Share this page:
Exacting Harbor Regulations -The Eleanor Takes French Leave - Loss of the Gravina - Something about the Native Ladies - Ways of Native Servants - A Sculptor who was a Dentist - Across the Way to Orani - Children in Plenty - A Public Execution by the Garotte
If a ship in the Bay desires to load or discharge cargo on Sunday or religious holidays, permission can only be obtained through the Archbishop, not the Governor-General. The Easter season has come and gone, and as the Captain of the Esmiralda could not succesfully play on the feeling of the highest dignitary of the church, his steamer had to lie idle for the holidays, and so miss connecting with the Peking, which ought to have taken the United States mail.
The American yacht Eleanor dropped anchor in the Bay the other afternoon, and it seemed good again to see the countenances of some of our countrymen. It appears that Spanish officials did not consent to treat her with the courtesy which a yacht or war-ship merits, and went so far as to station carabineros on her decks, as is customary on merchant-vessels to prevent smuggling. The Eleanor presented a fine appearance as she lay among the fleet of more prosaic craft, and her rails were decorated with Gatling guns put there for the voyage up through the southern archipelagoes where pirates reign. On the Wednesday, before Holy Thursday, the owner of Eleanor decided to start for Hong Kong, that his guests might enjoy Eater Sunday in those more civilized districts that surround the English cathedral. The yacht, like any merchantman was obliged to get her clearance papers from the custom-house before she sailed, and to that end the Captain went ashore shortly after midday. But the chief of the harbor office had gone home for a siesta, remarking that he would not return until Monday, and that any business coming up would have to wait till then for attention.
"But I must have my papers ," said the Captain, "for we leave to -night for China."
"Them you cannot have till Monday," replied the hireling in charge.
"Then I shall have to sail without them,"answered the Captain, and he stormed out of the office to find the consul, whom he hoped would straighten matters out. But the efforts of the consul were of no avail. The king-pin of the harbor office refused to be interviewed, and the Captain of the yacht returned aboard with fire in his eye. After a council of war had been held, it was decided to sail, papers or no papers, and the two soldiers who were pacingup and down the deck were told the vessel was going to sea.
"But we dont let you go without your papers," said they .
"Papers or no papers, we are going to sea to-night," roared the Captain. " And if you fellows don't git aboard into that boat mighty quick, we'll be feeding you to the sharks."
The gatling guns and show of rifles in the companion-way looked eloquent, and the two carabineros, murmuring that they would surely be killed for neglect of duty when they got ashore, were pushed down the gangway into a row-boat as the Eleanor got her anchor up, and steamed out of the Bay in the face of Providence and the Southwest wind,almost across the bows of the Spanish flagship Reina Cristina. A tremendous diplomatic hullabaloo resulted. The consul was summoned, the guards were blown up by the discharge of verval powder, and it almost looked as if our representative would have to send for war-ships. But the matter has finally been straightened out, and the passengers on the Eleanor have probably had their Easter Sunday at Hong Kong.
Curiously enough, for April, another typhoon has recently sailed through the gap in the mountains to the north of our capital, and gone swirling over to China, leaving in its wake a sunken steamer, which foundered with her living freight of close to three hundred souls, Out in front of the big steamship office across the way hundreds of natives are inquiring for their brothers or husbands or children. It seems the Gravina, a ship of the best part of a thousand tons, was coming down from the north, heavily loaded with rice, tobacco, and native boys, who for not paying their tax bills had been drafted into service for the purpose of being sent against the savages of Mindanao. She had only fifty more miles to go before reaching the entrace of Manila Bay, when the barometer fell, the wind hauled ti the northwest, and the typhoon struck her. Her after-hatchway was washed overboared,and, deep in the water as she was, the seas washed over into the opening. As fast as fresh coverings were substituted they were ripped off and carried away. The engines became disabled, the water rushed into the broiler-room putting out the fires, and the passengers, who were locked into the cabins, were panic-stricken. The steamer began to settle, and under the onsluaght of a big sea, accompanied with terrific wind, suddenly heeled over and foundered with all on board, save three, the Captain standing on the bridge as she went down, crying "Viva España." Two natives and a Spanish woman got clear of the ship before she sucked them under, and floated about on an awning-pole and a deck-table. Scarcely had the survivors got clear of one danger before a shark swooped down on the Spanish woman, and attracted by her lighter, bit off a limb. He paid no attention to the two natives kicking out their feet near by, and though neither of them could swim a stroke, they managed to paddle ashore on their supports, after being in the water two nights and a day.
