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(Revised Edition) 



Assistant to the Director of Agriculture 


Fiber Expert 







(Revised Edition) 



Assistant to the Director of Agriculture 


Fiber Expert 




Letter of transmittal 7 

Introduction 9 

History 10 

Botany 10 

Varieties of abacS 11 

Distribution 19 

Climate 19 

Soil 21 

The plantation 21 

Preparation of the soil 22 

Seed selection 23 

Planting 24 

Cultivation 2o 

Shade 2H 

Fertilizers 27 

Drainage and irrigation >.* 27 

Enemies 28 

Harvesting 28 

Extraction of fiher ^ 29 

Fiber-extracting machinery 3I 

After-treatment of fiber 32 

Description of fiber 33 

Yield : 33 

Method of renewing old plantations 33 

Value 34 

Uses 35 

Utilization of abaca waste 35 

Estimated cost and revenues of an abacS. plantation 3H 

Concliision 39 



Plat* 1. Abacs, Maguindanao and TangoSgon varieties. 

2. Abaci, Libuton variety. 

3. Abaci, Sinaba and TangoSgon varieties. 

4. Field cleared for planting. 

5. Field of young abaci. 

6. Stripping abaci (first process). 

7. Stripping abaci (second process). 

8. Drying hand-cleaned abaci. 

9. Drying machine-cleaned abaci (showing two grades of fiber) 

10. Field of old abaci. 

11. Abaci fruit and seed. 
92951 2 


Manila, January 8, 1910. 
Sir : We have the honor to transmit herewith, and to recommend for 
publication, a revision of Farmers' Bulletin No. 13, "Abaca" (Manila 

Very respectfully, 

H. T. Edwards, 

Assistant to the Director. 
MuRAD M. Saleeby, 

Fiber Expert. 
Director of Agriculture, 

Manila, P. I. 




The fiber iDroduced by the plant Miisa textilis is known throughout the 
civilized world as hemp, manila, or manila hemp. This name "hemp" 
is misleading as, properly speaking, hemp is the fiber produced by the 
plant Cannabis sativa. The two fibers are quite different, manila hemp 
being a structural fiber obtained from the leaf sheath while true hemp is 
a bast fiber extracted from the inner bark of the stem. The name 
"abaca" is used in all parts of the Philippine Archipelago to designate 
both the plant, Musa textilis, and the fiber, manila hemp. 

Abaca enjoys the unique distinction of being strictly a Philippine 
product. The plant has been introduced into India, Borneo, the AYest 
Indies, and other parts of the tropical world, but only in the Philippine 
Islands has the fiber been successfully produced as an article of commerce. 
This fact has undoubtedly been of great advantage to the Philippine 
planter. The lack of competition, however, has resulted in the contin- 
uance of obsolete methods of cultivation and fiber extraction, better 
suited to the eighteenth than to the twentieth century. 

The opportunities for increasing the production of abaca in the Phil- 
ippines are almost unlimited. Enonnous areas of land suitable for 
abac4 cultivation are as yet untouched, while the greater part of the 
land already under cultivation might yield a greatly increased product 
if more careful attention were given to the various details of cultivation. 
The introduction of irrigation and drainage will greatly increase the 
output of abaca in the localities where it is under cultivation and will 
also make possible the planting of abaca in many districts where it is 
now unknown. The perfection of a machine for the extraction of the 
fiber will considerably increase the entire output by saving a part of the 
fiber that is now wasted by the hand-stripping process. 

In each successive step, from the first selection of the land to the 
final treatment of the fiber, the progressive planter should have as his 
ultimate object the production on a given area of a maximum quantity 
of superior fiber at a minimum cost. With the industry established and 
conducted on this basis, abaca will continue to hold its place as the most 
important export product of the Islands. 



The first authentic account of the use of either abaca or banana fiber 
in the Philippines is that given by an Englishman, Dampier, who lived 
in Mindanao in 1686. This writer describes the "banana textoria," both 
as an edible and as a fiber-producing plant. One of the companions of 
Magallanes, Antonio Pigafetta, prepared a description of the plants of 
the Philippines, but in this paper no mention is made of abaca. The 
fiber was first exported from the Islands about the beginning of the last 
century, but the exports did not become important until about 1850. 
In 1820 a sample of abaca was brought to Salem, Massachusetts, by John 
White, a lieutenant in the United States Navy. From 1824 to 1827 the 
fiber began to be used quite extensively in Salem and Boston. The 
gradual increase in production is shown by the following table : 

Exports of ahacd from the Philippine Islands. 


1818 41 

1825 276 

1840 8,502 

1850 8,561 

1860 ♦ 30,388 

1870 31,426 

1880 50,482 

1890 67,864 

1900 _ 89,438 

1906 112,165 

July 1, 1908, to June 30, 1909 149,992 

The numerous attempts which have been made to introduce abaca 
into other countries have never met with any considerable degree of 
success. In 1822 experimental plantings were made in Calcutta and 
in 1877 in Madras. The plants grew fairly well in both instances, but 
the fiber produced was of an inferior quality. The experiments with 
abaca in the Andaman Islands, Borneo, Florida, and the West Indies have 
not resulted in any general introduction of the plant into these countries. 


The common banana, Musa sapientum; the plantain, Miisa paradi- 
siaca; and abaca, Musa textilis, are closely related species of the same 
genus. The plants of these three species resemble each other both in 
appearance and in habits of growth. The banana plant produces a fiber 
similar in appearance to abaca, but lacking strength. The fruit of the 
abaca somewhat resembles that of the banana, but is smaller, filled with 
black seeds, and of no economic value. 

The abaca plant is a large tree-like herb 5 to 10 meters high. The 
stalk rises from a perennial rootstock. A single rootstock usually bears 
a cluster of from 12 to 30 stalks or shoots. The stalk is cylindrical, 2.5 
to 6 meters long, ranging in color from dark purple to green, and is 


formed of the overlapping leaf sheaths. The leaves are oblong, deltoid 
at the base, bright green above, glaucous beneath, petiole from 0.3 to 1 
meter long. The sheaths grow from the fleshy, central core until the 
sheath formation is completed, when the flower bud develops and forms 
the flowering spike which varies in size and length with different varieties. 
The flowers are borne in clusters arranged at intervals along the rachis, 
each cluster being subtended by a large membranous bract. The flrst 
few bracts which subtend the real flowers are larger and more conspicuous 
than the rest that subtend the false flowers. The latter bracts are so 
densely laid one upon the other that they form a kind of flower cone. 
This cone is smooth, glossy, and of a color ranging from dull violet to 
light green. The fruit is green, oblong-trigonous, 5 to 8 centimeters 
long, 2.5 centimeters in diameter, not edible, but filled with large, black 

While the abaca plant closely resembles the banana, the two may 
easily be distinguished. The abaca is ordinarily smaller than the banana, 
its stem is more slender and usually of a darker color. The abaca leaf 
is a darker green, narrower, more tapering, and of a firmer texture than 
that of the banana. The petiole of the abaca leaf is of a light green 
color while that of the banana is ashy. A peculiarity of the abaca is a 
dark, thread-like line running lengthwise on the right-hand side of the 
under surface of the leaf. 

There are many different varieties of abaca, often six or eight in one 
locality. The principal differences between these varieties are in color 
and shape of stalk, color and size of leaves, greater or less tendency to 
produce suckers, and in development, quality, abundance and strength 
of fiber. The desirable qualities in an abaca plant are: A plant which 
is hardy, grows rapidly, and vtdthstands draught, and which produces 
fiber in abimdant quantity, of good quality, and easily extracted. 


As many as fourteen, or more, varieties of abaca are under cultivation 
in the leading abaca provinces. The principal differences among these 
varieties are in color, size, and shape of the stalk; tendency to produce 
suckers; and in yield and quality of fiber. The color and shape of the 
flower cone can not ordinarily be depended upon as distinguishing 
characteristics, excepting in the Lubuton and Punucan varieties where a 
marked difference in color can easily be detected. The way the leaves 
hang on the stalk, as well as their size and shape, will be referred to 

There is also a great difference in the degree of hardiness in the dif- 
ferent varieties of abaca. Some varieties may thrive fairly well under 
conditions where others less hardy will fail altogether. The abaca 
planter should be able to identify the leading varieties, and should be 


sufficiently familiar with their characteristics so that he may determine 
which varieties are best suited to conditions in any given locality. This 
question is one of great importance, especially to the prospective planter. 

This subject is obviously full of difficulties inasmuch as some varieties 
shade one into another, rendering it extremely difficult to describe the 
minute differences existing among them; besides, variations in soil and 
climatic conditions cause changes in certain characteristics of the same 
variety. A comprehensive study of the varieties of abaca throughout 
the Philippine Islands is 3'^et to be made. It is believed, however, that 
the following data on this subject will be of assistance to the abaca 

In different localities the same varieties are known by different names. 
The following names of varieties are used in southern Mindanao where 
our principal studies and experiments have been made : ( 1 ) Tangongon, 
(2) Maguindanao, (3) Bangulanon, (4) Libuton, (5) Punucan, (6) 
Arupan, (7) Puteean, (8) Sinaba, (9) Agutay, (10) Baguisanon La- 
waan, (11) Baguisanon, (12) Pulajan, (13) Puspos, and (14) Kawa- 
yanon. The first eight are the principal varieties, and the last six 
are the undesirable ones that should be avoided for reasons hereafter 


(Tangongon, throughout Davao, Iligan, and other parts of Mindanao; Lagur- 
juan, Leyte; Samorong itom, Albay and Ambos Camarines.) 

