KASAMA Vol. 18 No. 4 / October-November-December 2004 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network


In search of birds, butterflies and adventure, H. Wilfrid Walker noted in letters he sent home to his family in England, stories of his travels and the native peoples he met on his journeys. We are reprinting the photographs and the two chapters in his book that tell of his journey in the philippines which we think took place sometime between 1901 and 1904. This is the first of a three-part series.


IN a book of this kind it is often the custom to begin by making apologies. In my case I feel it to be a sheer necessity. In the first place what is here printed is for the greater part copied word for word from private letters that I wrote in very simple language in Dayak or Negrito huts, or in the lonely depths of tropical forests, in the far-off islands of the Southern Seas. I purposely made my letters home as concise as possible, so that they could be easily read, and in consequence have left out much that might have been interesting. It is almost unnecessary to mention that when I wrote these letters I had no thought whatever of writing a book. If I had thought of doing so, I might have mentioned more about the customs, ornaments and weapons of the natives and have written about several other subjects in greater detail. As it is, a cursory glance will show that this book has not the slightest pretence of being 'scientific.' Far from its being so, I have simply related a few of the more interesting incidents, such as would give a general impression of my life among savages, during my wanderings in many parts of the world, extending over nearly a score of years. I should like to have written more about my wanderings in North Borneo, as well as in Samoa and Celebes and various other countries, but the size of the book precludes this. My excuse for publishing this book is that certain of my relatives have begged me to do so. Though I was for the greater part of the time adding to my own collections of birds and butterflies, I have refrained as much as possible from writing on these subjects for fear that they might prove tedious to the general reader. I have also touched but lightly on the general customs of the people, as this book is not for the naturalist or ethnologist, nor have I made any special study of the languages concerned, but have simply jotted down the native words here used exactly as I heard them. As regards the photographs, some of them were taken by myself while others were given me by friends whom I cannot now trace. In a few cases I have no note from whom they were got, though I feel sure they were not from anyone who would object to their publication. In particular, I may mention Messrs. G. R. Lambert, Singapore; John Waters, Suva, Fiji; Kerry & Co., Sydney; and G. O. Manning, New Guinea. To these and all others who have helped me I now tender my heartiest thanks. I have met with so much help and kindness during my wanderings from Government officials and others that if I were here to mention all, the list would be a large one. I shall therefore have to be content with only mentioning the principal names of those in the countries I have here written about.

In Fiji: - Messrs. Sutherland, John Waters, and McOwan.
In New Guinea: - Sir Francis Winter, Mr. C. A. W. Monckton, R.M., The Hon. A. Musgrave, Capt. Barton, Mr. Guy O. Manning, and Dr. Vaughan.
In the Philippines: - Governor Taft, afterwards President of the United States, and Mr. G. d'E. Browne.
In British North Borneo: - Messrs. H. Walker, Richardson, Paul Brietag, F. Durege, J. H. Molyneux, and Dr. Davies.
In Sarawak: - H.H. The Rajah, Sir Charles Brooke, Sir Percy Cunninghame, Dr. Hose, Archdeacon Sharpe, Mr. R. Shelford, and the officials of The Borneo Company, Ltd.

To all of these and many others in other countries I take this opportunity of publicly tendering my cordial thanks for their unfailing kindness and hospitality to a wanderer in strange lands.



THOUGH the events dealt with in this book took place before the Great War, it has been considered advisable to reissue the work as enquiries are still made for it. Conditions in the country about which I have written are, for the most part, still very much the same. I have not attempted to modernise the book, and the references to rules and officials and their rank are now, of course, in some cases out of date.

H. W. W.



Arrival at Florida Blanca - The Schoolmaster's House Kept by Pupils in their Master's Absence - Everyday Scenes at Florida Blanca - A Filipino Sunday - A Visit to the Cock-fighting Ring - A Strange Church Clock and Chimes - Pugnacious Scene at a Funeral - Strained Relations between Filipinos and Americans - My New Servant - Victorino, and Ex-officer of Aguinaldo's Army, and his Six Wives - I Start for the Mountains - 'Free and easy' Progress of my Buffalo-cart - Ascent into the Mountains - Arrival at my Future Abode - Description of my Hut and Food - Our Botanical Surroundings.

