Saturday, April 25, 2015

Hikes in Philippine History #4: German explorer Fedor Jagor's finale in Bicol: Mt. Mayon in 1859

Mason Volcano, the finale of the four mountains in Bicol that
German explorer Fedor Jagor hiked in 18
annotated by Gideon Lasco

In the course of my historical research I have stumbled upon various accounts of mountain climbing trips in the journals of hikes in the Philippines - or at least descriptions of various mountains. They are too interesting to ignore so I thought it would be nice to start a series about them. 
Fedor Jagor (1816-1900)

The first featured hiker on our list is Fedor Jagor (1816–1900), a German scientist and explorer who traveled in the Philippines from 1859-1860. This account, originally in German and later translated in English, is probably the first to describe hikes up Bicol mountains. After three mountains (Isarog, Asog, Masaraga), this is his finale: no less than beautiful Mayon Volcano!

MT. MAYON
My Spanish friends enabled me to rent a house in Daraga,1 a well-to-do town of twenty thousand inhabitants at the foot of the Mayon, a league and a half from Legaspi. The summit of this volcano was considered inaccessible until two young Scotchmen, Paton and Stewart by name, demonstrated the contrary. Since then several natives have ascended the mountain, but no Europeans.

I set out on September 25th, and passed the night, by the advice of Señor Muños, in a hut one thousand feet above the level of the sea, in order to begin the ascent the next morning with unimpaired vigor. But a number of idlers who insisted on following me, and who kept up a tremendous noise all night, frustrated the purpose of this friendly advice; and I started about five in the morning but little refreshed.

The fiery glow I had noticed about the crater disappeared with the dawn. The first few hundred feet of the ascent were covered with a tall grass quite six feet high; and then came a slope of a thousand feet or so of short grass succeeded by a quantity of moss; but even this soon disappeared, and the whole of the upper part of the mountain proved entirely barren.

We reached the summit about one o’clock. It was covered with fissures which gave out sulphurous gases and steam in such profusion that we were obliged to stop our mouths and nostrils with our handkerchiefs to prevent ourselves from being suffocated. We came to a halt at the edge of a broad and deep chasm, from which issued a particularly dense vapor. Apparently we were on the brink of a crater, but the thick fumes of the disagreeable vapor made it impossible for us to guess at the breadth of the fissure.

The absolute top of the volcano consisted of a ridge, nearly ten feet thick, of solid masses of stone covered with a crust of lava bleached by the action of the escaping gas. Several irregular blocks of stone lying about us showed that the peak had once been a little higher. When, now and again, the gusts of wind made rifts in the vapor, we perceived on the northern corner of the plateau several rocky columns at least a hundred feet high, which had hitherto withstood both storm and eruption. I afterwards had an opportunity of observing the summit from Daraga with a capital telescope on a very clear day, when I noticed that the northern side of the crater was considerably higher than its southern edge.

Our descent took some time. We had still two-thirds of it beneath us when night overtook us. In the hope of reaching the hut where we had left our provisions, we wandered about till eleven o’clock, hungry and weary, and at last were obliged to wait for daylight. This misfortune was owing not to our want of proper precaution, but to the unreliability of the carriers. Two of them, whom we had taken with us to carry water and refreshments, had disappeared at the very first; and a third, “a very trustworthy man,” whom we had left to take care of our things at the hut, and who had been ordered to meet us at dusk with torches, had bolted, as I afterwards discovered, back to Daraga before noon.

My servant, too, who was carrying a woolen blanket and an umbrella for me, suddenly vanished in the darkness as soon as it began to rain, and though I repeatedly called him, never turned up again till the next morning. We passed the wet night upon the bare rocks, where, as our very thin clothes were perfectly wet through, we chilled till our teeth chattered. As soon, however, as the sun [88]rose we got so warm that we soon recovered our tempers. Towards nine o’clock we reached the hut and got something to eat after twenty-nine hours’ fast.