Color of stalk. — The color of the Tangongon stalk is both light and 
deep purple, with hardly any green lines running through as in most 
other varieties. Often the color on the outward side of the stalk is 
deeper, almost approaching black, due to its exposure to the sun. The 
dark and glossy asjject of the Tangoiigon hill is peculiar, and few other 
varieties can be mistaken for it. 

Size of stalk. — The stalks may grow to a great height and size, espe- 
cially in what the natives call the "male Tangongon" or "Tangongon 
Lawaan." Stalks measuring 6 meters in height, weighing 90 to 115 kilos, 
and containing from 2 to 2.5 kilos of dry fiber are occasionally found. 

Shape of stalk. — The stalk tapers as in most other varieties; the ratio 
between the circumference at the base and at the top being 2.1 to 1. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — The male variety, that has been men- 
tioned before as bearing large stalks, does not produce as many suckers 
as the female variety, which has smaller stalks. In other respects the 
two behave exactly the same. On an average the number of stalks in 
the Tangongon hill can be estimated at 10 to 12. 

Quality of fiber. — The fiber is coarser and stronger than that of the 
other varieties, but not so white. Its coarseness and brownness are partly 







due to imperfect stripping. To strip this variety for any considerable 
length of time is a trying task and one that is avoided by most strippers. 

Quantity of fiber. — Every 100 kilos of stalk contain from 2.5 to 3.75 
kilos of dry fiber. 

The Tangongon is undoubtedly the hardiest variety, and grows to a 
fair size even in poor soils and under other adverse conditions, where 
most, if not all, of the other varieties can not survive. The difficulty 
of stripping it, its hard and woody rootstock, as well as the size of its 
stalk and leaves, all show its hardy nature. 

It reaches its limit of growth in alluvial flats subject to overflow by 
mountain streams. One of the undesirable qualities of this variety is 
the tendency on the part of the rootstocks to grow above the soil. As 
a result, quite a number of suckers grow 6 to 8 centimeters above the 
ground, the hold of the plant on the soil is weakened, and it is in danger 
of being thrown over during strong winds. 


(Maguindanao, throughout Davao; Ynosa, in Leyte; Samarong puti, in Albay 
and Camarines; Laob, in Oriental Negros; and Samponanon, in northern Min- 
danao and Camigin.) 

Color of stalJc. — Greenish, with light purple and brown colors running 
through it. As a rule, the green color is in excess of the purple and 
brown, but during long dry spells the reverse is the case. 

Size of stall: — In its favorite soil — light deep loams — it grows to 
almost the size of Tangongon, but it does not, as a rule, grow quite so 
high. Stalks weighing 100 kilos and measuring about 5.5 meters in 
height are about the limit, though in a few exceptional cases stalks 
weighing 123 kilos have been observed. 

Shape of stalJc. — Even a little more tapering than Tangongon, the ratio 
between the two circumferences being about 2.3 to 1. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — It produces more stalks to the hill than 
Tangongon, from 15 to 20 stalks being about the average. 

Quality of filer. — White, strong, and easy of extraction. 
. Quantity of filer. — Every 100 kilos of stalk contain about 1.T5 kilos 
of dry fiber. 

This is a favorite variety with the majority of planters throughout the 
Islands, because of the superior quality of its fiber and the ease with 
which it is extracted. It is reckoned among the hardy varieties, though 
it falls short of Tangoiigon in this respect. The way the leaves hang 
on the stalk is peculiar to this variety. As soon as they emerge from 
the stalk, the leaves arch downward in the form of a bow, giving the 
plant the shape of an umbrella. 
92951 3 



(Bangulanon, throughout Davao, Cebu, and Oriental Negros; Alman (f), in 
Leyte. ) 

Color of stalk. — Dark and dull, with very little, or none, of green and 
light colors. 

Size of stalk. — In height, as well as in weight, this variety rarely grows 
stalks of more than medium size. A stalk of 50 to 60 kilos in weight 
and 3.5 to 4.5 meters in height is considered of good size. 

SRape of stalk. — One of the least tapering of the varieties, the dif- 
ference between the two circumferences being about 1.8 to 1. This 
characteristic is not noticeable, owing to the small size of the stalks. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — It ranks second in the number of 
stalks in its hills, 25 to 30 stalks being frequently seen in one hill. 

Quality of fiber. — Very white, strong, heavy, and easy of extraction. 
In this respect it ranks equal, if not superior, to Maguindanao fiber. 

Quantity of fiber. — Every 100 kilos contain from 3.25 to 2.30 kilos of 
dry fiber. 

This variety is rarely found outside of southern and eastern Mindanao. 
Its first home was probably the eastern coast of Mindanao, from which 
it was introduced to both coasts of the Gulf of Davao. 

The "Alman," which is extensively cultivated in Leyte, is very similar 
to Bangulanon and is perhaps the same. The *'Alman" differs from the 
Bangulanon only in its lighter color, and in having fewer stalks to the 
hill, which may be accounted for by different soil and climatic conditions. 
A few Bangulanon hills are also found in the mountains back of Luzu- 
riaga, Negros Oriental, and also in Cebu back of the towns of Dalaguete 
and Oslob. 

This variety, like Tangongon, thrives best in the soft alluvial loams, 
underlaid by gravel, but it is not considered a hardy variety. In heavier 
soils, a few stalks in each hill fall over before maturing. This is the 
case especially in ill-drained soils. 

One pecularity of the Bangulanon is the spreading out of its stalks, 
perhaps due to overcrowding. Of late it has gained a great reputation 
among the planters of southern Mindanao on account of the abundance 
and superior quality of its fiber, and the ease with which it is extracted. 


{Liiuton, throughout southern and northern Mindanao; Tangongon, in Iligan; 
and Libutanay, a corruption of Libuton, in Leyte.) 

Color of stalk. — A combination of deep green and brown. The light 
purple colors of the Maguindanao being absent. 

Size of stalk. — Though the stalks do not grow to the size of the 
Tangoiigon, yet this variety is considered as giving good-sized stalks. In 


this respect, as well as in height, it compares very favorably with Ma- 

Shape of stalks. — Less tapering than either Tangoiigon or Maguin- 
danao, the ratio being about 2 to 1 or a little less. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — Libuton produces more stalks to the hill 
than any of the varieties above described, with the exception of Bangu- 
lanon, 20 to 25 stalks being a fair average. 

Quality of fiber. — Not quite so white nor easy to strip as that of Ma- 
guindanao or Bangulanon. It is much whiter than the Tangongon and 
also easier to strip. 

Quantity of filer. — Slightly less than in Maguindanao. Every 100 
kilos of stalk contain from 1.65 to 1.70 kilos of dry fiber. 

The Libuton is almost, though not quite, as hardy as Tangoiigon ; but 
it surpasses it, and all the rest of the varieties, in having a much 
stronger hold on the soil. Libuton stalks unless overmature or subjected 
to unusually strong winds are seldom blown down. The color of its 
flower cone, as well as that of Punucan, is lighter and greener than in 
other varieties. 


This variety is exactly like Libuton in all characteristics, with the 
exception of color and the number of stalks in the hill. In color, tendency 
to produce suckers, and general outward appearance it greatly resembles 
Tangoiigon ; while in quality and quantity of fiber it is exactly identical 
with Libuton. It is often mistaken for Libuton or Tangofigon. No 
further description is necessary, as it will be merely a repetition of what 
has been mentioned under the Tangongon and Libuton varieties. 

{Arupan, throughout southern Cebu and parts of Davao; Tilitian and Ba- 
baounon, in Davao; 8ina-Moro, in Leyte; Samponanon, in northern Mindanao and 
Camigin; Laob, in Oriental Negros; Samorong puti, in Albay and Camarines; 
and Puteean Grande, in Iligan.) 

Color of stalk. — More greenish than Maguindanao and Puteean. It is 
also noticeable that the green color in it is somewhat lighter than that 
in the other two varieties. 

Size of stalk. — It does not grow to a considerable height, but in 
thickness it compares well with either Maguindanao or Libuton. 

Shape of stalk. — The least tapering of all varieties, 1.75 to 1 being the 
approximate ratio between the two circumferences. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — About equal to Maguindanao. 

Quality of fiber. — Owing perhaps to the presence of a stronger solution 
of tannic acid in it, the fiber is generally dull in color. The quality can 
be considerably improved if the strips are pulled under the knife as soon 
as, or shortly after, they are separated. 


Quantity of fiber. — Every 100 kilos of stalk contain about 1.75 kilos 
of dry fiber. 

