Fabulous Philippines > Yesterdays in the Philippines > Chapter 6(g)

Manila Monotony

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Manila life goes on as ever, and it is curious to note how fast the days and weeks slip backward. Everyone agrees that the most rapid thing in town, except the winds of the typhoons, is the speed with which the Philippines to-day becomes yesterday. The secret seems to lie in the fact that there are no land marks by which to remember the weeks that are gone. The trees are green all the year round, and there are no snow-storms to mark the contrast between winter and summer. There are no class-days, no ball-games, and no coming out in spring fashions to break the orderly procession of the sun, moon, and stars. We wear our white starched suits every day in the year, and one's wardrobe is not replete with various checks plaids, and stripes that mark an epoch in one's appearance. We cannot, like Teufelsdröch, in "Sartor Resartus," speculate much on the "clothes philosophy," though we may do so on the centres of indifference; for our garments are not complex enough to invite transcendental theorizing. Manila food is alike from Christmas morn to the following Christmas eve, and so, take it all in all, the past is practically without milestones, and seems far shorter than one in which many events make the measured steps more clearly differentiated.

At present everybody dates his ideas from the typhoon, and that will remain a landmark for some time, if the fire which took place the other evening on the banks of the river does not usurp its position. Ten thousand bales of hemp, and a lot of copra, sugar, and cocoanut-oil were sent aloft in less earthy form. Aesthetically the sight was beautiful, and the eye was charmed by the mingling of vast tongues of blue, green, red, and yellow flames, some of which burst forth from the very waters of the river itself on which the inflammable materials had excursion. Our new fire-engine was on hand for the first time, in actual service, and together with the English engine brought out from London, did its duty. America, as usual, was in the lead, and everybody stood aghast to see the big five-inch stream mow down the brick walls of the burning houses like grain before the reaper. One native in particular, whose frail hut was washed to splinter by that big cataract played upon it to save it from the flames, said he'd rather lose his property by fire than to stand by and see the blooming bomba (fire-engine) blow it all to bits. The local department, as usual, lost their heads, and while some began to chop the tiles off the roofs of neighboring houses, others directed the streams from the hand-pumps onto the choppers. Even our gallant friend the American broker, who helps swell the number of Yankee business men in Manila to four, almost got roasted alive by being shut into an iron vault as he tried to rescue some valuable papers belonging to a customer and had to be soused with water, after his miraculous escape, to lower his temperature. But at length Providence and water prevailed, and the damage did not come to more than half a million dollars.

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