Fabulous Philippines > Yesterdays in the Philippines > Chapter 5(c)


A Move to the Seashore. A Waterspout. Captain Tayler's Dilemma.





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We have left our country house on the hills of Santa Mesa, and have moved down to a little villa on the seacoast. The third man of our party, like many of his brother English men who are burdened with small salaries but large debit balances, has at last decided to save money and room of his office. The house had too many regular boarders in the form of rats and snakes, was too large and too far off for the two of us left, and we decided to make a move to the sea shore district. Our army of servants successfully solved the transportation problems involved, and we are now settled in new quarters.. Although we miss the view of the mountains, and even the paddy fields, we now get the salt air first hand, look out over the waters of the Bay, and are lulled to sleep by the rhythmic beating of the waves on the beach. Our view seaward leads the eye across a beautiful garden belonging to one of the rich house-owners living directly on the shore front, and the green of the trees, with the scent of somebody else's flowers, temper both the excess of glare and the brackish qualities of the sea-breeze.

In Malate, where we now are, thins are much civilized. We find we miss the snakes in the roof, but we have running water in the house and a shower-bath in the bath-room; two rooms on the first floor; a parlor, two bed-rooms, dinning-room, large hallway, kitchen, bath and "boys" rooms on the second floor; a small garden at the front and a stable at the back, and all included in a rent of $15 a month. The stable accommodates two ponies, and it is a jolly drive down-town in the morning or home in the evening. The road leads all the way along by the sea, Luneta, and Malecon Promenade, that runs under the yawning mouths of the old muzzle-loaders in front of the grim walls of the old city, between them and the beach. The salt-water bath in the early morning is often very pleasant, though the temperature of the liquid is somewhat too high to be exhilarating. Now and then some of the Britons living in the neighborhood will issue a summons for a sunrise swimming-party, and one of them will perhaps punctuate the ceremonies by supplying a typical breakfast of fresh fish and boiled rice, on the veranda of a house that perhaps overlooks the Bay. These seaside houses are particularly cool and fresh now that the winds of the southwest monsoon come blowing into the front windows directly off the water, but later on, when typhoons become epidemic, it looks as if we should have the wind in more than wholesale doses.


June 12th.

Although the San Francisco steamer does not sail for Hong Kong until the 21st, it is necessary, on account of this quarantine business, to post our letters in the Manila office to-day. Two of our latest vessels have come in together and begun to take in their cargoes of hemp for Boston. The captains are ruddy-faced veterans who seem to have taken part in the Civil War. One of them, who wears false teeth when he is ashore, and hails from New Hampshire, is particularly fond of cooling off under our big punka. The other may be of French descent, though he comes from Ireland, and looks something like one of our distinguished Boston statesmen.. They both climb up the stairs to our counting-room daily, call our big clock a "time destroyer" and so vie with each other in their efforts to handle the truth carelessly that it is often a question who comes off victor in these verbal contests. However, the skipper with the false ivories generally fails to get the last word, for he often loses his suction power by fast talking, and has to leave off to prevent his teeth from slipping down his oesophagus, Ones again the air in the office assumes a nautical aroma, and we shall be well employed and well talked to death. A whole parcel of American ships are now about due, and the Bay will liven up again with the Stars and Stripes as it did some two months ago.

It rains every afternoon now, at about a quarter past three, and just after tiffin is over we begin to look for the thunder-clouds that predict the coming shower. The other day a huge waterspout formed out in the Bay, swirled along, gyrated about, scooted squarely through the shipping, and broke on the beach between our house and the Luneta. The cloud effects were extremely curious, and the whole display was a number not generally down on the day's programme.

The company who are putting in the electric lights seem to be doing good work, and it is expected that everything will be running by the end of the year. So far, Manila has been favored only with the dull light given by petroleum, previously brought out from New York, or over from China, and curiously enough, the empty tins in which the oil has come seem to be almost as valuable as their contents. They are used here for about everything under the sun, the natives cover their roofs with tin from these sources, and some of those more musically inclined even make a petroleum can up into a trombone or cornet.

Our house by the sea continues to prove very pleasant, and peculiarly enough, the surf seems to beat on the beach with the same sound that it has on the New England coast. The southwest breeze blows strong from the Bay each afternoon, and the cumulus clouds are becoming heavier and more numerous day by day. The artillery-band still favors us with music at the Luneta, but before long it looks as if the rains would interrupt the afternoon promenade.

The black plague of Hong Kong does not seem to diminish, as was expected, and it is said that many people are leaving the city. All steamers coming from that port to this suffer a fortnight's quarantine down the Bay, and, if the difficulty continues much longer, Manila markets will be destitute of two of their chief staples -- mutton and potatoes -- both of which have to come across from China, or down from Japan. And speaking of sheep, Captain Tayler, of the Esmeralda, has had another of his usual interesting experiences with the custom-house. Just as his vessel, fresh from quarantine and Hong Kong, had been visited by the doctor, on her way to her berth some distance up the river, one of the sheep died. Rule number something-or-other in the code of the Sanidad says that anything or anybody dying during the day must be buried before sundown, under penalty, for neglect of $50. Rule number something-else in the Customs Code, however, says that the captain of any vessel turning out cargo short or in excess of the amount called for by the manifest shall be fined $100 for each piece too many or too little. If my good friend, the Captain, buried the sheep, he would be fined $100 at the custom-house for short out-turn. If he didn't bury it, the Board of Health would come down on him for $50, for neglecting regulations. The Captain, being a wise man, decided that it was more politic to be in the right with the doctor than with the officials at the custom-house, and at some considerable expense sent the sheep on shore and had it buried with due honors. He could not have thrown it into the river, for this would have been to incur an additional fine. Next morning, he presented the ship's manifest and a sheep's tail at the custom-house and the discharge of the live stock was begun. But, tail or no tail, the officials found the ship one sheep short and the Esmeralda was fined $100. Not quite so barefaced as the swindling if the poor skipper who came over from China with a load of paving-stones for Manila's Street Department. His vessel turned out seven paving-stones too many, and the fine was $700.

In the language of Daniel Webster, I "refrain from saying" that a few dollars or a good dinner, bestowed upon the right person, in Manila, often go a long way toward throwing some official off the scent in his hungry search for irregularity, but am willing to admit that, in dealing with customs men who frequently "examine" cases of champagne by drinking up the contents of a bottle from each one in order to see that the liquid is not chloroform or cologne, one must keep his purse full, his talk cool, and his temper on ice.


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