THE ECONOMIC LIFE OF THE PEOPLE

The colonial pueblo of Milaor enjoyed a com­paratively prosperous economic life. A portion of the mid-19th century chronicle of the Franciscan Felix de Huerta, indicated that:

The boundary of this town is level and has excellent ficefields. These are bathed by various creeks which descend from the mountain of Isarog which irrigate the large part of the terrain. This town produces much rice, some corn, cmnote, fruits and vegetables . Its inhabitants devote their work to agriculture and livestock (de Huerta p.192-193)

Thus the dominant feature of their economic activity was farming, an industry which harked back to the pre-conquest days. In 1886, Milaor was able to sell about 5000 cavans of palay through its local and outside market. For domestic consumption, most families had their own plots planted with corn, camote, coconut, gabi, ube and a bewildering variety of fruits and vegetables. The abundant creeks and the proximity of the settlement to the Bikol river supplied them with abundant aquatic resources. To complement their benefits from agriculture, the residents of this town also en­ gaged themselves in livestock industry as pointed out by de Huerta in 1865. by 1887, Milaor had some 230 catties, 2,004 carabaos, 263 horses and SC?me 300 pigs. The invaluable use of carabao as work animal in the farm explained the enor­ mous number of carabaos being raised by the inhabitants of this town (Puya, 118)

The other major source of income of the inhabitants was the woodcraft industry in which Milaor became famous through excellent wood craftsmen seemed to have its roots in the Pre-Hispanic period. Even the early Spanish mission­ aries must have recognized their skill in this particular trade that the choice for the parochial patron saint, St. Joseph the Carpenter, as obviously influenced by this knowledge. As early as 1823, Capt. Antonio de Siguenza had already rec­ ognized the importance of this craft among the people of Milaor who mainly engaged in this industry. By the last de­ cades of the 19th century, the fame of Milaor on this craft had already spread throughout the entire region and even beyond Adolfo Puya Ruiz, a Spanish writer made reference to this in 1887:

It is devoted to thefabrication of woodenfurnitures in which a large number of its men are engaged in which provide them good returns since all the towns of the province pa­ tronize this particular item. Although these are a bit rough, they are nevertheless durable and at a very affordable price. (Puya 118) The women of this town were like their male counterpart, equally industrious and helped g reatly in the procurement of their basic necessities through in the traditional weav­ ing industry. The women according to Siguenza drew the conclusion that . . . there is so much movement along the residents and I consider them as equally wealthy with thos of Nueva Caceres . . ."

Aside from agriculture and woodcraft industry, the town also boasted of its local wine distillery. But retail trade re­ mained the basic experssion of limited commercial life of this colonial pueblo. However even until the last decade of the 19th century, except during fiestas, the town had no ready marker for beef and pork was only available occasion­ ally. Nevertheless, the town had always access to these food item since it was very near the capital where such were al­ ways available.

 

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