The Manbos of Mindano - Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, Volume XXIII, First Memoir
by John M. Garvan
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When the arrows of the enemy are thought to be expended, the attacking party try by means of a burning arrow to fire the roof. Should this succeed, the inmates are doomed, for when they escape from the house the enemy close in upon them, and kill with lances or bolos, men and women, whether married or single. As a rule, only the children are spared.

Should the roof, however, fail to catch fire another means of attack is employed. Putting their shields upon their heads in a formation much like the old Roman testudo, they advance to the house in bodies of four or six and begin to hack down the posts. But here again they may be foiled, for it has happened that the inmates of the house were provided with a supply of big stones, or had a little boiling water on hand, and made their opponents retire out of fear of the arrows that would be sure to follow when the stones had broken the arrangement of their shields. Moreover, the ordinary Manbo, who has lived in expectation of an attack sooner or later, has his house set on a number of posts varying from 12 to 20. No little time would be required to cut these and the aggressors would be in danger of receiving wounds and thereby bringing the attack to an end, for it is the invariable practice for the party to retire after one of its members has been wounded or slain. The reason for this custom I am unable to state. There occurred on the Argwan in 1907 an instance which I verified, and in the various accounts of Manbo fighting that I received all over the Agsan Valley, there were numerous instances of the observance of this custom.

In besieging the house, which may not be captured for several days, either firewood, food, or water may give out quickly, and the besieged succumb to hunger, or to thirst. In their last extremity they make a dash for liberty, especially during the night, and, though many of them fall victims, not a few frequently save themselves.

Sometimes, I was told, the besieged rush forward and meet death fighting. Again the men are said to kill their wives and children with their own hands, and then to go forth to meet the enemy. Father Urios, S. J., makes mention of a case of this kind.

As to the number of slain, and of captives, it depends on the size of the settlement. In an instance which I verified on the Hlip River, upper Agsan, some 190 souls perished in one attack. Though this number seems large, yet it goes to show that on occasions raids are made on a somewhat larger scale than might be expected.

As each one of the attacking party strikes down the victim that falls in his way he notifies his companions of the fact by a fierce yell, calling out at the same time the name of his victim. This is to avoid disputes later and to secure the credit for the killing. Though the killing of a woman does not entitle the warrior to any special title, yet it adds one to his glory list and is supposed to make him more apt to fall into the favor of a war deity. It is said that in the confusion of the flight many women meet their end but that a good many remain in the houses and yield themselves to the mercy of their captors. Some of these, especially the younger ones, are bound with rattan, if they offer resistance and dragged to the settlement of their captors.

As soon as it is ascertained that there is no one left to offer resistance the warriors adorn their lances with leaves of palma brava or such other palm fronds as may be found in the vicinity.

Many warrior chiefs, especially of the Debabon[11] group, have described the fight to me and all agree that it is generally of short duration. This might be expected from the number of precautions taken to insure success. According to all reports a strongly entrenched enemy is seldom attacked, unless it is ascertained that a goodly portion of the male members are absent.

[11] Babo is the district between the Slug and Libagnon Rivers.

As a resume of the method of attack, based on what I learned during my sojourn among the Manbos, I may say that there are no general nor partial encounters. The house or the settlement is surrounded stealthily just before day, the warriors being spread out at intervals in bands of three or four around the settlement and protected if possible by trees. The leader, who is nearly always a warrior chief, takes up his position with some trusty warriors at the place of closest approach to the house, or at some other strategic point. The arrowmen, who number only a few, are stationed near him. They work at a disadvantage for they have to shoot upward while their opponents in the houses can discharge their arrows downward.

From these positions the attacking party make every effort to cause a panic among the inmates of the house either by chopping down the posts which support the house or by firing the roof. If either purpose is accomplished the besieged rush forth only to meet the point of the lance or the edge of the bolo.

There are no preconcerted movements, no combinations with centers, wings, and reserves. The chief has little or no influence with his followers during the fight, though on account of his personal prowess he is looked up to as a pillar of strength and would, no doubt, if given the opportunity, or if the abuse and banter were extreme, engage in a hand-to-hand encounter. Numerous cases of this kind are on record.

No women nor priests take part in the attack. There are no orators to inspire the warriors to deeds of valor. In lieu of oratory, the warriors on each side engage in the most ferocious abuse imaginable. Challenge after challenge is yelled out defiantly by the besiegers. In the expedition which I joined in 1907, the attacking party incessantly defied their enemies to come down, while the latter in return challenged the besiegers to approach. Neither party seemed willing to take the risk so the arrowmen plied their arrows, the priestesses in the houses continued their invocations, and everybody howled challenges and imprecations at everybody else.



After the fight is over the warrior chiefs perform a ceremony of which I have been able to learn but few details. They are said to become possessed by their tutelary war spirits. They dance and jump around the lifeless body of their chief enemy.[12] After performing their dance they open the breast of the enemy and remove the heart and liver, and place their charm collars[13] in the opening. When the heart and liver have been cooked, they consume them. But as several war chiefs have assured me, it is not they that partake of the flesh, but their protecting deities. Be that as it may, lemon[14] whenever obtainable, is mixed with the gory viands. Some warriors informed me that their deities preferred the heart and liver raw.

[12] Their tongues are said to loll out of their mouths "one palm-length." This may seem somewhat exaggerated but I can throw no further light on the matter.

[13] Ta-li-hn.

[14] S-i. It is interesting to note the frequency of the use of lemons or limes in religious proceedings.

It is perfectly legitimate to despoil the enemy's house and to bear away such few valuables as may be found. The house, or houses, are then burnt, and the victors, leaving the slain where they fell, hasten back with their captives to cheer the fond ones at home.[15]

[15] I have heard it said that the bodies of the slain are doubled up and put into holes in the ground in an upright position. As far as I know this is an exceptional proceeding.

It is said that, as a rule, the aggressors are victorious, for rarely do they attack an enemy that is too strongly entrenched. They prefer to wait, even for years, till an occasion favorable in time, place, and circumstances, presents itself. It is only under special provocation, such as continual attacks by their enemy, that they attack him while he is in a strong position and then more with a view to destroying his crops than with the hope of securing a victim.


The capture of slaves is one of the important features of the expedition. A slave becomes the property of the captor, although a certain number are very frequently given in payment to the warrior chief or chiefs who were engaged to help the raiding party. This number depends on a previous agreement. The age of the captive decides whether he or she will be taken into captivity or slain on the spot. As a rule, all but children under the age of puberty are despatched[sic] there and then as they are liable to escape sooner or later if taken captive. However, I was assured by several warrior chiefs that the better looking unmarried girls are not killed, but are kept to be married, or to be retailed in marriage, thereby bringing a handsome remuneration to the owner. It must not be supposed by the reader that this implies anything inconsistent with sexual morality, for these female slaves are treated with as much delicacy as if they were the captor's daughters. To the numerous inquiries that I made on this point, there was only one reply—that sexual intercourse with them was foul and would make the offender ga-b-an.[16] A warrior who would be guilty of violating this taboo would never, it is thought, attain the rank of warrior chief. Should anyone of the warriors desire to marry his captive he must go through a purificatory[17] process, the details of which I am unable to furnish.

[16] I have never yet been able to grasp the significance of this word. It is used by Bisyas in the form hi-ga-b'-an, which has apparently a very similar meaning.

[17] H-gad.

The above taboo goes even further. Not only is the person of the living female captives to be respected but also that of the dead, in so far as it-is considered improper to remove from their persons any object such as bracelets or hair. Men's bodies, however, are rifled of everything, even their hair, and are then unmercifully hacked and hewn.


If the war party is unsuccessful, they return hastily and cautiously. It frequently happens that the enemy take a short cut, being better acquainted with the geography of the region, and lay an ambush at a suitable point. For this reason a close watch is kept on the return home; a few warriors take the lead, and where a beaten trail is followed, a few keep guard on each side at a distance of several yards, to avoid falling into an ambush. When the party arrive at their settlement each repairs to his own house. A thousand and one reasons are assigned for failure, but never is it attributed to a falseness of the omens—anything but that. Should the band, however, have been victorious, or have brought about the death of the chief enemy at least, no words can describe their joy and jubilation. The woods reecho with their wild screams and the weird ululations of the battle cry. Each one provides himself with a bamboo trumpet and makes the forest resound with its deep boom. The captives that offer any resistance, are dragged along, or even killed, if they become too troublesome. Upon nearing a friendly settlement the din is redoubled and the whole settlement turns out to welcome the victors. But when their home settlement is reached the scene is indescribable. I witnessed an occasion of this kind. Before the party came into sight the bamboo trumpets could be heard, first faintly and then increasing in strength. As soon as the expectant women and the few men who had remained in the village had satisfied themselves that their relatives and friends were returning, drums and gongs were beaten in answer. The young men and boys rushed out and crossing the river on their rafts or in their boats dashed into the forest to meet the conquerors. Even the women became hilarious and gave vent to loud cries. For a few minutes before the appearance of the party the war cry could be heard and when they came into view on the other side of the river the din was indescribable. The gong and drum were brought down to the bank and the war tattoo was beaten. The clanging of the gong, the rolling of the drum, the booming of the trumpets, the ululation of the war cry, and the lusty yells and shrieks of joy, welcome, and inquiry produced a pandemonium that baffles description. Before the victors crossed the river they all took a bath,[18] not for sanitary but for ceremonial reasons. The bath is thought to have a purificatory effect in that it removes the evil influence[19] of death.

