Feodor Jagor was born in Berlin, Germany in 1816. Not much is known about him except that he was an adventurer, chronicler, writer and tourist who compiled notes about his travels to little known exotic places all over the world. In 1859, at the age of 43, he toured the Philippine islands for Chapman and Hall, a publishing firm in London, England, which financed his travel. Jagor reached Buhi in rainy November 1859.

He stayed in town until the end of the month, ingratiating himself with the natives, keenly observing and recording the town’s peculiarities. He toured the rest of the country in 1860, going as far as Mindanao. In 1875, Jagor published Travels in the Philippines in Piccadily, London. Originally written in German, the book was also translated into Spanish. Fedor in the German and 1900 at the age of 84. The following account is lifted and verbatim from a very rare copy of the English edition. – courtesy of the Rare Books Section of the National Archives in Manila.

AFTER a vain attempt to reach the top of the Iriga volcano I started for Buhi, a place situated on the southern shore of the lake of that name. Ten minutes after leaving Yriga I reached a spot where the ground was hollow beneath my horse’s feet. A succession of small hillocks, about fifty feet high, bordered each side of the road; and towards the north I could perceive the huge crater of Yriga, which, in the distance, appeared like a truncated cone. I had the curiosity to ascend one of the hillocks, which, seen from its summit, looked like the remains of some former crater, which had probably been destroyed by an earthquake and split up into these small mounds.

When I got to Buhi, the friendly priest had it proclaimed by sound of drum that the newly arrived strangers wished to obtain all kinds of animals, whether of earth, of air, or of water; and that each and all would be paid for in cash. The natives, however, brought us moths, centipedes and other vermin which, besides enabling them to have a good stare at the strangers; they hoped to turn into cash as extraordinary curiosities.

The following day I was the spectator of a gorgeous procession. First came the Spanish flag, then the village kettledrums, and a small troop of horsemen in short jackets and shirts flying in the wind, next a dozen musicians, and finally, as the principal figure, a man carrying a crimson silk standard. The latter individual evidently was deeply conscious f his dignified position, and his countenance eloquently expressed the quantity of palm wine he had consumed in honor of the occasion. He sat on his horse dressed out in the most absurd manner in a large cocked hat trimmed with coloured paper instead of gold lace, with a woman’s cape made of paper outside his coat, and with short, tight-fitting yellow breeches and immense white stockings and shoes. Both his coat and his breeches were liberally ornamented with paper trimmings. His steed, led by a couple of cabezas, was appointed with similar trappings. After marching through all the streets of the village, the procession came to a halt in front of the church.

This festival is celebrated every year in commemoration of the concession made by the Pope to the King of Spain, permitting the latter to appropriate to his own use certain revenues of the Church. This right, which, so to speak, it acquired wholesale, it sells by retail to its customers (it formerly disposed of it to the priest) in the estanco, and together with its other monopolies, such as tobacco, brandy, lottery tickets, stamped paper, etc., all through the agency of the priests; without the assistance of whom very little business would be done. The receipts from the sale of these indulgences have always been fluctuating. In 1819 they amounted to 15, 930 dollars; in 1839 to 36, 390 dollars; and 1860 they were estimated at 58, 954 dollars. In the year 1844-5 they rose to 292, 115 dollars. The cause of this large increase was that indulgences were then rendered compulsory; so many being allotted to each family, with the assistance and under the superintendence of the priest and tax-collectors who received a commission of five and eight per cent, on the gross amount collected  – one of the most shameless abuses of an  infamous system.

The lake of Buhi (300 feet above sea level) presents an extremely picturesque appearance, surrounded as it is on all sides by hills fully a thousand feet high; and its western shore is formed by what still remains of the Yriga Volcano. I was informed by the priest of the neighboring hamlets that the volcano, until the commencement of the seventeenth century, had been completely conical, and that the lake did not come into existence till half of the mountain fell in, at the time of its great eruption. This statement I found confirmed on the pages of the Estado Geografico: – On the fourth of January, 1641 – a memorable day, for on that date all the known volcanoes of the Archipelago began to erupt at the same hour – a lofty hill in Camarines, inhabited by heathens, fell in, and a fine lake sprang into existence upon its site. The then inhabitants of the village of  Buhi  migrated to the shores of the new lake, which, on this account, was henceforward called the lake of Buhi.”

