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Title: An Epoch in History
Author: P. H. Eley
Release Date: April 5, 2007 [eBook #20996]
Character set encoding: UTF-8
***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK AN EPOCH IN HISTORY***
TO MY MOTHER,
whose tender love and devotion for me are ever unchanged, I dedicate this book.
Copyright, 1904, by P. H. ELEY.
It was the good fortune of the author to take part in a movement without precedent in the history of the world, and the incidents concurrent with, together with those subsequent to that movement, have furnished the material for this book. It has been the object of the writer to weave into the story of his actual experiences an account of those things which are as yet an unexplored field in the realm of letters. The work is submitted to the reader in the hope that it will prove to be pregnant with interest to those who are in sympathy with great movements and to those who listen with delight to stories of personal experiences in distant lands and among strange peoples.
Few people pause to think that Tuesday, the twenty-third day of July, nineteen hundred and one, not only placed a mile-stone on the road of civilization, but also marked an epoch in the history of the world.
That day placed a mile-stone on the road of civilization because it saw the culmination of one of the greatest movements ever attempted in behalf of common school education. It marked an epoch in the history of the world because, for 6the first time within the knowledge of man, a conquering people, instead of sending battalions of soldiers to hold the conquered in subjection, sent a carefully selected body of men and women to carry to them the benefits of a highly developed society.
It was on this day that the United States Government sent from San Francisco four hundred and ninety-nine trained men and women to establish throughout the Philippine Islands a system of free public schools.
The ball on the tower of the Ferry Building in San Francisco had just fallen, announcing the hour of noon on the one hundred 7and twentieth meridian, when the propellers began revolving and the United States Army Transport “Thomas” swung out into the middle of the bay, where it dropped anchor for a few moments while some belated boxes of lemons and a few other articles were added to the equipment of the steward’s department.
The anchor was again on its way to the surface when a row-boat driven by four oarsmen with drawn muscles and clenched teeth glided in under the bow of the ship. Its passenger, a belated teacher who at the last moment had wandered from the pier, was shouting for some one to throw him a rope, and a 8few moments later our last passenger whose silvery hair little indicated the probability of such a blunder was landed in a heap on the deck. Our ship was now under way and soon passed out of the Golden Gate bearing on and between her decks the largest number of teachers as well as the largest cargo of pedagogical equipment that any vessel in the history of the world ever bore to a foreign land to instruct an alien people. Late in the afternoon five whales came up and spouted and played around us. We passed on and as their fountains of spray disappeared in the distance the sun sank down to pay his wonted devotion before the shrine of night. We were alone.
9By good fortune we went by way of the Hawaiian Islands and touched at Honolulu. We entered the harbor in the first faint light of the coming morn while the moon still shone with resplendent glory just above the nearer rim of the old extinct volcanic crater lying just behind the town. High points of land lay around us on three sides, while across the bay soft billowy clouds completed an enchanting circle from the spell of which none of us wished ever to escape.
No traveler who lands at Honolulu will feel unrequited for his time and his money should he visit two places in the vicinity of the town. The first is the Pali and the second, 10the Bishop Museum of Polynesian Ethnology.
The first is a gigantic precipice, reached by a few hours ride from the city by horse. As one reaches the precipice, there spreads out before him at a dizzying depth below a verdant plain, bounded in the distance by an emerald sea. The wind which always blows in tropical countries is gathered in between the long projecting arms of a mountain chain and rushes over the face of cliff with such force that it is said by travelers to be one of the strongest continual winds on the globe.
The Bishop Museum of Polynesian Ethnology contains the finest collection in existence of things 11illustrating the life and customs of Polynesia. Among other things, the visitor is shown the personal god of war of that sovereign whose grand-child was the last to hold the sceptre of the Kanakas. There are royal documents to prove that more than one thousand men have been beheaded before this grim-faced old idol. Here, too, is the famous robe of birds’ feathers, made to please the fancy of this same grim old monarch. The feathers of which this strange, but really elegant, robe is made are of a reddish color. The birds from which they were plucked were found only in the Hawaiian Islands and each bird had only four feathers, two being 12under each wing. The extinction of the bird is attributed to the making of this royal robe. So many of them were needed that hundreds of hunters were employed a score or more of years to secure the number required. Placing the wages of the hunters at a reasonable figure, the value of the robe is over three hundred thousand dollars.
At Honolulu one sees also that famous sport of the South Sea Islanders, surf-shooting. The native wades far out into the surf with a long narrow board and then sits astride of it upon the surface of the water. As the long billows come rolling in, he places his board upon the convex surface of an advancing 13wave, then, with the poise of a rope-dancer, he places his weight properly upon the plank and is shot forward with precipitate rapidity.
Between Honolulu and Manila lies the imaginary line where the days of the week are supposed to begin and end. It has long been a custom among sailors to hold the “Revels of Neptune” on the night after a vessel crosses either the International Date Line or the Equator, and the ship is then turned over to the crew. Even the petty officers of the ship are not free from being made the objects of the sport, and passengers of especial prominence have often been treated to a bath in a tub of cold water or had their faces 14lathered with a broom as a shaving brush while a bar of old iron served the purpose of a razor.