[18] This is an invariable custom, I was told.

[19] B-ho, literally foul smell.

When the victors had crossed the river they removed the palm fronds[20] with which they had adorned their lances and put them on the necks and heads of their wives and friends. Later on a banquet was prepared and the reader is left to conceive for himself the revels that followed. It is said that not infrequently at this time some of the captives are given to the unsuccessful warriors for immediate slaughter. That this has occurred I have absolutely no reason to doubt, and every reason to believe. I have heard many describe among themselves how it was done, and what joy it gave them to be able to take revenge upon one of their hereditary enemies.

[20] Called Ma-yn-hau. It is said that these are frequently stained with the blood of the slain.


Ambush[21] is a legitimate method of warfare, according to Manbo customs. It consists in locating one's self with one or more companions at a place which the enemy is expected to pass. A favorite place for the ambush is on the trail between the enemy's house and his rice or camote field, but a spot on a river bank or at any suitable point may be selected. Great precautions are taken by putting up screens of leaves to prevent the enemy from discovering the ambush. This is always made on the right hand[22] and very frequently there is a supply of sticks and stones in readiness. The position on the right hand is chosen because it gives those in wait an opportunity to deal a blow on the weaker side of the enemy, all of whom carry the shield in the left hand.

[21] Bg-an.

[22] Right hand refers to the right hand of the party to be attacked.

It is customary to take an ear or the right forearm of one slain in ambush as a proof of his death if the conditions of the ambush require such a proof. An instance occurred during my first visit to the upper Agsan in 1907. Three Maggugans were ambushed by a mixed group of Manbos and Debabons, and the above-mentioned parts of their bodies were taken by the victors to their clans as a proof of the killing.

After a rupture between two parties, one or both of them go into a state which is expressed by the word lma. This signifies that one or both of them abandons his homestead and transfers himself and the members of his household (usually a few brothers-in-law with their families) to some place difficult of access. If the house can be built on a bluff, or a hill that is approachable from only one or two sides, so much the better. On such a site a house[23] is built varying from 5 meters to 8 meters in height, sometimes, though rarely nowadays, being built upon a tree trunk. The felled timber at the edge of the forest is left unburned. Bamboo or palma brava caltrops are placed in the encircling forest. In addition to these, spring traps[24] for human beings may be set out if it is suspected that an attack is imminent. In certain localities I have seen a stockade[25] erected around the house. Sometimes a wall of old bamboo may be built from the ground up to the floor, inclined inward at the bottom at an angle of about 70 to the ground. The ladder is invariably a log with a number of notches in it. Strips of bark or even bamboo shingles may form the roof but as a rule the Manbo takes his chances with a roof of rattan leaf.

[23] I-li-hn.

[24] B-tik.

[25] In—gud.

On approaching the house of one who is in state of vigilance, it is not unusual to find certain signs on the trail. Thus a broken earthen pot is frequently hung up, or if the trail leads to the house of a warrior chief, there will be probably the parted bamboo called binka, and a number of saplings slashed down at a certain point on the trail, both of which signs are symbolic of the evil fate that will befall such as dare to enter the guarded region.

No one but a near relative may live within a certain definite distance of a house which is in a state of defense, nor may anyone visit it except by special request. If the inmate has to meet anyone he appoints a trysting place at some spot in the woods and there the visitor, by beating on the butress[sic] of a tree or by any other preconcerted signal, announces his presence. The former may be suspicious and may first circle around to examine the footprints before he ventures to approach.


[26] Dug-kt.

When the opposing parties have evened up their blood accounts and are wearied of ambushes, surprises, loss of relatives, destruction of crops, and continual fight and flight, they agree to make peace either through a friendly chief, or by a formal peacemaking. The desire to make peace is made known by sending to the enemy a work bolo. If it is accepted, it is a sign that the desire is mutual but if it is returned, arbitration must be brought about through a third party, usually a warrior chief or a datu. For this purpose a clear open space, such as a big sandbar, is appointed and a day fixed.

On the appointed day the parties arrive in separate bands and take up their positions facing one another, a line being drawn or a long piece of rattan being placed on the ground beyond which no member of either party may pass. Matters are then discussed in the presence of such datus or persons of influence as may have been selected for that purpose and after balancing up blood and other debts, the leaders agree to make the payments at an appointed time and thereby put an end to the feud. As an evidence of their sincerity, they part between them a piece of green rattan.[27] Then beeswax[28] is burned. This is a kind of oath which serves to bind them to their contracts.[29]

[27] I have been informed of a very interesting custom said to be observed by the Banuon group in settling their troubles. It was said that peace is made by hand-to-hand fights in which single pairs of opponents fight until the datus who act as umpires award the victory to one or the other. This is called din-a-t-an.

[28] T-tug.

[29] I never witnessed a peacemaking and I never had a chance to assist at one of the referred combats of the Banuon people, mentioned above.




Bisyas and other people who have had more or less familiar dealings with Manbos almost invariably make the statement that Manbo justice is the oppression of the weak by the strong; that there is no customary law that governs in social dealings except that one which is founded on the caprice and villainy of the warrior chiefs and of those who have most influence and following. Now I utterly repudiate such statements and rumors as being due either to lack of familiarity; to a too ready tendency to believe malicious reports; or to undisguised ill will toward, and contempt of, Manbos. I have lived on familiar terms with these primitive people for a considerable period and have found no evidence of oppression and tyranny. Disputes and misunderstandings arise at times, people sometimes fly into a rage, killings take place on occasions, but such things happen among other peoples. It is truly surprising, considering the lack of tribal and interclan cohesion in Manboland, that such occurrences are not more frequent or even continual. The statement that the warriors and other influential men rule by caprice and oppression is unfounded. There is no coercion in Manboland, except such as arises from the influence of relatives, and from gentle persuasion and general consent. A warrior chief, or any other man who would try to use a despotic hand or even to be insolent, exacting, or unrelenting in his manner, would not only lose his friends and his influence, but would arouse hostility and place himself and his relatives in jeopardy.

It must be understood from the outset that in Manboland there is no constituted judicial authority nor any definite system of laws. There are no courts, and no punishments such as imprisonment, torturing, and whipping. All social dealings by which one contracts an obligation to another are regulated by the principle that one and all must act according to established custom. This principle governs the procedure even of chiefs and influential men when they endeavor to bring about a settlement through the weight of their influence.

Voluntary and involuntary departures from the beaten track cause disputes when these deviations affect another's rights. Thus to refuse one the hospitality of the house, or to overlook him intentionally in the distribution of betel nut would give rise to a dispute, because these courtesies are customary and are therefore obligatory.

Punishment for a violation of customary obligation then becomes a matter of private justice. The injured one either singly, or by means of his relatives and of such friends as he may interest in his cause, seeks reparation from the offender. If he can not secure it through an appeal to customary law supported by the consensus of opinion of the relatives on each side, he takes justice into his own hands and kills his opponent or orders him to be killed.



The Manbo system of law is still in its indefinite primitive stage. Its fundamental principles are involved in the retention, preservation, and devolution of property. Unlike the highly developed legal systems of the world, it tends, in general, to consider violations as civil, and not as criminal, wrongs. Hence upon due restitution, offered with good will, the great majority of transgressions upon another's rights are quickly condoned. In this it is far more humane than other systems that seek not only justice for the injured party but the corporal punishment of the wrongdoer.


As far as my observation goes justice is administered on a patriarchal plan in a spirit of fairness and equality. Except in the case of flagrant public wrongs the transgressor is given a fair and impartial hearing, aided by the presence of his relatives and of others whom he may select or who may choose to attend the arbitration of the case. The presence of the relatives contributes in nearly every case an element of good will, and prevents the use of intimidation. It helps greatly to promote, and not to prevent, justice. It is the paramount factor in determining the defendant to yield, even when bad feeling has been aroused on each side, and when their desire for revenge and spirit of independence would naturally prompt them to have recourse to violent methods. Though the female relatives do not take formal part in the arbitration, yet in their own gentle way they exert a certain amount of influence for good.


