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June 22, 1686


When we came aboard our ship again we steered away for the island Mindanao, which was now fair in sight of us: it being about 10 leagues distant from this part of St. John’s. The 22nd day we came within a league of the east side of the island Mindanao and having the wind at south-east we steered toward the north end, keeping on the east side till we came into the latitude of 7 degrees 40 minutes, and there we anchored in a small bay, about a mile from the shore in 10 fathom water, rocky foul ground.


Some of our books gave us an account that Mindanao City and Isle lies in 7 degrees 40 minutes. We guessed that the middle of the island might lie in this latitude but we were at a great loss where to find the city, whether on the east or west side. Indeed, had it been a small island lying open in the eastern wind we might probably have searched first on the west side; for commonly the islands within the tropics, or within the bounds of the trade-winds, have their harbours on the west side, as best sheltered; but the island Mindanao being guarded on the east side by St. John’s Island we might as reasonably expect to find the harbour and city on this side as anywhere else: but, coming into the latitude in which we judged the city might be, found no canoes or people that might give us any umbrage of a city or place of trade near at hand, though we coasted within a league of the shore.


The island Mindanao is the biggest of all the Philippine Islands except Luconia. It is about 60 leagues long and 40 or 50 broad. The south end is in about 5 degrees north and the north-west end reaches almost to 8 degrees north. It is a very mountainous island, full of hills and valleys. The mould in general is deep and black and extraordinary fat and fruitful. The sides of the hills are stony yet productive enough of very large tall trees. In the heart of the country there are some mountains that yield good gold. The valleys are well moistened with pleasant brooks and small rivers of delicate water; and have trees of divers sorts flourishing and green all the year. The trees in general are very large, and most of them are of kinds unknown to us.


There is one sort which deserves particular notice; called by the natives libby-trees. These grow wild in great groves of 5 or 6 miles long by the sides of the rivers. Of these trees sago is made, which the poor country people eat instead of bread 3 or 4 months in the year. This tree for its body and shape is much like the palmetto-tree or the cabbage-tree, but not so tall as the latter. The bark and wood is hard and thin like a shell, and full of white pith like the pith of an elder. This tree they cut down and split it in the middle and scrape out all the pith; which they beat lustily with a wooden pestle in a great mortar or trough, and then put it into a cloth or strainer held over a trough; and, pouring water in among the pith, they stir it about in the cloth: so the water carries all the substance of the pith through the cloth down into the trough, leaving nothing in the cloth but a light sort of husk which they throw away; but that which falls into the trough settles in a short time to the bottom like mud; and then they draw off the water, and take up the muddy substance, wherewith they make cakes; which being baked proves very good bread.

The Mindanao people live 3 or 4 months of the year on this food for their bread-kind. The native Indians of Ternate and Tidore and all the Spice Islands have plenty of these trees, and use them for food in the same manner; as I have been informed by Mr. Caril Rofy who is now commander of one of the king’s ships. He was one of our company at this time; and, being left with Captain Swan at Mindanao, went afterwards to Ternate and lived there among the Dutch a year or two. The sago which is transported into other parts of the East Indies is dried in small pieces like little seeds or comfits and commonly eaten with milk of almonds by those that are troubled with the flux; for it is a great binder and very good in that distemper.

In some places of Mindanao there is plenty of rice; but in the hilly land they plant yams, potatoes, and pumpkins; all which thrive very well. The other fruits of this island are watermelons, musk-melons, plantains, bananas, guavas, nutmegs, cloves, betel-nuts, Durians, jacks, or jacas, coconuts, oranges, etc.


