Philippine Islands

Philippine Islands situated in 50 30'-19° 42' N. lat., and 1170 14'-1260 4' E. long., in the great Indian Archipelago, to the north of Borneo and Celebes, are more than twelve hundred in number, and have an area of about 150,000 square miles. The population is over 6,000,000, three fourths of whom are subject to Spain. The remainder are governed, according to their own laws and customs, by independent native princes. Luzon, in the north, has an area of 51,300 square miles, and Mindlanao, or Magindanao, in the south, fully 25,000. The islands lying between Luzon and Mindanao are called the Bisayas, the largest of which are: Samar, area 13,020 square miles; Mindoro, 12,600; Panay, 11,340; Leyte, 10,080; Negros, 6300; Masbate, 4200; and Zebu, 2352. There are upwards of a thousand lesser islands of which little is known. To the south-west of the Bisayas lies the long, narrow island of Paragoa or Palawan, formed of a mountain-chain with low coast-lines, cut with numerous streams, and exceedingly fertile. The folests abound in ebony, logwood, gum-trees, and bamboos. To the north of Luzon lie the Batanen, Bashee, and Babuyan islands, the first two groups having about 8000 inhabitants, the last unpeopled. The Sooloo Islands form a long chain from Mindanao to Borneo, having the same mountainous and volcanic structure as the Philippine Islands, and all are probably fragments of a submerged continent. Many active volcanoes are scattered through the islands; Mayon, in Luzon, and Buhayan, in Mindanao, often causing great devastation. The mountain-chains run north and south, and never attain a greater elevation than 7000 feet. The islands have many rivers, the coasts are indented with deep bays, and there are many lakes in the interior. Earthquakes are frequent and destructive. The soil is extremely fertile, except where extensive marshes occur. In Mindanao are numerous lakes, which expand during the rainy season into inland seas. Rain may be expected from May to December, and from June to November the land is flooded. Violent hurricanes are experienced in the north of Luzon and west coast of Mindanao. Especially during the changes of the monsoons, storms of wind, rain, thunder and lightning prevail. The weather is very fine, and heat moderate, from December to May, when the temperature rapidly rises and becomes oppressive, except ibr a short time after a fall of rain. The fertility of the soil and the humid atmosphere produce a richness of vegetation which is nowhere surpassed. Blossoms and fruit hang together on the trees, and the cultivated fields yield a constant succession of crops. Immense forests spread over the Philippine Islands, clothing the mountains to their summits; ebony, iron-wood, cedar, sapanwood, gum-trees, etc., being laced together and garlanded by the bush-rope or palasan, which attains a length of several hundred feet. The variety of fruittrees is great, including the orange, citron, bread-fruit, mango, cocoa-nut, guava, tamarind, rose-apple, etc.; other important products of the vegetable kingdom being the banana, plantain, pine-apple, sugar-cane, cotton, tobacco, indigo, coffee, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla, cassia, the areca-nut, ginger, pepper, etc., with rice, wheat, maize, and various other cereals. Gold is found in river-beds and detrital deposits, being used, in the form of dust, as the medium of exchange in Mindanao. Iron is plentiful, and fine coal-beds, from one to four feet thick, have been found. Copper has long been worked in Luzon. There are also limestone, a fine variegated marble, sulphur in unlimited quantity, quicksilver, vermilion, and saltpetre-the sulphur being found both native and in combination with copper, arsenic, and iron. Except the wild-cat, beasts of prey are unknown. There are oxen, buffaloes, sheep, goats, swine, harts, squirrels, and a great variety of monkeys. The jungles swarm with lizards, snakes, and other reptiles; the rivers and lakes with crocodiles. Huge spiders, tarantulas, white ants, mosquitoes, and locusts are plagues which form a set-off to the beautiful fireflies, the brilliant queen-beetle (Elater noctilucus), the melody of myriads of birds, the turtle-doves, pheasants, birds-of-paradise, and many lovely species of paroquets, with which the forests are alive. "Hives of wild bees hang from the branches, and alongside of them are the nests of humming-birds dangling in the wind." The caverns along the shores are frequented by the swallow, whose edible nest is esteemed by the Chinese a rich delicacy. Some of them are also tenanted by multitudes of bats of immense size. Buffaloes are used for tillage and draught; a small horse for riding. Fowls are plentiful, and incredible numbers of ducks are artificially hatched. Fish is in great abundance and variety. Mother-omfpearl, coral, amber, and tortoise-shell are important articles of commerce. The principal exports are sugar, tobacco, cigars, indigo, Manilla hemp, coffee, rice, dyewoods, hides, gold-dust, and beeswax.

