The Manbos of Mindano - Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume XXIII, First Memoir
by John M. Garvan
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[22] Ma-l-hi.

(7) Slaves; marriages among them are not tabooed absolutely, but they are regarded as something unbecoming, and the person who marries a slave girl is spoken of as yo-yo (no good).

Marriage with a sister-in-law is fairly common, and may take place during the wife's lifetime, usually at her instigation, but never without her consent.


It may be remarked that in the case of marriages between cousins within the forbidden degrees, the actual marriage payment is much less, as the matter is considered a family affair, but on the whole such a marriage is a most expensive affair. In the first place, before the marriage, the priest instructs the prospective husband to dedicate a number of objects to Tagabyao, the goddess of consanguineous love. This presupposes a sacrificial ceremony in which, as in one case which I witnessed, a white pig was killed, and a lance valued at P15, a bolo valued at P10, a dagger valued at P10, and sundry other objects were formally consecrated to Tagabyao. The consecration was followed by a sacrifice to Tagabyao, after which the marriage payment was made. Then came a similar series of offerings to Inyao, goddess of the thunderbolt, that she might not harm the newly married. I was told that year after year the newly married cousins had to repeat this ceremony, and thereby keep in Inyao's good graces.

Intermarriage with a member of another tribe occurs occasionally but is not looked upon with favor owing to the differences of religious belief as also to the fact that it might not be possible for the husband to take away his wife. In the cases that have come under my notice of marriages between Manbos and Maggugans, Maggugans and Mandyas, and Mandyas and Manbos, the man almost invariably married a girl belonging to what was considered a higher tribe; for instance, Manbo man to a Mandya girl, or a Maggugan man to a Mandya girl. The reason assigned was in nearly every case the assurance that the girl would not be taken from the paternal roof, and that a bigger marriage price would be forthcoming.

Gratuitous marriages occur rarely. In the few cases that passed under my observation, all the expenses of the wedding feast were borne by the bride's relatives, and the bridegroom took up his residence with his father-in-law, and virtually entered a state of slavery. His children also become the property of the father-in-law.

It is not intended to give the impression that the recipient of a gratuitous wife has to perform the duties of an ordinary slave. On the contrary, he is treated as one of his wife's family and is expected, in view of the favor that he has received and the debt that he has incurred, to help his father-in-law when called upon. If he should happen on a definite occasion to prove recalcitrant, he is gently reminded of his debt and of the sacredness with which a good Manbo pays it, and so he goes off on his errand and the matter is concluded.

Remarriage takes place frequently, owing to the fact that a widow does not command so high a price as a maiden and that she has something to say in the selection of her new husband. She can not, however, be married if a funeral feast[23] for a near relative of the family is still unfulfilled.

[23] Ka-ta-p-san.

There is absolutely no trace of a levirate system by which the nearest male kinsman must marry his deceased brother's widow. On the contrary, a marriage with any relative's widow is absolutely tabooed, and this taboo, as far as my observations warrant the assertion, is never violated.


Married life appears to be one of mutual good understanding and kindliness. The husband addresses his wife as bdyag (wife) and leaves to her the management of the establishment in everything except such little business transactions as may have to be carried on. The wife gets the wood and water every day, toiling up and down the steep mountain sides. She goes off to the farm once or twice a day and returns with her basket of camotes. In the meantime the husband whittles out his bolo sheath or his lance shaft, or occasionally goes off on a fishing expedition or a hunt, if the omens are good. Every once in awhile, especially during the winter months, he sets up his wild boar traps, and they may keep him busy about two days a week. Then comes the news of a wedding feast, two days' journey hence, and off he goes for perhaps a week, or there may be a big question to settle in another part of the country and he must attend the discussion because there is a relative of his involved; anyhow, it will end up with a big pig and plenty of brew. So he goes away and has a roaring time, and comes back after a week with a nice piece of pork and some betel nuts for his wife and tells her all about the doings. She bears it all, makes her comments on it, and then goes to get the camotes for dinner, with never a complaint as to her hard work. It is the custom of the tribe, and the institution of the great men of bygone days, that the woman should toil and slave.

I have known of very few domestic broils and have never known of a case of ill treatment, except when in a drunken fit the husband wreaked his wrath on his wife.

Faithfulness to the marriage tie is a remarkable trait in Manboland, due to the stringent code of morals upheld by the spear and the bolo. The few cases of adultery related to me among the non-Christian Manbos were mere memories. I heard of one case of fornication just before leaving the upper Agsan. It was narrated to me by a warrior chief of the upper Kati'il. His fourth wife, a relative of the datu who figured in the case of wife capture described in this chapter, had in the days of her maidenhood secretly fallen from grace, which fact she revealed to her warrior husband, together with the name of the offender. The warrior chief thereupon made a two-day march to Compostela and located the house of his enemy, publicly vowing speedy vengeance. I visited the latter's house a few days after and found it in a state of defense, a large clearing having been made, with a mass of felled trees, underbrush, and bamboo pegs all around. This man was a Manbo of the Debabon group who had spent many years under the tuition of the older Christians of the Agsan Valley.

Rape, incest, and other such abominations are practically unheard of.

From what has been stated frequently throughout this monograph, it may be seen that the position of the woman is merely that of a chattel. In moments of anger, which are not frequent, the husband or the father-in-law addresses the object of his wrath as bintug, that is, purchased one, chattel. A woman, the Manbo will tell you, has no tribunal, or tilibun;[24] she was born to be the bearer of children and the planter of camotes. She can not carry a shield nor thrust a spear.

[24] The meaning is that she has not enough brains to take part in the discussions held in the town halls, called in Spanish "tribunal," and erected by the Spaniards in the various Christianized settlements for the arbitration of judicial and administrative matters pertaining to the settlement.

Following out these views to their legitimate conclusions, and both experience and observation verify them, it is obvious that there is no evidence of the matriarchate system in Manbo-land. The husband is the lord of his household, of his wife, and of his children, and I do not hesitate to say, probably would abandon or kill either, if the urgency of a definite occasion required it.[25]

[25] Maligan of the upper Simlau, to prevent his wife and children from falling into the hands of the Spanish forces, slew them and himself in full view of the soldiery. I found this incident related in one of the Jesuit letters, to which reference has been made already.


After a few months, dependent on the term determined upon in the marriage contract, the young husband returns to his father-in-law's house, to whose family he is now considered to belong, and takes up his permanent residence there. His respect for both his father-in-law and mother-in-law is such that he will not mention them by name. He always addresses them as father-in-law and mother-in-law, respectively. He aids his father-in-law in everything as a son. Every year for 12 years during the harvest time he is expected to kill a pig for him. Of course, occasions arise on which he is called upon by his own relatives and has to leave his father-in-law. Sometimes it happens that he does not return, but in such cases he is expected to act in a diplomatic way, and leave something, say a big pig, as a substitute for his person.

Brothers-in-law, and their name is legion, for the term includes all who have married any relative however distant, are expected to aid the relatives of their wives, especially in warfare. And it is my observation that at least such of them as are married to nearer relatives of a given individual, do effectively help him when he really needs either financial or other assistance.

The brothers-in-law of a warrior chief nearly always live with him or in his immediate vicinity. This custom is maintained, no doubt, both for the protection and for the prestige thereby acquired.




The desire to fulfill the end of marriage is so strong that it may be said that there is almost rivalry and envy between the young men. Many a time I have heard the remark made that so and so is a-yo—yo—a sorry specimen of humanity—because he had no children. If you ask a Manbo how many children he has he will seldom forget to tell you not only the number that died, but also the number of times that his wife suffered miscarriage, owing to a faulty selection of food, or to the noxious influence of some evil spirits, or to the violation of certain taboos, or to some other cause.

And thus it is that when the first evidences of motherhood manifest themselves, the husband procures a white or black chicken and after inviting a few friends, holds an informal party in honor of the occasion. I know of one case in which the ritual waving ceremony[1] took place on pregnancy, but it was performed, so the husband told me, because of a conjunction of ill omens, and not because such a ceremony was customary.

[1] K-yab to m-nuk.


The precautions taken by both husband and wife during pregnancy, as also on the approach of parturition, are evidence of the sacredness with which they guard the dearest hope of their married lives.

