THREE days' steaming from Hong Kong brought us to Manila, the seaport and capital of the Philippine Islands. These islands are as big as England, Scotland, and Wales put together.
They originally belonged to Spain. They were first discovered in 1521, by that fine old sea scout Magellan, whose story I told you in my description of South America.
He was the first explorer to sail round the world. With five little ships he set out from Spain and sailed across the Atlantic, and all down the east coast of South America, till he got to the southern end of it, and then he made his way through the very narrow and dangerous straits, still known as Magellan Straits, on to the Pacific Ocean.
Then he boldly set out to sail across this huge unknown ocean, with only a limited supply of provisions and water, and in little sailing vessels which could only make a few miles a day unless there was a strong, favourable wind.
But he and his men, by carrying out the Scouts' motto of "Stick to it" through thick and thin, succeeded at last in reaching the islands which form the western boundary of the Pacific, and landed safely in the Philippines.
Here they made friends with the native inhabitants.
But, unfortunately, the islands were at war among themselves, and when Magellan landed on one of them, called Mactan, the inhabitants, who were hostile to those with whom he had been friendly, rushed down and killed him while he was getting his men back to their boats.
His ship eventually got back home, sailing round Africa to do it, but it was the only one out of his fleet of five that did so, and only eighteen men out of his 250 gallant comrades lived to get back to Spain.
British Scouts of Industry
There seem to be few parts of the world where the Spaniards did not come in the old times, and still fewer where the British have not also been.
Here in the Philippines we find this. The Spaniards occupied the islands for two hundred years, then in 1762 they had war with Great Britain and the British came and attacked them here as elsewhere. The British came over from India, bringing a number of Indian troops with them.
Manila, the capital, was a strongly fortified city and is still to-day inclosed by great grey ramparts and gateways.
The British troops nevertheless attacked, and after breaking the south wall captured the place. Afterwards, in making peace with the Spaniards, they agreed to hand it back to them if they paid the expenses of the expedition. This the Spaniards agreed to do, but from that day to this they never paid up, although they got their colony back.
Thirteen years ago the Spaniards came to war with the Americans, and the American fleet under Admiral Dewey attacked and captured the Philippines by destroying the Spanish fleet which was protecting the colony at Cavite in Manila Bay. So now it is an American colony.
Under their energetic rule the whole country, which was once known as a sleepy, slow sort of place, is now quickly growing into a rich and busy land. I was glad to see that Britain is taking a big share in making it prosperous.
Most of the ships in the great harbour were flying the red ensign, and there are over three hundred British merchants and others living in Manila.
The natives, Filipinos, as they are called, of whom there are eight millions, are a dark but civilised race, nice, but inclined to be rather lazy, so they don't make as much out of their country as the more energetic white men do.
The country people live in curious houses made of bamboo, with thatched walls and roofs, raised three to four feet off the ground. They dress in European style, but the women wear very large puffed-out sleeves of thin gauze.
One of the principal things that they grow here is hemp, from which Manila rope is made. It is really the fibre of a sort of banana tree which will not grow anywhere but in the Philippine Islands. They also grow a lot of sugar and tobacco and cocoanuts.
Cocoanuts are valuable, not so much for their milk on a hot day or for throwing balls at a fair, as for their use when pounded up and made into oil and grease. In the trade for this purpose they are called “copra.”
The British merchants deal in these things and also bring into the country the machinery and tools, clothing, and stores needed by the inhabitants.
It is by men of business being something of Scouts that they increase their commerce and prosperity. They go to the far-away corners of the earth with their eyes open; they face difficulties and often dangers; they endure bad climates and early disappointments: but by pluckily sticking to it and by looking out for all chances of trade and seizing them; by being energetic instead of lazy, they get on and make their business a success.
Bejuco is another thing that is produced in the Philippine Islands.
Do you know what bejuco is? No. Well, nor did I till I went there. It is a plant, a kind of cane that grows on a creeper or vine. Sometimes it has been known to grow to a length of 600 and 700 feet. It is used by the natives for rope, and can be split up and made into fine strong cord.
It is much used for their kind of house building, that is, for tying together the bamboo of which the framework is made.
The Filipinos are wonderfully clever at building bamboo and cane bridges over rivers, very much like what I have seen some Scout troops make. Probably a Philippine Scout could tell you all about them.
The Filipinos are very fond of music, and almost every boy would get our Musician's Badge. There are bands everywhere; even in the big gaol there is a convict band which plays from four to five o'clock daily. Many of their instruments look odd because they are made of bamboo instead of brass, but they give out a very good tone.
