Chapter 1

Kauman Sama Observations: In Landor’s book, The Gems of the East, we have an account of Tawi-Tawi from soon after the arrival of the Americans. The descriptions are valuable and also provide something to compare to what we have today. There are a couple of observations that stand out to me.

The names used to describe the people are of interest. Samal for instance is the Tausug way to refer to the Sama. The author was aware enough to recognize terms like Samal Lipid but somehow identified Badjao by their exonym. The Badjao today certainly identify as a subgrouping of Sama. How true is it that Badjao is an exonym? The fact that Landor uses the term Samal shows that he would easily adopt an exonym.

En lieu of Landor using Samal, a Tausug description of the Sama, it is interesting that the term at this point in history for the Tausug was Sulus. This was also used by Saleeby. The thought is that a lot of Landor’s sources or even the language of translation was Tausug, but the Tausug did not get this name in Landor’s writing and though Landor travels from Tawi-Tawi through Sulu and into Zamboanga, he writes approximately 10x more about the Sama over the Tausug. Also it can be observed that Tausug leadership in a Sama territory was prevalent at this time in history as it was prior to and up until this day.

Landor’s description of Sama women on page 4 is not very complimentary. He notes that they wear their hair on the top of their skull. To this day, the tendency is for Sama women to wear their hair up on their school like this while other Filipinos don’t. This may demonstrate that this is either a native style to the Sama or even Sulu or might demonstrate fashion being modeled after Chinese fashion where women also wear their head on top of their skull.

Page 13 describes how the Sama boats have pundang (fish split and pierced for preserving, a type of dried fish) arranged on the boat’s platform. This is now commonly done at home on people’s pantān (porch) but seeing it done on larger boats is still a distinct memory of the Sama. Page 14 describes a unique method of rowing a boat employed by the Sama called epe. This is to propel a canoe with one hand on the paddle, using one foot as a fulcrum. It was remarkable to Landor’s eyes in 1904 and also is a remarkable way to direct a boat to outside observers such as ourselves to this day.

Book Information – Ch1, Ch2, Ch3

Chapter 1

Sanga-sanga Island — Tawi-tawi and its people — The dangers of Anthropometry — The Bay of Dos Amigos — Pearl Bank and its phantom population — Strange vegetation — The Pangutaran Group— Samals [Sama].

Bongao Island appeared most picturesque from the south-west, west, and north-west, with its high vertical columnar formation. Deep shadows were cast between the more prominent angles, in the deep grooves and in the many indentations.

We were now on our way to the north coast of Tawi-tawi and had to go round Sanga-sanga Island — flat and sandy in its southern portion, but of coral and volcanic formation in its northern half. It was thickly wooded. An erosion mark could be seen all along the coast several feet above the sea-level. The island rose altogether but a few feet in the centre above the water-line. Along its north coast particularly, Sanga-sanga appeared extremely low, with stunted vegetation, the coast line being much cut up into little islets, with channels between.

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The small flat island of Tusan-Bongao lies at the mouth of the narrow channel separating Sanga-sanga from Tawi-tawi. Here, again, we found most luxuriant vegetation, with gigantic trees down to the water’s edge, molave, narra, ipil, and many other valuable woods being abundant. This coast was rocky.

We passed eastwards between the islands of Sipayu and Tawi-tawi, and had to the north six small flat islands, the two central ones much elongated and joined by a coral reef which further surrounded them. Tinakta, Baun, Kabankuan, Sunalak were the names of the principal ones.

On the Tawi-tawi coast was Teclena village sheltered by hills cleared of forest by fire. One large hut with eight or nine more modest abodes lay in a depression between hills. Some were thatched with cogon; others had open walls altogether. Behind them towered the three humps of Dromedary Peak which we had already observed from the south.

The natives were greatly scared when we landed, and ran en masse into the large house, wherein evidently lived their chief. They were Bajaos [Sama Dilaut/Badjao].

