The Manbos of Mindano - Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume XXIII, First Memoir
by John M. Garvan
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The space, then, between the top of the walls and the roof is open all around the house and serves as one continuous window that affords more ventilation than light. The purpose of this peculiar arrangement seems to be for defense, for no one can approach the house from any side without being seen, and, in time of attack, it affords the inmates of the house an admirable vantage ground from which to ply their arrows.


There is no door in a Manbo house. In the middle of one end of the house a small opening is left scarcely wide enough for two persons to enter at one time. A notched pole leads up to this opening. If the house is high, a certain amount of maneuvering on the part of one not accustomed to it, may be required in climbing the pole, for there is seldon[sic] any rail to aid one and the notches are not of the deepest. This is another of the Manbo's devices against enemies, for on occasions of attack the inmates of a house can dislodge by a slight movement of this cylindrical ladder any foolhardy enemy who might attempt, under protection of his shield, to make an ascent during a fight.

In the house of a chief or well-to-do Manbo, one frequently finds a crude ladder for the convenience of the family dogs.


The internal arrangements of the house are very simple. The one ceilingless square area between the roof and the floor constitutes the house. There is no dining room, no kitchen, no bedroom, no toilet. Even the little stalls erected by Mandyas for the married couples are very seldom to be found. The owner of the house occupies the part farthest from the door, and nearest the fire, while visitors are relegated to the part near the door.


No paint is applied to the house and, with the exception of a rude carving of the ridgepole into the suggestion of a human head with a rudimentary body, there is no decoration in the interior. On the outside, one frequently sees at the ends of the ridgepole, and set upright at right angles to each other, two narrow, thin pieces of wood about 1 meter long. Along the sides of these are cuttings which are intended to represent the crested head of a fowl, as the name given to them indicates.[7]

[7] Min-an-k from mn-uk, a fowl.


The Manbo house fittings are of the scantiest and most necessary kind. The tenure of the house may be brief, depending, as it does, upon a suspicion of danger or even on a dream. So the Manbo does not indulge in the luxury of chairs, tables, or similar articles. The upraised portion of the floor, or the floor itself, serves him as a chair and a bench. For a table he uses a small board such as is so universally used throughout Mindano by the poorer classes. Yet many are the houses that can not boast of even this simple equipment. He has no bedsteads, for the bamboo floor with a grass mat thrown over it affords him a cool and comfortable resting place. He has a fair abundance of mats, but they are ordinarily short, being made according to the length of the grass he happens to find. By day these mats are rolled up and laid aside on the floor or upon the beams of the house. If left on the floor, they afford the family dogs, who ensconce themselves therein, a convenient refuge from flies.

He dispenses with the use of pillows, unless the handiest piece of wood or of bamboo can be called a pillow. Lacking that, he lays his head upon the mat and enjoys as good a sleep, perhaps, as his more civilized fellowmen.

It is seldom, indeed, that he uses a mosquito bar, though wild abak is abundant and his wife is a weaver. The mosquito bars which are in use are made out of abak fiber. As the cloth for them, made on the ordinary loom, is less than a meter wide, and as much as 24 meters long, it must be cut up into strips nearly 2 meters long and sewn together to form the mosquito bar. It must be made of an odd number of pieces of cloth, for an even number is unlucky. A net made of 11 or 13 pieces is considered especially lucky. The use of the mosquito bar is very common among the conquistas of the Lake region.

Pictures and like ornaments are unknown, but in lieu of them may be seen trophies of the chase, such as wild-boar jawbones, deer antlers, and hornbill skulls and beaks. It is not infrequent to see the tail of some large fish fastened to one of the larger beams, under the roof. There is a special significance in the preservation of this trophy.

There is one article, however, which the Manbo prizes as a mark of wealth and as a venerable relic. It is the sacred jar.[8] I have been unable to obtain any information as to the origin of these jars except that they were usually obtained as marriage fees and that they were bought from the Banuons. Be that as it may, they are a matter of pride in Manboland, and on every occasion, festive and religious, they are set out, brimful of brew. Not every Manbo is the proud possessor of one of these, but he who has one is loath to part with it. A glance at Plate 14 k, l, will give an idea of what these jars look like. They are decorated, as a rule, in alto relievo with figures of birds, snakes, etc., and to judge from their appearance are of Chinese workmanship. When given as marriage payments or for other purposes they are valued at about 4 pesos if they have no ears, but when they have ears they are worth as many pesos minus 1 as they have ears.

[8] Ba-hn-di.

Next to jars the Manbo values plates and bowls, even those of the cheapest kind, and it is with a gleam of satisfaction on his face that the host sets out an array of old-fashioned plates for his guests. The Manbo of the middle Agsan, unlike his Mandya neighbor, is particularly poor in plateware. I found houses that could not boast of a single plate, but as a rule each house has about four plates, a bowl, and a glass.

Depending from the roof are to be seen baskets of various shapes intended for a variety of uses, fish baskets, rice baskets of several kinds, storage baskets, betel-nut baskets, pack baskets, some of wickerwork and some of plaited rattan. Also, hanging from the rafters are to be seen fish traps, wild chicken traps, religious objects such as oblation trays, a guitar, or a bamboo harp, and if it is a priest's house, a drum and gong.

One sees almost invariably a nest or two up in a corner under the roof. They are for the domestic hens and are ungainly things, made ordinarily out of a piece of old matting. In these the hens lay their eggs, after meandering around the rafters and disturbing the inmates of the house with their cackling. After the eggs are laid, it is frequently necessary to drive the hens from the house.

The fireplace is another very important item in the house. It is usually located on the side of the house away from the door and near the wall. It consists of four roughhewn pieces of wood approximately 1 meter long and about 10 centimeters high, set together on the floor and lashed in the form of a rectangle. A piece of bark is placed on the floor within this rectangle, and the inclosed space is filled with earth. A half dozen stones form supports for the earthen jars. Above the fireplace is a rough frame for firewood, of which there is usually a plentiful supply. Here the wood is dried thoroughly before it is used.

In close proximity to the hearth and scattered around without any regard for tidiness may be seen the rice winnow, the bamboo water tube, the coconut-shell watercup, the rice paddles and ladles, leaves of banana and other plants, and the whetstone, while on the fireplace are seen a variety of earthen pots with their covers, and frequently an imported iron pan for cooking.

Tied up under the roof, but within reach, may be seen bows and arrows, probably a fish spear, or it may be, a fish rod. Spears and other weapons of defense which, when not in use, are unsheathed and put into a rude wooden rack made for the purpose, while the sheaths are hung up close by.

It is not exceptional to find a cage with a turtledove[9] or a variety of parrakeet[sic][10] in it. The cage is usually hung from the roof under the eaves outside the wall. The turtledove is kept for religious purposes, whereas the parrakeet[sic] is kept as other people keep a pet bird, though it is occasionally employed by the young folks as a lure to attract its wild fellows to the bird line.

[9] Li-m-kon. (Phabitreron brevirostris Tweedale). Generally called fruit dove.

[10] ku-li-li-si.


The space under the fireplace is usually not occupied because of the water and refuse that fall from the kitchen, but to one side of it is the inevitable pigpen, containing a pig or two. It is only the wealthier Manbos who can boast of more than a few, for the maintenance of many would be a heavy drain on their limited food supply. These few pigs subsist on such scraps and parings as may be thrown or allowed to fall down to them.

To one side of the pigpen, if there is room, is placed the rice mortar, an article of indispensable necessity in every household. In it is hulled with wooden pestles, and frequently in measured time, the daily supply of rice.

At the time when the house is constructed, the forest adjoining is cleared, and camotes,[11] a little sugarcane, and a few other things are planted. The house usually overlooks this clearing at least on one side. On the other sides there is usually the grim, silent forest. When the house is built with a view to defense, trees are felled all around in such a way as to make a regular abatis. Ordinarily there are at least two trails, one, a main trail, so tortuous and difficult, in the generality of cases, that it would lead one to imagine that the owner of the house had deliberately selected it for its difficulties, the other, a trail leading to the watering place. In approaching the house the visitor is obliged to climb over fallen logs, the passing of which requires no little maneuvering on the part of a novice. Without a guide it would be often difficult, if not impossible, to locate the houses, even if one had been shown their location from a distance.

[11] Ipomoea batatas.