***

I learnt from Mr. Paton that the undertaking had also been represented as impracticable in Albay. “Not a single Spaniard, not a single native had ever succeeded in reaching the summit; in spite of all their precautions they would certainly be swallowed up in the sand.” However, one morning, about five o’clock, they set off, and soon reached the foot of the cone of the crater. Accompanied by a couple of natives, who soon left them, they began to make the ascent. Resting half way up, they noticed frequent masses of shining lava, thrown from the mouth of the crater, gliding down the mountain. With the greatest exertions they succeeded, between two and three o’clock, in reaching the summit, where, however, they were prevented by the noxious gas from remaining more than two or three minutes. During their descent, they restored their strength with some refreshments Sr. Muñoz had sent to meet them; and they reached Albay towards evening, where during their short stay they were treated as heroes, and presented with an official certificate of their achievement, for which they had the pleasure of paying several dollars.

Blogger's note: In this dayhike-turned-overnight hike, Jagor describes Mayon very similarly to how a hike of it will look like today. He had a hard time. Later in his diary he would write: "I sprained my foot so badly in ascending Mayon that I was obliged to keep the house for a month."

Blogger's note: Given his description of the summit being 1966 MASL, he must reached the exact peak that we now reach after going up the Panicuason Trail. Like any mountaineer today, he must have been disappointed with the lack of learning at the top! 

Reference: The Former Philippines Through Foreign Eyes (Craig, 1917 ed.). Available: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10770/10770-h/10770-h.htm#xd20e3939

FEDOR JAGOR'S HIKES IN BICOL (1859-1860)
Hiking in Philippine history #1: Mt. Isarog
Hiking in Philippine history #2: Mt. Asog
Hiking in Philippine history #3: Mt. Masaraga
Hiking in Philippine history #4: Mt. Mayon

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hikes in Philippine History #3: German explorer Fedor Jagor hikes up Mt. Masaraga in 1859

Mt. Masaraga was the third mountain that Fedor Jagor hiked in Bicol,
way back in 1859!
annotated by Gideon Lasco

In the course of my historical research I have stumbled upon various accounts of mountain climbing trips in the journals of hikes in the Philippines - or at least descriptions of various mountains. They are too interesting to ignore so I thought it would be nice to start a series about them. 
Fedor Jagor (1816-1900)

The first featured hiker on our list is Fedor Jagor (1816–1900), a German scientist and explorer who traveled in the Philippines from 1859-1860. This account, originally in German and later translated in English, is probably the first to describe hikes up Bicol mountains. After Mt. Isarog (Hikes in Philippine History #1) and Mt. Asog (HPH #2), we continue with his account with an overnight hike up Mt. Masaraga. 

MT. MASARAGA
At Ligao I alighted at a friendly Spaniard’s, a great part of the place, together with the tribunal and convent, having been burnt down since my last visit. After making the necessary preparations, I went in the evening to Barayong, a little rancho of Cimarrons at the foot of the Mazaraga, and, together with its inhabitants, ascended the mountain on the following morning.

The women also accompanied us for some distance, and kept the company in good humor; and when, on the road, a Filipino who had been engaged for the purpose wished to give up carrying a bamboo full of water, and, throwing it away, ran off, an old woman stepped forward in his stead, and dragged the water cheerfully along up to the summit.

This mountain was moister than any I had ever ascended, the Semeru in Java, in some respects, excepted; and half-way up I found some rotten rafflesia.

Two miserable-looking Cimarron dogs drove a young stag towards us, which was slain by one of the people with a blow of his bolo. The path ceased a third of the way up, but it was not difficult to get through the wood. The upper portion of the mountain, however, being thickly overgrown with cane, again presented great obstacles.

About twelve we reached the summit-level, which, pierced by no crater, is almost horizontal, smoothly arched, and thickly covered with cane. Altitude.Its height is 1,354 meters. In a short time the indefatigable Cimarrons had built a fine large hut of cane: one room for myself and the baggage, a large assembly-room for the people, and a special apartment for cooking.

Unfortunately the cane was so wet that it would not burn. In order to procure firewood to cook the rice, thick branches were got out of the wood, and their comparatively dry pith extracted with great labor. The lucifer-matches, too, were so damp that the phosphorus was rubbed away in friction; but, being collected on blotting-paper, and kneaded together with the sulphurous end of the match-wood, it became dry and was kindled by friction. Not a trace of solid rock was to be seen. All was obstructed by a thick overgrowth from where the path ceased, and the ground covered with a dense bed of damp wood-earth.