Further north-east upon the Tawi-tawi coast we found (March 21st) another Bajao [Sama Dilaut/Badjao] settlement called Butun, where the nomads of the sea had arrived only two or three months before. They were busy clearing patches of land of trees in order to raise their crops. The local Datto Maolano [Datu Maolano], an old fellow of well-cut, refined features, was a Sulu [Tausug], his grandfather having

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Samal [Sama], Boat, Showing Sail Rolled Up. [illustration 1]

migrated and settled in the northern part of Tawi-tawi at Bas. That settlement, however, which possessed a kota {or fort) and a plantation of cocoanuts, had since been abandoned, although one more village, called Tunhugun, was to be found further up the coast, under the rule of Datto Sawaldi [Datu Sawaldi].

Datto Maolano [Datu Maolano] looked upon us with great suspicion and answered every question we put to him with one or more lies. He and his people had never seen white people, nor was he anxious to become acquainted with them. Following the diffident custom of his own folks, he went and sat himself on a high tree which had been felled, resting his back against a huge branch, while his attendants — by him instructed — duly formed a semicircle behind him. This was evidently to guard himself against a possible attack of ours from the rear. He put on airs to an unbearable degree, and spoke, thought, rather impertinently to my American friends. He regarded himself as a “big man,” and so did his Bajao [Sama Dilaut/Badjao] supporters — a subject upon which I proceeded at once to disillusion them.

While the Datto [Datu] puffed away in grandeur — in tight black clothes, a zouave with numberless little buttons, and a broad sash — I produced my camera, which — unknown to them — at once caused a sensation.

“What are you doing?” they inquired, with intense curiosity.

“Oh, I am only looking to see how small the

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Datto [Datu] and you all are,” I replied. ” Come and see for yourselves.”

The first Bajao [Sama Dilaut/Badjao] who was made to look through

the finder of the camera, and saw his chief and friends reduced to the size of mosquitoes, gave a yell of surprise and fear. He looked a second time, rubbing his eyes to ascertain whether they had deceived him, and when he told the Datto [Datu] how small I bad made him, that haughty individual assumed a sickly look of disgust. There was a mixture of awe and hilarity in the crowd at the strange phenomenon, described in vivid colours by the Bajao observer [Sama Dilaut/Badjao] to an encircling crowd of tribesmen — but the Datto [Datu] forbade any of his people to look through the camera again.

This was merely a small tribe of pirates, like those we have seen elsewhere, with slight local variations caused by intermarriage and climate. They possessed Malay-negroid features and extremely flat noses — the upper two-thirds of the nose being so flattened as to form almost a perfect plane with the cheeks. Like other Bajaos [Sama Dilaut/Badjao], they squatted on their heels while resting, and they wore big trousers — except the Datto [Datu], who wore his ancestral Sulu attire.

The women were not attractive. Their drooping eyes showed but little intelligence, their facial features were weak and unimpressive ; the hair was worn combed up and twisted into a knot on the top of the skull : a short fringe was cut straight across the forehead, and two long tufts of hair hung by the side of the face. They wore short coats and wide trousers like the men.

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A favourite ornament on men’s coats — short zouaves — was a design of parallel lines of silk cord with a loop and a little button all along the scams under the arms and above the shoulders.

There were at this place two wells of good water — only one foot below the ground-surface — filtered, no doubt, through the coral and sand from the sea.

The houses were not elaborate, nor had they anything very new to us. Terra-cotta stands to support a torch of resin, tall cylindrical drums with sheep-skins held in great tension by bejuco lacings, the usual quadrangular axe, as found in all the Sulu Islands, a few bamboo and cocoanut vessels for water — and that was about all in the way of utensils and furniture.

I was very anxious to get some anthropometrical measurements of these people, and I went into the home of one of the leading men, followed by a considerable crowd of curious folks. To avoid the usual suspicions and allay their fears during the process, I took all tape measurements first. Somehow or other the natives, after the camera surprise, were much frightened. I was alone in the house, and just as I produced my steel caliper to measure their skulls, my American friends, who had remained outside, shouted to me that they were going on board, and in a jocular fashion proceeded on a race down the slippery hill on the top of which the house stood. This contretemps was unhappily mistaken by the suspicious natives for some

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mysterious signal to do them harm, and when I placed the caliper around the head of the Datto [Datu]’s brother, the Bajaos [Sama Dilaut/Badjao], in a dangerous outburst of excitement, drew their vicious-looking knives and brandished them over my head and above my arm — clearly meaning that if I injured their chief they would kill me. The man’s son was in a most hysterical mood.

