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Title: The Philippine Islands
Author: John Foreman
The Military Department of Mindanao comprises the large island of that name and the adjacent insular territories inhabited chiefly by Mahometans.
The natural features of these southern islands are, in general, similar to those of the other large islands of the Archipelago, but being peopled by races (exclusive of the settlers) of different habits, customs, religions, and languages, some aggressively savage and warlike, others more or less tractable, but all semi-civilized, the social aspect is so distinct from that of the islands inhabited by the Christian Filipinos as almost to appear like another quarter of the tropical globe.
General Bates with the Tausogs natives of Sulu.
Early in the year 1899 General John C. Bates was appointed to the command of the Mahometan islands. In Mindanao Island there was no supreme chieftain with whom to treat for the gradual introduction of civilization and American methods, the whole territory being parcelled out and ruled by petty Sultans, Dattos or chiefs, in separate independence. In the Lake Lanao district, for instance, there is at least one Datto for every 50 men. The only individual who had any pretence to general control of the Mahometan population was Hadji1 Mohammad Jamalul Kiram, the Sultan of Sulu2. Therefore, in August, 1899, General Bates and this petty prince made an agreement which was ratified by Congress on February 1 following, on the recommendation of the Schurman Commission , and thenceforth came into force.
In consideration of the above, the Sultan undertook to maintain order between his Dattos, to repress internecine warfare, and gradually to abolish slavery throughout his jurisdiction.
Apparently the Sultan entered into the agreement much in the spirit of Mr. Micawber, who signed the I.O.U.ʼs and thanked God his debts were paid. The ruler of Sulu was not over-willing and far less able to give effect to its conditions, his power being more nominal than real in his own possessions, and in Mindanao almost nil. Nevertheless, it was a politic measure on the Americansʼ part, because its non-fulfilment opened the way for the adoption, with every appearance of justification, of more direct and coercive intervention in the affairs of this region.
General Bates was succeeded by other generals in the command of this district, without any very visible progress towards definite pacification and subjection to civilization. The military posts on the coasts, evacuated by the Spaniards, were occupied by American troops and new ones were created, but every attempt to establish law and order beyond their limits, on the white manʼs system, was wasted effort.
When the Spanish-American War broke out, the Spanish military authorities were on the point of maturing a plan for the final conquest of Mindanao. Due to the persistent activity of my old friend General González Parrado, they had already achieved much in the Lake Lanao district, through the Marahui campaign. On the evacuation of the Spaniards the unrestrained petty chiefs were like lions released from captivity. Blood-shed, oppression, extortion, and all the instinctive habits of the shrewd savage were again rife.
A preconcerted plan of campaign brings little definite result; it never culminates in the attainment of any final issue, for, on the native side, there is neither union of tribes nor any combined organized attempt at even guerilla warfare, hence the destruction of a cotta or the decimation of a clan has no immediate and lasting moral effect on the neighbouring warlike tribe. Life is cheap among them; a Moro thinks no more about lopping off anotherʼs head than he does about pulling a cocoanut from the palm-tree. The chief abhors the white man because he interferes with the chiefʼs living by the labour of his tribe, and the tribesman himself is too ignorant even to contemplate emancipation.
Subservience to the bidding of the wily Datto, poverty, squalidity, and tribal warfare for bravado or interest seem as natural to the Moro as the sight of the rising sun. Hence, when the Americans resolved to change all this and marched into the tribal territories for the purpose, the war-gongs rallied the fighting-men to resist the dreaded foe, unconscious of his mission of liberty under the star-spangled banner.
In Mindanao, the Malanao tribes, occupying the northern regions around the Lake Lanao districts, seem to have offered the most tenacious resistance. On April 5, 1902, a fierce encounter with the Bacólod tribes ended with their fort being destroyed, 120 Moros killed, and 11 Americans wounded. In the following month the bloody battle of Bayan brought such disastrous results to the natives that they willingly accepted peace for the time being. In the Taraca River engagement, 10 cottas were destroyed, 250 Moros were killed, 52 were taken prisoners, and the booty amounted to 36 cannon and 60 rifles. The Moros possessed a large number of Remington rifles, looted from the Spaniards, on whom they had often made surprise raids. The Bacólod and the Taraca tribes, although frequently defeated, gave much trouble long after the other districts had been forced into submission.
