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Obviously the outside of a city is known by its streets, but the inner life of the people and the moving spirit of the place are also reflected in the living panorama that flows through avenues and alleys.
Every oriental city carries in its show window thoroughfares a full line of samples of everything to be found within, and Manila is no exception to the rule. The capital of the Philippines shows a various picture of things new and old, bright and dull, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, interesting and unbearable.
Side by side at the door of the Binondo church are the flower girls and the deformed cripple beggars. Across the Escolta go the clumsy carabao and the electric cars. Modern commercial affairs were until a short time ago handled in offices that would not be used for stables in any American city. The fifteenth century College of Santo Tomas stands next to the office of the American governor-general. One may stand at the foot of the bridge and see three centuries go by in a much mixed up jumble of things too old to be used, or too new to be useful..
In a few years judging by the great improvements that have taken place here since the passage of the Payne Tariff Bill, Manila will be the most beautiful, modern city of the ar East, but many of the high historic values of to-day will be gone.
There is much that is worth seeing on any of the best known streets in town. The gentlemanly American policemen are the most intelligent and obliging set of peace officers to be found in the world. Under their direction the strange mixture of humanity flows along like the apples through the big sorting machine.
The separate sizes and sorts find their way to the holes in which they fit, but the big policemen keep the pocession moving.
Carretons, with bare-legged drivers perched in any old place that may help to balance the unequal load;carretelas filled with humanity in assortments of from two to fourteen to a load, and drawn by horses whose legs are not always long enough to reach the ground; carromatas dirty, wabbly, and uncomfortable, hitched to beast that balk and create innocent amusement for all but the impatient passengers, are common sights. Getting into and out of these vehicles is a feat that requires considerable practice, and as a test of strenght and skill has much to commend it
Here are found straight-shouldered women with stale fish in the market baskets balanced on their heads; children clad in much comfort but litte else; grown boys sauntering along hand and hand as oblivious to the world about them as though they were meandering the streets of paradise; stylish carriages drawn by the highsteppers and filled with "big brass generals" and other important looking army folk; soldiers from America, dressed in khaki; Chinos from China clad in wind bags; Hindos from India dressed in nine yards of red calico, mostly wrapped about their heads; Japanese from the north; Russians from the battleships that fought and ran away; Singalese from Ceylon'sspicy isle; Turks and Cretes and Arabians and dwellers from every country of Europe and every state in the union; and besides all these what more shall I say? The Filipino himself from the seventy seven tribes and dialects, the tao from the bosque, the artisan class, the student, the disguised ladron and his ilustrado symphatizer and friend, government officials, and dead beats of gentlemen and gamblers and friends--all these and more cross the bridge of Spain every day and if the spectator could know what each is thinking about the would be both wiser and sadder. Too much knowledge of human nature is not conducive to optimism pure and undefiled.
Out in Malate is a little winding street, lined with nipa shacks on both sides, running off into a banana grove ay the end, trimmed with women bare of neck and ankle, and children bare of about everything. The babuy grunts beneath the casas, the roosters fight in the shade of the nipa awnings, the señoritas engage in entomological researches, and tropical dirt and peace reign supreme. It is a perfect picture of the provincial barrio, such as may be found anywhere ouside of Manila. The same thing may be found at Pandacan, Navotas, or Parañaque.
The "strong material"houses of Spanish construction are not individually beautiful, but a street fenced on both sides with these overchanging second stories, presents a perspective that is strikingly suggestive of things medieval. San Sebastian is a good example of this, and the view towards the north shows a fine background in the high battlements and gothic windows of the big steel church.
The streets of the walled city are a class of themselves. Narrow, dark and gloomy, there is an air of mystery and tragedy about them that suggests a good story if one only knew where to find it. The overhead passage ways between the convents, the tight-barred windows, the strong walls, and the big churches, all combine to enforce the idea that the city was built for protection; and not for books. The life of the walled city is little seen on the streets. There are now eleven thousand people living in Intramuros, and in the old days of terror a hundred and fifty thousand were crowded into the city for safety. It is hard to see where the present population keeps itself until one steps inside the doorways and finds the inner courts swarming with humanity. I counted forty people living about the stalls and entesuelo apartments of the interior of one of the poorer houses.
The term "interior" has a local meaning in Manila, as most people soon learn.
In the days of my novitiate in Manila, a "germman of coloh" called on me and disclosed the news that he expected to be married on a date two weeks subsequent and would like to have my professional services. As this was my first opportunity to reduce the population of the Philippines by making one where two had been before, I consented and promised to be on hand. The ebony groomsman-to-be said he would send a carromata for me, but being very new in Manila, I volunteered to go in my own cart. He gave me a number on Calle Nueva, Malate,"interior" and departed.
On the date agreed, at the hour of seven p.m., I started in a pouring rain to keep the engagement. The number was there, nailed to a post beside a muddy cart tract that led off into a dark somewhere in the direction of Santa Ana. Nothing dounted I raised my umbrella, and began a search that I shall never forget. The road led into a mud street, lined with houses three or four deep on each side and so close together that a man could reach from the other. Lights were burning in some of them, and there were no numbers. "Did any one know where Santos, or Mr. Johnsing lived?" "No sabe Señor, seguro en otra casa." I spent an hour wading through mud and water and tried a hundred "otras casas," but no one had ever heard of the dusky bride and the ebony groom. At last I gave it up in despair, and a much muddier and more perplexed man, found my way home to dry clothes, and puzzeled reflections on ways that were Philippine and tasks that were vain.
