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It is generally supposed that there are no factories in Manila and that the Filipinos are not a manufacturing people. This is partly true, but there are some things made here, and the aptness with which the Filipino learns anything that can be done by a set of automatic motions makes him a good factory oparative. The native can set himself going and wander away to visions of cock-fights and serenades, and when he getsback he will still be doing the thing that he has learned to do. He will be doing it very slowly to be sure, and probably he will have ceased to move at all, but he only needs to be given a push to set the motions in operation again.
While the Filipino has no wish to find out anything for himself, he has the next best thing, the ability to learn when he is taught; and for factory purposes this does very well. The man who is so original that he can always do better than the boss has his drawbacks.
Outside the city of Manila there are no factoreis, all manufactures being conducted on the cottage plan--home industry, in fact. This has been followed ever since the discovery of the islands. For three hundred years, there have been no changes in the Filipino way of doing things. When the islands were discovered, the houses were built in about the same way as now., and of the same materials. Lorchas, cascos, bancas and bamboo rafts were made as at the present. There has been no change in the methods of making fish nets nor catching fish. Cloth was woven then on rude hand looms, made just like those found in use today all over the islands. There was the same simple equipment of household utensils, and the primitive agriculture was not essentially different from the way of doing now in vogue.
In the seventeenth century the Filipinos were known throughout the East as being unusually skilful in the spinning and weaving of cotton and other fibers; they were known as skilful builders of large ships, of which the big cascos of to-day are probably exact copies.
The Spaniards did practically nothing to develop manufacturing industries, and beyond the conversion of a few leading products into commercial form, practically nothing was done to stimulate industrial development. Tomas de Comyn, writing in 1810(quoted in the census), gives a list of thirty-two manufactures with many sub-classes, including plows, cotton cloth, gold chains, tortoise shell boxes, furniture, calicos, hats, mats, lace, veils and cordage. With very few addition of changes, this list represents the manufactures of the islands to-day.
Cloth making is the principal household industry of the Filipinos and in its present form antedates history. The slow, laborious, clumsy methods of the year 1500 are still in use everywhere. These will be outgrown before many years, and the machines now in common use will disappear. The ancient spinning wheels of our forefathers bring high prices as relics now-a-day, but the time will come when the jusi and piña looms now in use will bring good prices as great curiosities left over from a prehistoric age. Here's a chance for some enterprising speculator to get up a corner in old Filipino looms.
The extent of this industry may be infered from the fact that, a few years ago, five thousand of these Filipina housewives wove over a million pesos worth of cloth.
The provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Albay, Camarines, Antique, Iloilo,La Union, Rizal, Sorsogon and Tayabas produce the greater part of these weaves. There is one modern cotton mill in Manila, but the interest of the visitor gathers about the native product.
As to the merits of jusi and piña and sinamay I will leave to some good woman the pleasure of discussing things which are on the outside of a man's universe. A man who can intelligently discuss lingerie and chiffon is usually not much good for anything else.
The only patterns possible on the native looms are square plaids and stripes, and all other designs must be worked in by hand embroidery. Beautiful patterns are thus achieved with what must be immense pains and labor and the wages earned for such work must be infinitesimal.
Split bamboo is woven into many articles of value and ornament. Mats, rugs, carpets, saddles, baskets, furniture, and the ever present suale matting are made with much neatness and some artistic pretensions, and as a shuttle can not be used with the unwieldy material, the weaving must all be done by hand. The leaves of the banana and other plants are woven into mats, petates, rugs, bags, and package coverings which are cheap and plentiful.
As might be expected in a hot country, the Filipino knows how to make a hat. He makes it of palm leaves and abaca and banana and bejuco; of pandan, split bamboo, buri, and other grass fibres, and he has an idea of design. Some of this native hats are decidedly ornamental, and are often taken home as curios. Some are as large as an umbrella, some are decorated, some are colored; all protection from the sun. In the provinces of Bulacan, Pangasinan, and Tayabas, very light handsome hats are woven from the fibered grasses. The "Baliuag" hats are of fine workmanship, being made of double thickness, and some in fanciful design with stripes of dyed sraws of different colors. Such hats are usually sold by vendors on the streets and may be bought very cheaply in the provinces where they are made.
To any one who has never seen a primitive rope walk, a trip to the west end of Calle Azcarraga is worth while. The population seems to be enjoying a picnic by making rope, and while the process id crude enough, considerable skill is evidenced by the natives who have done little else for years. Wooden reels are revolved on canes set at an angle of forty-five degrees in the ground. The operator ties the end of a bunch of hemp to the reel and backing off begins to revolve the reel by a rhythmical series of jerks at the string. This twists the hemp and as the rope maker backs away, his helper hands him fresh supplies of hemp which are dexterously twisted into the main strand. This is continued until the yarn become so long that it is difficult to whirl the reel. The yarn is then wound up on the reel, and the process is repeated till the reel is full. Six of these strands are then attached to a simple device that revolves them all together, twisting each pair into a double strand and the resulting three into the completed rope. It is easy enough to watch someone else do it, but might be difficult for the novice.
The sight of a native sawmill is enough to make one's back ache.The log is hewn smooth and square and shows evidences of enough labor to make it into lumber before it reaches the mem who are to cut it up into lumbers. And when it does the method of making it into boards is simplicity itself. The Filipinos take the old fashion plan of hoisting one end of the log into the air, and putting one man on top and one below the log. The Chinos drag the saw horizontally, following the chalk line on the side of the log. The lumber made in this way is surprisingly uniform and straight, and, strange to say, is no more expensive than that gotten out by modern steam sawmills. Muscle is cheaper than machinery, but the product is exceedingly limited.