Native Population. — The Tagals and Bisayans are the most numerous native races. They dwell in the cities and cultivated lowlands; 2,500,000 being converts to Roman Catholicism, and a considerable number, especially of the Bisayans, Mohammedan. The mountain districts are inhabited by a negro race, who, in features, stature, and savage mode of living, closely resemble the Alfoors of the interior of Papua, and are probably the aborigines driven back before the inroads of the Malays. A few of the negroes are Christian, but they are chiefly idolaters, or without any manifest form of religion, and roaming about in families, without fixed dwelling. The Mestizos form an influential part of the population; by their activity engrossing the greatest share of the trade. These are mostly of Chinese fathers and native mothers.

The leading mercantile houses are English and American. British and American merchants enjoy the largest share of the business, the exports to Great Britain being upwards of £1,500,000 sterling yearly, and the imports thence nearly of the same value. There are seven British houses established at Manilla, and one at Iloilo, in the populous and productive island of Panay, which is the centre of an increasing trade. The total exports and imports of the Philippine Islands have a value of about £6,000,000 yearly. The Chinese exercise various trades and callings, remaining only for a time, and never bringing their wives with them. The principal languages are the Tagalese and Bisayan. Rice, sweet potatoes, fish, flesh, and fruits form the food of the Tagals and Bisayans, who usually drink only water, though sometimes indulging in cocoa-wine. Tobacco is used by all. They are gentle, hospitable, fond of dancing and cock-fighting. Education is far behind; it is similar to what it was in Europe during the Middle Ages. It is entirely under the control of the Romish priesthood, who are governed by an archbishop (of Manilla), and the bishops of New Segovia, Nueva Caceres, and Zebu. Religious processions are the pride of the people, and are formed with great parade, thousands of persons carrying wax-candles, etc.

The Sooloo Islands have a population of 150,000; are governed by a sultan, whose capital is Sung, in 6° 1' N. lat., and 120° 55' 51" E. long., who also rules over the greatest part of Paragoa, the northern corner only being subject to Spain. Luzon has a population of 2,500,000, one fifth part being independent; the Bisaya Islands, 2,000,000, of whom three fourths are under Spanish rule. The population of Panay amounts to 750,000, and that of Zebu to 150,000. Of the numbers in Mindanao nothing is known; the districts of Zamboanga, Misamis, and Caragan, with 100,000 inhabitants, being all that is subject to Spain. The greater part of the island is under the sultan of Mindanao, resident at Selanga, in 70 9' N. lat., and 1240 38' E. long., who, with his feudatory chiefs, can bring together an army of 100,000 men. He is on friendly terms with the Spaniards. Besides Manilla, there are very many large and important cities, especially in Luzon, Panay, and Zebu. The great centers of trade are Manilla, in Luzon, and Iloilo, in Panay. The Philippine Islands were discovered in 1521 by Magellan, who, after visiting Mindanao, sailed to Zebu, where, taking part with the king in a war, he was wounded, and died at Mactan April 26, 1521. Some years later the Spanish court sent an expedition under Villabos, who named the islands in honor of the prince of Asturias, afterwards Philip II. For some time the chief Spanish settlement was on Zebu; but in 1581 Manilla was built, and has since continued to be the seat of government. See Semper, Die Philippinen u. ihre Bewohner (Wurzb. 1869); and his Reisen inm Archipel der Philippinen (Leips. 1867-73, 8 volumes, 8vo); Earl, Papuans, chapter 7; Academy, August 15, 1873, page 311.

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