In general appearance this variety is very similar to Maguindanao and 
most of the f ollovring varieties ; hence very few planters give it a separate 
name. It is extensively grown, and can be seen in almost any district 
where abaca is extensively cultivated. 

There are three characteristics peculiar to this variety. These are, 
the comparative shortness of the stalk, the comparative thickness at the 
top, and the change in the color of the strips shortly after they are 
separated. This latter characteristic, as previously mentioned, is probably 
due to an excess of tannic acid in its sap. On account of this last pecu- 
liarity, the Moros of the Tagum River Valley in the District of Davao 
call it "Tilitian," meaning a stain. 

[Puteean, throughout Davao, Cebu, and Mindanao; also Puspos, in Davao; 
Laguis, in Leyte; and Laoh, in Oriental Negros.) 

Color of stalk. — Very similar to that of Maguindanao, with the possible 
difference of being slightly darker and less lustrous. 

Size of stalk. — Both in thickness and height of stalk it resembles 

Shape of stalk. — The thickness of the stalk at the base is about double 
that at the top. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — Somewhat less than in either the Aru- 
pan or the Maguindanao, or about the same as Tangongon. 

Quality of fiber. — Veiy white, as the word implies. Strippers claim 
that it is more difficult to extract Puteean than either Maguindanao or 
the Bangulanon fiber, but if any difference in this respect exists it is 
very slight. 

Quantity of fiber. — About the same as Arupan and Maguindanao. 

A bad reputation (to some extent, unjustly) has been attached to this 
variety. Although it is neither hardy nor produces many and large 
stalks to the hill, yet its fiber, both in quality and quantity, approaches 
that of Maguindanao. It receives its bad reputation for the reason that 
almost any small unhealthy hill of hemp, whether it is Puteean or some- 
thing else, is called "Puteean." Thus it has been condemned more 
through mistaking it for some of the inferior varieties, such as Baguisa- 
non, Puspos, etc., than because of any undersirable qualities that it 
actually has. 

The real Puteean, when grown in its favorite soil — soft sedimentary 
loam — is often mistaken for Maguindanao, as the color of its stalks is 
then very similar to that of the Maguindanao; but, to the experienced 
eye, the tapering of the Maguindanao stalks and the arching of its leaves 
afford a plain contrast to the less tapering Puteean stalk and the straight 
growth of its leaves. 


{Sinaha, in certain localities in Davao; Maguindanao, throughout the greater 
part of Davao; Liajon, in Leyte; and Puteean, in northern Mindanao, Cebu, and 
Negros Oriental.) 

Color of stalk. — The greater part of the stalk is usually green. To- 
ward the base purplish patches or lines are frequently seen. 

Size of stalk. — In thickness the stalks compare favorably with Arupan, 
but in height they even fall short of Puteean or Arupan. 

Shape of stalk. — ^Ver}' similar to Arupan, if not exactly identical 
with it. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — The stalks in this variety are numerous 
and crowded. In this respect it even surpasses Libuton, though it does 
not come up to the average of Bangulanon. 

Quality of fiber. — The whitest, finest, and lightest fiber is produced 
by this variety. 

Quantity of fiber. — This fiber is both light and weak, and during the 
two processess of extracting it, considerable percentage of it goes into 
waste. Every 100 kilos of stalk contain about 1.25 kilos of dry fiber. 

This variety should have been given the name of "Puteean" because it 
possesses all of the qualities conveyed by the meaning of the word. 
"Sinaba" is a very local name, and is given to this variety because 
of the close resemblance it has to the "Saba" variety of banana, the fine 
and silky fiber of which is woven into what is called "Saba cloth" in 
almost all parts of the Islands. 

This is another variety the identity of which has not been generally 

[Agutwy, in Davao; AlmanCi), in Leyte; and, perhaps, Samorong itom, in 
Albay and Camarines.) 

Color of stalk. — Very similar to that of Tangongon, only it does not 
have the luster of the latter. 

Size of stalk. — The stalk never grows to any considerable size or 
height. It rarely comes up to the Puteean standard. 

Shape of stalk. — About the same as the Libuton stalk. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — The Agutay hill produces very few 
suckers. It and Tangongon have the least number of stalks in their 

Quality of fiber. — Very white, almost as white as that of Sinaba, with 
the difference that it lacks the softness and luster that the latter has. 

Quantity of fiber. — Owing to occasional breaking of the strips during 
the process of separating them, a great loss in quantity results. Every 
100 kilos of stalk contain from 1.3 to 1.4 kilos of drj' fiber. 


Agutay has a bad reputation which it deserves. To what has been 
mentioned may be added another undesirable quality, and that is its 
weakness of growth. It is one of the least hardy varieties of abaca. 


{Baguisanon Lawaan or simply Baguisanon, in some parts of Davao; Lack- 
banon, along the north and east coasts of the Gulf of Davao; Ijalas, in Leyte; 
Tinabono, in Oriental Negros; Baguisanon, in Cebu; and Baounon, in northern 
Mindanao. ) 

Color of stalk. — When mature, light green color pervades the whole 
stalk, even to the very base. 

Size of stalk. — The limit of the growth of abaca in size, as well as 
height, is attained in this variety only. One of the stalks, cut for 
experiments made in the Davao Eiver Valley, measured 1.16 meters in 
circumference at the base, about 7 meters in height, and 166 kilos in 

Shape of stalk. — Thickness at the base about double that at the top. 

Tendency to produce suckers. — It produces as many stalks to the hill 
as Bangulanon and often more. The stalks are packed close together, 
making it very difficult to cut out the mature stalks from the rest. 

Quality of fiber. — White, fine, and weak. 

Quantity of fiber. — With the present wasteful method of extracting 
fibei not more than 1.3 or 1.4 kilos is contained in every 100 kilos of 
stalk. The reason is that during the process of separating the strips 
from the sheaths, the strips often end a little beyond the middle of the 
sheath. The men can never manage to pull the strip to the end, due 
both to the weakness of the fiber and the comparative compactness of the 
tissue cells. On this account all strippers avoid this variety. If the 
mature stalks, after being cut, were left from five to ten days on the 
ground, the strips could then be entirely separated, owing to the dete- 
rioration of the tissue binding the fiber together. The only disadvantage 
in the above method is that the strips lose their white color, and the 
fiber becomes dull. 


(Baguisanon, in Davao and Cebu; Macalibre, in Iligan; Latcisid in Camigin; 
Lawitz, in northern Mindanao; Banguisan, in Leyte; and Salawag, in Oriental 
Negros. ) 

In general appearance, and in number and size of stalks, it resembles 
the Sinaba to such an extent as to render a description of it a mere 
repetition of what has been mentioned under the latter. 

In breaking of the strips during the process of separating them from 
the sheath, as well as in the weakness of its fiber, it ranks even inferior 
to Baguisanon Lawaan. Its fiber is, however, somewhat whiter and 
lighter. Very rarely more than 1 kilo is contained in every 100 kilos of 


(Pulajan and Baguisanon itom, in Davao; Linawaan, in Leyte; and Caguisan, 
in Oriental Negros.) 

The color of this variety, as the word implies, is red, even more so 
than Tangoiigon. In shape of the stalks and their height and size it 
resembles Tangoiigon, differing from it in having a stronger tendency 
to produce suckers. In the rest of its qualities it behaves exactly the 
same as Baguisanon. This fact explains why many of the planters in 
southern Mindanao call it "Baguisanon itom." 


These two can be described jointly for the reason that they resemble 
each other, and both of them are so distinctly different from the rest of 
the varieties that there can be no danger of mistaking them. They both 
bear small and numerous stalks to the hill. The stalks rarely grow 
more than 2.5 to 3 meters high, and the fiber, though white, is weak 
and the yield is small. The Kawayanon stalks are usually more purplish 
and shorter than those of the Puspos. In various parts of the Islands 
these varieties are given the names of either Puteean, Lawisid, or Lawits, 
while in Leyte a variety "Itimbalod" answers to the description of both 
Puspos and Kawayanon. 


[_Abaca is distributed throughout the greater part of the Philippine 
Archipelago. The area where it is successfully cultivated lies, approxi- 
mately, between the parallels 6 and 15 north latitude and meridians 131 
and 126 east of Greenwich. The most favorable locations are along the 
eastern and southern coasts. It may be cultivated up to 1,000 or 1,200 
meters above sea level, but above this height the temperature is not 
favorable to its best development. The more important abaca provinces 
and islands are as follows : Albay, Leyte, Sorsogon, Mindanao, Samar, 
Ambos Camarines, Negros, and Mindoro. It is grown to some extent 
in other provinces of Luzon and on many of the smaller islands. The 
amount of land at present under cultivation, or that which is suitable 
for abaca, can not be very definitely estimated, inasmuch as the plant is 
often grown on small and widely scattered areas back in the mountains. 
The methods of propagation, of cultivation, and of fiber extraction are 
all very similar in the different parts of the Archipelago. 


