General View Of The Philippine Islands

WE talk much of the Philippines as we steam on toward Manila. Several of the officers on the transport have been stationed on the islands, and we sit with them out under the awnings on deck and look over the government maps, studying our colonial possessions

The Philippine Islands were discovered only about twenty-nine years after Columbus came to America. All Europe was then excited by the stories of the New World, and many adventurous men started westward to look up new waterways and new lands. Among others was Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator, who commanded a squadron equipped by Charles V of Spain. Magellan had already visited the Malay Archipelago by going eastward, and he hoped to find a westward route to it and Asia No one then knew how wide the Pacific Ocean was, and we may suppose that Magellan thought that Asia lay only a short distance on the other side of the lands discovered by Columbus.

At any rate, he sailed from Spain in 1519 to the eastern coast of South America and made various explorations, traveling southward along that coast until he came to the Strait of Magellan, through which he crossed into the Pacific Ocean. Magellan was the first to find the strait, and it was named after him. He had bad weather on the Atlantic side of lower South America, but it was so pleasant after he had passed through the strait that he named the sea the Pacific, or quiet ocean. The Pacific had been discovered by Balboa before this, but Magellan gave it its name.

Sailing to the northward and westward, Magellan went on and on until he discovered the Ladrone Group, to which Guam belongs. A little later, on March 16, 1521, he sighted the Philippines and landed on the island of Cebu (sa-boo’), in about the center of the archipelago. Here he met the king of Cebu, who acknowledged allegiance to Spain and was baptized as a Christian, with hundreds of his followers. A short time after this Magellan tried to subdue the people of Mactan, a little island lying off Cebu, and was killed by an arrow shot by a native.

The king of Cebu thereupon rebelled and the squadron was forced to leave. It sailed southward and westward, touching at Borneo, and then went on to the Moluccas, where it got a cargo of spices. One ship then sailed for Europe by way of the Cape of Good Hope, and finally reached Spain, having made the first voyage around the world. Magellan named the islands the St. Lazarus Islands because they were discovered on St. Lazarus Day, but the name was afterward changed to the Philippine Islands, in honor of Philip II of Spain, the son of Charles V.

Thus the Spaniards got their title to the Philippines by right of discovery. They conquered most of the natives from time to time and converted them to Christianity. They held the islands until the close of the Spanish-American War, when by the treaty made at Paris they were ceded to us upon the payment of twenty million dollars to Spain.

Our route from Guam is somewhat the same as that of Magellan, and as we near the islands we see that they are, in respect to our homes, almost on the opposite side of the globe. There are two clocks on the transport, one of which keeps Washington time and the other ship time, the latter being changed every day to correspond with our longitude. By comparing the two as the days go on, we find the ship time is now actually more than thirteen hours ahead of that of our national capital, so that when it is high noon at Washington it is after one o’clock the next morning at Manila. We go again and again to look at the clocks, and imagine what our friends are doing at home.

It puzzles us why the time is so different, and how the days are kept the same all over the world. We know that as we go westward the sun rises one hour later for every fifteen degrees of longitude, and that if we kept going on in that direction, for the whole three hundred and sixty degrees, or the entire circumference of the earth, we should lose a day, and upon arriving at home should be one day behind our fellows who had remained there since we left. We might think we were landing on Saturday, and start out to work or play before we knew it was Sunday instead. In taking a trip around the world in the opposite direction, we should find ourselves at the close one day ahead.

In order to have the same date all over the world, mariners going westward add a day on crossing a meridian of longitude fixed upon for that purpose, and going eastward one day is dropped. The meridian chosen is the one hundred eightieth. When we crossed this meridian from Honolulu to Guam, the captain put up a notice in the saloon which read:—

“Today is Saturday, tomorrow will be Monday.” We have thus made our day of the week and month the same as that of our people at home.

It is interesting to know that the Philippine Islands had for more than three centuries a different day of the week from us, because the early navigators were not aware of this necessity of adjusting the date when they crossed the meridian one hundred eighty. They kept the same days of the week which they brought with them from the East, and the day they gave was adopted as the proper day of the week in the Philippines. At the same time the days for Hongkong and the other countries about, which had been fixed by people coming from Europe, were the same as those of the rest of the world, so that Hongkong, which is only a few hundred miles from Manila, had its Sunday while Manila was having Monday. It was not until the 31St of December, 1844, that the matter was rectified by dropping that day from the Manilan calendar.

