January 1, 2018

Agriculture in San Juan, Batangas by Beato M. Bukid, 1919

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1919 ethnographic paper written by one Beato M. Bukid from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

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Tagalog Paper No. 340.



Beato M. Bukid

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  1. TAGALOG: San Juan, Province of Batangas, Luzon.
  2. Economic Life: Agriculture: Miscellaneous products.

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March 12, 1919

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Beato M. Bukid.

In the extreme extremity of Batangas Province is a town, San Juan. The coolness of the climate, the fertility of its soil and the rich flood plains of its rivers render extensive farming possible. Agriculture, as the chief industry, is carried on extensively. In every nook and corner of the town, visitors will see rice fields, sugar fields and coconut groves. For plant adaptability, the town is divided into two great sections: the eastern and the western sections. The eastern section of the town is a saucy [blurred word] region. Here, coconuts thrive fast. they have been grown more or less than twelve years. When coconut groves were yet very few, it seemed that coconut cultivation would be a failure due to the coconut beetles, monkeys and wild boars, but as coconut groves grew in vast extent, it was realized that coconuts would be a great financial source. Today, nearly the eastern section of the town is wholly covered with coconut groves. With few intervals of rice and cornfields, they line from the north along the Makaking Ilog to the south along the Laiya Mountains. Coconuts were planted in rows seven to eight meters distant. The seeds are first allowed to germinate. If the seedlings are already about one and a half foot tall, they are transplanted to the field where they are placed in holes. There was a superstitious belief in connection with the planting. At first, with some seedlings, some puppies were bur-

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ied. In so doing, the people believed that the plants would bear many fruits and would not be destroyed by wild boars. Now that the coconuts are growing luxuriously and extensively, this practice and belief is no longer followed. It is said that the coconut fruits of San Juan are one of the best kinds, and some even say that they are larger than those of Tayabas. At present, San Juan is the only town in the province of Batangas where coconuts are produced in large numbers. Coconuts yield more money than any other crops of the town.

Between the coconut groves, there are some rice fields and corn fields. Within the groves are planted also several kinds of plants, such as jack fruits, ilang-ilang, pineapple, etc.

The Western section of the town, on the other hand, is noted for rice especially. The vast rice fields of the town are found in this section. The soil in this region is of very rich loam and is especially fitted for rice production. There are two methods used in the cultivation of rice. The upland rice which does not require irrigation is cultivated in “kainging,” by punching holes in the ground into which seeds are dropped. This system is used in [a] few places only. The simplest method of rice cultivation is that in which the seeds are broadcasted [curious word]. It is used extensively in the cultivation of upland rice, varieties of which do not require irrigation, and where it is employed for lowland varieties, the seed is sprouted. This method requires less labor than the seed-bed system but it

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[has] been found that more or less 16 more seeds are required and the crop is more or less 40% smaller than the latter. The cultivation of rice in seed-beds and transplanting it to the fields is practiced also. This system is advantageous in that it permits the use of small plots of ground which can be used year after year. Less seed is needed in this method. Probably the largest crops are obtain from it, and more crops are possible in a year than in the other system since the plants spend the first part of their growth in seed-beds and are already growing while the fields are being prepared. It is stated that by this method, two crops a year are usually raised. The system of irrigated field is followed in the lowlands and plows and harrows are used, the soil being worked into a mud by the feet. When progress is possible either in improving the wooden and bamboo agricultural implements now in use or adapting those made of iron and steel. Irrigation in a small way is extensively developed, though the water supply for it sometimes depends on the rain. It was found that three crops of rice can be produced in such localities where irrigation is carried on or where there is continuous rainfall throughout the years. Such intense cultivation is very rare.

In a great many places, two crops are raised, but for the most part the land is required to produce but one crop and remains idle during the rest of the year, or is occasionally planted with any one of the short crops. The yield

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per hectare varies very greatly. It may be as low as six cavanes or as high as ninety. It is only in very favorable localities as in the localities along the Malaking Ilog and in the localities along the Lawaye river that large crops are produced.

In the planting of upland rice, there is a superstitious belief. The people believe that the best time in planting the upland rice is during the day of San Pedro which takes place within the first week of June. They believe that by so doing, the largest crop would be obtained and the plants would not be destroyed by worms and drought.

So far, our town produces an amount of rice large enough to feed the town. But this is not sufficient. Our town being favored by the abundance of water supply and by the fertility of its soil ought to produce more than she actually produces. If the government would only take steps in improving the irrigation system by the construction of canals and ditches which are too expensive for private individuals to undertake, I am sure that the town would not only be able to support itself but also neighboring towns. Capital is the only thing lacking.

There is another plant worthy of consideration; it is the sugarcane. Like the rice, it has been grown long ago, and it is one of the first plants cultivated in the town. Today, it is still grown but not so much crop is raised as during the Spanish times. During the Spanish regime, it formed the chief crop and

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for the most part, the town was sugarcane fields. Now, there are (but) very few. Sugarcane raising has been more or less neglected due to the continuous increase in the price of labor. At present, sugarcane fields can be found only in the western region, whereas twenty years ago, in every barrio, one could find them. The decline of the production is also due to the scarcity of work animals. Twelve years ago, rinderpest has swept over the province, and turned our town into the home of but very few work animals. Since then, sugarcane cultivation declined. Now, the amount of sugar produced is not sufficient to meet the demand of the town. A rough estimation would indicate that the town produces only about 4,000 piculs every year. This production is too small in comparison with that during the Spanish time.