As from one to four families may live in a single house, it is needless to say that there is generally a decided appearance of disorder, as well as a tumult that baffles description. In the only room of the house are congregated the married couples, generally a few extra relatives, their children, and their dogs. The Manbos are naturally very loud talkers, their children, especially the infants, are as noisy as children the world over, and their dogs, which may number from 3 to 15, are so constituted that, when they are not fighting with one another, they may at any moment, without apparent motive or provocation, begin one grand dismal howl which, united to the crying of the babies and to the loud tones of their elders, produces a pandemonium. It is at meal times that the pandemonium waxes loudest, for at that time the half-starved dogs, in their efforts to get a morsel to eat, provoke the inmates to loud yells of "Sida, sida,"[12] and to other more forcible actions.

[12] An exclamation to drive away a dog.

In a large house, with such a conglomeration of human beings, it is obvious that an impression of confusion is made upon the visitor. The performance of the various culinary operations by the women, the various employments in which the men are engaged, making arrows, fish traps, etc., the romping of the children, all these tend to heighten the impression. But the Manbo goes on with his work, tranquil in the midst of it all, savoring his conversation with incessant quids of betel nut or tobacco.

The Manbo has not yet come to a knowledge of the various microbes and parasites that are liable to undermine the foundations of health, so that the sanitary condition of his house is not such as would pass a modern inspection. Both men and women are inveterate chewers of betel nut and tobacco, and, instead of using a spittoon, they expectorate the saliva through the interstices of the floor or anywhere that they may find convenient, thereby tinging the floor and walls a bright red. As the Manbo broom is a most crude affair made out of a few twigs, it does not remove all the remains of the meals as they lie spread over the floor. The peelings of sugarcane, the skin of bananas and of other fruits, the remains of rattan, and such other refuse as may be the result of the various occupations that take place in the house are all strewn around the floor and frequently are not removed for a considerable length of time.

In the preparation and cooking of food a considerable amount of water fails necessairly[sic] under the house which, together with the excreta of the inmates and the other refuse, animal and vegetable, produces a somewhat unfavorable appearance and sometimes an unpleasant odor.

There is no drainage, artificial or natural and no means are provided for the removal of the ordure, unless it be the services of the scavenger pigs, who busy themselves as soon as they become aware of the presence of refuse. The effluvium, however, usually does not reach the inmates unless the house is very low.

As the smoke outlets are comparatively remote from the fireplace, it is obvious that the smoke does not make a rapid exit, but wreathes up among the beams and rafters thereby blackening them out of all semblance to wood. The underside of the thatch, especially those portions above the fire, receives a goodly coating of soot which, mixed with the greasy emanations from the pots, assumes a lustrous black.

Another matter that tends to give the house an air and feeling of uncleanliness is the host of small insects, presumably a species of cockroach, that infest the thatch, and, notwithstanding the volume of smoke that at times almost suffocates the inmates, swarm down into the baskets used for provisions and for other things. These multitudinous insects seem to flourish on the rattan vine especially, and no means are known whereby to exterminate them. Ants, especially the white ant, pay frequent visits to the house, but the worst scourge of all is the ravenous bedbug. This unpleasant insect is found under the joists just beneath the floor laths, but in greatest numbers under those parts of the floor that are continually used as sleeping places, and in the hammocks. Occasionally an effort is made to scrape them out, but they are so cunning in concealing themselves and breed with such rapidity that efforts to get rid of them are unavailing.

The presence of vermin on the bodies of the Manbos is due to the lack of soap and of washing facilities. But, if questioned, these primitive people will inform you, that the vermin are natural growths or excretions proceeding from the inside.[13] It is for this reason that no shame is exhibited in removing publicly the pests from the clothes or from the hair. Owing to the custom of the people of huddling together during the night these insects are propagated from one individual to another, so that it is seldom that the Manbo is free from them.

[13] I found this belief to be almost universal in eastern Mindano.





Like all tribes of eastern Mindano, Manbos, both men and women, wear sufficient clothes to cover the private parts of the body. Children up to the age of 5 or 6 years may go without clothes, but female children commonly wear a triangular pubic shield[1] of coconut shell, suspended by a waist string. Men, though they may denude themselves completely when bathing, always conceal their pudenda from one another's gaze.

[1] P-ki.

Married and elderly women may occasionally expose the upper part of their persons, but unmarried girls seldom do so. No delicacy is felt in exposing the breasts during the suckling of a babe.


The quantity and quality of clothes worn varies slightly in different localities. The farther away from settlements the people live, the poorer and less elaborate is the dress, due to their inability to obtain the imported cloth and cotton yarn, for which they entertain a high preference. On the upper Agsan, where the Manbos have adopted a certain amount of Mandya culture, their apparel partakes of the more gorgeous character of that of the Mandya. In places where they are of Maggugan descent, as is often the case on the upper Agsan, on the Mnat, on the upper Ihawn and tributaries, and on the upper Slug, their clothes resemble those of their poor progenitors. In the middle Agsan (including the W-wa, Kasilaan, lower Argwan, lower Umaam, lower Ihawn, Hbung, and Simlau Rivers) the dress may be called characteristically Manbo.


The use of bark cloth[2] in a region situated somewhere between the headwaters of the Libagnon and the Sbud, a western tributary of the Ihawn, was reported to me. My informants, both on the Slug River and on the Umaam River, spoke of the people of that locality as true Manbos, very dark in color, and wearing bark clothes. If this report is correct, and I am inclined to give credence to it, it is probably the only case at the present time of the use of bark cloth in Mindano, excepting perhaps among the Mannuas[sic].

[2] A-ga-hn.


There are no characteristic dresses by which the rank or profession of the wearer is indicated except that of the warrior chief. Female priests very frequently may be distinguished by a prodigality of charms, talismans, and girdle pendants, as also by a profuseness of embroidery on the jacket, but such lavishness is not necessarily an infallible sign of their rank as priestesses but rather of their wealth. Neither is it a mark of their unmarried condition, for in Manboland, as in other parts of the world, the maiden loves to display her person to good advantage and for that reason decks herself with all the finery of which she may be the possessor.

Slaves may be recognized by the wretchedness of their clothes.


The man's dress invariably consists of long loose trousers or of close-fitting breeches, and of a moderately tight-fitting, buttonless jacket. These two articles of dress are supplemented by a bamboo hat, a betel-nut knapsack, and by such adornments in the shape of beads, and other things, as the man may have been able to acquire.

The woman's dress consists almost invariably of a close-fitting, buttonless jacket with red body and black sleeves. Her skirt is a double sacklike garment made out of abak fiber. A girdle of braided human hair or of braided vegetable fiber holds this coarse dress in place. A selection of beads, shells, and herbs hang from this girdle at the right side. A comb in the hair, a pair of ear disks in the ears, a few necklets, and frequently leglets, complete the apparel. The children's clothing is a duplicate of that of their respective parents on a smaller and less elaborate scale.


In the matter of color a decided preference is shown for red, yellow, white, and dark blue. This is not so exacting in the case of beads, which are purchased indiscriminately, but even in these I am of the opinion that if there were a choice in the supply, the above-mentioned colors would be preferred.

The Manbo, then, is not encumbered with all the weight and variety of modern modes and fashions. Shoes, slippers, and hose are not a part of his apparel. Blankets and other articles for protection against cold are not to be found in his wardrobe. In the house and out of the house, by night and by day, in peace and in war, his dress is the same, one suit for every day usage and one for festal occasions and for visits.



The hat worn on the Ihawn, upper Agsan, and upper Simlau resembles that worn by Mandyas. It is made out of two pieces of bamboo,[3] dried over the fire into the desired shape, and is held together by two slender strips of rattan running around and stitched to the edges of the headpiece proper. These pieces project backward and overlap to form the tail of the hat. The upper surface of the whole hat is then painted with beeswax. The sustaining pieces of rattan around the rim and the under surface of the back part receive a heavy coating of this same material mixed with pot black. Odd tracings and dottings of beeswax and soot or of the juice of a certain tree[4] serve to decorate the whole upper surface; small seed beads, usually white, are often sewed around the rim in a single row and at slight intervals, or are sewed on the top, especially around the conical peak. Little tufts of cotton are sometimes dotted over the top, and occasionally one finds the emerald green wings of a beetle[5] placed in the seams on top. All of these devices serve to enhance the beauty of the headpiece.

[3] Caa bojo.

[4] Ka-y-ti.

[5] Called d-yau.

A notable feature of the hat is five or six tail plumes of a domestic rooster. These are set upright in small holes in the back part of the hat and are held in place by lumps of beeswax placed at the ends of the quills, which protrude through the bamboo. It is needless to say that the most gaudy plumes are selected for this purpose. They enhance in no small degree the elegant appearance of the hat. These plumes curve very gracefully indeed, and nod in unison with every movement of the wearer.

