The Manbos of Mindano - Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume XXIII, First Memoir
by John M. Garvan
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[17] Mandyas, Maggugans, Debabons, and Banuons of the Agsan Valley have practically the same beliefs as the Manbos in regard to this omen bird.


The omen bird is never killed, for to kill it would draw down unmitigated misfortune. On the contrary, it is often captured and is carefully fed and petted, especially when an inmate of the house is about to undertake a journey. The prospective traveler takes a little camote or banana and, placing it in the cage, addresses the captive bird and asks it to sing to its companions of the woods that they too in turn may sing to him the song of success and safe return.

And again, on the safe return of the traveler, if there is a captive omen bird in his household, it is a common practice to feed it and give it drink, addressing it tenderly as if it had been the cause of the success of the trip.

When the undertaking is one of importance, such as the selection of a site for a new clearing, or one fraught with possible danger, such as a trip into a dangerous locality, the free wild bird of the woods and not the captive bird is solemnly invoked.[18] It is requested to sing out its warning or its auspicious song in clear unmistakable tones. Before a war expedition an offering of rice is set out on a log near the house as a further inducement to it to be propitious.

[18] Tu-ag-tu-ag to li-m-kon.


It frequently requires an expert to interpret exactly the meaning of the various positions from which the bird has sung and in certain cases even several experts can not arrive at a consensus of opinion. Hence the following interpretation is intended as a mere general outline from which an idea may be gained of the intricacies and sometimes apparent contradictions involved in Manbo ornithoscopy.

The observations may be divided into three kinds, good, bad, and indifferent, and these three kinds into infinite combinations, for the interpretation of the first original observation may be modified and remodified by subsequent cries proceeding from other directions. Thus what was originally a good omen, may become, in conjunction with subsequent ones, most fatal.

The directions of the calls are calculated from eight general positions of the bird with reference to the person making the observation.

(1) Directly in front.

(2) Directly behind.

(3) Directly at right angles on the right.

(4) Directly at right angles on the left.

(5) In front to the right and at an angle of 45.

(6) In front to the left and at an angle of 45.

(7) Behind to the right and at an angle of 45.

(8) Behind to the left and at an angle of 45.

The first direction is bad. It denotes the meeting of obstacles that are not necessarily of a very serious character unless subsequent observations lead to such a conclusion. The trip need not be discontinued but vigilance must be exerted.

The second direction[19] is also bad. It is a sign that behind one there are obstacles or impediments such as sickness in the family. The trip must not be undertaken or continued until the following day.

[19] Called ga-big.

The third and fourth directions[20] are indeterminate. One's fate is unknown until subsequent omen cries reveal the future, hence all ears are alert.

[20] On the upper Agsan it is called b-us-b-us, on the central, b-tang.

The fifth direction[21] is good and one may proceed with full assurance of success.

[21] Called bg-to.

The sixth position[22] merely guarantees safety to life and limb but one must not be sanguine of attaining the object of the trip.

[22] Also called bg-to.

The seventh and eighth directions are like the second direction; that is, bad.

Between the above directions are others that receive an intermediate interpretation. There may also be combinations of calls from different directions. The omen bird heard in the fifth or in the sixth direction augurs success and safety, respectively, as we saw above, but if heard simultaneously from those two positions it is considered a most fatal omen; the trip or enterprise must be abandoned at once. Again if the bird calls from the fifth position and then after a short interval from the eighth position, success is assured but upon arriving at the destination one must hurry home without delay.

Should, however, the cry proceed from the sixth direction and then be immediately followed by one from the seventh, great vigilance must be exerted, for the cry is an intimation that one will have to use his shield and spear in defense.

I have found the interpretation of the omen bird's call so varied and so difficult that I refrain from entering any further into the matter. Suffice it to say that at the beginning of every journey the bird is consulted and its call interpreted to the best of the traveler's ability. Should it be decided that the call augurs ill he invariably abandons the trip until the following day when he makes another attempt to secure favorable omens. It thus happens that his journey may be delayed for several days. On one occasion I was delayed three days because the cry of this mysterious bird was unfavorable.


Besides the turtledove there is no other bird that is the harbinger of good luck. There are, however, several that by their cry, forebode evil. Thus the cry of all birds that ordinarily do not cry by night is of evil omen. The various species of hornbills, crows, and chickens are examples. The cawing of crows and the shrieking of owls in the night have a particularly evil significance, for these birds are then considered to be the embodiment of demons that hover around with evil intent.

An unusual cackling of a hen at night without any apparent reason is also of ill import. On one occasion it was thought to be so threatening that the following morning the owner went through the fowl-waving ceremony and killed the hen for breakfast. He told me that he had to kill it or to sell it because bad luck might come if he kept it around the house.

Again, the alighting of a large bird, such as a hornbill, on the house forebodes great evil. Ceremonial means must be taken without delay to avert the evil presaged by such an occurrence. On one occasion I observed the fowl-waving ceremony, the sacrifice of a chicken, and the blood lustration performed with a view to neutralizing the evil portent.




The story of the creation of the world varies throughout the Agsan Valley. In the district surrounding Talakgon creation is attributed to Makaldung, the first great Manbo. The details of his work are very meager. He set the world up on posts, some say iron posts, with one in the center. At this central post he has his abode, in company with a python, according to the version of some, and whenever he feels displeasure toward men he shakes the post, thereby producing an earthquake and at the same time intimating to man his anger. It is believed that should the trembling continue the world would be destroyed.

In the same district it is believed that the sky is round and that its extremities are at the limits of the sea. Somewhere near these limits is an enormous hole called "the navel of the sea,"[1] through which the waters descend and ascend. This explains the rise and the fall of the tide.

[1] P-sud to d-gat.

It is said that in the early days of creation the sky was low, but that one day a woman, while pounding rice, hit it with her pestle, and it ascended to its present position.

Another version of the creation, prevalent among the Manbos of the Argwan and Hbung Rivers, gives the control of the world to Dgau, who lives at the four fundamental pillars in the company of a python. Being a woman, she dislikes the sight of human blood, and when it is spilled upon the face of the earth she incites the huge serpent to wreathe itself around the pillars and shake the world to its foundations. Should she become exceedingly angry she diminishes the supply of rice either by removing it from the granary or by making the soil unproductive.

According to another variation of the story, which is heard on the upper Agsan, on the Simlau, and on the Umaam, the world is like a huge mushroom and it is supported upon an iron pillar in the center. This pillar is controlled by the higher and more powerful order of deities who, on becoming angered at the actions of men, manifest their feelings by shaking the pillar, thereby reminding mortals of their duties.



The rainbow, according to the general account, is an inexplicable manifestation of the gods of war. At one end of the rainbow there is thought to be a huge tortoise, one fathom broad. The appearance of the rainbow is an indication that the gods of war, with their associate war chiefs and warriors from the land of death, have gone forth in search of blood. If red predominates among the colors of the rainbow it is thought that the mightier war spirits are engaged in hand-to-hand combat; but if the colors are dark, it is a sign of slaughter. If the rainbow should seem to approach, precautions are taken to defend the house against attack, as it is believed that a real war party is approaching.

On no account must the finger be pointed at the rainbow, as it might become curved.


Thunder is a demonstration by Anit of her anger towards men for disrespect to brute animals. Lightning is spoken of as her tongue and is described as being a reddish tongue-shaped stone that is flung by her at the guilty one. Anit is one of the mighty spirits that dwell in Inugthan, the sky world, and together with Inayau is the wielder of the thunderbolt and of the storm.

She is a very watchful spirit and, in case one offends her, he must hurry to a house and get a priest to appease her with an offering of blood. The belief in this tongue stone is universal, but no one claims to have seen one nor can anyone tell where it can be found.


The almost universal belief regarding an eclipse of the moon is that a gigantic tarantula[2] has attacked the moon and is slowly encompassing it in its loathsome embrace. Upon perceiving the first evidences of darkness upon the face of the moon, the men rush out from the houses, shout, shoot arrows toward the moon, slash at trees with their bolos, play the drum and gong, beat tin cans and the buttresses of trees, blow bamboo resounders and dance around wildly, at the same time giving forth yells of defiance at the monster saying, "Let loose our moon," "You will be hit by an arrow." The women at the same time keep sticking needles or pointed sticks in the wall in the direction of the enemy that is trying to envelop the moon.

[2] Tam-ban-a-ku-a. (Bisya, ba-ka-nu-a.) Some say that a huge scorpion is the cause of eclipses.

The explanation of these curious proceedings is simple. If the moon does not become freed from the clutches of this gigantic creature, it is believed that there will be no dawn and that, in the eternal darkness that will subsequently fall upon the world, the evil spirits will reign and all human apparel will be turned into snakes.