Because of the desire for revenge which the Manbo inherits and the universal recognition of the revenge system in Manboland, an appeal to good will in the settlement of matters is very important, and is a feature of every case of arbitration. I have attended many and many a Manbo arbitration at which the wrongdoer, after being condemned by the consensus of opinion, was asked over and over whether he recognized his fault and whether he received the sentence with good will. In nearly every instance he replied that he did, and, as an evidence of his sincerity, procured, as soon as convenient, a pig and invited the assembly to a feast. On one occasion I acted as the judge in a case of rape committed by a Manbo who had had frequent dealings with Christian Manbos. At my urgent request his life was spared and a fine of 100 pesos was imposed upon him. After he had expressed his conformity with the sentence and his lack of ill feeling toward his accusers, I notified the chief of the other party of my intention to leave the settlement, whereupon he told me secretly that I had better wait as the defendant in the case would undoubtedly entertain the company with pork and potations. And so it happened, for the defendant procured a pig that must have been worth 15 pesos, and a supply of sugarcane wine that must have cost him a few more, expenditures that would not be deducted from the amount of his fine.


Owing to the utter lack of interclan and tribal organization there is no set of statute laws in Manboland, but, in lieu of them, there are a number of traditional laws, simple and definite, that, in conjunction with religious interdictions, serve in the main to uphold justice, the foundation of all law. There is no word for law in the whole Manbo dialect, but the word for custom[1] is used invariably to express the regulations that govern dealings between man and man.

[1] Ba-t-san.

One fundamental law is the obligation to pay a debt, whether it be a blood debt or a material one. A very common axiom says that "there is no debt that will not be paid"—if not to-day, to-morrow; if not during one lifetime, during another—for the collection of it will be bequeathed as a sacred inheritance from father to son, and from son to grandson. Montano[2] notes with surprise the sacredness in which debts are held, not only by Manbos of the Agsan Valley but by all the numerous tribes with which he came in contact in his travels around the gulf of Davao. I noted the same throughout eastern Mindano. The Manbo, when called to account, will never deny his true indebtedness, and when no further time is given him, he will satisfy his obligations, even if he has to part with his personal effects at a nominal value or put himself deeply in debt to others. He is never considered insolvent. It is true that the Christianized part of Manboland is not so punctilious in the settlement of financial obligations to outsiders (Bisyas), but this is explained by the bad feeling that has arisen toward the latter on account of-the wholesale, fraudulent exploitation carried on in commercial dealings between them and the Christian Manbos.

[2] Une mission aux Isles Philippines.

So many references have already been made in previous chapters to the practice of revenge that it is not necessary to dilate upon it here. Suffice it to say that it is not only the right but the duty, often bequeathed by father to son, to obey this stern law. One who would allow a deliberate breach of his rights to pass without obtaining sufficient compensation would be looked down upon as a sorry specimen of manhood. The feeling is so deeply rooted in the heart that the wife may urge her husband, and the fianc, her lover, to carry out the law, and the father may instill into the hearts of his little ones the desire to wreak vengeance upon their common enemies.



The intense conservatism of the Manbo, fostered by the priestly order, is the basis of the customary law that determines and regulates social and individual dealings in Manboland. So strong is this conservatism, based on a religious principle, that it is believed that any act not consistent with established customs arouses the resentment of the spirit world. This feeling exerts so powerful an influence that in many cases a definite custom is carried out even when a departure from it would be manifestly to the material advantage of the individual. As has been set forth before in this monograph, the ridiculously low prices at which rice is sold in harvest time is a case in point.

The extreme cautiousness and suspiciousness that is such a dominant feature of Manbo character tends also to maintain the customary law. The Manbo prefers to jog along in the same old way rather than to do anything unusual, thereby laying himself open to the displeasure of his fellowmen and to that of the gods.


The legion of taboos, religious and magic, limits the Manbo's actions, in no inconsiderable manner, within fixed and definite rules, the nonobservance of which would render him responsible for such evil consequences as might follow. To cite an instance: When I first went into a region near Talakgon that was considered to belong to a local deity, my guide cautioned me to avoid certain actions which, he said, were displeasing to the reigning deity. I asked him what would be the consequence if harm were to befall him as a result of my failure to comply with his instructions. He quietly informed me that I would be responsible to his relatives for any harm which might come to him.

Again if one enters a rice field during harvest time the displeasure of the goddess of grain is aroused, and the rice is likely to be diminished in quantity. The transgressor may do all in his power to appease the offended goddess, but if she refuses to be appeased and permits a decrease of the supply, not otherwise explainable, he will be held responsible, and in the due course of events will have to make good the shortage according to the tenets of customary law.

Another example will show the rigid regulations that custom imposes in the matter of omens. I started out with a Manbo of the upper Agsan for a point up the Nbok River. At the beginning of our trip the turtle bird's cry came from a direction directly in front of us—an indication of impending evil either during the trip or at its termination. My guide and companion begged me not to proceed, but I managed to convince him that there was nothing to be feared, so he consented to continue the trip with me. Now it happened that he had a quantity of loose beads in his betel-nut knapsack and that a hole was worn in the sack before the end of the trip, the result being that he lost his beads. He held a consultation with the chief of the settlement at which we had arrived, explaining the omen bird's evil cry and the efforts he had made to persuade me to desist from the trip. It was decided that because of my failure to follow the directions indicated by the omen bird, I was responsible for the loss of the beads. On further discussion of the point it became apparent that I would have had to answer for the life of my companion, if he had lost it on the trail, for it was intimated to me that the omen bird's voice had clearly warned us of danger and I was requested to explain my failure to heed the warning.

The observance of customs for religious reasons suggests an explanation of many acts that to an outsider seem inexplicable, not to say unreasonable. The selection of farm sites at considerable distances from the dwelling, the reluctance to leave the region of one's birth, the unwillingness to visit remote mountains and similar places, the fear of doing anything unusual in places thought to be the domain of a deity—these and numerous other ideas—are to be attributed to the observance of customary law.

In this connection it may be well to remark that a stranger visiting remote Manbo settlements without an introduction or without previous warning should be very careful, if he desires to deal with these primitive people in a spirit of friendship, not to break openly and flagrantly any such regulations, principally religious ones, as may be pointed out to him. In fact it would be well to ascertain as soon as possible what is expected of him. I have always made it a point to announce that I would not be responsible for any evil consequences attending my violation of customs that I was ignorant of and I have requested my new friends to acquaint me with such customs and beliefs as might differ from those of other Manbo settlements.



Property rights in the full sense of the word are not only very clearly understood but very sternly maintained. The Manbo conception of them is so high that, with the exception of such things as camotes and other vegetable products, even gifts must be paid for. And even for such trifling things as camotes, an equivalent in kind is expected at the option of the donor. During my wanderings I was always in the habit of making presents as compensation for the food furnished me, and was frequently asked why I had done so, and why I did not make the recipients of these presents pay me. No explanation could change the strong belief that all property of any value, whether given under contract or not, should be paid for. This principle is further evidenced by the fact that there is no word in the Manbo dialect for gift nor is there any word for thanks. In some places, however, they have a conception of "alms."[3] On many occasions one of the first requests made to me by a new acquaintance of some standing was a request for alms. I am of opinion that this idea was acquired by them from the universal reports concerning the liberality of the missionaries who from the middle of the seventeenth century labored in the Agsan Valley. A request for alms or for a present of any value is seldom made by one Manbo of another, but when it is made it is met by a simple answer, "I do not owe you anything." That settles the question at once.

[3] L-mos, probably from the Spanish limosna, alms.

My practice of distributing gifts frequently aroused some ill feeling. For example, on many occasions I was asked by individuals why I had made presents to so-and-so and not to them. It was necessary in these cases to explain that I owed a debt of good will to the individuals referred to and that I would most assuredly give like gifts to others whenever I should become indebted to them in a similar manner.


Customary law regarding public land is very simple. Each clan and, in some cases, one or more individual family chiefs, have districts which are the collective property of the clan or family. Theoretically this ownership gives hunting, fishing, agricultural, and other rights to that clan or family, to the exclusion of others. In practice, however, anyone who is on good terms with the chief who represents the family or the clan in question, may occupy a portion of the land without any other formality than that of mentioning the matter to the proper chief. The occupation presumes that the occupant is on terms of good will with the chief, and it never implies that the new occupant is required to pay anything for the use of the land. With regard to fishing rights, especially when the fish-poisoning method is employed, it is very often stipulated that a share of the catch shall be given to the owner. When the two parties concerned are on good terms, the territory of one may be used by the other for hunting, apparently without any question.