The following morning was fine, and showed a wide panorama; but, before I had completed my drawing, it again became misty; and as, after several hours of waiting, the heavens were overspread with thick rain-clouds, we set out on our return.

Numerous butterflies swarmed around the summit. We could, however, catch only a few, as the passage over the cane-stubble was too difficult for naked feet; and, the badly-stitched soles of two pairs of new shoes which I had brought from Manila having dropped off some time before I reached the summit, I was compelled to perform the journey to Ligao barefoot.

Blogger's note: I love this account! Over 150 years after he climbed Masaraga, I can still relate to his cogon-filled ascent (he calls it cane). You've got to admire the intrepid spirit of this man. And to think that his shoe broke on the way down! My own Mt. Masaraga hike is narrated at Hiking matters #162.

Reference: The Former Philippines Through Foreign Eyes (Craig, 1917 ed.). Available: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10770/10770-h/10770-h.htm#xd20e3939

FEDOR JAGOR'S HIKES IN BICOL (1859-1860)
Hiking in Philippine history #1: Mt. Isarog
Hiking in Philippine history #2: Mt. Asog
Hiking in Philippine history #3: Mt. Masaraga
Hiking in Philippine history #4: Mt. Mayon

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hikes in Philippine History #2: German explorer Fedor Jagor dayhikes Mt. Asog in 1859

The view from Mt. Asog - which Fedor Jagor would have seen if the
summit weren't covered with clouds
annotated by Gideon Lasco

In the course of my historical research I have stumbled upon various accounts of mountain climbing trips in the journals of hikes in the Philippines - or at least descriptions of various mountains. They are too interesting to ignore so I thought it would be nice to start a series about them. 
Fedor Jagor (1816-1900)

The first featured hiker on our list is Fedor Jagor (1816–1900), a German scientist and explorer who traveled in the Philippines from 1859-1860. This account, originally in German and later translated in English, is probably the first to describe hikes up Bicol mountains. After Mt. Isarog (Hikes in Philippine History #1), we continue with his account about Mt. Asog, which he referred to with its alternate name, Mt. Iriga.

MT. IRIGA (ASOG)
From the Isarog I returned through Naga and Nabua to Iriga, the ascent of which I at length accomplished.

The ascent.The chief of the Montesinos had received daily rations for twenty-two men, with whom he professed to make a road to the summit; but when, on the evening of the third day, he came himself to Iriga, in order to fetch more provisions, on the pretext that the work still required some time for execution, I explained that I should endeavor to ascend the mountain on the following morning, and requested him to act as guide. He consented, but disappeared, together with his companions, during the night; the Filipinos in the tribunal having been good enough to hold out the prospect of severe punishment in case the work performed should not correspond to the working days.

After fruitless search for another guide, we left Buhi in the afternoon, and passed the night in the rancho, where we had previously been so hospitably received. The fires were still burning, but the inhabitants, on our approach, had fled. About six o’clock on the following morning the ascent began. After we had gone through the forest, by availing ourselves of the path which we had previously
beaten, it led us through grass three or four feet in height, with keen-edged leaves; succeeded by cane, from seven to eight feet high, of the same habitat with our Arundo phragmites (but it was not in flower), which occupied the whole of the upper part of the mountain as far as the edge. Only in the ravine did the trees attain any height. The lower declivities were covered with aroids and ferns; towards the summit were tendrils and mosses; and here I found a beautiful, new, and peculiarly shaped orchid.

The Cimarrons had cut down some cane; and, beating down our road for ourselves with bolos, we arrived at the summit a little before ten o’clock. It was very foggy. In the hope of a clear evening or morning I caused a hut to be erected, for which purpose the cane was well fitted. The natives were too lazy to erect a lodging for themselves, or to procure wood for a watchfire. They squatted on the ground, squeezed close to one another to warm themselves, ate cold rice, and suffered thirst because none of them would fetch water. Of the two water-carriers whom I had taken with me, one had “inadvertently” upset his water on the road, and the other had thrown it away “because he thought we should not require it.”

Altitude.I found the highest points of the Iriga to be 1,212 meters, 1,120 meters above the surface of the Buhi Lake. From Buhi I went to Batu.