During the eclipse the priests never cease to call upon their deities for aid against the mighty tarantula that is menacing the moon.

As to the origin, habitat, and character of this tarantula I have never been afforded the least information. The huge creature seizes upon the moon, but soon releases it on account of the shouts and menacing actions of the human spectators. Objections that one may raise as to the invisibility, magnitude, and other obvious anomalies are at once refuted by the simple and sincere declaration that such belief is true because it has been handed down from the days of yore.


It is said that in the olden time the sun and the moon were married. They led a peaceful, harmonious life and two children were the result of their wedlock. One day the moon had to attend to one of the household duties that fall to the lot of a woman—some say to get water, others say to get the daily supply of food from the little farm. Before departing she crooned the children to sleep and told her husband to watch them but not to approach them lest, by the heat that radiated from his body he might harm them. She then started upon her errand. The sun, who never before had been allowed to touch his bairns, arose and approached their sleeping place. He gazed upon them fondly and, bending down, kissed them, but the intense heat that issued from his countenance melted them like wax. Upon preceiving[sic] this he wept and quietly betook himself to the adjoining forest in great fear of his wife.

The moon returned duly and, after laying down her burden in the house, turned to where the children slept, but found only their inanimate forms. She broke out into a loud wail, and in the wildness of her grief called upon her husband. But he gave no answer. Finally softened by the long loud plaints he returned to his house. At the sight of him the wild cries of grief and of despair and of rebuke redoubled themselves until finally the husband, unable to soothe his wife, became angry and called her his chattel.[3] At first she feared his anger and quieted her sobs, but finally, breaking out into one long wail, she seized the burnt forms of her babes and in the depth of her anguish and her rage, threw them out on the ground in different directions. Then the husband became angry again and, seizing some taro leaves that his wife had brought from the farm, cast them in her face and went his way. Upon his return he could not find his wife, and so it is to this day that the sun follows the moon in an eternal cycle of night and day. And so it is, too, that the stars stand scattered in the sable firmament, for they are her discarded children that accompany her in her hasty flight. Ever and anon a shooting star breaks across her path, but that is only a messenger from her husband to call her back. She, however, heeds it not but speeds on her way in never-ending flight with the marks of the taro leaves[4] still upon her face, and with her starry train accompanying her to the dawn and on to the sunset in one eternal flight.

[3] Mg-gad (chattel) and bin—tug (purchase slave) are the ordinary terms of reproach used by an angry husband toward his wife and refer to her domestic status as originating in the marriage payment.

[4] Some say that spots upon the moon are a cluster of bamboos; others, that they are balte trees, and others again, that they are the taro marks referred to.


[5] From i-kug, tail.

It seems that long, long ago a ferocious horde of tailed men, Tdug,[6] overran the Agsan Valley as far south as Verula. They were tailed men from all accounts, the tail of the men being like a dagger, and that of the women like an adze of the kind used by Manbos. For 14 years they continued their depredations, devastating the whole valley till all the Manbos had fled or been killed, except one woman on the Argwan River or, as some say, on the Umaam.

[6] It would be interesting to know whether these Tdug were members of a tribe in Borneo that made piratical raids to the Slu Archipelago.

When the Manbos first arrived in the Agsan Valley they tried to withstand the tailed men. The Manbos of the Kasilaan River are said to have dug trenches and to have made valiant resistance, but were finally obliged to flee to the Pacific coast.[7] It is said that when encamped near the present site of San Luis these tailed folks slept on a kind of nettle[8] and being severely stung, took it for a bad omen and returned.

[7] It is true that the Manbos of the Tgo River, province of Surigao, claim kinship with those of the Kasilaan and Argwan Rivers, but their migration from the Agsan Valley seems to have been comparatively recent, if I may believe their own testimony.

[8] Sg-ui.

As to the origin and departure of these invaders nothing seems to be known, but they devastated the valley from Butun to Verula and from east to west.

The solitary woman who had hidden in the runo reeds of Argwan continued to eke out an existence and to pass her time in weaving abak cloth. One day as she was about to eat she found a turtledove's egg in one of her weaving baskets and she was glad, for meat and fish were scarce. But when the hour to eat arrived she forgot the egg. Thus it happened day after day until the egg hatched out, when lo! instead of a little dove there appeared a lovely little baby girl who, under her foster mother's care and guidance, throve and grew to woman's estate.

Now it happened that, as the war had ended, scouts began to travel through the country to discover whether the Ikgan had really departed, and one day a band of them found the woman and foster daughter. Amazed at the young girl's marvelous beauty the chief asked for her hand. The foster mother granted his request, but upon one condition—that he would place a married couple upon every river in the valley. Well pleased with such a simple condition he started upon his quest and before long succeeded in placing upon every river a married couple. In this way came about the repopulation of the Agsan Valley. The chief then married the beautiful maiden and peace reigned throughout the land.


The great mythic giants of Manboland are Tma, Mandaygan, and Apla. All three are described as of marvelous height, "as tall as the tallest trees of the mountains," and their domain is said to be the deep and dark forest.

Tma is a wicked spirit, whose special malignancy consists in beguiling the steps of unwary travelers. Leading his victim off the beaten trail by cunning calls and other ruses, he devours him bodily. His haunt is said to be sometimes the balete tree, as the enormous footprints occasionally seen in its vicinity testify. A Manbo of the Kasilaan River assured me that he had seen them and that they were a fathom long. I have heard various accounts of this fabulous being all over eastern Mindano.

Mandaygan, on the contrary, is a good-natured, humanlike giant, who loves to attend the combats of Manboland. He is said to have been one of the great warriors of the days of yore. His dwelling is in the great mountain forests, where live the gods of war.

Apla is an innocuous giant whose one great pleasure is to leave his far-off forest home and, crashing down the timber in his giant strides, go in quest of a wrestling bout with Mandaygan. The noise of their fierce engagement can be heard, it is said, for many and many a league, and there are not wanting those who have witnessed their mighty struggle for supremacy.

Besides these three greater giants, there are others, lesser but more human, the principal of whom is Dbau. Dbau lived on a small mountain in view of the present site of Verula. It is said that, before beginning his trip up the Agsan, he sent word to the inhabitants of the Umaam River that on a certain day he would pass through the lake region and that all rice should be carefully protected against the commotion of the waters.[9]

[9] The nearest settlements to the channel through which Dbau must have passed were several kilometers distant.

On the appointed day he is said to have seized the trunk of a palma brava palm and, using it for a pole, to have poled his bamboo raft from Butun to the mouth of the Masin Creek, near Verula, in one day.[10] With him lived his sister, also a person of extraordinary strength, for it is on record that she would at times pluck a whole bunch of bananas and throw it to her brother on a neighboring hill.

[10] This trip is a row of from 8 to 12 days in a large native canoe and under normal conditions.


There is, besides the various omens taken from birds, bees, dogs, and mice, a very peculiar observance prevailing among the tribes of eastern Mindano with regard to members of the animal kingdom. This strange observance consists in paying them a certain deference in that they must not be laughed at, imitated, nor in anywise shown disrespect. This statement applies particularly to those creatures which enter a human haunt contrary to their usual custom. To laugh at them, or make jeering remarks as to their appearance, etc., would provoke the wrath of Antan[11] the thunder goddess, who dwells in Inugthan. If they enter the house, they must be driven out in a gentlemanly way and divinatory means resorted to at once, for they may portend ill luck.

[11] Called also -nit and In-a-n-tan.

I have myself at times been upbraided for my levity toward frogs and other animals. I also received numerous accounts of disrespect shown to brute visitors to a house and of the ill results that might have followed had not proper and timely propitiation been made to Antan. The two following incidents, of which the narrators were a part, will sufficiently illustrate the point.

Two Manbos of the Kasilaan River entered a house and, upon perceiving a chicken that was afflicted with a cold, began to make unseemly remarks to it by upbraiding it for getting wet. Shortly after it began to thunder and, remembering the offense that they had committed, they had recourse to their aunt, a priestess, who decided that Antan was displeased and had to be propitiated. Finding no other victim than a hunting dog, for the chicken was considered by her ceremonially unclean, she at once ordered the dog to be killed for Antan. The thunder and the lightning passed away promptly. It may be noted here that the dog may have had considerable value, for a really good hunting dog commands as high a value as a human life.

In another case on the same river the narrator had captured a young monkey. When he arrived at the house its uncouth appearance caused a little merriment and induced the owner to place upon its head a small earthen pot in imitation of a hat. Almost immediately the first mutterings of thunder were heard, and the owner, remembering his indiscretion, slew the monkey and offered it in propitiation to Antan. As he had expected he averted the danger that he feared from the threating[sic] thunderbolts.

