Fabulous Philippines > Yesterdays in the Philippines > Chapter 9: English Club, Manila. Royal Exposition of the Philippines. Electric Lights. Manila Observatory. Antipolo.

English Club, Manila. Royal Exposition of the Philippines. Electric Lights. Manila Observatory. Antipolo.

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Club-house Chaff - Christmas Customs and Ceremonies - New Year's Calls - A Dance at the English Club - The Royal Exposition of the Philippines - Fireworks on the King's Fête Day - Electric Lights and the Natives - The Manila Observatory - A Hospitable Governor - The Convent at Antipolo

December 26th.

"A young Bostonian, in business in the Philippines; that is you, isn't it? "

"Trembling like a blushing bride, before the altar." "Well, blushing bride, how are you?"

"The bells in the old church rang out a wild, warning plea."They did, did they? And did, "The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea?"

"The fishermen's wives were sitting on their sauce-pans, furniture, and babies, to keep them from sailing off skyward." Poor things! Quite witty, weren't they?"

These were some of the expressions that greeted me as I entered the Club the other evening, about two hours after the last mail arrived.

My attention was called to the bulletin-board where the official notices were posted, and there, tacked up in all its glory was a printed copy of my letter on the typhoon, while on all sides were various members of the English colony, laughing boisterously, and poking me in the ribs with canes and billiard-cues. Some of the brokers had apparently learned the contents of that fatal letter by heart., and stood on chairs reciting those touching lines in dialogue with unharnessed levity.

To say that I was mildly flummuxed at hearing my familiar verbiage proceeding from the mouth of others would be mild, but it was impossible not to join in the general laugh, and digest, in an ofhand way, the jibes and jokes which were epidemic. It seems my cautions have been of no avail, and the letter which you so kindly gave the Boston editor to read and print was sent out here to my facetious friend the American broker, whose whole life seems to be spent on trying to find the laugh on the other man. Somebody else also sent him a spare copy to give to his freinds, and down town at the tiffin club next noon, my late entrance to the breakfast-room was a signal for the whole colony to suspend mastication and with chattering knives and chapping hands to vent their mirth in breezy epithets. But jokes are few and far between in this far Eastern land, and somebody or other might as well be the butt of them.

Just as surely as the 24th of December comes around, all the office-boys of your friends,
who have perhaps brought letters from their counting-room to yours, all the chief cooks and bottle-washers of your establishment, all of the policemen on the various beats between your house and the club, and all the bill collectors who come in every month to wheedle you out of sundry dollars, have the cheek to ask for pourboires. Imagine a man coming around to collect a bill, and asking you to fee him for being good enough to bring that document to hand. But that is just what the Manila bill-collector does at Chritmas-tide. Then all of the native fruit-girls, who each day climb the stairs with baskets of oranges on their heads, come in with little printed blessings and hold out their hands for fifty cents.

Once out of the office, you go home to find the ice-man, the ashman, the coachman, and the cook all looking for tips, and you are compelled to feel most religiously holy, as you remember that it is more blessed to give than to recieve.

Christmas-eve, somehow, did not seem natural, though the town was very lively. Some of the shops had brought over evergreen branches from Shanghai to carry out the spirit of the occasion. The streets were crowded with shoppers, everybody was carrying parcels, and if it had been cold, we might have looked for Santa Claus.

There are but a dozen English ladies in our little Anglo-Saxon colony, and each of them takes a turn in giving dinners, asking as her guests, besides a few outsiders, the other five. On Christmas-eve took place one of these rather stereotyped feasts, and afterward the guests went down in carriages to the big cathedral, that cost a million dollars, inside the old walled town, to hear the midnight mass. Accompanied by a large orchestra and a good organ, the mass was more jolly than impressive. The music consisted of polkas, jigs, and minuets, and everybody walked around the great building, talking and smilling most gracefully, A few of the really devout sat in a small enclosed space in the centre of the church, but they found it hard to keep awake, and their eyes were red with weeping, not for the sins of an evil world, but from opening and shutting their jaws in a series of yawns.

Just before the hour of midnight, comparative quiet ensued with the reading of a solemn prayer or two, but just as the most reverend father who was conducting the ceremonies finished bowing behind the high gold and velvet collar to his glittering gown, thirteen bells wagged their tongues that broke up the stillness of the midnight, and everybody wished everybody else"Felices Pascuas!"( Merry Christmas!) The organ tuned up, the boy-choir sang itself red, white, and blue the priestly assistants swung the sensors until the church was heavy with fragrance, and all those who had nothing else to do yawned and wished they were in bed.