I nodded in assent, and signed to them to keep their barongs over my head and strike if I hurt anybody. I then continued my work. I think the annexed measurements taken on that occasion will be found all right.

After a while, their fears abating and giving way to hysterical friendliness, they put their knives back into their respective sheaths and patted me on the back, saying I was their friend, and I duly took advantage of this to measure as many specimens as I could. Naturally, I had to use some judgment and avoid taking certain measurements which might again arouse undue suspicion.

  Sulu Samal
Tawi-Tawi Bajao
[Sama Dilaut]
Standing height 1.570 1.520
Span 1.520 1.555
Armpit to armpit 0.290 0.310
Shoulder-blade to shoulder-blade
(highest ridge]
0.160 0.175
From base of neck to nipple of breasts 0.160 0.145
Distance from nipple to nipple of breasts 0.170 0.205


Humerus 0.300 0.290
Radius 0.250 0.245
Hand 0.180 0.185
Maximum length of fingers 0.095 0.100
Thumb 0.100 0.105

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Femur 0.410 0.450
Tibia 0.390 0.365
Height of foot from ground to ankle 0.060 0.075


Vertical maximum length of head 0.235 0.230
Horizontal maximum length of cranium
(from forehead to back of head)
0.150 0.145
Width of forehead at temples 0.115 0.115
Height of forehead 0.060 0.065
Nasal height 0.055 0.055
Nasal breadth (at nostrils) 0.040 0.055
Orbital horizontal breadth 0.030 0.030
Distance between the eyes 0.030 0.030
Breadth of mouth 0.060 0.050
Length of upper lip (from mouth aperture to base of nose) 0.025 0.020
Lower lip and chin (from mouth aperture to under chin) 0.040 0.035
Length of ear 0.060 0.065

The north coast of Tawi-tawi is undukting and thickly wooded, rocky in many places, with no extensive sand beaches. The Dromedary Peaks seen from the north appear abrupt and of a similar formation to the vertical volcanic rocks of Bongao.

There is only one safe harbour in the northern part of Tawi-tawi, and that is a bay called Dos Amigos, entered between the Tokankai Point to the west and Lamunyan Point to the east. On Tokankai Point stands a low hill with immense trees, and its base is covered with dense vegetation. Mangrove trees fringe both points, right down into the sea. The entrance into the bay is very narrow. According to certain maps there is here a town established by the Spaniards and

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named Tatan, but this is a mistake. There is no town of any kind in the bay, nor even the remains of one.

A Chinaman once came here in order to cut timber, but he found it difficult to remain long, for Dos Amigos bay is about as lonely a place as one can find. The bay forms an angle, its entire length being 1¾ miles, one arm from north to south, the other from west to east, with a ramification north-east. It has two smaller bays or arms at the elbow on the south side, where a hill {200 feet high), with plenty of trees. Is a landmark. It affords a fair anchorage from 33 to 124 feet deep, the deepest soundings being at the mouth of the harbour, but the navigable part of the bay is extremely narrow, as there is shallow water with a sticky mud bottom near the banks on either side.

The northern portion of the bay is not more than one-sixth of a mile broad from land to land, and slightly broader where it forms the elbow the best anchorage being found here with sufficient turning room in 46 to 29 feet of water. A small island is to be found at the end of the northeast arm. At the end of the harbour is the lofty Batua Mount, 1,263 feet-densely- wooded mountain extending east and west in gentle slopes and with a flat summit.

We landed in the east end of the bay and found two small streams of water. There was also a faint trail among huge ferns — some over 25 feet high — with fibrous stems of great solidity. They had immense inverted leaves, also very

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fibrous, and extending in graceful curves, but with edges like a fine saw. There is a considerable amount of gutta-percha on Tawi-tawi, produced from the trunks of trees of the genera Ficus elastica and palaquiumi. Unfortunately, the natives fell the trees recklessly in order to obtain immediate large quantities of sap, instead of selecting big trees and tapping them regularly, which would give them a more constant and eventually more remunerative supply.