WHEN collecting in the Philippines, I put in most of my time in the Florida Blanca Mountains, in the province of Pampanga, Northern Luzon. I arrived one evening after dark at the good-sized village of Florida Blanca, which is situated a few miles from the foot of the mountain, whose name it shares. I carried a letter to the American schoolmaster, who was the only white man in the district, and had been a soldier in the late war. It seemed to me a curious policy on the part of the American government to turn their soldiers into schoolmasters, especially as in most cases they are very ignorant themselves. I believe, however, the chief object is to teach the young Filipinos English, and so turn them into live American citizens. The Americans are far from popular in the Philippines, and when in Manila I was strongly advised not to wear khaki in the jungle for fear of being taken for an American soldier.

The American's house was dark and still when I arrived at Florida Blanca, but whilst I was wondering what to do, I was surprised to hear a small voice, coming out of a small adjoining house, say in good English (though slowly and with a strong accent), 'Thee-master-has-gone-into-thee-mountains-to-kill-deer-and-pigs.' This was from one of the American's own pupils, an intelligent little fellow named Camilo. As I learnt that he was not expected back for two or three days, there was nothing left but to make myself as comfortable as possible in his house until his return. Camilo was soon boiling me some water, and I opened some of my provisions, as I had eaten nothing for eight hours.

The house was an ordinary Filipino one, raised fully ten feet from the ground and built of native timber, the peaked roof, which had a frame-work of bamboo, being thatched with palm-leaves. The divisions between the rooms were of plaited bamboo work, and the sliding windows were latticed, each division being fitted with pieces of pearl shell. The next morning I was invaded by quite an army of small boys, who, to my surprise, all spoke English very prettily in their slow way and with a quaint accent. I have never come across a more bright and intelligent set of little fellows, all very friendly and not a bit shy, yet most polite and well-mannered. They were manly little fellows, with the faces of cherubs, and they were always smiling. Though the ages of my five little favourites, Camilo, Nicolas, Fernando, Dranquilino and Victorio, ranged only from eleven down to seven (the latter being little smiling-faced Victorio), they did all my errands for me, bought me little rolls of sweetish bread, eggs and fruit, and were most honest. They talked to me as if they had known me all their lives, acted as my guides and showed me all there was to see. They generally followed me in a row, with their arms round each other's neck in a most affectionate way, and I never heard any of them use one angry word amongst themselves.

The few days that I spent here, I wandered through the narrow lanes and collected a few birds and butterflies. These lanes were very dusty at the time, and were hemmed in with an uninteresting shrubby growth on each side. The country round Florida Blanca was for the most part covered with rice-fields, which, at the time of my visit, were parched and covered with short stubble, this being the dry season. I was not very successful in my collecting, and looked forward to my visit to the mountains, which I could see in the distance, and which appeared well covered with damp-looking forests. I noticed quantities of white egrets, which settled on the backs of the water buffaloes. I would often pass these water buffaloes with their heads sticking out of a way-side pond of mud and water. They were generally used for drawing the curious wagons of the country, which were rather like those one sees in Mexico, with solid wooden wheels. Generally when I met these water buffaloes out of harness, they were horribly afraid of me and stampeded, at the same time making the most extraordinary noises, something between a squeak and a short blast on a penny trumpet. They are usually stupid-looking brutes, but this showed that they were intelligent enough to distinguish between me and a Filipino. The pigs here had three pieces of wood round their necks fastened together to form a triangle, an excellent idea, as it prevented them from breaking through the fences.

