OUR ISLANDS AND THEIR PEOPLE.
the most valuable woods; with a soil as rich as any in the world and adapted to the production of everything useful or necessary to man and beast, and with a climate of perpetual summer, it would seem that the future of the Philippines ought to be extraordinarily bright. Although these islands have been inhabited for centuries, and their present average population is denser than that of our own country, yet the larger portion of their area is still an unoccupied wilderness, with as great fascination and reward for the prospector and the pioneer as the region west of the Mississippi River possessed half a century ago. If these vast areas of natural wealth can be reserved for the peoplea and by the people we mean our own race in conjunction with the nativesa instead of being set aside and parceled out for the aggrandizement of consolidated greed, they may prove to be a blessing to civilization.
Hitherto the pearl fisheries of the Sulu Islands have constituted their most attractive source of wealth. Large incomes have been derived both from the pearls and the shells, and improved
merchant, Captain Tiana, of Jolo, who' has for eight years held the exclusive concession from the Sultan to fish for pearls by means of diving suits in the Sulu Archipelago.
The sovereignty of the islands was ostensibly Spaina s; the real sovereign was the Sultan. To make pearl fishing possible for foreigners or Spanish subjects, it would have required a double concession and boats armed with Gatling guns. Spain would not give concessions to foreigners who had the daring to fish, because she feared to lose a good thing she could not herself develop. She dared not work them herself or give concessions to Spanish subjects, as that would have provoked a war with the Sultan, who claimed the exclusive right to farm out the expanse of ocean where the rare shells lay.
The Sultan proposed to keep the revenues from such valuable holdings in his own hands and among his own subjects, whom he could squeeze with impunity. So he never recognized Spaina s rights to the waters, and has granted but a single privilegea to
GENERAL CHARLES KING AND STAFF, MANILA..
methods of fishing will add greatly to the product. It is said that the Sultan of Sulu has a pillowcase full of pearls, which for safety he hides under the bed of state in his audience-room. Whether this be true or not no white man knows, but it has been one of the laws of the Moros for centuries that all big pearls go as tribute to the Sultan, as well as one-fourth of all the finds made by his subjects. So the Sultana s pearl revenue has in the past been a very substantial one, and there is every reason to believe that during his reign he has owned enough pearls to fill several old pillowslips if he so desired.
Neither experts nor laymen, nor even the Moros themselves, are familiar with the extent of the pearl shell banks along the hundreds or more of small islands of the southern portion of the Philippines. That they are scattered over a large territory is testified to by the natives, who sell small quantities of shells and many pearls to Borneo and Chinese traders. That some banks are very extensive has been well determined by the rich Chinese
the Chinaman Tiana, who, for $100 a month, is allowed to dive for pearls in deep water. The Sultan has incited his own people, whom Spain could never control by force of arms until after 1882, to repel all invaders of the pearl territory.
What is needed to develop these valuable fisheries is assurance of protection to investors, and modern machinery with which to do the work. The system now in vogue, of procuring the pearls by divers, is not only slow and uncertain, but very detrimental to the health and dangerous to the lives of the men.
The chief feature of value in the pearl fisheries is the shells, which are gathered by the ton from the bed of the ocean. They bring for the poorest variety $700 per ton, with the added profit of all the pearls that may be found, some of which are worth hundreds of dollars e^ch. When General Bates made the famous treaty with the Sultan, the latter offered him a present of a pearl valued at $5,000, but being a public officer, he could not accept the gift. The Sultan was very much surprised at the refusal, because