In some cases those who are guilty of this peculiar offense become turned into stone, unless they take the proper means of appeasing divine wrath, as the following legend will show.


In the old, old days a boat was passing the rocky promontory of Kagbubtag.[12] The occupants espied a monkey and a cat fighting upon the summit of the promontory. The incongruity of the thing impressed them and they began to give vent to derisive remarks, addressing themselves to the brute combatants, when lo and behold, they and their craft were turned into stone, and to this day the petrified craft and crew may be seen on the promontory and all who pass must make an offering,[13] howsoever small it be, to the vexed souls of these petrified people. If one were to pass the point without making an offering, the anger of its petrified inhabitants might be aroused and the traveler might have bad weather and rough seas.[14]

[12] Kag-bu-b-tag is a point within sight of the town of Placer, eastern Mindano.

[13] The offering may consist of a little piece of wood, in fact anything, and must be thrown overboard while one is passing the point.

[14] There is said to be a similar locality near Taganto, between Clavr and Carrascl.

In further explanation of this singular belief it may be stated that the imitation of the sounds made by frogs is especially forbidden, for it might be followed not merely by thunderbolts, as in some cases, but by petrifaction of the offender; in proof of this I will adduce the legend of Ag, of Binoi.[15]

[15] Bin—oi is the name of an oddly shaped peak at the source of the River Agadann, tributary of the W-wa River. From the upper Tgo its white crest may be seen overlooking the source of the stream Malitbug that delivers its waters to the Tgo River through the Borubun.


Ag lived many years ago on a lofty peak in the eastern Cordillera with his wife and children. One day he went to the forest with his dogs in quest of game. Fortune granted him a fine big boar, but he broke his spear in dealing the mortal blow. Upon arriving at a stream he sat down upon a stone and set himself to repairing his spear. The croaking of the near-by frogs attracted his attention and, imitating their shrill notes, he boldly told them that it would be better to cease their cries and help him mend his spear. He continued his course up the rocky torrent, but noticed that a multitude of little stones began to follow behind in his path. Surprised at such a happening he hastened his steps. Looking back, he saw bigger stones join in the pursuit. He then seized his dog and in fear began to run but the stones kept on in hot pursuit, bigger and bigger ones joining the party. Upon arriving at his camote patch he was exhausted and had to slacken his pace, whereupon the stones overtook him and one became attached to his finger. He could not go on. He called upon his wife. She, with the young children, sought the magic lime[16] and set it around her husband, but all to no avail, for his feet began to turn to stone. His wife and children, too, fell under the wrath of Antan. The following morning the whole family had petrified up to the knees, and during the following three days the process continued from the knees to the hips, then to the breast, and then on to the head. And thus it is that to this day there may be seen on Binoi Peak the petrified forms of Ag and his family.

[16] Limes and lemons, it will be remembered, are supposed to be objects of fear to the evil spirits.




The religious revival of 1908 to 1910 began, according to universal report, among the Manbos of the Libagnon River.[1] It was thence propagated eastward till it extended over the whole region that lies south of the eighth parallel of north latitude and east of the Libagnon and Tgum Rivers. If the rumors that it spread among the Manbos of the upper Palgi, among the Subnuns, and among the Ats be true (and the probability is that it is so), then this great movement affected one-third of the island of Mindano, exclusive of that part occupied by Moros[2] and Bisyas. I am acquainted with some Bisyas who, moved by the extent and intensity of the movement on the upper Agsan[sic], became adherents.

[1] The Libagnon River is the western influent of the Tgum River, which empties into the northern part of the gulf of Davao.

[2] I am informed by Capt. L. E. Case, P.O., deputy-governor of Davao, that the Moros of Mti took a zealous part in the movement. It is then not improbable that the Moros of the gulf of Davao participated in it likewise.

Among the Christianized and non-Christianized Manbos, Mandyas, Maggugans, and Debabons I know of only a few men and of not a single woman or child old enough to walk who did not take part in it.

Upon my arrival in Compostela I was told about this religious revival, but to make myself better informed I went to the settlement of the one who had introduced the movement into the Agsan Valley. The following is his story, corroborated since that time in every detail by unimpeachable evidence.


One Mesknan,[3] a Manbo of the Libagnon River, was taken sick with what appeared to be cholera. He was abandoned by his relatives. On the third day, however, he recovered and went in search of his fugitive people. Naturally his appearance caused consternation, but he allayed the fears of his fellow tribesmen by assuring them that his return was not due to the influence of any evil spirit but to that of a beneficent spirit, who, he asserted, had presented him with a medicine which he showed them. They readily gave credence to his story in view of his marvelous recovery, and also because of the extraordinary state of trembling and of apparent divine possession into which he fell after recounting his story. Accounts of this event spread far and wide, until it reached the Mawab River,[4] but in so altered a form that it not only attributed to Mesknan an ordinary priesthood but declared that he had actually been transformed into a deity, and that as such he could impart himself to all whom he might desire to honor. The chief of the Manska group of Mandyas on the Mawab sent an urgent message to relatives of his near Compostela. My informant was one of these, and he described to me the midnight exodus of the whole settlement on its way to Mawab. The following is substantially his account.

[3] Mesknan is the religious pseudonym of Mapkla, a Manbo of the Libagnon River.

[4] A tributary of the Hjo River which empties into the gulf of Davao.

Upon their arrival at Mawab the most powerful chief on the river laid before them the messages that had been received from Libagnon; how Mesknan had been changed into a deity and had ceased to perform the natural functions of eating and drinking. On the following day a messenger arrived at Mawab settlement, purporting to come directly from Mesknan. He stated that Mesknan had announced the destruction of the world after one moon. The old tribal deities would cease to lend their assistance to those that garbed themselves in black.[5] In the intervening time he (Mesknan) would direct men how to save themselves from destruction.

[5] My informant interpreted this as meaning non-Christianized people. This reference to dark-colored dress is not clear.

My informant said that the following orders were issued by Mesknan:

(1) All chickens and pigs were to be killed at once; otherwise they would devour their owners.

(2) No more crops were to be planted.

(3) A good building for religious purposes was to be erected in each settlement.

(4) In each settlement there was to be one priest[6] who must have received his power from Mesknan himself, and several assistants[7] who were to help to propagate the news and to perform the prescribed services in distant "churches."

[6] Called pun—an.

[7] Tai-ti-an, that is, "bridges," meaning probably that these emissaries were to be the bridge over which the religious doctrines would pass in spreading from settlement to settlement.

(5) The services were to consist of praying to Mesknan, performing sacred dances in his honor, and forwarding offerings to him.

My informant described to me how several people of Mwab settlement went over the Libagnon for the purpose of ascertaining the truth of the numerous messages and of the ceaseless rumors. On their return they reported that Mesknan was truly a deity; that his body was all golden; that he ate only the fragrance of offerings made to him; and that he bestowed his special protection on those alone who made these offerings. The visitors to Libagnon brought the news that the toppling over[8] of the world would take place within one moon, and that the orders of Mesknan, the Magbabya, should be carried out at once, for otherwise, when the day of destruction arrived, all would be irretrievably lost; husband would be separated from wife, and mother from child; pigs and chickens would prey upon whomsoever they could catch, and all would live a life of darkness and despair. But those who had complied with instructions would be saved; their bodies, at the moment of the fall of the world, would become golden and they would fly around in the air with never a care for material wants, the men on their shields, and the women on their combs.

[8] Klig.

A high priest from the Tgum River conferred a "Magbabya"[9] or spirit upon my informant and upon several others who were to act as his assistants and emissaries.

[9] As the narration proceeds an attempt will be made to explain this term.

The people who had assembled at Mwab settlement decided accordingly to erect an immense house for the performance of the religious acts enjoined by the Magbabya of Libagnon. In this edifice they passed one month in expectation of the impending cataclysm. Men, women, and children, half starving as my informant assured me, danced and sang to the sound of drum and gong, while he and his assistants broke out at intervals into supplications to the Magbabya of Libagnon and fell into the state of violent exaltation that was the outward manifestation of the fact that a spirit had taken possession of them.


Toward the end of the month word was received from Mesknan that the end of the world would not take place for three more moons in order that every settlement might have an opportunity of erecting its religious house and of saving itself thereby from the impending doom. The priests and their assistants were bidden to spread the news far and wide, even in the most inaccessible haunts of the land.

My informant and his relatives then returned to their settlement on the Bklug River, but only to find that their pigs and chickens had been stolen by Christianized people of Compostela. They constructed a religious house of very fine appearance and faithfully fulfilled all the other behests of the Magbabya.

