Subject: cimarron 'wild' bandit
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]
"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."
* 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."