After staying a little bit longer, our party left, and went over to the Jesuit Church near by, where a very good orchestra seemed to be playing a Virginia reel. Here were similar ceremonies modified somewhat to suit the rather different requirements of the Order, and after staying long enough not to appear as intruding spectators, we made our exit.

And now that Christmas is all over, everybody seems to be wearing a new hat, the most appropriate present that can be given in this land of sun-strokes and fevered brows.

January 5th.

The new year has come and gone,though out this way no one believes in turning over a new leaf.

It seems to be a custom to start the year by calling on all the married ladies of the colony, who make their guests loquacious with sundry little cocktails that stand ready prepared on the front verandas. Everybody makes calls, till he forgetswhere anything but his head is stuated, and then brings up at the club out by the river- bank more or less the worse for wear. In honor of the day, the menu was most attractive, but many of the party were in no condition to partake,and spent the first day of the new calendar in suffering from the effects of their morning visits.

With the new year came the dance, with we bachelor members of the club gave to the English ladies in particular and to Manila society in general, as a small return for hospitality recieved, and it was declared a huge success. The club-house was decorated from top to toe. Two or three hundred invitations were sent out, and the crème de la crème of the European population were on hand, including General Blanco, the governor of the islands.

The English club rarely gives a dance more than once in five years, and when the ingrave invitations first appeared there was much talk and hobnobbing among the Spaniards to see who had and who had not been invited. All the greedy Dons who had ever met any of the clubmen expected to be asked, and considered it an insult noy to recieve an invitation. One high official, who had himself been invited, wrote to the committee seeking an invitation for some friends. As, of course, only a limited number could be accommodated at the club-house, the invitations were strictly limited, and a reply was sent to the Spanish gentleman in question, stating that there were no more invitations to be had.

"Do you mean to insult me and my friends?" he wrote, "by saying that there are no more invitations left for them? Do you mean to say that my friends are not gentlemen, and so you won't ask them? I must insist on an explanation, or satisfaction."

For several days before the party one might have heard young women and girls who walked up and down the Luneta talking nothing but dance, and the Spanish society seemed to be divided up into two distinct cliques, the chosen and the uninvited.

The chosen proceeded at once to starve themselves and use what superfluous dollars they could collect in buying new gowns at the large Parisian shops on the Escolta. Most of the Spanish women in Manila can well afford to be abstemious and devote the surplus thus obtained to the ornamentation of their persons, since they are so fairly stout that the fires of their appetite can be kept going some time after actual daily food-supplies have been cut off. The men, however, seemto be as slender as the women are robust, and they , poor creatures, can not endure a long fast. Nevertheless, the cash-drawers of the Paris shops got fat as the husbands of the wives who bought new gowns there grew more slender; and just before the ball came off these merchant princes of the Philippines actually offered to contribute five hundred dollars if another dance should be given within a short time, so great had been the rush of patrons to their attractive counters.

To make a long story short, after a lot of squables and wranglings among those who were invited and those who were not , the night of the party came, and only those who held the coveted cards were permitted by the giants at the door to enter Paradise.

Japanese lanterns lighted the road which led from the main highway to the club, and the old rambling structure was aglow with a thousand colored cuplights that made it look like a fairyland. Within and without were dozens of palms and all sorts of tropical shrubs, and the entrance-way was one huge bower-like fernery. Around the lower entracroom colored flags grouped themselves artistically, and below a huge mass of bunting at the farther end rose the grand staircase that led above. Upstairs, the ladies' dressing-room was most gorgeous, and the walls were hung with costly, golden-wove tapestries from Japan. The main parlor formed one of the dancingrooms and opened into huge adjoining bed-chambers which were thrown together in one suit. All around the walls and cielings were garlands and long festoons and wreaths, and everywhere were bowers of plants, borrowed mirrors, and lights.

Out in the veranda, overhanging the river, were clusters of small tables, glowing under fairy lamps, and the railings were a mass of venture.

The orchestra consisted of twenty-five natives, dressed in white shirts whose tails were not tucked in, hidden behind a forest of plants, and as the clock struck ten they began yo coax from their instruments a dreamy waltz. The guests began to pour in--Spanish dons with their corpulent wives, and strapping Englishmen wiyh their leaner better halves. The Spaniards, sniffing the air, all looked longingly toward the supper-rooms, while the ladies who came with them ambled toward the powder and paint boxes in the boudoir. I suppose about two hundred people in all were on hand, and the sight was indeed gay. After every one had become duly hot from dancing or duly hungry fron waiting, supper was served, and there was almost a panic as the Spanish element with one accord made for the large room at the extreme other end of the building, where dozens of small tables glistened below candelabra with red shades, and improvised benches groaned under the weight of a great variety of refreshments.

