets in straight lines. There are several superb churches. It is fortified, and is situated upon the bank of a considerable river, which washes its walls; and communicates through the island of Luçon in every direction. The country which surrounds it; is fertile, and adapted to every species of cultivation; but in the hands of the Spaniards it lies an useless waste. They have neither availed themselves of the position of the town, or of the fertility of the surrounding soil; they allow it to exhaust itself, and bear of its own accord crops which they will not be at the trouble of getting in. Even the law, which ought to lend its aid in support of the cultivator of the soil, is at Manila inimical to his views, and the exportation of that abundance which nature holds out to man is prohibited. The treasures of the earth exceed the wants of the limited number of inhabitants in this island, and they are allowed to perish on the soil which gives them birth. The consequence is, that should it happen in any year that a variable atmosphere, hurricanes, or a wet or dry season, should substitute scarcity for abundance, the most dreadful famine would be the lot of a country which ought never to feel the effects of it.
Such is the general ignorance, such their indolence, their blind and culpable confidence in Providence, that the extent of their cultivation, and the collection of their produce, is limited to their immediate wants. The most horrible misery is often the result of this perilous security, so much at variance with the benevolent views of nature. Common animal instinct teaches us to provide for the future, but the Spaniards cannot boast of even this foresight.
It is computed that there are about 12,000 Christians in Manila. The population of this city was formerly much more extensive while it was resorted to by the Chinese. Many of that nation were settled there, and others were engaged in commercial intercourse but a bigoted Governor, under the influence of a wretched policy, absolutely drove them out of the island Commerce and the arts immediately declined, and have never since recovered. Misery and depopulation have been the fatal consequences of this mal-administration.
Vessels do not anchor abreast of Manila; the mouth of the river is interrupted by a bar, which is very dangerous in stormy weather. Small vessels, however, may enter, and their cargoes are discharged at Privateer harbour. Such ves,sels as are ob]iged to winter at Mani]a retire to the port of Cavite, situated in the bottom of the bay to the S. E. and three leagues distant from Manila.
Cavite is provided with a fort, which is not in a state to resist the attack of an European enemy. It is constructed on a tongue of low land, which the sea threatens with submersion; its harbour is not sheltered from the north and N. N. W. winds; and it is infested with a species of worm which attacks vessels, and soon renders them unfit to keep the sea. Another great in convenience is, that water is procured at a great distance; and for this purpose it is necessary to employ the flat-bottomed boats of the country, which are alone capable of penetrating sufficiently far up the river. Three parts of the town, little considerable in itself, are occupied, like all the Spanish possessions, by convents; the suburbs are called Fauxbourg Saint Roch. It consists of a collection of houses, built of bamboo, and covered with palm leavles; but there are in it, however, the ruins of a church which appears to have been sufficiently handsome. The Indians, who joined the English in 1762, destroyed it, and that which was formerly held in such respect is now become a shelter for cattle.
The Spaniards have many religious establishments in the isand of Luçon. It might be averred, that it never was their intention to plant colonies, for they have only sent monks, and appear to have had no other end in view than the propagation of the Catholic faith. The people, therefore, who have submitted to the Spanjsh yoke, scarcely exhibit any traits of a polished nation. Languishing in inactivity, they are without energy, and appear equally indifferent to virtue as to vice. Indolence, a dereliction of life and timidity, constitute their character, and misery is their habitual state; but there are districts to which, the Spaniards have been unable to penetrate. In vain have they tried to subdue those who have retired thither; in vain applied force, severity, and punishment, to subjugate and convert them. These people have escaped from the yoke by removing themselves to defiles where the Spa niards cannot attack them: they have carried with them into the retreat they have chosen the recollection of the injuries they have suffered, and of those with which they have been threatened; they nourish, in the extremity of their asylum, an implacable hatred against the strangers, whom they cousider as the oppressors of their native land; they incessantly meditate on, and prepare the means of revenge. Supported by their courage, animated by their hatred, they dare approach even the gates of the capital: their progress is marked with pillage, murder, devastation, and rape; they even, live at the expense of such of their countrymen as have submitted; they carry off, they tear from them the support of a miserable existence, which these latter have neither the strength nor the, courage to defend.