In one of their churches there is an organ, over a hundred years old, whose pipes are all made of bamboo. Boy Scouts of the Philippines
Boy Scouts of the Philippines
I went there at a bad time of the year, just when owing to the heat a great many of the white population are living at a town, Baguio, away up in the mountains. Still there was a Guard of Honour to receive me at Manila, and I had an interesting chat , with some of them.
At a recent fire in Manila, which devastated acres of ground and rendered 3,000 people homeless, two patrols of the Manila Scouts reached the fire almost with the firemen, reported to the proper authorities, and worked for hours under very trying conditions, helping frightened natives into places of safety, removing valuables and other articles from houses that apparently were in the path of the flames, and performed cheerfully and efficiently all the tasks given to them by the firemen and Scoutmaster.
They were complimented in the public Press, and this kind editorial was written about their work. “During the recent carnival the services of the boys were requested by the carnival officials, and for a period of ten days they were on-duty performing all manner of canoes from other islands. These houses are handsomely decorated inside with painted carvings.
The white people living on these islands are generally magistrates and traders. At Angaur there were about thirty German engineers and workmen working a quarry for phosphates-which are used for manuring fields in Europe.
When I remarked to them what a big work they were doing, they pleased me by saying it was not half so big as some other quarries of the same kind on other islands which were being worked by British engineers and workmen.
These people only get a visit from a mail steamer once in two months, but they seem very happy all the same.
It is said that, when the Americans had captured the Philippine Islands from the Spaniards, one of their men-of-war went round to visit some of their outlying islands. She anchored at one of these, and promptly a boat rowed out to her flying the Spanish flag and bringing a smartly uniformed Spanish officer.
He came on board to welcome the Americans in the name of Spain to his island, but they had to tell him what he had not heard before, that there had been a war between the two countries and that his island was now American, and he himself a prisoner of war. A nasty jar for him!
The Pacific Islanders are pretty good scouts in one way, and that is, they are resourceful-when they haven't got the right thing they make something else do instead.
For instance, they have no iron on their islands, so they make their spears and arrows out of tough hard wood very carefully sharpened. I saw some spears with stone spearheads which were very sharp.
Captain Cook in his log says that in his time also they used very clever tools for hewing, trimming, and polishing wood, for building houses or canoes. Their axes and adzes were made of sharpened stone, while their chisels were made of bone-generally the arm bone of a man. For rasp or file they used a bit of coral.
Their rigging is made of rattan cane, and their finer cord of split cane. Their fishing lines are as good as European ones, and are made of the fibre of a kind of nettle.
The men have very ornamental wooden combs for combing their hair, and these they stick in their hair as ornaments when not using them. But they also have another use for them. We saw them at dinner one day and they were using their combs as forks!
They mix up their food-fish, yam, and cocoanut milk-in a cocoanut shell, which serves as a bowl to eat out of. They don't sit round in a friendly circle, but each sits by himself, often with his back to his neighbour, and silently eats his food.
When the men have finished they hand their bowls over to the boys who sit round about waiting for them, and then they tuck in at what is left of the food.
They all wash their mouths out and clean their teeth with water after every meal. Also they wash themselves three times a day-on getting up, at midday before dinner, and in the evening before going to bed. I wish our people were half as cleanly.
A New Guinea Pirates' Lair
One morning we awoke to find ourselves steaming along the coast of New Guinea.
From the water's edge to the range of hills above it all was dense green forest; ridge overtopped ridge beyond until the hills began to run into small mountains, but all were still covered with the everlasting forest.
There was never a sign of life or human habitation. At first we saw numbers of small clouds of smoke arising from among the trees, and we thought these must be from village fires, but we presently learnt that they were merely the wisps of morning mist which on the West Coast of Africa are called " The Smokers," and generally mean fever hanging about.
At last among the trees on the shore we saw a little white lighthouse, and our ship turned her nose straight for it. It looked as though she meant to run on to the coral beach, but as she got nearer the trees seemed to open a way for her, and a little creek ran in behind them.
As we turned into this creek, further branch creeks opened up, and we soon found ourselves in a beautiful harbour formed by a number of thickly wooded islands. It was completely hidden from the sea. Such a lair for pirates, just like those we had seen in the Spanish Main.