The following pregnancy and birth taboos, verified by the writer, hold with little variation in every part of the Agsan Valley, and several of them are still adhered to by the Bisyas of that region.[2]

[2] I find that some of these taboos are observed by the uneducated Tagalogs of Manila and by the peasants of Taybas Province.

The general idea prevailing in the observation of these taboos is one of sympathy by which a certain action, productive of a certain physical effect in one subject may produce by some sympathetic correlation an analogous effect in another. An instance will make this clear. To wear a necklace is an action in itself perfectly innocuous and even beneficial, in so far as it enhances the person of the wearer, but for the Manbo man and wife such a proceeding at this particular time would produce, by some species of mystic correlation, a binding effect on the child in the hour of parturition, and must accordingly be eschewed.

These taboos are in force from the time when the young wife announces her condition until the end of that trying period that follows conception.


1. He must avoid all untoward acts, such as quarreling and haggling.

2. His demeanor must be quiet; he must avoid noisy and impetuous actions, such as taking part in the capture of a domestic pig.

3. He must avoid all heavy work, such as the felling of trees, making of canoes, or erection of house posts.

4. He must not engage in any work connected with rattan, such as tying or splicing.

5. He must in no case use resin[3] for the purpose of sticking handles or shafts on weapons.

[3] Si-yung or saung.


1. She must not do any heavy work nor carry anything on her head.

2. She must not sit on a corner of the hearth frame.

3. While in a sitting posture she must leave one knee uncovered.

4. She must be careful in the selection of her food for a period that seems to depend, according to my observation, on individual whim.

Hence after the inception of pregnancy a woman becomes almost fastidious in the choice of her food. Her every whim must be catered to. No general rule can be given, but her general preference is for vegetable food, especially the core of the various wild palm trees,[4] plantains, and when obtainable, young coconuts. Acid fruits, such as the various species of lemons or the fruits of rattan vines, seem to be her special predilection.

[4] -bud.


1. They must not thrust their hands through the floor nor through an opening in the walls of the house.

2. Anything taken by them from the fire must not be returned by them, but by a third party.

3. They must not return after having once started to descend the house ladder until they have reached the ground.

4. They must not sit at the entrance to the house in such a way as to impede free en trance or exit.

5. They must be careful that the firewood is not unusually speckled or dirty, as the child that is to come might be lacking in due comeliness. I have seen many a husband assiduously peeling off the bark from the more-ugly-looking firewood.


Visitors also are cautioned and expected to observe the third and fourth taboos mentioned under the last section.[5]

[5] The taboo that forbids a visitor to sit at the door of the house is observed by the lower classes of Manila. Also the taboo that forbids quarreling.


Infanticide is never practiced; on the contrary, every means, natural, magic, and religious, are taken to safeguard the life of the babe. Abortion, however, occurs.


Artifical[sic] abortion is unknown among the pagan Manbos, but the Christianized members of the tribe who have come under the influence of culture of a different stamp, have acquired a knowledge of its practice for the purpose of concealing their condition and of thereby avoiding subsequent shame and trouble. For this purpose various vegetable products are used, such as the sap of the red dyewood,[6] the core of a wild palm,[7] the sap of black dyewood,[8] and the juice of mint.[9] I was told that these are very effective and, as a rule, not attended with evil consequences to the health of the woman.

[6] Si-k-lig.

[7] Called bg-a.

[8] T-gum.

[9] La-bw-na.


Involuntary abortion, however, is a matter of frequent, occurrence. It would be hard to form an approximate estimate, but, from the opinions expressed by several warrior chiefs and headmen, I believe that it occurs not infrequently. No explanation as to its cause was obtained. The fetus is usually buried without any ceremony under the house. In the upper Agsan, the Manbo follows a Mandya custom by erecting over the grave, which is always under the house, an inverted cone of bamboo slatwork, about 30 centimeters high and 60 centimeters in diameter. The usual feelings of fright are not displayed on these occasions as on the death of one that has died an ordinary death, for the child has not yet been consociated with its two soul companions. Neither is the house abandoned, as would ordinarily be done on the death of an older person.



[10] Pa-na-gm-hon.

About the seventh month when the expectant mother feels the quickening impulse of life within her, she selects a midwife and undergoes almost daily at her hands a massage, without which it is thought she would be in danger of a painful delivery. As far as I could learn, the method followed is such as to keep the creature in a vertical position within the womb, with the head downward. The massage is said to take place at the beginning of a lunar month. The midwife is eminently the most important personage in all that concerns birth. She is not necessarily a priestess, but is usually a relative of the prospective mother. She is always a woman of advanced age who has had abundant experience, and "has never lost a case." She is reputed to be versed in many secret medicines and devices necessary for the cure of any ailment proceeding from natural causes and connected with childbirth. I always found the midwife very reluctant to disclose the secrets of her profession.

When the woman announces the maternal pains, the midwife goes at once to the house, taking with her various herbs and other things, all carefully concealed on her person. She is not alone on such occasions, but is usually accompanied, if not preceded, by the greater portion of the female population in the community. Few of the male portion, and none of the bachelors, attend, but they keep themselves informed of the progress of the patient by frequent yells of inquiry from the neighboring houses.

The midwife bids the patient lie upon her back and, aided by a few relatives of the parturient, proceeds to administer one of the most ferocious massages imaginable. I witnessed one case in which the mother was tightly bound with swathing clothes and the husband called upon to exert his strength in an endeavor to force delivery.

As soon as it becomes apparent that the patient is in great pain, the midwife, and perhaps others expert in such matters, resort to means which are designed to produce an easy and speedy delivery.


[11] Ta-gi—mo.

During several childbirths which I attended in various parts of the valley, I observed the use of the following aids to delivery:

1. A piece of rattan[12] is taken by one of the women present and, after being slightly burnt, is extinguished by the midwife and held close to the person[13] of the parturient. With her hands the midwife then wafts the smoke over the patient, muttering at the same time a formula.

[12] L-gus.

[13] Vulva.

The explanation of this procedure, as given to me in all cases, was the following: The rattan is symbolic of the various fleshy bonds with which the child is confined within the mother and as the rattan, wound round and round the various portions of the house, is an impediment to the removal of the piece which it retains, a piece of it is burnt in order that by some mystic power the puerperal bonds may be undone. During the burning the child is exhorted not to resemble the tardy rattan but to come forth free and untrammeled from its mortal tenement.

This charm, it was explained to me, counteracts the violations of the taboos whereby husband or wife, or both, are enjoined not to wear necklaces or bodily bindings, and not to work in rattan and resin, or to carry anything on the head. Should the burning of a piece of rattan be omitted, it is believed that the umbilical cord[14] would be found to have actually become tangled around the neck or body of the child during the act of delivery, thereby increasing the difficulty and the danger.

[14] P-sud.

2. The burning of a small piece of the house ladder[15] and the subsequent fumigation of the person of the parturient are practiced in identically the same manner as the above, and are thought to neutralize the evil effects that might result from the transgressions, even involuntary, of those taboos which forbid that anyone should sit at the door of a pregnant woman's house, or return to the house after having begun his descent down the house pole or ladder.

[15] P-sung.

3. A third magic means, helpful in birth, is the consuming of a portion of the hearth frame followed, as described above, by a fumigation of a part of the patient's person. The particular effect of this charm is to counteract the evil influences which might otherwise result to the child from the nonobservance of the various other taboos mentioned previously.

4. Finally, various herbs, of which I did not learn the names because of secretiveness on the part of the women, are put on a plate or on anything that is convenient, and burned. On one occasion I observed that the leaves[16] used to cover sweetpotatoes and other vegetables during the process of steaming were employed, and on another I procured a piece of grass that had fallen from the plate and later on I ascertained it to be the leaf of a variety of bamboo. I was unable to learn the purpose of this charm, the replies being contradictory or variable in different localities.

[16] T-yus.

The midwife applies numerous other medicinal herbs and has various other secret expedients of which I have been utterly unable to learn the nature. In one case a midwife claimed to have a bezoar stone[17] found in the body of an eel. This could not be seen, for it was wrapped in cloth. When the patient gave signs of suffering, she would dip this stone in water and rub it over the woman's abdomen.