All this time reports and messages as to the approach of the end of the world kept pouring into Compostela from Libagnon, so that it was not long before my informant was invited to establish a religious house in Compostela. As this town is the principal intertribal trading point to which Christianized Manbos, Maggugans, and Mandyas resort, it is evident that within a short time word of the approaching calamity was received and believed by all the surrounding peoples, and my informant, the high priest, was invited to establish "churches" in all the settlements of Mandyaland. Through the instrumentality of other priests and their assistants the movement spread among the Debabons of the Slug country, among the Maggugans of the Mnat and Slug districts and among the Manbos of the upper Agsan, the Babo, the Ihawn, and the Simlau Rivers.

This great religious movement was known as "Tgud."[10]

[10] I am unable to give any suggestion as to the meaning of this word, nor have I been able to find anyone, from high priests down, who pretended to know its meaning.


When I arrived on the upper Agsan the movement was in full swing, and I had every opportunity to hear the messages and rumors from Libagnon and to watch the proceedings of the high priests and of their assistants. I was handicapped by my inability to follow the language used in the sacred songs and supplications, but I had many of them interpreted to me. With this exception the following statements as to the character of the movement are first hand.

The first and most tangible feature of the revival was the lack of food. No rice nor taro had been planted because of the Magbabya's injunction, so that the whole population of the upper Agsan and of the Mandya country had been compelled to subsist for the months preceding my arrival on the taro that had already been planted and on the camote crop. Hence on my arrival rice was so scarce that it cost me three days' wandering, no little amount of begging, and a good round sum of money to procure a supply sufficient for my own needs. The scarcity or utter lack of food was further made evident by the fact that on several occasions I had to leave settlements because I was unable to get food.

When in their homes the people showed fear at all hours, but especially during the night. The falling of a tree in the forest, the rumbling of thunder, an earthquake, an untoward report from Libagnon, and similar things would draw from them the repetition, in low fearful tones, of the mystic word "tgud" and would send them off in a hurry to the religious house. In Compostela the people vehemently denied to the visiting Catholic missionary their adherence to the new movement, but as he was leaving the town an earthquake occurred and the words "tgud, tgud," broke from the lips of one of the most influential men in the town.

Another and very noticeable feature of the movement, indicative of its profound influence, upon these people, was the cessation of all feuds and quarrels. After all that has been said on the subject of Manbos in general and their social institution of revenge in particular, one can readily realize and greatly marvel at the paramount influence exerted by the great revival of those two years. Bisyas and others more or less conversant with Manbo ways and character were amazed at the wonderful effect which this religious movement exerted on these peoples, one and all. From tribe to tribe, from settlement to settlement, from enemy to enemy, traveled priests, assistants, everybody. Maggugans, who seldom or never visited Compostela, might be found performing their religious services there. Some of them even went so far as to penetrate into the almost inaccessible haunts of the upper Manorgao Mandyas, the hereditary and truculent enemies of Compostela whom even the Catholic missionaries could never convert. Debabons from the Slug-Libagnon region went fearlessly over to the Karga, Kasaman, and Mani districts and returned unscathed. Many a time in Compostela and other places I heard it remarked concerning a particular individual that, were it not for the order of the Magbabya of Libagnon to refrain from quarrels and to forego revenge, he would be killed.

So great then was the sway of this religious movement that the natural law of vengeance yielded to it and its adherents almost starved themselves for it.



In the first place the spirit that received a particular individual under his tutelary protection was either a new divinity communicable to others or one of a new class of divinities. I incline to the latter interpretation as being more in accordance with general Manbo religious ideas. In either case the old order of deities was relegated to an inferior position, and no further worship was paid to them. The Magbabya, whether one or more, had come, according to all the statements of Mesknan, to announce the dissolution of the world or at least of that part of the world inhabited by those who dressed in black—that is, pagan peoples—and to teach men to save themselves from a future life of darkness and desolation.

After his deification Mesknan acquired the power to impart himself to such as he deemed worthy, if they presented themselves to him. They were said, after being thus endowed, to have a Magbabya, in much the same way as we speak of a person having got the spirit. Upon further development of the movement certain individuals acquired the power of imparting their spirit to others, but a spirit bestowed personally by Mesknan was considered to be of greater potency than that granted by others.


The means prescribed by Mesknan through his priests and emissaries for escaping from the consequences of the approaching demolition were:

(1) The construction of well-made and clean religious buildings[11] in each settlement.

[11] Ka-m-lig.

(2) The frequent worship of him in these buildings by dance and chant under the direction of local priests or of their assistants.

(3) The material offerings of worldly goods to these same officiants.

That these injunctions were carried out faithfully and in the most remote regions I can personally testify. All through the mountainous Mandya country (Kati'il, Manorgao, Karga, and the very sources of the Agsan) I found the same religious structures, the same class of priests and faithful congregations. As I learned in my last trip in 1911 up the Karga, the Christianized Mandyas of the coast towns in the municipalities of Karga, Bagga, and Kati'il had joined the movement. From Bagga to the point on the Libagnon that was the cradle of the movement is a linear distance of some 120 kilometers, and it takes under very favorable conditions at least seven days of continuous travel over unspeakable trails to communicate from one point to the other. Yet the religious movement spread from Libagnon to Bagga and to more distant points in an incredibly short time.

As a further proof of the fidelity with which the observances were carried out, let me say that I frequently dropped into settlements only to find the houses practically empty and the inhabitants all assembled in the religious house. While passing along the trails I could hear on all sides the roll of drums from the distant almost inaccessible settlements as the settlers danced in honor of their unseen gods. Upon my arrival probably the first words that greeted me would be "Tgud, tgud."[12] In some places, as on the central Kati'il, I could not open my mouth to speak without hearing the women and children utter at once these strange words. Perhaps it was their idea that my conversation might bring about the consummation that they feared so much.

[12] Besides this there was another mystic word equally unintelligible, ta-g-an.

In many places I was not allowed to enter the religious buildings, being assured that the new local deity might be displeased, but in such places as I was permitted to enter I noticed the following:

(1) A small alcove[13] in one corner, frequently provided with a door, sometimes of the folding type. The purpose of this alcove was to serve as a sanctuary solely for the priests and for their assistants. Within they were supposed to hold closer communion with their deities, while the worshipers chanted and danced outside. As the story of the movement proceeds, the real purpose of this alcove or stall will be explained.

[13] Called sin—bug.

(2) An altar consisting of a shelf supported on two legs and having on it offerings of bolos, daggers, lances, and necklaces, together with a supply of drink.

(3) A drum and gong, a mat or two for dancing, and a hearth made out of four logs set upon the floor.

(4) Eight or more rudely carved posts supporting the house. Along the walls small carved pieces of wood intended for ornamentation.

(5) Great cleanliness under and in the immediate vicinity of the building. In Compostela the devout worshipers actually carried sand from the river and spread it on the ground around the building. Flowers, a variety of wild begonia, I think, were planted around some of the buildings. Such actions as these showed the zeal with which the movement inspired them, for in the regulation of their homes such ornamentation is unprecedented.

(6) An offering stand close to the building. On this were placed offerings of betel nut and drink, which were deemed acceptable to the deities.


Several rites, such as that of the conferring of a Magbabya, I was unable to witness, because up to the time of my departure from the upper Agsan they were not usually performed there, but nearly always over on the Libagnon, Tgum, or Mawab Rivers. The investment of priests and emissaries with Magbabya spirits did take place a few times in Compostela, but I was not permitted to attend, the assigned reason being that my presence might be displeasing to these deities. The ordinary religious performance, however, in honor of Mesknan I witnessed repeatedly, and will now describe a typical one.

The ceremony was performed at a settlement on the central Kati'il. The high priest and his assistants were my guide and carriers who had taken advantage of my trip to earn a little and at the same time to spread the new religion.

Upon our approach to the settlement one of the assistant priests went ahead to announce our arrival. The first building we reached was the religious house. Before ascending the notched pole that served for a stairs the high priest gave a grand wave of his arm and asked in a loud voice: "Art thou here already, perchance?" In answer I heard a distinct whistle proceeding, as I thought, from the building. The priest went on: "When dids't thou get here?" This was answered by several low whistling sounds which the priest interpreted to mean "early this morning." The dialogue was continued in a similar strain for several minutes, the responses always being in the form of low prolonged whistling or low sharp chirps, and always proceeding, as it seemed to me, from the building, though to others the sound appeared to come from the opposite direction or from the sky, so they said. I questioned the priest and he pointed his hand in a diametrically opposite direction to that from which the sounds appeared to me to come.

