Monday, November 7, 2011

History of Mindanao, Part XXI: Secretary Edward Bowditch Jr., Moro Province, 1914

This entry is a verbatim rendering of an entry about Secretary Edward Bowditch Jr., who served in Moro Province on Mindanao and even served a short time as its Acting Governor after Black Jack Pershing was re-deployed. At the time Mindanao had only three provinces, with Moro the youngest of the three, created in 1903:

1) Moro, with five districts:

A) Cotabato- including the modern provinces of North Cotabato (most), South Cotabato, Sarangani, and Maguindanao

B) Zamboanga- including the modern provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, and Basilan

C) Jolo- including the modern province of Sulu and part of Tawi Tawi, with its modern capital, Bongao Island, serving as its administrative centre

D) Davao- including the modern provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, and Compostela Valley (ComVal)

E) Lanao- including the modern province of Lanao del Sur and part of Lanao del Norte including Iligan City

2) Misamis

3) Surigao

It is important to note that the Provinces of Misamis and Surigao comprised the rest of Mainland Mindanao, roughly 70% of the Mainland and that except for a couple of tiny fishing villages at the mouth of the Agus River there were absolutely NO Muslims. This is important because of Filipino Muslim claims that "90 percent of Mindanao was Muslim when Americans arrived." Moreover, within Moro Province, Muslims were outnumbered by Lumad by a ratio of nearly four to one, and almost matched in population by Christians and that isn't including the expat colonies that were numerous enough to control 83 out of 100 hundred hectare plantations by 1910.

The following comes from the 1916 Edition of the Harvard Alumni Review (pp398-400), concerning alumnus Edward Bowditch Jr., a graduate of the Class of 1903, or, in Filipino speak, "Batch of 03." Mr.Bowditch served as the Secretary of Moro Province under Governor Pershing, and when his superior was re-deployed Stateside he became Acting Governor. Almost immediately after this article appeared Bowditch was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and given a posh position as the Aide de Camp to the Commander and Chief of the American Expeditionary Force in WWI. Sadly, he then was decorated with the Medal of Valour simply for being a good assistant. In any event, the entry concens his donation of a considerable collection of mostly Bagobo Tribal artifacts. It seems that the Editor who composed this piece got his hands on Fay Cooper-Cole's "The Wild Tribes of Davao District" (see my entries "Mindanao History, Part III: The Bagobo Lumad" parts 1, 2, and 3), because his second paragraph is plagiarised from Cole's entry on the Bagobo. Still, although very short it offers some great points about Bagobo cultural affectations, things I personally haven't seen discussed elsewhere and so I found it worthy of posting.

The Peabody Museum has recently eceived as a gift from Edward Bowditch Jr.,'03, a valuable collection of ethnological material from the Bagobo, Ata, and Moro Tribes of Mindanao, and from the Sulu Region of the Southern Philippines. This was obtained by him in the Summer and Autumn of 1913 and Spring of 1914, while Secretary of the Moro Province and, for a time, the Acting Govrnor. The collection includes about 400 specimins, the greater part of which came from the Bagobo, the picturesque people inhabiting the nothwest portion of Davao Province, in the island of Mindanao. A genral idea of the appearance of the Bagobo may be had from the accompanying illustration.

No wild tribe of the Philippines gives more attention to dress. The native cloth is made from abaca, a kind of hemp, which is prepared in the usual way, and the seperate fibrs tied in a continuous thread and wound on a reel. The designs of some cloth, especially that used for women's skirts, are made in an interesting way.

The wool threads are of a single color, usually a dark brown or red. The figures are produced by the warp as follows: the light yellow strands is first seperated into bunches of ten to sixteen threads each. These are then wrapped with fibre at intervals along their entire length, the bound portions covering spaces of one-half to three-fourths of an inch. The warp is now ready for dying. The dark dye takes effect only on the unwrapped portions of the threads, and does not penetrate deep enough to color the threads beneath the wrappings. After dyeing, the wrappings are removed and the designs appear as a series of irregular spots which are arranged to form the pattern in the finished cloth.

There are several costumes in the collection, some of which show designs produced by the above process. Much of the clothing is profusely ornamented with glass beads and spangles. Beaded necklaces, belts, and ear pendants are worn generally. Some of the older coats are nearly covered with discs of less than one-fourth inch in diameter, laboriously made from fresh water shells. The trinket baskets of the women, and the mens' carrying bags are also profusely beaded in very pleasing patterns. A great variety of anklets, armlets, bracelets, and decorated combs are worn, and some of the girdles are elaborately embroidered.

In the native villages no men stand in higher estimation of their fellows than do the casters of brass and copper. Most of the articles are made by the ancient wax process, which was known to many primitive peoples the world over. The objects produced are principally betel nut boxes, armlets, leglets, and small bells used for decorating knife sheaths and other articles. The collection has several good examples of this work.

Probaly the most important industry of this people is the raising, gathering, and care of rice, for upon this cereal they depend for the greater part of the food supply. The planting implement consists of a staff with a metal blade. On the upper end of the staff is a bamboo clapper, decorated with feathers. When in use, this clapper keeps up an incessant noise. It is said that this is intended to please the guardian spirit of the field. In the gathering, storage, and sorting of rice, baskets of many forms and sizes are used, ranging from the tall, beautifully woven pack baskets to the flat trays for winnowing and serving rice. The baskets for storing rice are furnished with covers, and made proof against damp wiyh wax. The collection contains over 80 baskets, including most of the varieties used.

The principal weapons of the Bagobo are spears and large knives. The sheaths of the latter are profusely decorated with beads, and hung with bead pendants and brass bells of native workmanship. The shields are elaborate affairs of thin wood reinforced by cross bars. Intricate esigns are carved upon their fronts, and the edges are often ornamented with a fringe of hair. The spears are well made and have iron points. They are used in fighting, and for hunting deer and wild pig.

There are several snares in the collection for catching wild chickens. These consist of a number of running nooses attached at intervals to a long pleated rattan cord. A tame rooster is fastened in the jungle and the snare is arranged around him. The crowing of the cock soon attracts the wild birds, which, coming to fight, are almost sure to become entangled in one of the nooses. For storage and transportation, these snares are made into compact rolls, which together with pegs for securing them, are neatly packed in baskets made especially for the purpose.

The musical instruments in the collection consist of native wooden guitars, curious harp-like instruments of bamboo, bamboo flutes, and the well known bamboo jews-harp which is found throughout this section.

Mr.Bowditch's gift is a timely one, for already the arts of this people are becoming modified by contact with Europeans, and it will soon be impossible to obtain the finer examples of native work.

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