Perrey, in the Memories de 1’Academie de Dijon, mentions another outbreak which took place in Camarines in 1628: “In 1628, according to trustworthy reports, fourteen different shocks of earthquake occurred on the same day in the province of Camarines. Many buildings were thrown down, and from one large mountain which the earthquake rent asunder there issued such as immense quantity of water that the whole neighborhood was flooded, trees were torn up by the roots, and three miles from the sea-coast the country was one vast sheet of water.” In a note Perrey gives the original text of his authority, which, oddly enough, does not exactly tally with his account.

When I was at Tambong, a small hamlet on the shore of the lake belonging to the parochial diocese of Buhi, I made a second unsuccessful attempt to reach the highest point of Yriga. We arrived in the evening at the southern point of the crater’s edge (1,041 meters above the level of the sea barometrical observation), where a deep defile prevented our further progress. Here the Ygorotes abandoned me, and the Indians refused to bivouac in order to pursue the journey on the following day; so I was obliged to return. Late in the evening, after passing through cocoa plantation, we reached the foot of the mountain and shelter from a tempest with a kind old, woman, to whom my servants lied so shamelessly that when the rain had abated, we were, in spite of our failure, conducted with torches to Tambong, where we found the palm-groove round the little hamlet magically illuminated with bright bonfires of dry-cocoa-nut-leaves in honor of the “Conquistadores del Yriga”, and where I obliged to remain for the night, as the people were too timorous or too lazy to cross the rough water of the lake. Here I saw them preparing the fiber of the pine-apple for weaving. The fruit of the plants selected for this purpose is generally removed early; a process which causes the leaves to increase considerably both in length and in breadth. A woman places a board on the ground and upon it a pine-apple-leaf with the hollow side upwards. Sitting at one end of the board, she holds the leaf firmly with her toes, and scrapes its outer surface with a potsherd; not with the sharp fractured edge but with the blunt side of the rim; and thus the leaf is reduced to rugs. In this manner a stratum of coarse longitudinal fiber is disclosed, and the operator, placing her thumbnail beneath it, lifts it up and draws it away in a compact strip; after which she scrapes again until a second layer of fiber is laid bare. Then turning the leaf around, she scrapes its back, which row lies upwards, down to the layer of fiber, which she seizes with her hand, and draws at once, to its full length, away from the back of the leaf. When the fiber has been washed, it is dried in the sun.

It is afterwards combed, with a suitable comb, like woman’s hair, sorted into four classes, tied together and treated like the fiber of the lupi. In this crude manner are attached the threads for the celebrated web Nipis de Peña, which is considered by experts to be the finest in the world.

In the Philippines, where the fineness of the work is best understood and appreciated, richly embroidered consumes of this description have fetched more than 2,000 thalers each.

At Buhi, which is not sufficiently sheltered towards the northeast, it rained as much as at Daraga. I had found from the Ygorotes that a path could be forced through the tall canes up to the summit; but the continual rain prevented me; so I resolved to cross the Malinao, returning along the coast to my quarters, and then, freshly equipped, descend the river Bicol as far as Naga.

Before we parted the Ygorotes prepared for me some arrow poison from the bark of two trees. I happened to see neither the leaves nor the blossoms, but only the bark. A piece of bark was beaten to pieces, pressed dry, melted, and again pressed. This was done with the bare hand, which, however, sustained no injury. The juice thus extracted looked like pea-soup, and was warmed in an earthen vessel over a slow fire. During the process it coagulated at the edges; and the coagulum was again dissolved by stirring into the boiling fluid mass. When this hand reached the consistency of syrup, a small quantity was scraped off the inner surface of a second piece of bark, and its juice squeezed into the vessel. This juice was a dark brown colour. When the mass had attained the consistency of this jelly, it was scraped out of the pot with a chip and preserved on a leaf sprinkled with ashes. For poisoning an arrow they use a piece the size of a hazel-nut, which after being warmed, is distributed uniformly over the broad iron point; and the poisoned arrow serves for repeated use.

At the end of November, I left the beautiful lake of Buhi, and preceeded from its eastern angle for a short distance up the little river Sapa, the alluvial deposits of which form a considerable feature in the configuration of the lake. Across a marshy meadow we reached the base of the Malinao or Buhi mountain, the slippery clay of the lower slope merging higher up into volcanic sand.

BY: FR. FELIX HUERTAS

Translated from the book Geografico – Topografico Estadistico Historico Religioso de la Santa Y Apostolica Provincia de San Gregorio Magno, Binondo, 1865.

