Fabulous Philippines > Yesterdays in the Philippines > Chapter 4(b)

Church Processions. Cocoanut Rafts. A "Carromata" Ride to Paquil.

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After dinner we sat out on the balcony to watch the procession that wound around through the various streets, starting from the fortress-like church and finally bringing up there. These church parades are a good deal like our torchlight processions, except that here images, not mud-besprinkled men, carry most of the torches. In this affair there were a dozen or more floats, each one bearing a saint, an apostle, or somebody else, and each decorated with very costly drapery, ornaments, and elaborate candelabra illuminators. Scattered all along between the floats straggeled natives carrying poles on which were images of a candle, a hand, a spear, a pair of nails, a cock, a set of garments, and other symbolic articles relating to the crucifixion. Then came Peter on a very elaborate moving pedestal, and in his hand he hold the traditional bunch of keys. Then a Descent from the Cross, with two apostles standing up on stepladders, Next came the band of the procession--- three men singing to the tune of an old violin -- and finally the Virgin Mary with glass tears rolling down her wax cheeks. On each side of the line from start to finish trooped the populace, mostly women dressed in black carrying candles.

Next day was Good Friday. No traps of any description to be had,as none were allowed to run, and so old church in the morning showed us a fragrant and gaudily dressed audience kneeling in various postures in the tiled floors, while numerous dogs of various cross breeds and tempers meandered in through the door and among the worshippers. From the church we strolled across a very primitive bamboo bridge over a branch river, and wandered through a luxurious coconut grove beneath whose tall trees were situated a couple of very rudimentary coconut oil mills in the houses of the operators. The machinery was very crude. One might think he was back in the days of stone knives, seeing this simple contrivances, the awkward levers, the foot-power grindstones, and the old pots and kettles. In the river near the mills were thousands of coconuts ready to be tied togerther, in rafts for floating down to Manila, and everybody's business up this way seemed to consist in watching this oily fruit fall from the trees.

In the early evening, just before another religious procession started, we heard a great clatter up in the belfry of the old church, and learned that the hubbub was made by "devil-frighteners." On inquiring as to the nature or this weird clap-trap symphony, it seems that on these especially holy days men are stationed up in the bell towers with huge wooden rattles, which they so manipulate from time to time that the noise is said to act as a scarecrow to the various devils who are supposed to be hovering about seeking whom they may devour.

After another peaceful night's rest, some of us took our morning jump into the river, and all prepared for a twelve-mile carromata drive out along the lake shore beneath the mountains, to a little village called Paquil, said to be possessed of a crystal spring bathing-pool The road for a good bit of the way was of the Napoleon-crossing-Alps style, and it got to be so bad I rather thought we were in for a walk. Not a bit of it. The carromatas are built strong as the rocks themselves, the wheels are huge and solid, the ponies tough as prize-fighters, and the driver urges the whole affair along, at a tremendous pace. So we bounced along, and most of our time was spent, not on the seat, but midway between it and the roof, which occasionally came down and thumped our heads. On the way we passed through numerous little villages, and in one out-of-the-way place we called on an American, Thomas Collins, who has been practically shut in out here for twenty-five years. It seems that he got cheated out of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars' worth of valuable wood a good while ago by the officials of a certain provincial district, and has been trying to get the claim paid ever since. He was a queer chap, and had almost forgotten how to speak American; but at last he managed to remember the word "hell," and then his ideas began to flow more freely.

When we arrived at Paquil our conductor, the genial Captain Feliz, walked up to the house of an acquaintance and asked him to put it at our disposal. As before, the request was father to the grant, and we dumped our chattels down into a parlor full of wax virgins and crucifixes. The bath, for which the village is quite famous, is a large pool five feet deep, with a pebble bottom. At one end a stream of clear water gushes forth from the hillside, while at the other an overflow brook carries off the surplus and goes bubbling down through the village to the lake. We had our swim after all the native bathers had left, and got back to our house in time for a tiffin that had been brought with us in the baskets. In the early afternoon we took our siesta, in the later hours started for our jogglety return drive, and at Pagsanjan found prepared for us a feast of sucking pigs.

On Sunday morning we were ready for our return to Manila. The seven gigs arrived, we said hearty farewell to our friends, presented Captain Feliz some empty bottles and two teapots, and rattled out through the town towards Santa Cruz, where our launch was in waiting. The trip was cool and pleasant across the lake, but it was hot when in about four and a half hours we got to the low river country again. The sail down was like the sail up, and by dinnertime we backed water to bump into the portico of the club,where all hands disembarked for dinner. Thus ended what I suppose is the most popular and most delightful excursion which the foreigner can make from the capital of the Philippines in the few days which the church feasts at Easter put at his disposal.

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