I do not know whether the best gutta-producing tree, Dichopsis guffa, has yet been found growing wild in the Sulu Archipelago, but closely allied species exist, flourish, and are numerous in Tawi-tawi, particularly where the soil and climate seem most suitable. Undoubtedly, if it does not exist yet, the best gutta tree could be planted and would flourish on Tawi-tawi, and I believe that in this line, if rational methods of cultivation and production were employed, much wealth would be obtained from the island. The expense of planting gutta — after the ground has been cleared — is but very small, and the returns after six or seven years from 75 per cent, to 100 per cent, larger than the original outlay.

I think that large fortunes will in the future be made in these islands by the production of gutta, but I also think that some sensible measures should be taken to protect those gum trees which already exist from being mercilessly cut down by the natives. It is, of course, an irresistible temptation for natives to get a big sum down for

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a tree, instead of getting a constant yearly income from it, and I do not see how the evil is to be stopped unless the forestry officers are sent about travelling among the islands and get acquainted with the natives and the interior of the country. Giant rubber vines are found in many parts of the Philippines.

The gutta trade is at present entirely in the hands of Chinese traders, who export the product to Saindakan [Sandakan] and Singapore. The methods of extraction are the most rudimentary, and involve enormous waste. The product is placed in a dish and left to macerate in salt water, stirring being necessary to complete the operation. This leaves the gutta-percha in a plastic form, needing further to be suspended in a windy place to dry — but the process at best gives but impure results.

While rowing about in the bay we saw several crocodiles floating to and fro with their bulgy eyes and noses just above the water. The place was swarming with them.

A five hours’ pitching passage, N. 48° W., in a somewhat heavy sea brought us to a most extraordinary place called Pearl Bank — a row of sixteen or more small and low islands. The largest, on which we landed, rose to a bump not more than 40 feet high in the centre, and to another lower bump in its eastern portion. Each of these islets was encircled by a neat white sandy beach.

Taya and Zan Islands stood on an almost circular reef, which in its turn was surrounded by another from 5 to 10 fathoms below the water

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surface, and this was encircled by a yet younger third reef of uneven fonnation, with 11 to 80 fathoms of water upon it. Directly off the edge of this outer reef great depths were registered, from 100 to 350 fathoms to the east, and 130 to 400 fathoms with no bottom to the north.

We had to wade on shore, and landed on a most beautiful beach of deep white coral sand with red grains, strewn with beautiful shells of all kinds and many coloured corals. Enormous blocks of fluted red coral were beautiful, and so also were the branches — like those of a tree — of delicately white coral, sponges, etc. The vegetation — what there was of it — on this desolate island was most curious, a species of palm with spiky leaves, growing in a spiral and overlapping one another all round the trunk, being most remarkable. The leaves in the lower portion gradually dried up and fell off, leaving neat rings one inch apart round the stump. In growing up, this palm shot out regular branches at right angles, either two or three at intervals of three feet, and each branch had a cluster of leaves at the point only. The summit retained the form of the younger palms, in spiral formation, with the spiky leaves all round. Some of the oldest palms of this species were even as much as 20 feet high, and, curiously enough, these let out roots into the ground at the sides from a height of 3 feet up the trunk. This palm bore a fruit like a large pineapple. Several other varieties of wild pineapple were to be found on this island.

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Then we encountered the bidoeng tree, which was so common in Palawan and the Calamianes, and a lot of mangrove trees with their octopus roots resting in the water, especially on the borders of the large central lagoon to the north. A lot of large timber and innumerable cocoanuts had been washed on shore, but no cocoanut trees — the first sign of permanent human settlers — were to be found on the island.

All these islands formed a regular circle upon the reef, leaving a patch of placid water in the middle. White coral sand extended far out; then volcanic rock was also noticeable.

We were much surprised to discover that the centre of the island had been cleared of vegetation — it had been burnt; and on crossing the island in seven different places, in order to find out whether any inhabitants lived here — as we suspected — we came upon a well dug into the coral rock, with slightly brackish water 2 feet below the ground surface. This well was curiously made — a cylindrical shaft with a horizontal tunnel several feet long with water half filling it. Near this we further discovered a mat and a primitive basket, which had recently been used ; also the remains of a fire.