When we went up into the building we found nearly the whole settlement assembled. The high priest gave the latest report from Libagnon, which was to the effect that Mesknan had determined not to overthrow the world for three months more in order to give the settlements that had not yet joined the movement an opportunity to do so and thereby to save themselves. The high priest went on to tell the listeners how the Magbabya of Libagnon had departed to the underworld and had taken up his abode near the pillars of the earth; how he had been engaged in weaving a piece of cloth and had only 1 yard to finish, upon the completion of which the world would be destroyed. After having convinced the audience of the necessity of making known these particulars to neighboring clans and of complying with the orders of Mesknan, he announced the request of Mesknan that a certain number of lances be donated from each settlement. When he had concluded his narration, which was substantiated by his assistants, it was proposed by the assembled people that he perform the tgud services, whereupon he and his assistants danced and chanted for about an hour, the tenor of the chants being, according to the interpretation given to me, the latest doings and orders of the great Magbabya of Libagnon.

The following morning it was decided to hold a sacrifice in honor of Mesknan, so the chief of the settlement with great difficulty procured a pig. All being ready and the pig being in position on the sacrificial table with the usual fronds, the ceremony began. Even while vesting himself in a woman's skirt, according to the customs adopted in the performance of the religious dance, the high priest manifested signs of the influence of his Magbabya, for he trembled noticeably. One feature of the dance was different from those of the ordinary religious dance in that the priest carried a small shield in one hand and a dagger in the other, though he did not make any pretense of performing the dagger dance as described in a previous part of this monograph.[14] The use of this shield was enjoined as part of the new ritual and was intended to remind the congregation that faithful male followers would be saved by means of their shields when the world toppled over.

[14] It may be noted here that the Mandya dance is neither so graceful nor so impressive as the Manbo dance. The feet move faster and there are fewer flexings of the body and no mimetic movements, so characteristic of the Manbo dance. Neither is a woman's skirt worn nor are handkerchiefs carried in the hands.

The high priest danced only about two minutes, because his spirit came upon him, and he fell down upon one knee, unable to rise. I never saw a more gruesome spectacle. A bright unnatural light gleamed in his eyes, his countenance became livid, the eyeballs protruded, a copious perspiration streamed from his body, the muscles of his face twitched, and his whole frame shook more and more vehemently as the intensity of the paroxysm increased. Fearing an utter collapse, I assisted him to his feet and left him resting against the wall.

As soon as the high priest fell under the spell of his spirit, one of the assistants broke forth into a loud chant, which ever and anon he interrupted with a loud coughlike sound followed by the words, "tgud, tgud, tagan." This chant, as well as the subsequent ones, was taken up by several of the assistants successively and, according to the interpretation furnished me, dealt with the wondrous doings of Mesknan in the underworld and described in detail the end of the world as announced by Mesknan. In succession each of the priests, including the local ones, danced and fell under the influence of their deities, but not with such vehemence as the high priest whose spirit was declared to be "very big."

An important point to be noted in the dance was the removal by the dancer at some part of the dance of his sacred headdress,[15] the emblem of his new priesthood. This was a kerchief which was supposed to have been given personally by Mesknan to everyone upon whom he had conferred a Magbabya. Removing his handkerchief the priest waved it over the heads of the congregation and finally over or near any object that he desired. This was an intimation that such object became consecrated and thereby the property of the great Magbabya of Libagnon. A refusal to surrender it was tantamount to perdition when the end should come. Such was the doctrine universally preached and as uniformly believed and practiced.

[15] Mo-s.

Continuing the ceremony, the high priest made several efforts to dance, but always with the same result. He chanted, however, frequently, but always made use of many words that had been taught him by his spirit and which were unintelligible to my interpreters.

After about two hours we all left the religious building and took up our positions around the sacrificial table, the priests in the center. Those whose spears, daggers, bracelets, and other property had been consecrated by the waving of a priest's headdress now deposited them under or near the table.

The high priest was the principal officiant, but was assisted by his fellow priests from the Agsan and by the new local priests. None of the priests of the old religion took any part, the old gods being supposed to have yielded to the new Magbabya.

The only divergences from the usual ceremonial proceedings on the occasion of a sacrifice were the placing of the sacred headdresses over the victim and the omission of omen taking, blood libation, and blood drinking. The pig was killed by plunging a dagger through its left side, the blood was caught in a pan, and the meat was consumed in a subsequent feast in which the priests did not participate, not being permitted, they said, by their respective deities.

The scene that followed the killing of the pig was indescribable. The priests covered their heads and faces with their sacred kerchiefs and trembled with intense vehemence, some leaning against the posts of the sacrificial table, the high priest himself groveling on the ground on all fours, unable to arise from sheer exhaustion. When the death-blow had been dealt to the victim they broke into the mystic words, "tgud, tgud, tagan," with loud coughs at the end. These words were taken up by the bystanders and shouted with vehemence. Many of them, especially the small girls, fell into paroxysms of trembling. Many of the men and adult women divested themselves of their property, such as necklaces, bracelets, and arms, and laid them near the sacrificial table. Others promised to make an offering as soon as they could procure one.


I can state unqualifiedly that the whole movement carried on in the Agsan Valley among the Mandyas, Debabons, and Maggugans of the Slug-Libagnon region was a fraud from beginning to end. I state this on the testimony of the high priest who introduced it into the Agsan Valley, on that of the other priests, and on my own discovery of the fraud. The abandonment of the movement and the open avowal of the Mandyas of the Karga, Manorgao, Bagga, Mnai, and Kasuman Rivers, who are still bemoaning the loss of many valuables that they had given as offerings, is unimpeachable evidence that the whole movement was a great religious deception.

I have no reason for doubting the wonderful recovery of Mesknan, whose real name was Mapkla, nor do I see any improbability in the report that he fell suddenly under the influence of a spirit, for such an occurrence is not without precedent in Manboland. I will admit even that at the beginning belief in the revival was sincere, but as time went on and the reputation of the power of Mesknan's spirit became greater, abuses crept in, so that shortly after my arrival in Compostela the whole system became an atrocious deception for the purpose of wheedling innocent believers out of their valuables.

The scheme was most probably engineered by some Mandyas of the Tgum River in league with one of the men of the Mawab River and two of the upper Slug. The Mandyas of the Tgum River have had dealings with Moros from time immemorial, and undoubtedly they learned from them much craft and chicanery. It is far from being impossible that they were prompted by Moros in the present case or that Moros themselves set the movement afoot. I have one reason for being inclined to adopt the latter opinion, namely, that the Moros did actually originate a movement of this kind in the seventeenth century as stated by Combes in his "Historia de Mindano," and a similar movement about the year 1877, as is mentioned in one of the Cartas de los PP. de la Compaa de Jess.

Let us now examine the various artifices by which the fraud was carried out.


Mesknan lived somewhere up the Libagnon River, far from the Tgum, and was therefore practically out of communication with the Agsan. Hence there was little danger of discovery in reporting him deified and his body all golden. After his deification he was always absent, either "down at the pillars of the earth" or on an "island at the sea" or winging his way "on a shield through the starry region." It is easy to understand how difficult it would be to secure an interview with him under these circumstances.

As soon as it was reported from the Tgum and Mwab Rivers that Mesknan could take anyone under his special protection—in other words, that he could bestow his spirit upon others—several went over to Tgum and Mawab and did actually receive a spirit, but only at the hands of those who purported to be the representative of Mesknan. Now those who received this spiritual influence were expected to give a consideration[6] for the gift, or Magbabya, as it was called. As time went on this usage developed into the custom of paying the equivalent of a slave (P30) for every Magbabya received from the representatives of Mesknan. This payment had to be made not only for the original bestowal of these spirits but also in case of their flight and return, for they were of a fugitive disposition. I have seen several young fellows start off for Libagnon in fear and trembling to redeem their runaway spirits. It may be noted here that the flight of a spirit was ascribed to some act on the part of its possessor that provoked its displeasure. Thus one young fellow assured me that his Magbabya had fled because of his failure to abstain from eating rice.

[6] Called -lo. Perhaps this is an abbreviated form of the Spanish word regalo, which means gift, and which is a word of frequent use among those with whom the Catholic missionaries came in contact.

I have seen Mandyas of the Kati'il River, men of influence and of renown, travel over to the Mawab—a wearisome journey of some four days—loaded down with lances, bolos, daggers, slaves, and other chattels, with which to purchase a Magbabya. I saw them return, too, happy in the possession of their newly acquired spirits but worse off in a worldly way.