The day following my arrival was a Sunday, and the church, a large building of stone and galvanized iron, was almost opposite the American's house. I watched the people going to early mass (the Filipinos are devout Roman Catholics). All the women wore gauzy veils thrown over their heads, white or black were the prevailing colours and sometimes red. I thought they looked very nice in them. I had asked Camilo to boil me some water, but he begged off very politely, as he had to go and put on his cassock and surplice to attend the service in the church, where he sang all alone. When he returned, I asked him to sing to me what he had sung in the church, and he at once complied, singing the 'Gloria Patri' in a very clear and sweet voice. After mass was over, the church bell began to toll and an empty lighted bier came out of the church. It was preceded by three acolytes bearing a long cross and two large lighted candlesticks, and followed by a crowd of people. They were no doubt going to call at a house for the corpse.

Shortly afterwards an old Filipino priest came out and got into one of the quaint covered buffalo wagons with solid wooden wheels (already mentioned), and drove slowly round by the road. It was hot and sultry, and thunder was pealing far away in the mountains. Under a clump of trees (of a kind of yellow flowering acacia), which grew just outside the large old wooden doors of the church, there was a group of village youths and loafers, and two or three men went past with their fighting cocks under their arms, Sunday afternoon out here being the great day for cock-fighting. There seemed to be a sleepiness in the air quite in keeping with the day of the week, and I was nearly dozing off when little Nicolas came in. I asked him if he knew where the cock-fighting took place, and added, 'you savez' (slang for 'understand'). His eyes flashed, and he said, 'Me no savage,' but when I explained that I did not call him a 'savage,' his eyes smiled an apology, and he willingly offered to show me the place where the cock-fighting was to be.

On entering the large bamboo shed or theatre where the cock-fighting took place, I was met by the old Presidente of the village, to whom I had brought a letter from Governor Joven (the Governor of the province), whom I had visited at Bacolor on my way hither. He conducted me to a seat on a raised clay platform, and sat next to me most of the time, but as the fighting progressed he got very excited, and had to go down into the ring. I had often witnessed it before in tropical America, but here the left feet of the cocks were armed with large steel spurs shaped like miniature cutlasses, which before the fight began were encased in small leather sheaths. The onlookers worked themselves up into a state of great excitement, and there was a great deal of chaff, mixed with angry words, and plenty of silver 'pesos' were exchanged over the results. But it was cruel work, and the crouching spectators were often scattered right and left by the furious birds, whilst on one occasion a too venturesome onlooker received a rather severe gash on his arm.

The church clock here was a thing to wonder at. It had no dial, and struck only about five times a day. When it struck ten there was an interval of over twenty seconds between each stroke until the last two strokes, these coming quickly together, as if it was tired of such slow work! As there was no face to the clock, I was puzzled to know whether to set my watch at the first or last stroke, or to split the difference.

There were a great many funerals during my stay here in December, there being a regular epidemic of cholera and malaria. This was the unhealthy season, and I was told that there were as many deaths in Florida Blanca during the months of December and January as during all the rest of the year put together. One day I watched from my window a funeral procession on its way from the church to the cemetery. The Padre was not there, and this no doubt accounted for the acrobatic display given by the three men in cassocks and surplices, who led the way, bearing a cross and two candles. They started by playfully kicking each other, and this soon developed into angry words, so that I expected a free fight. One of them tucked his unbuttoned cassock round his neck, and egged the other two on. The coffin followed on a lighted bier, and the string of mourners followed meekly behind, no doubt looking upon this display as nothing out of the common.

The interior of the church was very cold and bare, and there were no seats. I learnt that the American and the Filipino Padre did not hit it off together. There were one or two opposition schools in the village, run by Filipinos, who did their utmost to prevent the children from learning the language of the hated Americanos. The American did not make himself any more popular by pulling down the old street sign-boards bearing Spanish names, and substituting ugly card-board placards marked in ink with fresh names, such as America Street, McKinley Street, and Roosevelt Street; he had also named a street after himself!