The plantain I take to be the king of all fruit, not except the coco itself. The tree that bears this fruit is about 3 foot or 3 foot and a half round, and about 10 or 12 foot high. These trees are not raised from seed (for they seem not to have any) but from the roots of other old trees. If these young suckers are taken out of the ground and planted in another place it will be 15 months before they bear, but if let stand in their own native soil they will bear in 12 months. As soon as the fruit is ripe the tree decays, but then there are many young ones growing up to supply its place. When this tree first springs out of the ground it comes up with two leaves; and by that time it is a foot high two more spring up in the inside of them; and in a short time after two more within them; and so on. By that time the tree is a month old you may perceive a small body almost as big as one’s arm, and then there are eight or ten leaves, some of them four or five foot high. The first leaves that it shoots forth are not above a foot long and half a foot broad; and the stem that bears them no bigger than one’s finger; but as the tree grows higher the leaves are larger. As the young leaves spring up in the inside so the old leaves spread off, and their tops droop downward, being of a greater length and breadth by how much they are nearer the root, and at last decay and rot off, but still there are young leaves spring up out of the top, which makes the tree look always green and flourishing. When the tree is full grown the leaves are 7 or 8 foot long and a foot and a half broad; towards the end they are smaller and end with a round point. The stem of the leaf is as big as a man’s arm, almost round, and about a foot in length between the leaf and the body of the tree. That part of the stem which comes from the tree, if it be the outside leaf, seems to enclose half the body as it were with a thick hide; and right against it on the other side of the tree is another such answering to it. The next two leaves in the inside of these grow opposite to each other in the same manner, but so that, if the two outward grow north and south, these grow east and west, and those still within them keep the same order. Thus the body of this tree seems to be made up of many thick skins growing one over another, and when it is full grown there springs out of the top a strong stem, harder in substance than any other part of the body. This stem shoots forth at the heart of the tree, is as big as a man’s arm, and as long; and the fruit grows in clusters round it, first blossoming and then shooting forth the fruit. It is so excellent that the Spaniards give it the preeminence of all other fruit, as most conducing to life. It grows in a cod about 6 or 7 inches long and as big as a man’s arm. The shell, rind, or cod, is soft and of a yellow colour when ripe. It resembles in shape a hog’s-gut pudding. The enclosed fruit is no harder than butter in winter, and is much of the colour of the purest yellow butter. It is of a delicate taste and melts in one’s mouth like marmalet. It is all pure pulp, without any seed, kernel or stone. This fruit is so much esteemed by all Europeans that settle in America that when they make a new plantation they commonly begin with a good plantain-walk, as they call it, or a field of plantains; and as their family increases so they augment the plantain-walk, keeping one man purposely to prune the trees and gather the fruit as he sees convenient. For the trees continue bearing, some or other, most part of the year; and this is many times the whole food on which a whole family subsists. They thrive only in rich fat ground, for poor sandy will not bear them. The Spaniards in their towns in America, as at Havana, Cartagena, Portobello, etc., have their markets full of plantains, it being the common food for poor people: their common price is half a rial, or 3 pence a dozen. When this fruit is only used for bread it is roasted or boiled when it’s just full grown but not yet ripe, or turned yellow. Poor people, or Negroes, that have neither fish nor flesh to eat with it, make sauce with cod-pepper, salt and lime-juice, which makes it eat very savoury; much better than a crust of bread alone. Sometimes for a change they eat a roasted plantain and a ripe raw plaintain together, which is instead of bread and butter. They eat very pleasant so, and I have made many a good meal in this manner. Sometimes our English take 5 or 7 ripe plantains and, mashing them together, make them into a lump, and boil them instead of a bag-pudding; which they call a buff-jacket: and this is a very good way for a change. This fruit makes also very good tarts; and the green plantains sliced thin and dried in the sun and grated will make a sort of flour which is very good to make puddings. A ripe plantain sliced and dried in the sun may be preserved a great while; and then eat like figs, very sweet and pleasant. The Darien Indians preserve them a long time by drying them gently over the fire; mashing them first and moulding them into lumps. The Moskito Indians will take a ripe plantain and roast it; then take a pint and a half of water in a calabash and squeeze the plantain in pieces with their hands, mixing it with the water; then they drink it all off together: this they call mishlaw, and it’s pleasant and sweet and nourishing: somewhat like lamb’s-wool (as it is called) made with apples and ale: and of this fruit alone many thousand of Indian families in the West Indies have their whole subsistence. When they make drink with them they take 10 or 12 ripe plantains and mash them well in a trough: then they put 2 gallons of water among them; and this in 2 hours’ time will ferment and froth like wort. In 4 hours it is fit to drink and then they bottle it and drink it as they have occasion: but this will not keep above 24 or 30 hours. Those therefore that use this drink brew it in this manner every morning. When I went first to Jamaica I could relish no other drink they had there. It drinks brisk and cool and is very pleasant. This drink is windy, and so is the fruit eaten raw; but boiled or roasted it is not so. If this drink is kept above 30 hours it grows sharp: but if then it be put out in the sun it will become very good vinegar. This fruit grows all over the West Indies (in the proper climates) at Guinea, and in the East Indies.

As the fruit of this tree is of great use for food so is the body no less serviceable to make clothes; but this I never knew till I came to this island. The ordinary people of Mindanao do wear no other cloth. The tree never bearing but once, and so, being felled when the fruit is ripe, they cut it down close by the ground if they intend to make cloth with it. One blow with a hatchet or long knife will strike it asunder; then they cut off the top, leaving the trunk 8 or 10 foot long, stripping off the outer rind, which is thickest towards the lower end, having stripped 2 or 3 of these rinds, the trunk becomes in a manner all of one bigness, and of a whitish colour: then they split the trunk in the middle; which being done they split the two halves again as near the middle as they can. This they leave in the sun 2 or 3 days, in which time part of the juicy substance of the tree dries away, and then the ends will appear full of small threads. The women, whose employment it is to make the cloth, take hold of those threads one by one, which rend away easily from one end of the trunk to the other, in bigness like whited-brown thread; for the threads are naturally of a determinate bigness, as I observed their cloth to be all of one substance and equal fineness; but it is stubborn when new, wears out soon, and when wet feels a little slimy. They make their pieces 7 or 8 yards long, their warp and woof all one thickness and substance.


There is another sort of plantains in that island which are shorter and less than the others, which I never saw anywhere but here. These are full of black seeds mixed quite through the fruit. They are binding and are much eaten by those that have fluxes. The country people gave them us for that use and with good success.


The banana-tree is exactly like the plantain for shape and bigness, not easily distinguishable from it but by its fruit, which is a great deal smaller and not above half so long as a plantain, being also more mellow and soft, less luscious yet of a more delicate taste. They use this for the making drink oftener than plantains, and it is best when used for drink, or eaten as fruit; but it is not so good for bread, nor does it eat well at all when roasted or boiled; so it is only necessity that makes any use it this way. They grow generally where plantains do, being set intermixed with them purposely in their plantain-walks.


They have plenty of clove-bark, of which I saw a shipload; and as for cloves, Raja Laut, whom I shall have occasion to mention, told me that if the English would settle there they could order matters so in a little time as to send a shipload of cloves from thence every year. I have been informed that they grow on the boughs of a tree about as big as a plum-tree but I never happened to see any of them.

I have not seen the nutmeg-trees anywhere; but the nutmegs this island produces are fair and large, yet they have no great store of them, being unwilling to propagate them or the cloves, for fear that should invite the Dutch to visit them and bring them into subjection as they have done the rest of the neighbouring islands where they grow. For the Dutch, being seated among the Spice Islands, have monopolised all the trade into their own hands and will not suffer any of the natives to dispose of it but to themselves alone. Nay, they are so careful to preserve it in their own hands that they will not suffer the spice to grow in the uninhabited islands, but send soldiers to cut the trees down. Captain Rofy told me that while he lived with the Dutch he was sent with other men to cut down the spice-trees; and that he himself did at several times cut down 7 or 800 trees. Yet although the Dutch take such care to destroy them there are many uninhabited islands that have great plenty of spice-trees, as I have been informed by Dutchmen that have been there, particularly by a captain of a Dutch ship that I met with at Achin who told me that near the island Banda there is an island where the cloves, falling from the trees, do lie and rot on the ground, and they are at the time when the fruit falls 3 or 4 inches thick under the trees. He and some others told me that it would not be a hard matter for an English vessel to purchase a ship’s cargo of spice of the natives of some of these Spice Islands.