But the religious traffic was not confined to the sale of Magbabya alone. Wooden images and sacred handkerchiefs, supposed to proceed from Mesknan, were sold at very profitable rates, as were also religious shields, and various other objects. Thus on one occasion I made a present to a high priest of several yards of cloth. My astonishment may be imagined when I discovered that he had cut it up into handkerchiefs which he had disposed of far down the Kati'il River for the equivalent of 5 pesos apiece, assuring the purchasers that they had been made and consecrated by the great Magbabya of Libagnon, and that they were of the utmost efficacy in case of sickness, and above all on the day of dissolution. I asked my friend, the high priest, why he dared to perpetrate such a fraud on his fellow tribesmen. He said that the Mawab and Tgum people had fooled him out of all his possessions and that he was taking this means to get back the equivalent.

A chief from the upper Slug sold a wooden religious image for the value of P15 on the Bahaan River. He asserted that it was presented to him by Mesknan as a marvelous cure for all the ills of life. I was present in the house of this selfsame chief and high priest while he was whittling out similar ones.

During my recent trip to the Manorgao River I was shown kerchiefs of khaki that had been sold by a highpriest of Compostela about two years before. The indignation and threats of the owners were terrible when I explained to them that I had traded the khaki for some Mandya skirt cloth. One cunning individual made a feint at throwing the responsibility on me, but happily I was able to evade the liability.


In order that the pious fraud might be carried out more effectively and with less risk to the missionaries of it, it was proclaimed at the beginning that all feuds should cease and that all quarrels were tabooed. This permitted intercourse between former enemies and enabled the priests and their assistants to travel unmolested from settlement to settlement. Together with an injunction that prohibited any controversy as to the truth of the movement or of any of its tenets, under penalty of failing to participate in its ultimate advantages, the proscription of feuds and quarrels insured personal safety to all who might desire to visit other settlements.

To provide a lodging for the great number of priests and others who would presumably visit settlements outside of their own, the originators of the fraud decided and proclaimed that religious structures should be erected in every settlement. It was thought, probably, that the erection of these would give greater eclat to the affair and thereby tend to bring about a general and more ready adherence to the movement.

As a safeguard against the discovery of the fraud, it was taboo to dispute or to express doubts about any detail of the doctrines, even the most minute. As a further precaution against the suspicions of doubting Thomases, great care was exerted in the selection of priests and of their assistants. In nearly every case the persons selected were active, popular, and, apparently at least, guileless young men. I myself was shocked on discovering to what length these young fellows, in all other respects attractive and popular, went in their propagation of the fraud and of their insidious utilization of its benefits.

They traveled from settlement to settlement, bearing the latest reports about Mesknan; how he had failed to come to an agreement with the ancient deities, how he was wandering around in the starry regions; how he had assistants who were forging chains of steel with which to pull up the religious building in the hour of the earth's doom. After convincing their listeners of the gravity of the situation and of the necessity for renewed efforts, they would dance, chant, tremble, prophesy, shake their sacred kerchief at or over some desired object, receive a harvest of donations, and go on their way rejoicing with the sacred booty in their possession.

An idea of the magnitude of the pious offerings sometimes made may be gained from the following list of articles received by a high priest from the upper Slug during a religious tour from the Agsan to the Manorgao, Karga, Mnai, and Kasaman districts.

3 old English muzzle-loaders.

100 ornamental silver breastplates.

300 old Spanish and Mexican pesos.

60 pieces of Mandya skirt cloth.

9 pigs (not including those that had been sacrificed in the course of the tour).

30 various other objects, such as suits of clothes.

I estimate the cash value of the above to be, more or less, 1,000 pesos, an amount with which the priest could have purchased 33 slaves or 5 of the most costly maids in his tribe.

The case of a high priest who was under old financial obligations to me is another instance of the extent of the sacred traffic. Upon my arrival I advised him of my purpose and told him to get ready to settle his debt. Though he had absolutely no property at the time, he assured me that he could pay as much as a thousand pesos, so he started out for a trip among the Mandyas of Manorgao and within a few weeks received enough pious offerings wherewith to pay his debt.


The greatest deception of all was the whistling scheme. This was carried on usually at night, because it was distinctly against the spirit of the movement to call upon one's Magbabya for an answer except at nighttime and in the absence of a bright light, unless the Magbabya of the priest or priests present first intimated his desire to speak.

The method of audible communication between the priest and his familiar deity was very simple. The priest called out in his ordinary voice, "Magbabya." If the deity was present, and had not gone off on some errand of his own, or had not run away, he answered by a long, low whistle. The interrogating priest then went on to consult the deity about the matter which he had in view, whether the end of the world was nigh, whether the prospective trip would be dangerous, or whether a boar hunt would be successful. The deity answered by a number of whistles, intelligible to the priest only, and long or short according to the amount of information supposed to be conveyed.

That this procedure was fraud I need not say. I investigated the matter personally and found that the whistling was done either by the priest himself or by a colleague of the priest. Thus in Kati'il, where I first heard it, I slyly looked into the alcove whence the sound proceeded and descried[sic] one of my companions, an assistant of the priest, squeezed into one corner with his hand over his mouth for the purpose of disguising the direction of the sound.

Upon the first favorable opportunity I quietly upbraided my companion, the high priest, for his complicity, but he merely conjured me not to reveal it to anyone else lest he and his companions be killed.

On another occasion I heard a high priest question his divinity as to the amount of a fine to be imposed and distinctly heard 15 low chirps proceeding from the supposed Magbabya in answer. The priest interpreted this to signify 15 pesos. As the priest continued to consult his familiar on various subjects, I proceeded to investigate and saw a young friend of mine seated in a hammock, his head bent down and his hand placed at his mouth in an effort to divert the direction of the sound. I was within a few feet of this young fellow and could plainly see by the light of the kitchen fire the attitude of the impersonator and distinctly hear his whistling. The seance continued for some 10 minutes, the impersonator chirping out answers to the questioning priest. The listeners were fully convinced that the sounds were of divine origin and expressed that conviction by uttering some such expressions as, "Oh what a beautiful voice the Magbabya has," "Tgud, Tgud," "Oh, he is up on the roof now!" As it is often difficult to determine the direction whence a sound comes, the people would sometimes dispute as to where the god was, one maintaining, for example, that he was above the house, while another maintained that he was below it. Of course such matters were referred to the priest, who always knew the exact location of the imaginary god.

Some priests made use of small bamboo contrivances and some used their little hawk bells to produce the voice of their spirits. In one case the use of a small jingle bell elicited expressions of great admiration for the softness and sweetness of the supposed deity's voice. "Oh, what a melodious voice," one would say, while another would respond, "Yes; it is like a tiny flute."

Seances of this kind were of constant occurrence and yielded the priest a harvest of donations. Those who desired to acquire definite knowledge concerning any subject of importance had to ask a priest to consult his deity, and after the consultation they were expected to make a suitable offering. I once called upon a priest to find out for me the name of the individual who had stolen my scissors. The deity did not respond at the first call, for the reason that, as the priest informed me, he had gone on a trip to Libagnon, so we postponed the consultation in order to afford him time to recall the absent divinity. I can not say what means he was supposed to have taken to bring about the return of the spirit, but the extra service cost me a trifle more. Not long after, when the fire did not cast such a glare and the light had been extinguished, there was a fairly audible chirp proceeding, as all those present said, from the camote clearing. "Ah! he is here," they all said. The priest then accosted the deity in this manner: "Why dids't thou delay, Magbabya?" and then went on to find out the name of the stealer of my scissors. The supposed deity, however, would not reveal the actual name lest I should quarrel with the individual—a proceeding that would be in violation of a current taboo—but he vouchsafed me the information that it was a female that was guilty. As it turned out subsequently the supposed divinity erred on this point, so as a matter of policy I claimed the restitution of what I had paid the priest for the consultation.


Chastity and austerity also were means calculated to promote faith in the sincerity of the priest, and consequently in the truth of their assertions and divine interpretations. The abstention from sexual intercourse was strictly enjoined on all who had received a Magbabya, and observance of the restriction was rigid apparently. The priests and their wives slept in the religious building, but did not cohabit, the men sleeping in one place and the women in another. But, as I was told by one high priest before my departure that he had observed the injunction only in appearance, I am inclined to think that the same was true of all the other priests.

Abstinence from food was also enjoined by the decrees of the great Magbabya of Libagnon. Hence priests pretended to abstain from all food when in their own settlements but during their religious tours ate and drank on the plea that the spirits had forbidden them to abstain, as such abstinence might cause offense because of the laws of hospitality, which require a visitor not to refuse the bounty of his host. The customs as to abstinence were not uniform. One priest maintained that his deity required from him total abstinence while he was in his own settlement. Another asserted that only partial abstinence was required of him, as, for example, from rice, or from chicken, or from drink, and he observed the rule rigidly. Total abstinence, however, was only a pretense. I had occasion to verify this fact in the case of a priest who maintained emphatically that he had not eaten a morsel for three whole days. I went to his house and found him eating inside the mosquito-bar. Of course I was fined for my curiosity.

