George Percival Scriven:
An American in Bohol, The Philippines, 1899-1901

An On-line Archival Collection
Special Collections Library, Duke University

Section Eight

rising opened upon the fertile valley I have mentioned. Traveling along pleasantly through this, the low descending sun having ceased to wither men and horses as it did earlier in the day <one of> the latter became fractious, and kicking out viciously disabled the driver who was sent back to the Presidente's carriage where he was secure from kicks and a [boy?] put in his place. Presently as we rattled along briskly the poney [sic] <again> began to lash out viciously, threatening to break the driver's leg or neck at every kick seeing which I pulled him [the driver] inboard in a heap the lines fell between the horses and away they went as fast as their little legs could patter. Hale remarked that we had better jump for it, as the driver had disappeared somehow, so with two flying leaps we were in the sand the ponies running merrily away as if the[y] liked it, but they didn't and soon were stopped by natives ahead. Then Hale and I took the presidente's carriage, butting that dignitary on the seat in front and so as the sun was about to set, rattled up to the barrio near Calape where a band drawn up beside the road welcomed Hale and the Presidente with music. I of course, as a mere passenger had nothing to say in the affair. Down the long street we trotted the people hanging about the doorways and out the windows curious but very respectful, and in

one of the buildings of the Tribunal around which a crowd of men had gathered, and where as we [entered?] the native police paraded, armed with bolos and spears and wearing the blue and white uniform of the insurrectos. All were peaceable and friendly, however, but the situation was peculiar, for these were three Americans alone in a region where an American had presumably never been before, accompanied by the presidente and one officer of a republic which we had just overthrown, [illegible] surrounded by the armed soldiers of that Republic yet met everywhere if not with cordiality at least with deference and respect. In the office room of the Tribunal a visit of [ceremony?] was made to Major Hale by the <presidente of the town, the> heads of the barrios and other functionaries all dressed in their best shirts -- with tails, however, concealed as a rule; or often in white coat and trousers, and carrying the inevitable cane as a badge of office. Many of these men were dignified fine looking persons, and all were very grave as if fully aware of the importance of the events that were occurring. I could not help thinking how strange the position was as I sat by the open window looking out over the lowlands flooded by the sea, through which a wide stream flowed between mud banks to the sea, and the native boats [moved?] to and fro their sails [touched?] by the last rays of the setting sun, somewhere in whose direction was our boat and escort. But Hale's confidence in the natives was never betrayed. The ceremony over we passed out again through the soldiers and respectful crowd in which by the way, no

women were seen, and again in the carriages Hale and I rattled on ahead of the others, thro' another beautiful valley growing indistinct in the gathering evening and finally came to a large white house by the roadside -- which might have been a country inn in any other land and our driver stopped for it was our night's resting place.
Our stopping place was a large estate called Calnuasan lying back from the seashore which was here low and flat with many wooded islands off shore <while> to the east lay a range of grassy hills whose lower slopes extending into a broad plane [sic] seemed very productive. It was a most beautiful and fertile region and at the house where we stopped showed every evidence of comfort even luxury. Being in advance of the Presidente whose father in law was our host, Major Hale and I were met at the head of the broad flight of stairs leading to the second floor which was the residence part of the house, by an old white haired gentleman, dressed in immaculate white whose manners and appearance would have done credit to a French nobleman of the old régime. <Welcoming us warmly he> put the house at our disposal. A well trained servant showed us a room where everything was provided that a well appointed country house should offer. Fresh looking beds with cane bottoms as the custom is -- instead of mattress