When the rice-sowing season is at hand, the Manbo goes over the clan district and selects any piece of vacant land that, because of its fertility and closeness to water, may have recommended itself to him after a due consultation of the omens. Having made the selection, he formally takes possession of the land by slashing down a few small trees in a conspicuous place and by parting the top of a small tree stem and inserting into it at right angles a piece of wood. He then returns to his settlement and announces his selection. He has become now the owner of the land. Anyone who might attempt to claim the land would become cleft, so it is believed, like the parted stem that was left as a proof of the occupation of the land. In a few cases I saw a broken earthen pot left on an upright stick. It was explained to me that this, too, was a symbol of what would befall the one who would dare to dispute the right to the property. This is another evidence of the widespread belief in sympathetic magic.

In my travels throughout eastern Mindano I never heard of a single instance of a land dispute among the non-Christian peoples. There is no reason for dispute because the whole of the interior is an immense and very sparsely populated forest that could support millions instead of the scant population which is now scattered through it. Moreover, the religious element in the selection, the consultation of omens, and the approval by the unseen world seem to prevent disputes.

From the moment of occupation, then, till the abandonment of the site the occupant is the sole lawful owner of the land and has full rights to proprietorship of all that it produces. When he abandons the land he still retains the ownership of such crops or plants as may be growing on it. Hence betel-nut palms, betel plants, bananas, and other plants, belong, to him and to his descendants after him. Even such fugitive crops as camotes are his until they die off or are destroyed by wild boars.

Fruit trees, such as durian, jack-fruit, and others growing in the forest, are, in theory, the collective property of a clan or of a family, but in practice anyone may help himself. However, the finder becomes sole and exclusive owner of a bee's nest as soon as he sets up an indication of his ownership in the form of a split stick with a small crosspiece, and announces his possessive rights on his return to the settlement. The parted trunk has a form and significance similar to that which it has in connection with the selection of a new site. As far as I know a bee's nest once located by one individual is seldom appropriated by another, but the theft of palm wine is common enough, especially if the palm tree be at a considerable distance from the owner's settlement.

All other property that is the result of one's own labor, or that has been acquired by purchase or in any other customary way, belongs to the individual, unless he is a slave. Even slaves, captured during war raids, become the property of their captors, unless stipulation to the contrary has been made before the raid. In one expedition that took place in 1907 a certain warrior chief was delegated to punish a Maggugan. As an advance payment he received a few bolos and lances, but it was expressly agreed that after the attack he and his party were to receive all the slaves captured.

With regard to the loss of, or damage to, property belonging to another, the customary law is rigid; the damage or the loss must be made good, no matter how unfortunate may have been the circumstances of the loss. This will explain the great care that carriers exercise in transporting the property of others through the mountains, for if by any mischance the things were to get lost or wet or broken, or damaged in any other way, they would be required to make good the loss. This custom, as applied in some cases, may seem somewhat harsh, but it must be remembered that Manboland is a land where the law of vengeance prevails, and that no opportunity to wreak vengeance must be given. Such opportunities would occur if anyone were permitted to attribute a loss or other accident to involuntary causes.

This rigid law will explain also the peculiar liability under which one is sometimes placed for an absolutely unintentional and unforeseen act. Thus, on a certain occasion, one of my carriers died a few days after my arrival in a settlement. Shortly after the occurrence of the death I was confronted by a band of the relatives of the deceased in full panoply and requested to pay the commercial equivalent of a slave.

On another occasion I ran after a child in play. The child out of fright rushed into the forest and hid. The same afternoon it was taken with a violent fever to which it succumbed a few days later. I was not in the settlement at the time of the death, and was not sorry, for it was reported to me that the father of the deceased child had said that he would have killed me. On my return to his settlement a few days later I visited the father for the purpose of having the case arbitrated. He broached the subject and demanded three slaves, or their equivalent, in payment for the death of his child, which was due, he firmly believed and asseverated, to the scare that I had given it.

Many instances might be adduced to illustrate the peculiar liability which one undergoes in dealing with these primitive men who follow out in practice the old fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc.


The conception of contract is as universal as the conception of property rights, but a certain amount of leniency seems to be expected in such details as fulfilling the terms of the contract on the specified date, unless it has been expressly and formally agreed that no leniency is to be looked for. In case of a failure to fulfill the contract at the stated time it is customary to offer either what is called an "excuse,"[4] in the form of extra hospitality or a free gift of some article, not so valuable as to constitute a debt, or to make many explanations, very frequently fictitious. These remarks apply only to cases in which the creditor has undergone the hardship of a reasonably long trip or of other necessary expenditures. Thus, to illustrate the point, A owes B a pig deliverable, according to agreement, after the lapse of so many days, there being no express provisions for any penalty in case of nonfulfillment of the agreement. B goes to A's house and is treated to a special meal with an accompaniment of drink when obtainable. Toward the termination of the meal, he is informed by A of the latter's inability to pay, for numerous real, or more numerous fictitious, reasons. B accepts this excuse but before leaving asks for some little thing that he may take a fancy to. It is always given as an "excuse." Another day for the payment is agreed upon. This leniency may be displayed on one or more occasions till the delay in paying exasperates B or renders him liable to loss. Ill feeling arises all the more readily if B feels that A has not been as assiduous as he should have been. Then a stringent contract is entered upon, the nonperformance of which will render A liable to interest or to a fine, as may be stipulated.

[4] Ba-l-bad.

In cases where serious consequences might result from a failure to fulfill a contract, it is customary for the contractor and often for the other party to make a number of knots on a strip of rattan, each knot signifying a day of the time to elapse before payment, or representing one article of the goods to be paid for, or one item of the goods to be delivered.

All more important contracts are made in the presence of witnesses, and the time and the number of articles to be delivered are counted out on the floor with grains of corn or with little pieces of wood, or are indicated by counting a corresponding number of the slats of the floor.


The law of debt in Manboland is so rigid that failure to comply with it has given rise to many a bloody feud. All commercial transactions are conducted on a credit basis. An individual whom we will call A needs a pig, for instance, and starts out on a quest to secure one. He visits one of his acquaintances and informally brings up the subject, remarking, for example, that he would like to buy a certain pig that is in the settlement. He may not be able to make the purchase until he has tried several settlements, for it may happen that the owner of each pig may want in exchange objects that A does not have and is unable to get. Thus B, the owner of a pig in the first settlement, wants in payment a Mandya lance of a certain length, breadth, and make. Now A knows of no one from whom he can procure such a lance, so he has to go on to the settlement of C who in exchange for his pig wants five pieces of Mandya cloth. A is afraid to take the pig on such terms because the Ihawn Manbos are in arms on account of a recent killing, and as the trade route for Mandya cloth passes through the territory of the Ihawn Manbos he sees no possibility of fulfilling a contract to deliver the cloth. So off he goes to the settlement of D where he finds a pig for which the owner demands four yards of blue cloth, two of red, and two of black, together with a specified quantity of salt. A thinks that it will be easy for him to run over to some Christian settlement and get those articles in time to pay D, so he clinches the bargain by putting a series of knots in a strip of rattan to represent the number of days to expire before the date of payment. This he delivers to D and the contract is sealed. He then returns to his settlement with his pig, and turns it over to some one else perhaps, to whom he owes a pig, or, if it was intended for a sacrifice, to the family priest or priestess. In due time it is disposed of with much satisfaction to the gods and to the inner man. As the day for payment approaches, A must take measures to get the salt and the cloth for D, so he hastens to the settlement of E, if sickness in the family, or heavy rains, or some other obstacle does not prevent him, but finds that E requires a Mandya bolo for the articles needed and as A has no such object and sees no immediate prospect of obtaining it, he goes on to F's. F demands a certain amount of beeswax and a Mandya dagger in exchange for the cloth and the salt and as A feels that he can procure these articles, he closes the bargain, promising to deliver the goods within so many days or weeks.

A now owes D cloth and salt, payable within 14 days, let us suppose. He is also under contract to F to furnish him a dagger and a specified amount of beeswax, also on a specified date. Upon the approach of the time agreed upon A runs over to F's only to find that F had been unable to get the cloth and the salt, either because no Bisya trader has been up to the Christianized settlement on the river; or because of heavy rains or for some other reason. The result is that A returns to his settlement without the cloth and the salt. Upon his arrival at D's or upon D's arrival at his settlement, as the case may be, he excuses himself to D, setting forth in detail the reason for his failure. He treats D as best he can, and fixes another date for the delivery of the salt and the cloth, the same to be delivered at D's settlement. D returns to his home without the salt and the cloth and awaits the delivery.