The doctrine of the withdrawal of the ancient tribal divinities and the substitution for them of the new-fangled ones at a time of such common peril was well calculated to arouse the inherent religious fanaticism and fear of these primitive peoples. Let us review the principal points of the creed. The ancient deities had abandoned the world in disgust and decreed its downfall. The great Magbabya of Libagnon had gone down to the pillars of the world and was prepared to shake the earth to its very foundations until it toppled over. He and the spirits with whom he communicated were powerful deities, able and disposed to rescue their worshipers not only in the awful moment of dissolution when the earth would become a vast charnel house full of darkness and desolation, but also in all the concerns of life up to the very end.

These new-fangled spirits were endowed with marvelous powers. They could resuscitate the dead, restore the sick to health, discern the future, impart invulnerability and other wondrous qualities, and in the moment of final dissolution rescue their faithful worshipers from the irrevocable vengeance of the ancient tribal divinities. Many and many a Manbo told me, when I suggested to him the possibility of error or of deception in the whole system, that it was better to be sure than sorry, and that it was well worth the loss of the worldly goods to be sure of securing immunity from the threatened danger. Who would not be afraid when even the mighty Magbabya of Libagnon would at times demand a lance from every settlement and keep careful watch? When many of them began to discover the fraud they were ashamed to confess their credulity and fanaticism, and so, seeing a good opportunity to recover their pecuniary losses, joined in the fraud and deliberately swindled others out of their temporal goods.


The beginning of the end came about December, 1910. The various inconsistencies in the reports from Libagnon, the continual postponement by Mesknan of the end for one flimsy reason or another, the discovery by individuals of lies and fraudulent conduct on the part of the priests, the hunger and misery consequent upon the abandonment of the crops, the constant advice on the part of Bisyas and others, and the ever-increasing scarcity of valuables that might be given as offerings to the priests and to their assistants—all these contributed to bring about the termination of a religious swindle that victimized at least 50,000 people.

It is evident that when the time announced for the dissolution approached some reason for its failure to take place would have to be patched up and propagated. Thus in the beginning the catastrophe was to take place after one moon, but Mesknan made a long journey for the purpose of interceding with the old tribal gods and succeeded in getting a prorogation of three moons. Toward the end of the three moons, Mesknan decided to wait for one more before putting into execution the fatal decree. And so things went on from moon to moon. Now the end would be postponed because Mesknan had to finish a mystic piece of cloth on a loom near the pillars of the world. Then it would not take place because he had hied him to an "island of the sea." And thus things continued until people began to weary of the suspense and to suspect the fraud.

At the time of my departure from the upper Agsan the whole country was getting into a turmoil. The Mandyas, enraged at the loss of their property bootlessly bestowed on the priest, threatened to make an attack upon the people of the Agsan. The Manbos announced their intention of raiding the Debabons. The Maggugans menaced the Tgum Mandyas. In a word trouble was so imminent that had it not been for the establishment of government on the upper Agsan to protect the Christianized peoples already settled in towns, probably there would have been much bloodshed.


In the "Cartas de los PP. de la Compaa de Jess" I find similar movements reported. One is reported in a letter of Father Pastells of May 2, 1877, and the other in some other letter, the date and writer of which I am unable to cite. The general features were the same, that is, the appearance of a person, in one case a woman, in another a child, with body all golden, who announced the destruction of the world. Crops were not to be planted, domestic animals were to be killed, and all were to await in prayer and fasting the consummation. The object of these frauds was to make the Christian conquest of the upper Agsan peoples impossible.

On my trip to the upper Karga a venerable old Mandya informed me that in his youth there had been a similar fraud which was engineered by the Moros of Smlug, on the east side of the gulf of Davao, and that when the Mandyas of Karga discovered the fraud they made a raid on the authors of it and killed many.

I also find mention of a similar movement in a letter from Father Urios,[17] dated Jativa, July 26, 1899. It seems that one Manitai, a Manbo chief, residing at the headwaters of the Bahaan River, was told by his familiar spirit, Sindatan, to lead all the Manbos of Patrocinio back to the mountains. By orders of Sindatan the whole clan was to meet in one house and for the space of one moon they were to unite in prayers and shouts, at the end of which time all would be transported, body and soul, into the sky.

[17] Cartas de los PP. de la Compaa de Jess, 9; 533, 1891.

The letter states that Manitai was obliged to abstain from everything except roots, sugar-cane, and fish. The worshipers of Sindatan complied with directions in every particular, even to the burning of candles; but as there was no immediate prospect of a celestial assent, the belief was abandoned and the parties concerned returned to their original creed and observances.

From these examples it does not seem too bold to state that religious revivals of a similar character may be looked for periodically, perhaps every 10 or 15 years, especially on the occurrence of public perils such as contagious diseases or fear of invasion.




From 1521 until 1877 Manbo history is for the most part veiled in the obscurity of traditional accounts of the past. Now and then it is brightened by the transient light of a missionary's pen only to relapse into the unfathomable darkness of the past. The few traditions that come down to us in Manbo legendary song and oral tradition furnish but little light in the darkness, arid that little is probably not the pure and simple light of truth, but the multicolored rays of the popular imagination that have transformed warriors into giants and enemies into hideous monsters. Thus Dbao, of whom mention will be made presently, was a giant according to the general tradition. The Moros that invaded the Agsan are spoken of as "tailed men." There is, however, one tradition—persistent and universal—to the effect that up to 1877, and even later, though in a lesser degree, there was war—ruthless, relentless, never-ending war. This tradition is borne out by the events that succeeded the advent of the missionaries and their efforts to thrust Christianity upon a people who neither understood its doctrines nor relished its rigorous precepts.


Mention of the Agsan River and of Butun is found in the writings of various historians, notably of Father Francisco Combes[1] who states that Magellan landed in Butun in 1521. It is believed by various historians that the first mass in the Philippine Islands was celebrated here, and that the planting of a cross on a small promontory at the mouth of the Agsan River was intended by Magellan as a formal occupation of the Philippine Islands in the name of Spain.[2] A later governor, to commemorate this event, erected a monument which stands to this day near the mouth of the Agsan River.

[1] Historia de Mindano y Jolo (Madrid, 1897), 76.

[2] It is strange that Pigafetta who records the doings of Magellan with such marvelous minuteness, does not mention this first mass.


A letter from Andrs Mirandola to Philip II[3] some time after the arrival of Legaspi in 1565 states that Mirandola was ordered to explore the islands of Magindano and to seek a port called Butun. Upon arrival in that town he made friends with the chief. He found Moros trading at the port. He describes the people as being of a warlike character. In another letter of Mirandola,[4] dated 1574, we find Butun spoken of as a district with much gold.

[3] E. H. Blair and J. A. Robertson, The Philippine Islands, 34: 202, 1906.

[4] Ibid., 3: 233.


In various letters and other documents translated by Blair and Robertson from original sources we learn that the district of Butun was an encomienda[5] and that tributes were collected as early as 1591.

[5] An encomienda was a royal allotment or grant of land, including the natives that lived thereon, to a Spaniard for the purpose of government.


In Chirino's[6] relation it is set forth that in 1596 the Jesuits, Valero de Ledesma and Manuel Martinez, began their missionary labors in the Agsan Valley where they found the inhabitants "by no means tractable on account of their fierce and violent nature." Christianity, however, made surprising advances, so great that the principal chief of the district, Silogan, divorced five of his wives, and protected the missionaries in every way possible.[7] Religious fervor is said to have reached such a height that the people publicly flagellated themselves until the blood flowed.

[6] Ibid., 12: 315.

[7] Ibid., 13: 47, et seq. It is interesting to note here that Ledesma in one of his letters mentions the fact that the Ternatans were accustomed to swoop down on the coast of Mindano and kept the natives of Mindano on the alert. In citations from other writers quoted by Blair and Robertson we find evidence of dealings of the Ternatans, both friendly and unfriendly, and with the natives of Mindano.

Ledesma and Martinez were succeeded by other Jesuit missionaries who preached the doctrine to the Hadgaguanes,[8] "a people untamed and ferocious—to the Manbos and to other neighboring peoples."[9]

[8] Perhaps the Hadgagunes here referred to are the Higagons or Banuons of the present day.

[9] Ibid., 44: 60.