One of the most exciting expeditions was that of Lieutenant Forsyth, who went out reconnoitring with 15 men, marching from Párang-Párang Camp northwards. Moros came to meet him on the way to warn him not to advance, but Forsyth bravely pushed on until his party, surrounded by hundreds of hostile natives, was almost all destroyed. Forsyth and his fellow-survivors fled into an unknown region, where they lost themselves, and all would have perished had they not been befriended by a Datto who enabled them to get back. Then Colonel (now Brig.-General) F. D. Baldwin set out from Malábang Camp in May, attacked and captured the cottas of the Datto of Binadáyan and the Sultan of Bayan on Lake Lanao, and gained a signal victory over them with a loss of seven killed and 44 wounded. Lieutenant Forsythʼs horses and rifles were recovered, and the Moros suffered so severely in this engagement that it was hardly thought they would rise again. In consequence of this humiliation of the great Sultan of Bayan, many minor Lake Dattos voluntarily cultivated friendly relations with the Americans. Even among the recalcitrant chiefs there was a lull in their previous activity until they suddenly swept down on the American troops twelve times in succession, killing four and wounding 12 of them.
A muslim princess.
The whole Lanao Lake district was in a ferment when, on September 28, 1902, Captain John J. Pershing was detached from Baldwinʼs force to lead another expedition against them “composed of a battalion of the 7th Infantry, a troop of the 15th Cavalry, and two platoons of the 25th Field Artillery.”3 Pershing inflicted such a crushing defeat on the Macui Moros, destroying many of their strongholds, one Sultan and a large number of his warriors, that he was hailed with delight as the pacifier of Mindanao.
The expedition returned with a total loss of only two Americans wounded, and after Pershingʼs heroic exploit, not only was it in the mouth of every one, “there is peace in Mindanao,” but in the Report of the Secretary of War for 1902, there is a paragraph beginning thus:—“Now that the insurrection has been disposed of we shall be able to turn our attention, not merely to the slave trade, but to the already existing slavery among the Moros.”
But peace was by no means assured, and again Captain J. J. Pershing distinguished himself as the successful leader of an expedition in the Marahui district. Starting from Camp Vicars on April 5, 1903, with 150 men, Maxim guns, mortars, and artillery, his instructions were to “explore” the north and west coast of Lake Lanao, but to overcome any opposition offered. It was quite expected that his progress would be challenged, hence the warlike preparations. Arrived at Súgud, the Moros kept up a constant fire from the hills on the American front. On the high ridge running down to the lake the Bacólod fort was clearly seen flying the battle flags of defiance. On the battlements there was a yelling crowd of Moros beating their gongs, rushing to and fro, flourishing their weapons, and firing their lantaca cannon towards the Americans; but the range was too great to have any effect. The artillery was brought into action, forcing many of the Moros to try their fortunes in the open; but again and again they were repulsed, and by nightfall the Bacólod ridge was occupied by the troops. The next morning the mortars were brought into play, and shells were dropped into the fort during all that day and night. On the third day Captain Pershing decided to storm the fort; bridges were constructed across the ravines, Maxim guns poured shot through the loopholes, and finally an assault party of 10 men rushed across the bridge and climbed the parapet, where they were met by the Moros, with whom they had a desperate hand-to-hand fight. It was a fine display of American pluck. The attacking party was quickly supported by more troops, who either killed or captured the defenders. Finally all the combustible portion of the fort was burnt to the ground, 12 cannon were captured, and about 60 Moros were slain. The demolition of Bacólod fort was a great surprise to the Moros, who had considered it impregnable, whilst the defeat of the savage Sultan (the Panandungan) destroyed for ever his former unlimited prestige among the tribe. The force was then divided, and before the troops reached camp again there were several smaller fights, including the bombardment of Calahui cotta. The distance traversed by this expedition was about 80 miles, the American losses being one man killed and two officers and 14 men wounded. For this signal victory the War Department cabled its thanks to Captain J. J. Pershing on May 11.
As to the management of the Moros, Captain J. J. Pershing expresses the following just opinion, viz.:—“As far as is consistent with advancement, a government by a Sultan, or a Datto, as the case may be, should be disturbed as little as possible; that is, the people should be managed through the Dattos themselves,” etc.5
The last general in command of the District of Mindanao, prior to the present constitution of the Moro Province, was Brig.-General Samuel Sumner, who, just before his departure therefrom, wrote as follows, viz.:—“Murder and robbery will take place as long as we are in the country, at least for years to come. The Moro is a savage, and has no idea of law and order as we understand it. Anarchy practically prevails throughout the region. To take power and control away from the Sultans and Dattos until we can inaugurate and put in force a better government would add to the confusion already existing.”
The instructions of the President of the United States to the Philippine Commission, dated April 7, 1900, direct as follows, viz.:—“In dealing with the uncivilized tribes of the Islands the Commission shall adopt the same course followed by Congress in permitting the tribes of our North American Indians to maintain their tribal organizations and government, and under which many of those tribes are now living in peace and contentment, surrounded by a civilization to which they are unable or unwilling to conform.”