[17] Mt-ya.


It is very rarely, indeed, that any serious difficulty is encountered in childbirth, but I have been informed that difficulties are occasionally met with. In such cases, when all human resources fail, the matter is said to be left in the hands of the family priestesses and the usual religious invocation and rites are performed. In every case one or more priestesses are present, and take the usual precautions, such as the placing of lemon and sas reed under the house, against the approach of evil spirits.


The midwife and her companions continue to assist the patient until the moment of delivery, which takes place ordinarily within from four to six hours after the first pangs of childbirth have been felt. The umbilical cord is immediately cut with a sliver[18] of bamboo, and the mother is made to sit up at once in order to prevent a reflux of the afterbirth into the womb. At least such is the reason assigned for this last practice.

[18] Ba-ls.

The child is immediately washed with water and some medicine sprinkled over its navel.[19] It is then returned to its mother. Should the birth have occurred during the period between new and full moon, it is said that the child will have good luck[20] during life.

[19] I was informed on one occasion that the medicine used was pulverized coconut shell, but this point needs further inquiry.

[20] Pa-ad.

I desire to call special attention here to the fact that should the mother be in such a condition that she is unable to nourish her babe, it is not given to another woman for nurture, but is sustained temporarily on soup, rice water, and sugarcane juice. I have heard of several cases in which the child succumbed for want of natural nourishment. One case that occurred in San Luis on the middle Agsan, I verified beyond a doubt. Father Pastells, S. J.,[21] states that if the child can not be suckled, it is buried alive, its mouth being sometimes filled with ashes. I, however, have never heard of such a practice.

[21] Cartas de los PP. de la Compaia de Jesus, 8, 1879.

The reason for allowing no woman other than the mother to nourish the child is that, if the child were nourished by another woman, it would die. In this connection it may be well to state that infant mortality is high. I do not hesitate to say that it is not less than 25 per cent and may be 33.5 per cent.

The afterbirth, together with the umbilical cord, is nearly always buried under the house. I was told that it is sometimes wrapped up and hung from the beams that are just under the hearth. No reason is given for the selection of this particular place, except that "no one passes there."


As a rule parturition is not attended with much weakness nor with any danger. In fact, the mother usually can move around the house on the day following the birth or even on the same day. After two or three days she purifies herself by an informal bath, which is taken more for sanitary than for ceremonial reasons, as far as I have been able to ascertain.


For a period of a week, more or less, the mother must refrain from the use of all food except the following: The core of the wild palm tree, native rice, fresh fish, and chicken. The chicken must be of a certain color; in the lake region of the Agsan Valley it must be either black or white, and the leg must be dark in color.

Bathing is interdicted for two or three days according to the custom of the locality.

After bathing, the new mother and her husband leave the house in order that the little one may have good luck, and also that they themselves may be removed from the malign influence of the malevolent spirits that are inevitably present on the occasion of a birth.

The birth festivity is not a very solemn nor magnificent affair. The midwife and a few friends, perhaps a dozen in all, are invited. It is at the end of this repast that some little remuneration is made to the midwife and to the priestess for their services. Among the pagan Manbos there seems to be no fixed rule as to the amount to be given to the midwife, but among the conquistas or Christianized tribes, there prevails the customary price of P1.50 for the first birth, P1.00 for the second, and P0.50 for the third and all successive ones.


[22] Tag-un-n to b-ta.

When the child is born it is supposed not yet to have received the two spirit companions[23] that are to accompany it during its earthly pilgrimage. Whence proceed these spirit-companions, or what is their nature, I have not been able to learn to my satisfaction. Mandit, the tutelary god of the little ones, after being invoked and appeased with offerings, is supposed to select two spirit companions out of the multitudinous beings that hover over human haunts. These spirits then become guardians, as it were, of the child, and do not separate themselves from him till one of them becomes the prey of some foul demon.

[23] Um-a-gd, from -gad, to accompany.

These spirit companions are said to be invisible, and in physical appearance like their corporal companion,[24] whose every action they are supposed to imitate. As was explained to me, when we sit down, our spirit companions also sit down, and when we dress, they also prepare themselves, and when we go forth they accompany us. When the mother leaves the house with her babe, she adjures the spirits to follow and to guard their ward. Of the effect and purpose of this consociation no very definite explanation has so far been given to me.

[24] In stature they are described as being somewhat smaller.

The rites of the birth ceremony are observed usually within a month after the birth. There seems to be no stated time, but according to my observation and information they take place on the first symptoms of sickness, or of unusual restlessness on the part of the child. It is firmly believed and openly avowed that these symptoms are due to the machinations of Mandit, who is desirous of being regaled with a fowl, for he, like all his fellow spirits, is an epicure and likes the good things of this world.

The ceremony begins with an invocation to Mandit. A tiny canoe, more or less perfect in design and equipment, according to the caprice and skill of the fashioner, is made, and is hung up in the house after sunset. The nearer relatives assemble and a priest, preferably a relative, takes the chicken that has already been dedicated[25] to Mandit, and waves it over the babe and around the house, in order to ward off all such bad influences and harmful spirits as might be flitting around, for in the Manbo's mind, there are not a few of these demons waiting to devour the expected spirit companions.

[25] Sin-ug-b-han.

The chicken is killed and the head, legs, and wings offered to Mandit. To these delicacies are added little leaf packages of cooked maize[26] or native rice.[27] The priest, on these occasions invariably a woman, goes through her invocations while the offerings are being placed on the ceremonial boat. She burns incense[28] whose fragrance is said to be especially acceptable to Mandit. By the direction of the smoke, she ascertains the position of Mandit and of her own guardian or familiar spirit, and turning to him, welcomes him. She falls into the usual state of tremor during which Mandit is supposed to partake spiritually of the repast set out for him.

[26] Bd-bud.

[27] Ba-k.

[28] Pa-l-na, the gum of the ma-gu-bi tree.

This ceremony being concluded, the fowl is partaken of, and a little sugarcane beverage[29] is drunk, if it can be obtained. After the meal, the priestess recounts in the old archaic language of song the chronicles of bygone days. This is taken up by such other makers of Manbo monody as may be present. If the child proves to be restless, it is lulled to sleep with the weird staccato of the bamboo guitar.[30] During the course of the night the two souls are supposed to enter into mystic consociation with the babe, and thenceforth to be its companions.

[29] n-tus.

[30] Tan-k.

The following morning the priestess removes the little leaf packages and, placing them on a rice winnow, tosses them into the air. The children present at once grab for the packages. The ceremonial canoe, however, with the offering of fowl, must be left suspended indefinitely.

In the lower half of the Agsan Valley from San Luis to the mouth of the Agsan, a tray of bamboo trelliswork is used for the offering to Mandit instead of the sacrificial canoe described above. Otherwise the ritual is identical.


The child receives, without any ceremony or formality, a name that seems to depend on the caprice of the parents. It is usually that of some famed ancestor, or of some well-known Manbo but at other times it may depend on some happening at the birth. Thus the writer knows of Manbos who bore the names Bgio (Typhoon), Lnug (earthquake), Bdau (dagger), Bhag (captive), glag (slave), K-ug (maggot).

The child is treated by the parents and by the other relatives with the greatest tenderness. He is petted and pampered from his very youngest days, and punishment of any kind is seldom administered. A hammock made out of a hemp skirt or a little bamboo frame, suspended by a string from a bamboo pole in the fishing-rod style, is often provided for his resting place. He is tenderly set in one of these by day, and the usual little maternal devices are used to keep him from crying and to put him to sleep.

When the little fellow is somewhat bigger and stronger, he is carried about with his legs straddled across his mother's hip, or allowed to crawl around the floor. If the mother has to absent herself and there is no one to watch him, he is simply tied to the floor and left to his own thoughts. He is not weaned till the advent of another child, or till he of his own accord relinquishes the breast. His dress is of the simplest in most cases.

