Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1885 Bikolano cimarron
Subjectcimarron 'wild' bandit 
Culture: Bikolano
Setting: banditry, Bikol 19thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Bankoff 1996 p65-68
"Unlike Cavite, the bandit in Camarines Sur was not primarily a lowland peasant cultivator protesting against the dispossession of his land and his reduction to the status of a wage laborer.  The socioeconomic conditions prevailing in the Bicol region were different from those in Cavite.  There were no large estates, and ownership of the valuable wet rice paddies was shared among approximately one-third of the population.  Most workers were either wage laborers or sharecropping tenants on the lowland rice fields and hillside abaca farms.  In contrast to Cavite, strong patron-client relationships bonded a culturally homogeneous society.  The advent of abaca as a major export industry in the 1830s did not change this relationship -- at least not until the latter part of the nineteenth century, when outsiders began to acquire landed interests in the region.  Banditry was not a problem at the beginning of the century, according to the governor who boasts in 1807 that 'in this province, the evil doers that infest others are unknown; (people) live with security and they travel by day and night over the highways without arms, without precautions, without fears.'
    "Whatever the claims of its governor, however, banditry did exist in Camarines Sur.  It may not have been prevalent among the settled lowland communities of the central valley, but it was definitely a problem in the eastern Bicol Cordillera.  Mount Isarog, a volcanic peak rising 2,000 meters above sea level, had a particularly infamous reputation throughout the nineteenth century.  Its forest-covered slopes, encompassing a base some sixty kilometers in circumference, were home to a settled population of upland people, but also provided shelter to fugitives from the lowlands.  The key to exactly who these people were is found in the nomenclature used in official documents.  All bandits were referred to as tulisanes (often interchangeable with remontados), but the other names commonly used in Camarines Sur were remontados, cimarrones, and infieles -- runaways, escaped slaves, and nonconverted hill people.  A report written in 1834 estimates the population of Mount Isarog at 3,000, mostly engaged in contraband trade with the surrounding areas.  The report concludes on a severe note warning that the mountain people should not be considered as infieles but as criminals subject to the full rigor of the law.  The trade that sustained this population and earned the wrath of the authorities was tobacco, grown on the mountain sides and exchanged with surrounding settlements for lowland produce.
    "Tobacco growing was only permitted in certain provinces licensed by a government monopoly, but it played an important role in the local economy around the mountain base.  In fact, much of the banditry in Camarines Sur during the first half of the century resulted from policies that excluded hill people from participating in the economy of the region and left them exposed to exploitation by lowland farmers.  The extension of the tobacco monopoly to include the Bicol region in 1785 undermined the economic independence of upland people, but enhanced the demand for their produce.  On the one hand, tobacco growing became a proscribed agricultural activity subject to severe penalties and constant harassment.  The customs police were ordered to crack down on smugglers in mountain settlements, and local officials were authorized to use all means at their disposal, including troops, to make a 'push' into the area.  On the other hand, demand for illegal tobacco increased in lowland markets.  Tobacco bought from government retailers had to be paid for in scarce coin, while mountain-grown tobacco was obtained by barter.
    "The lack of alternative commodities to replace tobacco as an item of exchange with lowland communities forced people on Mount Isarog and in similar communities elsewhere in the province to seek employment in Christian mission settlements. While they worked in the fields or performed various other services, relations remained cordial so long as wages were paid and agreements honored.  Often cheated, however, hill people had recourse to 'the most atrocious methods imaginable,' which they reportedly committed on all and sundry.  The town of Pili was twice threatened with fire in February 1835, and only saved by the prompt action of the local police, two of whom died.  The provincial governor comments that 'no one in these towns is free from the continual robbings and murders carried out by these bandits.'
    "Mountain communities continued to be excluded economically throughout the nineteenth century despite the abolition of the tobacco monopoly in 1881.  Although Mount Isarog was combed monthly by the police, El Comercio (7 June 1890) still notes the presence there of men 'who lived by rustling and cutting abaca.'  Those forced to leave the sanctuary of the mountains were replaced by the newcomers from lowland settlements escaping cholera, fever, food shortages, and high prices.  While much of the banditry in Camarines Sur retained its characteristic cycle of provocation, raid, and punitive retaliation between lowland and mountain communities, the professional bandit became active in the province during the last few decades of the nineteenth century.  As non-Bikolanos, attracted by the profits in abaca, acquired land in the province, bandits such as the infamous Pancho singled out members of the principalia as targets.  Pancho gained his notoriety in 1885 when he burned down the house of one of the principal families of Buhi, murdering its seven occupants in the process -- women, children, and the elderly.  Until he was run to ground and killed in 1890, Pancho and his band terrorized Camarines and part of the neighboring province of Albay."  [references omitted]