We are surprised at the size of the Philippines, and the space they take on the map of the globe. If we could lift up the archipelago, including the water within its boundaries, and drop it upon the United States, it would cover about one fourth of the country. From north to south it is longer than the distance from Boston to Chicago, and from east to west its width is greater than the distance from Boston to Pittsburg.

By far the greater part of this area is water, but the islands are more than three thousand in number, and some are so large that all together the Philippines have more land than any state of the Union, except four. They have almost twice as much land as all New England, and about as much as the combined areas of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Luzon (loo-zon’) is as big as Ohio, and Mindanao (min-da-na’o) as big as Indiana. Samar (sa’mar), Negros (na’gros), Panay (pa-ni’), and Palawan (pa-la’ wan) are each about the size of Connecticut, and Leyte (la’ta) is larger than Delaware.

The islands are largely volcanic, having mountains covered with valuable timber, and filled with coal, iron, copper, and other minerals, and valleys and plains where the soil is so fertile that it produces large crops of sugar, rice, tobacco, and hemp, and all sorts of tropical fruits. The country is everywhere well watered. It has some navigable rivers and lakes, and many excellent harbors.

The Philippines lie in the North Torrid Zone, but the climate is good the greater part of the year, and so tempered by the winds from the sea and the mountains that our people can live here in comfort. The hottest months are April, May, and June, and the coldest are November, December, January, and February. There is also, in the interior and on the western coasts, a dry season from about the first of November until the end of May, and a rainy season between June and October, inclusive.

These islands are not like New Guinea, the vast country we visited north of Australia, a wild land sparsely inhabited by savages. There are wild men, it is true, but the greater part of the inhabitants are Christians, and many others also are more or less civilized.

The population is large. When Uncle Sam adopted the Filipinos, he made a mighty addition to our national family. Our little brown cousins out here are about one twelfth of our whole population. That is, if Uncle Sam could put all of his people into one field and mix them thoroughly, one in each dozen would be a brown-skinned Filipino.

There are over eight million people in the islands, including several different races and many tribes, each of which has its own peculiar habits and customs. There are, in the first place, the Negritos (na-gre’tos), who are sup-posed to be the first inhabitants, and to have come from New Guinea. They are little black men with frizzly hair, who live in the highest mountains and other inaccessible places. They are few in number, and are widely scattered.

Next are the Indonesians, composing about sixteen tribes, found chiefly in the island of Mindanao. They are generally savage, or at the best semicivilized. They have tall and strong frames, light yellow skins, aquiline noses, and wavy black hair.

Last, and more important than the two other classes, are the Malayans, who form almost the whole population. They are the descendants of Malays who have come here from time to time from Malaysia and intermarried with the Negritos and Indonesians, and also with the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans who have found their way to the islands. Of this mixed class there are more than seven millions; some of them are pagans, some are Mohammedan Moros, and the remainder, comprising the most of the Malayans, are Christians. In addition to the natives there are also some Spaniards and other Europeans, and now that we have the islands, many Americans.

But we shall see the people themselves as we travel over the country. The natives are different in different parts of the archipelago, and, broadly speaking, the islands may be divided into three zones, according to the predominant races which inhabit them. The northern zone, where we shall first land, embraces Luzon and its neighboring islands. There are the people with whom we had the most trouble when we took possession of the country. They are Tagalos (ti-gal’os) and other similar tribes, many of them well educated and all having more or less civilization.

South of Luzon and north of Mindanao is what might be called the middle zone, It consists of the Visayan (ve-sa’yan) Islands, inhabited by Visayan people much like the Tagalos, although they are more peaceful and not so courageous. They are also civilized, having many villages and towns, plantations and farms.

South of this Visayan Island Zone lies the third and last zone, the zone of the Moros or our Mohammedan cousins. It includes the great island of Mindanao, the pear-shaped island of Basilan, the island of Palawan, and the hundreds of islands of the Sulu Group which may be seen dotting the water like a series of stepping stones from Mindanao to Borneo.

These zones we must remember are not inhabited entirely by the above-mentioned races. Each island has its wild tribes which live in the mountains, and the chief races have different tribes or families, each having its own language. There are so many odd natives that we feel rather queer when we remember that they are all now under control of the United States, and as such our cousins under our great Uncle Sam.