A naval lieutenant on the battleship which conveyed Napoleon from London to St. Helena, writing to one of the court ladies in London, states that Napoleon offered the sailors four hundred dollars in gold and actually gave them eighty-five dollars to escape being ducked in a tub of cold water and shaved with a rough iron hoop when they crossed the equator.* * Century Magazine for September, 1889.
We reached the line on Thursday night and awoke a few hours later on Saturday morning, having lost a day in revelry.
One would imagine the water of Manila Bay to be as tranquil as a lake should conclusions be drawn from its almost landlocked position. On the contrary, it is noted among sailors the world over for the roughness of its waters; and a breakwater behind which ships can lie in quiet and take on or discharge their cargoes is essential to the proper development of the city’s shipping. But, so far as we were concerned, this was a possible joy of the future. So, one by one we descended the 16narrow stairway at the side of the ship, and then leaped at opportune moments to the decks of the dancing steam launches below. How it ever came to pass that each of us, ladies and all, in succession went through with this mid-air acrobatic performance without serious accident is a matter of profound wonder; but we did, and the launches when loaded danced away over the bay and entered the mouth of the Pasig River. At the wharf we were informally introduced to a crowd of curious natives. The men wore hat, shirt, and pants, and some of them wore shoes. The women wore a sort of low-necked body with great wide sleeves and a skirt 17not cut to fit the body, but of the same size at both bottom and top, the upper end not being belted or tied, but just drawn tightly around the waist and the surplus part knotted and tucked with the thumb under the part already wrapped around the body. The long, black, glossy hair of the young women hung loosely down their backs, in many cases reaching below the hips—heads of hair that almost any lady would be proud to own. Many of the women had in their mouths long poorly-made cigars that were wrapped and tied with small white threads to hold them together while the lady owners chewed and pulled away with vigor at the end opposite the fire.
18The time of our landing was in the midst of the rainy season, and our clothing each morning when we arose to dress was as wet as if it had just come from a wringer. Our underclothing could be drawn on only with difficulty and the excessive disagreeableness of the feeling added no little to the discomfort of the situation.
When the Spaniard, attracted by riches of these distant islands that he had named for his King Philip, built the city of Manila, he modeled it after the mediaeval towns of his European home. And it is well that he did so, for, if we give credence to the city’s history, its early life was not one of undisturbed 19quiet. Not to mention the sea-rovers of those early times who paid their piratical respects to the town, legend has it that this old wall has saved the city on two separate occasions from bands of Moros sweeping northward from the southern islands. So Manila consists of two parts, the city “intra muros” and the new city which has sprung up around it.
It was on the morning following our landing that I first stood upon the old stone bridge that for one hundred and fifty years has borne the traffic between the old city and the new. The strokes of eight o’clock were pealing forth from the tower of a neighboring ecclesia 20when I purposely took this station that I might see the current of Manila’s life when flowing at its height.
At short intervals along the entire length of the bridge stood in its center a line of well-shaped American policemen in neat Khaki uniforms and russet leather leggins. Thousands of pedestrians were pouring across the bridge in a ceaseless stream. Between the two lines of pedestrians moved in opposite directions two lines of vehicles and carts. It was indeed a cosmopolitan mixture of people. There were English bankers, French jewelers, German chemists, Spanish merchants, foreign consuls, officers and 21privates of the American army, seamen from foreign warships lying in the bay, Chinese of all classes and conditions from silk-clad bankers to almost naked coolies trotting along with burdens swung over their shoulders. There were Japanese, and East India merchants from Bombay and Calcutta, and, finally, all classes and conditions of Filipinos apparently representing all of the seventeen separate branches of the race,—each individual in this wonderful stream following the channel of his own necessities.
In the river beneath were steam launches towing all kinds of small crafts. Along the bank of the stream below the bridge were inter-island 22steamers packed so closely along the shore that one could almost have stepped from one to another. Into every nook and corner between the steamers were crowded small odd looking boats loaded with native produce over which the owners kept up an incessant chatter.
All of us remained in Manila for about two weeks awaiting assignment to our stations. One may well imagine our consternation on awaking one morning about the end of the second week to find the following notice posted throughout all our quarters:
All teachers not assigned to the city of Manila or to Iloilo should supply themselves with the following articles:
- 23One bed, or folding cot,
- One oil stove,
- One lamp,
- Enough supplies of all kinds sufficient for six months,
- Pots, pans, kettles, etc.
It is needless to say that positions in Manila and Iloilo were now at a premium.
Was it possible that teachers were to be sent to places where even the necessaries of life could not be obtained! Was it possible that many would be sent to places so remote that for six months no fresh supplies could be gotten! A mass meeting was held at once, and a committee was appointed to send a cablegram to the Associated Press 24petitioning aid from the American people at large. Realizing what consternation would be created throughout the United States by such a message, two of the teachers leaped into a carriage at the close of the meeting and a few moments later were closeted with the chief executive of the department. As a result the committee was persuaded not to send the cablegram to the Associated Press until by courtesy it had been sent to the President. Of course, this diplomatic move tided affairs over and the teachers who had flatly refused to budge from Manila now agreed to go on to their stations, being assured that whatever action was best would be taken.