There is, besides these, in the mountainous parts, a description of people absolutely in a savage state; they shun the face of man, they even shun each other; they are solitary wanderers; they stop when night overtakes them, and take their rest in the hollows of trees, they are strangers even to domestic life. The invincible propensities of nature are alone capable of bending their stubborn character, and impelling the men to satisfy themselves with such females as chance throws in their way, and towards whom desire is the only at- traction.
The inhabitants of the island of Luçon call themselves Tagals as do likewise all the inhabitants of the Philippines - they appear to derive their origin from the Malays, and exhibit features of their character - their language, though different from that of the Malay, has its pronunciation and its sweetness. All these islands seem to be inhabited by the same people, among whom their customs alone have been subjected to change. In Manila, such has been the intercourse.with the Chinese and other nations, that they have become a mixed race.
The Manilians are of a swarthy complexion, large and well made; their dress is composed of a shirt of a kind of linen made of the filaments of the abaca, a species of palm; this shirt is very short, and is worn over a large and wide pair of drawers: but their greatest luxury consists in handkerchiefs, with red borders, of the finest quality; of these they usually wear three, one on the head, one on the neck, and the third is held in the hand. The English manufacture them at Madras expressly for their consumption.
The women wear a kind of little shift, which scarcely reaches to the navel, with a handkerchief loosely covering the neck, a white linen cloth encircles the, body, and is fastened by a button at the waist: they throw over this a coloured stuff manufactured by the inhabitants of Panay. Over all is worn a mantle, for the most part black, which covers the body from head to foot. Their hair, which is black and highly beautiful, sometimes reaches to the ground: they bestow the greatest care on it, anoint it with cocoa-nut oil, plait it in the Chinese fashion, and, towards the crown of the head, form it into a knot, fastened with a gold or silver pin. They wear embroidered slippers, so very small that they only cover the toes.
The houses of the Indians of Mamila are constructed of bamboo, covered with palm leaves. They are erected on pillars of wood, at the height of from eight to ten feet from the ground, and they ascend to them by a small ladder, which is drawn uo every night. The custom of thus raising their houses to this elevation, has for its object their protection from the humidity of the soil; but that of drawing up the ladder by which they mount to them, has in view their security against ferocious animals, and those of their neighbours who live in a savage state. Their bed is, for the most part, a simple mat, spread on the floor.
Their food is rice, plain boiled, which they eat either with, salted fish, or by putting into the water in which it is dressed a spice, which takes off its insipid taste.
There are many lakes in the island of Luçon; the most considerable is that called by the Spaniards Laguna de Bay. The river, which washes the walls of Manila, flows out of this lake, and thus a communication, by means, of boats, is open to its surrounding shores. This lake is about 30 leagues in circumference, and about 120 fathoms in depth. In the middle of it is an island, which holds out a refuge to some Indian families. They live by fishing, and pre serve their liberty by prohibiting the approach of strangers to their asylum. This lake is bounded on the west by high mountains; the level country is fertile, and is inhabited by a people of gentle manners: they employ themselves in manufacturing matting, cloth, and different fabrics, from the abaca. Perhaps the first monks who were sent to convert them were, attracted there by the mildness of their character.
The Spaniards, in supplying them with a religion, have left their laws unaltered; in fact, their ancient usages are retained, and they are governed by an Indian of their village, nominated, however, by the Spaniards, and whose authority they acknowledge.
This people, though of a mild character, treat crimes with severity; the greatest, in their opinion, is adultery, which is the only one punished with death.
Eastward, of the lake there are immense plains; large and deep rivers traverse them, and spread to a great distance a natural fertility. This country might be the residence of a numerous population, which might live happy in the cultivation of it. Only a few villages, however, are to be seen scattered here and there, miserable dwellings, inhabited by men devoid of honesty, without justice, who, in a constant state of warfare, entertain mutual fear of' each other, and who, instead of laws, of the protection of which they are ignorant, place their security in their arms; these they never quit, they hold them in readiness in approaching each other, and the intercourse they have together less resembles a social act than a state of perpetual warfare. Even the rights of blood afford no security: parents, brothers, wife and husband, live in constant distrust of each other, and, consequently, in a state of reciprocal hatred. The origin of manners, so far removed from the mild character of their neighbours, may be found in the mode adopted for their subjection, and the recollection of those punishments they have been exposed to by the priests, in compelling them to adore the cross.