As soon as the male child reaches the age of 7 to 8 years, and is able to run around, he not infrequently accompanies his father or any other male relative on a fishing or on a hunting expedition, often carrying the betel-nut bag or some other object at times almost too heavy for his tender years. While at home he is often in an emergency sent out to do little chores. He is bidden to run out and get some betel leaf or some firewood from the surrounding forest, or again is sent for a little water. Such errands, however, are the exception. He has most of his time to himself, and passes it in merry rompings with his little brothers and cousins. If he lives near the river he spends a few hours a day in the water, bathing, splashing his playmates, and catching frogs and other edibles. A favorite pastime of his is to make a diminutive bow and ply his arrows at some old stump or some unlucky lizard or other living thing that he may have espied. If monkeys, crows, or other bold marauders are overnumerous, he probably has to sit out in the rude watch-house in the little clearing and keep the scarecrows moving, or by shouts and other means drive off the uninvited pests.

He soon learns to smoke tobacco, to chew betel nut, and even to take a drink of the brew that is being passed around, and thus he grows up to be, at the age of 14 or 15, a little full-fledged man with his teeth blackened, his lips stained, and his bolo at his side.

He enters youth without any special ceremony. It is true that as the boy grows to puberty his teeth are ground and blackened and he is tatooed[sic] and circumcised. Such operations might be considered as an initiation into manhood or at least as a survival of a custom that is so much in vogue in certain parts of Oceania. In other words, the youth begins to tattoo and to assume other ornamentation in order that he may attract the attention of the female portion of the tribe.

It is needless to say that he receives no schooling. In fact, the average Manbo who has not come in contact with civilization would not know what to think of a pencil. On one occasion I accidentally allowed some Manbos to see my pencil. The sight of it aroused an animated discussion as to the nature of the tree that yielded such peculiar wood. All the schooling which the Manbo boy gets is from the forest and the streams. From them he learns to trap the timid deer and to catch the wily fish. In them he acquires a quick step, a sharp eye, and a keen ear. In the ways of nature he is a scholar, because the first moment that he can clamber down the notched pole he betakes himself to the surrounding forest and schools himself in all her ways and moods.

As soon as the boy reaches the age at which he feels that he is a man, he ceases to be under paternal restraint, which even up to that age has been more or less lax. At this period he assumes as much independence as his father, but will obey any behest without understanding the propriety or the necessity of complying. As a general rule, filial relations are most cordial, and great respect is entertained for both parents, but it may be said that male children respect and love the father, while girls love their mother.



Monstrosities are extremely rare. I met only one case, that of a child with an abnormally large head.[31] Idiocy also is very uncommon, only one case having come under my observation.

[31] Bsa, Simlao River, middle Agsan.


Albinism also is very infrequent. An albino is considered to be the child of an evil spirit in so far as one of those relentless demons is supposed to have exercised a malign influence on the mother. It is believed that an albino can pay nightly visits to the haunt of its demon sire. Among the Mandyas on the upper Kati'il River, I saw some 12 cases of albinism in a settlement of about 500 Mandyas. No explanation was obtained as I did not think it prudent at the time to ask for one.


Hermaphrodites,[32] in a secondary sense, are found occasionally. I am personally acquainted with five. In every case they were womanly in their ways, showing a preference for sewing, and other occupations of women, and frequenting the company of women more than that of men.

[32] Bn-tut (Mandya bi-d).

In one case at San Isidro, Simlao River, an hermaphrodite, a fine specimen of manhood to all appearances, was dressed as a woman. In another case a Mandya hermaphrodite of the Bklug River, a few miles south of Compostela, was married. I was informed on all hands that the marriage was for the purpose of securing the alliance of the hermaphrodite's relatives against certain hereditary enemies and that probably there would be no issue. I hope to get further information on this point at a future date.

On the Lamga River, a tributary of the Kasilaan River, there lived a woman who presented all the outward characteristics of a man. Her voice was deep and resonant, her countenance of a male type. She constantly carried a bolo, by day and by night, and in manual labor, such as building houses, was the equal of any man in the settlement. She had never married and had always rejected overtures toward marriage.




The subject of Manbo medicine may be divided into three parts, according to the causes that are supposed to produce the malady or according to the means that are used to cure it. These classes will be described as natural, magic, and religious.


Natural remedies in the form of roots and herbs are used for the ordinary bodily ailments that afflict the Manbo. The following are the more common forms of sickness: Fever,[1] tuberculosis,[2] pain in the diaphragm,[3] pains in the stomach and abdomen,[4] pains in the chest,[5] pain in the head,[6] colds,[7] chronic cough (probably bronchitis),[8] pernicious malaria,[9] ordinary malaria or chills and fever,[10] cutaneous diseases,[11] intestinal worms,[12] and some few others.

[1] Hg-yau.

[2] Sg-pa.

[3] Ka-b-hi, or gi-hb, probably a reversal of the diaphragm.

[4] Ps-on and go-tk.

[5] Da-g-ha.

[6] -yo.

[7] U-b.

[8] Ps-mo.

[9] Pid-pid.

[10] -yud.

[11] K-do.

[12] B-tuk.

The natural remedies used in the cure of the above-mentioned diseases are not very numerous, but they are applied as a rule externally. In each settlement there are always a few who have gained a reputation above others for their knowledge of these medicines, but their proficiency is not high as may be judged by the degree of their success and by the opinion of many of their fellow tribesmen.

For wounds, tobacco juice and the black residue found in a tobacco pipe are considered an effective ointment. Saliva mixed with betel nut is used for the same purpose, and also for pains in the stomach. For other pains the leaves of various trees, according to the knowledge or faith of each individual, are applied. For pains in the stomach the gall of a certain snake[13] is said to be efficacious. It is mixed with a little water and applied externally, or it may be taken internally, provided it be mixed with a little powder from a piece of pulverized plate.[14]

[13] Ba-ku-sn. The gall of this snake is reported as being a panacea used by the Mamnuas.

[14] Pg-gan, an imported plate of very inferior make.

The perfume of certain resins and especially that of the manumb tree are considered medicinal in some cases.

The root of a tree called l-na when left to steep in water, is said to be a very potent remedy for pains in the stomach. The seed of the s-i grass is also used for the same purpose, and is said to be a prophylactic against stomach troubles.

No amount of persuasion will overcome the Manbos' suspicions of European medicine till the administrator of it follows the old saying of "Physician, heal thyself," and takes the first dose. In any case it is not prudent to offer it except after long acquaintance, for should any change for the worse occur in the patient's condition after taking the foreign medicine he might imitate people of greater intellectual caliber, and say, as he probably would, "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc," and the ensuing events might be sudden and unexpected.

On one occasion I administered a small dose of quinine to a child that was suffering from fever. It died the following day. The father, who had requested me to give the child some medicine, through the medium of a Maggugan, sent me a few days later a present of a chicken and about two glassfuls of sugarcane brew, and would not accept a reciprocatory gift of beads and jingle bells that I sent him. The chicken and the beverage were partaken of in due time, each of my servants drinking about half a glass of the liquor. The following morning at about 4 o'clock I awoke with a sense of impending death. The servants were called and they, too, complained of an uneasy feeling and one of them suggested that we might have been poisoned. A dose of ipecacuanha saved our lives, and at about 9 o'clock I proceeded to look for the bearer of the gift, but was unable to locate him, as he had gone to his forest home. A diplomatic investigation revealed the fact that he was an expert in poisons and that the poison administered to me in the liquor was probably the root of the tbli vine that is also used for poisoning fish.

Fragrant flowers and redolent seeds and herbs are thought to be very efficacious for the relief of headaches, fainting spells, and for the peculiar diaphragm trouble referred to before. The resin of the magubi tree, which also is used as incense in ceremonial rites, is considered very potent. I have frequently seen patients held over the smoke till I thought that death by suffocation would result.

In fine, it may be said that the Manbos' knowledge of medicinal plants is very limited, and his application of them equally so, for as soon as he thinks that the condition of the patient has changed for the worse the malady is at once attributed to preternatural causes, and corresponding remedies are resorted to.

On casual observation it might appear that the sick are neglected, but this is not the case. The relatives, especially the womenfolk, display the tenderest solicitude toward them and keep them provided with an abundance of food. The lack of blankets leaves the patient exposed to the inequalities of temperature and explains, no doubt, the frequent occurrence of colds, of rheumatism, and sometimes of tuberculosis. This also may account for the high death rate among children.