The Batu Lake (one hundred eleven meters above the sea) had sunk lower since my last visit in February. The carpet of algae had increased considerably in breadth, its upper edge being in many places decomposed; and the lower passed gradually into a thick consistency of putrid water-plants (charae, algae, pontederiae, valisneriae, pistiae, etc.), which encompassed the surface of the water so that only through a few gaps could one reach the bank.

Right across the mouth of the Quinali lies, in the lake, a bar of black mud, the softest parts of which were indicated by some insignificant channels of water. As we could not get over the bar in a large boat, two small skiffs were bound together with a matting of bamboo, and provided with an awning. By means of this contrivance, which was drawn by three strong carabaos (the whole body of men with evident delight and loud mirth wading knee-deep in the black mud and assisting by pushing behind) we succeeded, as if on a sledge, in getting over the obstacle into the river; which on my first visit overflowed the fields in many places, till the huts of the natives rose out of the water like so many ships: but now (in June) not one of its channels was full. We were obliged in consequence to continue our sledge journey until we were near to Quinali.

Blogger's note: Again, Fedor Jagor failed to see a clearing at the summit of Mt. Asog -- too bad for him! But it seems that he has a relatively fast pace as it only took him four hours to reach the summit from the trailhead. Yes, dayhikes were already in done in the 19th century!

Reference: The Former Philippines Through Foreign Eyes (Craig, 1917 ed.). Available: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10770/10770-h/10770-h.htm#xd20e3939

FEDOR JAGOR'S HIKES IN BICOL (1859-1860)
Hiking in Philippine history #1: Mt. Isarog
Hiking in Philippine history #2: Mt. Asog
Hiking in Philippine history #3: Mt. Masaraga
Hiking in Philippine history #4: Mt. Mayon

Hikes in Philippine History #1: German explorer Fedor Jagor hikes Mt. Isarog in 1859

View from Mt, Isarog's summit, where Fedor Jagor said he camped in 1859
annotated by Gideon Lasco

In the course of my historical research I have stumbled upon various accounts of mountain climbing trips in the journals of hikes in the Philippines - or at least descriptions of various mountains. They are too interesting to ignore so I thought it would be nice to start a series about them. 
Fedor Jagor (1816-1900)

The first on our list is Fedor Jagor (1816–1900), a German scientist and explorer who traveled in the Philippines from 1859-1860. This account is probably the first to describe hikes up Bicol mountains. It also references the first ascent of Mayon -- apparently by two men from Scotland. I like the way these chroniclers of bygone years are so detailed with their notes. There is also some personal touch too, when he said: "I sprained my foot so badly in ascending Mayon that I was obliged to keep the house for a month."

MT. ISAROG
The Isaróg (pronounced Issaró) rises up in the middle of Camarines, between San Miguel and Lagonoy bays. While its eastern slope almost reaches the sea, it is separated on its western side by a broad strip of inundated land from San Miguel Bay. In circumference it is at least twelve leagues; and its height 1,966 meters.1 Very flat at its base, it swells gradually to 16°, and higher [191]up to 21° of inclination, and extends itself, in its western aspect, into a flat dome-shaped summit. But, if viewed from the eastern side, it has the appearance of a circular chain of mountains rent asunder by a great ravine. On Coello’s map this ravine is erroneously laid down as extending from south to north; its bearing really is west to east. Right in front of its opening, and half a league south from Goa, lies the pretty little village of Rungus, by which it is known. The exterior sides of the mountain and the fragments of its large crater are covered with impenetrable wood. Respecting its volcanic eruptions tradition says nothing.

This hillock, as well as the others which I examined, consisted of the débris of the Isaróg, the more or less decomposed trachytic fragments of hornblende rock, the spaces between which were filled up with red sand. The number of streams sent down by the Isaróg, into San Miguel and Lagonoy bays, is extraordinarily large. On the tract behind Maguiring I counted, in three-quarters of an hour, five considerable estuaries, that is to say, above twenty feet broad; and then, as far as Goa, twenty-six more; altogether, thirty-one: but there are more, as I did not include the smallest; and yet the distance between Maguiring and Goa, in a straight line, does not exceed three miles. This accounts for the enormous quantity of steam with which this mighty condenser is fed. I have not met with this phenomenon on any other mountain in so striking a manner. One very remarkable circumstance is the rapidity with which the brimming rivulets pass in the estuaries, enabling them to carry the trading vessels, sometimes even ships, into a main stream (if the expression may be allowed), while the scanty contributions of their kindred streams on the northern side have scarcely acquired the importance of a mill-brook. These waters, from their breadth, look like little rivers, although in reality they consist of only a brook, up to the foot of the mountain, and of a river’s mouth in the plain; the intermediate part being absent.