There are many volcanos in the island of Luçon, which, it is most probable, is the cause of the frequent earthquakes to which it is subject; not a year passes without two, three, or four. The Spaniards of Manila construct their houses accordingly; the whole is of wood, and raised on wooden pillars; but to guard against such visitations they are provided with a small apartment made of bamboo, placed in the court or garden. There the whole family sleeps, when the state of the atmosphere seems to indicate an earthquake.
It has been well observed by M. Gentil, that the earthquakes appear to occur more frequently at the end of the year [Comment 1], and most commonly in the night-time. I witnessed two in the month of December, 1770: the first was violent, and threw down many houses; it was announced at nine o'clock at night by a strong southerly wind, which considerably agitated the sea; the atmosphere became charged with a reddish vapour, and in two hours time I felt three successive shocks, which produced in me a kind of sea sickness. The vessels in the road were sensible of the motion, and thought they had struck. The Spaniards employed themselves in chaunting the rosary.
From the volcanos proceed springs of warm water, which are in great abundance in the island of Luçon; to some are attributed even marvellous properties, particularly to those of Bailly, situated on the borders of the lake of Bay. The King has had an hospital and public baths constructed here.
The trade of Manila might be very considerable, and this city become one of the richest and most cornmercial in all Asia. The Spaniards themselves might proceed to China, Cochin-china, India, Bengal, Surat; and even to the Isle of France, from whence might be drawn the commodities they stand in need of either for their own consumption, or for carrying on the commerce to Mexico; they might take with them, in exchange, the produce of the islands: but the Spaniard, naturaly slothful, is more disposed to enjoy his indolence, which he den ominates tranquillity, than export the productions of his country; a species of traffic necessarily accompanied with some degree of fatigue.
The government has prohibited the admission of any foreign vessels into their harbours. All the French navigators, who have been desirous of establishing an intercourse, and who have touched at Manila for cornmercial purposes, have been always received very ungraciously; and privateers, from all ill-judged combiliation against them, have uniformly sustained great losses there on their prizes. The difficulties which have been thrown in the way of the unloading and loading of vessels, have thoroughly disgusted the merchants of the Isle of France; a commerce, nevertheless, which might be, rendered equally advantigeous to both nations.
The only vessels admitted at Manila are those of the Chinese and Indians, on the pretence that these people may thus be made converts; these are the vessels, which import into Manila the articles of, absolute necessity and of luxury, and take in exchange the piastres brought, by the galleon from Acapulco.
The commodities which might be drawn from Manila are cordage, pitch and tar, linen cloth, rushes, rotin, indigo, rocon, achiote, and rice. The cotton is of the finest quality, and might be made an important article of exportation to China, where many cargoes of commodity are sent from Surat, on which the gain is sometimes an hundred per cent.
The sugar cane thrives well here, and yields a sugar superior to that produced at Batavia. There is likewise found here the bark of a tree, which answers as a subsititute for cinnamon, but to the taste of cinnamon it adds a little tartness: its bark is thick and porous, and the tree deemed a bastard cinnamon. The Spaniards barter it with the Chinese, but they set very little value on it, as the same species is found in Hainam, in Tonquin, and in Cochin China, from whence they, import it. Another production is the wild nutmeg; but having no flavour, it is on that account not merchantable. It is small, and the tree which bears, it has leaves a foot long; the same species is found at Madagascar.
Tobacco succeeds well here; the chiroutes of Manila are in high repute all over India for their agreeable, flavour; even the ladies smoke them all day long.
The cocoa of Manila is considered as superior to that of America; it is the only tree whose cultivation is attended to in all the Philippines, because so much use is made of chocolate. It is the general beverage, and is presented as refreshment on visits: cocoa, as well as tobacco, are not indigenous in the Philippines they were imported from New Spain.
Wax might likewise be procured from Manila, the mountains swarming with bees which produce it.