A suitable climate is the first and most important requisite for sue- -^ 
cessful abaca cultivation. In selecting the location for a plantation this 
subject should receive the most careful attention, ^he four conditions 
of climate which directly affect the growth of abaca are the amount and 
distribution of rainfall, the degree of atmospheric humidity, the frequency 
of heavy winds, and the degree of temperature. ; 


The structure and habits of growth of the abaca plant are such that it 
requires a large and continuous supply of moisture. We invariably find 
that the provinces where abaca cultivation is the most successful are those 
having a heavy and evenly distributed rainfall. In many parts of the 
Philippine Islands there is a long and pronounced dry season, during 
which time there is practically no rainfall. Unless water is available for 
irrigation, abaca can not be grown in these districts. A short drought 
will check the growth of the plant, and a long period of dry weather will 
destroy all growing abaca. In cei-tain parts of Albay, Davao, and some 
other localities, while there is a so-called wet and dry season, seldom does 
a week pass without heavy showers. The actual amount of rainfall re- 
quired by abaca will be modified by the nature of the soil, the degree 
of atmospheric humidity, and the methods of cultivation. Occasional 
plowing and harrowing of the soil, beside tending to fill all crevices and 
thus retarding the evaporation of moisture, also allows the tender and 
fleshy roots of the abaca to penetrate further into the soil, thus enabling 
the plant to obtain a larger supply of nourishment and moisture. 

The growth of abaca is influenced very directly by the relative humidity 
of the atmosphere. The degree of atmospheric saturation usually follows 
the rainfall in its variations, so that in districts where there is a heavy 
precipitation there are also many days of excessive humidity, the effect 
of which is almost the same as actual rain. Other conditions being the 
same, this makes all level locations in the vicinity of large rivers or other 
bodies of water, or along the base of hills where a constant supply of 
underground moisture percolates through the soil, best adapted to abaca 
cultivation. The atmospheric conditions in southern Mindanao are essL. 
tremely favorable for abaca cultivation. 

The abaca plant, with its broad, hea.Yj leaves, may be seriously injured 
by severe windstorms. The function of the leaf is to assimilate plant 
food. Wlien it becomes stripped and torn, as is often the case, this power 
of assimilation is diminished and the growth of the plant is correspond- 
ingly retarded. It is always desirable to select locations as protected as 
possible, and it may be found necessar}' to plant trees which vrill serve as 

The following table shows the average rainfall and temperature in 
certain parts of the Islands : 


La Carlota (Negros).. 
Mamburao (Mindoro) 




of years 



Dajrs of 










Next in importance to favorable climatic conditions is the selection of 
.suitable soil. The appropriateness of any particular soil must depend in 
a degree on the relative conditions of climate and location. For instance^, 
in a district having a very heavy rainfall and where the land is low and 
flat a soil of certain consistency would become oversaturated, while the 
same soil, if the land were sloping and the rainfall less hea\T, might be 
sufficiently well drained. The qualities to be selected are a rich, mellow 
loam of lasting fertility, cool and moist, but at the same time well drained, 
containing a large amount of decayed vegetable matter, and preferaljly of 
volcanic origin. 

Throughout the important abaca districts of southern Luzon we find 
nearly all of the large plantations situated on the lower slopes of old 
volcanoes. The soils in these locations are deep and fertile, well drained, 
and in every way very desirable. As abaca is grown on the same land 
without replanting, fertilizing, or rotation for a period of at least twelve 
or fifteen years, the soil must be of lasting fertility in order to stand 
this long drain on its resources. The demand of the plant for a constant 
supply of moisture, and its equal dislike for oversaturation, require a 
condition of medium consistency, a soil that will retain moisture without 
becoming wet. 

There are three kinds of soil in which abaca flourishes and gives 
remunerative results. These are, in order of superiorit}', the allu\ial 
plains subject to ovei-flow by rivers or mountain streams, the moist mellow 
loams formed by the disintegration of volcanic rocks, or by the deposit 
of volcanic ashes, and the moist and well-drained loams. One or more 
of these three kinds of soil are found in every district where abaca is 
successfully cultivated. Dry sandy soil, such as is found along the sea 
beach, stiff clay loams, and rocky limestone soils should be avoided. 
An attempt to transform these inferior soils into proper condition either 
by plowing, irrigating, draining, or fertilizing them, as the case may 
require, usually entails so much expense and labor that such operations 
are not practicable. On superior soils, however, these methods of soil 
treatment often can be used to advantage. 


The prospective planter must consider three things : The selection of 
a location, the preliminary work of establishment and organization, and 
the system and method by which the plantation is to be developed. 

The location should be, if possible, in some district where abaca is 
already grown. This will be the surest way of determining that soil and 
climatic conditions are suitable, and will also guarantee a supply of 
suckers or "seed" for starting the new plantation. The supply and 
quality of available labor; the condition of roads and the facilities for 

water transportation ; the supply of water, wood, and building materials, 
and the distance from a market, are all matters that should receive 

The site having been selected, the boundary lines should be carefully 
located, and the plantation mapped out with a view to future develop- 
ment. At some central point, where there is a supply of good water, the 
necessary buildings may be erected. These will include a residence for 
the manager, a storage shed for tools and implements, and a shelter for 
animals. As soon as this preliminary work is finished the clearing and 
planting should be commenced. 

The most difficult problem which the tropical planter has to face, and 
that which more than any other one thing will determine his ultimate 
success or failure, is the manner in which he controls and directs his 
labor. To have available at all times as many workmen as can be used 
to advantage, and to so handle them as to secure the best results, requires 
a thorougli knowledge of the native character and an infinite amount of 
tact and patience. When the plantation is first started arrangements 
should be made for building a native village of sufficient size to accom- 
modate all laborers needed on the plantation, together with their families. 
By this method the plantation manager will always have under his direct 
control a fairly reliable supply of labor; and if this system is properly 
carried out the workmen will be more contented, better satisfied, and in 
every respect more easily handled than if secured in any other way. 


The clearing of the forest, which is the first process in preparing the 
land for planting is best accomplished in the following way: The land 
should first be cleared of all underbrush and weeds, leaving nothing 
standing but good-sized trees. The underbrush and weeds should be left 
scattered on the ground until they are perfectly dry, when the felling 
of all trees, excepting such as are to be left for shade and protection 
from wind, should commence. After felling the large trees it is ad- 
visable to cut off all branches and limbs. This has a double advantage, 
namely, the material dries more quickly and is also more thoroughly 
consumed when burned. Where the forest is heavy, two and sometimes 
three burnings are required. The first burning consists of setting fire 
to the dry and combustible underbrush and leaves, which in turn set 
fire to the small branches and twigs. The second and third burnings 
should be started immediately after the first is finished, and consist in 
piling up and burning in separate piles all of the limbs and larger 
branches that remain after the first burning. These successive burnings 
clear the ground of all waste, destroy a portion of the seeds of weeds, 
and leave an amount of ash, the potash salts of which furnish a valuable 
fertilizing material. All clearing and burning should be finished before 
the close of the dry season. 


The preparation of the land for abaca must vary with different local 
conditions. The most common practice is, after the land has been 
burned over, to plant at once, without any preliminary plowing or 
other preparation of the soil. The abacd shoots are set out at regular 
intervals, camotes (sweet potatoes), mongos, cowpeas, or velvet beans 
being planted at the same time. These secondary crops grow rapidly, 
soon cover the ground with a dense growth, and thus to a large extent 
prevent the growth of weeds. This method may be followed where it is 
impracticable to secure labor, animals, or implements, or where the land 
can not be thoroughly cleared. It is not, however, a system to be rec- 
ommended. Where it is practicable to do so, the land should be plowed 
and harrowed before planting commences. This system will be more 
expensive at the outset, but the more rapid growth of the crop and the 
increased yield on land thus prepared will, in the end, more than pay 
for the additional first cost. 


Considerable differences in the quality and relative quantity of fiber, 
as well as in size and extent of growth, exist among the different 
varieties of abaca. A comparative study of these varieties has shown 
that the most remunerative among them are Tangoiigon (Lagurjuan), 
Maguindanao (Samponanon, Laob, Ynosa, Samorong puti), Bangu- 
lanon (Alman ?), Libuton (Libutanay), Punucan, and Arupan (Tili- 
tian, Sina-Moro, Puteean Grande, Baounon). Seeds from these varieties, 
therefore, and only these varieties, should be selected for propagation. 
The rest should be avoided as carefully as possible, excepting in certain 
instances where the fiber of a particular variety is desired for special 
purposes, such as the manufacture of cloth. It is probable that the 
perfecting of a machine will remove the undesirability of a few of the 
inferior varieties. 

Another fact that emphasizes the importance of seed selection is the 
adaptibility of certain varieties to certain kinds of soil. Whenever a 
soil is alluvial deposit underlaid by gravel at a depth of a few feet, 
the Tangongon, Bangulanon, and Punucan varieties are best adapted to 
it; while, where it is a deep mellow loam, the Maguindanao, Libuton, 
and Arupan thrive best. 