Now it may happen that, through the fault of A or through the fault of F or through unforeseen circumstances, A is unable to keep his agreement. D has made many useless trips to collect from A. It is true that D has been feasted by A upon every visit but the long delay, and possibly his debt of salt to someone else, is gradually provoking him. So one day he speaks somewhat strongly to A, setting a definite term for the payment. If A is unable to meet his obligations after this ultimatum, or if D suspects or has proof that A is playing a game, matters become strained and D has recourse to one of three methods: (1) Collection by armed intimidation; (2) the tawgan or seizure; (3) war raid.

The last two methods have been sufficiently explained in Chapter XVIII but the first needs a little explanation.

After all attempts to collect by peaceable means have failed, the creditor assembles his male relatives and friends and proceeds to the house of the debtor with all the accoutrements of war. It is customary to bring along a neutral chief or two from other clans. Upon arriving at the debtor's house no hostile demonstrations are made. The creditor and his party enter as if their object were an ordinary visit. Should, however, the debtor have abandoned his house, this part of the affair would be at an end, for the creditor would be justified in adopting the second method (i. e., the seizing of any object, human of other that he might see), or the third method.

Should his debtor, however, be present, the creditor and his companions are regaled with betel nut and food and the meeting is perfectly goodnatured. But gradually the subject of the debt is introduced and then begins the pandemonium. If the chiefs who have accompanied the creditor's party have enough moral influence to bring about an agreement, the matter is settled, but if not, the visiting party may depart suddenly with yells of menace and defiance, and very frequently may have recourse to the seizure method, taking on their way home any object that they may encounter such as a pig, or even a human being. Hence as soon as it becomes known that no settlement has been made bamboo joints[5] are blown—the invariable signal in Manboland of danger—and everybody goes into armed vigilance. Children and women are not allowed to leave the house, and pigs are frequently taken from below and put up in the house until the enraged creditor and his party have gone.

[5] Tam-b-li.

I was in one place where such a state of things existed. My merchandise was taken by my host from under the house and carefully hidden upstairs. I wished to go to meet the collecting party but no one would volunteer to accompany me.

If an agreement to pay has been brought about, the debtor has to make the settlement before the departure of his creditor, even though it may require several days to complete the payment. In this latter case the sustenance of the visiting party and all their needs fall, by custom, upon the poor debtor.

Such is the customary method of collecting debts when all peaceable efforts have been unavailing. To understand the principle involved in it, as also the circumstances that bring it about, it is necessary to bear in mind that once the creditor becomes disgusted with the delay of his debtor in settling the account, he announces his intention to add to the indebtedness a financial equivalent of all fatigues[6] and expenses to be subsequently incurred in the collection of the debt. These fatigues not only include the actual trips made both by himself and such messengers as he may send to collect the debt, but such incidental losses, sicknesses, or accidents as may be the outcome of such trips.

[6] Ka-h-go.

Another principle recognized in this matter is the liability into which the debtor may fall for such losses as the creditor may undergo through his failure to fulfill his obligations to a third person. Thus A owes B a pig, and B owes C, who in his turn must pay a lance to D at a certain time. On account of C's failure to deliver the lance in due time to D, he is, according to a previous contract, mulcted to the equivalent of 15 pesos. Had C been able to purchase a lance with the pig that B owed him he would, by customary law, be justified in putting the fine of 15 pesos to B's account. B attributes his failure to A's delay and on the same grounds, adds 15 pesos to the latter's indebtedness.

It is clear that the principle of liability involved in this system gives rise to an infinity of disputes that may lead to bloodshed whenever the matter can not be arbitrated by the more influential men and chiefs in a public assembly. The debt after a certain time increases beyond reasonable proportions until it finally becomes so great as to be beyond the debtor's means. Notwithstanding the sacredness with which the average Manbo regards his debts, it happens occasionally that a little bad feeling springs up which, in the course of time may lead to serious consequences. It will be readily understood how easy it is for one party to take umbrage at the words or actions of another and to become obstinate. Happily, however, this does not happen frequently, on account of the salutary fear inspired by the lance and the bolo, and the urgent endeavors of the chiefs and the more influential men to settle matters amicably. I am surprised that disputes and bloodshed arising from, the great credit system do not occur more frequently among such primitive people.

Though in practice the relatives of a debtor assist him to settle his obligations, especially when he is hard pressed by his creditor, yet in theory there is no joint obligation to pay the debt. Neither do they, as a rule, assume a collective responsibility for it.

Between relatives, as between others, the law regarding the payment of a debt is strenuously maintained, though I know of no case between near relatives in which it led to more than family bickerings. A very careful account of the indebtedness of one relative to another is sedulously kept.



No interest is charged unless an express contract is made to that effect. In the case of a loan of paddy, however, even if no formal contract has been made, twice as much must be returned as was borrowed. Express contracts that call for interest are rather rare, as far as my observation goes, and when such contracts are made they are usually of a usurious nature, due, as I have noticed on several occasions, not so much to the desire for material gain, as to that of satisfying an old grudge against the borrower. In settlements that have had experience with the usurious methods of Christian natives, one finds here and there an individual who tries to follow the example set him by people that he looks up to. This practice is universally discountenanced, and, though it is submitted to under necessity in commercial dealings with Bisyas, it gives rise to no inconsiderable ill feeling, a fact that explains, to my mind, the difficulties that Bisyas experience in collecting from Christianized Manbos, as also the killing of many a Bisya in pre-American days. During my trading tour of 1908 there was universal complaint made to me by Manbos of the upper Agsan, upper Umaam, and upper Argwan Rivers against the system of usury employed by Bisya traders, and many a time I heard this remark made concerning certain individuals: "We would kill him if we were not afraid of the Americans."


With the exception of articles borrowed on condition that they are to be returned, loans are very rare in Manboland. The most usual loan is that of paddy. Articles borrowed must be returned in as good a condition as that in which they were received.

I know of no leases among non-Christian Manbos. Land is too plentiful to lease; other property is either sold or borrowed.

I have never known a material pledge to be given, but the custom of going bond seems to be very generally understood though not much practiced, as such a custom insinuates a distrust that does not seem to be pleasing to the Manbo. A notable feature of the practice is the principle that the bondsman becomes the payer. I am inclined to think that this principle was taught to their mountain compeers by Bisya and Christianized Manbos who found in it a convenient expedient whereby to make the collection of debts easier and sure. On the strength of it, a chief or a more well-to-do member of the tribe becomes responsible for the debt of one whose surety he became.



The liability here referred to is the general responsibility that a person acquires for consequences that are imputed to an act of his, whether voluntary or involuntary. Instances of this strange law arise on many occasions in Manboland. The reader is referred to the case of the loss of the beads, the attempt to collect from me for the natural death of one of my carriers, for the death of a child that I had frightened, and other instances mentioned previously, all of which show the idea of responsibility for consequences following an act. A few more instances will make the principle involved clearer. On the upper Agsan, a Manbo of Nbuk River went over to Moncyo to collect a debt. According to custom he carried his shield and spear. Now it happened that there were two women walking along the river bank, one of whom was the wife of an enemy of this Nbuk warrior. Upon seeing him she became frightened, fell into the river, and was drowned. The result of this was that the Nbuk man was condemned to pay a slave or its equivalent. As a near relative of his enemy owed him "thirty" (P30) he transferred the fine to him but the transference was not accepted on the ground that the Nbuk man ought to pay his fine first. A few days' discussion of the matter resulted in the departure of the Nbuk man, who upon his arrival in a near settlement killed, in his rage, one of his slaves. The outcome of the whole affair was a feud between Moncyo and Nbuk.


The violation of the numerous taboos is believed to bring about evil consequences that are chargeable to the account of the infringer. For example, a man in Bai was charged 30 pesos for the breaking of a certain birth taboo, a violation which was supposed to have been responsible for the stillbirth of a child. I was warned on many occasions to desist from making disrespectful remarks about animals, such as monkeys or frogs, because, if Antan were to hurl her thunderbolts at one of my companions and harm were to befall him I would be fined or killed. I would undergo a similar punishment, I was told on other occasions, for using such tabooed words as crocodile and salt; it was believed that a storm would be the result of the use of these words. On one occasion I thought it prudent to give a carrier of mine a piece of rubber cloth wherewith to cover his salt, for he had threatened to collect from me if it became wet from the storm that was impending, and which all my companions imputed to my deliberate use of the names of certain fish not native to their mountain water.