There is a great deal of gold found in all the rivers, a sufficient proof that there are mines of that metal, the Indians will earn fifteen pence a day by washing the sands for it.
Iron is found in its native state but mixed with some other metal, which renders it softer than ours. They work it exactly as it is found. There is likewise abundance of loadstone, and considerable quarries of marble from whence that, is procured, with which the churches are decorated.
The Spaniards have but a few insignificiant establishments on Mindoro. All travellers
have asserted that the inhabitants of this island have tails, but this idea rests on no other
ground than that of the Coccix being a little elongated.
The principal establishments of the Spaniards, in the island of Panay, are llo-Ilo and Antigue; there is no good anchorage on the island of Panay but in this latter place.
Antigue is in 6°42' N. latitude; the anchorage is six fathom, at a good distance from the land. Vessels cannot take the benefit of this anchorage in November, December, and January, but with great risk as during that period, the south-west and west wind, blow right on the coast, and render the sea tempestuous. Water for shipping is procured at a small rivulet, situated to the north; there is a much more considerable river, which serves as a ditch to the fort, and along which boats may proceed a great way; but its water is brackish even at neap tides. The Inhabitants of this island, more industrious than those of Luçon, manufacture handkerchiefs and cloths from cotton, and the fibres of a plant which the country supplies; the coarsest description is used for clothing, and with the finer they trade with the neighbouring islands.
In other respects Antigue resembles the rest of the Philippines. Indulgent Nature is prodigal of her gifts, of which the inhabitants make no attempt to avail themselves, for the government uses no means of protection against the ravages and cupidity of the Moors, who incessantly harass and carry off even the fishing-boats from the bay: this is only protected by a wooden fort, garrisoned by about twenty Christian natives.
This island produces a great deal of grain, but little fruit; cocoa and plantains, of a bad quality, are alone sought after by the inhabitants. There is a great number of stags, wild boars, and wild hog's; buffaloes, horned cattle, and horses, are so common, that no attention is paid either to their safety or to their propagation; the horses wander about at their pleasure; they are public, property, having no particular owner: when a horse is wanted, the first that appears is seized and he is turned loose, again when he has performed the requisite service.
The air of the whole island is unwholesome, from the want of cultivation, and the fre'quency of marshes. It is supposed to contain many very rich good mines.
The Spaniards have many factories on the coasts of Mindanao, which support a precarious existence only by a constant state of warfare with the innumerable Kings reigning in the island, not one of which will acknowledge the Spanish dominion.
Sambouanga forms the chief establishment of the Spaniards on this island; it is situated on the southern coast of it. According to our observation, it lies in l20° 13' long. and 6° 54' lat. differing considerably from the observation of Mr. Gentil, who places it in 7° 20' lat. apparently after some bad Spanish charts.
The Spaniards have constructed a considerable fort, with stone and brick, and capable of the defence of the bay. The inhabitants are placed within a palisade, abutting on one side to the fort, and on the other to a small wooden battery of 14 guns, which commands the environs of the town.
Sambouanga costs the King of Spain a great deal, and makes no return. This post was established for the purpose of checking the incursions, of the Moors of Jolo on the neighbouring islands; notwithstanding which these latter are not a whit less frequent in their visits to the bay of Antigue and that of Manila, carrying off not only the fishing boats which fall in their way, but vessels richly laden. They are even daring enough to attack the inhabitants of Sambouanga, they land out of the range of the guns, and harass them close to the palisade; these unhappy beings are thus prevented from quitting their houses; they cultivate the land under the protection of cannon, of which they are compelled to avail themselves of several pieces in such fields as they are desirous of tilling.
The soil is fertile, and requires little culture; it produces rice abundantly. The cattle are very numerous, and of live value. The King having turned some loose upon an immense plain which adjoins the settlement, they have multiplied to such a degree, that when was there they were estimated at six thousand. A wooden fort, of eight guns, has been constructed in the middle of the plain to check the Moors. Upon another plain, separated from this by a chain of mountains, the, Span iards have turned horses and cattle, which have likewise increased prodigiously; both plains are bordered by a thin wood, full,of stags and wild hogs. The rivers, as is the case in the island of Luçon, produce a great deal of gold.