Soon the slender caballeros got to look fatter in the face, and the double chins of their ladies grew double every moment. Knives, forks,and spoons were all going at once, and talk was suspended. But the room presented a pretty sight, with its fourscore couples sitting around beneath the swaying punkahs, and the soft warm light made beauties out of many ordinary-looking persons.

After everybody was satisfied, dancing was resumed in the big front rooms on the river, and the gayety went on; but the heavy supper made many of the foreign guests grow dull, and the cool hours of early morning saw everyone depart, carrying with them or in them food enough for many days, Thus ended the great ball given to balance the debt of hospitality owed by the bachelors to their married friends, and now will come the committee's collector for money to pay the piper.

January 31st.
Manila has been quite outdoing herself lately, and the gayeties have been numerous. The opening of the Royal Exposition of the Philippines took place last week, and was quite as elaborate as the name itself.

The Exposition buildings were grouped along the raised ground filled in on the paddy-fields, by the side of the broad avenue that divides our suburb of Malate from that of Ermita, and runs straight back inland from the sea. The architecture is good, the buildings numerous, and with grounds tastefully decorated with plants and fountains, it is, in a way, like a pocket edition of the Chicago Exposition.

Everybody in town was invited to attend the opening ceremonies by a gorgeously gotten-up invitation, and interesting catalogues of the purpose of the exhibition and its exhibits were issued in both Spanish and English. To be sure, the language in the catalogue translated from the Spanish was often ridiculous, and announcements were made of such exhibits as "Collections of living animals of laboring class," and "tabulated prices of transport terrestrial and submarine." But all of the elite of Manila were on hand at the ceremonies, from the Archbishop and Governor-General down to my coachman's wife, and bands played, flags waved in the fresh breeze, tongues wagged, guns fired, and whistles blew. General Blanco opened the fair with a well-worded speech on the importance of the Philippines, of the debt that the inhabitantsowed to the protection of the mother country, and of the great future predestined for the Archipelago. And just as the speaker had finished and the closing hours of the day arrived, the new electric lights were turned on for the first time.Then all Manila, hitherto illuminated by the dull and dangerous petroleum lamps, shone forth under the radiance of several hundred arc-lights and a couple of thousand incandecent ones.

The improvement is tremendous, aud the streets, which have always been dim from an excess of real tropical, visible, feelable, darkness, are now respectably illuminated.

The exposition was opened on the name-day of the little King of Spain, and every house in town was requested, if noy ordered to hang out some sort of a flag or decoration. It was said that a fine of $5 would be charged to those who did not garb their shanties in colors of some sort, and all the natives were particular to obey the law. It was indeed instructive, if not pathetic, to see shawls, colored handkerchiefs, red table-cloths, carpets, and even sofa-cushions, hanging out of windows, or on poles from poverty-stricken little nipa huts, and any article with red or yellow in it seemed good enough to answer the porpose. We, in turn, were also officially requested to show our colors, and I hung out two bath-wraps from our front window, articles which I had picked up on the recent excursion to Mindanao, and which the wild savages there wear down to the river when they go to wash clothes or themselves. But they likewise had enough red and yellow in their composition to fill the bill, and together with five pieces of red flannel from my photographic dark-room, our windows showed a most prepossessing appearance.

On the Sunday after the King's name-day, a costly display of fireworks took place off the water ,in front of the Luneta, further to celebrate the occasion. The bombs and rockets were ignited from large floats anchored near the shore, while complicated set-pieces were erected on tall bamboos standing up in the water, in front of the Luneta, further to celebrate the occasion. The bombs and rockets were ignited from large floats anchored near the shore, while complicated set-pieces were erected on tall bamboos standing up in the water and bolstered from behind with supports and guy-lines. The exhibition began shortly after dinner, and never had I seen a crowd of such large dimensions before in Manila. There must have been twenty- five thousand people jammed into the near vicinity of the prominade, and a great sea of faces islanded hundreds of traps of all species and genders.

The display was excellent, and both of the large military bands backed it up with good music. One of the pieces was a royal representation of a full rigged man-of-war carrying the Spanish flag, and she was shown in the act of utterly annihilating an iron-clad belonging to some indefinite enemy. The reflection in the water doubled the beauty of the scene, and with rockets, bombs, mines, parachutes, going up at the same time, there was little intermission to the excitement. Several rockets came down into the crowd, and one alighted on the back of a pony, causing him to start off on somewhat of a tangent. Otherwise there was no disasters, and it was nearly midnight before the great audience scattered in all directions.