From the American point of view, but not from the Moro way of looking at things, an apparent state of anarchy prevailed everywhere; but the Sultans and the Dattos took very good care not to tolerate what, in Europe, one would term anarchy, tending to subvert the local rule. There is no written code of Moro justice. If a Moro stole a buffalo from another, and the case were brought before the judge, this functionary and the local chief would, by custom, expect to make some profit for themselves out of the dispute. The thief would have to pay a fine to the headman or go into slavery, but having no money he would have to steal it to purchase his freedom. The buffalo being the object of dispute would be confiscated, and to be even with the defendant for the loss of the buffalo, the plantiff would lop off the defendantʼs head if he were a man of means and could afford to pay 105 pesos fine for his revenge.
The real difficulty was, and still is, that there is no Sultan, or Datto, of very extended authority to lay hold of and subdue, and whose defeat or surrender would entail the submission of a whole district or tribe. The work of subjection has to be performed piecemeal among the hundreds of Dattos, each of whom, by established custom, can only act for himself and his own retainers, for every Datto would resent, at the risk of his life, any dictation from another. All this is extremely irritating to the white commander, who would prefer to bring matters to a definite crisis by one or more decisive contests, impossible of realization, however, in Mindanao or Sulu Islands.
Such was the condition of affairs in the southern extremity of the Archipelago when it was decided to appoint a Maj.-General to command it and create a semi-independent government for its local administration. Maj.-General Leonard Wood7 was happily chosen for this arduous and delicate task, and on July 25, 1903, he took up his appointment, holding it for about two years, when he was transferred to Manila to command the Division in succession to Maj.-General Henry C. Corbin.
This region, now called the Moro Province, was established under Philippine Commission Act No. 787 of June 1, 1903 (which came into effect on July 15 following), and includes all Mindanao8 except the larger portion of Misámis Province and all Surigao Province (N. and E.), which are under civil government, the Joló (Sulu) Archipelago, the Tawi Tawi group, and all the islands south of Lat. 8° N., excepting therefrom Palaúan (Parágua) and Balábac Islands and the islands immediately adjacent thereto, but including the Island of Cagayán de Joló. The seat of government is at Zamboanga, the headquarters of the military district, whose commander (Maj.-General Wood) acted in the dual capacity (but not ex-officio) of military commander and President of the Legislative Council of the Moro Province, which was organized September 2, 1903
Bud Bagsak massacre in Sulu. (U.S. Army poster)
On General Woodʼs recommendation, the Bates Agreement was rescinded on the ground that it was an obstacle to good government. In truth, the Sultan of Sulu was probably quite as unable as he was unwilling to carry out its provisions. However, under Philippine Commission Act No. 1259 (amended by Act No. 1320 of April 12, 1905), certain small annual money allowances are made to the present Sultan of Sulu and his principal advisers.
In Mindanao, trouble again arose on the east shore of Lake Lanao, and an expedition was organized to march against the Taracas, who were, however, only temporarily subdued. Defiant messages were sent by the Dattos, and General Wood decided to conduct operations in person. According to private information given to me by officers in Mindanao some months after the battle, immense slaughter was inflicted on this tribe, whose cottas were annihilated, and they were utterly crushed for the time being. About the beginning of 1904 the depredations of the Moros in the upper valley of the Cottabato River were revolting beyond all toleration. Cottabato town was pillaged under the leadership of Datto Ali and of his brother, Datto Djimbangan. In March an expedition invested the Serenaya territory in the Cottabato district and operated from the 4th to the 14th of that month without any American casualties. Datto Aliʼs fort at Kudaran͠gan was taken and destroyed.16 This formidable stronghold is described by General Wood thus:—“It was larger than twenty of the largest cottas of the Lake region or Sulu, and would have easily held a garrison of four or five thousand men. It was well located, well built, well armed, and amply supplied with ammunition. There were embrasures for 120 pieces of artillery. Eighty-five pieces were captured, among them many large cannon of from 3 inches to 5 ½ inches calibre. The other pieces in the work, small lantacas, were carried off or thrown into the river” (vide First Annual Report of the Moro Province).