Another pregnant source of fines and of sanguinary feuds is the belief in the possession, by certain individuals, of magic power to do harm. No one that I know of or have heard of, except a few fearless warrior chiefs, has made open avowal of the possession of such power and yet on many occasions I have heard of the supposed possession of it by various individuals. To give an instance, a Manbo on the upper Agsan had the reputation of having secret poisons. One day another Manbo and his wife visited him. With the exception of a trifling altercation about a debt, everything went well. On her return home the woman was suddenly taken sick and died. Her death was ascribed to the magic power of the person recently visited and the outcome was that the party with the bad reputation had to build a tree house, one of the few that I have seen, and surround his settlement with an abatis of brush and of sharp spikes, all in anticipation of an attack by the deceased woman's husband.

It was the rule rather than the exception that I, myself, had the same reputation applied to me. Upon arrival in heretofore unvisited regions I was fequently[sic] informed that they had heard of my wonderful power of killing. On many occasions it was only by assuming a bold front and by vowing vengeance on my traducers that I freed myself from the imputation. In such cases I always asked for the name of the slanderer, and, upon learning it, announced my intention of seeking him without delay, for the purpose of clearing myself from the imputation and of demanding satisfaction from him.


It is not intended here to consider the system of fines as penalties for voluntary wrongdoings but only as punishments for certain little acts of forgetfulness or of omission that might be construed as conscious acts of disrespect. The system is a very strange one and, to our way of thinking, very harsh, productive sometimes of bad feeling and even of more serious results.

Instances that have passed under my personal observation will illustrate the system. Thus, on one occasion an acquaintance of mine left the house without making his intention known to those present. While he was under the house, one of the guests happened to spit through the floor upon the clothes of the man underneath. Upon his return he identified the guilty one both by his position in the house, and by the quality of the chewing material he was using. The case was discussed at length and it was decided that for carelessness the guilty one should make material reparation in the form of a chicken and some drink.

Again, the dog of a certain individual on the upper Agsan was guilty of soiling the clothes of a person that happened to be working under the house. As the owner of the sick dog (it had been mangled by a wild boar) had been previously warned of the possibility of something untoward happening, he was fined and was condemned to make further reparation in the form of a convivial meeting in order to remove the ill feeling.

Instances of fines that were imposed on me will illustrate the principle involved. Upon my arrival in new regions I was almost invariably called upon to pay a certain amount, on the ground that I had had no permission to enter the settlement, or that the local deities had been displeased at my visit, or that I was a spy, or for some other reason. The refusal to pay was always accepted after lengthy explanations and after the distribution of a few trifling gifts to the more vehement members of the settlement, but in one case arms were drawn and I had to take my stand with, back to the wall and await developments.

Other instances in which unintentional disrespect toward the person or property of anyone was displayed might be adduced to profusion. It will suffice to say, however, that such acts as the following, even when unintentional, lay the agent under a liability, the commercial value of which must be determined by the circumstances and very frequently by formal arbitration: Spitting upon, or otherwise soiling another; rudely seizing the person of another; unbecoming treatment of another's property, especially of his clothes, as when, for instance, one steps upon another's shirt; opening another's betel-nut knapsack or other concealed property; borrowing things without formal announcement and due permission; going into certain places interdicted by the owner, as bathing, for instance, in that part of a river which the owner has forbidden the use of,[7] or visiting his rice granary; and using disrespectful language, even in joke, about another, as, for instance, speaking of one as an insect, a Maggugan.[8]

[7] Due, presumably, to the fact that the place, usually a deep pool, is the abode of a water wraith.

[8] This is a term of reproach when applied to a Manbo.

These interdictions are necessary among the Manbos in order that in their social dealings with one another proper deference may be shown toward their person and property. For were a mere "pardon me" a sufficient reparation for an act, however unintentional, advantage might be taken of it to inflict a thousand and one little incivilities that would serve to arouse the relentless spirit of revenge that centuries of feuds have instilled into the Manbo character.




The property of a Manbo family is so scanty that the rules governing it have never developed beyond a primitive stage. The house belongs collectively to the father and to such of his sons-in-law and brothers-in-law as may have constructed it. The structure represents little value to the owner except that of the rough-hewn boards which may be transported to another place. The reason that such cheap houses are built is that they may be abandoned without much loss at any moment that a death, or even a suspicion of danger, arising from religious or from natural reasons, may dictate.

The movable property in the house belongs to the individuals who have made, purchased, or in any other lawful way acquired it. In this respect it is to be noted that each married couple provides itself with household utensils and such other things as may be necessary. These things do not become the property of the head of the family, but remain the individual property of the person who brings them.

It must be noted, too, that women, children, and slaves have theoretically no right to ownership. It is true that women are allowed to dispose of the products of their labor like rice and cloth, but usually, if not always, the consent of their husbands or of their husbands' nearest male relatives is first secured if the article is of much value. Frequently a consultation is held with the head of the whole household.


When a man dies and leaves no near relatives that are of sufficient age to manage the inheritance, the elder brother-in-law inherits the property. The deceased brother's wife is a part of this property. When the father dies, the son is the heir, and, if of sufficient age and capabilities, takes the place of his father. But should he be deemed incompetent by his near male relatives, his paternal uncle, or, if he has none, a brother-in-law, becomes the manager of the household. Any property which may be of value is thus retained within the line of male descent. This is in accordance with the principles of the patriarchate system which prevails in Manboland.

The eldest son inherits his father's debts, but the administrator (if in such unpretentious matters we may use so pretentious a word) pays the debts collecting in turn from the son unless he be a near kinsman of the deceased father. About matters of inheritance I have never even heard of a dispute. The valuable property may consist of only a lance and a bolo, or a dagger, and a few jars. The best suit of clothes together with personal adornments, such as necklaces, are carried with the deceased to his last resting place so that there is little left to quarrel over. With the exception of the few heirlooms, if there be any, consisting of a jar and some few other things, the greatest fear is entertained of articles that belonged to the departed one. This fear is due to the peculiar belief in the subtle, wayward feeling of the departed toward the living.



In the chapter on marriage the general principles governing the relations of the sexes is set forth. The relations both antenuptial and postnuptial are of the most stringent character.

As a Manbo once told me, sexual morality is bound up with religion and the greater violations of it are sometimes punished by the divinities.

Such lighter offenses, as gazing at the person of a woman while she is bathing, or on any other occasion when her person is exposed, are punished with appropriate fines. Improper suggestions and unseemly jokes undergo the same fate. It is a very common report among Bisyas that to touch a Manbo woman's heel is an exceptionally serious offense against Manbo law. I never heard of any such regulation among Manbos, although it may exist. To touch any other part of her person, however, is an offense punishable by a good-sized fine.

Death is the consequence of adultery, fornication, and seduction, except in very exceptional cases where the influence of the guilty one's relatives may save him. But it is certain that in these cases the fine is very heavy. I believe that it is never less than the equivalent of three slaves.

All reports, both Bisya and Manbo, state that when fornication has been attempted or accomplished the woman herself may make known the offense to her parents and relatives.

The law is even more rigid in the matter of adultery. While I was on the upper Agsan River a case of adultery committed by a Christianized man and woman was discovered. The death of the man had been decided upon, and that of the woman was being mooted. I succeeded in having the death sentence commuted to a heavy fine of three slaves.

It is the common report in Manboland that, when a woman makes known the act of her lover, the latter does not deny it. Not only under such circumstances, but in nearly all other instances when brought face to face with the truth a Manbo will confess, sometimes even though there be no witness against him. Such is my observation of dealings between Manbo and Manbo. In his relations with outsiders, however, the Manbo is not so veracious; on the contrary, he displays no little art in suppressing or in twisting the truth.


In the chapter on marital relations it was made manifest that marriage is practically a sale in which a certain amount of the marriage price is returned to the bridegroom. This rule is very stringent. Should the marriage negotiations discontinue without any fault of the man or of his relatives all payments previously made have to be returned, item for item. In this respect it is to be noted that marriage contracts are almost relentlessly rigid, a fact that suggests an explanation of the length of the period that is usually required to terminate the negotiations. For it is only by many acts of attention and even of subservience that the suitor's relatives break down the obdurateness of the fianc's relatives and make them relax the severity of their original demands. Very minute and strict accounts of the various payments, including such small donations as a few liters of rice, are recorded on a knotted rattan strip in anticipation of a final disagreement.

When it is decided that the marriage is not to take place by reason of the death of one of the affianced parties, the father and relatives of the fianc must return all the purchase payments which may have been made. Custom provides that these payments shall be returned gradually, the idea being, presumably, to allow the fianc's relatives an opportunity to profit by the donations of a new suitor, if one should present himself within a stipulated period. It will be readily understood that the nature of the debts incurred by an obligation to return marriage payments determines the character of the payments that will be exacted from a new suitor. Thus, if A's relatives, for good reasons, decide not to continue their suit for the hand of B's daughter, B would be granted a specified time in which to await the presentation of a new suitor for his daughter's hand. This new suitor would be required to bring a lance, for example, and other objects that would serve as first and more urgent payments to A.