Many grave mistakes have been committed, and considerable losses 
sustained, by planters at the time they started their plantations through 
ignorance of the different varieties of abaca. The large plants and 
excellent appearance of some of the varieties, such as Baguisanon Lawaan 
(Lackbanon, Ijalas and Tinabono), Pulajan (Baguisanon itom, Caguisan 
etc.,), Agutay, and Baguisanon (Banguisan, Lawisid, Macalibre. etc.,), 
make the inexperienced planter as anxious to secure them for his plan- 
tation as the old shrewd planter is to part with them. 



The land, when ready for planting, should be lined out with a cord 
or bamboo poles and small stakes driven at equal distances apart where 
the plants are to be set out. Some of the plants will fail to grow, and 
without these stakes it will be difficult to determine the exact spot for 
making the new setting. The rows should be from 2.9 to 3.5 meters 
apart each way, depending on the size of the variety of abaca planted 
and on the nature of the soil. This will give from 750 to 1,350 plants 
to the hectare (2.471 acres). The most favorable time for planting is 
near the beginning of the rainy season. 

A new plantation may be started with seed, suckers, or root sections. 
The one advantage of using seed is that the first cost is less. This 
method, however, is seldom followed, as it requires from six months 
to a year longer for the plants to mature from seed than from suckers 
or root sections. Good seed is difficult to secure, and even when every 
precaution is taken it often fails to germinate. The seeds of the ripe 
fruit should be selected, well washed to remove the pulp, and dried. 
Before planting, soak in water for some five hours and use only the 
seed which sink to the bottom. Prepare the seed bed carefully in moist, 
fertile soil and sow in drills 25 to 50 centimeters apart. The plants 
should be large enough to set out in the field at the end of nine months 
to a year. 

The ordinary method of propagation is by the use of suckers. These 
suckers grow from the root of the "mother plant" and can be obtained 
on any large plantation at a cost of from ^30 to ^40 per thousand. 
Care should be taken to secure suckers that are well developed and in 
good condition. It is always safe to allow for the loss of one-fourth 
the original number ordered during the period of transportation and 
after planting. 

The use of root sections is the most desirable method of propagation 
because these roots are cheaper, more easily transported, and more liable 
to grow than suckers. The easiest way to obtain them is by felling the 
stalk in such a way as to pull up all, or part, of the root with it. This 
root section, if small, is set out entire, to start a new plant; but if large, 
it has been found more desirable to cut it into two or three, sometimes 
four sections, according to its size. It may be borne in mind, however, 
that at least two eyes must be found on each section, just the same as is 
the case in potato planting. If large sections with as many as six or 
eight eyes on them are planted, it is quite often seen that four to six 
or more weak and slim stalks grow up from the same root at the same 
time, making too much demand on the yet young and tender roots for 
nourishment. On the contrary, when only two stalks grow up at first, 
they are, as a rule, found to be stout and robust, and grow unchecked 
and unhindered until leaf and root formation are sufficiently developed 


to supply new sprouts. Plants started according to the second method 
will ultimately have as many stalks as those started according to the 
first, and will attain a greater size and height. 

It is customary to plant some other crop on the same land with 
abaca. This system is advantageous for several reasons. If the ground 
is sloping, some herbage plant is necessary to prevent soil washing. 
Such plants will also prevent, to a considerable extent, the growth of 
weeds and will yield a product of more or less value. Camotes is the 
crop most commonly used. This plant grows rapidly, soon covers the 
ground with a dense mat of vines which chokes out the weeds, and it 
also furnishes a supply of food for the laborere on the plantation. Corn 
is very desirable, and it has the additional advantage of furnishing a 
much needed shade to the young abaca plant. Where soil conditions 
are favorable, coconuts may be grown on the same land with abaca. 
Coconuts and abaca make a very profitable combination as the abaca can 
be harvested until after the coconut trees come into bearing. Other 
crops sometimes used are mountain rice, cacao, and coffee. 


Under the present system where camotes are planted with abaca the 
only cultivation given is to keep the soil loose immediately around the 
abacd plants, thus allowing the free growth of suckers, and the frequent 
clearing of grass and weeds. It will be necessary to go over the planta- 
tion every two months, or oftener, during the fii'st year. After the abaca 
begins to shade the ground the growth of weeds will be less, and after 
the third year three or four clearings every twelve months will be all 
that is required. 

Clearing can be best and most economically accomplished by hoes 
instead of bolos. Hoes have proven more effective in checking the rapid 
growth of weeds and grass than bolos; besides, well-trained boys or men 
can accomplish almost half as much again with them as with bolos. The 
weeds should be cut before they have time to flower and seed; thus, in 
time, they get rarer and rarer, rendering subsequent cleanings of less 
trouble and expense. 

Another very important treatment will be found to add to the general 
welfare of the abaca plant. This treatment should be applied to the hills 
after the fourth or fifth year, whether cultivation is by plowing or weed- 
ing, and consists of occasionally throwing new soil into the center of the. 
hill, as well as digging up all the decayed roots of the former stalks. 
The fact that the center of the hill is usually filled with cavities contain- 
ing the woody substance of the roots of the old stalks and other decayed 
organic matter, and with scanty soil that is practically exhausted of all 
nourishment, explains why so very few sprouts ever grow on the inner 
side of the root stalks. The supply of new soil to the middle of the 


hill frequently results in increasing the number of sprouts, in giving a 
more compact aspect to the hill, and in preventing the breeding of worms, 
ants, and beetles that usually multiply in the decayed organic matter in 
the center of the hill. 

When the land is thoroughly cleared and plowed before planting, and 
the abaca is set in straight rows, subsequent cultivation may be done 
with animals. 

The relative advantages and disadvantages of growing abaca under 
shade is a subject concerning which there is great difference of opinion 
and one which must be largely decided by the existing local conditions. 
In any province where there is a pronounced dry season the shade tree 
may be considered an absolute necessity. Throughout the greater part of 
the abaca-growing districts it may probably be used to advantage. In 
certain portions of southern Mindanao, and in other localities where the 
rainfall is very heavy and is evenly distributed, shade may be dispensed 
with altogether. 

The functions of the properly selected shade tree are as follows: It 
protects the young abaca plant from the direct and glaring rays of the 
sun, such protection being very necessary at this stage of growth; it 
prevents, in a measure, the great evaporation which would otherwise 
take place from the broad surface of the leaves of the fully developed 
plant; it brings toward the surface of the ground, within reach of the 
roots of the abaca, a certain amount of soil moisture ; it protects the plant 
during all stages of growth from severe winds. 

The objections to the shade tree are that when it has to be planted it 
is an additional item of expense ; it interferes with the work of cultivation 
and takes up a considerable amount of land which might otherwise be 
planted to abaca. If its leaves are large, more or less moisture will be 
evaporated from them and wasted, and if its roots are shallow the abacd 
plant will be robbed of a portion of its food. If planted too closely the 
abaca plant will not receive a sufficient amount of light and heat and 
its development will be retarded. 

If shade trees are to be left standing when new lands are cleared, or 
if trees are to be planted for this purpose, varieties should be selected 
which are leguminous and which have tall trunks, narrow leaves, and 
deep-feeding roots. Such trees will give a light shade, but little moisture 
will be evaporated from the leaves, and their roots will be beneficial 
rather than detrimental to the abacd plant. There are many different 
varieties of trees in the Islands which are suitable for this purpose, 
among which may be mentioned the dapdap, raran, tanguil, anonang, 
pili, barobo, and locust. The number of trees required will vary with 


local conditions. Ordinarily they should be from 20 to 30 meters apart. 
In all cases where shade trees are not used, com or some other quickly 
grown crop should be planted to protect the young abaca plant during 
the first months of its growth. 


Commercial fertilizers have seldom, if ever, been used in the gi'owing 
of abaca. Virgin land, where the soil is deep, fertile, and filled with 
decayed organic matter is usually selected for this purpose. When the 
plant is cut and the fiber extracted all of the waste material, which 
constitutes by far the greater part of the plant, is left on the ground. 
This practice results in the return to the land each year of a large amount 
of organic matter, and tends to keep up the fertility of the soil. 

The rapid growth of abaca on land that has recently been burned 
over, together with the fact that chemical analysis shows a large percentage 
of potash in the composition of both plant and fiber, indicate that the 
application of ashes or other potash fertilizers would be attended with 
beneficial results. Until a series of systematic experiments with different 
fertilizers have been made, their relative value for abaca or the practic- 
ability of their applicatioo can not be definitely stated. 


The most important requisite for successful abaca cultivation being an 
abundant supply of water, and one of the most undesirable conditions 
being a wet soil, the value of both irrigation and drainage becomes very 

Besides supplying moisture to the soil, irrigation, especially when 
the water of small mountain streams which is always rich in organic 
matter and humus is utilized, enriches the soil by supplying the most 
desirable manure. If simple methods of irrigation are used where 
climatic or soil conditions are unfavorable, the total output of hemp can 
be increased considerably and the area that might profitably be planted 
to abaca would be largely increased. Even in locations where natural 
conditions are suitable, irrigation has increased the output to such an 
extent as to warrant the extra expense. 