He was a free merchant that told me this. For by that name the Dutch and English in the East Indies distinguish those merchants who are not servants to the company. The free merchants are not suffered to trade to the Spice Islands nor to many other places where the Dutch have factories; but on the other hand they are suffered to trade to some places where the Dutch Company themselves may not trade, as to Achin particularly, for there are some princes in the Indies who will not trade with the Company for fear of them. The seamen that go to the Spice
Islands are obliged to bring no spice from thence for themselves except a small matter for their own use, about a pound or two. Yet the masters of those ships do commonly so order their business that they often secure a good quantity and send it ashore to some place near Batavia before they come into that harbour (for it is always brought thither first before it’s sent to Europe) and if they meet any vessel at sea that will buy their cloves they will sell 10 or 15 tuns out of 100, and yet seemingly carry their complement to Batavia; for they will pour water among the remaining part of their cargo, which will swell them to that degree that the ship’s hold will be as full again as it was before any were sold. This trick they use whenever they dispose of any clandestinely; for the cloves when they first take them in are extraordinary dry, and so will imbibe a great deal of moisture. This is but one instance of many hundreds of little deceitful arts the Dutch seamen have in these parts among them, of which I have both seen and heard several. I believe there are nowhere greater thieves; and nothing will persuade them to discover one another; for should any do it the rest would certainly knock him on the head. But to return to the products of Mindanao.


The betel-nut is much esteemed here, as it is in most places of the East Indies. The betel-tree grows like the cabbage-tree, but it is not so big nor so high. The body grows straight, about 12 or 14 foot high without leaf or branch except at the head. There it spreads forth long branches like other trees of the like nature, as the cabbage-tree, the coconut-tree, and the palm. These branches are about 10 or 12 foot long, and their stems near the head of the tree as big as a man’s arm. On the top of the tree among the branches the betel-nut grows on a tough stem as big as a man’s finger, in clusters much as the coconuts do, and they grow 40 or 50 in a cluster. This fruit is bigger than a nutmeg and is much like it but rounder. It is much used all over the East Indies. Their way is to cut it in four pieces, and wrap one of them up in an arek-leaf which they spread with a soft paste made of lime or plaster, and then chew it altogether. Every man in these parts carries his lime-box by his side and, dipping his finger into it, spreads his betel and arek-leaf with it. The arek is a small tree or shrub, of a green bark, and the leaf is long and broader than a willow. They are packed up to sell into parts that have them not, to chew with the betel. The betel-nut is most esteemed when it is young and before it grows hard, and then they cut it only in two pieces with the green husk or shell on it. It is then exceeding juicy and therefore makes them spit much. It tastes rough in the mouth and dyes the lips red, and makes the teeth black, but it preserves them, and cleanses the gums. It is also accounted very wholesome for the stomach; but sometimes it will cause great giddiness in the head of those that are not used to chew it. But this is the effect only of the old nut for the young nuts will not do it. I speak of my own experience.


This island produces also durians and jacks. The trees that bear the durians are as big as apple-trees, full of boughs. The rind is thick and rough; the fruit is so large that they grow only about the bodies or on the limbs near the body, like the cocoa. The fruit is about the bigness of a large pumpkin, covered with a thick green rough rind. When it is ripe the rind begins to turn yellow but it is not fit to eat till it opens at the top. Then the fruit in the inside is ripe and sends forth an
excellent scent. When the rind is opened the fruit may be split into four quarters; each quarter has several small cells that enclose a certain quantity of the fruit according to the bigness of the cell, for some are larger than others. The largest of the fruit may be as big as a pullet’s egg. It is as white as milk and as soft as cream, and the taste very delicious as those that are accustomed to them; but those who have not been used to eat them will dislike them at first because they smell like roasted onions. This fruit must be eaten in its prime (for there is no eating of it before it is ripe) and even then it will not keep above a day or two before it putrefies and turns black, or of a dark colour, and then it is not good. Within the fruit there is a stone as big as a small bean, which has a thin shell over it. Those that are minded to eat the stones or nuts roast them, and then a thin shell comes off, which encloses the nut; and it eats like a chestnut.

The jack or jaca is much like the durian both in bigness and shape. The trees that bear them also are much alike, and so is their manner of the fruits growing. But the inside is different; for the fruit of the durian is white, that of the jack is yellow, and fuller of stones. The durian is most esteemed; yet the jack is a very pleasant fruit and the stones or kernels are good roasted.

There are many other sorts of grain, roots, and fruits in this island, which to give a particular description of would fill up a large volume.


In this island are also many sorts of beasts, both wild and tame; as horses, bulls, and cows, buffaloes, goats, wild hogs, deer, monkeys, iguanas, lizards, snakes, etc. I never saw or heard of any beasts of prey here, as in many other places. The hogs are ugly creatures; they have all great knobs growing over their eyes, and there are multitudes of them in the woods. They are commonly very poor, yet sweet. Deer are here very plentiful in some places where they are not disturbed.


Of the venomous kind of creatures here are scorpions, whose sting is in their tail; and centipedes, called by the English 40-legs, both which are also common in the West Indies, in Jamaica, and elsewhere. These centipedes are 4 or 5 inches long, as big as a goose-quill but flattish; of a dun or reddish colour on the back, but belly whitish, and full of legs on each side the belly. Their sting or bite is more raging than the scorpion. They lie in old houses and dry timber. There are several sorts of snakes, some very poisonous. There is another sort of creature like an iguana both in colour and shape but four times as big, whose tongue is like a small harpoon, having two beards like the beards of a fish-hook. They are said to be very venomous, but I know not their names. I have seen them in other places also, as at Pulo Condore, or the island Condore, and at Achin, and have been told that they are in the Bay of Bengal.