These two men, the only survivors of the large passenger-list of the Gavina, came into our office yesterday, and, after giving a graphic description of the catasrophe, easily got us to loosenour purse-strings. The accident is the worst that has occured for many a day, and there is a gloom in the whole city. Tthe newspapers came out with black borders, and many families are bereaved.
The more I see of these native servants, the more I appreciate that they are great fabricators and excuse-makers. Your boy, for example, every now and then wants an advance of five or ten dollars on his salary. His father has just died, and he tells you, and he needs the money to pay for the saying of a mass for the repose of his soul. then comes another boy, who says that his sister's marrying somebody or other his aunt has become his grandmother, and he wants cinco pesos, to buy her a present of a fighting-cock or something else. This matter of relationship here in the Philippines is a most delicate one to keep control of, and in the matter of deaths, births, and marriages among your servants' relations it is very essential that you keep an accurate list of the family tree, so that you may check up any tendency on their part to kill off their fathers and mothers more than twice or three times during the year for the purposes of self-aggrandizement. As an example of this, my own boy actually had the cheek to ask me for the loan of a dozen dollars to arrange for the repose of the soul of one of his relatives I had once before assisted him to bury.
I seem to have gone a long way in my chronicles without speaking much of the native "ladies" in Manila, and I owe them an apology. But one of them the other day so swished her long pink calico train in front of a pony that was cantering up to the club with a carromata in which two of us were seated, that we were dumped out into a muddy rice-field by the wayside. So the apology should be mutual. The costumes worn by the women are far from simple and are made up of that brilliant skirt with long trian that is swished around and tucked into the belt in front, the short white waist that, at times divorced from the skirt below, has huge flaring sleeves of piña handkerchief which, folded on the diagonal. encircles the neck. They wear no hats, often go without stockings, and invariably walk as if they were carrying a pail of water on their heads. They generally chew betelnuts, which color the mouth an ugly red, smoke cigars, and put so much cocoanut-oil on their straight, black hair that it is not pleasant to get to leeward of them in an open tram-car. Otherwise they are generally the mothers of many children and often play well on a harp.
I made a call on the local dentist yesterday, and found him sitting on a wooden figure of St. Peter, carving some expression into the face. I thought I had got into a carpenter's shop instead of a dental establishment, and apologezed for the intrusion. But the gentleman said he was the dentist, and dropped his mallet and chisel to usher me into his other operating-room. It is quite a jump from carving out features of apostles to filling teeth, but on being assured that he had recieved due instruction from an American dentist, I allowed him to proceed to business. The whole operation lasted about seven and one-half minutes, and by the time I had got out my dollar to pay him for the filling I swallowed soon after, he was again at work on Biblical subjects.
All in all it doesn't pay to neglect one's health in the Philippines, for the only English doctor that Manila boasts of has been here so long that the climate has shrivelled up his memory. After he has attended your serious case of fever or influenza for several days, he will suddenly stroll in some morning and give you a sinking feeling with the words:
"Oh, by the way, what is the matter with you?"
This is hardly comforting to one who considers himself a gone coon, but in justice to our friend the medico, I must say he never displays these symptoms to patients whose case is really getting desperate. Tons and tons of water have been drunk up by the clouds of late, and have just now begun to be unceremoniously dumped down upon flat Manila, so that she has seemed likely to be washed into the sea. But rain has been badly needed. A long heat has made many the worse for wear, and the doctors have all said that unless the rain came soon, an epidemic would probably break out.