The hat is held on the head by two strings made either of braided imported cotton of the typical colors, of abak fiber of the same colors, of vegetable fiber, or of slender slips of rattan. These two strings, often strung with beads, are attached at both ends of the hat and are sufficiently loose to permit the head of the wearer to be inserted between them. A further adornment may consist of two or more beaded pendants that may be tipped with tassels of imported cotton of the preferential colors.

The hat, on the whole, is serviceable, economical, and cool, and serves to set off its wearer to good advantage and to protect his hair from the rain. As far as I have been able to ascertain, the decorative tracings and appanages on the hat have no other significance than that of personal adornment.

A second form of head covering, in use in the parts of the Agsan River Valley not mentioned above, as also among the Manbos of the Pacific coast,[6] is circular. It is made of the sago palm or of bamboo. It varies in diameter between 25 and 35 centimeters and has the shape of a low broad cone. The edges, like those of the hat already described, are reinforced with rattan painted with a mixture of beeswax and pot black for preserving the rattan against atmospheric influences. No paint is applied to the sago sheath, but the beeswax is applied to the bamboo as a preservative against cracking. Neither are any decorative incisions or tracings used in this form of hat, it being primarily and essentially for protection against sun and rain. Two parallel strips of rattan fastened at the ends of a diagonal serve to hold the hat in position on the head.

[6] The Manbos of the Pacific coast inhabit the upper waters of the Kantlan, Tndag, Tgo, Marihtag, Hbo, Bislig, and Ligig Rivers.

A noteworthy feature of this hat is that within the area mentioned above, it is frequently worn by women. I know of no other headdress that is employed by the female members of the Manbo, Mandya, and Debabon tribes.[7]

[7] The Manbos of the lower Agsan, inhabiting the towns of San Vicente, Amparo, San Mateo, Las Nieves, and surrounding regions are not referred to here. The Debabons are looked upon as forming a separate tribe till further investigation.

Besides the headkerchief,[8] worn universally by warrior chiefs[9] and recognized warriors[10] throughout all tribes in eastern Mindano, a kerchief[11] bound round the head is very often worn by Manbos of the Argwan and Umaam Rivers.

[8] T-bang.

[9] Ba-g-ni.

[10] Man-k-i-ad.

[11] P-dung.


In general the jacket is close-fitting, square-cut, and closed. It has long sleeves and a tongue-shaped opening for the head extending from the neck downward in front. Ordinarily the jacket is scarcely long enough to reach the top of the trousers. It is not rare to find a narrow strip of cloth of a color different from the rest of the jacket inserted between the sleeves and body of the garment or running down the waist between the two pieces that form the body. This sidepiece in the jacket of men and women serves to give the desired width to the garment and the variation in color secured by it is regarded as an addition to the general ornamental effect. The jacket is embroidered more or less elaborately according to the skill of the embroiderer and the amount of imported cotton yarn available. This embroidery is done on the back from shoulder to shoulder in a band from 4 to 6 centimeters broad, and in continuous narrow lines around the neck opening, along the seams between the sleeves and body of the garment, on the lower parts of the sleeves, around the waist at the bottom of the garment, and down the arm at the joining of the sleeves; in a word, over all seams.

In the central portion of the Agsan Valley and on the Pacific coast, the most common form of jacket is made of unstained abak fiber cut like the one just described. It has, however, inwoven in the cloth, horizontal parallel lines of dark-blue yarn on the back and the upper part of the front. These dark-blue bands are set at intervals from each other and usually amount to from six to nine lines in number. Tufts of cotton in a continuous recurrence of red, yellow, and dark blue, without any interstices, cover all the seams. If there is any embroidery, it is upon the lower part of the sleeves, on that part of the jacket that covers the back of the neck, and along the seams between the sleeves and the body of the jacket. The distribution of this style of garment is very wide. I have seen it on the Tgo River (Pacific coast), on the upper Umaam, Argwan, Kasilaan, and Simlau Rivers.

On the upper Agsan, including the upper Baha-an, Ihawn, and Babo Rivers, a style that resembles the Mandya is most frequently to be seen. The jacket is made of a gauze-like abak cloth dyed black, or preferably of black or blue imported cloth. One frequently finds, for ornamental purposes, just above the wrists or between the sleeves and the body of the jacket, or down the waist between the main pieces of the garment, thin strips of white cloth inserted. Usually there is no embroidery as such, the previously described alternating tufts of cotton yarn covering all, or nearly all, the seams. When, however, it is desired and it is feasible to adorn the garment with embroidery, the back-of the jacket from shoulder to shoulder, the space along the shoulder seams and the back and front of the sleeves are selected for this prupose[sic]. Bands 5 to 7 centimeters in breadth of more or less intricate pattern are embroidered in these places, with much patient labor and no little skill. It is needless to say that the ordinary colors, with a predominance of red, are used.


The lower garment is of two kinds, one being a short, close-fitting garment made out of either undyed abak fiber with a woof of native cotton or of imported blue cloth. This garment resembles closely the ordinary bathing tights. It is the working breeches of the Manbo and makes no pretense of being ornamental. The white or undyed form is the more common.

The other kind of lower garment worn by the men may be called trousers, though they reach only about halfway between the knees and the ankles. They are square-legged and baggy, made of undyed abak fiber or of abak fiber with a woof of cotton, both undyed. Whenever it is obtainable, imported blue cloth is used. The two legs of the trousers are each about 65 centimeters long by 24 centimeters broad and are joined together by a triangular piece of cloth. These trousers are worn on festive and other occasions that require a display of personal dignity.

The decoration of the trousers consists usually of fringes of imported cotton attached to all the seams except those around the waist. When it is considered desirable to make a more showy garment, embroidery of cotton yarn is added to the ends of the legs and to the part that covers the sides of the calves. The designs used depend on whether the wearer is of the central or of the upper Agsan group.


Around the waist of the garment is a hem through which passes a drawstring or girdle usually of braided abak fiber dyed in the usual colors, with dependent extremities and tassels of imported cotton, also in the preferential colors. On the upper Agsan one finds at times beads and even small bells added to the tassels. These are allowed to hang down in front.

The method of fastening the girdle is by the ordinary method of tieing[sic], or by another simple method, which consists in attaching near one end of the drawstring the operculum of a shell said to be found in the forests. At the other end of the girdle is a loop large enough to admit the operculum, which on being slipped into this loop retains the garment in position.


[12] P-y.

The knapsack is such an omnipresent, indispensable object that it may be considered a part of Manbo raiment. It is a rectangular bag, on an average approximately 30 by 25 centimeters, with a drawstring for closing it. This string is nearly always of multicolored braided abak fiber, and is a continuation of the strings by which the knapsack is suspended on the back from the shoulders, so that when it is carried in that position the mouth of it is always closed. The cloth of which it is made is the usual undyed abak cloth, though among the upper Agsan group one finds in use blue imported cloth or, perhaps more frequently, Mandya cloth,[13] imported especially for knapsacks.

[13] Called g-au.

The decoration consists of embroidery, more or less extensive, of the type that is characteristic of the wearer's group and which corresponds to that of his dress, if the dress is decorated. Tassels of imported cotton at the extremities of the drawstrings, and perhaps pendants of small seeds, or beads, usually white, together with cotton fringes in proper colors, enhance the beauty of the knapsack. As a rule, however, among the Manbos of regions remote from Christian settlements, one finds little attempt at decoration, either of the dress or of the knapsack. A few fringes of cotton yarn and a little ornamental stitchwork are about the only display attempted. This lack of decoration is due not only to the fact that they have little cotton yarn, but also to lack of ability on the part of the women. The latter fact might lead the observer to conclude that the art of embroidery and cloth decoration originated outside the tribe.



The great distinguishing mark of a woman's dress is the difference in color between the body of the upper garment, which is almost invariably red, and the sleeves, which must always be of a different color. Should the body be made of black cloth, then the sleeves are always of red. And if the sleeves are of black, blue, or white, then the body must be of red.

Another differentiating feature of the woman's jacket is that the cuffs, if they may be so called, are generally of the color of the body of the garment, and that the pieces often inserted between the main parts of the body and extending vertically down the sides from the armpits are of the same color, and, if possible, of the same material as the upper parts of the sleeves. These two points, together with the more extensive and elaborate embroidery, serve to distinguish the woman's upper garment from the man's.