clean sheets a most unusual luxury that I had not seen before for months except in the hospital and prettily colored straw mats, and long comfortable pillows to strow about where needed. The usual shrine at the head of the bed marked the religion of the owner. The remainder of the house was as pleasant as the rooms we first saw -- the drawing room <well furnished> and the dining room worthy almost of a mansion. A few books lay here and there about (amongst them a Spanish translation of one of Cooper's Indian stories The Pathfinder I think, which must have given the <old> Boholano a somewhat strange idea of the America of today), and various pictures hung about, while at every turn a comfortable chair brought from Europe or Hong Kong made the place attractive. At dinner that night such a feast was spread as I never expected to see in the Visayas. One course after another came in in such numbers and abundance that hungry as we were it was only possible to touch lightly a dish here and there plate there if we expected to continue our way in the morning, and it was very necessary to taste [quietly?] the various wines, liqueurs, wheaten beer and brandy that were offered. <Clean linen, good glass silver and all the rest added to the charm.> It was a pleasant dinner and an astonishing to meet with in this little odd corner of a little unknown island in the hardly known Visayas of the little known Philippines. And so I speak of it at some length. Next morning a bath in the great tiled room of the lower floor where huge jars filled with water [formed?] the well and a gourd the shower. Then

we drove on [illegible] towards Tubigon where we were to separate, Hale to continue north with the Presidente, I to cross to Cebu. As we approached Tubigon the most important town of the north-west coast, we were met by many natives each of whom passed his hand over his bare head in the usual humble salute; but the people here seemed less neat and well dressed and the houses more dirty than in the south of the island where the towns are clean as a Swiss village and far more picturesque, such little villages as might have been met with by Alice in Wonderland, indeed so small and trim were the little box like houses, surrounded by a neat bamboo fence, facing the glistening white coral road, and shaded by graceful trees. Here about Tubigon an important trading town the influence of the foreigner was seen, and especially of the dreaded Cebuano whose incursions have taken place near this part of the coast where people had been robbed and forced into the ranks of the invaders and livestock run off or killed for food. As the carriages passed through the bamboo gate giving entrance to the town a band struck up a welcoming air, and we drove on in a kind of triumphal procession to the great stone building called of the Tribunal

where presently appeared <[illegible phrase]> a long procession of natives in white <clothes and respectable black [billy-cock?] hats> and carrying canes the badge of office of the presidentes of towns and barrios.
They were the dignitaries come to pay their respects to Major Hale and of course to the President of the Republic of Bohol. The ceremony was quickly over. Stepping in from the balcony from which we had been looking over town and sea Hale and I were introduced to each dignitary in succession by the Presidente, each one bowed shook hands and fell back to the rear of the empty loft which had once been the barracks of the police. This over we went to the priest's house as usual there to await the arrival of the banca and escort which by-the-way was becalmed and did not arrive at Tubigon until about [8?] o'clock that night. At the priest's was the usual smoking and gin sipping (the favorite tipple of churchmen in these parts though in justice to them I am bound to say they prefer poisoning their visitors to themselves). Then breakfast of the usual heavy sort, with innumerable varieties of meat, fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables and some tolerable red wine. Then little to do until late in the afternoon when a new presidente of the town was to be elected, at the invitation or order of the (former) Presidente of the (former) Republic of Bohol.
It appeared that the regularly elected presidente of Tubigon was an incurable invalid, and the vice-presidente was not considered altogether satisfactory. Hence notice had been sent out that an election would be held on our [arrival?].

As the manner of holding elections, and the methods of government are similar in all the towns of Bohol perhaps throughout the Philippines and are therefore interesting I learned at Tubigon as much as possible of the methods of procedure.
The island of Bohol is divided for administrative purposes into districts or pueblos in <each of> which [there is a?] central town which is the official residence of the presidente of the whole district <Presidente de Pueblo>, of the vice-presidente who is also the cabeza de barrio of that town; and of the three councillors [sic] of the presidente one of justice, one of police, one of taxes (or revenues), who form a sort of governing council. The smaller towns about the central are formed into barrios each of which has a head man called cabeza de barrio, who is appointed by the presidente and his council, except that at the formation of the government in 1899 these cabezas de barrio were elected by the people.
The presidente de pueblo is elected by the cabezas de barrio who at such elections are delegates from their barrios and supposed to vote according to the instructions of the people at the meeting held for the election of the presidente in the chief town. In order to learn the wishes of the people of the barrio, each cabeza, on the eve of the election calls them together discusses the names of probable candidates and takes a viva-voce vote which determines his own vote at the election for presidente. But it seems that not all the people of a barrio have a voice in the matter presumably only those who pay a tax, and no doubt there are many whose wish has no great weight <with the cabeza> for here as elsewhere there are certain irresponsibles whose opinion is considered of small worth. No doubt the cabeza de barrio exercises a wide discretion in the matter <and in larger towns, property holders are permitted to vote for the presidente>. The central town with its outlying barrios [forms?] the pueblo. In the case of Tubigon there were [illegible line].