* Mallari 2010-04-13 online
"One bladed weapon unique to Bicol and often identified with the Cimarrones is the 'minasbad.' Like the bolo of the Tagalog region, the minasbad has a dual purpose of being a weapon and a farm tool. The main features that distinguish the minasbad from other Philippine blades are its handle with an ornate animal figurehead often made of carabao horn and its wooden scabbard with exquisite engravings.
    "A graceful curve and a flat to rounded tip characterize the minasbad blade. The latter is an indication that the blade was also used for agricultural chores. Other minute attributes of the minasbad are the serrations near the base of its blade and an attachment of a tassel of hair on its sheath (presumably meant to wipe off the blood from the blade).    
    "One important observation I made on the minasbad is that some of its variations have a hand guard similar to that of a western saber, an uncommon element on a Filipino blade. Again, remembering Newton’s comment on the possibility of the Cimarrones being “fugitives from Spanish control,” it is easy to postulate that this element was borrowed from the Spaniards."

* Steel and magic 2020 p218 (describing a minasbad, Bicolano)
"The characteristic handle is made from carabao (water buffalo) horn in the shape of a dog- or horse-like beast.  The Bicolano have a variation of the tripartite cosmos where the dragon serpent is replaced by a dragon dog, and the bird by a horse."

* Baao Historical & Cultural Society 2008-07-05 online > The Minasbad: Utility and artistry in a Bicolano blade.  From P.B. Robosa's "Baao vignettes"
"There are still a handful of us though who marvel at the weapons and fighting skills of the ancient Bikolano and no weapon elicit more discussion among us than the minasbad. My knowledge of minasbad lore include how the blade measurements is taken to fit the length of the arm of the bearer, that it must balance on your finger when held in the middle and that the test of its sharpness and the skill of the bearer is proven when the blade can decapitate a Carabao in one stroke. It is told that the Cimarones carried it with pride like a badge when dealing with the lowlanders and how the lowlanders would use their own minasbad to hand articles to the Cimarones, a precaution against a sudden slash that could chop off an arm. I knew that the hair ornament was meant to wipe off blood from the blade after an engagement and that the pointed ears of the hound on the handle was meant to pummel and the teeth-like serrations on the base of the blade was to saw away in close quarter combat.
    "[....]  The minasbad’s use as a farm implement is also versatile. You could clear a path with it, cut small branches, cultivate, crop bamboo or even cut down a small tree. It is fortunate for the minasbad that though it would have been essential to the ancient Bicolano warrior in war is today in peace, still an indispensable tool of the farmer, thus saving this artifact from oblivion. So important could have been this object to its owner that enough time was also spent in the care and ornamentation of not only the handle but the blade and the sheath. The most distinctive part of the minasbad or any other bolo manufactured in Rinconada is the Carabao-horn handle. This type of carved handle is totally non-existent elsewhere in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, in the Bicol region, I believe it is found only in Rinconada.
    "The grip is reinforced by ribs around the handle that also served as ornamentation and the pummel is formed by the head of an animal usually that of a dog or a hound with its fangs opened in a contorted grin. In what is supposed to be the forehead, the end of the tang is locked in bronze forming a little crown parallel to the points of what would be pointed ears. The appearance reinforces our connection to the Malay archipelago as it appears very similar to their garuda sculpture. The other design elements on it show both local and foreign influences, the scale-like and triangular siko-siko patterns are certainly indigenous but the curved and counter-curved lines on the surface of the sheath and on the brass fasteners are definitely a Spanish flourish. The Spanish baroque element is more pronounced however on the blade that the pattern even ends in a floral design. This somewhat strange design element for a weapon is common to other cultures like the Japanese who add flower patterns to their swords. The “S’ curve of the blade is similar to that of Chinese broadsword as well as the sheath construction, suggesting that the original design could be Chinese. This wouldn’t be impossible because iron working in Bicol during pre-Hispanic times was the best developed in the Philippines."


* Steel and magic 2020 p219
"The nineteenth- and twentieth-century baed has a handle resembling that of the minasbad, but a much shorter and thicker blade."