In the regions which I visited the styles of jackets may be reduced to two, the more elaborate types of which are as follows:

The upper Agsan style.—On the upper Agsan, on the Ihawn (excepting on its western tributaries), and on the Bahaan, the woman's jacket partakes of the style and characteristics of that of the Mandya. In shape it is not different from that of the man, but is more close-fitting, especially the sleeves, which may be compared to a long cylinder. Lines of cotton yarn in alternating colors cover and adorn the seams and the oval-shaped opening for the neck, but are not found on the bottom of the jacket. Embroidery of skillful and intricate design, in bands about 5 or 6 centimeters wide, adorns the garment on the back from shoulder to shoulder and around the seam at which the sleeves are joined to the body of the jacket.

This garment is made out of either gauzelike abak cloth of native weaving, dyed either red or black, or it is of imported European cloth obtained by barter. Sometimes it is a combination of the two, when enough imported cloth has not been obtained.

The style of the central group.—The main differences between this style and that just described are that the latter is more loosely cut in the body and sleeves, is more profusely embroidered, and has a longitudinal cut in the cuffs for the admission of the hands. One finds, too, but only very occasionally, a type of jacket in which the sleeves are white and the body black.

The embroidery may be so profuse that it covers not only the lower halves of the sleeves and the back of the neck, but the whole front of the garment.


The girdle may be a mere braided cord of abak fiber often mixed with strands of cotton yarn, but more commonly it is a series of braided cords of nito,[14] or of human hair. The girdle is made by braiding the nito or the hair into circular cords, each about 45 centimeters in length and about 2 millimeters in width. Anywhere from 10 to 20 of these braids are fastened together by involving the ends in small pieces of cloth wrapped with cotton yarn of the preferential colors.

[14] Lygodium circinnatum sp.

To one end of this girdle is attached a numerous array of beads, shells, and charms. To the other is attached a braided abak cord, also variegated with the proper colors, which enables the wearer to fasten and tighten the girdle. One frequently sees white seed beads in greater or less quantity strung on each cord of this form of belt.

The pendants are a very noticeable feature of the girdle. Hung from the right side they present to the eye anything but a pleasing effect. Bundles of white scented grass, about 5 centimeters long by 1 centimeter in diameter, that have dried to a semblance of hay, detract most from the appearance of the wearer. The whole mass of pendants is a tangle of divers objects, the quantity of which depends upon the good fortune of the wearer. The following are the objects that may be found among these pendants: Large hawk bells, seldom exceeding six in number and ordinarily not more than three; bunches of odorous grass, amounting sometimes to as much as eight in number; the red seed of the ma-gu-hai tree; small shells, especially cowry shells, picked up, it is said, in the forest; the pods of the ta-b-gi tree, one or more, used for carrying incense[15] for religious purposes; odoriferous seeds and roots[16] cut up small and strung on abak filaments with such beads as the wearer may not desire to use, because of their color or shape, for the ornamentation of other parts of his body.

[15] Called pa-l-na. It is obtained by tapping the ma-gu-ba tree.

[16] The following are the native names of the roots and plants seen by the writer: ta-b, the seed of a plant which looks like a sweet potato; s-i, a helmet-shaped seed of a tree of the same name; k-su, the root of a leguminous plant; ma-gu-ba, the bright red seed of a tree of the same name. It is interesting to note that this same seed is used for the eyes of sacred images. Ka-bis-da' and ko-md-la are also made use of.

The purpose of these various objects is, to all appearances, to ornament the person and to impart a fragrance to the wearer. In this last respect the redolent herbs and seeds admirably fulfill their purpose. But many of these objects serve other ends, medicinal and religious. I took no little pains in investigating this point, but the replies to my inquiries were at times so indeterminate, at others so varied, and so contradictory that I can not make any definite statement; but I am strongly inclined to believe, for sundry reasons, that both medicinal and magic powers are attributed to many of the innocent-looking objects that go to make up the girdle pendants.


The Manbo woman is not encumbered with all the wearing apparel of more cultured tribes. She vests herself with the simple sacklike skirt of good strong abak cloth, durable, and admirably suited to her manner of life.

As the cloth comes from the loom it is in one long rectangular piece (3.6 meters by 90 centimeters more or less). It is cut in two and the ends of each of the two pieces are sewed together, so that two bottomless sacks are made. These two sacks are then joined together, thus forming one long rectangular garment, which by night serves for blanket, sheet, and frequently mosquito bar, and by day for a skirt. When used as a skirt, it is folded over in such a way that it resembles two sacks, one inside the other. As it is considerably larger than the person of the wearer it must be drawn to one side, always the left, and tucked in. The lower part of the garment on the left side bulges out so far that it makes the woman's figure ungraceful in appearance.

From the dimensions given above it follows that the dress does not reach much below the knees, a salutary arrangement, indeed, for one whose occupations lead her through the slush of forest trails and the grime of farming life.

There are two types of skirt in common use; first, the type that is of purely Manbo manufacture, and, second, the type that is imported from the Mandyas of southeastern Mindano.

The purely Manbo type is distinguished by its simplicity and absence of elaborate design. Alternating bands of red and black, with dividing lines of white, all running longitudinally along the warp, and inwoven, are the only effort at beauty of design.

The second form of skirt is that imported from the Mandyas or purchased, whenever obtainable, from Bisya traders or, on the upper Agsan, from trafficking intermediaries. It is striking with what appreciation the Manbo regards this article. A Manbo from the Argwan and Umaam will travel over to Hinatun, a journey of three or four days, to procure a piece of Mandya skirt cloth. He values it above the costliest pieces of European fabric that he has seen. The Manbo woman upon seeing a fine specimen dances with joy, and is long and loud in her praise of it. No value is too high for such a specimen and no sacrifice too great to purchase it.

The explanation of this high regard in which Mandya cloth is held is simple. The cloth is made, I was habitually assured by Manbos, by enchantment, under the direction of the priestesses in the lofty mountain fastnesses of Mandyaland.[17] No other explanation will satisfy the credulous Manbo. He can not possibly understand how the fanciful and elegant designs on Mandya cloth can be produced by other than supernatural means.

[17] I have covered nearly the whole of the Mandya country and can testify to the numerous religious practices and restrictions connected with the fabrication of the cloth.

The cloth as it comes from the loom is of practically the same size as Manbo cloth and it is made into the form of a skirt in identically the same way. The only difference is that the Mandya fabric is heavier and has a beautiful inwoven pattern.

A minute description of the patterns would be needlessly lengthy and necessarily deficient. In general, it may be said that the designs are executed in longitudinal panels, of which there are several lateral and one central, all of which run parallel and warpwise. The main figures are four, two grotesquely suggestive of a crocodile but more nearly portraying a turtle, and two that delineate the fanciful figure of a woman. The intermediate parts of the panels consist of reticulations whose general design depends upon the skill and whim of the weaver.[18]

[18] The cloth is classified (1) according to the color of the woof threads (pu-gu-a) into kan-a-yum (black) and lin—ba (red); (2) according to the design on the central panel—m-pis no la-ag if it is 25 centimeters wide, bin-a-ga-ks if the central panel is no wider than the lateral ones; (3) according to the use of narrow (sin-k-lit) or of broad (pin-al-w-an) white stripes; (4) according to the locality in which the cloth is manufactured, the most famous and most prized cloth being called ban-a-hw-an, which proceeds from the Banahwan district in the Kasaman River Valley in the southeastern part of Mindano. The Mag—gan type is highly esteemed for being very similar in design and dye effects to the Banahwan. It is made by the Tagabuztai group of Mandyas in the Karga River Valley.




The adornment of the person is confined almost exclusively to women so that the following observations apply principally to them. In the discussion of bodily mutilations reference will be made to such permanent adornment as tattooing, perforation and elongation of the ear lobes, superciliary and axillary depilation, grinding of the teeth, and the blackening of the teeth and lips—all of which, with the exception of the elongation of the ear lobes, are common to both men and women.

The finger nails of both sexes are sedulously clipped, not even thumb-nails being allowed to grow long. This may be due to the fact that these latter are not required for playing the guitar, nor for gambling with cards, in which occupations they prove a valuable aid to the Bisya of the Agsan Valley.



With the exception of the Manbos of the far upper reaches of the Argwan, Umaam, and Sbud Rivers, whom I did not visit, and of Manbos who live in settlements and may have adopted the hairdressing methods of Bisyas, one mode of dressing the hair is almost invariably in use by both men and women. The hair is parted in a straight line over the cranium from ear to ear. The front division is then combed forward over the forehead where it is banged square from ear to ear in the plane of and parallel to the superciliary ridges. The back division is combed back, and after being twisted into a compact mass, is tied in a chignon upon the crown of the head. The knot is a single bow, which from our standpoint is not very prepossessing.