25The day had come when we must separate. We were to enter an untried and an unknown field. It was fitting that we have a final joyous meeting, so the best orchestra in the archipelago was engaged and we “chased the hours with flying feet” until dawn so that whatever might come to us in that unknown future upon which we were entering each would hold in pleasant memory our last evening together.
Almost every one heeded the warning to go to his station forearmed with at least necessaries of life, but, as it had never fallen to the lot of the writer to cook, he refused to learn at that late day, so he took no pot, no pan, no kettle, putting his future into the hands of an uncertain fate and relying upon the unknown hospitality of the Filipino.
Bacalod, the capital of the province of Occidental Negros, was our destination. The second morning 27after leaving Manila, we awoke with the “Kilpatrick” lying at anchor in a shallow bay. We were several miles from the shore and nothing in sight indicated that we had reached a place of any importance. Late the night before we had been awakened by the loud, sharp ringing of the ship’s bells, accompanied by the reversal of the engines and a general disturbance awaking the crew. So our first impressions on coming on deck were that we had run aground. But the captain assured us that everything was ship-shape and that this was the nearest point of approach to Capiz, a town of considerable importance on the island of Panay, where a body of troops was 28to embark for home. Not even the grass hut of a native was in sight. Search as we would, not a sign was seen of a stream flowing into the sea, indicating the probable presence of a town. There was not a sign of life of any kind save one lone column of thin, blue smoke that arose from the side of a mountain miles away. One would have thought that we were explorers of three hundred years ago lying off the shore of some unknown land.
After breakfast the steam launch, together with all the boats, was lowered, and several of us who had determined to miss no opportunity to gather information about the islands took our places in the launch 29by the side of the ship’s mate, and steamed away across the water with a long line of boats strung out in the rear. We headed away toward a group of cocoanut trees, and about an hour later stepped ashore on a pile of decayed coral rocks that extended some twenty or thirty feet out into the water, thus forming the only landing place of a town of several thousands of people and of considerable commercial importance. A few moments after we had landed, an army wagon drawn by a magnificent pair of mules came up out of a tropical jungle along a narrow road. We clambered into the wagon and were soon lost in the depths of foliage from which we had just seen the vehicle emerge.
30Long waving bamboos with their plumy leafage hung over the road from each side, meeting and overlapping in the center until they formed an archway so dense that the tropical sun now high in the heavens penetrated it only at intervals. At times the wagon sank up to the hubs in the soft earth, and the muscles of the mules stood out like whip-cords under the skin as they drew us forward.
At a sharp turn in the road we came upon the first division of troops that was to embark for home. The look of joy upon their sun-browned faces was inexpressible. Their work was done, and with elastic step and smiling faces they 31saluted us as they passed by. The reign of force was at an end; it was going out with them; the reign of peace had begun; it was coming in with us.
In the afternoon when we returned from the town the last of the troops had arrived and, as we drove up, the bugle was sounding the call to supper. We noticed native women mingling with the troops and, indeed, a native woman was in constant attention waiting upon one of the soldiers with whom we ate. Her clothes were clean, her hair was nicely combed, and her general appearance was neat. She seemed to anticipate the slightest wish of 32the soldier with whom she was. She brought him water to drink, cleaned his plate after the meal and saw that his knife, fork, and spoon were put into his haversack.
We had now finished supper and the launch had returned for the last load of troops. The lieutenant in command of the company gave the order to “fall in”; the men shouldered their rifles and fell into line. “Forward, march!” called the lieutenant, and the column swept forward towards the boats. The women had until now restrained themselves, but, as their husbands marched away never to return, their feelings could no longer be restrained. One young woman of about 33eighteen, who was leaning against a rock by the roadside sobbing, when her husband passed, leaped up in frenzy of passionate love and caught the rifle from his shoulder. Her first impulse seemed to be to throw the gun away, but suddenly realizing the futility of such an act she burst into tears, shouldered the rifle herself and marched on by his side. Another woman of more mature age threw her arms around the legs of a tall stalwart man, and drew him bodily from the line.
But the troops marched on and entered the boats. One woman who had been unnoticed before came down into the shallow water and caught hold of our last boat as if to 34prevent its leaving, while others stood mingling their sobs with the sounds of the wavelets as they broke on the sands. As we passed away, an expectant mother, standing in bold outline against the twilight sky, threw up her hands in an agony of despair and then sank upon the stones. The curtain had fallen upon a drama in actual life deeper in pathos than any other we had ever seen or ever expected to see. Depth of passion, depth of love! Who can fathom the human heart?
There is a remarkable sameness about the towns in the Philippines. They all have a large open square about the middle of the town, around three sides of which are Chinese stores, unless one side lies open to the sea, and on the fourth is the great stone ecclesia. The streets run at right angles to one another and divide up the town into creditable squares.
Everybody in the Philippines lives up-stairs, for the ground is so soaked 36with water during the rainy season that it is a menace to health to live upon the ground floor. So even the poorest nippa hut is built upon stakes four or five feet above the ground.