But there were no pirates here now. On the islands round the harbour were charming bungalows with deep, shady verandahs and beautiful green gardens under waving cocoanut trees. The place not being very big had a name long enough to make up for its want of size -it was called “Friedrich-Wilhelmshaven.” It is a German colony. New Guinea is a very big island; part of it belongs to Germany, part to Holland, and the southern portion to Great Britain, and “Fred Bills haven,” as we christened it for short, is the chief port for the German section.
I was particularly interested in New Guinea because it was here that my brother, the Major, nearly came to an end in a scrimmage with natives some years ago.
During our stay we had good opportunity of seeing something of the natives. They are here called Kanákas, and are quite different from those we had seen two days before at Jap and Angaur.
We made a boat expedition to two or three of the islands near " Fred Bills haven " and visited the native villages on each.
The natives are rather small, well-made brown fellows with cheery, ugly faces. Except for a cloth girdle and a number of bracelets; necklets, and earrings, the men wear no clothes, and the ladies only wear a kind of apron before and behind, and an immense amount of "jewellery" chiefly carved out of oyster-shells.
The boys of the country if they become Boy Scouts have a very simple uniform, since they don't wear anything at all, except the smile!
The houses are all made of bamboo and thatched with plaited palm leaves and built on piles about four feet above the ground. The space underneath is generally occupied by pigs.
Each village is completely hidden from the seaward by the dense forest growth all round it, and with the bright green of the palm and rubber trees, and the red flowers of the hibiscus and poinsettia gleaming in the sun, it looks most beautiful.
Of course it is very warm, for New Guinea is only a few hours' sail south of the Equator, but these people must have a very happy life of it, sitting in the shade all day making their nets and baskets and going out in their canoes to fish in the evenings. The cocoanut trees all around, with the pawpaws and banana plants, produce all the fruit they can want.
How to Build a Dug-out
As these people live entirely on small islands, they, of course, possess an enormous number of canoes. The ordinary canoe only holds about three people.
They are wonderful concerns, and one might easily be made by a Scout for himself. In the first place not a nail or screw is used in the building.
You take a log or trunk of a tree about fifteen feet long and about two feet thick, and, here comes the difficult part, with an adze or a chisel you hollow out this log by making an opening of about eight to ten inches wide all along the top of it to within two feet of each end, and scoop the inside out.
You then trim away the lower side of the two ends to bring them each to a point. Then fix two or three seats at different points along the slit.
How fix them without nails? Well, of course you can use nails or wooden pegs if you like, but the way the Kanákas do it is to bore holes in both edges of the slit and in the plank that forms the seat, and tie it there with thongs of split cane, which with them takes the place of cord.
Well, there is your boat. But if you set it afloat and get into it, it will roll over and capsize you into the water, which is not exactly what you meant it to do.
So to prevent this the Kanákas make an outrigger by taking two or more poles, about eight feet long, and fastening one end of each across the top of the dug-out so that both project out to one side at a distance of some six feet apart.
They then fasten a log to the ends of these so that it serves as a float and a balancer to the dug-out. The log would be about ten feet long and about six inches thick. When fixed in this way it prevents the dug-out rolling over in either direction and makes it perfectly safe.
This kind of outrigged canoe is called a catamaran. Before building one it is best to build a small model first.
The better-class canoes are made more comfortable by the addition of a plank as a wall along the top of the slit on each side, fixed to it by boring and lashing, and kept in position by occasional crosspieces. The seats are then lashed to the top of this wall or bulwark, which is about a foot high..
A light framework or platform is fixed across the outrigger poles on which to carry luggage, food, babies, and other such odds and ends.
The canoe is paddled by one man sitting in the stern facing the bows, and any other passengers would also paddle in the same way from their seats.
Most of the Kanaka canoes have fine ornaments carved out of wood as figureheads on the bow and stern. Captain Cook in the log of his voyages among the Pacific Islands describes the native canoes, and they don't seem to have altered in the smallest detail since. He wrote his description in 1772.
A Sing-Sing War Dance
We were lucky in being in New Guinea about the time of the full moon, for this is the time when, at certain seasons of the year, the Papuans and Kanákas carry out their dances. We were able to see three of these.
In one there were about twenty men dressed up to the nines. Not that they had much clothing on, but they had splendid big head-dresses made out of all sorts of feathers, including the magnificent tails of birds of paradise, which live in New Guinea. Their arms, necks, and legs, and in many cases their cars and noses, were decorated with jewellery made from carved oyster shells and boars' teeth.
To add to their appearance they had decorated themselves with branches of croton, which is a kind of laurel with brilliant yellow and red leaves. And every man had a little drum which he held in one hand and beat with the other.