In men the chignon is usually lower, being about half way between the crown and the nape of the neck.

One occasionally sees two locks of hair left hanging down in front of the ears to the level of the jaws. This fashion is not very prevalent even on the upper Agsan, and is probably adopted from the Mandyas.

No fillets, flowers, garlands nor any other ornamentation are ever used on the hair. Coconut oil, if obtainable, is used, but the meat of the coconut, rasped or chopped into small particles, is preferred, whenever it can be obtained. As a wash for the hair, wild lemons, the seed of an uncommon tree whose name has escaped my memory, and the bark of a tree, are used sporadically. I can not laud the condition of the hair. Notwithstanding the fact that a crude bamboo comb with close-set teeth is made use of, the vermin are never eliminated.

On occasions the hair of children is cut for the purpose of promoting its growth, and the hair of female slaves is often cut as a punishment. With these exceptions, the hair is never cut, being left with all the profusion which nature gives it.


An ornamental comb is always worn by women. It consists of a segment of bamboo, 7 or 8 centimeters long and 5 centimeters high, curved while still green and made to retain its shape by a slip of bamboo fastened into two holes on the concave side. The teeth are whittled out and the upper part and sides are cut into the characteristic shape seen in Plate 9. On the front or convex side of the comb are ornamental incisions the style and variety of which depend upon the caprice and adeptness of the fashioner. Skeat and Blagden[1] quote an authority who asserts that the tribes of the Malay Peninsula attribute magic properties to the decorative incisions on their combs. Following out this idea, the writer made numerous inquiries in the Agsan Valley as to the existence of a similar or of an analogous attribution but found none. According to all reports these patterns are purely esthetic in their character, with no magic or other attributes. The fact that among the Manbos of the upper Agsan in the vicinity of Verula, one finds combs without incised work and among the Manbos of Argwan, Umaam, and Kasilaan one occasionally sees combs with circular, square, and triangular pieces of mother-of-pearl inlaid, is an indication of the absence of the aforesaid belief. In fact, combs of the last-mentioned type seem to be more highly prized than the plain incised bamboo ones, a fact due probably to the scarcity of mother-of-pearl. Another point that goes to bear out the above statement is the fact that no reluctance is displayed in parting with a comb, no matter how intricate or unusual may be its incisions.

[1] Pagan Races of the Malay Peninsula.

On the upper Agsan it is not rare to find combs that have a band of beaten silver with a fretwork pattern laid across the convex part above the teeth. These combs, however, are imported from the Debabons of Moncyo or from the composite group living farther up the river. The writer knows of no Manbo silversmith.

No hairpins nor other means of fastening the hair are made use of, neither are any dyes nor other materials used to alter its color.


Another ornament found on the Manbo woman's head is the ear disk. This is a disk of wood[2] about 3 centimeters in diameter, and 6 millimeters wide, with a small groove around the edge in which rests the edge of the ear perforation. When the wearer has been lucky enough to get a thin lamina of silver or of gold[3] it is fastened on the outside of the wooden disk by means of a few strands of imported cotton yarn nearly always red. The yarn passes through a hole in the lamina and in the disk, a little tuft being left over the hole. These metal plates have usually stellate edges and are often decorated with a simple chiseled pattern. They are rare except on the upper Agsan where there are Debabon and Mandya smiths. In lieu of gold and silver, a lamina made out of beaten brass wire answers the purpose.

[2] Usually of ku-li-p-pa.

[3] Gold laminae are very rare and are seldom parted with. They are highly valued heirlooms. The silver lamina is beaten out of a piece of silver money.

On the upper Agsan both men and women suspend four strings of beads from each ear, when the dignity of the occasion requires it. These strings are about 30 centimeters long and have colored cotton tassels at the ends. Both these tassels and the strings of beads are of the preferred colors, red, white, black, and yellow. I am inclined to think that this custom is also of Mandya origin. Occasionally one or two buttons[4] are worn in the ear lobes of men on the upper Agsan. This practice seems to have been adopted from the Mandyas.

[4] Ordinary undershirt buttons.


The number of necklets and necklaces worn depends on the wealth of the wearer or on her good fortune in having been able to secure a supply of beads. The components of the necklace are principally beads with alternating odoriferous seeds or pieces of seeds. Here and there a small shell may be added, or a larger bead, or a crocodile tooth. The writer has seen worn coils of beads with small shells, seeds, and crocodile teeth, that must have weighed at least 2 kilograms. Such an array as this is not worn every day but is reserved for occasions of religious or secular festivity and for times when the possessor feels bound to make an unusual display. The seeds worn are the same as those that form part of the girdle—pendants, above described.

It may not be out of place here to note the fondness displayed by the feminine portion of the tribe for perfumes. This is characteristic of all the peoples of eastern Mindano with whom I have been in contact. Though medicinal and magic virtues are attributed, perhaps, to these odorous seeds, yet their fragrance is also undoubtedly a determining factor in the choice of them.

In the color of the beads used the Manbo is restricted by the character of the supply, but it may be said that where he has his choice he selects red, yellow, black, and white. He prefers the small seed bead, but likes to have a few large beads to place at recurring intervals.

Necklets are occasionally worn. They consist of bands of beads, arranged symmetrically according to color in geometrical figures—a triangle of yellow beads, a rectangle of black ones, or other patterns. This necklet is usually about 2 centimeters broad and long enough to fit the neck tightly. It is fastened at the back by a button and usually has a single string of beads depending from it and lying upon the back. Men may wear this necklet, but its use by them is very infrequent. They, however, occasionally wear a necklace from which to suspend the hair eradicator. I observed this only on the upper Agsan, and, as it is an ordinary Mandya practice I suppose that the custom is borrowed—another indication of the influence of Mandya culture on the Manbos of the upper Agsan. The eradicator is a small pair of tweezers made, ordinarily, out of a piece of beaten brass wire bent double and having inturned edges.

The only breast ornament, besides tattooing on the skin and embroidery on the jacket, is the silver plaque or disk worn nearly always by unmarried women and frequently by others. The wearing of these disks is a custom practiced only on the upper Agsan, Ihawn, and Simlau Rivers, and is without doubt of Mandya origin. The plaque is a large thin sheet of beaten silver varying from 7 to 10 centimeters in diameter. It is of Debabon or of Mandya workmanship. It has a pattern of concentric circles and other symmetrical figures traced upon it, together with a fretwork of small triangular holes. The more elaborate ones display an amount of artistic skill that gives the Mandya[5] the high reputation that he has in eastern Mindano as a man of superior attainments.

[5] Mandyaland produces nearly all the lances, spears, bolos, daggers, and artistic cloth used by the Manbos throughout eastern Mindano. Outside of a few silversmiths among the Debabons, and a few among the hybrid group occupying the upper Agsan from Gerona to Taganud, the Mandya smiths are the only ones that are skilled in silverwork.


Men wear on one or both upper arms black bands of braided nito. These are about 1.5 centimeters in breadth and are braided into one continuous piece of such a size as to fit the arm tightly. The writer has seen many that fitted so closely that they caused sores. They are, besides being distinctly ornamental, designed to serve another purpose, for they are supposed to impart strength to the muscles.

Men often wear, on one or both wrists, one or more vegetable ligatures plaited in one continuous piece. These are of a jet black glossy color when made of the g-sam[6] vine. They are rectangular in cross section, being about 6 millimeters by 6 millimeters. They must be moistened to make the filaments expand so that the wearer can pass them over his hands on the wrist. On drying they contract to the size of the wrist, Women often wear a few of these with their forearm ornaments.

[6] Both pug-nt and g-sam are species of nito (Lygodium sp.).

Crude rings, round or flat, more commonly beaten out of brass wire or of copper money, but occasionally made of silver money and still less occasionally of carabao horn, adorn in greater or less number the fingers of both men and women.

The forearm adornments of women are more numerous and elaborate than those of men. Besides the vegetable circlets described above, segments of the black coral plant,[7] cut into palm lengths and bent into rings by heating, are worn on either or both arms, though, in case of an insufficient supply, the left arm is adorned in preference to the right. These marine ringlets are not solely for purposes of ornamentation, for a magic influence is attributed to them, at least by the Manbos of the upper Agsan. They are thought to contract and grip, as it were, the wearer's arm on the approach and in the presence of danger. Hence they are greatly prized but are comparatively rare. This is due to the difficulty of obtaining the plant as it grows in deep water where the danger from sharks deters the native divers.

[7] Called sag-ai-sg-ai in Manbo and ban-ug in Bisya (Antipatharia sp.).