Bacalod is a typical Philippine town. As we landed, a broad open square was spread out before us. Two sides of the square were lined with two-story houses in which were Chinese stores below and Filipino homes above. On the third side stood the great stone church in whose massive tower the clock was striking the hour of four, while the fourth lay open to the sea that had borne us thither.
We landed, but it was in a method new to us and one not usually 37employed by the traveling public.
When our sail boat ran aground on the sandy bottom a hundred yards or more from the shore, a crowd of Filipino men who were on the beach slowly rolled up their pantaloons and waded out to the rescue,—for the money that was in it. The boat’s crew elevated their trousers’ legs also and slided down into the water. Each of us then straddled the neck of a Filipino standing in the water and was held by ankles to be steadied while our biped mounts proceeded to the shore.
We were now on the ground and face to face with the situation. To give the reader an idea of the 38actual conditions met by the first teachers who went to the Islands, the following is copied from the instructions given us in Manila:
- There shall be two sessions daily of all schools, and the last hour of the morning session shall be devoted solely to instructing the Filipino teachers.
- In cases where teachers are sent to a town in which there is no school-house, they are expected to secure the aid of the people and have one built.
- The American teacher is to see that all studying aloud is stopped.
- All supplies must be kept under lock and key. In towns 39where there is no case or box to lock the supplies in, and it is also impossible to get the town council to furnish a case, a requisition may be sent to Manila, and, if an appropriation can be secured, one will be made and sent out.
Thus it can be easily seen that we were indeed pioneers. In many places no school-house was to be found, and in some cases it was even difficult to get the town council to provide a case in which to keep the supplies.
The work of the teachers was, in short; to “make the English language the basis of instruction in the public schools.” On our arrival at Bacalod two 40schools were found in progress, for some soldiers had been detailed for the work here previous to our coming. One of these was for boys and the other, for girls. Thus the work here had been in a measure simplified, but complications that had arisen at Talisay, one of the largest and richest towns on the island, demanded a change of teachers and the writer was assigned to the place as superintendent. Here an attempt had been made to start a school but it had failed ignominiously and a system of education was to be put into operation from the very start.
The Filipinos are not strong advocates of co-education, so separate 41schools were to be started for the boys and the girls. The one for the boys was gotten well in hand before the one for the girls was attempted at all.
A few days after reaching the town and securing a home the presidente of the town had it publicly announced that the following Monday morning at eight o’clock a public school for boys would be opened in a building that had been rented for the purpose by the municipal council. About the middle of the afternoon of the same day a man beat a little drum throughout all the streets of the town to call the people out and the town clerk announced both in Spanish and in the native 42language that this public school would begin at the time and place mentioned above; that instruction would be free to all who came; that the government would furnish all supplies; and that instruction would be given in the English language. A native principal and assistants were employed and everything was ready to begin.
The official report of the result is as follows:
Boys’ public school of Talisay, Negros, P. I., began November 4, 1901. Forty-three boys present at eight o’clock. Forty-one of them knew “good morning” and “good afternoon” but do not know the distinction between them. Two of 43them speak simple Spanish. At eight forty-five, eight more, who had been attending an early morning private school, came in together.
The books they brought were so varied and so different from one another that it seemed impossible to bring any reasonable degree of order out of such a chaos, and so, after struggling vainly for about a week with the problem, the superintendent by one fell stroke removed everything in use and put in a uniform system, and from that day on the English language has been the basis of instruction in the public schools of Talisay. The work was of necessity very slow at first, but by the end of a year two schools 44were going nicely and a number of the brightest boys and girls had made really excellent progress.
Not long after the arrival of our party at Bacalod we received an invitation to a “baile” given in our honor by the inhabitants of Silay, a town some ten or twelve miles up the northern coast and one noted for its social life. The invitation was accepted with pleasure, and about the middle of the afternoon on the day appointed we were clad in the immaculate white of the tropics and steaming away up the coast on board a launch sent for our conveyance. 46Twilight was still lingering on the path of day when we anchored just off shore at the town. A row-boat containing the officials of the city came out to meet us and, in due season, we were ushered into a spacious drawing-room filled almost to overflowing with the élite of the town. The élite of towns in the Philippines speak Spanish, and, as only one or two of our party could at that time boast of more than a formal acquaintance with the Castilian tongue, the exchange of ideas that evening between us and the Filipinos was of necessity not very rapid.
The necessity of easy communication between us was rendered somewhat 47less indispensable by the announcement of supper as soon as we were rested from our trip. When we had taken our places at the table a young Filipino about twenty-five years of age arose and gave a lengthy toast to the recent union of the Philippines with the United States. But as we Americans were unable to scale the dizzy heights of his climaxes or sink to the depths of his pathos, we forewent the pleasures of his oratory and turned our attention to the savory odor of lamb, chicken, and roast pig that came slyly stealing up our nostrils to send us nerve dispatches about the gastronomic delights of our not far distant future.
48At last the toast was ended and the world-wide soup ushered in a long train of things good to eat, served in a style better fitted to the delights of the appetite than to the formalities of dinners, for, as soon as the pleasant task of one dish was completed by any one, the next was served him at once regardless of the progress made by the others at the table.
