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It seems peculiar to see the moon standing directly overhead o'nights, and casting a shadow of one's self that is without meaning. I never yet realized we had so little shape before, looking from above, as when I saw this new species of shadow the other night, and was really sorry that the angels never had a chance to look at us from a better point of view.
To be politic, and begin with the weather as usual, a cold snap lately has given everyone tha "grippe." The mercury actually stood at 74º all one day, and couldn't be coaxed to go higher. Think of the suffering that such low temperature would occasion among a people who have no furnaces or open fireplaces. You may think I am facetious, but 74º in the Philippines means a great deal to people who are always accustomed to 95º.
The opera talk continues, and "Fra Diavolo" was most succesfully performed to a crowded house the other evening. "The Barber of Seville" was given Sunday night with equal éclat, and the prima donna was a star of the first water, whose merits were recognized in the presentation of some huge flower pieces, probably paid for by herself. But the opera has had a rival, and those who are not so musically inclined have spent most of their spare moments in discussing the great bull and tiger fight which took place Sunday afternoon.
It was a queer show, and not altogether edifying. The old bullring, squatting out in the ricefields of Ermita suburb, was to be used for the last time, and the occasion was to be of unusual interest, since the flaming posters announced, in grown-up letters:
STRUGGLE BETWEEN WILD BEASTS
Grand Fight to the Death between Full-blooded
Spanish Bull,and Royal Bengal Tiger,
Direct from the Jungles of India.
For days before the show came off, conversation in the cafés along the Escolta invariably turned to the subject of the coming exhibition, and it was evident that the managers fully intended both to reap a large harvest of heavy dollars and to wind up the career of the bullring association in a blaze of blood and glory.
The steaming Sunday afternoon found everybody directing his steps toward the wooden structure which consisted of a lot of rickety seats piled up around a circular arena. The reserved sections were covered with a light roof, to keep off the afternoon sun, but the bleaching boards for those that held only "biletes de sol" were exposed to the blinding glare. The audience, a crowd of three thousand persons, with dark faces showing above suits of white sheeting, found the center of the ring ornamented with a huge iron cage some two rods square, while off at the sides were smaller cages containing the "fieras," or wild beasts.
The show opened amid breathless excitement, with an exhibition of panthers, and a man dressed in pink tights ate dinner in the big cage, after setting off a bunch of firecrackers under one of the "fieras," who didn't seem inclined to wake up enough to lick his chops and make-believe masticate somebody. The daring performer lived to digest his glass of water, with one cracker thrown in, and a deer was next introduced into the enclosure. The panther, at command of the keeper to get to business, seemed unwilling to attack his gentle foe, and on cotinued hissing from the big audience, the two animals were at length withdrawn.
Then great shouts of "El toro! El toro!" arose, as off at the small gate, at one side, appeared the bull, calmly walking forward, under the guidance of two natives, who didn't wear any shoes. And renewed applause arose, as the small heavy cage containing the R. B. tiger was rolled up to a sliding door of the central structure. The bull was shoved into the iron jail, the gate closed, a dozen or more bunches of firecrackers were set off in the small box holding the tiger, in order to waken him up, the slide connecting the two was withdrawn, and with the deafening roar, the great Indian cat rushed forth and tried to swallow a man who was standing outside the bars waving a heated pitchfork. The bull stood quietly in one corner wagging his tail, and after blinking his eyes once or twice, proceeded to examine his antagonist, in a most friendly spirit. In fact, there seemed to be no hard feeling at all between the two beasts,and the tiger only wanted to get at the gentleman outside the cage, not at the bull. The audience howled, jeered at the tiger, bet on the bull, and criticised the man with the pitchfork as he gave the tiger several hard pokes in the ribs. This served to anger the beast so that he finally did make a dive at the bull, and promptly found himself tossed into the air. But as he came down, he hung on to the bull's nose, and dug his claws into the tough hide. Curiously enough, the bull didn't seem to mind that in the least, and the two stood perfectly still for some five minutes, locked in close quarters.
To make a long story short, there occurred four or five of these mild attacks, always incited by the man with the pitchfork, during which the bull stepped on the tiger, making him howl with the bull stepped on the tiger, making him howl with pain, and the latter badly bit the former on the legs and nose. After the fourth round, both beasts seemed to be in want of a siesta. It was growing dark, and the dissatisfied audience cried for another bull and another tiger. The first animal was finally dragged away, after the tiger had retreated to his cage, and a fresh bull with more spirit was introduced. Now, however, the tiger was less game than ever, and no amount of firecrackers or pitchforkings could induce him to stir from the small cage. He seemed far too sensible, and literally appeared to be the possessor of an asbestos skin.
It had now got pretty dark, and the audience joined in the pandemonium of howls coming from the varous cages. People began to light matches to see their programmes, and the circus ring looked as if it were filled wth fireflies Then the programmes themselves were ignited for more light, and cries of "Give us back our money," "Whats the matter with the tiger?" and others of a less printable order, arose. Men jumped into the ring, but the tiger refused to move for anybody. In the hope of stirring things up, a couple of panthers were again hastily wheeled up and pushed into the cage, where the bull was standing with an expression of wonder on his face, the bull merely licked one panther on the nose and wagged his tail at the other, while the show was declared off on account of darkness. Then everybody filed out in disgust, and the man with the tiger, panthers, and pitchfork made arrangements to sail for foreign shores by the first steamer. Such was the last performance in the Plaza de Toros de Manila.
It was a pleasant contrast after the fight to adjourn to the Luneta. The day was Carnival Sunday, and all the young children of the community were rigged up in many sorts of inconceivable gowns. Clowns and ballet dancers, angels and devils, all wandered up and down the smooth walk, and the crowd was immense. Numbers of the older people also took part, and many of the smart traps were occupied occupied with grotesque figures. The artillery band rendered some of its finest selections. The ships off in the bay were almost completely reflected in the calm water. The mountains rose blue, like velvet, in the distance, and a red glow in the Boca Chica told where the sun had gone down for us, only to rise on the distant snows of New England.
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