The central man was really fine. He was covered in wreaths and greenery so that you could scarcely see him, and on his head was a model of a native ship done on a pretty big scale with a mast made out of a rattan cane about ten feet high. He danced and made the ship toss about with a wonderful swaying motion of the mast, and the other men all danced round him singing and drumming and swaying their head-dresses with the same wavy motion. They looked fine.
The other dance that we saw was by a similar party of men, but they were most plainly dressed and we thought they would not be so interesting as the first ones, but we then learnt that they were real wild fellows and cannibals, and had come in only three days before from their distant island, where their usual end-up to this dance was to kill and eat a man. In the present case they had a dog instead! But I think they cast longing eyes on some of us white men who were fat.
The dances were very much like the Boy Scouts' War Dance, and their songs very like the Eengonyama Chorus. The third dance was on another island called New Britain. Here the dancers were dressed very like our Jack-in-the-Green on May Day. It is a curious thing, too, that their dance comes off only once a year, and that is at the beginning of May.
I wonder whether there is any connection between their man in green and ours.
With them the dancer is completely hidden in leaves except his legs, and he wears a kind of extinguisher over his head with a very tall plume at the top of it. The dance is called Duk Duk, and only men of a certain brotherhood are allowed to take part in it.
The brotherhood is a secret one, and the members wear their dress as a disguise. They have secret signs by which they know each other, like the Scouts.
If any outsider were found to be dressing up like them he would be killed and probably eaten. What a pity we can't do that to “monkey patrols” who dress like Boy Scouts!
The islands of the Pacific spread over a distance twice as big as Europe, and the little dug-out canoes in which the natives do their fishing seldom go far enough to sea to visit other islands.
Nor is it always very safe to pay visits to islands whose owners you don't know, because so many of them are cannibals, and as likely as not, instead of giving you a dinner when you come to call, they'll put you in the pot and use you for the dinner for themselves; they, at any rate, will be glad you came; that is, if you are fat and tender. So visiting is not much in fashion.
From not seeing much of each other, it follows that all these islanders speak different languages; but there is one language which most of them use by which they can understand each other when they do meet, and that is “pidgin-English.” It is a curious jargon of English which seems to have grown up of itself, but it is a wonderfully useful one in this part of the world.
For instance, we came over from America to Japan in an American ship of which the crew were Chinamen. The officers gave all their orders in English and the Chinese understood.
In Shanghai and Hong Kong most of the shopkeepers and servants are Chinese. They all talk the same pidgin English. In the Philippines the natives talk their own language and Spanish, but also pidgin-English.
We came to Australia in a German ship in which the crew and stewards were all Chinese or Japanese. Here again it was curious to hear the German officers talking English to the men.
Then, wherever we landed, in four German colonies, English or pidgin-English was the language that the Germans had to use in talking to their natives.
And on our ship was a mixture of native passengers, Kanákas, Chinese, Cingalese, and Japanese, all having totally different languages of their own, but all talking together quite comfortably in English—but such English.
Here, for instance, is what they call a cat, “Pussy he belong housey.” Then if they say “Pussy he belong bush,” that means a hare.
A lady told me that her servant boy had tried to explain to her that he had got what we should call “pins and needles” in his legs. He described it this way: “That leg belongy me he all same make like soda-water.”
A Trading Schooner
Rabane, the capital of the German colony of New Guinea and Caroline Islands, is a little township lying at the head of a landlocked circular creek which was formerly the crater of a volcano. There are three ancient volcanoes at the back of the town. Two of them, being much alike in shape, were christened “Mother and Daughter” when they were first described and mapped by William Dampier in 1700.
The volcanoes are no longer active, and the hills are now covered with thick green woods, while plantations of palm trees cover the flat ground.
In this beautiful harbour lay two or three trading schooners, one of which was flying the red ensign with the five stars of Australia on it. She had sailed here in thirteen days from Sydney, which showed that she was as fast a craft as she was smart-looking.
There are a good many of these schooners sailing about among the hundreds of islands of the Pacific Ocean, and they trade with them chiefly by exchange of rice, axes, tools, and tobacco, for copra, rubber, and pearl-shell.
One trader showed me a beautiful collection he had of curiosities, such as carved totems, masks, cloth beautifully woven from fibre of trees, ornaments carved out of shells, neatly made spears and arrows, all of which he had picked up when trading at different places.
Lewis P. Orans, 2002