Datto Ali thenceforth became a fugitive with some 60 armed followers and about a hundred others whom he pressed into his service as carriers. After the battle, Datto Djimbangan, Aliʼs brother, was taken unawares at his ranche by a detachment of American troops. He was conducted as a prisoner to Cottabato, and in February, 1905, he was transferred to the Zamboanga jail to await his trial for sedition and rebellion. Again the Taracas ventured on a series of attacks on the American military posts in the locality. A body of troops was despatched there in March, and after ten daysʼ operations this tribe was routed and dispersed, the American casualties being two men killed, one drowned, 10 wounded, and one officer slightly wounded. On May 8 a party of 39 men and two officers, reconnoitring about Simbalan, up the Cottabato Valley, was attacked, 13 men being killed, two taken prisoners, six wounded, and the two officers killed. It would appear that the guides were conducting the party safely, when a lieutenant insisted on taking another route and landed his troops in a plateau covered with cogon (pampas-grass) about eight feet high. On emerging from this they all got into a stream, where the Moros suddenly fell upon them. The punitive Simpetan Expedition immediately set out for that district and successfully operated from the 13th to the 28th of May without any American casualties. Datto Ali, who was again on the warpath, is the son-in-law of old Datto Piang, the terror of the neighbourhood in his younger days and also just after the evacuation by the Spaniards. Ali declared that he would not yield to the Americans one iota of his independence, or liberate his slaves, and swore vengeance on all who went in his pursuit. Being the hereditary Datto, the inhabitants of the valley generally sympathized with him, at least passively. In the latter half of 1904, constant endeavour was made to effect the capture of this chieftain, whilst old Datto Piang, the son of a Chinaman with a keen eye to business, supplied the Americans with baggage-carriers at a peso a day per man for the troops sent to hunt down his refractory son-in-law. Active operations were sustained against him, and from the military posts of Malábang (formerly a Moro slave-market) and Párang-Párang on the Illana Bay coast there were continually small punitive parties scouring the district here and there. At the former camp I was the guest of the genial Colonel Philip Reade, in command of the 23rd Infantry, when Lieutenant C. R. Lewis was brought in wounded from a Cottabato River sortie. Colonel Reade, whose regiment had had about the roughest work of any in the Island, had certainly inspired his men with the never-know-when-you-are-beaten spirit, for the report of a reverse set them all longing to be the chosen ones for the next party. But up to July, 1905, Datto Ali had been able to elude capture, although General Wood personally conducted operations against him a year before, establishing his headquarters at Cabacsalan, near the Lake Ligusan.
The most ferocious and arrogant Mindanao tribes occupy regions within easy access of the coast. Perhaps their character is due to their having led more adventurous lives by land and sea for generations, plundering the tribes of the interior and making slave raids in their vintas on the northern islands and christian native coast settlements. In the centre of the Island and around the mountainous region of the Apo the tribes are more peaceful and submissive, without desire or means for warfare. Many of the Bagobo tribe (which I have twice visited), in the neighbourhood of Davao, have come down to settle in villages under American protection, paying only an occasional visit to their tribal territory to make a human sacrifice.
In Basílan Island, a dependency of Zamboanga, about 13 miles distant, Datto Pedro Cuevas accepted the new situation, and under his influence peace was assured among the large Moro population of that island. The history of this manʼs career bristles with stirring episodes. Born in 1845, of Tagálog parentage, he started life as a Cavite highwayman, but was captured and deported to the agricultural colony of San Ramón, near Zamboanga, where he, with other convicts, attacked and killed three of the European overseers, and Cuevas escaped to Basílan Island. After innumerable difficulties, involving the conquest of a score of villages, he gained the control of a large number of Yacan Moros and became a sort of chief. Some years afterwards the Moros organized an attack on the Christians at Zamboanga and Isabela de Basílan, and Cuevas offered to save the Spaniards on condition of receiving a full pardon. Two Spaniards were accordingly sent as hostages to Cuevasʼ camp, and after Isabela was freed of the enemy he came to see the Spanish governor. There were several Spaniards present at the interview, and it is related that one of them let slip a phrase implying doubt as to Cuevasʼ worthiness for pardon, whereupon the undaunted chief remarked, “Sir, I thought I had won my liberty, seeing that, but for me, you would not be alive to accord it.” Thenceforth he was always a reliable ally of the Spaniards against Moro incursions. In 1882 Cuevas was opposed by an arrogant Sulu chief, Datto Calun, who challenged him to single combat, and Cuevas having slain his adversary, the tribe of the vanquished warrior, admiring the conquerorʼs valour, proclaimed him their Datto, which title was acknowledged by Datto Aliudi, the claimant to the Sulu Sultanate. On July 6, 1904, his graceful daughter Urang was married, with Mahometan rites, to a twenty-one-year-old Spanish half-caste, Ramón Laracoechea, who was introduced to me by his father, a very pleasant Vizcayan, resident in the Island since 1876. Educated in Manila, the son speaks English, Spanish, Yacano and Joloáno. The festivities lasted for several days, some Americans being among the invited guests. Shortly after this event the Datto, at the age of fifty-nine years, ended his adventurous career in this world, regretted by all. In expectation of the demise of Datto Cuevas, which was anticipated months before, there were three aspirants to the coming vacant dattoship in the persons of the son-in-law, Ramón, Cuevasʼ nephew, and an American of humble origin and scant education who had married a Zamboangueña woman.
In Sulu Island social conditions were most deplorable. Under the Bates Agreement the Moros became turbulent, and even attempted to take Joló town by assault. In August, 1903, General Wood went there, and the Dattos having been invited to meet him, quite a crowd of them came, accompanied by about 600 fighting-men in a splendid fleet of armed vintas (war-canoes). Precautions had to be taken against possible treachery, and a company of troops was brought into the town in readiness for any event. The object of the meeting was to discuss the respective limits of the Dattosʼ spheres, but owing to the haughty, insolent tone of the chiefs, nothing definite was arrived at. When they were invited to state their claims, they arrogantly replied, “We have no information to give. You say you are going to define our limits—well, what have you to tell us? We come to listen, not to talk.” Some chiefs, however, feigned to offer their submission, and all was apparently quiet for a time.
Major Hugh L. Scott (14th Cavalry) was then appointed (in September) to the government of that district. The Sultan being too weak to control his subordinates, many of them rallied their men and independently defied all interference with their old mode of living and rule. The Sultan, not unnaturally, was averse to ceding his sovereign rights to any one, and he and his Dattos obstructed, as far as they could, the Americansʼ endeavours to better the conditions of the people. Every few days a juramentado would enter the town and attack a white man with his bárong in broad daylight. There was nothing furtive in his movements, no hiding under cover to take his victim unawares, but a straight, bold frontal attack. Bárong in hand, a Moro once chased a soldier though the street, upstairs into a billiard-room, and down the other steps, where he was shot dead by a sentinel. At another time a juramentado obtained access into the town by crawling through a drain-pipe, and chased two soldiers until he was killed. Many Americans were wounded in the streets of Joló, but the aggressors were always pursued to death. Petty hostilities, attacks and counter-attacks, the sallies of punitive parties to avenge some violence committed, and the necessity for every individual in the town, civil or military, being armed and always alert, made life there one of continual excitement and emotion.
Panglima Hassan of Sulu (Central figure).
In November, 1903, the attitude of the Dattos became very menacing. Datto Andong actually cut a trench just outside the walled town of Joló as a base of operations against the Americans. It was evident that an important rising of chiefs was contemplated. Major Scott having called upon the biggest chief, Panglima17 Hassan, to present himself and account for the murder of an American survey party, he came with a large force, estimated at about 4,000, well armed, as far as the town walls. He said he wanted to enter the town with a suite of only 700 armed men, including his subordinate Dattos. Finally Major Scott agreed to his entry with 70 warriors, but still the position was threatening with Hassanʼs army in the vicinity. During the interview Panglima Hassan appeared quite friendly; indeed, whilst he and the major were riding together, the chief, perceiving that his host was unarmed, gallantly remarked, “As you are without arms I will relinquish mine also,” and at once took off his bárong and handed it to his attendant. In the meantime Major Scott had sent a request to General Wood for more troops, but the general, who had only just finished his Taraca operations, replied that he would come to Joló himself. Almost simultaneously with his arrival in Zamboanga the general had the satisfaction to receive a message from the Taraca Datto offering his submission, and asking to be judged according to the Koran. On General Woodʼs arrival with troops in Joló a demand was made on Panglima Hassan to surrender. After protracted negotiations and many insolent messages from Hassan, the general led his troops down to Lake Seite, where an engagement took place, leaving 60 dead Moros on the field. Panglima Hassan, pursued from place to place, lost many warriors at every halt, the total being estimated at 400 to 500. Cottas were razed to the ground, and the notorious Panglima Hassan himself was captured on November 14, with a loss, so far, of one soldier killed and five wounded on the American side. Panglima Hassan was being escorted into Joló town by Major Scott and other officers when suddenly the chief, pointing towards a native-built house, begged the major to save his family. Moved by compassion and influenced by Hassanʼs previous friendly attitude, the major generously consented, and as they all approached the entrance, in an instant out rushed the “family”—a mob of armed Moros, who attacked the officers whilst the Panglima made his escape. Poor Major Scott was so badly cut about on his hands that he had to go into hospital for four months, and I noticed that he had had one left-hand finger and two right-hand half-fingers amputated. Unable to handle any kind of weapon, in March, 1904, he led his troops against the cunning Datto, who sent out a large body of fighting-men to meet him. After several attacks were repelled, Panglima Hassan took to flight, his followers all the time decreasing in numbers until, with only 80 men, the chief sought refuge in his cotta at Pang-Pang, the strongest fortress in the Island. Breaches were made in it, and Hassan fled for his life on a swift pony, with only two retainers, to the crater of an extinct volcano, which was quickly surrounded by the Americans. Each time a head appeared above the crater edge a volley was fired, but the wounded chief still bravely held out and hit some soldiers before he died, riddled by bullets, on March 4.
A Mindanao Datto and Suite
Again, in May, 1905, Datto Pala, of Sulu Island, with a large following, threatened Joló town, and General Wood personally led the expedition against this chief. Eight miles from Maybun the Moros had dug pits and placed wires to impede the Americansʼ advance, but, notwithstanding these obstacles, the enemy was vigorously attacked and surrounded near the Maybun Lake, three miles from the town. After several daysʼ desperate fighting the cotta of Lumbo was captured, and the Datto and his men were vanquished, the losses being about seven Americans killed, about 20 wounded, and over 250 Moros killed.
In June, 1904, Datto Ambutong had a dispute with another about the possession of some property, and on Major Scott being appealed to in the matter, he ordered Ambutong to appear before him in Joló for a bichâra (judicial inquiry). The Datto, in a sulky mood, at first refused to come, but on further pressure he changed his mind. Early in the morning of the appointed day a friendly chief, Datto Timbang, came into town with four retainers, all armed, to see the Governor. Major Scott, whose guest I was, kindly invited me to the interview, during which it transpired that Datto Timbang had heard Ambutong declare he would come to the bichâra, but he would not leave it without taking heads. Datto Timbang added that he too desired to attend the bichâra with his bodyguard, resolved to slay Ambutong if he observed any threatening move on his part. The major made no objection, and at the appointed hour four of us—my gallant host, Major Barbour, Captain Charles and myself—went to the bichâra at the Governorʼs office in town. The Governor (i.e., the major) sat at his desk, and we other three took seats just behind him. Before us were the Datto Ambutong, his opponent in the question at issue, and, a yard off him, the friendly Datto Timbang and his followers, each with his hand on his bárong, ready to cut down Ambutong at a stroke if need be. Whilst the case was being heard, Hadji Butu, the Sultanʼs Prime Minister, and Sultan Tattarassa, of Parágua Island, the latter afflicted with locomotor ataxy, came in, saluted us all, and took seats. The business ended, Datto Ambutong rose from his stool, gave his hand to the major, and then walked to the back of him to salute us. I thought I should like to handle the beautiful bárong which was to have served him in taking heads. The Datto complaisantly allowed me to draw it from the sheath and pass it round to my friends. Sharp as a razor, it was the finest weapon of the class I had ever touched. The handle was of carved ivory and Camagon wood (vide p. 314), the whole instrument being valued at quite $100. Datto Timbang was watching, and the occasion was not a propitious one for taking christian blood.
The following translation of a letter which Major Hugh L. Scott courteously gave me will serve to illustrate how lightly human life is appreciated by the Moro.
This letter from your son, His Highness Datto Mohammed Dahiatul Kalbi, to my father, the Governor of Sulu, Major Scott, and to my younger brother, Sali.
I want to inform you that at 7 oʼclock in the morning of Saturday, we had a fight with Tallu. I have taken his head, but if you will allow it, I will bury it, if my father will let me do that, because he is an Islam and I would commit an offence. It scared my wife very much when she looked at the head in my house. Those that are dead were Sadalani, Namla, Muhamad, and Salui. Beyond that I have not investigated.
With greetings to my father and to my younger brother, I beg you, my younger brother, to let me bury the head, if my father does not feel bad about it. If our father should not believe that the head is there, come to our house and see yourself, so to be sure. I would not soil the faith my father has in me. To close I herewith send the kris of Orang Kaya Tallu. The end of the pen. Sunday, February 23, 1904.
Whilst I was in Zamboanga in June, 1904, Datto Pedro Cuevas, of Basílan Island, sent a message over to say that there would be no more trouble with certain pirates who had been caught, as he had cut off their heads.
It would fill a volume to recount the legends of the sharks near Cagayán de Joló which wreck ships; the Moro who heard the voice of Allah rising from a floating cocoanut to urge him to denounce the Sultanʼs evil ways; the new prophet who could point at any object and make it disappear, and a hundred other superstitious extravagances.
Joló, one of the prettiest places on earth, has been improved since the American occupation. Apart from the many new buildings erected for military convenience, there is now a fine jetty with a tramway, a landing-stage for small vessels, a boysʼ and a girlsʼ school, some new residences, etc. The municipality is under the presidency of a military officer, and the clean, orderly aspect of the town is evidence of Anglo-Saxon energy in its administration. In 1904 there was only one drinking-saloon, kept by a Bohemian-born American, who paid $6,000 a year for his monopoly licence. Much to the disgust of the military, a society of well-intentioned temperance ladies in America procured the prohibition of alcohol-selling in military canteens and Post Exchanges. The eastern extremity of Joló is appropriated for military purposes, and on the rising ground is situated the stabling for the cavalry horses. There is a large military hospital, well appointed, and a club-house for whites, overlooking the picturesque harbour. Outside the town walls towards the west the dwellings of natives, chiefly from other islands in their origin, extend about a mile as far as Tulay, where the Sultan has a residence. On the way one passes through the little square, in the centre of which stands a monument erected to commemorate the landing here of Gov.-General Corcuera, April 17, 1638. During my last visit to Joló I called upon His Highness the Sultan at Tulay, accompanied by the civil interpreter, Mr. J. Schück, whose late father I had known many years before. Tulay signifies bridge in Tagálog, and probably this place derives its name from the bridge spanning the rivulet, which forms a natural division between this village and the Joló ex-mural western suburb. Just across the bridge, in most unattractive surroundings, stands a roofed rough pile of wooden planks—the residence of the Sultan. At a few paces to the left of it one sees another gloomy structure, smaller and more cheerless than the royal abode—it is the domicile of Hadji Butu, the Sultanʼs Prime Minister.
Passing through the ground-floor, which serves as a vestibule and storehouse for nondescript rubbish, I was met by several armed Moros who conducted me up a dark staircase, the lid of which, at the top, was raised to admit me to the royal presence. His Highness, the Majasari Hadji Mohammad Jamalul Kiram, reclining on a cane-bottomed sofa, graciously smiled, and extending his hand towards me, motioned to me to take the chair in front of him, whilst Mr. Schück sat on the sofa beside the Sultan. His Highness is about thirty-six years of age, short, thick set, wearing a slight moustache and his hair cropped very close. With a cotton sárong around his loins, the nakedness of his body down to the waist was only covered by jábul thrown loosely over him. Having explained that I was desirous of paying my respects to the son of the great Sultan whose hospitality I had enjoyed years ago at Maybun, I was offered a cigar and the conversation commenced. Just at that moment came the Prime Minister, who spoke a little English, and at the back of me, facing the Sultan, stood his trusted warriors in semi-circle, attired in fantastic garments and armed to the teeth. From time to time a dependent would come, bend the knee on the royal footstool and present the buyo box, or a message, or whatever His Highness called for. The footstool attracted my curiosity, and my eye was fixed on it for a while until I could decipher the lettering, which was upside down. At last I made it out—“Van Houtenʼs Cocoa.” The audience-chamber needs no minute description; it can be all summed up in bare boards, boxes, bundles, weapons, dirt, a dilapidated writing-desk, a couple of old chairs, and the Sultanʼs sofa-seat. Of course the Sultan had a grievance. The Americans, he said, had appropriated his pearl-fisheries, his tribute-money, and other sources of valuable income; they were diverting the taxes payable to him into their own coffers, with detriment to his estate and his dignity as a ruler.19 The questions in dispute and his position generally were, he added, to be discussed between him and the Insular Government in Manila in the following month. Naturally, the study of the man and his surroundings interested me far more than conversation on a subject which was not my business. Speaking with warmth, at every gesture the jábul would slide down to his waist, exposing his bare breast, so that perhaps I saw more of the Majasari than is the privilege of most European visitors. On leave-taking His Highness graciously presented me with a handsome Moro dress-sword and a betel-cutter set in a solid silver handle, and, in return, I sent him my portrait from Manila.
Exactly a month after my visit, the Sultan, accompanied by Major Scott, the Governor and Commander of Joló, came and made a short stay in Manila, where he was conducted around town and to the presence of the authorities. Many valuable presents were officially made to him, together with ₱5,000 pocket-money to console him for the postponement sine die of the “settlement” question. Driving round in wagonettes, his retinue saw the sights of the capital and made their purchases, but the Sultan himself was strictly guarded from pressmen and others who might give local publicity to his claims.
Americaʼs policy with regard to the Sultan of Sulu and all other Sultans and Dattos, as expounded to me by the best American authorities, is as clear as crystal. They wish all these petty potentates were elsewhere; but as that cannot be, they must be shorn of all power, princely dignity being out of harmony with American institutions. Nevertheless, they can call themselves what they like among their own people, provided that in their relations with the Government of the Islands they are to be simple citizens with dominion over their own personal property, but not over that of others. There is to be no sovereign power, great or small, other than American, and tribal wards are to supersede dattoships. The Dattos are more numerous than Continental barons, and of varying grades, from the Panglima Hassan type, possessor of fortresses, commander of 5,000 men, down to the titular lord of four score acres who lounges in the village, in filthy raiment, closely followed by two juveniles, the one carrying his bright metal buyo box, in case he needs a quid, and the other the bearer of the bárong, lest he must assert his dignity by force. America has decreed that from these and all their compeers the Philippines are to be preserved.
In November, 1903, the District Governor of Zamboanga summoned the Manguiguin, or Sultan of Mindanao , and all the Dattos in his district to attend a durbar. The aged Sultan very reluctantly responded to the call, and, accompanied by his Prime Minister, Datto Ducalat, and a large retinue, the royal party came in about 250 armed vintas. When they were within a few miles of the port they sent a message to ask if they would be allowed to salute with their lantacas, and the reply being in the affirmative, they entered the harbour with great éclat, amidst the booming of a hundred cannon. Interpreters put off to meet them and escorted them to the landing-stage, where the District Governor waited to receive them. The Sultan wore a gorgeous turban, a royal sárong worked in thread of gold, and shoes with similar adornments. On landing, the old prince, trembling from top to toe, with despairing glance clutched the arm of the Governor for protection. Never before had he seen the great city of Zamboanga; he was overcome and terrified by its comparative grandeur, and possibly by the imposing figure of the six-foot Governor himself. The police had to be called out to restrain the mobs who watched his arrival. On the other hand, as the Sultans, the Dattos and their suites together numbered about 600, and from other places by land about 400 more had come, all armed, many of the townspeople, with traditional dread, shut themselves up in their houses, believing that such a vast assemblage of Moros might, at any moment, commence a general massacre. It is well known that the question of public security did engage the attention of the American authorities, for the gathering was indeed a formidable one, and at the moment General Wood was in Sulu Island, leading his troops against Panglima Hassan. All the available forces were therefore held in readiness to meet any emergency. With faltering footsteps and shaking like an aspen leaf, the Manguiguin, followed by his Dattos, approached the double lines of soldiers with fixed bayonets stationed on the quay. There was a pause; the Sultan, who in his youthful days had known no fear, now realized the folly of walking into the jaws of death. But the Governor assured him, through the interpreters, that he was doing him the greatest honour that could be rendered to any prince or to the great president of the greatest republic. Only half convinced and full of suspicion, the Sultan walked on in a daze, as though he were going to his last doom. Having emerged safely from this peril, the great durbar was held, and lasted some hours. This was followed by a reception at the Army and Navy Club, where a throne was erected under a canopy for the Sultan, with seats of honour around it for the chief Dattos. The reception over, the royal party was conducted to where waggons and teams awaited them to take them to a suburb at the foothills of the great sierra. The Governor purposely had the biggest American horses and the largest vehicles brought out to make an impression. The Sultan point blank refused to enter the waggon. He had run the gauntlet through rows of pointed steel, and now new horrors awaited him. Perfectly bewildered at the sight of such enormous animals, he turned piteously to his Prime Minister and invited him to lead the way. “I will follow your Highness,” the minister discreetly replied, but the muscular Governor, Captain John P. Finley, ended the palaver by gently lifting the Sultan into the vehicle, whilst he himself immediately entered it, and the timorous Prime Minister and suite summoned up courage to follow. During the drive the Governor gave the word to the teamsters to detach the forecarriages on reaching the foothills and let the teams go. To the great amazement of the Moro chiefs, the waggons suddenly became stationary, whilst the released horses galloped on ahead! The Sultan and his suite glanced at each other speechless with fright. Surely now their last day had come! So this was the trick treacherously prepared for them to segregate them from their fighting-men! But the teams were caught again, and the waggons brought them safely back to the sight of the port and the vintas. Allah had turned the hearts of the great white men and rescued his chosen people in the hour of imminent danger. The durbar was continued day by day until every point had been discussed. Meanwhile the Sultan and suite daily returned to their vintas afloat to eat, drink, and sleep, whilst in the town of Zamboanga the christian natives quaked, and crowds of Moros perambulated the streets in rich and picturesque costumes, varying in design according to the usage of their tribes. Before the departure of the royal visitor the troops were formed up, military evolutions were performed with clockwork precision, and volley after volley was fired in the air. The Sultan declared he could never receive the Governor with such splendour, but he wanted him to promise to return his visit. It was not politic, however, to agree to do so. And the Sultan and his people left, passing once more through lines of troops with bayonets fixed, this time with a firmer step than when they landed, thanking the Great Prophet for their happy deliverance from what had appeared to them a dreamland of dreadful novelty.
The Manguiguin of Mindanao was indeed “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” for in the days of his decrepitude he was jilted by the widow of Utto, the once celebrated Cottabato Datto, the idol of the Christian-haters.
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