It is a common thing to hear that a kometn was the cause of a person's death. This may be defined as a secret method by which death is superinduced in a certain person by means either supposedly magic in character or so secret in administration that they may be looked upon as magic. Thus (to give an example of a purely magical sickness), it is thought that by making a wooden mannikin to represent the victim and by mistreating it the person whom it represents will immediately fall sick and die unless countervailing methods are employed to neutralize the effects of the charm. I heard of a case in the lower Agsan near Esperanza where a wooden figure was made to represent the person of a thief. The figure was cruelly tortured by sticking a bolo into its head, and when sufficient punishment had been administered to cause its death, had it been a thing of life, it was buried amid much wailing. I was assured that the party whom it represented was taken with a lingering disease shortly afterwards and finally died.

The belief in the kometn or secret means of superinducing sickness is widespread, but it is difficult to obtain reliable data on the subject because, for obvious reasons, no one will admit that he is acquainted with the secret nor will he affirm that anyone else is unless it be a person so far away that there is no danger of future complications by reason of the imputation.


1. The fine flossy spicul of a species of bamboo[15] placed in the food or in the drink is supposed to cause a slow, lingering sickness that ends in death.

[15] Caa bojo, or bamboo of the genus Schizostachyum.

2. A piece of a dead man's bone pulverized and put into the food, even into the betel-nut quid, is said to have the same effect but in a more expeditious way, as it superinduces death within a few months.

3. Another reported kometn consists of the blood of a woman dried in the sun and exposed to the light of the moon. This is mixed with human hair cut very fine. Administered in the food, it produces a slow lingering disease that leads to the grave. It is said that after death the hair reappears resting upon the lips and nostrils.

4. Human hair mixed with bits of fingernails and powdered glass is said to be especially virulent. The secret of compounding it is known only to a few. I was informed that the knowledge of this secret composition was acquired from Bisyas.[16]

[16] It is called pa-gai.

It is generally believed that the war chiefs are provided with antidotes[17] against the kometn. In fact, several assured me that they possessed them, but they were unwilling to enter into any details. I once saw a little bottleful of strange-looking herbs and water sold for P2.50. It was said to be an antidote against the particular species of kometn, which, on being placed in the path, would affect the one for whom it was intended when he passed the spot.

[17] Sm-pa.

A piece of lodestone,[18] or even an ordinary toy magnet, is thought, in certain localities, to act as a safeguard against divers kinds of evil charms.

[18] B-to b-ni.


I found a prevalent belief in the existence of an aphrodisiac[19] which is said to consist of wax made by a small insect called k-ut, and of the ashes of various trees. The secret of compounding it is known to very few. There is a persistent rumor that this was first learned from the Mamnuas,[20] who are supposed to be very proficient in the making and use of it even to this day. If a little of the composition is put on the dress of a woman, or, better still, if a little packet of it is attached to her girdle charms she will become attached to the man who placed it there and will aid him, as far as it can be done, in his suit for her hand.

[19] Called hu-pai.

[20] It is strange that the more advanced tribes in eastern Mindano attribute a knowledge of magic methods to inferior ones. I have been informed that both Mamnuas and Maggugans are more expert in the manufacture and administration of charms than other tribes.

There is also a charm which is said to produce an aversion or dislike between those who had formerly been friends.

Bezoar stones are hard substances, of a dark color, and vary in size from a pea to a chestnut. They are said to be found in various trees and plants,[21] and animals and fishes such as the monkey and eel.

[21] Such as the a-ns-lag, the t-ba, the tb-li.

Their properties are both medicinal and magic. Thus the bezoar stones from three different plants are supposed to be efficacious in the hour of birth, but, at the same time, in all the doings of life they give the fortunate possessor success over his rival. Hence they are called pandug, that is, they will enable one to get ahead of or beat another. There is a bezoar stone from the banti tree that gets its owner to a place more quickly than his rival.


Sickness due to capture of the soul by an inimical spirit.—When a malady is of such a nature that it can not be diagnosed, or of so serious a character that fear is entertained for the recovery of the patient, it is ascribed to the maleficence of evil spirits, and supernatural means are resorted to in order to save the captured soul from their spirit clutches. For this purpose the priest intercedes with his divine tutelars, and prevails upon them, by offerings and promises, to rescue the captive. If the ailment is attributed to the war divinities, then the warrior chief becomes the officiant and, after appeasing the angry spirit with a blood offering, secures the release of the unfortunate soul.

Epidemics attributed to the malignancy of sea demons.—Epidemics of cholera and smallpox are thought to be due directly to evil spirits who bring the diseases from their faraway sea haunts.

It is said that friendly deities and war spirits of the settlement announce from the lofty mountain heights the approach of these pestiferous demons. Thus, I was assured by many in the Kasilaan River district, that Mount Tatamba on a tributary of the Lamiga River gave out a loud booming noise before the epidemic of 1903-4. The same is said of Mount Mag-diuta by the Slibao people. Be that as it may, those who live along the main rivers scurry away on the approach of contagion into the depths of the forest or upon the heights of the mountains, and do not return until they feel assured that all danger is past. I was a personal witness of this among the upper Agsan Manbos, where I found a settlement, more than one year after the appearance of a contagious disease, still ensconced in the heart of the forest a few miles away from all water.[22]

[22] The inhabitants lived on the water that exuded from a tree known as ba-s-kung.

The reason given for avoiding the larger watercourses during epidemics is that streams are thought to be the high roads for the sea demons when they come upon their work of destruction. There were never wanting some in each settlement who had seen these demons under some monstrous form or other.

Propitiation of the demons of contagious diseases.—Besides such offerings as may be made to them during the regular ritual, there is a special method of propitiating these plague bearers and thereby of inducing them to betake themselves whither they hailed.

A raftlet[23] is made of bamboo, with a platform of the same material raised several inches above the surface of the craft. This is adorned with palm fronds arched over it. Upon it is firmly lashed a young pig or a large fowl, of a white color, and by its side are placed various other offerings of betel nut, rice, or eggs, according to the bounty and good will of the priest and of the settlement. When all is ready, it is taken to the water's edge about sunset, for that is the hour when the mightiest of the demons begin their destructive march. Here the priest makes an address to the demon of the epidemic, descanting on the value of the offerings, the scarcity of victims at that particular time, the reasons for mutual friendship between him (the demon) and the settlement. The demon is then requested to accept these tokens of good will and to go his seaward way. The disease itself, though never mentioned by name, is requested in the same manner to take passage upon the raft and to accompany its master downstream. The raft is then launched into the water and allowed to follow the will of the current. No one may even touch it or approach it on its downward course, for it has become foul by contact with its pestilential owners.[24]

[23] G-kit.

[24] Bisyas have no scruples in appropriating the fat fowls and pigs thus found floating to doom.



Except in the case of a warrior chief, or a priest, or one who has met his end at the hands of an enemy, death is ordinarily attributed to the maleficence of the inimical spirits. The latter are believed to be relentless, insatiable demons "seeking whom they may devour." In some mysterious manner they are said to waylay a poor defenseless soul, and ruthlessly hold it in captivity till such time as it suits their whims, when they actually devour it. Notwithstanding the numerous explanations given to me throughout the Agsan Valley, I have never been able to satisfy myself as to the various circumstances of time, place, and manner in which the capture and consumption of the soul takes place. Suffice it to say, however, that in its essential points this is the universal belief: One of the soul companions is seized, and the owner falls sick. Every available means is tried to effect a cure. When everything fails the priest declares that the ailment is due, not to any natural infirmity, but to the capture or wounding of one of the souls of the patient by inimical spirits. Sacrifices are ordered, during which usually a large number (from four to eight) of priests of both sexes invoke their various divinities and beseech them to rescue the spirit companion of the patient. During these ceremonies the priests describe minutely how the capture was effected. In lengthy chants they set forth the efforts of their deities to find the missing soul; they describe how they travel to the ends of the sky, seeking the cruel captors and vowing vengence[sic] upon their heads. They are said to make use of an espiho[25] to discover the whereabouts of the enemy and of the captive. The recapture of the soul and frequently the mighty encounter between the good and bad spirits is chanted out at length by the priests. I was told that in some cases the rescued soul is taken to the home of the deities and there consoled with feast and dance and song before its return to its earthly companion.