The fowls of this country are ducks and hens: other tame fowl I have not seen nor heard of any. The wild fowl are pigeons, parrots, parakeets, turtle-doves, and abundance of small fowls. There are bats as big as a kite.

There are a great many harbours, creeks, and good bays for ships to ride in; and rivers navigable for canoes, proas or barks, which are all plentifully stored with fish of divers sorts, so is also the adjacent sea. The chiefest fish are boneta, snook, cavally, bream, mullet, 10-pounder, etc. Here are also plenty of sea-turtle, and small manatee which are not near so big as those in the West Indies. The biggest that I saw would not weigh above 600 pound; but the flesh both of the turtle and manatee are very sweet.


The weather at Mindanao is temperate enough as to heat for all it lies so near the Equator; and especially on the borders near the sea. There they commonly enjoy the breezes by day and cooling land-winds at night. The winds are easterly one part of the year and westerly the other. The easterly winds begin to blow in October and it is the middle of November before they are settled. These winds bring fair weather. The westerly winds begin to blow in May but are not settled till a month afterwards. The west winds always bring rain, tornadoes, and very tempestuous weather. At the first coming in of these winds they blow but faintly; but then the tornadoes rise one in a day, sometimes two. These are thunder-showers which commonly come against the wind, bringing with them a contrary wind to what did blow before. After the tornadoes are over the wind shifts about again and the sky becomes clear, yet then in the valleys and the sides of the mountains there rises thick fog which covers the land. The tornadoes continue thus for a week or more; then they come thicker, two or three in a day, bringing violent gusts of wind and terrible claps of thunder. At last they come so fast that the wind remains in the quarter from whence these tornadoes do rise, which is out of the west, and there it settles till October or November. When these westward winds are thus settled the sky is all in mourning, being covered with black clouds, pouring down excessive rains sometimes mixed with thunder and lightning, that nothing can be more dismal. The winds raging to that degree that the biggest trees are torn up by the roots and the rivers swell and overflow their banks and drown the low land, carrying great trees into the sea. Thus it continues sometimes a week together before the sun or stars appear. The fiercest of this weather is in the latter end of July and in August, for then the towns seem to stand in a great pond, and they go from one house to another in canoes. At this time the water carries away all the filth and nastiness from under their houses. Whilst this tempestuous season lasts the weather is cold and chilly. In September the weather is more moderate, and the winds are not so fierce, nor the rain so violent. The air thenceforward begins to be more clear and delightsome; but then in the morning there are thick fogs continuing till 10 or 11 o’clock before the sun shines out, especially when it has rained in the night. In October the easterly winds begin to blow again and bring fair weather till April. Thus much concerning the natural state of Mindanao.



This island is not subject to one prince, neither is the language one and the same; but the people are much alike in colour, strength, and stature. They are all or most of them of one religion, which is Mohammedanism, and their customs and manner of living are alike. The Mindanao people, more particularly so called, are the greatest nation in the island and, trading by sea with other nations, they are therefore the more civil. I shall say but little of the rest, being less known to me but, so much as has come to my knowledge, take as follows.


There are besides the Mindanayans, the Hilanoones (as they call them) or the Mountaineers, the Sologues and Alfoores.

The Hilanoones live in the heart of the country: they have little or no commerce by sea, yet they have proas that row with 12 or 14 oars apiece. They enjoy the benefit of the gold-mines and with their gold buy foreign commodities of the Mindanao people. They have also plenty of beeswax which they exchange for other commodities.

The Sologues inhabit the north-west end of the island. They are the least nation of all; they trade to Manila in proas and to some of the neighbouring islands but have no commerce with the Mindanao people.

The Alfoores are the same with the Mindanayans and were formerly under the subjection of the sultan of Mindanao, but were divided between the sultan’s children, and have of late had a sultan of their own; but having by marriage contracted an alliance with the sultan of Mindanao this has occasioned that prince to claim them again as his subjects; and he made war with them a little after we went away, as I afterwards understood.


The Mindanayans properly so-called are men of mean statures; small limbs, straight bodies, and little heads. Their faces are oval, their foreheads flat, with black small eyes, short low noses, pretty large mouths; their lips thin and red, their teeth black, yet very sound, their hair black and straight, the colour of their skin tawny but inclining to a brighter yellow than some other Indians, especially the women. They have a custom to wear their thumb-nails very long, especially that on their left thumb, for they do never cut it but scrape it often. They are endued with good natural wits, are ingenious, nimble, and active, when they are minded but generally very lazy and thievish, and will not work except forced by hunger. This laziness is natural to most Indians; but these people’s laziness seems rather to proceed and so much from their natural inclinations, as from the severity of their prince of whom they stand in awe: for he, dealing with them very arbitrarily, and taking from them what they get, this damps their industry, so they never strive to have anything but from hand to mouth. They are generally proud and walk very stately. They are civil enough to strangers and will easily be acquainted with them and entertain them with great freedom; but they are implacable to their enemies and very revengeful if they are injured, frequently poisoning secretly those that have affronted them.

They wear but few clothes; their heads are circled with a short turban, fringed or laced at both ends; it goes once about the head, and is tied in a knot, the laced ends hanging down. They wear frocks and breeches, but no stockings nor shoes.


The women are fairer than the men; and their hair is black and long; which they tie in a knot that hangs back in their poles. They are more round-visaged than the men and generally well-featured; only their noses are very small and so low between their eyes that in some of the female children the rising that should be between the eyes is scarce discernible; neither is there any sensible rising in their foreheads. At a distance they appear very well; but being nigh these impediments are very obvious. They have very small limbs. They wear but two garments; a frock and a sort of petticoat; the petticoat is only a piece of cloth, sowed both ends together: but it is made two foot too big for their waists, so that they may wear either end uppermost: that part that comes up to their waist, because it is so much too big, they gather it in their hands and twist it till it fits close to their waists, tucking in the twisted part between their waist and the edge of the petticoat, which keeps it close. The frock fits loose about them and reaches down a little below the waist. The sleeves are a great deal longer than their arms and so small at the end that their hands will scarce go through. Being on, the sleeve fits in folds about the wrist, wherein they take great pride.

