Saturday, August 25, 2018

Monkeys and Morals

FLASH FORWARD TO more than two centuries later with Dean Worcester's visits to Mindoro between 1887-1893, where he perceived Mangyans as monkeys upon initial contact: "Here were the dreaded head-hunters and cannibals, of whom we had heard such alarming reports. We kept a sharp eye on them at first, but our concerns were entirely needless. They were as harmless as children. They were far more afraid of us than we were with them, but after we had won their confidence, they furnished us endless amusement. It proved a simple matter to entertain them. We extemporized rattles for the women, by putting a few shot in some of our old metal cap-boxes. They would play with them by the hour, shaking them and laughing as contentedly as so many babies. We gave one of the men a hand-mirror. He did not recognize his own reflection, but acted precisely as I have seen the Philippine monkeys do under similar cirscumstances."  And on one of his last visits, Worcester made this expiatory comment about Mangyan morals, criticizing the church and the influences of civilization on the Filipino soul (which, ironically, he advocated for as the reason why the US imperial government should stay in the Philippines when he became part of its machinery in 1899): "One might imagine that morality would be at a low ebb among a people whose women are almost without modesty, and where all alike agree that there is no future life, nor any sure retribution for evil deeds in this. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such a thing as a faithless wife is almost unknown. Again and again we left, wholly unprotected, enough property to make a dozen of them very wealthy according to their standards, yet they never stole a penny's worth from us. On the whole, after making somewhat extensive observations among the Philippine natives, I am inclined to formulate the law that their morals improve as the square of the distance from churches and other so-called 'civilizing influences.'" There you go, Mr. Worcester. Not a single banana was stolen by your monkeys. How about your people and civilization?

Worcester's camp on the Baco River with a carabao skull trophy on a corner of the roof, 1891

A Mangyan woman photographed by Adolf Bernhard Meyer in 1904
A Mt. Worcester in Mindoro?

No comments:

Post a Comment