The introduction of any thorough system of underground tile drains, 
or the use of any very expensive methods of irrigation, will not ordinarly 
be practicable where the amount of cheap unoccupied land is as large as 
it is at the present time in these Islands. On many plantations, however, 
there are opportunities for utilizing, at little cost, an available water 
supply, or draining by means of surface ditches, the cost of which would 
be inconsiderable when compared with the beneficial results. 


The enemies and accidents to which abaca is subject are but few. The 
damage done is usually slight and comparatively easy to correct. 

Severe winds, which strip and tear the leaves of the plant, will retard 
its development, and a typhoon may do a great amount of damage. The 
selection of a protected location and the planting of trees for wind-breaks 
will, in all ordinary cases, overcome this diflBculty. 

Extreme drought is another unfavorable climatic condition. A long 
dry season seldom occurs in the localities where abaca is most largely 
cultivated, and the effects of dry weather are in a measure overcome by 
the use of shade trees. Abaca should not be planted in the provinces 
where the distribution of rainfall is not fairly even, unless some means 
of irrigation are available. 

Wild pigs, deer, and carabaos occasionally do some damage, and it is 
usually necessary to fence a plantation. Locusts and ants are not to 
be feared. The larvae of two insects, known locally as ''tamilos" and 
"amasog,'' sometimes attack abaca. The first of these is about 4 centi- 
meters long and has a body divided into twelve segments, a soft, white 
skin, a head of a dark red color, and strong mandibles. The latter is 
about 1-J centimeters long with a body of uniform dimensions and white 
in color. When a plant is affected, a relatively large hole is found in 
the trunk and the leaves turn yellow. Such a plant should be im- 
mediately removed ahd burned. Fortunately but few plants suffer from 
these insects and the total injury which they do is insignificant. 


The first stalks will be ready for cutting at from twenty months to 
three years after planting. The time required for development varies 
considerably with different varieties and in different localities. After 
the first harvest it is customary to cut over a plantation every six to 
eight months. 

The abaca plant when mature consists of a group or a cluster of from 
twelve to thirty or more stalks, all growing from the one root. These 
stalks are in all stages of development, but usually two or three will 
mature and can be cut at the same time. The stalk is ready for cutting 
at the time of the appearance of the flower or shortly before. When the 
plant is in flower the large violet-colored flower bracts fall to the ground, 
making it an easy matter when passing through the field to select the 
plants which are ready for cutting. 

The stalk is cut with a bolo or knife having a sharp blade. This 
cutting should be made 5 to 7 centimeters from the crown of the 
root and on a slant. If a perfectly horizontal cut is made, water will 
collect on the stump, causing it to rot and thus injuring the root and 
remaining shoots. 

Plate 11. ABACA FRUIT AXI^ SEP:r). 


Owing to the fact that the stalks of a hill of abaca, especially young 
hills, are crowded together and that they are, to a certain extent, tied 
to each other by their old dry leaves, great care should be excercised in 
felling them. If laborers are left to themselves, they will be found to 
cut the stalks at the bottom and leave them to fall of themselves, quite 
often bringing down with them other immature stalks. The loss, how- 
ever, is not only the immature stalks, but the roots with all that would 
have grown from them as well. To avert this danger special men should 
be trained to cut down stalks and made responsible for any damage of 
this kind. To these men should be given a long pole with a very sharp 
knife attached to the top with which to cut off the top of the stalk, 
as well as all leaves tying it to the other stalks. The stalk, being left 
separate, could then be cut in the manner indicated above. 

Another grave mistake is often made in harvesting abaca. Owing to 
some pecuniary difficulties or to ignorance, some planters overcut the 
hills, leaving none but young shoots. This method is ruinous to the 
abaca plant. It opens the hill too much to the sun, increases the growth 
of weeds, shortens the life of the hill, and reduces the total output of 


The extraction of fiber should commence within forty-eight hours 
after the cutting of the stalk. If left a longer time than this, the fiber 
is liable to become discolored and weakened, and the stalk will lose 
some of its outer sheaths from drying or decaying. As the abaca trunk 
is heav}' and the fiber-extracting apparatus is light and easily transported, 
it is customary to move the latter from place to place and extract the 
fiber near the spot where the stalk is cut. 

The trunk or stalk of al)aca ranges from 2 to T meters in length and 
from 15 to 45 centimeters in diameter. This trunk consists of a small, 
central fleshy core from 15 to 25 centimeters in diameter at the base to 
about 3 centimeters at the top, around which are a number of thick 
overlapping sheaths, each sheath being the stem or petiole of a leaf. 
The fiber is obtained from the outer portion of these sheaths. The proc- 
ess of fiber extraction consists of two distinct operations: First, the 
removal of the ribbon-like strips of fibrous material from the leaf sheath, 
and second, the separation of the individual fibers by pulling these 
ribbons under a knife. 

The laborer, sitting on the ground with a stalk of abaca across his 
knees, inserts under the bark of one of the leaf stems a small, sharp 
piece of bone called a "locnit" and pulls off a fibrous strip 5 to 8 centi- 
meters wide and as long as the stalk. One sheath will yield two to four 
such strips. When these fiber strips have been taken off, the remaining 
fleshy material is removed and each consecutive sheath is thus worked, 
down to the central core of the stalk. 


These strips should be graded according to their color and each grade 
stripped separately. This grading of strips helps a great deal when 
subsequent grading of the fiber is required. It will be found that five 
or six grades of strips can be made ranging in color from a dark red 
to white. But two grades, however, are ordinarily made of these strips, 
the fiber of which is separately stripped and handled. 

When a quantity of these fiber strips has been collected, they are 
carried to some central point where a shed has been erected and an 
apparatus set up for stripping the fiber. The shed consists of a frame 
of bamboo poles covered with abaca leaves. The stripping apparatus, 
known as the "panguijan^' or "jagutan" is simple both in construction 
and operation. It- consists of a log set in a horizontal position 0.5 
meter to 1.5 meters from the ground. On the top of this is fastened 
a block of smooth, hard wood. Over this block is placed a bolo having 
a blade about 30 centimeters long and a handle 40 centimeters long. 
A rattan is attached to the end of the knife handle and connected with 
the bamboo spring above. Another rattan passes from the handle to a 
foot treadle. The bamboo spring holds the knife down on the block, its 
pressure being easily regulated by lengthening or shortening the rattan. 
By means of the foot treadle the operator raises the knife when he desires 
to insert or remove a strip of fiber. 

In the process of stripping, the operator holds in his right hand one 
or more of the fiber ribbons and also a short, round piece of wood. These 
strips are inserted under the .knife and are drawn through with a quick, 
steady pull. The ribbon is then removed and reversed, the clean end 
being wound three or four times around the stick. This process of draw- 
ing under the knife removes all of the pulp or fleshy material, leaving 
in the hand of the operator a small bunch of clean, wet fiber. As the 
fiber is stripped it is usually assorted into two classes. The work of fiber 
extraction while apparently simple, is very exhausting, even for the 
experienced operator, and many laborers are ruptured by the excessive 
strain of pulling the fiber strips under the knife. It is a fair day's work 
to strip 9 kilos and the fiber stripper will usually work only four or five 
days a week. 

Practically all of the fiber produced in the Islands is extracted with 
this simple apparatus. The strength and color of the fiber — two most 
important qualities — are determined largely by the manner in which 
it is cleaned. Two factors in the process affect the quality of the 
product, the condition of the knife blade and the degree of pressure 
with which the knife is held upon the base block. With a serrated knife 
loosely fastened the fibers are only partially separated and only a portion 
of the pulp is removed; the work is easy, the yield large, but the fiber 
is inferior in quality. With a knife having a smooth-edged blade and 
held firmly on the base block, the work of extraction is much more 
difficult and the waste is greater, but a very superior fiber is obtained. 


It has been determined by experiment that the same plant will produce 
either a very superior or a very inferior grade of fiber, depending on 
the kind of stripping knife used. As a result of using serrated knives, 
the markets have been flooded with enormous quantities of inferior 
fiber, and cordage manufacturers frequently make complaint about the 
quality of manila hemp. The whole future of the industry depending, 
as it must, on the position which abaca continues to hold in the world's 
markets, it is manifestly to the interest of every producer to discourage 
the use of the serrated knife. 

The present method of scattering strippers all over the field has a 
great many disadvantages. First, the overseer can not watch the laborers 
as closely and as often as necessary; second, the laborers are apt to cut 
the large stalks only, or the stalks of certain good varieties, leaving out 
the small stalks and omitting the hills of inferior varieties; third, the 
strippers have no interest in turning out a good quality of fiber, and 
often, if not watched, reduce the tension of the knife by loosening the 
rattan or rope, or by reducing the weight (where a weight is used to 
regulate the tension of the knife) thus making it much easier to pull 
the strips; and fourth, they work at their leisure, starting and finishing 
work at their convenience. 