The method of cultivation employed now is the same as the method used during the past. Machinery has not been adopted to the cultivation to the same extent that it has in the cultivation of other crops. At present, in some plantations, steel plows and harrows are used, however, for the most part, the ordinary native wooden plow is employed in connection with bamboo harrows. In planting, the tops of the cane are thrust into the ground or into holes made by a pointed stick and the crop is cultivated by plowing under the weeds and protecting the roots against the rain until the leaves become dense enough to form a protection. The average period of growth is under one year. Fertilizers are not used and consequently, the long

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[blurred word] is allowed to lie fallow for from one to two years. On rich lands are allowed to sprout older roots as many as two crops, instead of new cane being planted.

Corn is another important crop. In San Juan, it is important not as man’s food, but as animal food, however, in some cases it is used as man’s food as for example when it is made into bread. There are two varieties of corn in our town, the sweet corn and the pop corn. The sweet corn contains considerable sugar; the pop corn, on the other hand, is the variety that pops very well on being heated. There are several different colors as whie, yellow, red and purple. In our town, corn production does not receive great attention so lnog as it is especially [blurred word] used for food of animals. The land in which it is planted is not properly prepared. The areas in most cases are not properly selected. Cornfieldds are very limited in size. The average size is about three-fourth of a hectare. Corn is raised in small extents everywhere, but more is found in the western section of the town. Corn is raised twice a year, during the rainy season and during the dry season. In the rainy season, it is planted, for the most part, among rice. On the other hand, in the dry season, it is grown in separate fields. In comparison with rice, the corn produced is small.

The failure of the people to give an ample attention to the corn production is a mistake. They do not realize the real importance of corn and that they are too shortsighted to see how much the corn would be valued in the case of the [blurred words]

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of rice production. They do not realize the importance of corn as a substitute for rice. Now that there is a universal failure in rice production, now that we can import only a limited amount of rice from foreign lands, how much can we use corn for those who are suffering from anger? How much can it alleviate the suffering of the Visayans, especially the Cebuans and how much would these people pay for a cavan of corn? These are questions which can be easily solved has the Philippines given good consideration to corn production; there are good questions, the solution to which my town could contribute had she given ample attention to corn production. In the year 1917, and even this year, there was a universal failure of rice production in the Visayas. As a matter of fact, the price or rice rose to such an extent that the common people could hardly afford to pay. This misfortune of the Visayas [blurred word] money to those who produced much corn. As the people could hardly afford to buy rice, they would prefer corn to rice. Had San Juan planted much corn, especially because the soil is well adjusted to iot, she could have exported corn to the Visayas, thereby making much money not only from rice but also from corn.

There are many other plans that have been planted in our town, but they are considered as minor plants. Some of them are ilang-ilang, beans, rubber plants, etc. The ilang-ilang is planted among the coconut trees. Its production received great attention during the year 1903, when

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several agents of some forms here in Manila went to that town (San Juan) in search of ilang-ilang flowers. Due to the fact that there were few ilang-ilang trees during the time, the agents could only buy a very limited amount. Since then, ilang-ilang was planted in great numbers. Its cultivation, however, proved a failure. A certain kind of large worm called “tilas” destroyed the trees. The people made not attempt to kill the insects.

The castor bean, on the other hand, grew successfully. [Blurred word] fields had been planted with them. In the southern portion of the town, especially in the barrio of Puting Buhangin, about several hundred hectares of land were castor bean fields, large numbers of seeds were then produced. The production, however, proved a failure also, for nobody cared to buy the seeds. As a matter of fact, the castor bean fields, after a year, were turned into rice fields and coconut groves.

Rubber trees showed a very bright prospect. The people hoped to get much from them. They were cultivated more extensively than the ilang-ilang or castor bean. In every section of the town, they could be seen growing very abundantly. But not all conditions of nature were favorable to their growth. In the year 1908, a very severe storm came. Consequently, all the plants were destroyed. Since then, the cultivation of the plant was neglected; and now very few rubber trees can be found in the town.

There was also an attempt to cultivate fiber plants such

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as [blurred word], piña and abaca, but no success was attained. [Blurred word] and piña grew well, but very few cared to plant them. The people believed that it would be very hard and expensive to strip the fibers from the leaves. Abaca, on the other hand, was cultivated in many localities, but it did not show a good prospect. in very few plces, it grew well. Even near the mountains, it did not grow well, the stems were very short and small.

in general, the people of San Juan are mostly devoted to agriculture, but no great success can be achieved partly because of the lack of knowledge on the part of the people, of the science of agriculture and partly because of the unimproved agricultural implements used.

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Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Agriculture in San Juan,” by Beato M. Bukid, 1919, online at the Henry Otley Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.

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