The country here is strikingly similar to the remarkable mountain district of the Gelungúng, described by yet the origin of these rising grounds differs in some degree from that of those in Java. The latter were due to the eruption of 1822, and the great fissure in the wall of the crater of the Gelungúng, which is turned towards them, shows unmistakably whence the materials for their formation were derived; but the great chasm of the Isaróg opens towards the east, and therefore has no relation to the numberless hillocks on the north-west of the mountain. Behind Maguiring they run more closely together, their summits are flatter, and their sides steeper; and they pass gradually into a gently inclined slope, rent into innumerable clefts, in the hollows of which as many brooks are actively employed in converting the angular outlines of the little islands into these rounded hillocks. The third river behind Maguiring is larger than those preceding it; on the sixth lies the large Visita of Borobod; and on the tenth, that of Ragay. The rice fields cease with the hill country, and on the slope, which is well drained by deep channels, only wild cane and a few groups of trees grow. Passing by many villages, whose huts were so isolated and concealed that they might remain unobserved, we arrived at five o’clock at Tagunton; from which a road, practicable for carabao carts, and used for the transport of the abacá grown in the district, leads to Goa; and here, detained by sickness, I hired a little house, in which I lay for nearly four weeks, no other remedies offering themselves to me but hunger and repose.

During this time I made the acquaintance of some newly-converted Igorots, and won their confidence. Without them I would have had great difficulty in ascending the mountains as well as to visit their tribe in its farms without any danger. When, at last, I was able to quit Goa, my friends conducted me, as the first step, to their settlement; where, having been previously recommended and expected, I easily obtained the requisite number of attendants to take into their charge the animals and plants which were collected for me.

On the following morning the ascent was commenced. Even before we arrived at the first rancho, I was convinced of the good report that had preceded me. The master of the house came towards us and conducted us by a narrow path to his hut, after having removed the foot-lances, which projected obliquely out of the ground, but were dexterously concealed by brushwood and leaves. A woman employed in weaving, at my desire, continued her occupation. The loom was of the simplest kind. The upper end, the chain-beam, which consists of a piece of bamboo, is fixed to two bars or posts; and the weaver sits on the ground, and to the two notched ends of a small lath, which supplies the place of the weaving beam, hooks on a wooden bow, in the arch of which the back of the lath is fitted. Placing her feet against two pegs in the ground and bending her back, she, by means of the bow, stretches the material out straight. A netting-needle, longer than the breadth of the web, serves instead of the weaver’s shuttle, but it can be pushed through only by considerable friction, and not always without breaking the chains of threads. A lath of hard wood (caryota), sharpened like a knife, represents the trestle, and after every stroke it is placed upon the edge; after which the comb is pushed forward, a thread put through, and struck fast, and so forth. The web consisted of threads of the abacá, which were not spun, but tied one to another.

The huts I visited deserve no special description. Composed of bamboos and palm-leaves, they are not essentially different from the dwellings of poor Filipinos; and in their neighborhood were small fields planted with batata, maize, caladium and sugar-cane, and enclosed by magnificent polypody ferns. One of the highest of these, which I caused to be felled for the purpose, measured in the stem nine meters, thirty centimeters; in the crown, two meters, twelve centimeters; and its total length was eleven meters, forty-two centimeters or over thirty-six feet.

A young lad produced music on a kind of lute, called baringbau; consisting of the dry shaft of the scitamina stretched in the form of a bow by means of a thin tendril instead of gut. Half a coco shell is fixed in the middle of the bow, which, when playing, is placed against the abdomen, and serves as a sounding board; and the string when struck with a short wand, gave out a pleasing humming sound, realizing the idea of the harp and plectrum in their simplest forms. Others accompanied the musician on Jews’ harps of bamboos, as accurate as those of the Mintras on the Malay Peninsula; and there was one who played on a guitar, which he had himself made, but after a European pattern. The hut contained no utensils besides bows, arrows, and a cooking pot. The possessor of clothes bore them on his person. I found the women as decently clad as the Filipino Christian women, and carrying, besides, a forest knife, or bolo. As a mark of entire confidence, I was taken into the tobacco fields, which were well concealed and protected by foot-lances; and they appeared to be carefully looked after.