[25] This es-pi-ho (from Spanish espejo, a looking-glass) is some kind of a wonderful telescope by which objects can be described at the farther extremities of the firmament. No lurking place is so remote or so secret as to be hidden from its marvelous power.


The utter fear, not only of the malignant spirits but also of the person of the dead and of his soul, is one of the most peculiar features of Manbo culture. In the death chamber and hovering around the resting place of the dead there is a certain noxious influence[26] by the infection of which one is liable to become an object of attraction to the dark-visaged, hungry, soul ghouls that, lured by the odor, stalk to the death house and await an opportunity to secure a victim.

[26] B-ho.

Then, again, the envious spirits of the dead are feared, for they, in their eagerness to participate in the farewell and final death feast, avail themselves of every occasion to injure the living in some mysterious but material way. Sickness, especially one in which the only symptoms are emaciation and debility, are attributed to their noxious influence. Failure of the crops, bodily accidents, want of success in important undertakings—these and a thousand and one other things—are attributed to a lack of proper attention to the envious dead. "You have been affected by an umagad,"[27] is a common saying to express the peculiar effect that the departed may cause on the living. To avert this unkindly feeling and thereby prevent the evil consequences of it, it is not an infrequent thing to see propitiatory offerings made to the departed in the shape of betel nut, chickens, and other things. In one instance the father of a child that had died, presumptively from eating new rice, imposed upon himself an abstinence from that article for a period of several months.

[27] In-um-a-gd ka.

As another evidence of fear of the departed souls may be cited the unwillingness of the Manbo to use anything that belonged to the dead, such as clothes. An exception, however, is made in the case of weapons and other heirlooms,[28] all of which have been consecrated and are supposed not to retain the odor or evil influence of death.

[28] n-ka.

Offerings made to the dead to appease their ill will are not partaken of by the living. They are supposed to produce baneful effects.[29] Hence they are carefully removed to the outside of the house after the departed visitor is supposed to have regaled himself. This applies to betel-nut offerings, and to such offerings as chickens and pigs that in cases of unusual pestering on the part of the dead may be set out with a view to propitiating them.

[29] Ka-d-ut.

One or more priests are present invariably in the death chamber. The female priests take up their position near the corpse, and by the use of lemons, pieces of the sa-s reed, and other things, said to be feared by the demons, protect themselves and those present. Hence, during the average "wake" the womenfolk huddle around the priestesses with many a startled glance. On one occasion I saw a male priest take up his stand at the door, lance poised, ready to dispatch such spirits as might dare to intrude into the death chamber. Drums and gongs are beaten throughout the night, not merely as a distraction for their grief but as a menace to the ever-present demons.

An acquaintance of mine in San Luis, middle Agsan, is reported to have wounded seven evil spirits in one evening on the occasion of a death. I was assured by many in the town that they had seen the gory lance after each encounter.

Several other precautions besides those mentioned above are taken to secure immunity from the stealthy attacks of the demons. A fire is kept burning under the house, and the usual magic impediments, such as sa-s reed, lemons, and a piece of iron, are placed underneath the floor as menace to these insatiate spirits. Moreover, the food while still in the process of cooking is never left unguarded, lest some malicious spirit should slyly insert therein poison wherewith to kill his intended victim or to spirit away an unwary soul.

For several days both before and after the death, supper is almost invariably partaken of before sunset, as this is the hour when the most mighty of the demons are supposed to go forth on their career of devastation. If, however, it should be necessary to take supper after sunset, it is the invariable custom to put a mat on the floor and thereby foil the stealthy spirits in their endeavors to slip some baneful influence[30] into the plates from below.

[30] This custom is prevalent among many of the Bisyas of eastern Mindano and may perhaps explain the origin of the peculiar low table used by them.

After the burial it is almost an invariable rule for the inmates of a house to abandon it. This remark, however, does not hold good in the case of the decease of priests, warrior chiefs, and children, nor in the case of those who have been slain in war. Should a stranger, or one who is not a relative of the inmates, die in the house, it is an established custom to collect the value of the house from the relatives of the deceased. Father Pastells in one of the "Cartas de los PP. de la Compaa de Jess" cites an incident that happened to him in the house of Selgan on the upper Slug in the year 1878. It seems that one of Pastells' followers died and that Selgan desired to collect the value of the house. I know of one case where the fine was actually collected. I was asked by a warrior chief on the upper Tgo, who would pay for the house in the case of my death.


When death ensues, the relatives burst forth into loud wails of grief. In one death scene that I witnessed the wife of the deceased fell down on the floor, and in the wildness of her grief kept striking her head against the palma brava slats until she rendered herself unconscious. Upon returning to herself, she violently embraced the corpse of her deceased husband, bidding him return. Then she broke out into loud imprecations against her tutelary deities upbraiding them for their ingratitude in not having saved her husband's soul from the clutches of its enemies. She bade them be off, would have no more to do with them, and finally ended up by bidding them go on the war trail and destroy the foul spirits that deprived her of her husband.

In nearly every death scene that I witnessed this last procedure was the ordinary one, and I may say that it is quite characteristic of the Manbo.

On several occasions I witnessed some fierce displays of fury, to which the mourners were driven by their poignant grief for some beloved relative. In one instance the father of the deceased, drawing his bolo, started to hack down one of the house posts, and in another the son, after a frantic outburst of grief, seizing his shield and lance, declared that he would ease his sorrow in the joy of victory over his enemies and actually had to be detained by his relatives.

The grief and fury felt on these occasions will readily explain the frequency of war raids after the occurrence of a death. This was explained to me by Lno of the upper Slug, probably the greatest warrior of eastern Mindano, in the following manner: "After the decease of a near relative, our enemies will rejoice and may, as is done with frequency, proclaim their joy. We do not feel in good humor anyhow, so, if it can be arranged speedily, we start off to assuage the sorrow of our friends and our relatives with the palms of triumph."

This statement of Lno may explain the origin of the taboo that is observed throughout the Agsan Valley. The taboo referred to prohibits anyone except a near relative from visiting the house of the deceased for seven days after the death. It is suggested that this custom was instituted to prevent the enemy from learning whether an expedition was being set afoot. To enforce compliance with this custom, the trails leading to the house are closed by putting a few branches across them at a short distance from the house. It is not infrequent to find a broken jar suspended (or placed) at these points, symbolic, probably, of the cruel fate that may overtake the transgressor. Infringements of this taboo are punished with a fine that varies from P5 to P15.


After the first paroxysm of grief has subsided, the body of the deceased is washed, the greatest delicacy in exposing the person being shown, and it is then attired in the finest garments obtainable. No personal ornaments, such as necklaces and bracelets, are removed. Charms and talismans, however, are removed, being considered heirlooms. The corpse is then laid on its back, with the hands lying at the side, in the rude coffin.

There is a tradition that, in the olden days, the bolo of the deceased used to be buried with him but I never saw this done. The bolo, however, was placed by his side in a few cases that I witnessed. Among the mountain Manbos there exists the custom of winding strands of colored cotton on the fingers and feet of young girls and maidens after death. I witnessed this in the upper Agsan, and, in answer to my inquiry, was informed that such was the custom of the Agusnon people.

The coffin is a hexagonal receptacle hewn out of a log,[31] and provided with a truncated prism lid of the same wood. It frequently has a few ornamental tracings of soot or other pigment, and where European cloth is procurable a few pieces may be employed as a wrapping. The corpse is wrapped in a mat and laid in the coffin, the head being placed upon a rude pillow of wood. The coffin is then firmly lashed with rattan and is not removed till the hour for interment. Frequently lemons, s-i grass, and various other redolent herbs are placed on or near it with a view, I was told, to repressing the odor of the dead. It is probable, however, that they are thought to have magic or other virtues. They certainly are objects of fear to the death demons.

[31] A-yu-yao, said to be very durable, being found in perfect preservation after two years; kibidid or ilang-ilang are also used.