What became of the wedding? Are the fond lovers still waiting there for me to come and bind their beating hearts? Or did Sambo conclude to profit by the famous advice of Artemus Ward to people about to be married? Or did the fair Maria prove faitless and elope with some gallant Juan? I don't know. I only know that I got lost in that interior and came out two blocks up the street so tangled up in directions that I fled in haste and had to get a policeman to help my carromata.
Most of the native business of the city is transacted in the tiendas and mercados, which are so open to the street as to be practically in the highway. The native market are picturesque enough to look at, but the odors are not attractive, though they make no pretensions to rival those of the primeval Chino. Before the days of American sanitation, the condition of these places was indescribably bad, but modern regulations and efficient inspectors have changed all this to comparative cleanliness and good order. The Chino tiendas are always repulsive and dirty, but the native woman who keeps a tienda usually has more eye to appearances and often makes a creditable showing of her shop and its wares.
The street pedlers are not so numerous as they used to be. Baliuag hats, canes, carabao horn goods, and dulces are about the extent of the native wares sold on the streets, and the Chino has a monopoly of the itinerant dry goods trade. He goes from door to door asking three times what a thing is worth, and taking whatever he can get. Some of his canton linens are good values at half of his asking price, but every American woman who comes to Manila gets cheated in her first encounter with the wily heathen.
The most truly oriental bit of Manila streets is in Binondo. There are several streets so narrow that two persons abreast can touch elbows with the walls on each side. The over hanging roofs come within a foot of touching gutters, and the only sun that ever shines into this canyon is that of four o'clock in the afternoon when the declining rays enter the west end of the tunnel.
Needless to say, this construction is in Manila's Chinatown, and the little six foot passage is crowded with Chinos who seem to fell perfectly at home in the shadows of the overhanging walls. A Canton street, set down in the midst of Manila would aford the same joy to the Chinese heart, and this nameless calle furnishes the visitor with all the experiences of a trip to that famous city of sights and smells, with the advantage of being able to get out into the fresh air within thirty seconds, if need be.
To any one who is fastidious about his food, a trip to this quarter is an experience not to be forgotten. The whole street is devoted to Chino restaurants which are well patronized, and the visit is warranted to relieve hunger whether the food is eaten or not. The stoves are just inside the door. Large pots of different mixtures are stewing away, and on the counter by the stove are placed a half dozen large and small pots containing various compositions of different color and consistency. A banana leaf serves as a marble slab. On this one man is kept busy rolling up a sort of wafer tamale, made by spreading on a tough wafer eight inches across a brown a brown sticky mess looking very much like axle grease and serving about the same porpose. The chef next dips up with his fingers a handful of something that looks like dirty sauerkraut and, putting with this a leaf of lettuce, deftly rolls the whole up in the water. This is done at the rate of one roller every two seconds, and as fast as they are finished in bunches of threes, they are placed on a dish, and some waiting customer carries the dainties away to a table for personal reference. Other mixtures of unknown quantities and various consistencies are served to order, the customer always waiting on himself. Over the whole weaving company of perspiring, barelimbed Chinos and natives wreathes the smoke of culinary incense rising from the altar stove, and the smell--but right here is a good place to stop. If you want any more, go and smell it for yourself. There is plenty to go around.
Few Americans can resist the interest found in the little Chino shops on Rosario and the piña stalls on San Fernando. It carries one back to the dreams of childhood when we saw hazy visions of little shops all our very own, where we would keep store when we got big and the folks would come and buy things from us. All the goods are in plain sight, and tool and bits of wire and hose and drygoods are all within reach.It's lots more fun than to go and sit on a stool while a man, pompous enough to be the lord mayor, approaches and with dignified condescension says,"What can I do for you?" I always fell like suggesting that he begin by deflating himself.
The Oriental citizen is so peaceful that there is rarely anything so lively as a good street row, but once in a while something does happen that is worth while. There is a tradition carefully preserved (in alcohol?) that on one occasion just after the civil government took charge of affairs and before Brer Taft had got the situation well in hand, a carabao ran away on the Escolta. The excitement was tremendous. A crowd gathered, and some of the imaginative ones averred that they could actually see the animal move without taking micrometer measurement. So rapid was the transit that a man, who was eating his lunch at Clarkes, found that, during the time he spent at the table, the runaway had passed the building. The native policeman were hopeless in the face of such an emergency, and an American patrolman was summoned, who with grat presence of mind approached the carreton, wakened the sleeping driver, informed him that his carabao was running away, and assisted in restoring order generally. The commission at once passed an act regulating the speed of carabaos with ib the city limits, which has been faithfully maintained ever since.
The present day pilgrims can appreciate the street experiences of the days of mud and cobble pavements. Until January, 1905, the Escolta was in an indiscribable condition, and not long before that Rosario was no better. The wood blocks and asphalt have revolutionized the business streets and great has been the gain thereby.
Manila streets make up for their narrowness by their occasional expansion into plazas that afford breathing places and opportunity yo live the carromata if necessary. These squares are a good thing for any city and might be copied in America with good results.
The new comer always insist that Manila has the crookedest streets of any city in the world, and that no one can ever learn where to find all of them. That no native ever does learn all of them or try to do so is very certain, but once the general lines are mastered it is not difficult to locate any given house.
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