The better sort of people have their garments made of long cloth; but the ordinary sort wear cloth made of plantain-tree which they call saggen, by which name they call the plantain. They have neither stocking or shoe, and the women have very small feet.

The women are very desirous of the company of strangers, especially of white men; and doubtless would be very familiar if the custom of the country did not debar them from that freedom, which seems coveted by them. Yet from the highest to the lowest they are allowed liberty to converse with or treat strangers in the sight of their husbands.


There is a kind of begging custom at Mindanao that I have not met elsewhere with in all my travels; and which I believe is owing to the little trade they have; which is thus: when strangers arrive here the Mindanao men will come aboard and invite them to their houses and inquire who has a comrade (which word I believe they have from the Spaniards) or a pagally, and who has not. A comrade is a familiar male friend; a pagally is an innocent platonic friend of the other sex. All strangers are in a manner obliged to accept of this acquaintance and familiarity, which must be first purchased with a small present and afterwards confirmed with some gift or other to continue the acquaintance: and as
often as the stranger goes ashore he is welcome to his comrade or pagally’s house, where he may be entertained for his money, to eat, drink, or sleep; and complimented as often as he comes ashore with tobacco and betel-nut, which is all the entertainment he must expect gratis. The richest men’s wives are allowed the freedom to converse with her pagally in public, and may give or receive presents from him. Even the sultans and the generals wives, who are always cooped up, will yet look out of their cages when a stranger passes by and demand of him if he wants a pagally: and, to invite him to their friendship, will send a present of tobacco and betel-nut to him by their servants.


The chiefest city on this island is called by the same name of Mindanao. It is seated on the south side of the island, in latitude 7 degrees 20 minutes north on the banks of a small river, about two mile from the sea. The manner of building is somewhat strange yet generally used in this part of the East Indies. Their houses are all built on posts about 14, 16, 18, or 20 foot high. These posts are bigger or less according to the intended magnificence of the superstructure. They have but one floor but many partitions or rooms, and a ladder or stairs to go up out of the streets. The roof is large and covered with palmetto or palm-leaves. So
there is a clear passage like a piazza (but a filthy one) under the house. Some of the poorer people that keep ducks or hens have a fence made round the posts of their houses with a door to go in and out; and this under-room serves for no other use. Some use this place for the common draught of their houses but, building mostly close by the river in all parts of the Indies, they make the river receive all the filth of their house; and at the time of the land-floods all is washed very clean.

The sultan’s house is much bigger than any of the rest. It stands on about 180 great posts or trees a great deal higher than the common building, with great broad stairs made to go up. In the first room he has about 20 iron guns, all Saker and Minion, placed on field-carriages. The general and other great men have some guns also in their houses. About 20 paces from the sultan’s house there is a small low house built purposely for the reception of ambassadors or merchant strangers. This also stands on posts but the floor is not raised above three or four foot above the ground, and is neatly matted purposely for the sultan and his council to sit on; for they use no chairs but sit cross-legged like tailors on the floor.

The common food at Mindanao is rice or sago, and a small fish or two. The better sort eat buffalo or fowls ill dressed, and abundance of rice with it. They use no spoons to eat their rice but every man takes a handful out of the platter and, by wetting his hand in water, that it may not stick to his hand, squeezes it into a lump as hard as possibly he can make it, and then crams it into his mouth. They all strive to make these lumps as big as their mouth can receive them and seem to vie with each other and glory in taking in the biggest lump; so that sometimes they almost choke themselves. They always wash after meals or if they touch anything that is unclean; for which reason they spend abundance of water in their houses. This water, with the washing of their dishes and what other filth they make, they pour down near their fireplace: for their chambers are not boarded but floored with split bamboos like lath, so that the water presently falls underneath their dwelling rooms where it breeds maggots and makes a prodigious stink. Besides this filthiness the sick people case themselves and make water in their chambers, there being a small hole made purposely in the floor to let it drop through. But healthy sound people commonly ease themselves and make water in the river. For that reason you shall always see abundance of people of both sexes in the river from morning till night; some easing themselves, others washing their bodies or clothes. If they come into the river purposely to wash their clothes they strip and stand naked till they have done then put them on and march out again: both men and women take great delight in swimming and washing themselves, being bred to it from their infancy. I do believe it is very wholesome to wash mornings and evenings in these hot countries at least three or four days in the week: for I did use myself to it when I lived afterwards at Bencoolen, and found it very refreshing and comfortable. It is very good for those that have fluxes to wash and stand in the river mornings and evenings. I speak it experimentally for I was brought very low with that distemper at Achin; but by washing constantly mornings and evenings I found great benefit and was quickly cured by it.


In the city of Mindanao they speak two languages indifferently; their own Mindanao language and the Malaya: but in other parts of the island they speak only their proper language, having little commerce abroad. They have schools and instruct their children to read and write and bring them up in the Mohammedan religion. Therefore many of the words, especially their prayers, are in Arabic; and many of the words of civility the same as in Turkey; and especially when they meet in the morning or take leave of each other they express themselves in that language.

Many of the old people both men and women can speak Spanish for the Spaniards were formerly settled among them and had several forts on this island; and then they sent two friars to the city to convert the sultan of Mindanao and his people. At that time these people began to learn Spanish, and the Spaniards encroached on them and endeavoured to bring them into subjection; and probably before this time had brought them all under their yoke if they themselves had not been drawn off from this island to Manila to resist the Chinese, who threatened to invade them there. When the Spaniards were gone the old sultan of Mindanao, father to the present, in whose time it was, razed and demolished their forts, brought away their guns, and sent away the friars; and since that time will not suffer the Spaniards to settle on the islands.


They are now most afraid of the Dutch, being sensible how they have enslaved many of the neighbouring islands. For that reason they have a long time desired the English to settle among them and have offered them any convenient place to build a fort in, as the general himself told us; giving this reason, that they do not find the English so encroaching as the Dutch or Spanish. The Dutch are no less jealous of their admitting the English for they are sensible what detriment it would be to them if the English should settle here.