Before the showers began, we improved the spare time of another Sunday and bank-holiday by an aquatic excursion to some of the provincial towns away across to the north side of Manila Bay. Don Capitan, the puchaser of our fire-engine and the millionaire ship-owner who runs several lines of steamers and storehouses, was our host, and invited us to spend the days as his guests aboard the trim paddle-wheel steamer that makes regular trips to the bay ports. Early on Sunday morning we started from the quay in front of the big hemp-press, and while the lower decks of the steamer were crowded with native market-women,, fishermen, and Chinese, the more sightly portions of the upper prominade were reserved for us and provided with Vienna chairs. Breakfast was served in a large chart-room connected with the wheel-house, and was fitting accompaniment to the fresh sail out of the river through the shipping.
After discharging groups of passengers and frieght into large tree-trunk boats at several little villages, we came at noon to Orani, the end of the outward run. The sister-in-law of the jet-black captain owned the largest house in the village,and put it at our disposal. Our advent had been heralded the day before, and a groaning table supported a sumptuous repast.
There were four of us besides the half-castle family of the captain's sister-in-law, and an old withered-up Spaniard who used to be governor of the village. Various cats roamed around the table, and on top were toothpicks built up into cones, Spanish sausages, olives, flowers, and fruit with an unpronounceable name, that looked like freshly dug potatoes well covered with soil.
Beside each chair was a red clay jar, into which and only the dudes of the one hundred and two percent. wore that.
Much to our amusement, the loiterers by the way-side everywhere saluted us with a "Buenos tardes, Padre," and it appeared that since the holy father is the only one who drives regularly in a landau, the whole population thought of course we must be he, or some of his saintly brethren. And so we went until the gathering dakness compelled a return to the starting-point. An elaborate supper, consisting of hard shelled crabs and other indigestables, was followed by an impromptu dance and musicale, and the evening ended in a burst of song.
Next morning the steamer took us and a load of fish and vegetables back to the capital.
Our modern journals, I know, rejoice to go into all the gruesome details of crime and its punishment and many of their readers take as much morbid pleasure in poring over accounts of hangings, picture of the culprit, diagrams of his cell, and last conversations with the jailer, as to the reports in getting the information with which to make up long, padded articles paid for by the column. Iam not mobidly curious myself, and trust you will not think I went to see the capital punishment of two murderers for any other than purely scientific reasons.
The two men who were executed on July 4th, just passed, were convicted of chopping a Spaniard to pieces to get the few dollars which he kept in his house, and to avenge themselves for harsh treatment. They were nothing more than native boys, one twenty and theother twenty-two, employed as servants in the family of the unfortunate victim. In short, they were sentenced to death by the garrote, and to the end of carrying out the decree a platform was erected in the open parade-ground behind the Luneta. But the people in the neighborhood objected. The woman said they could not sleep from thinking over it, and could not bear to have their children see the scaffold.General Blanco was petitioned, and the place of execution was changed to a broad avenue that leads down through the back part of Manila, by the public slaugther-house. Surely the selection was appropriate.
On the fatal day, my colleague and I drove to the scene shortly after sunrise, and crowds of people had already begun to come together from the adjoining districts. Carriages of all classes rolled in from all directions. Chinamen with cues, natives with their wives, women with their infants, young girls and children, old men and maidens, were all there, dressed in their best clothes.
I knew it would be useless to stand in the crowd, so I pushed over toward a nipa hut, whose windows, which were filled with natives, looked fairly out on the scaffold itself. In the name of my camera I asked admittance, with was cordially acorded, since we were "Ingleses," and on going to the upper floor we had a free view over the crowd toward the fatal flatform, with its two posts to which were attached two narrow seats. The crowd increased;they climbed into bamboo-trees, which bent to the ground; they tried to surge up on the lower framework of the house in which we were standing, and only desisted as the proprietress alshed the encroachers right and left with a bamboo-cane. The roofs of neighboring houses were black with people, the windows swarmed, and the streets below heaved. Our hostess was pleasant, though fiery, and all she wanted in return for our admission was a photograph of herself. The favor was granted, and she gave us two chairs ti sit in. The crowd increased, and the guards had hard work keeping back the struggling mass. Every available square inch of space was filled, and a sea of heads pulsated before us.