These di-sadvantages can be remedied by having a long shed built at a 
spot as near the center of the plantation as possible, under which all 
strippers should be made to set up their knives. A gang of men specially 
trained in separating the strips and felling the stalks should be employed 
under a competent overseer; while a few boys with carts and carabaos or 
cattle can haul the strips from the field to the shed and turn them over 
to the man in charge there, who, in turn, distributes them to the men 
under him. 

It has been amply demonstrated that by this method six advantages 
will be gained : First, the field is harvested in one uniform way through- 
out; second, the hills are better handled and every mature stalk in them, 
whether large or small, is harvested; third, the total output of fiber per 
hectare is increased ; fourth, more work is gotten out of the laborers : 
fifth, a better quality of fiber is turned out, as the strippers can no longer 
meddle with the knives, and also the fiber is better handled and dried; 
and sixth, sickness among laborers is reduced as they are not exposed to 
changes of climate, such as heat, wind, and dampness, as they are when 
working in the field. 


Numerous attempts have been made to perfect a machine for extracting 
abaca fiber. A number of these machines have been in a measure suc- 
cessful, but some defect has always prevented their coming into general 

During the past five years this subject has received a great deal of 


attention and as a result three different machines are now in operation 
in the abaca provinces. Other machines are being experimented with, 
so there is a good prospect that machine-cleaned abaca will soon be 
produced on a commercial scale. The introduction and general use of 
a satisfactory fiber-cleaning machine will do more than any other one 
thing to promote the development of the abaca industry, 


Abaca after being stripped is hung on bamboo poles to dry. This 
drying takes from three or four hours to two days. When thoroughly 
dry the fiber is collected, tied up in hanks or bundles, and in this condi- 
tion is shipped by ponies, carabaos, or cargadores to the nearest market. 
It is there sold to a Chinese middleman or to the representative of some 
one of the large exporting fii-ms in Manila. When the fiber reaches the 
warehouse of the exporter it is carefully sorted into different commercial 
grades, and is then baled, each bale weighing 2 piculs (275 pounds). 

In all districts where abaca is most successfully cultivated the rainfall 
is abundant and the distribution fairly even throughout the year. This 
fact, while favorable for the growth of abaca is also in part responsible 
for the immense quantities of inferior fiber that flood the market, as 
during rainy weather bundles of wet fiber are packed indoors. To keep 
the fiber spread out on bamboo poles out of doors is better than keeping 
it inside, but the successive changes of sun and rain prevent its drying 
with the required color and luster. The following has proven to be the 
best method for drying abaca, and is becoming more universally adopted 
by planters in districts which produce the best fiber. A long and open 
shed is erected. From the two sides rows of galvanized iron wire are 
stretched to some distance and fastened by poles. As soon as the fiber 
is stripped it is brought to the drying shed and spread on one of the 
rows until it is dry. If the weather looks threatening and rain imminent, 
a boy in a few minutes can slide the fiber along the rows of wire into the 
shed, which, if the fiber is not yet dry, should be left open until the rain 
is over, and the fiber then slid out again. It has been further claimed 
that drying under shade in a place exposed to the full play of the wind 
is preferable to drying by sun. Experiments in drying samples of fiber 
under shade have been made and the results proved highly satisfactory. 

When the fiber is used locally for the manufacture of cloth it under- 
goes a much more elaborate process of treatment. The sheaths in the 
center of the stalk arc selected and the fiber is often drawn several times 
under the stripping knife. This gives a product that is fine, soft, and 
white. If to be used for the finer textures, it is then placed in a wooden 
bowl and beaten with a mallet until the required fineness and elasticity 
are obtained. This process gives a fiber that is almost like silk, and 
some of the cloth made from the best quality of abaca rivals in delicacy 
and beauty the celebrated fabrics of pina and jusi. 



Abaca fiber of good quality is from 2.5 to 5 meters long, of glossy 
white color, very light and strong, and of clean, even texture. As a 
cordage material it has no superior, its chief value, particularly for 
ships' ropes, being its relative lightness and strength. The strength of 
abaca compared with that of English hemp is indicated by the following 
figures : A manila rope 7.5 centimeters in circumference and 3.35 meters 
long stood a strain of 2,123.27 kilos before giving way. The English 
rope of the same size broke with 1,766 kilos. In a second test with a 
rope 3.56 centimeters in circumference the manila rope broke with 
677.27 kilos, and the English with 538.18 kilos. 


The yield of fiber vaxies greatly, depending upon soil and climatic 
conditions, the use of modern methods of cultivation, the selection of 
superior varieties, irrigation, and careful management. From 375 to 
2,500 kilos (6 to 40 piculs) or even more, can be obtained per hectare, 
but an average of 1,000 to 1,250 kilos (16 to 20 piculs) is considered a 
good yield; while the average yield throughout the Islands does not 
exceed 375 kilos (6 piculs) per hectare. The yield of fiber from a single 
stalk varies with the size and kind of stalk. From 0.15 kilo to 2.270 
kilos of fiber can be obtained from one stalk ; but an average of 340 to 
455 grams is considered highly satisfactory. Stalks weighing as much 
as 163 kilos and containing 2.5 kilos of dry fiber are sometimes found. 


The life of an abaca hill varies from twelve to twenty years or more, 
depending upon the adaptability and fertility of the soil, and on the 
extent of care and cultivation. Heavy soils, lack of cultivation, care- 
lessness in felling the stalks, overcropping, and the frequent digging 
up of roots tend to shorten the life of the abaca hill. 

In the provinces where the cultivation of abaca has recently been 
started this subject has not, as yet, been given any consideration as the 
plantations are comparatively young. In the Provinces of Albay, Leyte, 
Sorsogon, and others, where abaca has been cultivated for years, the 
prevalent method of renewing the plantations consists in digging up 
one or two immature stalks or shoots from an old hill and planting 
them in the intermediate spaces. This system of renewing plantations 
is wholly undesirable and the hills thus produced are, for obvious reasons, 
neither so healthy nor so productive as the original ones. 

Every year a part of the old plantations should be plowed to a depth 
of 14 to 19 centimeters and a crop of com or rice raised on it. After 
the crop is harvested all that is left of the com or rice should be plowed 
under. After these operations abaca stools or root sections could be set 


in as in the first planting. Cleaning with bolos should be done awa}' 
with, and the successive operations of cultivation and interplanting of 
leguminous plants, such as cowpeas, mongo, velvet beans, etc., should 
be resorted to, in order to kill the weeds, keep the soil in good condition, 
and restore it to its fertility. Thus in the course of a few years a new 
plantation with healthy, vigorous hills will stand on the site of the older 

Many old planters hold that the above method entails too much expense 
and trouble, but they have only to try it to find out that the ultimate 
results more than justify the expense and trouble. 

The relative value of abaca and other products exported from the 
Philippine Islands during the fiscal years 1908 and 1909 was as follows: 



1909 1 


tion of to- 
tal value. 


tion of to- 
tal value. 

Abaca . 

f^34, 623, 616 
5, 4'29, 092 

Per cent. 

P-31, 667, 154 
5, 584, 506 
2, 775, 100 

Per cent. 


Tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes. 


65 659,632 1 100.0 



"In quantity, exportations of hemp fiber exceeded those of any 
previous year, having aggregated 149,991 metric tons. Of this amount 
79,210 »tons represent the largest exportation to the United States in 
the histoiy of the trade. Despite an increase of 34,000 tons, or nearly 
30 per cent, in exportation, the average price obtained was 34 per cent 
lower than that of 1908, resulting in a decrease from $17,311,808, the 
value of the 1908 output to $15,833,577, representing the total hemp 
exportations of 1909." ^ 

The Manila market report for December 22, 1909, gives the following 
hemp quotations: 

Albay, current ^11.00 

Leyte, current 14.4 

Daet, current 11.2 

25 per cent over, current 11.2 

Superior seconds 10 

Good, seconds 9-6 

Good, reds 8.6 

' Annual Report of the Acting Insular Collector of Customs for the Fiscal Year 
ending June 30, 1909. 


Abaca is, primarily, a cordage fiber. Its most important use is in the 
manufacture of various classes of cordage, ropes, and cables. Enormous 
quantities of the fiber are used in the United States for making binder 
twine. Because of its lightness, strength, and durability manila hemp is 
considered superior to any other fiber for ship's ropes and cables. From 
the old and disintegrated ropes is made the well-known and valuable 
manila paper. 

In the Philippine Islands a considerable quantity of abaca cordage is 
manufactured, and the raw fiber is used without being twisted for all 
purposes where a tying material is required. Its most important local 
use, however, is for the manufacture of cloth. The native dress of both 
sexes in nearly all parts of the Archipelago is made from "sinamay," or 
abaca clotli. Looms are to be found in nearly every town in the Islands. 
The abaca fiber is frequently woven with either cotton or silk, in an 
almost innumerable variety of patterns. The fabrics made are of every 
degree of fineness, from delicate silk-like tissues to the coarse material 
used for fishing nets. With the introduction of fiber-extracting and 
textile machinery there should be a largely increased demand for abaca 
as a textile fiber. 