In the afternoon we reached a vast ravine, called “Basira,” 973 meters above Uacloy, and about 1,134 meters above the sea, extending from south-east to north-west between lofty, precipitous ranges, covered with wood. Its base, which has an inclination of 33°, consists of a naked bed of rock, and, after every violent rainfall, gives issue to a torrent of water, which discharges itself violently. Here we bivouacked; and the Igorots, in a very short time, built a hut, and remained on the watch outside. At daybreak the thermometer stood at 13.9°

The road to the summit was very difficult on account of the slippery clay earth and the tough network of plants; but the last five hundred feet were unexpectedly easy, the very steep summit being covered with a very thick growth of thinly leaved, knotted, mossy thibaudia, rhododendra, and other dwarf woods, whose innumerable tough branches, running at a very small height along the ground and parallel to it, form a compact and secure lattice-work, by which one mounted upwards as on a slightly inclined ladder. The point which we reached was evidently the highest spur of the horseshoe-shaped mountain side, which bounds the great ravine of Rungus on the north. The top was hardly fifty paces in diameter, and so thickly covered with trees that I have never seen its like; we had not room to stand. My active hosts, however, went at once to work, though the task of cutting a path through the wood involved severe labor, and, chopping off the branches, built therewith, on the tops of the lopped trees, an observatory, from which I should have had a wide panoramic view, and an opportunity for taking celestial altitudes, had not everything been enveloped in a thick mist. The neighboring volcanoes were visible only in glimpses, as well as San Miguel Bay and some lakes in the interior. Immediately after sunset the thermometer registered 12.5°.

On the following morning it was still overcast; and when, about ten o’clock, the clouds became thicker, we set out on our return. It was my intention to have passed the night in a rancho, in order next day to visit a solfatara which was said to be a day’s journey further; but my companions were so exhausted by fatigue that they asked for at least a few hours’ rest.

On the upper slope I observed no palms with the exception of calamus; but polypodies (ferns) were very frequent, and orchids surprisingly abundant. In one place all the trees were hung, at a convenient height, with flowering aërids; of which one could have collected [205]thousands without any trouble. The most beautiful plant was a Medinella, of so delicate a texture that it was impossible to preserve it.

Within a quarter of an hour north-east of Uacloy, a considerable spring of carbonic acid bursts from the ground, depositing abundance of calcareous sinter. Our torches were quickly extinguished, and a fowl covered with a cigar-box died in a few minutes, to the supreme astonishment of the Igorots, to whom these phenomena were entirely new.

Farewell to mountaineers. On the second day of rest, my poor hosts, who had accompanied me back to Uacloy, still felt so weary that they were not fit for any undertaking. With naked heads and bellies they squatted in the burning sun in order to replenish their bodies with the heat which they had lost during the bivouac on the summit; for they are not allowed to drink wine. When I finally left them on the following day, we had become such good friends that I was compelled to accept a tamed wild pig as a present. A troop of men and women accompanied me until they saw the glittering roofs of Maguiring, when, after the exchange of hearty farewells, they returned to their forests.

From barometrical observations—

Goa, on the northern slope of the Isaróg 32
Uacloy, a settlement of Igorots 161
Ravine of Baira 1,134
Summit of the Isarog 1,966

Blogger's note: Given his description of the summit being 1966 MASL, he must reached the exact peak that we now reach after going up the Panicuason Trail. Like any mountaineer today, he must have been disappointed with the lack of learning at the top! 

Reference: The Former Philippines Through Foreign Eyes (Craig, 1917 ed.). Available: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/10770/10770-h/10770-h.htm#xd20e3939

FEDOR JAGOR'S HIKES IN BICOL (1859-1860)
Hiking in Philippine history #1: Mt. Isarog
Hiking in Philippine history #2: Mt. Asog
Hiking in Philippine history #3: Mt. Masaraga
Hiking in Philippine history #4: Mt. Mayon

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