The electric lights, of course, are of tremendous interest to the more ignorant natives, and every evening finds groups of the latter gathered around the posts supporting the arc-lamps, looking upward at the sputtering carbon, or examining the bugs which lose their life in attempting to make closer analysis of the artificial suns.

A fresh edition of the opera company has come out again from Italy, and performances are given Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Everybody as usual,is allowed behind the scene during the intermissions,and the other evening,in the middle of the most pathetic scene in "Faust," a Yankee skipper, somewhat the jollier from a shore dinner, walked directly across the back of the stage and took his hat off to the audience. Episodes like this are hardly common, but in Manila there are not the barriers to the stage door that exist in the U. S. A. The artillery-band on the Luneta has several times played the "Washington Post March" which you sent me, and which I gave to the conductor. The championship games at the tennis-court have begun, and all the English colony generally assemble there to see the play just before sunset. Small dinners and dances are also numerous, and the cool weather seems to be encubating gayety.

February 22d.

Manila is said to be the most complete astronomical, meteorological observatory anywhere cast of the Mediterranean. Not to miss anything of such reputation, several of us decided to make a call on Padre Faure, who presides over the institution, and who is well known scientifically all over the world. At the observatory we were codially received by an assistant, who spoke English well enough to turn as off from using Spanish, and were conducted over the establishment. Here were machines which would write down the motions of the earth in seismological disturbances, and which conveyed to the ear various subterranean noises going on below the surface. Still other instruments were so delicate that they rang electric bells when mutterings took place far underground, and thus warned the observers of approaching trouble. Another, into which you could look, showed a moving black cross on a white ground, that danced at all the slight tremblings continually going on; and the rumbling of a heavy cart over the neighboring highroad would make it tremble with excitement. A solid tower of rock twenty feet square extended up through the building from bottom to top, and was entirely disconnected with the surrounding structure. On this column all of the earthquake-instruments were arranged; and any sort of an oscillationthat took place would be recorded in ink on charts arranged for the purpose. Various wires and electric connections were everywhere visible, and an approaching disturbance would be sure to set enough bells and tickers a-going to arouse one of the attendants.

The great school-building in which the observatory was placed was fully six hundred feet square, with a large court-yard in the centre containing fountains and tropical plants in profution.After leaving the lower portions of the building, we ascended through long hallways, to visit the meteorological department above. Barometers, thermometers, wind-gauges, rain-measurers, and all sorts of recording instruments filled a most interesting room; and Padre Faura gave us a long discourse on typhoons, earthquakes, and various other phnomena. Fron the roof of the ovservatory a splended view of the city, Bay, and adjacent country may be had, and Manila lay before us steaming in the sun. Before leaving, we saw the twenty-inch telescope, constructed in Washington under the direction of the Padre who was our guide, which is soon to be installed in a special building constructed for the purpose. He seemed much impressed by the United States, and at our departure presented us with one of the monthly observatory reports, with give the whole story of the movements of the earth, winds, heavens, tides stars and clouds, at every hour of the day and night, for every day during the month, and for every month during the year.

Last Monday was again the usual bank-holiday; and on the Saturday before, the customary three of us who seem to be more energetic at seeing the country than our friends, decided to take another excursion up the river into the hill-country.

In the forenoon we gave orders to the boys to get ready the provisions, and meet us at the club-house in the early afternoon. Our plan was to take one of the light randans from the boat-house, row up the river for twelve or fifteen miles, take carromatas up into the hills to a place called Antipolo, and finally to horseback it over the mountains to Bossa Bossa, a lonely hill village, ten miles farther on.