The last course was dulce. The new-comers to the Philippines will not be long in making the acquaintance of this dish, and at all meetings, both public and private, where eatables are served, it performs an important part. It is anything sweet, and it may vary all the way 49from an india-rubber-like black mixture of cocoanut milk and dirty sugar to a really toothsome and respectable confection. No matter of what materials a dish is composed, just so long as it is sweet, it is dulce.
After paying our respects to this last course, we arose from the table and entered a great rectangular room from the center of whose ceiling hung a large glass chandelier, a mass of shimmering crystals. In the chairs around the room were the wealth, the youth, and the beauty of the town.
The first and also the last number of every Filipino dance of any formality is the “rigodon.” The 50dancers are arranged in a square, or quadrangle according to the number participating, and are then led through a tangled maze of figures that so utterly bewilders the novice that he sinks into his chair at the end of the dance wondering how it all came to pass.
We Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the “rigodon” ended, and mustered fresh courage for social conquests in the waltz that was now breathing forth from the trembling strings. My companion in the first dance had been the young lady by whose side I had sat at dinner. But it now became necessary to search for another, so I prudently waited to see how partners were 51chosen, and made no mistake when a few moments later I faced one of the most luscious looking señoritas on the opposite side of the room and offered her my arm. My eyes must have told the story that my lips could not utter in Spanish, for she smiled upon me sweetly, arose, and put her hand upon my shoulder. My arm encircled her waist and I began to waltz. Unfortunately my companion did not follow, but began to hop up and down in a manner most distressing. Supposing the attack to be only temporary, I paused and, much to my relief, she soon showed signs of recovery; and in the course of time she came to a standstill looking 52up into my face in an inquiring sort of way, apparently wondering why St. Vitus had not paid his respects to me also. A second attempt to follow the music met with results similar to the first, and during the third attempt, which seemed to be trembling on the verge of a failure, St. Vitus let go my companion and seized me with such vigor that she, who was small even for a Filipino, was gathered up bodily and taken around the room at such a pace that her toes touched the floor only at far distant intervals.
At this point my devotion to the shrine of Terpsichore ceased from force of circumstances and I seated 53myself in one of the most comfortable chairs in sight that I might carry out a previously formed plan to study the Filipino somewhat critically as he appears in society.
The first thing that impressed me as the dancers passed up and down the room was the flash of diamonds. Nearly every woman in the room had on a brooch that flashed the colors of the rainbow at every turn. Almost all of them wore one or more rings that showed up brilliantly under the chandelier. Many of the men too, especially the young men, wore gems that appeared to be exquisite. A closer inspection showed that some of the gems had flaws and others were of 54a poor color, but no one would have denied that, taken as a whole, it was a really beautiful display.
The dress of the ladies was richly colored. Many of their skirts were of silk covered with hand embroidered flowers, and their filmy pina waists and broad collar pieces were rich with needle-work. They all wore a kind of heelless velvet slipper, very common as a dress shoe in the Philippines, or high-heeled patent leather shoes with neatly fitting black stockings.
The men were dressed in white coats and white pantaloons or black coats and white pantaloons. White shirts and collars, together with all sorts and styles of cravats and low-cut 55patent leather shoes with highly colored socks completed their dress.
It was easy to see that the Filipinos really had a good deal of money; that they liked to dress was apparent; and that they believed in a table loaded with good things was a fact to which all of us were enthusiastic witnesses.
House-keeping in the Philippines presents some interesting phases. Our club of American officials decided to run a mess, so we employed a cook and a house boy, then each of us provided himself with a personal servant, making a total of six servants for four men—it takes about this proportion of servants to live in any sort of comfort in the Philippines—and launched ourselves boldly upon the sea of domestic 57economy. But there were shoals ahead of us, for the question of regulating servants is one of no small importance in the Philippines, and one of its most disadvantageous features is the long chain of dependents that usually attends it.
We gave the cooks so much a day with which to buy supplies in the local market, for our own table, making him render a daily list of expenditures, and a fixed amount besides to purchase rice and fish for himself and the other servants. Of course, if they wished to vary their diet and get chicken and fresh pork, which could be had at far distant intervals, it was wholly a matter of their option, but the allowance was 58made on the basis of so much rice and fish a day for each. This allowance was about fifteen cents a day in Spanish coin per servant.
Thus far all was well. We had agreed to give the cook eight dollars a month in Spanish money, thinking that good wages would procure good service, but the visions of affluence that floated before him on such floods of wealth were so alluring that they drew him from the kitchen to the cooler veranda. In less than a week he had employed an assistant at four dollars a month; in less than another week that assistant had employed him an assistant at two dollars a month; in less than another week that assistant to the 59assistant had employed him an assistant at the princely salary of fifty cents a month; and from fear that the chain of dependents would end only by our having the whole Filipino race attached to our culinary force, we broke up house-keeping and went boarding again, choosing that as the less of the two evils.