The only approach to real factory conditions is found in the big tobacco factories. Thers men and women and childrenare gathered by the thousand working up the raw products into tobacco and cigars and cigarettes for home use or export, and the processes have been reduced to an exact science. The best modern machines are in use in some of these big factories, and many thousands of Filipinos are supported by this industry alone.
The making of tobacco boxes and the printing of the lithographed labels are separate industries, and some very modern printing establishments turn out some very artistic embossed and color work.
The making of nipa houses is an industry by itself. From the gathering of the nipa and serving it into shingles to the tying of the last knot in the bejuco that finishes a house that is made without a single foot of lumber or a nail, or a pound of hardware, or a drop of paint or plaster or plumbing or stone, or brick or tile, the operation is one that would keep an American carpenter guesing for some before he solve the mysteries of its construction, provided he did not have a pattern. Yet the nipa hut will stand earthquakes and storms and heat and is picturesque and cheap besides.
It has earned its place as the longest used structure and house best adapted to the climatic conditions of the islands.
The manufacture of bolos is of little interest outside of Mindanao, where some remarkable work is executed by the Moros. The samples that are brought up by travellers are marvels in their way, but already the wiley Moros have learned the white man's cupidity and are making bolos to sell at prices to match the victim's purse, and for a few pesos more with nice bloody stories to order. "This one killed a crazy chief, and this one hanging over here, Señor, in the carved scabbard, belonged to a fanatic who went Juramentado and killed a whole regiment of American soldiers as they stood in line at parade rest," "What is the price?" "Ah, sir,it is priceless! No money could buy this, the only one of its kind in the possession of the Moro people. But Señor is a distinguised visitor, and I am very poor. I will for this once make a gift of it to the shameful trifle of one hundred and fifty pesos. I shall be disgraced in the eyes of my people, and Señor must never reveal the price, and even now my heart repents of the sacrifice,"
Hundreds of these bolos are shipped away as curios every year and good specimens are becoming difficult to obtain for reasonable prices.
One of the latest established factories for the utilization of native products is the shell button factory. The islands abound in shells of high commercial value, and beautiful mother of pearl is found in large quantities. By modern machinery, the shells are made into the finest "pearl" buttons on the market. Fifty natives operate the numerous machines with great dexterity, and the making of shell ornaments, spoons, buckles, pin trays and all the articles of use and beauty to which the shell may be put is being taken up as fast as the Filipinos can be trained to do the work. There are a hundred lines of manufacture of native products that are as easily developed as this and the skilled workmanship required will open a new door to the native skill of the Filipino workman.
Probably the Filipino shines to best advantage as a wood carver. There is work of great artistic merit done by native workmen and a race thar can furnish men, who can do such work must have much latent artistic ability hidden somewhere about its persons. The making of images for the use of the church is almost the only avenue open to this branch of skill, and while there is little originality there is good execution of the conventional designs. In Quiapo there are a number of shops wheresuch work is done and one wonders why is it that since the work is as good as it is, it is not much better, The skills of fingers is there, but the originality of design, that deft touch that bespeaks the soul of the artist, is lacking. It could hardly be otherwise so long as the workmen were held rigidly to the accepted patterns, and originality was discouraged with heavy penalties, but there should be some good things yet to come out of the Nazareth of andeveloped artisans.
That work of real merit is possible is easily proved by a visit to some of the churches of Intramuros. There is a pulpit in the Dominican church that is said to have cost four thousand pesos in labor alone, which is probably true enough if we regard the statement to mean what it would have cost if made in Europe at commercial prices. The master piece is of course the church of St. Ignatius which abounds in figure work of faultless design and perfect execution. If any reader of this has a love for the beautiful in carved wood, let him lose no time visiting the Jesuit church on Calle Arzobispo..
There are works of much merit in some of the homes of the best people. In the sala of a Filipino dentist stands a life-size figure of a soldier in a crouching position, gun in hand, barefoot; knapsack on the back, that is so alert and full of life that the first effect on the visitor is startling. The work was done as a matter of recreation by the artist-dentist who shows many pieces of excellent workmanship. One of these is a bust of himself cut from a single block of wood, and reproducing most faitfully the features of its author as they appeared some years ago.
That the Filipinos have a future as manufacturers and artisans there is a little doubt. The provincial governors in their annual reports nearly all refer to the household manufactures and the possibilities of far greater development than has ever yet been attempted. Such industries are mentioned as cordage works, soap factories, paper mills, furniture factories, textile mills tanneries, modern sugar mills, oil refineries, glassware and pottery wors, hat and shoe factories, brick-kilns, saw, canneries and plants for the utilization of the products of the casco tree.
There is plenty of water power available in all of the principal islands, and when this is utilized for the production of electricity and motive power is no reason why the development of the manufacturing possibilities of the islands should not in time greatly increase the total wealth of the Filipino people.
This way lies true independence. It little matters whether the governor-general be white or brown, or whether the assembly meets every two years or ten, but it does very much matter whether there is enough rice and hemp and sugar raised and whether the now wasted products of the islands are worked up into saleable materials of value. Economic independence is the goal of every free people, and the Filipino factories will yet play their part in the achievement of such independence.
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