Later on I learnt that this American schoolmaster was a kind of spy in the American secret police, and that he had to listen outside Filipino houses at night to overhear the conversation of suspected insurgents. I was told this by Victoriano, my Filipino servant in the mountains, who often accompanied the American in his nightly rounds, and was the only man in the secret. This Victoriano, whom I always called Vic for short, was the best servant that I have had during my wanderings in any part of the world. He spoke Spanish and knew a little English, as he had once been a servant to an Englishman near Manila. With my small knowledge of Spanish, and his smattering of English, we hit it off very well together. He acted as gun-bearer, cook, laundry maid, housemaid, interpreter and guide. Later on he told me that he had been an officer in the insurgent Aguinaldo's army, and that he had been imprisoned by the Spaniards for four years on the island of Mindanao for belonging to a revolutionary society. He was a tall, thin fellow of only thirty-two years of age, and yet his present wife in Florida Blanca was his sixth, all the others being dead. I used to chaff him about having poisoned them, which much amused him. After some days the American returned, and he told me of a very good spot in which to collect up in the mountains, so one morning I started off with Vic for a long stay in these mountain forests.

We left Florida Blanca before the sun had risen, my luggage being carried in one of the curious buffalo wagons. We soon left the dry rice-fields behind, and for some distance passed over a wide uninteresting plain of tall grass, dotted about with a few trees. After going some distance our two buffaloes were unyoked and allowed to soak in a small pond. This process was repeated every time we came to any water, and this, together with the slow progress of the buffaloes, made the journey longer than I had anticipated. After crossing a fair-sized river, we began a gradual ascent into the mountains. My luggage was then carried for a short distance, and after travelling through some bamboo thickets and crossing a rocky stream, I beheld my future abode. It was a small grass-thatched hut, with a flooring of split bamboo, raised four feet from the ground; up to this we had to climb by means of a single bamboo step. About two-thirds of the hut consisted of a flooring of bamboo, fairly open on all sides but one; this part did as my bedroom, and to get to it I had to crawl through a hole - one could hardly call it a door! It was quite dark inside, but there was just room enough to lie down on the split bamboo floor.

All round the hut was a large clearing, planted with maize, belonging to a Filipino, who from time to time lived in another small hut about one hundred yards away. He also owned the one I was living in, and for this I paid him the not very exorbitant sum of one peso (two shillings) a month. Tall gaunt trees rose out of the corn on all sides, and in the early morning they were full of bird-life - parrots, parakeets, cockatoos, pigeons, woodpeckers, gapers and hornbills, etc. A clear rocky stream flowed by the side of the hut, the sound of whose rushing waters by night and day was like music to the ear in this hot and thirsty land, whilst shaded as it was by bamboos and trees, it was a delightful spot to bathe in every morning and evening. I was well pleased with my surroundings, and looked forward to a successful and interesting stay. I fared well though the food was rough, and I subsisted chiefly on rice and papayas, together with pigeons, doves, parrots, and the smaller hornbill, called here 'talactic,' all of which fell to my gun.

The surrounding country in these lower mountains was a mixture of forest and open grass-country, the grass often growing far over my head. The forest, which abounded in clear, rocky streams of cold water, was very luxuriant and beautiful, especially in many of the cool, damp ravines further back in the mountains. But near my camping ground a great deal of the forest seemed to be half smothered with large thickets of bamboo, and consequently the larger trees were rather far apart. There was also a climbing variety of bamboo, which scrambled up to the tops of the largest trees. The undergrowth in places was most luxuriant and consisted of different species of palms, rattans, tree-ferns, pandanus, giant ginger, pipers, pothos, begonias, bananas, caladiums, ferns, selaginellas and lycopodiums, and many variegated plants. Growing on many of the trees were some fine orchids. Chief amongst them may be mentioned a very beautiful 'vanda,' which grew mostly on trees in the open grass country, and which I witnessed in full bloom during my stay here. They presented a wonderful sight. Out of the large sheaths of fan-like leaves grew two grand flower-spikes, bearing from thirty to forty large white, chocolate and crimson flowers. Of these there were two varieties, and on one large plant I saw fully a dozen flower-spikes. Further back in the mountains I came across some fine species of Phalaenopsis.

PART TWO will be printed in the next issue of Kasama

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