Our house furnishings were almost wholly Philippine. The table ware and the food on the table came from the ends of the earth. The knives and forks were made in Germany, the plates were manufactured in England, the glass ware and table cloth, in the United States. The oatmeal and flour came from the United States also. The butter 60came from Australia, the rice from China, the salt from Russia, and the other eatables from sources about as various as their separate names. Switzerland furnished the condensed milk and Illinois the canned cream. Nearly all of the canned fruit bore labels from Spain.
Thus it can easily be seen that life in the Philippines, if lived according to American ideals, is dependent upon a highly developed and highly complex commerce. However, the difficulties of transportation and the restriction of large stocks of merchandise to Manila and some half a dozen other towns, make so great a difference between country life and city life that a short comparison 61of the two will not be out of place, and life in Manila may well be taken as being fairly typical of the latter.
Life in Manila is pleasant, but expensive. It is pleasant from the fact that it is not only the capital but also metropolis of the archipelago. Thus the combination of wealth and high official position has given to Manila a society of the highest and most refined type. The process of beautifying and improving the city which is constantly going on bids fair to give us at no distant day a city of which we may well be proud.
But let him who intends living well in Manila on a small income bid farewell at once to so idylic a dream, for it costs much to live well 62there. In the city of Manila one can get almost anything he wishes, but it must be paid for at the price it commands. Especially in the case of eatables, this price is by no means small, because to the first cost of articles must in most cases be added the expense of distant shipment from American, European, or Australian ports, and not infrequently the cost of long refrigeration must also be taken into consideration. But, expensive though it is, it is very pleasant to live there and those who have once enjoyed it often wish again to quaff the cup of its delights.
In strong contrast to this pleasant life is the life of the quiet little 63hamlet away in the distant islands. Indeed, the Filipino from the distant town, who by some good fortune has been to Manila, or, by a coup de main, has studied in one of the Manila colleges, is looked up to in a true hero-worshiping attitude by all who either know him or hear of his fame. Life in such a place is one long state of harmless inactivity. Not a wave of trouble from the great outer world ever disturbs its peaceful repose. One lounges forever in an air of indolent ease and extreme aversion to anything approaching what might be called a respectable effort.
One arises in the morning about the time the sun’s first rays silver the 64top leaves of the cocoanut trees and then stirs around until nine or ten o’clock, when it is found expedient to avoid a further exposure to the sun. From then until about five o’clock in the afternoon it is best to take things as they come, even though one of those things be a Filipino dinner. But then you may have your vehiclo attached to a young bull with a ring in his nose and go for a drive. If it is the dry season you will probably enjoy the drive unless you object to the frequent clouds of dust swept along by the evening wind. If it is in the rainy season your pleasure will depend to a considerable extent upon how wet you get; but, whether 65the season be wet or dry, your pleasure will be regulated largely by the state of harmony existing between the driver and the bull.
In these quiet secluded nooks successive generations of Filipinos are born, reared, grow old and die in an even chain of events broken only by the occasional erection of a new grass house on the identical spot where its predecessors have stood for ages. The son lives in the house of his father, cultivates the same few square feet of soil planted in edible roots, climbs the same cocoanut trees, follows the same winding path down to the stream, pounds rice in the same mortar and with the same stick that his 66ancestors have used from time unremembered, and, in case of illness, curls up on a grass mat in a corner of the room until he dies or by some good fortune recovers. Beyond this narrow horizon he never looks. So narrow and contracted is the life that the languages of two towns a few miles apart are so different that one would scarcely recognize them as belonging to the same race of people.
Such are the two extremes of life in our new far Eastern provinces: the one is active, progressive, and cosmopolitan; the other, inactive, decadent, and narrow; but, whether one enjoys the first or endures the second, there comes to him after 67leaving a longing to lounge again in tropic airs and listen to the lullaby of the winds among the palms.
As one enters a Filipino sitting-room for the first time, there is one feature in the arrangement of the furniture that impresses itself upon him at once, and it may be stated without fear of serious contradiction that this same peculiar feature in its arrangement will continue to face him, as he enters different homes, about as certainly as he crosses the threshold.
The arrangement referred to is that of one large mirror, one settee, 69and some ten or a dozen chairs that appear to have had a certain orderly affection for one another. The mirror is hung upon one of the large interior parts of the house about four feet above the floor. The wooden houses in the Philippines are built by setting large posts upright into the ground, extending into the air from twenty to thirty feet. Cross timbers are fastened to these upright posts about eight or ten feet above the ground and then not sawed off even with the posts, but allowed to extend beyond them each way. The framework of the house is built upon these extending cross timbers, a style of building by which these large upright 70posts are left standing out on the inside of the room from one to three feet from the walls. It is on that one of these posts most nearly opposite the door that the mirror always finds its place. Immediately beneath the mirror is the settee; and the chairs are arranged in two parallel lines facing one another and at right angles with the ends of the settee. However odd this arrangement may appear to one when he first enters a Filipino drawing-room, there are two things to be said in its favor. In the first place, it places you face to face with the person with whom you are conversing so that you can watch him,—a matter of no small moment in the 71Philippines. In the next place, it enables you to give one of the young ladies a sheep’s-eye in the mirror while the others present are left where Moses was in our much abused conundrum.