The whorl of a sea shell,[8] ground and polished into white heavy rings, whose cross section is an isosceles triangle, form a very common forearm adornment for women on the upper Agsan. Sometimes as many as five of these are worn, ordinarily on the left arm. The weight of a full equipment of shell bracelets may amount to at least a kilo. The use of such cumbrous adornments is confined to festal occasions except in the case of unmarried maidens, who nearly always wear them. These shell bracelets with the black alternating rings of sea coral are very becoming indeed, as they tend, by the contrast of jet black and marble white, to set off the color of the skin to advantage.

[8] Tak-lo-bo (Tridacna gigas).

It is noticeable that as one approaches the Mandya country, the similarity in dress and personal adornment to that of the Mandyas becomes more apparent. This is true on the upper Simlau, Agsan, and Ihawn, another indication of the influence of Mandya culture on the Manbo. Hence in those regions one finds forms of bracelets that are typical of Mandya adornment. Thus bands of beaten brass wire, 1 centimeter broad approximately, are seen occasionally. Also flat braided bands of jungle fiber covered with white beads are sometimes used. On one occasion the writer saw a hollow circular brass bangle into which a piece of lead had been inserted, and which with every movement of the arm produced a tinkling sound.

In the central Agsan region and among the Manbos of the Pacific coast, one finds the use of a small whorl of a sea shell[9] as a Bracelet but its use is uncommon, especially on the Pacific side. This is due to the fact that only an occasional shell has made its way into the country. In these regions the Manbo is particularly poor in arm adornments.

[9] Called l-gang.


Men, especially unmarried ones, often wear on one or both legs just below the knee a ligature similar in every respect to that worn on the upper arms. Its purpose, too, is twofold, to strengthen, and, at the same time, to adorn the legs. On the upper Agsan one sees beads sewn on these bands.

Women have similar ligatures on one or both legs just above the ankles. They are worn for decorative purposes, but it is said by some that they are a sign of virginity and that upon marriage it costs the husband the value of one slave to remove them. But the fact that married women occasionally wear them seems to contradict this statement.

Women wear at festal periods and especially during dances a few rings[10] of stout brass wire some 6 millimeters in diameter. The rings are large enough to allow the foot to be passed through them, hence they hang loosely at the ankles. In number they rarely exceed two to each leg. During a dance they tintillate to the jingling of the hawk bells that depend from the girdle and are considered highly ornamental.

[10] D-tus.



The purpose of most body mutilations among the Manbos is ornamentation. The one exception is circumcision which will be discussed later.

Scarification is nowhere practiced in eastern Mindano except among the Mamnuas. In 1905 I came in contact with several Mamnuas of the upper Tgo River (within the jurisdiction of Tndag, Province of Surigo) and noticed that they had cicatrices on the breast and arms. I concluded that the scars were due to the practice of scarification. Inquiries since that time made among both Manbos and Bisyas have confirmed these conclusions. Head deformation is not practiced in eastern Mindano.

No painting of the body is resorted to other than the blackening of the lips with soot. To effect this a pot is taken from the fireplace and the bottom of it is dexterously passed across the lips, leaving a black coating that, with the fluid from the chewing quid made up of tobacco, lime, and mu-mau frequently becomes permanent till moistened by drinking. It is a strange sight to see a handsome Manbo belle, decked out with beads and bells, or a dapper Manbo dandy, take the olla, and darken the lips.

No religious or magic significance is attributed to any of the following mutilations, nor are any religious or other celebrations performed in connection with them.


[11] H-sa-to-nto.

As the age of puberty approaches, both boys and girls have their teeth ground. The process is very simple but extremely painful, so much so that the operation can not be completed at one sitting. I think, however, that the painfulness of the process depends on the quality of the stone used, for the Mandyas of the upper Karga River claim that there is a species of stone that does not cause much pain.

A piece of wood is inserted between the teeth to keep them apart. The operator, usually the father, then inserts a small flat piece of sandstone, such as is used for sharpening bolos, into the mouth and with a moderate motion grinds the upper and lower incisors to the gums. It is only the difficulty of reaching the molars that saves them, as the writer was informed. In all, 10 front teeth disappear, and a portion of 4 others. After filing, the teeth of the upper jaw appear convex and those of the lower, concave.

I estimate the minimum time necessary to grind the teeth to be from 3 to 6 hours, spread over a period varying from 3 to 10 days.

The patient displays more or less evidence of pain, according to his powers of endurance but is continually exhorted to be patient so that his mouth will not look like a dog's. This is the reason universally asserted for their objection to white, sharp teeth: "They look like a dog's."

After each grinding, the subject experiences sensitiveness in the gums and can not masticate hard food. When this sensitiveness is no longer felt, usually the following day, the grinding is resumed.

Blackening of the teeth is effected principally by the use of a plant called mu-mau which, besides being used as a narcotic, has the property of giving the teeth a rather black appearance. After being chewed, it is rubbed across the teeth. The juice of the skin is expressed into a quid of tobacco mixed with lime and pot black, the whole forming the inseparable companion of the Manbo man, woman, and even child. It is a compound about the size of a small marble and is carried, until it loses its strength and flavor, between the upper lip and the upper gum, but projecting forward between the lips.

It is to be noted here that the primary object in the use of this combination is not the discoloration of the teeth. The compound is used mainly for the stimulating effects it produces, the pot-black being added as an ingredient in order to blacken the lips and so improve the personal appearance of the user of it. The quid is frequently carried behind the ear when circumstances require the use of the mouth for other purposes.

Another means that helps to stain the teeth is the constant use of betel nut and betel leaf mixed with lime, and, in certain localities, with tobacco.


The practice of mutilating the ear lobes[12] is universal and is not confined to either sex. It consists in piercing the ear lobes in one, two, or three places. This is done usually at an early age, with a needle. A thread of abak fiber is then inserted and prevented from coining out by putting a tiny pellet of beeswax at each end. As soon as the wound heals, the perforation is enlarged in the case of a woman in the following manner: Small pieces of the rib of the rattan leaf are inserted at intervals of a couple of days until the hole is opened enough to receive larger pieces. When it has expanded sufficiently, a small spiral of grass, usually of pandanus[13] is inserted. This, by its natural tendency to expand, increases the size of the aperture until a larger spiral can be inserted.

[12] Ti-dng.

[13] B-ui (Bisya, ba-l-oi).

The opening is considered of sufficient size and beauty when it is about 2.5 centimeters in diameter. In addition to this large aperture, which is located on the lower part of the lobulus, there may be two other small perforations about 1.5 centimeters further up. These latter serve both in men and women for the attachment of small buttons, while the former is confined exclusively to women and serves for the insertion of ornamental ear disks.


A beardless face is considered a thing of beauty, so that a systematic and constant eradication of the face hair is carried on by the Manbo from the first moment that hair begins to appear upon his face. For this purpose he often has a pair of tweezers,[14] ordinarily made out of beaten brass wire, with which he systematically plucks out such straggling hairs as he may find upon his upper lip and on the chin, as well as the axillary hair. The pubic hair is not always eradicated. A small knife[15] is frequently employed as a razor, not only on the chin and upper lip but also for shaving the eyebrows. The removal of the last mentioned is a universal practice, for hair on the eyebrows is considered very ungraceful. Hence both sexes shave the eyebrows, leaving only a pencil line, or, in some districts, not even a trace of hair.

[14] Pan-m-pa'.

[15] Called ba-di' or km-pit.

The hair on other parts of the body is not abundant and it is not customary to remove it.


[16] Pang-o-tb.

After making an infinity of inquiries, I learned that tattooing is merely for the purpose of ornamentation. By a few I was given to understand that under the Spanish regime, when killing and capturing was rife, the tattooing was for the purpose of the identification of a captive. It was customary to change the name of a captive, and as he was sold and resold, the only way to identify him was by his tattoo marks.

Be that as it may, the practice seems to have at present no further significance than that of ornamentation. No therapeutic nor magical nor ceremonial effects are associated with it. Neither is it symbolic of prowess, nor distinctive of family, place, nor person, for two persons from different localities and groups may have the same designs.

No particular age is required for the inception of the process, but from my observation, corroborated by general testimony, I believe it is performed usually from the age of puberty onwards.

The operator is nearly always a woman, or a so-called hermaphrodite,[17] who has acquired a certain amount of skill in embroidering. These professionals are not numerous, due, possibly, to the natural aversion felt by women for the sight of blood, as also to the fact that no remuneration is made for their services, though this last reason alone would not explain the paucity.