In the case of fornication committed by a man with his fianc, death may be the penalty if the girl's father desires to have the marriage broken off, but I was given to understand that such a heavy penalty is rarely inflicted, the girl's father contenting himself with imposing a heavy fine.


In all my wandering among the Manbos, I never knew nor heard of an illegitimate child, so can not say what regulations govern, if such births occur. In Mandyaland the father of an illegitimate child is obliged to marry the girl and to enter his father-in-law's family in a state of semiservitude. The marriage takes place before the birth of the child.

I was told by Mandyas that illegitimate children belong to the nearest male relative of the mother, that in case of her marriage they still belong to her relative, and that they are treated in all other respects as legitimate children.


The laws governing family relations are very simple. The father has theoretically absolute power of life and death over his wife, children, and slaves. In practice, however, this power is seldom used to its full extent. An arbitrary exercise of domestic authority over his wife and children would arouse the antagonism of her relatives and lead to a rupture of friendly relations. Hence, in family dealings there are displayed on one side paternal affection and leniency and on the other filial devotion and a sense of duty, so much so that the members of the family live in peace and happiness with seldom a domestic grievance.

The wife, of course, is the absolute property of her husband, but is rarely, if ever, sold. I know of only one wife who was sold and she was a Bisya woman married to a recently Christianized Manbo.

It is not in accord with Manbo custom for a man to have two or more wives unless the first wife consents to the later marriages, and, if she does consent, she must always be considered the man's favorite and must be allowed to have a kind of motherly jurisdiction over the other wives. In all cases that have come under my observation, this rule was followed among Manbos but not among Mandyas. The latter frequently seem more attached to their second, third, or fourth wives, but do not separate the first wife either from bed or board. As a result of the necessity of the first wife's consent to a second marriage, bigamy is comparatively rare.


The man is always expected to take up his residence in his wife's family and he nearly always does so. In fact, such is the implied and frequently the explicit contract made between his relatives and those of the girl. But after a few years, if not sooner, he usually takes his wife back to his own clan, leaving his father-in-law or other male relative of his wife some gift in the shape of a pig or other payment. In such a case it seems to be the custom for the father-in-law to acquiesce.



It must be laid down as a general principle that in Manboland it is considered proper and obligatory to seek redress for all wrongs (except a few serious ones) by an appeal to the relatives of the wrongdoer, either directly by a formal meeting or indirectly through the mediation of a third party. The first exceptions to this rule are cases of adultery, fornication, rape, and homicide when the murderer, wantonly, and without an attempt to arbitrate, kills a fellow man. The great law of vengeance presupposes in nearly every case a recourse to arbitration, and not a hasty, unannounced, deliberate killing.

The one who orders the death of another or in any other way deliberately causes it is the one on whom vengeance must be taken. Thus, if A pays a neutral warrior chief to kill his opponent, the responsibility for the death will be laid, not on the warrior who did the killing (unless he had personal motives for committing the murder) but on the one who ordered the death. The warrior was paid and accordingly bears no responsibility. He may be paid again by the relatives of the slain to do a similar act to their enemies. Thus it is, that in Manboland, it is very necessary to be on such terms of friendship with the members of the warrior class that they will not be inclined to undertake for payment the task of taking vengeance for another.

Killing for public policy is a recognized institution, but such executions very seldom take place. On the upper Tgo River word was sent to me that my guide would be killed if he led me into a certain remote region at the headwaters of that river. It was reported on all sides that the principal chiefs of the region had assembled before my departure and had decided upon his death. For some reason, probably fear, the sentence was not carried into effect.

It was reported to me that in time of an epidemic it is permitted to kill anyone who dares to break the quarantine.

Involuntary killing when it is manifest that it was a pure accident can be compounded.


By the tawgan system a Manbo is permitted to kill or seize anything or anybody that he may decide upon, provided that he has made every endeavor to settle the dispute by amicable means. Having failed to adjust the matter without bloodshed, he may avenge himself, first and above all, on the guilty party. I will not make a positive statement to the effect that he must announce his intention to make use of the right accorded him by the tawgan custom, but I am of opinion that this must be done, for in every instance that came under my observation it had been generally known beforehand that the aggrieved party would make a seizure within a specified time. I know that on one occasion I had to exact a promise from a man that he would not lay hands on merchandise of mine that was deposited under a house in the vicinity of his settlement. He had made public announcement that he would make a seizure, even though it should be that of my merchandise.

The aggrieved party in making use of his right must, if possible, inflict damage, even death, upon the debtor or other wrongdoer or on some of his relatives, but should this prove impracticable he is at liberty to select anyone. If he kills a neutral party, he must compound with the relatives of the slain one for the death inflicted and enter with them into a solemn promise to act jointly against the offending party. In the case of seizure, he can not dispose of the object seized until the owner be consulted. It is customary for the two to enter a compact by which they bind themselves to take joint action against the offender, advantageous terms being guaranteed to the new colleague. The man whose property is thus seized is very often one who has had an old-time grudge against the original offender or debtor.


Minor offenses such as stealing, slandering, failure to pay debts, deception that causes material damage to another, loss or damage to another's property, the lesser violations of sexual propriety, disrespect to another's property, etc., are punishable by fines that must be determined by the assembled relatives of the two parties. I have never been able to find the least trace of any definite system of fines. In the determination of them for the more serious of offenses (adultery, wanton killing, etc.), the equivalent of a human life, 15 or 30 pesos, is the basis of the calculation. In the case of minor offenses, however, lesser quantities are determined upon after a lengthy discussion of the subject by the respective relatives of the parties involved.



The aggrieved party, upon hearing of the offense and after making many futile efforts to come to an agreement, consults with his relatives, when, after being assured of their cooperation he begins to issue threats, all of which reach the ear of his opponent. At first the latter probably is not disturbed by these, but, as they begin to pour in from all sources, he makes up his mind either to face his opponent in person, if the affair has not gone too far, or to look around for a friendly chief or other person of influence and sagacity to mediate. All this time new rumors of his enemy's anger and determination to appeal to arms reach him, but he must not display cowardice, neither must his opponent openly seek arbitration, for such an action would bespeak fear on both sides. So, on the part of the aggrieved one, there is menace, revenge, and a pretense at least not to be amenable to peaceable measures. On the part of the other, there must be no display of fear, no hurry to arbitrate, and a general indifference, at least simulated, as to the outcome. If the offending party answers threat by threat, his opponent may become incensed and hostilities may break out, as happens in other parts of the world.

In the meantime neighboring chiefs and influential people are throwing the weight of their opinions in favor of peace and if they prevail one or more of them are requested to assist in the final settlement, definite emolument sometimes being promised, especially when either of the contending parties is very anxious to have the matter settled.

It is the duty now of the mediating chiefs or other persons to bring the parties together. This they do either by inviting the contestants to a neutral house or by persuading one of them to invite the other to his house.

It may happen that the aggrieved party, instead of following this procedure, precipitates a settlement by sending a fighting bolo or a dagger or a lance to his opponent. This is an ultimatum. If the weapon is retained it means hostilities. If it is returned, it denotes a willingness to submit the matter to arbitration. But the one who receives the weapon probably will not return it at once as he desires to disguise, in the presence of his opponent's emissary, the bearer of the ultimatum, any eagerness he may feel for arbitration. Once having decided that he will submit the matter to arbitration or that he will yield, he announces to the messenger that he will visit his opponent within a specified period and talk matters over and that he is willing to have the affair settled but that his relatives are unwilling. If a bolo or other such object has been sent to him he returns it, for to retain it would signify his unwillingness to submit and his readiness to take the consequences.

A few days before the appointed time he orders drink to be made and he may go out on a big fishing expedition. He procures also a pig or two. With these, and accompanied by a host of male relatives, he sets out for the house that has been agreed upon. The pigs and drink and other things are deposited in a convenient place near the house, for it would be impolitic to display such proofs of his willingness to yield.