The word buhi means in Spanish “To escape from danger.” Tradition has a story to justify such a name: before the coming of the Spaniards to the islands, there was a family living in a small mountain called Ligñion, located between the old Albay and Cagsawa towns. The family used to take water for its daily needs from a nearby spring, but a very dangerous snake killed all members of the family except two brothers. They went away and settled near a mountain called Requit, on the shore of the lake between the towns of Malinao and Polangui. This was the origin of the town of Buhi.

The year 1578, the Franciscan missionaries arrived and preached the Christian faith in this place. This town was administered from the Nabua until the year 1605; Fr. Antonio Mendez was Buhi’s first minister.

The incident of January 4, 1641 was memorable. Most of the volcanoes in the Philippines erupted on that day, and in Camarines, a mountain sank all living things near it. It sank so deep that a lake was formed. Later, people settled near the lake. Since then, the lake has been called Buhi.

The town is located at 13” and 24” latitude, on a plane land of the shore near a small river, a little away from the Buhi river, which is the only outlet of the lake. On the north is the Isarog mountain; on the east, Albay; on the south the town of Polangui; and on the west Iriga. The climate is good, and southwesterly winds ventilate the town. The Buhi river provides the town with an abundant water supply. There are two main roads to Iriga and Polangui. The mail comes from the head of the province once a week.

The very first church, which was dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, was constructed of wood. In 1730, a big fire destroyed the church and a new one was constructed by Fr. Jose Cerda; it was completed in 1735.

In 1738, a miraculous image of St. Anthony of Padua was placed in one of the chapels of the church. Because of the many blessings people attributed to this image, it became the patron saint of the town. There is also a small chapel dedicated to Santa Elena. The convent was constructed during the same time, and then destroyed by Fr. Tomas de Guadalajara in the year 1850. There is a municipal building and a community school financed by the townspeople and there are about 1,050 houses of bamboo and nipa in the town proper, including the nearby barrio of Tambo under the administration of Fr. Manuel Crespo.

Data from the Parish: tributes 1,550; souls, 7,887.

The town is mountainous and has abundant forests of good wood for carpentry work and construction; there is buri, bamboo and nipa; and it has good hunting grouns. The lake is about 15,000 square meters and is fed by eight small rivers, but it has only one outlet that is connected to the Bicol river. The lake has been always the main source of food. Cultivated land produces rice, abaca, corn, sugarcane and vegetables. Weaving-industry products are sold in neighboring towns.

BY: ADOLFO PUYA RUIZ

Translated from the book Description General de Esta Provincia en Luzon (Manila, 1887). The original was reprinted in the Buhi Magazine.

Located west of Malinao and Tiwi of the province of Albay, and south of the Isarog mountain, on the slopes of the Buhi mountain that serves as boundary of the province of Albay and on the shores of Lake Buhi between the Buhi river and a smaller one. The town was founded in 1578. The church, convent and school building are built of light materials. The houses are more or less similarly constructed. A big fire destroyed most of the town in 1873. It has about 100 Chinese comersiantes. In the weekly public market, all products of the town are offered for sale, mostly fish caught in the rivers and the lake. The town has an abundant supply of water, but it has no bakery.

Population: 1096 inhabitantants distributed in the town proper and four main barrios under its jurisdiction.

Agriculture: Cultivated land is about 20,000 square meters; main products are rice, coconut, sugar, vegetables and fruits. Forests are abundant, and there is plenty of bamboo and nipa for construction.

Industry: There are some distilleries for coconut and local wines; woven products are well prepared; and carpentry and furniture work is of good quality. Fishing industry is the main source of livelihood for the whole population.

Livestock: There are more than 563 cows, 900 carabaos, 600 horses, and more than 300 pigs and goats.

Language: Bicol.

Climate: Sometimes humid but generally fine and healthful.

Mountains: Iriga mountain is located northeast of the town of Iriga, with an elevation of 1212 feet over sea level and 1120 over Buhi lake level and 1120 over Buhi lake level. The upper part of the mountain is rocky but with good forest and timber. Down the slopes are the towns of Iriga, Buhi, Baao, and some Negrito settlements.

Buhi mountain has a good forests and serves as provincial boundary between Camarines and Albay. There are other mountains which serve as sources of raw materials for other industries.

Source : Buhi Souvenir Magazine 1998 published by the Local Government of Buhi. Editorial Staff – Vice Mayor Milagros R. Demanarig, Helen Sahurda, Cherry Camasis-Perdigon, Brenda R. Ibarbia, Cristino Val Mendoza, Ian Mora III, Jonnie R. Oliva.