This discovery led to another thorough search for the phantom folks of Pearl Island, and on the north coast we eventually came upon fresh footmarks of several men, a woman, and a little child. They had evidently been running to and fro dodging us — and although we spent much time, exertion, and patience in trying to find

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[illustration 2] A Bajao [Sama Dilaut] Boat, with Sail Unrolled.
[illustration 3] A Bajao [Sama Dilaut] Boat.

them, we were unable to discover their hiding place. The footmarks appeared like those of some semi-savage tribesmen, and much resembled those produced by the flattened feet of the Tagbanouas of Palawan, or by some such other semi-negroid tribe. How these people ever got here is somewhat of a mystery, and they must certainly have lived in a very dejected condition on wild fruit, roots, and fishing. They possessed no habitations and no boats. This island is called Tahao by the Bajaos [Sama Dilaut/Badjao] and Sulus.

In a heavy swell and howling wind we continued our cruise to the neighbouring island of Laparan, 18½  miles N. 71° E. of Pearl Bank. We hailed a boat of Bajaos [Sama Dilaut] off the islet of Dokkan to obtain information, and after a good deal of parleying they brought their skifF alongside the ship. She was a lovely boat, 22 feet long and 4 feet wide, decked over so as to stow away live fish in the bottom of the boat, which was filled with sea-water and formed a regular tank. She carried a picturesque sail of canvas and plaited nipa, with long end tassels of grass called Jambul. On the two side-projecting platforms a quantity of fish, split and prepared, was being dried in the sun, and in the centre of the boat was a large iron vessel resting on one of the usual earthenware, high-coloured stoves. Fish was in process of being boiled.

The crew consisted of three men and one child. When asked their names they were much concerned, and consulted one another what to answer; and whatever answers they did give to

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any of our questions were as obviously as possible direct and detailed lies. They paddled away, as they lied famously, — their way of propelling being the more interesting of the two achievements. They held the top of the paddle with the right hand and gave It a rotatory movement with their toes, the broad paddle being held vertical in the water. It worked on the same principle as would the propeller of a steamer were it placed with its blades horizontally instead of upright.

The stern of the boat was finely ornamented with carvings, and aft, each boat, in the islands of this group, possessed a sort of triangular upright splashboard, most effective for preventing the sea from coming on board in rough weather. It frequently had two removable wings at the side which were only put up in very dirty weather.

The outrigger, too, was most cleverly built on a slightly different pattern — in two pieces of bamboo inserted one into the other, the one forward being bent upwards. A bipod and occasionally tripod mast was used. Ornamented with carvings were the supports of the outriggers, strengthened by a double series of most scientific lacings and fulcrums ; and on the upper arms extending out were forked supports on which the sail, mast, and paddles were set at rest when not in use. They were also used for drying fish and clothes in the sun.

A great many pearls were to be found near this island, but they were in too deep water for the natives to dive without apparatus.

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On the north-east-east side of Dokkan a sand beach and an inlet into a large lagoon were to be found, and another shallow opening into the sea on the opposite side of the island could also be seen. A sand bar lay across the latter. On either side of the lagoon, however, the entrance was very shallow and had a sand shoal extending far out into the sea.

Laparan was quite a large island, 5½ miles long and 3 miles wide, flat, with the coast line covered with mangrove trees. Rice, corn, and coffee were grown in sufficiant quantities for local consumption, and the usual valuable woods were plentiful, if one could only get at them ; while tropical fruit of all kinds grew wild and luxuriantly. Fishing was the main occupation of the seafaring people now established there, what little trade they had being in sea-slug, pearls, and mother-of-pearl.

We then passed between Deoto Bato and Laparan — a somewhat unsafe channel for ships of more than 10 feet draught. There were numerous reefs across it, some of our soundings, as we carefully felt our way through, being three fathoms and less, even in mid-channel between the two islands.