This is the procedure followed in more serious cases. Cases of lesser importance, which occur with great frequency, are settled almost informally in the following manner:

When the subject under dispute is not of such a serious nature, either in itself or by reason of aggravating circumstances, like quarrels or violent language that may have preceded it, the ordinary method of settling the trouble consists in a good meal given by one party to the other. Toward the end of the repast, when all present are feeling convivial from the effects of the drink, the question at issue, usually a debt, is taken up and discussed by the parties concerned and their respective relatives. It happens often that the matter is put off to another time, and thus it may require several semifriendly meetings to settle it. On the whole, however, the proceedings are terminated amicably, although I have seen a few very animated scenes at such times. On one occasion a member of the party, accompanied by his relatives, rushed down the pole and seizing his lance and shield challenged his adversary to single combat. The challenge was not accepted, so he and his party marched away vowing vengeance. I have seen bolos or daggers drawn on many occasions but the relatives and others always intervened to prevent bloodshed. It is to be noted that such violent actions are due often to the influence of drink but do not take place more frequently than drunken brawls do in other parts of the world.

When the case in question is of such an involved and serious character as to make it dangerous for the accused one to enter the house, he remains hidden till he ascertains how his relatives and friends are progressing. In other cases he personally attends and may argue in his own defense.[1]

[1] There is a very formal peace-making procedure followed by the Manbos who have been in contact with the Banuons of Masam River, but I never witnessed it, so I can not give any first-hand information as to the details. In the chapter on war will be found such details as have been given to me by trustworthy Bisyas of Talakgon.


The general features of the procedure are the following: The policy of the aggrieved one and of his party is to maintain a loud, menacing attitude, and to insist on a fine three or four hundred times larger than they expect to be paid. The accused and his relatives keep up a firm attitude, not so firm, however, as to incense unduly their opponents, and from the beginning make an offer of a paltry sum in payment.

Although everybody at times may break into the discussion, or all may yell at the same time, the ordinary procedure is to allow each one to speak singly and to finish what he has to say. The others listen and assent by such expressions as correspond to our "yes indeed," "true," etc., whether they are in accord with the speaker's opinions or not. These lengthy talks are, at least to an outsider, most wearisome, given, as they are, in a dreary monotone, but they explain the inordinate length of arbitrations that may last for several days.

The whole party is squatted on the floor and makes use of grains of corn, of pieces of wood or leaf, of the bamboo slats of the floor, of their fingers and toes or of anything convenient, to aid them in the enumeration of the objects of which they treat. Everybody is armed, probably with his hand on his weapon, and his eyes alert. In very serious cases women and children may not be present. This, of course, is an indication of possible bloodshed and is a very rare occurrence.

The chiefs or other influential men who have been selected to aid each side in the settlement take a conspicuous part in the proceedings and help to influence the parties concerned to come to an understanding, but it can not be said that their word is paramount. The contestants' own relatives have more weight than anyone else. The procedure at a Manbo arbitration may be likened to that of a jury when in retirement. Point after point is discussed, similitudes and allegories are brought up by each speaker until, after wearisome hours or days, the opinion of each side has been molded sufficiently to bring them into agreement. In one respect it differs from the jury method in that loud shouts and threats are made use of occasionally, proceeding either from natural vehemence or from a deliberate intention on one side to intimidate the other.

It is not good form for the defendant to yield readily. On the contrary, it is in accordance with Manbo custom and character to yield with reluctance, feigned if not real. When a small pig is really considered a sufficient payment, a large one is demanded. When the pig is received and is really in conformity with the contract, defects are found in it—it is lean or sick or short or light in weight—in a word, it is depreciated in one way or another. The giver, on the contrary, exaggerates its value, descants on its size, length, form, and weight, tells of the exorbitant price he paid for it, reminds the receiver of the difficulty of procuring pigs at this season, and in general manifests his reluctance to part with it.

It must not be supposed that such actions and statements are believed at once. On the contrary, it is only after lengthy talks on each side that opinions are formed, an agreement entered into, a contract is drawn up, or reparation made. It is the identical case of stubborn jurymen.

In the settlement of these disputes much depends upon the glibness of tongue and on the sagacity of one or more of the principal men. For were it not for their skill in understanding the intricacies of the subject and in sidetracking irrelevant claims the disputes would be impossible of satisfactory arrangement. This will be understood more readily if it is borne in mind that outside of the reasonable facts of the case, counterclaims are made by the debtor or the accused party. These claims are sometimes of an extraordinary nature and date back to the time of his grandfather or other distant relative. Thus he may say that his opponent's great uncle owed his grandfather a human life and that this blood debt has never been paid nor revenge obtained. Such an affirmation as this will be corroborated by his relatives and they may immediately break out into menaces of vengeance. Again, he may aver that his opponent was reputed to have had a charm by which death might be caused, and that his son had died as a result of this use of evil magic powers. Whereupon the other vigorously repudiates the imputation and demands a slave in payment of the slander. It is only the popularity of the chief men, their reputation for fair dealing, their sagacity, and perhaps their relationship with the respective contestants that dispose of such side issues and bring about an amicable and satisfactory settlement.

It is customary for the one who loses to regale the assembly with a good meal. In Manbo-land this latter is the great solace for all ills and the source of all friendship. So, when the question under dispute has been settled, the one who lost sends out and gets the pig and drink that have been brought for that purpose. When prepared, the food is set out on the floor, the guests are distributed in due order, and then begins one of those meals that must be witnessed in order to be understood. One feature of this feast is that the two former adversaries are seated together and vie with each other in reciprocating food and drink. As they warm up under the influence of the liquor they load large masses of food into each other's mouths, each with an arm around the other's neck.

Upon the following day, or perhaps that same day, the winner of the case reciprocates with another banquet. When that is finished, the other party may give another banquet and so they may continue, if their means permit, for many days. I assisted at one peacemaking in which the banqueting lasted for 10 successive days.



The usual and natural method of determining the guilt of the accused is through the instrumentality of witnesses. They are questioned and requestioned at great length even if the defendant be not present. There seems to be no necessity for this procedure, for the defendant admits his guilt when brought face to face with the plaintiff or with the witnesses. The testimony of children is not only admissible but is considered conclusive. That of a woman testifying against a man for improper suggestions and acts is considered sufficient to convict him.

False testimony in the presence of witnesses and relatives is almost unheard of. I suppose that this marvel is to be attributed to the fear of the dire retribution that would infallibly overtake the false witness.


Ordinarily no oath is administered nor any other formal means adopted to make certain that the accused or the witnesses will tell the truth, but there is a practice which is sometimes followed whenever the veracity of anyone is doubted. This is called t-tung or burning of the wax, a ceremony that may be used not only with witnesses but with anyone from whom it is desired to force the truth. I have used it very successfully on numerous occasions in getting information about trails. The ceremony consists in burning a piece of beeswax in the presence of the party to be questioned. This signifies that if he does not answer truthfully his body by some process of sympathetic magic, will be burned in a similar manner. After making his statement and while the wax is being burned, he expresses the desire that his body may burn and be melted like the wax if his statement is untrue. This is another example of the pervading belief in sympathetic magic.


In the various instances that have come under my observation, the guilty one, as a rule, vigorously denied his guilt until confronted in public assembly by his accusers, so that I judge that custom does not require him to make a self-accusation until that time. But when duly confronted with witnesses, he nearly always admits his guilt.

For if the defendant should deny his guilt and if there were no evidence against him other than suspicion, the injured party would be justified in inflicting injury on anyone else, according to the principles of the private-seizure system. If it should later be discovered that the defendant was the original offender, the innocent parties who were the victims of this seizure would ultimately take terrible vengeance on him. I was informed by the Debabons that a false denial of one's guilt before the assembled arbiters and relatives is especially displeasing to the deities. I failed to get information on this point from Manbos, but it would be fairly reasonable to conclude that their belief in the matter is identical with that of the Debabons.

Should the accused one deny his guilt and should circumstantial evidence point to him as the guilty one, the wax-burning ceremony above described would be performed. If he should still maintain that he was innocent, various methods for the determination of his guilt would be resorted to.


The tests made to determine the innocence or guilt of a person are threefold: (1) the hot-water ordeal, (2) the diving ordeal, and (3) the candle ordeal.

The hot-water ordeal.[2]—A brass anklet, armlet, or similar metal object is put into boiling water in one of the iron pans so common throughout the Agsan Valley. The suspected party, or parties, is then called upon to insert a hand into the water and to remove the object that has been placed at the bottom of the shallow pan. Although I have heard many threats of an appeal to this test, I never saw the actual operation of it, but I have been assured repeatedly by those who claimed to have seen the performance that the hand of the guilty one gets badly scalded, while that of an innocent one remains uninjured. The belief in the truth of this test is so strong, that, at times when the ordeal was threatened, I have heard many express not only their willingness but their eagerness to undergo it.

[2] Pag-nit.

I have made numerous and very definite inquires in different localities and from members of different tribes as to the reason for the value of the ordeal as a test and as to whether or not it might be explained by the agency of supernatural beings, but in reply always received the answer that no reason could be given except that it had always been so and that religion had no connection with it.

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