The time came. All of our goods and chattels were piled into the boat. We took off white coats, put on our big broad-brimmed straw hats, turned up our trouserloons, and prepared for a long row up against the current. But, thanks to Providence, we were able to hitch onto one of the stone-lighters that regularly bring rock down from the lake district, for use on the new breakwater and port-works at Manila, and which was being towed up for more supplies. The sun got lower and lower, and finally set, just as the moon rose over the mountains. The sail in the soft light of the evening was very picturesque, and the bankswere lined with the usual collection of native huts, in front of which groups of natives were either washing clothes or themselves. Large freight cascos or small bancas were either being poled up-stream by heated boatmen, or were drifting lazily down with the current, and everywhere a sort of indolent attractiveness prevailed. We continued on behind the lighter until almost at the lake itself; then cast adrift and branched off into a small side-stream that run up toward the hills in a northerly direction. On we wound, now between a deep fringe of bamboo-trees, now between open meadows, now between groups of thatched huts, and again through clumps of fish-weirs, coming at last to a town called Cainta, nearly an hour's now from the main stream. We stopped beneath an old stone bridge that carried the main turnpike to Manila to the mountains, and were greeted by all the town's-people, who were out basking in the moonlight.They had evidently never seen a boat of the randan type before, and expressed much curiosity at the whole equipment. Before many moments the governor of the village appeared in the background and asked us to put up at his residence. Ten willing natives seized upon our goods and chattels, others pulled the boat up on the sloping bank, and we adjoured to the small thathched house where lived our host. The filipinos gathered around outside, the privileged ones came in, and everybody stared. The governor did everything for our amusement; called a sining-girls, with an old chap who played on the guitar, and otherwise arranged for our intertainment. At eleven he said "Shoo" and everybody left. His wife gave us pieces of straw matting to sleep on, and we stretched out upon one of those familiar floors of bamboo slats which make one feel like a pair of rails on a set of cross-ties.

Lare the family all turned in on the floor in the same manner, and soon the cool night-wind was whistling up through the apertures.

Next morning, Sunday, a hot dusty ride of an hour and a half, over a fearful road, continually ascending, brought us to Antipolo, a stupid village commanding a grand view over the plains toward Manila and the Bay beyond. To find out where we could get ponies to take us over the rough foot-path to Bossa Bossa, we called at the big convento where lived the priests who officiate at the great white church, whose tower is visible from the capital. Mass was just over, but the stone corridors reverberated with loud jestings and the click billiard-balls above. On going upstairs, we broke in a group of padres playing billiards, drinking beer, smoking cigars, and cracking jokes ad libitum. They recieved us cordially, did not seem inclined to talk much on religious subjects, but advised us where we might find the necessary horse-flesh. Not so much impressed with their spirituality as with their courtesy, we left, got three ponies and two carriers, and started out for the ride over the mountains.

The path was narrow and steep, the sun was hot, but the scenery was good. On and up we went, until the view back and down over the lower country became more extensive. Across brokes, over stones,through gullies, and over trees carried us to the last rise, and after passing through a grove of mangoes we came to the edge of the ridge. Down below, in a fair little valley that looked like a big wash-basin, lay Bossa Bossa, a small collection of houses shutting in a big church without a steeple. Squarely up behind, on the other side of the valley, rose the lofty peaks of the cordilleras, and the scene was good enough for the most critical.

On decending to the isolated little pueblo, we got accommodation in the best house in the place, belonging to the native Governor, and adjourned for rest and refreshments. All we had left to eat in our baskets were two cold chickens, three biscuits,and four bottles of soda. We sent out for more food, and in half an hour a boy came back with the only articles that the market afforded--two cocoanuts The house in which we were seemed to be the only one in town that possessed a chair, and , as it was, we found it more comfortable to sit on the floor. This was the centre of the great hunting-district, and all around in the hills and mountains deer and wild boar were abundant. During the following night it was so cold that it was possible to see one'sbreath, and without coverings as we were , the whole party dreamed of arctic cicles and polar bears. At daylight next morning, numb with the cold, we sat down to a breakfast consisting of carabao milk and a hard bread made of pounded -rice flour, and felt pretty fairly well removed from tropics and civilization. The old church, which we could see out of the window, stood in a small plaza, and the steeple, which consisted of four tall post covered by a small roof of thatch that protected a group of bells from the morning dew, was off by itself in a corner of the churchyard. A long clothes-line seemed to lead from the bells to a native house across the street, and we learned that the sexton was accustomed to lie in bed and ring the early morning chimes by wagging his right foot, to which the string was attatched.

On the return trip we met a large party of hunters coming up from Manila for a week's deer-shooting, and by noon got back to Antipolo, wher we rested in the police-station to wait for our carromatas that were to arrive at one o'clock.

The return to Cainta was not as hot and dusty as the advance, but we were pleasantly recieved by our friend the governor, who had instructed the"boys' to have refreshment ready for us. Later in the afternoon, we prepaired to return to the metropolis, and the whole village came down to see us off. The governor refused to accept money for the use of his house, we were all invited to come again, and amid to chorus of cheers we shoved off for Manila.

The row down took only three hours, but on getting to the club, at moonrise, it seemed as if we had been away three weeks.

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