THE MAGAT IS another of those turbulent, uncertain rivers of the Archipelago; we were not sure as we neared it whether we could get over or not. When up, it carries waves in midstream six to seven feet from crest to trough. But we had no such ill-luck, and bancas soon came over for us, the horses swimming.
While waiting for them we had a chance to admire the beautiful country; on one side tall spreading trees and broad savannahs, on the other the mountain presenting a bare scarp of red rock many hundreds of feet high; immediately in front the cool, green river, over all the brilliant sun, not yet too hot to prevent our thinking of other things.
Once over, we had no occasion to complain of our reception! All the notabilities were present, of course, mounted, but in addition there were three bands, all playing different tunes at the same time, in different keys, and all fortissimo. No instrument was allowed to rest, the drums being especially vigorous. One of the bands was that of the Constabulary, playing really well, and with magnificent indifference to the other two. I am bound to say they returned it.
We had the Constabulary troops, too, as escort, a well set-up, well-turned-out and soldierlike body. What with the bands, the pigs, the dogs, the horses, the children, the people, it was altogether one of the most delightful confusions conceivable, not the least interesting feature being the happy unconsciousness of the people of the incongruity of the reception. However, we formed a column, the Constabulary at the head, with its band, and were played into Bayombong, with the other bands, children, dogs, etc., as a mighty rear guard.
Our first business was to listen to reports and addresses. So we all went upstairs in the Government House, the presidencia; the Governor-General, Mr. Worcester, and the presidente took their seats on a dais, while the rest of us, with the local Americans and some of the native inhabitants, formed the audience, and listened to a report read by the treasurer. This made a great impression on us, so sensible and businesslike was it; not content with a statement, it went on to describe the affairs of the province, the possibilities of agriculture, and what could be accomplished if the people would turn to and work, and in particular it made no complaints.
Apparently this report alarmed the presidente, for he left his seat on the platform as soon as he decently could, and delivered a speech intended to traverse the treasurer’s report. His concern was almost comic: the idea of saying to the Governor-General that a great deal could be done locally by work, when there was a central Government at Manila!
Mr. Forbes, as usual, made in his turn a very sound speech, based on his observation in the province, on its fertility, its possibilities, the necessity of improving communications and of diversifying crops. I noticed here, as elsewhere in the province, the excellence of the Spanish used in speeches. As for the treasurer, we were informed that he had been taken in hand at an early age by the Americans and trained, so that in making his reports he had developed the ability to look upon the merits of the question in hand. But he must feel himself to be a unique person!
We rested here in Bayombong through the heat of the day, part going to Governor Bryant’s house, the rest of us to that of Captain Browne, the local Inspector of Constabulary. I have a grateful recollection of his hospitality, as well as of that of his brother officers, with whom we dined.
Nor must I forget the Standard Oil Company. For had not Browne rigged up a shower, consisting of the Standard five-gallon tin? A muchacho filled it with water and pulled it up over a pulley, and you got an excellent shower from the holes punched in the bottom. In fact, the Standard five-gallon tin is as well known in the East as its contents, and is carefully preserved and used. We had several opportunities to bless its existence.
Pleasant as was the nooning, it had to end: we mounted and rode on to Solano. On the way Bubud insisted on drinking from a dirty swamp by the roadside, although there was a limpid stream not fifty yards ahead which he could see as well as I. But there was nothing for it but the swamp; I accordingly let him have his way, only to find the bank slippery and the water deep, so that he went in up to his shoulders, with his hindquarters on the bank.
While I was trying to pull him back, he got in his hindquarters, and then, in further answer to my efforts, sat down in the water! And such water! Thick, greasy, smelly! A carabao wallow it was. He now gave unmistakable evidence of an intention to lie down, when a friendly hand got me up on the bank, whereupon Bubud, concluding he would get out too, emerged with a coat of muddy slime.
This seemed to have no effect whatever on his spirits, for on entering Solano a few minutes later, to the sound of bells and bands, with banners fluttering in the breeze, he got into such a swivet that before I knew it he was at the head of the procession, having worked himself forward and planted himself squarely in front of the Governor-General’s horse, where he caracoled and curvetted and pranced to his heart’s delight. As soon as we got out of the barrio, he was quite satisfied to take a more modest position, but occasions of ceremony seemed to deprive him of all realization of his proper place in the world.
The people of Solano made a great effort to have us stay the night, but it was impossible; we had to get on to Bagábag. Solano, by the way, is the commercial emporium of this end of the province, for there is not a single shop in Bayombong.
So on we went, through a calm, dignified afternoon, the country as before impressing me with its open, smiling valleys, its broad fields, its air of expectant fertility, inviting one to come scratch its surface, if no more, in order to reap abundant harvests. In fact, it seemed to me that we were riding through typical farming land at home, instead of through a Malay valley under the tropic.
And if anything more were needed to strengthen the illusion, it was a college yell, given by a gang of Ifugaos (the people we were now immediately on our way to visit) repairing a bridge we had to cross! They did it in style, and naturally had no cheer-leader; time was kept by beating on the floor of the bridge with tools. For this uttering of a shout of welcome or of other emotion in unison is a characteristic trait of the Ifugaos, like their using spoons, and can be likened to nothing else in the world but our American college yell.
Our reception at Bagábag was much like all the others we had had: bands, arches, addresses, one in excellent English. But on this occasion, after listening to a speech telling how poor the people were, how bad the roads were, how much they needed Government help, etc., etc., Mr. Forbes squared off in his answer, and told them a few things, as that he had seen so far not a single lean, hungry-looking person, that the elements were kindly, that they could mend their own roads, and that he was tired of their everlasting complaint of poverty and hunger, when a little work would go a great way in this country toward bettering their material condition.
This, of course, is just the kind of talk these people need, and the last some of them wish to hear.
We were now on the borders of the Mountain Province; literally one more river to cross, and we should turn our backs on Nueva Vizcaya. And with regret, for it is a beautiful smiling province, of fertile soil, of polite and hospitable people, of lovely mountains, limpid streams and triumphant forests. In Dampier’s quaint words, spoken of another province, but equally true of this one, “The Valleys are well moistened with pleasant Brooks, and small Rivers of delicate Water; and have Trees of divers sorts flourishing and green all the Year.”
Its people lack energy, perhaps because they have no roads; it may be equally true that they lack roads because they have no energy. However this may be, the province can and some day will grow coffee, tobacco, rice, and cocoa to perfection; its savannahs will furnish pasturage for thousands of cattle, where now some one solitary carabao serves only to mark the solitude in which he stands.