312 THF. INHABITANTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
Several Spaniards are settled in these provinces, also a few agents of British houses in Manila, and some Chinese and Mestizos. They usually complain bitterly of the difficulty they experience in getting hemp delivered to them owing to the laziness and unpunctuality of the natives.
Yet, notwithstanding this, most of them live in affluence and some have amassed fortunes by Vicol labour. There is, in fact, a good deal of money in Albay, Daraga, and other towns in the hemp districts, and they are the happy hunting-ground of the Jew pedlar who there finds a good market for yellow diamonds and off-colour gems unsaleable in London or Paris. Houndsditch and Broadway will do well to note.
The peasantry, however, either from improvidence or aversion to steady labour, seem to be rather worse off than the Tagals and Pampangos, more especially those amongst them who cultivate paddy.
The whole of the large amount of hemp exported from Manila and Cebii is cleaned by hand.
Several attempts have been made to employ machinery, but the inherent conditions of the industry are unfavourable to success in this line.
The plants are grown principally on the eastern slopes of the volcanic mountains of Southern Luzon, and the adjacent islands where the soil is soft and friable and roads are unknown.
The heavy stems of the plants cannot profitably be conveyed to fixed works for treatment, and no machine has yet been devised light enough to be carried up to the Idtes or plantations and able to compete with hand labour. In a recent report to the British North Borneo Company, Mr. W. C. Cowie mentions his hopes that Thompson's Fibre Company are about to send out a trial decorticator, with engine and boiler to drive it, to the River Padas, in that company's territories, for cleaning the fibre of the numerous plants of the Musa textilis growing in that region. It will be interesting to learn the result. Possibly the conditions of transport by rail or river are more favourable than in the Philippines, and in that case a measure of success is quite possible. But few errors are more expensive than to unwarrantably assume that machinery must necessarily be cheaper than hand labour.
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