In the extraction of abaca by the methods now in use it is estimated 
that from 25 to 30 per cent of the fiber is wasted. At each cleaning 
shed we find large piles of waste which is filled with fibrous material. 
In 1887 samples of this waste were delivered to Messrs. Gonzales' Sons, 
paper manufacturers of Barcelona, Spain. Their report upon this mate- 
rial was as follows : 

Observations made in the course of mamifacture permit us to state that abacS. 
waste as a raw material for the manufacture of paper is not only utilizable, but 
surpasses esparto and hemp, and. in its treatment for conversion into paper, excels 
rags and other material known in the industry. 

Investigations to determine the value of abaca waste as a paper-making 
material and the practicability of exporting this product have been made 
by the Bureau of Agriculture and the Bureau of Science in Manila. 
The results of these investigations, which have already been published, 
show that this waste is a valuable paper-making material. The practi- 
cability of exporting the waste, however, is largely a question of supply 
and demand — demand for material of this kind and supply of old manila 
rope waste, which is a competing product. Inasmuch as the limited sup- 
ply of rope waste is insufficient to meet the rapidly increasing demand, 
it is probable that abaca waste, either in its raw state or as a partly 


manufactured product, will be exported in the very near future. At the 
present time there is a market in Manila for any amount of waste that 
can be supplied. 

The work of preparing this waste for export is both simple and inex- 
pensive. Boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 13 could be employed 
for this work, thus making it unnecessary to use men who could be more 
profitably employed in cultivating and stripping. If the fiber strips are 
.properly separated, the knife well adjusted, and the stripper properly 
trained, the waste will come out from under the knife in almost exactly 
the condition required, needing no handling further than squeezing out 
the sap and drying in the sun. 

Abaca waste can be sold on the plantations for F2 to 1P=2.50 a picul, 
depending on the extent of cleaning and drying. The color of the waste 
has nothing to do with the quality or selling price. If strippers are 
centralized and a number of boys employed with them to pick the waste 
and clean and dry it as soon as it falls from the knives, it will be found 
that a boy who gets from 20 to 30 centavos per day can clean and dry 
from 25 to 30 pounds a day. As a picul of this clean waste can be 
prepared at an expense of ^1.40 to ^1.50, a profit to the planter of 
^0.60 to Tl on each picul will be left. 

It should be stated that sisal waste or fiber can not compete with abaca 
in this industry. Sisal fiber, besides being weak, does not boil down to 
paper pulp, and its presence in old manila rope is detrimental. 

With only a limited competition and with excellent prospects for an 
increasing demand and higher prices, the question of utilizing abaca 
waste for paper-bag manufacture should receive consideration and atten- 
tion from every abaca planter in the Islands. 


The following is an estimate of the cost of establishing an abaca planta- 
tion. The size of the plantation selected is 100 hectares. Planting 25 
hectares a year, it would require four years to put this amount of land 
under cultivation. With respect to the cost of clearing and cultivating 
land, and also the yield, there will be considerable variation, depending 
on the existing conditions where the plantation is located. This general 
estimate is prepai'ed from figures obtained from personal experience on 
an abaca plantation. It should be understood that a large part of the 
labor employed can be paid for in rice, cloth, and other commodities, 
which will give a profit that should considerably more than pay for all 
incidental expenses that may occur. All accounts in this statement are 
in Philippine currency, and rate of interest is not included in the 
estimate. The prices of fiber are the current prices paid in Manila for 
good hemp during December, 1909. 


First year. 
Expendable : 

Cost of 100 hectares, at ?=10 per hectare ?1,000 

Clearing 25 hectares, at ?=40 per hectare 1,000 

Purchase of 25,000 abacS roots, at ?40 per 1,000 1,000 

Lining, holing, and planting, at ?=5 per hectare..... 125 

Cultivation of 25 hectares (first year), at ?10 per hectare _. 250 

Fencing and roads 800 

3 carabaos or cattle, at ?80, and 2 horses, at ?^50 each..._ 340 

Buildings (manager's residence, P^SOO; men's quarters, ?200) 1,000 

Manager's salary, ?2,400; subsistence, r720 3,120 

One native overseer, at ?30 per month 360 

Tools and implements 200 

Half cost of survey (other half chargeable to other plantings) 250 

Total 9,445 

Second year. 
Expendable : 

Clearing 25 hectares, at ?40 per hectare ?'1,000 

Purchase of 25,000 abaca roots, at ^40 per 1,000 1,000 

Lining, holing', and planting, at 9=5 per hectare 125 

Cultivation of 50 hectares (first and second years), at ?=10 per 

hectare 500 

Fencing and roads 800 

Salary and subsistence of manager 3,120 

One native overseer 360 

Depreciation on tools, animals, and buildings 340 

Total 7,245 

Third year. 
Expendable : 

Clearing 25 hectares, at P=40 per hectare ?1,000 

Purchase of 25,000 abacS roots, at ?40 per 1,000 1,000 

Lining, holing, and planting, etc., at P=5 per hectare ^ 125 

Cultivation of first year's planting, at ?=15 per hectare 375 

Cultivation of second and third year's planting, at ?10 per hectare.... 500 

Manager's salary and subsistence 3,120 

Two. native overseers 600 

Additional quarters of men -.. 100 

Depreciation , 340 

Transportation of 250 piculs of hemp to shipping place 25 

Total 7,185 

Income : 

From 25 hectares, 250 piculs, 50 per cent of full crop (full crop 
reckoned at 20 piculs per hectare), one-half paid for stripping, at 

?=14 per picul 1,750 

Debit balance -.-- 5,435 

Fourth year. 
Expendable : 

Clearing 25 hectares : ^1,000 

Purchase of 25,000 abaca roots 1,000 

Lining, holing, planting, etc 125 

Cultivation, first and second year's plantings 750 

Cultivation, third and fourth year's plantings 500 

Manager's salary and subsistence 3,120 

Overseers' salaries 600 

Transportation and handling of 750 piculs prior to shipping 75 

Depreciation 360 

• Extra tools, two carts, etc 200 

Total 7,730 

Income : 

25 hectares, full crop, 500 piculs, and 25 hectares, half crop, 250 piculs ; 

total, 750 piculs, at ?=7 net 5,250 

Debit balance 2,480 

Fifth year. 
Expendable : 

Cultivation of 50 hectares, at ?=20 per hectare ¥=1,000 

Cultivation of 50 hectares, at ^'lO per hectare 500 

Manager's salary and subsistence 3,120 

Overseers' salaries 720 

Depreciation 400 

Repairs, improvements, and additions 200 

Handling 1,250 piculs of hemp prior to shipping 125 

Total 6,065 

Income : 

From 50 hectares, full crop, 1,000 piculs, and from 25 hectares, half 

crop, 250 piculs; total, 1,250 piculs, at ?=7 per picul 8,750 

Credit balance 2,685 

Sixth year. 
Expendable : 

Cultivation of 75 hectares, at ?=20 per hectare Fl,500 

Cultivation of 25 hectares, at ?10 per hectare 250 

Manager's salary and subsistence 3,120 

Overseers' salaries 720 

Handling 1,750 piculs of hemp prior to shipping 175 

Depreciation 400 

Total 6>165 

Income : 

From 75 hectares, full crop, 1,500 piculs; from 25 hectares, half crop, 

250 piculs; total, 1,750 piculs, at ^7 12,250 

Credit balance 6,085 


Seventh year. 
Expendable : 

Cultivation of 100 hectares, at ?20 per hoctare =^2,000 

Manager's salary and subsistence 3,120 

Overseers' salaries 800 

Handling of 2,000 piculs prior to shipping 200 

Improvements, additions, etc 200 

Depreciation 400 

Total 6,720 

Income : 

From 100 hectares, full crop, 2,000 piculs, at ?7 per picul 14,000 

Credit balance 7.280 

{ <)N( LILSION. 

The future development of the abaca industry will depend chiefly 
on the position which this fiber continues to hold in the industrial world. 
The superior qualities and intrinsic value of abaca are thoroughly well 
known in all parts of the world. Its only dangerous competitor at the 
present time is sisal, which is an inferior fiber. 

The opportunities for the extension of the industry are almost un- 
limited. Improved methods of cultivation will largely increase the 
production on land already planted, while enormous areas now covered 
with forest are in every way suitable for abaca. The introduction of 
fiber-extracting machinery should result not only in a large increase 
in the quantity of fiber produced, but also in a decided improvement in 

The abaccl plantation of the past has been, in general, conducted in 
anything but a businesslike mann,er. Antiquated methods, careless 
management, and waste have been the rule rather than the exception. 
The planter of the future who, with carefully selected land, good manage- 
ment, and the intelligent use of modern methods and machinery, aims 
at the production of a superior fiber at a minimum cost, has every pros- 
pect of ultimate success. With but little danger from insects or plant 
diseases, or unfavorable climatic conditions, abaca is eminently a safe 
crop. Even with the present prices it is one of the most profitable 
branches of agriculture for the Philippine planter. 





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