A particular species of cocoa is found at Sambouanga, the tree which produces it differs in no respect from that with which we are acquainted; its fruit has the same form, but is a little less in size; the husk is not of a fibrous consistence like that of common cocoa, the flesh of it is analogous to the artichoke; it has its flavour, and, perhaps, we assigned a greater degree of delicacy to it, because we had not the means of comparing them: if this fruit is allowed to grow old on the tree, it changes its nature, and becomes stringy, in this state its taste is tart, and the cocoa is no longer tit for eating. I carried six to the Isle of France, but they did not succeed.
There is a volcano on the south side of Mindanao which burns incessantly, and serves as a landmark to vessels frequenting this navigation.
The island of Jolo, or Sooloo, seems to be the point of demarkation between the Philippines and the Moluccas. The Dutch pretend that it is a dependency on the Moluccas. and the Spaniards are so much persuaded it is one of the Philippines, that they have repeatedly attempted an establishment there; and not having succeeded by mild measures, they have endeavoured to render themselves masters of it by force. Every attempt has failed: the Jolois have never been induced to acknowlege but their own sovereign.
The English have had a factory on a small island to the east of Jolo, but they have been obliged. to abandon it.
The French have attempted to form an establishment there. The King of the island, as a proof of his friendly intentions towards the nation, had even desired the French flag. I believe, however, there was good reason for not persevering in the attempt, as, sooner or later, the adventurers would have been the victims of the inhabitants, who are naturally warlike and,fierce, though under the government of a good prince.
It was under the administration of M. Poivre, at the Isle of France, that a kind of alliance was formed between the French government and the Sultan of Jolo, M. Poivre had had some intercourse with his Prince, the most powerful of all the sovereigns in the Philippine Archipelago; and he had availed himself of it, to direct to that island the first expedition in search of the spice plants, under the command of M. de Tremigon. The Frenchmen attached to this expedition were hospitably received at Jolo. Alymudin, the Sultan, not only offered them his aid in the conquest, but a considerable, territory in his dominions.
Jolo is only a small island of 30 to 40 leagues in circumference: it notwithstanding merits the at, tention of, the European powers, on account of its being so well adapted for the cultivation of spices, and generally for commerce.
It produces a great many elephants; amber is found there, and there is a pearl fishery. Its harbour is a retreat for the Moors, who piratically infest these seas, distress the navigation of the Spaniards, and carry off in their incursions the colonists, of whom they make slaves; the coast is furnished with fish sufficient for the daily food of the inhabitants; here likewise are gathered the birds' nests so highly esteemed by the Chinese.
The provinces of Pangasinan and Cagayan produce
This is based on an unproven old earthquake theory which was very popular in
France at that time.
Unfortunalety the myth that some Filipino ethnic communities particularly those who are living in the very remote areas have tails seem to exist even nowadays. The origin of this belief probably goes back to a Spanish friar in the Philippines. We cite from the biography of the young Buhid Mangyan Bag-Etan a story being widely spread among the Mangyans of Mindoro:
"Bangons are believed believed to be wild, fierce, and only half human. It is extremely rare for a Buhid to mix with Bangons.... Sitting under the fasongsongan with Julio, I eagerly quizzed him about the Bangons. I was curious to know if the Bangons did have tails. Julio could only say that he had heard the story many times. I had heard there were holes in the floors of Bangon houses for their tails to go through when they sat down. Julio had heard that story, too, and many more, but his personal experiences did not prove them, so he had decided the stories were told to discourage intermarriage. We finally decided how the myth of the Bangons having tails started. Unlike the Buhids, who have learned to cultivate cotton and make their clothing, the Bangons wear a G-String mad of tree bark. Since the Buhids rarely see them up close, the dangling bark fibers seen at a distance would look like tails." (Serverion N. Luna: Born Primitive in the Philippines, Southern Illinois University Press, London and Amsterdam, 1975, pp. 87-88).
Annotations by Johann Stockinger
[Austrian-Philippine Home Page]
[Culture and History]|
created: January 24, 1998
updated: February 5, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger