Almost all our clothing is knitted and woven by our wives; the abaca, or vegetable silk, from the forest supplies us the thread that is necessary; we do not know what money is, we do not require any. Here there is no ambition; each one is certain of not suffering from hunger. From time to time strangers come to visit us.
Finally, the body is wrapped in a mat and is buried in the forest. Maxey gives the following account of burial near Cateel: "The dead person is dressed in his best clothes, wrapped in a piece of abaca cloth, and placed in a coffin of bamboo poles, or one hewn from a solid log, if the person was one of means, and buried.
As an example, at the unloading of a ship in Iloilo, many were brought together at one time, induced by the small rise of wages from one to one and one-half reales; even more hands than could be employed. The Belgian consul, too, reports that in the provinces where the abacá grows the whole of the male population is engaged in its cultivation, in consequence of a small rise of wages.
With the exception of a little ship-building, hardly any other pursuit than weaving is carried on; the loom is rarely wanting in a household. Guinara, i.e., stuff made of the abacá, is manufactured, as well as also some piña, or figured silk stuffs, the silk being brought from Manila, and of Chinese origin. All these fabrics are made in private homes; there are no factories.
We Filipinos, also, split the fiber and weave it into many kinds of cloth. Sometimes we mix silk or cotton with the abacá hemp." "I am sure our friend would like to learn about sugar," remarked Fil, who had a sweet tooth for candy. Fil's father took up this part of the story, and said: "Sugar of course comes from a sweet cane, which is grown on high land. The cane is cut down.
The cultivation of rice in Leyte is conducted as in Samar, but it has given way to the cultivation of abacá; the governors, while they were allowed to trade, compelled the natives to devote a part of their fields and of their labor to it. Should a peasant be in arrears, it is the prevalent custom in the country for him to pay to the dealer double the balance remaining due at the next harvest.
"The manila hemp, or abacá plant, is a nearer cousin of the banana palm. You cannot make a sail or tie up a bag of potatoes, without using our manila hemp, or abacá. It is the strongest fiber known; it does not weaken in water. The great hawsers that are used to pull the great ships, are made out of it. It all comes from the leaf of this Philippine palm."
The natives irrigate their estates, and produce tobacco, coffee, sugar cane, and wheat. Manufactures consist in fabrics of abaca and canonegro, of which boat cables are made. The interior of the island, covered with thick forests, is almost unexplored, being inhabited by a few savages.
"Nature is always useful, as well as grand and beautiful," remarked Fil's father, who, dressed in a white silk suit and abacá hat, had just then come up the path. "Where did you get that hat?" I laughingly asked Fil's father. "I'll tell you some other time. It is made from reeds, woven under water to keep them damp and pliant. The hat, therefore, is light, durable, and cool," he replied.
Inside this partition a Filipina servant worked the señora's loom. Back and forth went the shuttle under the little maid's deft fingers, and up and down went her slender bare foot on the treadle, so that even as we watched the striped red and cream abaca grew under our very eyes.