On reaching Cap Island we altered our course, which had been N. 51° £., into a south-southeast direction. Cap Island stretching in a triangular shape from north to south. It possessed a fine beach both in its northern and southern extreme points, and a luxuriant growth of mangroves right into the water along its

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central portion. Cap Island was uninhabited, and the vegetation was so thick that it would have been difficult to cross it.

On charts, east of Cap Island is marked Sail Rock, but it is wrongly placed some 3^ miles north of its actual position. It is not more than 50 feet high (not 70 feet). It is a rugged volcanic rock, 180 feet in length, which, having been uplifted in some commotion, shows itself above the water carrying upon its summit a cap of coral rock— hence its name. Thus the upper portion of this quaint obstruction is of a bright reddish-violet colour, whereas the rock itself is of the usual rich volcanic brown. We passed to the south of it, where there was plenty of water. From the most southern point of Cap Island, Sail Rock will be observed at bearings N. 70″ E. Deato Bato should be at S. 78° W. on a line with the southern end of Cap Island. Cap Island is called “Tababas” by the Samals [Sama], and is thickly wooded on the east side, but shows a sand beach on its southern portion.

In approaching the Pangutarang Group, we first struck Malikut Island, a mere sand spit with some littlft vegetation, the sand extending far in a north-westerly direction. There were from five to nine fathoms of water both east and west of it.

North Ubian was the next place we visited — again a long fiat island of coral formation peopled by Samals [Sama], who said they had lived here since the time of their great-grandfathers. They carried on a small but constant trade with Jolo. There was a population, all counted, of some 200

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souls, under Maharaja Paklawan and the two Panglimas, Mahommed (Mahamud, as the Samals [Sama] pronounce it), and Balad. Also one Imam, called Miti.

Ubian Tangutaran, or Luangbunah [Lowang-Buna], in the southwest of the island, possessed some 30 spacious and handsome houses, constructed over the water — with roofs of cogon and walls of solid and often carved wood. The settlement stood in a shallow bay, well-protected, but with not more than 2 feet of water. There was deeper water in the channels. At the entrance of the bay had been erected two high pyramids of wood with a bunch of white flags flying on the summit, and numerous other white flags could be seen on the tops of trees all round the settlement and on houses. This was to prevent cholera spreading, but, unfortunately, it was raging fiercely when we visited the place, and many were dying daily.

These Samals [Sama] had a fleet of 40 fine boats. A small settlement was said to exist further inland in a secluded spot. Whether caused by former intermarriage with the aborigines of these secluded islands — possibly a negrito race — or whether originated by climatic conditions and mode of life, some strong peculiarities were traceable in the type of these people. Many of the children possessed flufly, almost curly hair, and the men shaggy heads of hair. They all showed an abnormal development of the lower jaw, extremely broad at the sides of the face, while the facial angle in profile was extremely flat, as can be seen by the table of facial angles

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of the numerous tribes of the Archipelago, given in this book.

Going north of North Ubian we crossed the Pangutarang Passage, leaving to the south, besides North Ubian, the three flat islands of Tikul (87 feet high), Kunikulan (67 feet), and Usada, the latter a somewhat larger and almost circular madreporic island with a central lagoon — the inlet being to the west. All these islands, including Basbas further south, have risen on the same crescent-shaped coral reef which has a depth of water upon it varying from one to nine fathoms, but deeper in the centre of the semi-circle.

There were a few houses on the south-east side of Pangutarang, and we hailed a boat which had come from Jolo to ascertain the whereabouts of the larger settlements. There were four of them — all of Samals [Sama]. There was fresh water inland, but conflicting evidence was given as to its quality, some saying it was excellent, others swearing it was brackish. Amir Hamza, a native of Sulu, was the chief Datto [Datu], appointed by the Sultan ; whereas PangUma Tutungan had it all his own way in the southern portion of the island.

Pangutarang is a triangular island about 10 miles long from south to north, and seven miles wide at the southern part. It is quite flat, but with a deal of vegetation upon it. Pandukan to the east of it is also of a similar character, elongated, and joined by a long narrow shoal to Kulassein Island, north of it.

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[illustration 4] Samal [Sama] Houses Built on the Sea, Tapul Group.
[illustration 5] Samals [Sama] Watching; our Landing.

Book Information – Ch1, Ch2, Ch3

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