There are but few tradesmen at the city of Mindanao. The chiefest trades are goldsmiths, blacksmiths, and carpenters. There are but two or three goldsmiths; these will work in gold or silver and make anything that you desire: but they have no shop furnished with ware ready-made for sale. Here are several blacksmiths who work very well, considering the tools that they work with. Their bellows are much different from ours. They are made of a wooden cylinder, the trunk of a tree, about three foot long, bored hollow like a pump and set upright on the ground, on which the fire itself is made. Near the lower end there is a small hole, in the side of the trunk next the fire, made to receive a pipe through which the wind is driven to the fire by a great bunch of fine feathers fastened to one end of the stick which, closing up the inside of the cylinder, drives the air out of the cylinder through the pipe: two of these trunks or cylinders are placed so nigh together that a man standing between them may work them both at once alternately, one with each hand. They have neither vice nor anvil but a great hard stone or a piece of an old gun to hammer upon: yet they will perform their work, making both common utensils and iron-works about ships to admiration. They work altogether with charcoal. Every man almost is a carpenter for they can work with the axe and adze. Their axe is but small and so made that they can take it out of the helve, and by turning it make an adze of it. They have no saws but when they make plank they split the tree in two and make a plank of each part, planing it with the axe and adze. This requires much pains and takes up a great deal of time; but they work cheap, and the goodness of the plank thus hewed, which has its grain preserved entire, makes amends for their cost and pains.


They build good and serviceable ships or barks for the sea, some for trade, others for pleasure; and some ships of war. Their trading vessels they send chiefly to Manila. Thither they transport beeswax, which, I think, is the only commodity besides gold that they vend there. The inhabitants of the city of Mindanao get a great deal of beeswax themselves: but the greatest quantity they purchase is of the Mountaineers, from whom they also get the gold which they send to Manila;
and with these they buy their calicoes, muslins, and China silk. They send sometimes their barks to Borneo and other islands; but what they transport thither, or import from thence, I know not.


The Dutch come hither in sloops from Ternate and Tidore and buy rice, beeswax, and tobacco: for here is a great deal of tobacco grows on this island, more than in any island or country in the East Indies that I know of, Manila only excepted. It is an excellent sort of tobacco; but these people have not the art of managing this trade to their best advantage as the Spaniards have at Manila. I do believe the seeds were first brought hither from Manila by the Spaniards, and even thither, in all probability, from America: the difference between the Mindanao and Manila tobacco is that the Mindanao tobacco is of a darker colour and the leaf larger and grosser than the Manila tobacco, being propagated or planted in a fatter soil. The Manila tobacco is of a bright yellow colour, of an indifferent size, not strong, but pleasant to smoke. The Spaniards at Manila are very curious about this tobacco, having a peculiar way of making it up neatly in the leaf. For they take two little sticks, each about a foot long and flat and, placing the stalks of the tobacco leaves in a row, 40 or 50 of them between the two sticks, they bind them hard together so that the leaves hang dangling down. One of these bundles is sold for a rial at Fort St. George: but you may have 10 or 12 pound of tobacco at Mindanao for a rial; and the tobacco is as good or rather better than the Manila tobacco, but they have not that vent for it as the Spaniards have.


The Mindanao people are much troubled with a sort of leprosy, the same as we observed at Guam. This distemper runs with a dry scurf all over their bodies and causes great itching in those that have it, making them frequently scratch and scrub themselves, which raises the outer skin in small whitish flakes like the scales of little fish when they are raised on end with a knife. This makes their skin extraordinary rough, and in some you shall see broad white spots in several parts of their body. I judge such have had it but were cured; for their skins were smooth and I did not perceive them to scrub themselves: yet I have learnt from their own mouths that these spots were from this distemper. Whether they use any means to cure themselves or whether it goes away of itself, I know not: but I did not perceive that they made any great matter of it, for they did never refrain any company for it; none of our people caught it of them, for we were afraid of it, and kept off. They are sometimes troubled with the smallpox but their ordinary distempers are fevers, agues, fluxes, with great pains and gripings in their guts. The country affords a great many drugs and medicinal herbs whose virtues are not unknown to some of them that pretend to cure the sick.


The Mindanao men have many wives: but what ceremonies are used when they marry I know not. There is commonly a great feast made by the bridegroom to entertain his friends, and the most part of the night is spent in mirth.


The sultan is absolute in his power over all his subjects. He is but a poor prince; for, as I mentioned before, they have but little trade and therefore cannot be rich. If the sultan understands that any man has money, if it be but 20 dollars, which is a great matter among them, he will send to borrow so much money, pretending urgent occasions for it; and they dare not deny him. Sometimes he will send to sell one thing or another that he has to dispose of to such whom he knows to have money, and they must buy it and give him his price; and if afterwards he has occasion for the same thing he must have it if he sends for it. He is but a little man, between 50 or 60 years old, and by relation very good-natured but overruled by those about him. He has a queen and keeps about 29 women, or wives, more, in whose company he spends most of his time. He has one daughter by his sultaness or queen, and a great many sons and daughters by the rest. These walk about the streets and would be always begging things of us; but it is reported that the young princess is kept in a room and never stirs out, and that she did never see any man but her father and Raja Laut her uncle, being then about fourteen years old.

When the sultan visits his friends he is carried in a small couch on four men’s shoulders, with eight or ten armed men to guard him; but he never goes far this way for the country is very woody and they have but little paths, which renders it the less commodious.