Presidentes of towns are paid according to the population from 10 to 50 dollars (Mex) per month; the rate of pay being approved by the Presidente of the island and his council that is by the Island Government. So it appears that the central government was modeled on that of the town. It is very simple but seems to answer admirably for these quiet people. The town government forms a little circle, the cabezas de barrios [sic] electing the presidente the latter in turn appointing cabezas de barrios; but it is probable that the latter position is more of a burden than a blessing, and the headman is a kind of natural selection.
At Tubigon as the sun began to grow less fierce Major Hale, President Reyes and I walked across the main plaza that faces the sea towards a little building used as headquarters of police, where as usual the men paraded armed with spears and bolos. The twenty six cabezas had already arrived, an intelligent looking body of men quiet and dignified, and with now and again one amongst them with the head and face of an old Roman; or the rugged stoical features of a Sioux Indian. They were for the most part dressed in the usual white cotton coat and trousers but some wore the national gauze shirt in the national manner, that is tail outside. The President of the Island Señor Reyes was somewhat more gorgeous[;] a blue coat with white trousers and a red silk sash may or may not have been intended to represent the colors

of Bohol, but at least the combination was striking, and with a pistol attached by a gold cord, a straw hat and white [illegible] made the worthy man a very remarkable figure indeed. He like the others carried the inevitable cane the badge of rank of president & headman. It seems that it is the custom of the President of the Island to be present at the election of presidents of pueblos, and on this occasion Señor Reyes took charge of the meeting sitting at a large table with a secretary near by. He was a very dignified personage in spite of his [parrot?] clothes. The meeting came quietly to order, then with few preliminaries beyond a statement by the President a vote was taken each man going to the table and writing if he could the name of his candidate; if he could not write the name was written by the Secretary <openly>. These slips were then counted in the presence of all and the result announced by the president, whereupon a discussion took place -- in the Visayan language, of course -- each man as he rose to talk addressing himself to the president but there was no heat or argument. The objection was made, as I afterwards learned to the candidate elected that he was unmarried and so unfitted presumably from light-mindedness -- for the responsible position of President. However this objection was not sustained, and was indeed illegal. The man elected was an intelligent looking young fellow of about 25. After the election Major Hale was asked to make a few remarks which he did through the President again reiterating what he

had so often expressed elsewhere, that the United States did not want to make slaves but friends of the Filipinos. The terror of being enslaved seems wide spread and is due -- perhaps -- to certain utterance[s] of an influential Filipino at the outbreak of the rebellion.
Tubigon is a small town pleasantly placed on the sea coast with high hills rising in rear. It is surrounded by a fertile country and has an abundance of good water a somewhat rare [item? article?] in this part of Bohol. There are few cattle and horses in this part of the island, however, the eastern part [containing?] most live stock which find shipment from the port of Ubay. Most of the houses of Tubigon are of nipa, but there are two or three good stone buildings, one the conventual building inhabited by the padre, a large bare building but occupying of course the best site of the town, and beside an unfinished stone church of handsome proportions. There are many cocoanut trees of course but the town is less pleasant and pretty than most on Bohol. The wide plaza is unattractive and the marketplace small, a line of bamboo sheds hardly more. There is the usual long pier -- in great disrepair -- to the end of which small boats can come at low tide; but there is no harbor. Cebu is distinctly visible.
The three important ports of Bohol, are Tubigon, Jagna, and Ubay. East of Tubigon the towns are small except Inabanga which lies in a flat coast and has not a good harbor (so reported). It is reported

Proceed to the Next Section

[Go directly to Section: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ]

[Photo and Image Index]

[Scriven Diary title page]

A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University. May 1997