Fabulous Philippines > Yesterdays in the Philippines > Chapter 7(a)

A Series of Typhoons. A Chinese Feast Day.

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Phew! We have hardly had time to breathe since the last mail, for we have been in the midst of typhoon after typhoon, shipwrecks, house-wrecks and telegraph-wrecks, both simplex and duplex. Manila had scarcely gotten over talking of the war of the elements, above spoken of, before another cyclone was announced to the south and soon we were going trough an experience similar to that related the other day. When that was over, everybody began to draw breath again, but before the lungs of the populace were fully expanded, the wind suddenly went into that dangerous quarter, the north-west, and up went signal No. 5 again. The blow came on more suddenly than the former one, and all hands left the business offices to go home and sit on their roofs. The tin was again stripped like paper from our portico, and great masses of metal banged around outside with the clash of cymbals. It was a terrific night. The ships in the Bay dragged their anchors nearly to the breakwater, and in the morning four Spanish brigs were a total wreck. One in particular went ashore to the bar at the river's mouth, and at daylight was being swept fore and aft by the great seas Eight men were hanging for dear life, and it looked as if they would be swallowed up in the great drink; but two big lifeboats were got out, and as the sea moderated somewhat, the sailors were at length rescued, just as their ship went all to smash. A thousand houses were blown down, many of the streets in Manila were flooded, telegraph lines prostrated, and tram-car service interrupted.

But things have now quieted down, and Sunday was a big feast-day in the Chinese quarter. All the wealthy Chinamen were celebrating something or other, and they invited all the foreign merchants, as well as their local friends, to the celebration. They served tea and refreshments in their various little junk shops, and some of the more influential members of the colony of fifty thousand gave elaborate spreads, followed by dances and concerts. The streets were filled with peculiar processions of men carrying banners and graven images, and the sidewalks were lined with spectators.

I went to one of the most pretentious of the indoor functions, found myself in a gorgeously furnished suite of apartments, decorated in true Chinese fashion, and was royally entertained by a shrewd Celestial who was supposed to be worth several million dollars. He began conversation with me by saying that, in his belief, bathing was injurious, and that he had not taken a bath in thirty years. From all I could judge, others of his brethren seemed to hold the same views as he, and the long rooms, halls, and corridors in due season got to be so warm and fragrant that it was a relief to escape.

Now and then the bells in the big church rang lustily, and many lanterns lighted it up from cornice to keystone. Hundreds of carriages drove though the streets, apparently bound nowhere in particular, and the bands played in all quarters. It almost seems as if each week in the calendar brought in a religious display of some sort in some one part of the town, and every Sunday evening finds a big church somewhere blazing with light or a street blinking with candles.

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