The wailing, weird and wild, of the women was violent in nearly every case I witnessed, especially when the corpse was taken out of the house on its way to the burial place. The grief displayed by the male relatives is not so intense but I noticed frequently that even they broke into tears. I may add here that I was often informed that the absence of the outward signs of grief is an infallible evidence of a speedy death, and that it is considered unlucky to allow one's tears to fall on the corpse.

Before describing the burial, I desire to mention a peculiar proceeding which I observed on one occasion.[32] Before the corpse had been placed in the coffin, one of those present, seizing a dog, placed it transversely on the breast of the deceased for a few seconds. I was told that the object of the action was to remove the dog's bad luck[33] by putting him in the above-mentioned position, as he had for some time been rather unlucky in the chase. This proceeding was verified by subsequent inquiries in other settlements, and the custom and its explanation were found to be identical with the above mentioned.

[32] San Luis, 1906.

[33] P-yad.


As a rule the burial takes place the morning after the death, unless the death occurred during the night, in which case it takes place the following afternoon. Decomposition is never allowed to set in.

When all is ready, a last tribute and farewell are paid to the deceased. The family priest sets an offering of betel nut near the coffin, beseeching the dead one to depart in peace and bear no ill will to the living. He promises at the same time that the mortuary feast[34] will be prepared with all possible speed. The deceased is addressed, usually by several relatives and friends who wish him well in his new home and repeat the invitation to come to the death feast and bring grandfather and grandmother and all other relatives that had preceded him to the land of Ib.

[34] Ka-ta-ps-an.

Then, amid great wailing, the coffin is borne away hastily. Only men assist at the burial, and as a rule a male priest, sometimes several, accompany the funeral party in order to assist them against the evil ones that throng to the grave. The priests take up their positions, as I witnessed on several occasions, at strategic points behind trees, with balanced lance and not infrequently with shield. I have seen others provided with sa-s reed in anticipation of wounding some over-bold spirits.

I observed a very peculiar custom on several occasions. On the way to the grave the men indulged in wild shouts. No other explanation was offered except that such was the custom. It was suggested, however, that it is a means of driving off the demons who may have got the scent of death, or, again, it may be to warn travelers that there is a funeral, thus enabling them to avoid meeting it, as this is said to be most unlucky.

I have heard of the dead being buried under the house. However, the practice is infrequent and is usually followed at the request of the dying one. It is needless to add that the house and neighboring crops are abandoned. When possible a high piece of ground is selected in the very heart of the forest and a small clearing is made. The work at the grave is apportioned without much parleying, some of the men devoting themselves to making the customary roof[35] to be placed over the grave, while others do the excavating. Sometimes a fence is erected around the burying ground. The work always proceeds in absolute silence, and a fire is always kept burning as a menace to the evil spirits. When all is ready, the coffin is laid in its resting place and covered in all haste. Here it may be remarked with regard to the orientation of the corpse, that men are buried with their feet toward the east and women with their feet toward the west. Then the little roof is set upon four supports about 45 centimeters above the grave. One of those present, sometimes a priest, lays a plate with seven offerings of betel nut upon the grave. Then an earthen pot[36] with its collation of boiled rice[37] and with a hole broken in the bottom of it is hung up under the roof.

[35] Bin-a-iu.

[36] K-don.

[37] Imported rice can not be used.

As explained to me, rice is intended as a last refection for the departed one before he sets out on his journey to the land of Ib. The hole that is invariably made in the bottom is intended, so I was told by many, to facilitate the consumption of the rice. The family heirlooms are occasionally brought to the grave but are not left there.

There is a common tradition to the effect that the ancient mode of sepulture was a more pompous and solemn affair than the present one. I was told that the deceased was buried with all his personal arms, except his lance and shield, which were laid over his grave. Sacred jars[38] were also left. I never have been able to get sufficient information as to the exact whereabouts of the old burial grounds. The cave of Tingo near Taganan, about 12 miles south of Surigo, is easily accessible. The Bisyas of the town state that it was a burial place for the ancient Bisyas, but Montano, who procured some skulls from this cave, pronounced it to be a Manbo cemetery. The fact is, however, that up to this day the townspeople repair to the cave on occasions and invoke their ancestors. I was told of one gambler who used to go there and burn a candle in order to increase his luck.

[38] Ba-hn-di.

The mourners carefully efface the footprints that have been made by them on the loose clay around the grave and, scurrying away sadly and silently, leave the dead one in the company of the spirits of darkness. Henceforth this, the resting place of one who was beloved in life, possibly of a loving wife, or of a darling child, will be eschewed as a place of terror where stalk with silent footfall and dark-visaged face the foul and insatiate soul ghouls.

On arriving at the house whence they started, the funeral party invariably find a vessel, usually a coconut-shell cup, containing a mixture of water and herbs,[39] placed at the door of the house. Each one in turn wets his hands and purifies himself by rubbing the water on some portion of his body. I never saw this process omitted. The explanation afforded me was that the water had a purificatory[40] effect in removing the evil influence to which they had become susceptible by contact with the dead. After the burial, a little repast is set out by way of compensation for those who assisted at the burial, and then begins the time of mourning which ends only with the mortuary feast.

[39] I was told that u-li—li grass is always used as an ingredient.

[40] Pan-d-has.


(1) Black must be worn by the nearest relatives.

(2) For seven days the wife and nearest relatives must remain confined to the house.

(3) The house must be abandoned or the inmates must change their sleeping quarters to another part of the house.

(4) No marriage can be celebrated by any of the carnal relatives until the death feast has been celebrated.

(5) The deceased must not be mentioned by name, but spoken of as "my father" or "my cousin" or other relative. This taboo holds indefinitely.

(6) No work must be undertaken nor business of any importance transacted, by the nearer relatives, for seven days.

(7) No one other than a near relative may visit the house for seven days after the decease.


As one killed by an enemy is thought to have suffered no ill through the machinations of the evil ones, his death is considered a glorious one, and he is buried fearlessly. It sometimes happens that, due to the distance between the place where he was killed and his home, it is found impossible to convey his body to the settlement. He is, accordingly, buried in some convenient spot in the forest without further ceremony. No mortuary feast is held for him because he is supposed to enter the abode of his chief's war deity and there to await the coming of his chief.

I never witnessed the death of a warrior chief, but I made numerous inquiries from which I gleaned the following particulars: The death and burial of a warrior chief seems not to differ from that of an ordinary person except in the greater pomp displayed and in the absence of fear. The tutelary war deities, either one or several, of the warrior chief are present and the evil spirits are said to maintain a respectful distance. The war chief's spirit companions or souls, which it is maintained are susceptible to injury at the hands of demons, are present and accompany him to the home of his tutelar deities, as do also Mandalgan or Mandaygan, the great ancestral hero of Manboland.

The war chief has no special burial ground, nor any special mode of sepulture, though I heard on the upper part of the Tgo River, in the eastern part on Mindano, that a certain nkui, an acquaintance of mine, had been buried in a dugout placed on the summit of a mountain. This report appears from further investigation to be true. I have heard of a similar practice at the headwaters of the Ihawn River.

There is no material difference between the mortuary customs at the death of a priest and those practiced at that of a warrior chief. The tutelar deities of the priest are all present, together with all their relatives and friends of the unseen world. His seven spirit companions or souls are also present, so that little or no fear of the uncanny demons is exhibited by the mourners.


The land of Ib is described as being somewhere down below the pillars of the earth. It is said to resemble, in all particulars, this world of ours. Lofty mountains, lakes, rivers, and plains, such as are seen in the Agsan Valley, exist there. About halfway between this world and the big country of Ib, mistress of the lower world, is a large river described to me as being as big as the Agsan, but with red water. Here lives Manduypit, the ferryman. From Manduypit's to Ib's is said to be a journey of seven days along a good broad trail. Americans, Spaniards, and peoples of other nations do not pass on the Manbo's trail because each is said to have its own, and the country of Ib is said to be divided into districts, one for each nation.

Hence, when the soul or spirit companion of the deceased finds that it is all alone, its fellow spirit having been ruthlessly seized and devoured, it begins its long journey to Ib's. One week's travel brings it to the great red river. Here it is ferried across gratuitously by Manduypit, and begins the second half of its journey. On arriving at Ib's it naturally seeks the spirits of its relatives, preferably its nearest relative, and takes up its abode with them. If Manduypit, for one reason or another, should refuse to ferry it across, it returns to its starting place and plagues its former friends for aid. The priest is made aware of this and interprets to the relatives of the returning one the reason for its failure to pass the great red river.