When he takes his pleasure by water he carries some of his wives along with him. The proas that are built for this purpose are large enough to entertain 50 or 60 persons or more. The hull is neatly built, with a round head and stern, and over the hull there is a small slight house built with bamboos; the sides are made up with split bamboos about four foot high, with little windows in them of the same to open and shut at their pleasure. The roof is almost flat, neatly thatched with palmetto-leaves. This house is divided into two or three small partitions or chambers, one particularly for himself. This is neatly matted underneath and round the sides; and there is a carpet and pillows for him to sleep on. The second room is for his women, much like the former. The third is for the servants, who tend them with tobacco and betel-nut; for they are always chewing or smoking. The fore and after-parts of the vessel are for the mariners to sit and row. Besides this they have outlayers, such as those I described at Guam; only the boats and outlayers here are larger. These boats are more round, like a half moon almost; and the bamboos or outlayers that reach from the boat are also crooked. Besides, the boat is not flat on one side here, as at Guam; but has a belly and outlayers on each side: and whereas at Guam there is a little boat fastened to the outlayers that lies in the water; the beamsor bamboos here are fastened traverse-wise to the outlayers on each side, and touch not the water like boats, but 1, 3 or 4 foot above the water, and serve for the barge-men to sit and row and paddle on; the inside of the vessel, except only just afore and abaft, being taken up with the apartments for the passengers. There run across the outlayers two tier of beams for the paddlers to sit on, on each side the vessel. The lower tier of these beams is not above a foot from the water: so that, upon any the least reeling of the vessel, the beams are dipped in the water and the men that sit are wet up to their waist, their feet seldom escaping the water. And thus, as all our vessels are rowed from within, these are paddled from without.


The sultan has a brother called Raja Laut, a brave man. He is the second man in the kingdom. All strangers that come hither to trade must make their address to him, for all sea-affairs belong to him. He licenses strangers to import or export any commodity, and it is by his permission that the natives themselves are suffered to trade: nay, the very fishermen must take a permit from him: so that there is no man can come into the river or go out but by his leave. He is two or three years younger than the sultan, and a little man like him. He has eight women, by some of whom he has issue. He has only one son, about twelve or fourteen years old, who was circumcised while we were there. His eldest son died a little before we came hither, for whom he was still in great heaviness. If he had lived a little longer he should have married the young princess; but whether this second son must have her I know not, for I did never hear any discourse about it. Raja Laut is a very sharp man; he speaks and writes Spanish, which he learned in his youth. He has by often conversing with strangers got a great sight into the customs of other nations, and by Spanish books has some knowledge of Europe. He is general of the Mindanayans, and is accounted an expert soldier, and a very stout man; and the women in their dances sing many songs in his praise.


The sultan of Mindanao sometimes makes war with his neighbours the Mountaineers or Alfoores. Their weapons are swords, lances, and some hand-cressets. The cresset is a small thing like a baggonet, which they always wear in war or peace, at work or play, from the greatest of them to the poorest, or the meanest persons. They do never meet each other so as to have a pitched battle but they build small works or forts of timber wherein they plant little guns and lie in sight of each other two or three months, skirmishing every day in small parties and sometimes surprising a breast-work; and whatever side is like to be worsted, if they have no probability to escape by flight, they sell their lives as dear as they can; for there is seldom any quarter given, but the conqueror cuts and hacks his enemies to pieces.


The religion of these people is Mohammedanism; Friday is their sabbath; but I did never see any difference that they make between this day and any other day; only the sultan himself goes then to the mosque twice.


Raja Laut never goes to the mosque but prays at certain hours, eight or ten times in a day, wherever he is, he is very punctual to his canonical hours, and if he be aboard will go ashore on purpose to pray. For no business nor company hinders him from this duty. Whether he is at home or abroad, in a house or in the field, he leaves all his company and goes about 100 yards off, and there kneels down to his devotion. He first kisses the ground then prays aloud, and divers time in his prayers he kisses the ground and does the same when he leaves off. His servants and his wives and children talk and sing, or play how they please all the time, but himself is very serious. The meaner sort of people have little devotion: I did never see any of them at their prayers or go into a mosque.


In the sultan’s mosque there is a great drum with but one head called a gong; which is instead of o’clock. This gong is beaten at 12 o’clock, at 3, 6, and 9; a man being appointed for that service. He has a stick as big as a man’s arm, with a great knob at the end, bigger than a man’s fist, made with cotton bound fast with small cords: with this he strikes the gong as hard as he can, about twenty strokes; beginning to strike leisurely the first five or six strokes; then he strikes faster, and at last strikes as fast as he can; and then he strikes again slower and slower so many more strokes: thus he rises and falls three times, and then leaves off till three hours after. This is done night and day.


They circumcise the males at 11 or 12 years of age, or older; and many are circumcised at once. This ceremony is performed with a great deal of solemnity. There had been no circumcision for some years before our being here; and then there was one for Raja Laut’s son. They choose to have a general circumcision when the sultan or general or some other great person has a son fit to be circumcised; for with him a great many more are circumcised. There is notice given about eight or ten days before for all men to appear in arms. And great preparation is made against the solemn day. In the morning before the boys are circumcised presents are sent to the father of the child that keeps the feast; which, as I said before, is either the sultan or some great person: and about 10 or 11 o’clock the Mohammedan priest does his office. He takes hold of the foreskin with two sticks and with a pair of scissors snips it off.