The size of the residence and the quality of its furnishings depends upon the wealth of the owner. But there is so vast a difference between the mode of life of the highest class and the tao, or lowest class, that it is well to speak of them separately, and the great middle class of Filipinos can easily be imagined to occupy the intervening ground.
The rich Filipino’s house is usually of wood built upon a wall of stone or brick from ten to fifteen 72feet high. The floors are kept highly polished in his hallway, dressing-room, and bed-rooms. There are, of course, no fire-places in any of the rooms, but on some occasions something is needed to dry the rain-soaked atmosphere, for even in the dry season it has been seen to rain for five successive days and nights without the cessation of a moment.
A long chain of dependents is attached to the household of the rich Filipino. The master has his special body servant to be present at all times to do his master’s bidding, in short, to be the visible mechanism of his master’s volition. So, too, the lady of the house has her servant 73woman to do the slightest bidding of her ladyship. Then there is the cook who is almost invariably a man, a house boy or two, and the coachman. These functionaries, with their assistants and assistants to the assistants, together with a servant or two for the exclusive service of the children, complete the economic household.
Such a family has an abundance of rice and wheat bread, also of chicken and fish with occasional fresh beef. They have also a good deal of dulce. They regularly serve wine and frequently serve beer on their tables.
In strong contrast with this mode of life is that of the tao. His diet 74consists almost wholly of rice and small uncleaned fish boiled together. As a rule knife, fork, plate, and spoon find no place in his household. The rice and fish are boiled in a pot and then allowed to cool in the same vessel or poured out to cool in a large earthen or wooden bowl. Then Mr. Tao together with Mrs. Tao and all the young Taos squat on their heels around the mixture and satisfy that intangible thing called the appetite. They do not use chop sticks as the Chinese do, but the rice and fish are caught in a hollow formed by the first three fingers of the right hand. The thumb is then placed behind the mass. It is raised up and poised 75before the mouth, with a skill coming from the evolution of ages, when a contraction of the muscles of the thumb throws the mass into the mouth with a skill that is marvelous to any but a Filipino. To judge from the most reliable information, the poorest class do not have an abundance of food, although it would seem that such a condition of things would be well-nigh impossible. However, in a census of one hundred school children there were found six boys and four girls who declared that they had never had enough to eat, and the native teacher stated that this was probably true.
The wide gulf between the tao and the rich man is filled by the great middle class of Filipinos.
Not far from our town was a leper colony and the first Saturday that could be spared was set aside for a trip to the place. It happened that none of the other Americans were at leisure on this particular morning, but, rather then delay the trip or miss it altogether, the writer, armed with a revolver, started out alone.
The road had been described so accurately by one who was supposed to know it that it was deemed well-nigh 77impossible to miss the way. The main highway was followed to the point where the by-path supposed to lead to the settlement turned off through some bamboo thickets and a low tropical wood. This path led straight away towards the sea-coast where the houses of the colony were said to stand in a cocoanut grove by the beach.
Upon arriving at the settlement, a very inhospitable reception was received from a mangy cur that growled and showed a very uninviting set of sharp, white teeth behind his snarling lips. The growling of the dog had attracted the attention of an old man who, with age-bent back, was pounding 78rice in a mortar about fifty yards away. He turned slowly around and, upon seeing an intruder into the primitive quiet of the place, gave a sharp, far-reaching call. The sound had scarcely rung through the grove when from about a dozen of the little grass houses dotted here and there fifteen or twenty men armed with bolos came out and gathered around the old man. A sense of my danger flashed upon me. Three miles from town and alone in a tropical jungle, I could be almost instantly overcome by this band of bolo-men, and the only report that would ever reach my people would be that I had “disappeared.” Of course, attack was by no 79means certain, but the potentiality of the situation was thrilling. A drawn revolver and the gleaming of its shining barrel had the effect of stopping the men, who seemed to be hesitating as to a course of action, until a somewhat dignified retreat was made to an open space in the rear from where a less dignified and a more hasty retreat began which did not stop short of Bacalod.
Enough had been seen, however, even in this short visit, to give convincing proof that the settlement visited was no colony of lepers; so, that afternoon two servant boys being taken as guides and interpreters, another attempt was made to reach the goal desired.
80This attempt was successful, and, after about two hours of walking, a little cluster of grass huts snugly hidden by the sea-coast came into view. As we approached, one would have thought it a gala-day. Some few children, apparently from six to thirteen years of age, almost wholly nude, were romping and playing in the open space around which the huts stood, and no one would ever have thought that any cloud so horrible as leprosy could hover over a place apparently so happy.
By the side of the path as we passed was a man and his wife setting out potato plants. His hands were so puffed and his fingers so short that he could scarcely use 81them, but he was working along as best he could. His wife’s feet were so swollen and twisted that she walked only with the greatest difficulty. We passed them by and entered the open space above referred to.
The children now saw us, and those of them who could darted away like frightened rabbits, each to his own burrow. An old man who was sitting in the warm afternoon sun on the little bamboo platform before his hut was aroused from his lethargic repose by the scampering away of the children. He arose, trembling upon his tottering limbs, all drawn and twisted, and hobbled away into his hut.