If the souls of the deceased should desire to pay a visit to their living relatives, they invoke the family deities and are borne back to the world on the wings of the wind, without having to undergo the fatigues of the 14 days' journey.

Ib's great settlement is no gloomy Hades, nor, on the other hand, is it a paradise of celestial joy. It is simply a continuation of the present life, except that all care and worry and trouble are ended. The spirits of deceased earthly relatives take up their abode in one house and pass a quiet existence under the mild sway of Ib. There they eat, work, and even marry. Occasionally, with the aid of the family deities with whom they can commune, they pay a brief visit to the home of their living relatives and then return to the tranquil realms of Ib as fleetly as they came.


[41] Ka-ta-p-san, meaning end, termination.

The death feast is the most important of all Manbo feasts, for it marks the ending of all relations between the living and their departed relatives. Until its celebration the immediate relatives of the deceased are said to fare poorly. In some mysterious way the departed are said to harm them until they have received this final fete. Hence, the nearest relative sets himself to work with all dispatch to provide the necessary pigs, beverage, and rice for the feast. It is a common belief that unless this celebration is as sumptuous as possible, ill luck may still pursue them. This will explain the long delay so frequently observed before the celebration of this festivity. I know of several such feasts which were not held until nearly a year after the decease, the delay being due to inability to secure sufficient edibles for the death revels. The importance and magnitude of this feast will be readily understood when one bears in mind the fact that, when given by a well-to-do Manbo, it is attended by everybody in the vicinity, and lasts frequently for a period of seven days. It happens occasionally that, in the interim between the death of one member of a family and the death feast, another member of the same family goes his mortal way. In such a case only one feast is held for the two departed ones.

The religious character of the feast deserves special mention. The dinner being prepared, an ordinary winnow is set out in the middle of the floor and on it are placed cooked rice and, when obtainable, bananas. Around the winnowing tray are set all the requisites for a plenteous meal. Then the relatives sit around on the floor in a circle and each one lays on the tray his offering of betel nut to the deceased. The family priests act as interpreters and intermediaries. The deceased are then addressed, care being taken never to mention their names. They are called, father, brother, etc., by relatives, and by those who are not relatives, father of so-and-so, or sister of so-and-so, mentioning the name of the corresponding living relative. The near relatives then give salutary advice to the dead one as to the future dealings between the latter and the living. They are begged to have a little patience, are reminded that only a few years hence all will be united in the land of Ib, and are requested to accept this final feast as a farewell until that time. "You shall go your way and molest us not. Let this feast be a token of good will and a final farewell till we meet you in the realms of Ib." Such, in brief, is the strain of discourse consisting of exhortations, advice, supplication, and valediction[sic], that lasts several hours.

Finally a handful of rice is formed by the oldest relative into an image suggestive of a human figure and the deceased are invited to approach and to partake of the viands. The relatives pass the rice mannikin around, each one taking a bite or two out of it. While this is being done, the dead are invited to eat heartily, the living relatives exhorting the dead ones; one urging them to take more soup, another to increase their meat, another to take more bananas, and all reminding the deceased diners of the great expense incurred in connection with this banquet. The priests describe the actions of the mystic diners and the hearty appetite with which they partake of the fragrance of the viands, after their long journey from Ibland.

During the mystic meal no one dares to approach the rice winnow, but when the meal is finished, those who carried the deceased to his last resting place approach the winnow and, raising it up in their hands, with an upward movement conjointly toss the victuals into the air, retreating instantly to avoid the food in its fall, for should a particle of it touch their persons it is considered a prognostication of speedy death. The origin and significance of this peculiar custom, which I witnessed on many occasions, have never been explained to me. Inquiry elicited no further information than that it was the custom.

Such is the repast of the dead and the ending of all relations between them and the living. Henceforth they are not feasted, as they have no more claim on the hospitality of the living. In all the greater religious celebrations, however, they are present and receive an offering of betel nut, which is placed at the doorway for them but they are not invited to the feast.

The secular and social part of the feast in no wise differ from any other celebration, except that those who buried the deceased have marked attention paid them. There are the same motley group of primitive men and women, the same impartial distribution of the food, the same wild shouts of merriment, the same rivalry to finish each one his allotted portion, the same generous reciprocation of food and drink, and, finally, the same condition of inebriation that on many such occasions has abruptly terminated the feast by a fatal quarrel.[42]

[42] An instance of a killing had taken place a short time before my visit in 1909 to the Manbos of the Binuggaan River, upper Agsan.

The rest of the day, and probably a goodly portion of the night, are spent in dancing to the tattooing of the drum and the clanging of the gong, interrupted at times by long tribal chants of the priests and others versed in chronicles of Manboland.

If the death revels continue more than one day, the second day is a repetition of the first with the exception that only the betel-nut offering is made to the dead. As the celebration of this mortuary feast is the termination of the anxious period of mourning, and the release from the subtle secret importunateness of the dead, everybody with his wife and children flocks to the scene. No relative of the departed one may be absent for that would leave him still exposed to the strange waywardness of the envious dead.





The drum is the instrument of universal use in Manboland. Wherever one travels, by day or by night, its measured booming may be heard. It is made out of a piece of a palm tree, by removing the core and bark. It is ordinarily about 25 centimeters high by 20 centimeters in diameter. The top and bottom consist, in nearly every case, of a piece of deerskin,[1] from which the fur has been scraped, a little fringe of it, however, being left around the edges to prevent the hide from slipping when stretched. The stretching is effected by means of rattan rings or girdles, very often covered with cloth, and just large enough to fit the cylindrical body of the drum. A few blows with a piece of wood forces these girdles down the sides of the drum, thereby stretching the heads perfectly tight so as to give the drum the proper tone. After a certain amount of heating over the fire the drum is ready for use. No attempts at ornamentation are made, the heavy ends of the hide being left protruding in an ungainly way.

[1] Monkey and lizard skins are made use of in rare instances, and I have heard it said that the skin of a dog makes a very fine drumhead.

The drum is played at either end, and in certain tunes at both ends. The left hand serves to bring out the notes corresponding to our bass. The drum is tapped, with more or less force and rapidity, on an upturned head with the left hand, while the right hand with a piece of wood, preferably a little slat of bamboo, raps out the after beat. Manbo men, women, and children can play the drum and mention the names of from 20 to 50 rhythms, each one of which is to their trained ears so different that it can be recognized at once. The rhythms are varied by the number of beats of the right hand to one of the left, and by the different degrees of speed with which the tune is played. The general beat may be compared to the dactyl of ancient Greek and Roman versification. The left hand plays the long syllable, if we may so speak, while the right plays the two short ones. The combinations, however, are as intricate as the versification just referred to.

As the nomenclature[2] used in speaking of the tunes indicates, the various forms of drum music are based on imitations of animals and birds, or are adapted to certain occasions, such as the war roll signaling for help.

[2] The following are some of the names of drum-tunes: Sin-ak-a-s-kai (significant of the movement of a raft or canoe); kum-b-kum-b to u-s (imitative of the sporting of a deer); kin-am-pi-ln (indicative of the flourishing of the Moro weapon called kampilan); Min-an-d-ya, an adaptation from the Mandyas; bo-tg-b-tug, ka-ta-hud-n, ya-mt-y-mut, pa-di-dt, pin-n-dan, pa-tug-da-dk t-bag, min-ag-gu-g-an, tin-m-pi, ma-sag-a-it, to-mn-do, in-g-kui, pa-d-au, bin-g-bad, pai-m-bug, pa-dg-kug, tum-b-lig, mag-d.

To one who hears Manbo drum music for the first time, it sounds dull and monotonous, but as the ear grows accustomed to the roll the compass can be detected and the skill of the drummer becomes apparent. Now loud and then soft, now fast and then slow, the tune is rattled off in perfect measure and with inspiring verve. As one travels through the crocodile-infested lake region in the middle Agsan on a calm night, the Manbo drums may be heard tattooing from distant settlements. They produce a solemn but weird impression on the listener.

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