detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Sunday, October 20, 2002


: . Kapre, History and Mythology:

I found the following while searching the crumbling pages of a first edition Blair and Robertson for references to African slaves and slave resistance in Spanish colonial Philippines. There may be no connection whatsoever between the cafre of history and the kapre of mythology. All this might be nothing but an exercise in fanciful etymology. But then again, the kapre of mythology may be one of the ways in which the "Filipino" imagination made sense of an African presence in their changing world. Also, if there were so many African slaves and freedmen in 17th century Manila, whatever happened to them and their descendants in the subsequent centuries?:

From Report of Conditions in the Philippines by Antonio de Morga, Manila June 8, 1598 (BR v.10, pp. 86-87):*
    The country is becoming filled with black slaves and Cafres, brought by the Portuguese, and these are the worst that the Portuguese have. They do a great deal of damage, transgress the law, and will cause the ruin of this city and country; for they rebel at least every year, seize vessels, and take flight, committing many outrages and thefts. It is contrary to the law to bring these slaves, unless very young, but this law is poorly observed. It is advisable to take measures necessary in this matter.

From Reforms Needed in Filipinas by Fernando de los Rios Coronel, Madrid 1620 (BR v. 18, pp. 318-319):*
    The Portuguese of Malaca carry to the islands many slaves--negroes, for the most part. Those are generally the worst ones that they have, and they are drunkards, thieves, and fugitives, who take to highway robbery; and they endanger the country considerably, because of their number. Will your Highness be pleased to order that no one of the said negroes or slaves be carried thither, when twelve years old or over, under penalty of confiscation; and that order be rigorously executed.

From A letter to His Majesty from the Audiencia of Manila with respect to the decree of June 12, 1679 relating to the enslavement of the Indios [“Carta a su Magestad de la Audiencia de Manila respecto a la Cedula de 12 de junio 1679 relacionada con la esclavitud de los Indios. Manila 22 junio 1684.”]:**
    Moreover, from the Portuguese side have come Paza negroes, whom they commonly call cafres in these islands, who are from the nations of Guinea, Mozambique and Cabo Verde, along with others of this sort, who are being retained in their slavery by general custom and Your Majesty’s permission, and as being of the same races as those who are imported into the kingdoms of Peru and Nueva Espana; and although for some years past there have not been many slaves of this sort in this island, today the residents find themselves obliged to buy and ask for them due to the great lack of servants, and the many from other nations who have been declared free.

From El Folk-Lore Filipino by Isabelo de los Reyes, 1889:
    The Ilocanos fear the pugot which can take several forms, sometimes that of a cat with fiery eyes; at times that of a sinister dog which gradually increases in size or a black giant with horrifying dimensions. Imagine him, my dear readers, seated on the window sill of a house, 18 meters high, his feet touching the ground. The common people say the pugot smokes giant-sized cigars.
    The natives of Vigan recount that in the year 1865 to 1867 a rain of stones fell over a house for some nights and it was blamed on some unknown pranksters. The house was surrounded by policemen but this did not stop the rain of stones. Most of the stones were thrown with force, but curiously, no one got hurt. According to the Ilocano version, the pugot (cafre to the Spaniards) lives in empty rooms of old houses or in the ruins of old buildings. For this reason, I believe that the pugot is one of the household anitos of olden times.***

From Filipino Popular Tales edited by Dean S. Fensler, 1921:
    The pugut, among the Ilocanos and Pampangos, is a nocturnal spirit, usually the form of a gigantic Negro, terrifying, but not particularly harmful. It corresponds to the Tagalog cafre. Its power of rapid transformation, however, makes it a more or less formidable opponent. Sometimes it takes the form of a cat with fiery eyes, a minute later appearing as a large dog. Then it will turn into an enormous Negro smoking a large cigar, and finally disappear as a ball of fire. It lives either in large trees or in abandoned houses and ruined buildings.
    [The root pugut is found in many of the dialects, and has two different meanings: (I) “a Negro or Negrito of the mountains;” (2) “decapitated, or with the hands or feet cut off.” Among the Tagalogs, Bicols, and Visayans, the word is not used to designate a night-appearing demon or monster. Tag. cafre, which is equivalent to Iloc. pugut, is Spanish for Kaffir. Blumentritt defines cafre thus: “Nombre arabe (kafir), importado por los Espanoles o Portugueses; lo dan los campesinos Tagalos de la provincia de Tayabas a un duende antropofago, al que no gusta la sal. En las provincias Ilocanas denominan asi los Espanoles al Pugut.”
    Speaking of the demons and spirits of northern India, W. Crooke writes (I : 138) that “some of the Bhut {= pugut ?}, like the Kafari {= cafre ?}, the ghost of a murdered Negro, are black, and are particularly dreaded.”]

From A Survey of Philippine Lower Gods by Maximo D. Ramos:
    AGTA, BAWA and UNGO
    * Physical Description - tall huge black men
    * Domicile - large trees: santol, balete, mangrove, etc.
    * Activities - walks towards humans; wanders alone at night; seen standing still and alone; orders fishermen not to fish; abroad in the dark from 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM
    * Intellectual and Spiritual Endowments - knocks down large trees to stop men; sits in tree smoking large pipe or cigar; when offended, punishes folk, steals clothes and firewood
    * Animal Instincts - seen practically naked
    * Magical Character - size varies with tree or building it inhabits

    KAPRE (Tagalog, etc.)
    * Physical Description - huge black man, legs large as acacia trunks, eyes big as plates
    * Domicile - balete and other large trees
    * Activities - wanders alone or sits in tree
    * Intellectual and Spiritual Endowments - smokes a huge cigar while seated in a tree
    * Animal Instincts - makes a birdlike chirp; roars
    * Magical Character - can change size and shape; fired at, turns into a banana trunk

    PUGOT, NUMPUTUL (Iloko, etc.)
    * Physical Description - black gigantic man; headless man, dog, hog, chicken, etc.; self-beheading
    * Domicile - dark places, deserted buildings; the underworld; large trees, especially acacia, santol, duhat, etc.
    * Activities - travels from one tree to another in various shapes; terrifying but not especially harmful; carries off wayfarers; neck-stump bubbles with blood
    * Intellectual and Spiritual Endowments - dances and eats as it walks along
    * Animal Instincts - voracious, devours snakes, centipedes, crunches them in mouth
    * Magical Character - assumes various shapes and sizes at a rapid pace; vanishes and reappears at will; in animal-shape, is fiery-eyed, mouth emitting flames; causes insanity


* from Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson, The Philippine Islands 1493-1803
** cited in William Henry Scott, Slavery in the Spanish Philippines, p.40
*** there is no kapre-like creature among the presumably precolonial Tagalog “infernal ministers” listed in Fray Juan de Plasencia’s “Relation of the worship of the Tagalogs, their gods, and their burials and superstitions” . He does refer to the osuan, magtatangal, Tigbalaang, and patianac (BR v.7, pp. 185-196).

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