At last, cries of "aquí vienen"(here they come) arose, and the solemn procession came into view after its long journey from the central jail, over a mile away. First came the cavalry, then a group of priests, among whom marched a man wearing an apron, carrying the sacred banner of the church, embroidered in black and gold. Next marched the prison officials, and behind them came two small, open tip-carts, drawn by ponies, in which travelled the condemned men, each supported by a couple of priests who held crusifixes before their eyes, exhorting them to confess and believe.
Following the carts, which were surrounded by a square of soldiers, walked the executioner himself, a condemned criminal, but spared from being executed by his choosing to accept the office of public executioner. Last of all came a small company of soldiers, with bayonetted guns, and the whole procession advanced to the foot of the steps leading to the platfom.
The garroting instrument seems to consist of a collar of brass, whose front-piece opens on a hinge, and part of whose rear portion is susceptible to being suddenly pushed forward by the impulse of a big fourt ratescrew working through the post, something after the system of a letter-press. The criminal sentenced to death is seated on a small board attached to the upright, his neck is placed in the brass collar, the front-piece is snapped to, and when all is ready, the executioner merely gives the handle of the screw a complete turn. The small moving back-piece in the collar is by this means suddenly pushed forward against the top of the spine of the unfortunate, and death comes instantaneosly fron the snapping of the spinal cord.
The executioners in Manila have always been themselves criminals, and in breaking the spinal cords of their fellow-criminals, they certainly pay a price for keeping their own vertebrae intact. Like most men in their profession,however, they are well paid and this operator got sixteen dollars besides his regular monthly salary of twenty, for each man on whom he turned the screw.
The sights of the unfortunate prisoners in the carts, supported by the priests, was pitiable in the extreme, and their faces bore marks of unforgetable anguish. The priest ascended the platform, and the man with the embroidered banner was careful to stand far away at the side, for, according to the religious custom of the epoch, a condemned man who merely happens to touch the standard of the Church on his way to the scaffold cannot therafter be executed, but suffers only life imprisonment.
The executioner, in a derby hat, black coat, white breeches, and no shoes, took his position behind the post at one side of the scaffold, and the first victim was carried up out of the cart and seated on the narrow bench. He was too weak to help himself or make resistance; the black cloak was thrown over his shoulders, a rope tied around his waist, the hood drawn down over his face, and the collar sprung around his neck. Then, while two priests, with uncovered heads, held their crusifixes up before him, and sprinkled holy water over the hood and long, black death-robes, thr chief prison official waved his sword, the executioner gave the big screw-handle a sudden twist till his arms crossed, and without a motion of any sort, except a slight forward movement of the naked feet, the first of the condemned mem had solved the great problem.
The second poor wretch all the while cowered in the little cart, but when his turn came he ascended the steps with more fortitude. After he had put on the long black gown and hood, he seated himself on the bench at the second post and the same prosess was repeated. But the screw-thread seemed to be rusty, and one of the native officials helped the executioner give the handle an additional turn, for which he was promptly fined &20. The doctor tarried a few moments on the scaffold, the priests read several prayers and shook holy water over the immovable black-robed figures wedded to the posts, and then, after one of the acolytes had nearly set fire to the flowing gown of the head padre with his long candle, everyone descended. The remnants of the procession returned to the prison, the troops stationed themselves in a large hollow square around the scaffold, and two dark, motionless figures locked to two post s were left in the hot sun till noon, set out against the blue background of sky and clouds.
The crowds began to disperse, the young girls chatted and joked with each other, the curious were satisfied, and bamboo-trees were left to lift their heads at leisure.
Thus began Manila's Fourth or July, and curiously enough, my watch stopped and the cord-pull to my instantneous camera broke as the screw was turned on the first man to be executed.
Share this page:
Table of Contents of Yesterdays in the Philippines
© 2005-19 FabulousPhilippines.com. All Rights Reserved.