After this most of the men, both in city and country being in arms before the house, begin to act as if they were engaged with an enemy, having such arms as I described. Only one acts at a time, the rest make a great ring of 2 or 300 yards round about him. He that is to exercise comes into the ring with a great shriek or two and a horrid look; then he fetches two or three large stately strides and falls to work. He holds his broadsword in one hand, and his lance in the other, and traverses his ground, leaping from one side of the ring to the other; and, in a menacing posture and look, bids defiance to the enemy whom his fancy frames to him; for there is nothing but air to oppose him. Then he stamps and shakes his head and, grinning with his teeth, makes many rueful faces. Then he throws his lance and nimbly snatches out his cresset, with which he hacks and hews the air like a madman, often shrieking. At last, being almost tired with motion, he flies to the middle of the ring, where he seems to have his enemy at his mercy, and with two or three blows cuts on the ground as if he was cutting off his enemy’s head. By this time he is all of a sweat, and withdraws triumphantly out of the ring, and presently another enters with the like shrieks and gestures. Thus they continue combating their imaginary enemy all the rest of the day; towards the conclusion of which the richest men act, and at last the general, and then the sultan concludes this ceremony: he and the general, with some other great men, are in armour, but the rest have none. After this the sultan returns home, accompanied with abundance of people, who wait on him there till they are dismissed. But at the time when we were there there was an after-game to be played; for, the general’s son being then circumcised, the sultan intended to give him a second visit in the night, so they all waited to attend him thither. The general also provided to meet him in the best manner, and therefore desired Captain Swan with his men to attend him. Accordingly Captain Swan ordered us to get our guns and wait at the general’s house till further orders. So about 40 of us waited till eight o’clock in the evening when the general with Captain Swan and about 1000 men went to meet the sultan, with abundance of torches that made it as light as day. The manner of the march was thus: first of all there was a pageant, and upon it two dancing women gorgeously apparelled, with coronets on their heads, full of glittering spangles, and pendants of the same hanging down over their breast and shoulders. These are women bred up purposely for dancing: their feet and legs are but little employed except sometimes to turn round very gently; but their hands, arms, head, and body are in continual motion, especially their arms, which they turn and twist so strangely that you would think them to be made without bones. Besides the two dancing women there were two old women in the pageant holding each a lighted torch in their hands, close by the two dancing women, by which light the glittering spangles appeared very gloriously. This pageant was carried by six lusty men: then came six or seven torches lighting the general and Captain Swan who marched side by side next, and we that attended Captain Swan followed close after, marching in order six and six abreast, with each man his gun on his shoulder, and torches on each side. After us came twelve of the general’s men with old Spanish matchlocks, marching four in a row. After them about forty lances, and behind them as many with great swords, marching all in order. After them came abundance only with cressets by their sides, who marched up close without any order. When we came near the sultan’s house the sultan and his men met us, and we wheeled off to let them pass. The sultan had three pageants went before him: in the first pageant were four of his sons, who were about ten or eleven years old. They had gotten abundance of small stones which they roguishly threw about on the people’s heads. In the next were four young maidens, nieces to the sultan, being his sister’s daughters; and in the third, there was three of the sultan’s children, not above six years old. The sultan himself followed next, being carried in his couch, which was not like your Indians’ palanquins but open and very little and ordinary. A multitude of people came after without any order: but as soon as he was passed by the general and Captain Swan and all our men closed in just behind the sultan, and so all marched together to the general’s house. We came thither between 10 and 11 o’clock, where the biggest part of the company were immediately dismissed; but the sultan and his children and his nieces and some other persons of quality entered the general’s house. They were met at the head of the stairs by the general’s women, who with a great deal of respect conducted them into the house. Captain Swan and we that were with him followed after. It was not long before the general caused his dancing women to enter the room and divert the company with that pastime. I had forgot to tell you that they have none but vocal music here, by what I could learn, except only a row of a kind of bells without clappers, 16 in number, and their weight increasing gradually from about three to ten pound weight. These are set in a row on a table in the general’s house, where for seven or eight days together before the circumcision day they were struck each with a little stick, for the biggest part of the day making a great noise, and they ceased that morning. So these dancing women sung themselves and danced to their own music. After this the general’s women and the sultan’s sons and his nieces danced. Two of the sultan’s nieces were about 18 or 19 years old, the other two were three or four years younger. These young ladies were very richly dressed with loose garments of silk, and small coronets on their heads. They were much fairer than any women I did ever see there, and very well featured; and their noses though but small yet higher than the other women’s, and very well proportioned. When the ladies had very well diverted themselves and the company with dancing the general caused us to fire some sky-rockets that were made by his and Captain Swan’s order, purposely for this night’s solemnity; and after that the sultan and his retinue went away with a few attendants and we all broke up, and thus ended this day’s solemnity: but the boys being sore with their amputation went straddling for a fortnight after.

They are not, as I said before, very curious, or strict in observing any days or times of particular devotions except it be Ramdam time, as we call it. The Ramdam time was then in August, as I take it, for it was shortly after our arrival here. In this time they fast all day, and about seven o’clock in the evening they spend near an hour in prayer. Towards the latter end of their prayer they loudly invoke their prophet for about a quarter of an hour, both old and young bawling out very strangely, as if they intended to fright him out of his sleepiness or neglect of them. After their prayer is ended, they spend some time in feasting before they take their repose. Thus they do every day for a whole month at least; for sometimes it is two or three days longer before the Ramdam ends: for it begins at the New Moon and lasts till they see the next New Moon, which sometimes in thick hazy weather is not till three or four days after the change, as it happened while I was at Achin, where they continued the Ramdam till the New Moon’s appearance. The next day after they have seen the New Moon the guns are all discharged about noon, and then the time ends.


A main part of their religion consists in washing often to keep themselves from being defiled; or after they are defiled to cleanse themselves again. They also take great care to keep themselves from being polluted by tasting or touching anything that is accounted unclean; therefore swine’s flesh is very abominable to them; nay, anyone that has either tasted of swine’s flesh or touched those creatures is not permitted to come into their houses in many days after, and there is nothing will scare them more than a swine. Yet there are wild hogs in the islands, and those so plentiful that they will come in troops out of the woods in the night into the very city, and come under their houses to rummage up and down the filth that they find there. The natives therefore would even desire us to lie in wait for the hogs to destroy them, which we did frequently, by shooting them and carrying them presently on board, but were prohibited their houses afterwards.

And now I am on this subject I cannot omit a story concerning the general. He once desired to have a pair of shoes made after the English fashion, though he did very seldom wear any: so one of our men made him a pair, which the general liked very well. Afterwards somebody told him that the thread wherewith the shoes were sowed were pointed with hogs’ bristles. This put him into a great passion; so he sent the shoes to the man that made them, and sent him withal more leather to make another pair with threads pointed with some other hair, which was immediately done, and then he was well pleased.