82The children soon recovered from their fright and began to reappear at the doors of the houses, from which now also came the men and women of the settlement. In a few moments we were surrounded by a circle of human beings at once so repulsive and so pitiable that its graphic vividness can never be accurately portrayed.
The old man referred to above, having put on a pair of snow-white pantaloons, appeared now at the doorway of his hut, followed a few moments later by his wife who had evidently clothed herself in the best raiment she had. At a call from the old man, all the men, women, and children in the settlement came out 83of their huts and stood in a line before us. The old man was spokesman and in his native visayan tongue made a heart-rending appeal for aid which we were powerless to give. Attention was called to a leper woman, apparently about twenty-five years of age, whose face had been attacked by the disease and whose appearance was truly pathetic. Upon her hip was a child about a year and a half old and, strange to say, the child showed as yet no signs whatever of the disease.
What an indissoluble enigma is life! Here in a little cluster of grass huts in a secluded nook of a secluded island of an all but secluded archipelago was gathered together 84a little community of wretched natives, driven by their loathsomeness from association with others even of the same half-savage race. Yet here, men and women loved and were married, by mutual trust if not by law, and children were born of the union to live forever under the unspeakable horror that overshadowed the unfortunate parents. Love, hatred, sorrow, and joy—every passion that enters into the complex structure of the human heart even here, in this scene of sadness and despair, was playing apparently as freely as where misfortune and disease had never crossed the portals of life.
We were lounging lazily in our hammocks at Jimamaylan one evening in April. Supper was just ended, and the soldiers in the post were collected in groups here and there spinning yarns to pass away the time, when a Filipino clad only in a loin cloth came down the street at a steadily swinging run and stopped in front of the sentry. He brought the announcement that a band of ladrones had just burned a sugar mill and were advancing to 86sack a barrio about fifteen miles away.
The invitation of the commanding officer to go on a “hike” was eagerly accepted, and, in ten minutes after the message was given, the troops were on the march followed by two adventurous pedagogues.
Darkness was just closing in as we left the town, but a resplendent tropic moon soon made the night almost as brilliant as the day. The trail we followed led over rough and rocky country. Sometimes for a distance of a mile or more we passed over barren wastes of volcanic slag poured out in anger by some peak whose convulsions have long since ceased. Again we would 87descend into a tropical jungle from the dense foliage of which the ladrones could have leaped at any moment, had they known of our coming, and annihilated our little band. We forded rapid streams with the water at our breasts, and halted only once in that rapid march of fifteen miles.
About a quarter of a mile from the town we met a man who was standing guard against a surprise by the ladrones. Nothing could well have been much more grotesque and nothing could much better illustrate the absolutely primitive condition of the Filipinos in the interior of the islands than the appearance of this guard. A pair 88of knee pants, a conical grass hat, and a hemp shirt formed his entire apparel. A long flat wooden shield, a bolo, and a long bamboo spear with a sharp, flat, iron point, completed his equipment for battle.
Here stood the first and the twentieth centuries side by side. The Filipino who had advanced only a stage beyond the condition of primitive man with his knife, spear, and wooden shield, stood side by side with the American soldier, a representative of modern life with his magazine rifle, his canteen, his knapsack,—with every article of his clothing made to give him the highest possible efficiency as the unit of a military organization.
89A few yards farther on we met another guard equipped similarly to the first. Upon reaching the town, news had just been received that a detachment of troops from another post had intercepted the ladrones and fought a skirmish with them. The ladrones had escaped and we set out in pursuit of them on a chase wilder than a Quixotic dream. We wound our way into the mountains behind the town, inquiring at every grass hut we passed whether the band of ladrones had passed that way, but only once was even a trace of them found. Then it was learned that at a certain place they had separated into groups of three or four and gone glimmering through 90the dream of things that were. This place was in a secluded nook of the mountains where in years gone by some adventurous Spaniard had erected a primitive water mill to grind his sugar-cane. We had now marched about twenty miles and the feet of the pedagogues were a mass of blisters. They had reached the point where that form of military maneuvering called “hiking” ceased to possess any alluring charms. So a native was persuaded to come out of his lone mountain hut and hitch up his carabao and cart. He was then made to get on the carabao’s back, while the aforesaid pedagogues lay down on the sugar-cane pulp that had been put 91into the body of the cart, and the driver was instructed to start for the post we had left hours before, and not to stop until he got there. Being uncertain but that some of the ladrones would learn of our having left the body of troops and would try the metal of our steel, we at first agreed that neither of us should go to sleep, but it was later decided that probably the driver had no greater desire to cross the Styx than his passengers had and that in case of danger he would awaken us, so both took a revolver in each hand, stretched out supinely and went to sleep.
Such a sleep! The rough jolting of the cart over an almost impassable 92road was never enough to break the spell of slumber. When we awoke the blazing tropic sun was past the midday mark of morning, shining full into our unprotected and well-nigh blistered faces.
A pack of dogs were heralding our approach to a little village at the foot of the mountains where ponies were procured to take us back to the post.
HAMMOND’S PRINTING WORKS, ROANOKE, VA.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK AN EPOCH IN HISTORY***
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