[17] One meets occasionally among the peoples of eastern Mindano certain individuals who are known by a special name and who are reputed to be incapable of sexual intercourse. The individuals whom I saw were most feminine in their ways, preferring to keep the company of women and to indulge in womanly work rather than to associate with men.

The process is very simple. A pigment is prepared by holding a plate or an olla, over a burning torch[18] made of resin until enough soot has collected. Then without any previous drawing, the operator punctures, to a depth of approximately 2 millimeters, the part of the body that is to be tattooed. The blood that flows from these punctures is wiped off, usually with a bunch of leaves, and a portion of the soot from the resin is rubbed vigorously into the wounds with the hand of the operator.

[18] Sa-yung (Canarium villosum).

The process occupies a variable length of time, depending on the skill of the operator and on the endurance and patience of the subject. It is painful, but no such manifestations of pain are made as in teeth grinding. The portion tattooed is sensitive for about 24 hours, but no other evil consequences, such as festering, etc., follow as far as my observations go.

Without the aid of diagrams or pictures it is difficult to describe in an intelligible and comprehensive manner the numerous designs that are used in tattooing. Each locality may have its own distinct fashion, differing from the fashion prevalent in another region. And as the designs seem to be the result of individual whim and fancy it would be an almost endless task to describe all of them in detail. Suffice it to say in general that they follow in both nomenclature and in general appearance the figures embroidered on jackets, with the important addition of figures of a crocodile, and of stars and leaves, as is indicated by the names.[19]

[19] Bin-u—ja, (from bu-w-ja, crocodile), gin—bang (from g-bang, iguana) and bin-yo (from b-jo', the betel leaf).

The figures are neither intricate nor grotesque, but simple and plain, displaying a certain amount of artistic merit for so primitive and so remote a people. On close inspection they show up in good clear lines, but at a distance they appear as nothing but dim blue spots or blotches. For durability they can not be surpassed. No means are known whereby to eradicate them. I compared tattoo marks on old men with those on young men and I could not discern any difference in the brightness nor in the preservation of the design.

In men the portions of the body tattooed are the whole chest, the upper arms, the forearms, and the fingers. Women on the other hand, in addition to tattooings on those parts, receive an elaborate design on the calves, and sometimes on the whole leg.


[20] T-li'.

Unlike the four mutilations already described, circumcision is not for ornamental purposes. According to the Manbo's way of thinking it serves a more utilitarian purpose, for it is supposed to be essential to the procreation of children. How such a belief first originated I have been unable to learn, but nevertheless the belief is universal, strong, and abiding. To be called uncircumcised is one of the greatest reproaches that can be thrown at a Manbo, and it is said that he would stand no chance for marriage unless the operation had been performed; the womenfolk would laugh and jeer at him. So it may be said that the custom is obligatory.

The operation is performed a year or two before puberty. No ceremonies or feasts are held in connection with it. The father, or a male relative of the child, takes the small knife (ba-d) and placing it lengthwise over the lower part of the prepuce, makes a slit by hitting the back of the knife with a piece of wood or any convenient object at hand. It thus appears that it is not circumcision in the full meaning of the word but rather an incision. This operation is confined to males and is the only sexual mutilation practiced.



The Manbo is unable to explain the nature of fire, but he has two very primitive but effective ways of producing it, namely, the fire-saw, and the flint and steel. Owing to the sale of Manila and Japanese matches to such of the Manbos as come in contact with traders or with trading posts, the ancient methods of making fire are falling into disuse.


[1] Gut-gt-an.

This might be more properly called the friction method, for the fire is obtained by rubbing edgewise one piece of bamboo at right angles to, and over the back of, another.

The "saw," as it is usually called, or upper piece, must be long enough, say 30 centimeters, to enable one to hold it firmly with both hands. The breadth is immaterial, provided it be broad enough to resist the pressure. One edge must be cut sharp.

The "horse," or lower piece, ought to be at least 10 centimeters broad and of any length. It is essential that the under surface be sufficiently convex to admit the free passage of air when the bamboo is placed upon a solid resting place. In the center of this bamboo is made a hole at least 1 millimeter in diameter. All is now ready for the operation.

The "horse" is set down upon some clean solid piece of wood or stone with its inner or concave side downwards, in such a way that it can not move. The "saw" is placed transversely across the "horse," the sharp edge being right over the hole. Holding it firmly with a hand at each end, it is worked steadily, rapidly and with great pressure across the "horse," precisely as if it were desired to saw it in two. After some 15 strokes, there appears a little smoke, and the operator increases the rapidity of his movement, until he thinks that there is sufficient fire underneath the bamboo. Then he blows down through the hole in order to separate any such bamboo dust as may still remain in or around it. He removes the "horse" applying at once a little lint or other tinder to the glowing particles of bamboo. He then transfers his fire to a piece of good dry wood, preferably to an old firebrand, and in a few seconds has a permanent fire.

For the process it is essential that the bamboo selected be dry and well seasoned, for otherwise the dust produced by the rubbing will not ignite. There are a few varieties of wood that answer the same purpose, but I am unable to give the names though I have seen them used.


[2] Ti'-ti.

The Manbo method of making fire with flint and steel differs in no wise from that used by our own forbears. The tinder used is a fluff obtained from the sugar palm.[3] It is found around the frond bases and after being thoroughly dried, is kept with the flint and steel in a special bamboo or rattan receptacle.

[3] Arenga saccharifera. It is called hi-jup or hi-dip in Manbo.


Once lighted, the fire in the house is kept up, ordinarily not for any ceremonial reason, as far as I have been able to ascertain, but because it is the custom. It is commonly used to furnish light and is kept burning during the night for that purpose. In the mountainous districts, where there is always the possibility of an attack, the fire is sedulously maintained both for light and heat. On occasions fraught with danger from malignant spirits, fire is kept burning for ceremonial reasons as a safeguard against the stealthy approach of the spirits.

Should the fire become extinguished, a fire brand is borrowed from another house, if there is one in the vicinity, but, if there are no neighbors recourse is had to one of the above-described methods.


Fire is ordinarily the principal, and not infrequently the only source of light. It is only in districts in close proximity to the settlements of Christianized Manbos that the luxury of coal oil is enjoyed.

The only source of light in the house, other than that from the fire, is a species of resin which is collected from a tree that is found in great abundance in eastern Mindano.[4] The method of obtaining the resin is to make a good cut in the tree about 1 millimeter above the ground and to catch the resin in a bark or leaf receptacle. This is usually done overnight. Broken pieces of the resin are then placed in a conical receptacle, made of green leaves, usually of the rattan, bound with rattan strips or other vegetable fastening. When needed, the larger end of this bundle of resin is lighted at the fire and the torch is set upon the floor supported in a tilted position by the most convenient object at hand, frequently the whetstone.

[4] Called sai'-gung or saung. (Oanarium villosum).

This torch is a good and economical illuminant. It has, however, two defects: First, the ugly habit of spitting out occasional sparks, which cause a somewhat painful sore if they happen to hit the flesh; and, second, a tendency to extinguish itself at intervals on account of the burnt residue that gradually covers the resin. The ash may be easily removed with a stick and then the light blazes out at once, casting a bright glare on the brown and naked figures of the inmates.

When a light is needed for outdoor purposes, a piece of seasoned bamboo, split at one end, or a firebrand of wood, is carried in lieu of the resin. It is an invariable custom to carry a firebrand, while outdoors at night, not only for the purpose of lighting the way but for daunting the evil spirits that are thought to roam about in the gloom of night.


The Manbo is particularly poor in cooking utensils. With the exception of a very occasional iron pot, and a much less frequent pan, he has none of the kitchen apparatus of more civilized peoples.

The earthen pot of his own manufacture is his mainstay. It resembles the ollas or earthen pots used so universally throughout the Philippines. In addition to this there is used, though very rarely among the remote Manbos, an imported cast-iron pan.[5] It is from 5 centimeters to 10 centimeters in depth and from 25 centimeters to 40 centimeters in diameter, concave, and of the poorest material. It is used for general cooking, for dyeing, and for making a sugar-cane beverage. As it is not provided with a cover, the leaves of the bamboo are used to keep the soot and dirt out and to keep the heat in, especially in steaming camotes and taro.

[5] Called ki—ja.

When there are not enough pots for the cooking, as on some exceptional occasion, green bamboo internodes with one end open are brought into requisition. Bamboo of the variety known as bo or bho, is preferred, for it gives an extra delicate savor to the contents, as I can testify. Even upon ordinary occasions, fish or meat is sometimes cooked in bamboo for the same reason. The pieces of bamboo are put into the fire in a slanting position, the open end being stopped with leaves. They are turned around occasionally till they are burnt nearly through. The contents are removed by splitting the charred joint into strips. These strips are usually given to the expectant children who scrape and lick them clean.

