OUR ISLANDS AND THEIR PEOPLE.
from the Gulf of Lingayen, in the west, to the Pacific, are separated from Manila by a range of high mountains, the Caraballo, over which there is, with the exception of a path and the telegraph, no road whatever, much less a railway. The tobacco, therefore, is sent on covered boats, called a barangaijanes,a down the Rio Grande to Aparri, and there shipped by steamer to Manila. A flat-bottomed steamboat also runs from Ilagan, when the stage of water allows it; otherwise she only goes as far as Tuguegarao. In this way the transport from the most southern tobacco center, Echague, which, as the crow flies, is only about one hundred and fifty miles, often takes quite three weeks.
Tobacco has also been planted on the west coast of the northern part of Luzon, and also on the Visayas Islands. This, however, is of inferior quality and is mostly exported to Spain. In Manila it is not used, unless perhaps by the Chinese factories for the manufacture of inferior cigarettes.
An important and world-famed article is Manila hemp, or abaco, a product of the musa textilis. It is remarkable that,
plant, as well as possible, removed. The bast strips thus obtained are then drawn under a knife in order to scrape away any pulp that may have remained on them. The product, after having been dried in the sun, is then ready for shipment. This process, though simple, involves a great loss of fiber which might be avoided by the use of more efficient stripping machines. It is difficult to accustom the native to anything novel, but when once progress has gained a general footing, headway will soon be made in particular paths also. Manila hemp has so far been equaled by none, much less excelled.
In the hemp-growing districts this product is to be seen everywhere. It is brought in from the plantations in buffalo carts and on the backs of men, and spread out in every available place to dry, even along the streets of the towns. According to careful estimates, it is supposed that not more than a tenth part of the available territory for hemp-growing has been touched, and the fact that the Manila variety cannot be successfully produced elsewhere gives these islands a monoply of this very remunerative
THE KSCOLTA, MANILA.
This is one of the principal streets of the city, and this view is characteristic of what may be seen there daily.
although there are the most varied species of the musa flourishing all over the tropics, and in warm climates generally, the musa textilis appears to thrive to the best advantage only in the Philippines. Attempts to grow the plants in other places have been uniformly unsuccessful. Like its better-known relative, the edible banana, the stem of the plant is formed by the leaf stalk, in the center of which again is the blossom-stem. The finest growth is obtained in the volcanic and rainy districts of the Philippines, especially in the Camarines Sur, Albay, Samar, Leyte, Marinduque, Zebu, and in some of the small neighboring islands, as well as on the South Negros and Mindanao.
The valuable hemp fiber is found in the petioles, from which it is taken before the plant has borne fruit, as otherwise the fibers lose in elasticity and luster. I11 two or three years the plant is generally so far matured that it can be cut down, the leaves removed, the green epidermis stripped from the stem, and the bast strips either torn off lengthwise or the petioles separated singly, and the inner membrane with the pulpy portion of the
crop. The plant is quite different from that which we are accustomed to seeing in the United States. It belongs to the banana family, and a hemp field in the Philippines looks almost precisely like a banana plantation. The plant grows to a height of twenty or twenty-five feet, with broad, spreading leaves wrapped round and round the central stalk. The pendent leaves are a foot wide and grow to a length of ten feet or more; but wrapped closely round the stalk, until at the base it will be nearly a foot thick, is layer upon layer of thin, soft leaves, which constitute the hemp. The stalk is crisp, tender and juicy, and the hemp gatherers cut it with their bolos and barongs, the same knives they use for cutting off heads. The plants are set about six or eight feet apart, and make a shade so dense that it is like the dusk of evening at midday. A hemp field is a wilderness, without roads or signboards, and one may easily become bewildered and lost in its gloomy recesses.
Hemp thrives best on a hillside, where it can get plenty of moisture, but where there is no standing water to drown it out.