There must have been opposition to the propagation of Christianity as we find that a fort was constructed in Lnao[10] some time after 1596. The headman, however, of the Lnao region invited one Father Francisco Vicente to visit his people and it seems that "even the blacks[11] visited him and gave him hopes of their conversion."[12]

[10] Lnao was a town situated some miles to the south of Verula. It and the surrounding country subsided in recent times. Its former site is now under a maze of mad torrents that carry the waters from the upper to the middle Agsan.

[11] We should bear in mind that Spanish historians frequently referred to the mountain people as little blacks (Negrillos), otherwise we might be led to believe that the ancestors of the present people living in the vicinity of the old townsite of Lnao were Negritos.

[12] Ibid., 44: 60, et seq.

Morga in his Sucesos[13] speaks of Butun as being peaceable. He makes mention of the industry of obtaining civet from the civet cats.

[13] Ibid., 15.


In the General History of the Discalced Augustinian Fathers, by Fray Andres de San Nicolas,[14] we learn that missionaries had penetrated the district of Butun as early as 1597, but that they had been unable to withstand the hostility of the mountain people.

[14] Ibid., 21.


In 1622 the Recollects succeeded the Jesuits in ecclesiastical administration of Butun district. Father Jacinto de Fulgencio seems to have been the most energetic of the band of eight that undertook the conquest, for it is related[15] that he traveled 50 leagues up the river, preaching the faith to the villages. "He had serious and frequent difficulties in making himself heard," polygamy and slavery being the two great obstacles to the reception of the Christian doctrines. The results, however, were successful, for he is said to have converted 3,000 souls, and to have founded three conventos[16] one of which was in the village of Lnao.[17] At this period Butun is said to have had 1,500 Christians, and Lnao, or Laylaa as it was also called, 1,600 souls.

[15] Ibid., 21: 221.

[16] A convento is a building erected for the accommodation of the spiritual administrators of a town and their assistants.

[17] Ibid., 21: 221.


In 1629[18] there was a general uprising of the Slus and of the Kargas. One Balntos arrived in Butun with letters from the famous Corralt, decreeing the death of all the missionaries and urging the people of Butun to rebel, but they, "with a faithfulness that has ever been a characteristic of them," refused to follow the orders of Corralt, and instead of killing the missionaries, protected them by every means in their power.

[18] Ibid., 35: 65.


The arrival of the Dutch in Manila[19] in 1648 incited the natives to sedition. A decree, issued by the Governor of Manila, Don Diego Faxardo, helped to foment the restlessness into rebellion. Santa Teresa[20] sets forth some of the results of the rebellion among the Manbos.

[19] Ibid., 36: 126.

[20] Historia de los religiosos descalzos, translated by Blair and Robertson (36: 128, et seq.).

He says that there were certain wild Indians in the mountains of Butun in the Province of Karga.[21] "They had kinky hair, oblique eyes, a treacherous disposition, brutish customs, and lived by the hunt.[22] They had no king to govern them nor houses to shelter them. Their clothing was just sufficient to cover the shame of their bodies, and they slept wherever night overtook them. They were pagans, and in their manner of life almost irrational. They were warlike and waged an incessant war with the coast people." Santa Teresa describes how Dbao, a Manbo chieftain of great strength and sagacity and undoubtedly the original of the legendary giant that still lives in Manbo tradition, stirred up rebellion and succeeded in killing many Spaniards in Lnao.[23]

[21] The Province of Karga at this time extended from Daptan on the northwest of Mindano to Karga on the southeast.

[22] The reference to the possession of kinky hair might lead us to think that the ancestors of the present Manbos were Negritos. The only trace of curly hair among the Manbos of the Agsan Valley is observed among those who occupy the northwestern parts of the valley, and northeastern contiguous to Butun.

[23] Santa Teresa says that a poisoned arrow pierced the leg of a soldier. This reference to the use of poisoned arrows, taken in consideration with Santa Teresa's description of the Manbos of that region as being kinky haired, and living by the hunt, seem to indicate that the Manbos of those days were Negritos. A further evidence is added by the application of the term Negrillos (little Negroes) to Manbos. The use of poisoned arrows is, to this day, a distinctly Negrito custom. At the present time the use of poisoned arrows is unknown to Manbos and, as far as I have been able to learn, no tradition as to the former employment of them exists.

The rebellion extended all over the valley and Fray Augustin and other churchmen lost their lives as a result. It was finally suppressed by the capture of innumerable slaves. "Manila and its environments were full of slaves." "The Butun chiefs, who were the mirror of fidelity, suffered processes, exiles, and imprisonments; and although they were able to win back honor, it was after all their property had been lost."[24] In 1651 peace was restored by the return of the innumerable slaves captured by the Spanish forces.

[24] Blair and Robertson, 36: 134.


Between the years 1661 and 1672 the Recollects pursued their evangelical labors in the Agsan Valley, notwithstanding the constant opposition of the Manbos. Father Pedro de San Francisco de Asis describes the natives as being "robust and very numerous." He says that in time of peace they were tractable, docile, and reasonable, had regular villages, lived in human society, were superior to the surrounding mountain people, and were easily converted. He claims that there were 4,000 converts living between Butun and Lnao. The people to whom he refers are most probably the ancestors of the Bisyas of the present day, because, as we shall see later on, the Christianized Manbo towns of the present day did not exist before 1877.

Father Combes[25] is the authority for the statement that Butun was the origin of "the rulers and nobility of all the islands of Jolo and Basilan." The following is the extract:

[25] Ibid., 40: 126.

But the rulers and nobility of all the islands of Jolo and Basilan recognize as the place of their origin the village of Butun (which, although it is located in this island, is within the pale of the Bisyan Nation) on the northern side, in sight of the Bol, and but a few leagues away from Leyte and from Bol, islands which are in the same stage of civilization. Therefore, that village can glory at having given kings and nobility to these nations.[26]

[26] San Francisco in his Cronicas (see Blair and Robertson, 40: 312) says: "They [the Butuns] are the origin of the best blood and nobility of the Baslans and Joloans, for the king of Jolo even confessed that he was a Butun." It is surprising to note the dialectical similarity between Slu and the variety of Bisya spoken in the Agsan Valley. Words that are not found in any other Bisya dialect, are common to these two dialects. It is therefore probable that formerly there was intercourse between the two peoples.

Speaking of the native peoples and their customs San Antonio[27] in 1744 says that "Some of the Manbos in the mountains of Karga (who are heathen and without number, although some are Christians, a people civilized and well inclined to work, who have fixed habitations and excellent houses) pay tribute."

[27] Ibid., 40: 298,

We learn from the same authority that one of the missionaries obtained wonderful results in the conversion of Manbos in Lnao. He was unable to specify the number but says that it increased greatly, for up to that time there were only 3,000 converts in the whole district of Butun. My authority seems to believe that there were two classes of people around Lnao, the one whom he distinctly calls Manbos—"tractable, docile, and quite reasonable," living in villages in human society in a very well ordered civilization—and the other, an inferior people leading a brutish life. It is reasonable to suppose that the people whom San Antonio refers to as Manbos are the ancestors of the present Bisyas of Verula, Bunwan, and Talakgon, who have traditions as to the pagan condition of their ancestors.

Concepcion[28] gives a detailed record of the Moro raids in Mindano. "Butun was laid waste and some 200 captives seized; the little military post at Lnao, up the river, alone escaped." The tradition of the fight between the Moros and the people of Lnao still exists among the Bisyas of the Agsan Valley. A statue of the Virgin is still preserved in Verula that is said to have been struck by a ball from a Moro lantaka (small cannon). It is believed that this unseemly accident aroused the anger of the Virgin herself, who promptly turned the tide of battle against the Moros. The only tradition regarding this invasion that I found extant among the Manbos is the legend of the tailed men, and of their own flight.

[28] Ibid., 48: 163.

FROM 1875 TO 1910 1800-1877

For the nineteenth century we have few historical records of the Manbos until the Jesuits who had been expelled from the Philippines in 1768 and returned in 1859, resumed their work in eastern Mindano in 1875. The material concerning the Manbos is contained in a series of selected letters[29] from the missionaries in the field to their provincial and higher superiors. Though containing little ethnological data of a detailed character, they afford in their ensemble, a vivid picture of the work of the missionaries in reducing the pagan tribes of Mindano to civilization and outward Christianity. Dates of the formation of the various town and rancherias[30] are furnished; with the names of the chiefs, friendly and in many cases unfriendly, the opposition on the part of the mountain people to the adoption of Christianity, and the armed resistance on their part to its implantation, as well as the interclan feuds, frequently with details as to the number of slain and of captives, and the number of converts in each district are stated. In a word, these letters form a most valuable and accurate account of the Christian subjugation of a large portion of the pagan peoples of Mindano.

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