I once saw the bark of a tree used for cooking rice, but without success. I was assured that for cooking meat or fish it would answer admirably.

A ladle, with a handle of wood or bamboo and a head of coconut shell, is about the only article that the Manbo ordinarily has to serve the purpose of spoons and forks. In the absence of the coconut ladle, he employs the bottom of a bamboo internode to which has been left attached a strip that serves as a handle. For stirring the rice he uses a little paddle made out of a flat piece of wood, or if he has no paddle he uses the handle of his coconut. A coconut shell is used for a water cup, though, if he has an imported glass, he will offer it to visitors.

No rags are employed in the cleaning of plates and other dishes. At times a few leaves are required to clean out the iron pan, but for plates and bowls and other utensils a little cold water and a little rubbing with the hand are sufficient.

The Manbo uses no tablecloth nor has he any of the appurtenances that equip a modern table, except plates, bowls, and, perhaps, a glass.

Of plates he frequently has too few for his family. Bowls are still scarcer. Many and many are the houses which I have visited that could not boast of a single bowl; the same may be said of glasses. This is due to the exorbitant prices charged for them.

As a substitute for plates, the Manbo uses platters of bark from the sago[6] and other palm trees. It may happen on the occasion of some big festivity that he still finds himself short of plates and platters, so he utilizes his low panlike weaving baskets by lining them with banana or other leaves and putting them on the table loaded with rice. Should all these not be sufficient for the number of his guests, he spreads out a few banana leaves in the center of the table, or on the floor, and lays the rice upon them.

[6] Lm-bia.

A piece of bamboo serves for cup and glass as auxiliary to, or a substitute for, the coconut-shell cup mentioned above.


The great staple of Manboland is the camote.[7] During harvest time and for several weeks ensuing rice may constitute the bulk of his daily food, but after that he reserves for feasts, for friends, and for the sick what he does not sell, or part with in payment of debts. Should his camote crop fail he falls back upon the sago[8] that abounds in the central Agsan; or, when sago is not available, he seeks the wild fishtail palm,[9] that affords him as pleasant and nutritious a food as any sago palm that ever grew. In the upper Agsan the Manbo plants a fair quantity of taro, and in the middle Agsan, a small amount of maize in season, or even some beans,[10] so that it is seldom he has to have recourse to the forest for his maintenance. But the mountain Manbo is occasionally compelled to draw his sustenance from the various palm trees and vines that are found in such luxuriance throughout his forest domain. I have seen poisonous tubers gathered in time of famine by the Manbos of the upper W-wa region and eaten, after they had been scraped on a prickly rattan branch, and the poison had been removed by a series of washings and dryings.

[7] Ipomoea batatas Poir.

[8] Lm-bia.

[9] B-hi' (Caryota sp.)

[10] Called b-tung.

He nearly always has a little sugar cane on the farm but, when it is not intended for making an inebriating drink, it is planted only in sufficient quantity to furnish occasionally a few pieces to the members of the household.

Besides the above-mentioned plants, he has probably only a few banana plants, a few ginger plants, some semiwild tomatoes, a little mint[11] and, perchance, a few other plants intended for seasoning. He is not accustomed to plant more than will supply the bare necessities of life.

[11] Called labwna probably from the Spanish yerba buena.

As a concomitant of his rice or camotes, he must have his is-da[12] which he procures from the forest[13] or from the river.[14]

[12] This word in its present usage corresponds to the Spanish vianda, to the Bisya sdan, and the Tagalog lam. Note that the generic word for is-da, "fish," has received a still more general application among the Manbos and Bisyas of the middle Agsan. Originally, no doubt, it meant simply "fish," but as the hu-an is almost the only fish in the middle Agsan that is caught with frequency and in numbers, the generic term for fish was narrowed down to this one particular fish. Thence the application of the word expanded and it now corresponds to the Tagalog lam and the Cebu-Bisya s-dan.

[13] See under "Hunting."

[14] See under "Fishing."

It is not essential that the meat or fish should be fresh. I have seen pig meat eaten after three days' decomposition. Neither is the rawness an impediment, for it is customary in certain localities to eat pork absolutely raw, for ceremonial reasons. Besides pork, venison, and fish, an occasional wild chicken or other bird snared in the forest, or a hornbill killed with an arrow, helps to keep his larder supplied.

When no fish or meat has been procured, and this is more often the rule than the exception, he may have found on his rambles some mushroomlike fungi,[15] or even mushrooms,[16] or he may have taken a notion to cut down some palm tree, and get a fine palm [17] or rattan core [18] or even young bamboo shoots.[19] While straying along the river bank he may pick some fern tops of an edible variety.[20] Any of these things affords as fair supplement to his rice, as butter does to bread. The palm-tree cores are full of big luscious larvae.[21] He may have a chance to kill an iguana[22] or monarch lizard.[23] The killing of a monkey with his bow and arrow, or in his traps, affords him a choice piece of meat. And when he has the good fortune to kill a python, he has enough s-da for himself, his relatives, and his neighbors for at least one meal. Occasionally, during the proper season, he locates a bees' nest and therefrom procures an amount of honey, larvae, and beebread that proves an uncommon treat for himself and his family. Again, on the river at certain periods he has nothing else to do except to scoop into his dugout (if he has one) the exhausted "water-skimmers,"[24] or while passing near some sand bank to spy the spot where the water lizard buried her delicious eggs. In the little side streams he may catch a few frogs and go on his way rejoicing.

[15] Ta-lng-a b-tang.

[16] Lg-bus, sa-gng-s-ging.

[17] -bud.

[18] P-san.

[19] Da-bng.

[20] P-ko' (Asplenium esculentum)

[21] A-b-tud.

[22] G-bang.

[23] Ibd.

[24] These are a variety of insect called d-li, of a whitish color about 2 centimeters long, and having two threadlike appendages extending from the posterior part. They are eaten raw, usually with vinegar and salt. This insect is said to be, probably, one of the Neuroptera or Pseudoneuroptera.

With these random finds, with wild boar and deer that come from an occasional chase, with such salted and dried fish, including jerked crocodile, as he may purchase directly or indirectly from Bisya traders or from Christianized Manbos, and with a casual pig or fowl killed on ceremonial or festival occasions, he manages to keep his family fairly well supplied with an accompaniment for the mess of rice or other staple food.

Salt, the native red pepper,[25] and at times ginger constitute a very important part of the meal, if they are obtainable. The first mentioned article is far from being abundant, especially in certain localities, such as the Babo River and the upper parts of the Ihawn, Umaam, and Bahaan Rivers. In such places as these the writer found such an intense craving for it that it was eaten ravenously and declared to be "sweet."

There is such an inordinate desire for salt, especially the rock salt made out of salt water and ash lye, that the Manbo will submit sometimes to tyranny and to the most exorbitant rates in order to obtain it. This craving for salt will explain the general preference that is felt for salted food as against fresh meat. The small salted fish, peddled in such quantities by Bisya traders, are prized above the choicest pieces of venison and jerked crocodile, presumably for the salt that they contain. It may be wondered why the Manbo does not salt his own meat and fish, but this is explained by the fact that such an operation is strictly tabooed.

Red pepper is a sine qua non. It is eaten much as we eat salt, and is said to impart courage. In the regions near the Mandyas it is put up in a special form,[26] this being nothing more than the dried pepper pounded, mixed with salt, and preserved in bamboo joints in a dry place, usually in the smoke above the hearth. In this condition it acquires an extraordinary strength that makes the plain red pepper taste mild. This is explained, perhaps, by the fact that in the pounding the seeds of the pepper are triturated.

[25] Ka-tum-b (Capsicum sp.).

[26] D-mang.



The remote preparation consists in getting a supply of sweet potatoes or rice from the farm. This may be a mile or more from the house, so that once a day at least the women, with baskets on their heads and paddles in their hands, if they live on navigable water, leave for the farm. In localities where an ambush is a possible contingency, a few men with lance and shield, and hunting dogs accompany the women as a guard, for the camote field is a favorite spot for the enemy to wreak his vengeance, according to the recognized laws of Manboland. The women and girls dig up the camotes with a bolo or with a small pointed stick, and get a little rice from the granary.[27] After performing any necessary work such as weeding and planting, they return and prepare the meal, the men taking no part except to clean and quarter the game or other meat that may have been selected for it.

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