Share this page:
Lotteries, Chances, and Mischances - An American Cigarette-making Machine and its Fate - Closing up Business - How the Foreigner Feels Toward Life in Manila - Why the English and the Germans Return - Restlessness among the Natives - Their Persecution - Departure and Farewell
I lost $80,000 yesterday. Perhaps I have spoken of lottery tickets, but have failed to say what an important institution in Manila the "Loterîa Nacional" really is. Drawings come each month over in the Lottery Building in Old Manila, and everybody is invited to inspect the fairness with which the prize-balls drop out of one revolving cylinder like a peanut -roaster while the ticket-number balls slide out of the other. The Government runs the lottery to provide itself with revenue, and starts off by putting twenty -five per cent. of the value of the ticket-issue into its own coffers. If all the tickets are not sold, the Loterîa Nacional keeps the balance for itself and promptly pockets whatever prizes those tickets draw. Lottery tickets are everywhere, in every window, and urchins of all sizes and genders moon about the streets selling little twentieths to such as haven't the ten dollars to buy a whole one. Guests at dinner play cards for lottery tickets paid for by the losers, Englishmen bet lottery tickets that the Esmeralda won't bring the mail from home, and natives dream of lucky numbers, to go searching all over town for the pieces that bear the figures of their visions
Four months ago I got reckless enough to plank $10 on the counter of a little shop, which, at the corner of the Escolta and the Puente de España, is said to dispence the largest number of winning tickets, and become the owner of number 1700. It sounded too even, too commonplace, to be lucky, but as it was considered unlucky to change a ticket once handed you, Itrudged off and locked the paper in the safe. The drawing came, and 1700 drew $100. Fortune seemed bound my way, so I made arrangement(as so many buyers oflucky tickets do) to keep 1700 every month. My name was put in the paper as holding 1700, and for three long months I remembered to send my servant to the Government office ten days before the drawing, fo the ticket reserved in my name. But for three drawings it never tempted fotune. Last week I forgot lottery and everything else in our further struggle with a new piece of American machinery which was being introduced for the first time to Manila, and woke up to-day to find it the occasion of the drawing. My ticket --uncalled for-- had been sold. At noon I walked by the little tienda whose proprietor had first given me the fatal number, to see him perchd up on a step-ladder, posting up the big prizes, as fast as they came to his wife by the telephone. The space opposite the first prize of $80,000 was empty. His wife handed him a paper. Into the grooves he slid a figure 1, then a 7, and then two cyphers. Ye gods--my ticket! The capital prize -- not mine ! $80,000 lost because I forgot -- and to think that the whole sum would have been paid in in hard jingling coin, for which I should have had to send a dray or two! But I am not quite so inconsolable as my friends the two Englishmen, who kept their ticket for two years, and at last, discouraged, sold it, Chrismas-eve, to a native clerk, only to wake up next day and find it had drawn $100,000. They have never been the same since. Nor have I.
And the machine that caused all the trouble--another whim of our rich friend, the owner of the fire engine, who saw from our catalogues on our office table that American cigarette-machines could turn out 125,000pieces a day against some 60,000, the capacity of the French mechanisms, which were in use in all the great factories in Manila. He wanted one tfor his friend that ran athe little tobacco-mill in a back street, for whom he furnished the capital. If it worked, he was in the market for two dozens more, and vowed to knock spots out of the big Compañia General and Fabrica Insular.
Out came our machine some weeks ago, and with it two skilled machinists to make it work. The big companies pricked up their ears and appeared clearly averse to seeing an American article introduced, which should outclass the French machines for which they had contracted.
One morning the two machinist came to our office and handed us an anonymous note which had been thrust under the door of their room at the Hotel Oriente:
"Stop your work --it will be better for you."
It was perhaps not diplomatic, but we told them the story of the two Protestant missionaries who some years before came to Manila and attemted to preach their doctrines in the face of Catholic disapproval. One morning they found a piece of paper beneath their door in the samehotel, reading:
"Stop your work and leave the city, or take the consequences."
Still they heeded not; and a third paper under the door,some days later, read:
"For the last time you are warned to leave. Heed this and beware of neglect to do so."
But, like Christian soldiers, they were only the more zealous in their work.
In two days more they were found dead in their rooms--poisoned.
Our friends, the engineers, were not soothed by a relation of these facts, but kept on with their work. In three days they, too, got a second warning:
"Leave your work and go away by the first steamer."
Things began to look serious, and the more timid mechanic of the two could hardly be restrained from buying a ticket to Hong Kong.
When, however, in two more days, a third piece of yellow paper was slipped into their rooms, bearing the pencilled words,"For the last time you are told to take the next steamer," the matter assumed such proportions that we arranged to have them see the Archbishop, whose knowledge is far-reaching and whose power complete. The letters were suddenly stopped and the work on the machine carried to a successful completion.
Then came the day of trial, and invitations were extended to interested
persons to view the operation.The parts could not be made in Manila; America was far away,and our two machinist have just gone home in disgust.
Is it a wonder that I forgot the lottery drawing?
Somehow there are currents of trouble in the air, and some of the old residents say they wouldn't be surprised to see the outbreak of a revolution among the natives. Peculiar night-fires have been seen now for some time, burning high up on the mountain-sides and suddenly going out. There seems to be some anti-American sentiment among the powers that be, and only last week matters came to a crisis by the Government putting an embargo on the business of one of the largest houses here, in which an American is a partner. Smuggled silk was discovered coming ashore at night, supposedly from the Esmeralda, and as that steamer was consigned to the firm in question, the authorities demanded payment of a fine of $30,000. Our friends refused, the officials closed the doors of their counting-room, our consul cabled to Japan for war-ships again, the Governor-General read the telegram, hasty summons were given to the parties concerned, heated arguments followed, and the matter was finally smoothed over on the surface.
But there seems to be a distinct feeling against us, and we have been instructed from home to prepare to leave--making arrangements to turn our business into the hands of an English firm, who will act as agents after our departure.
The cable has come, and we hope by next month to leave this land of intrigue and iniquity. It has treated me well, but complications are daily appearing in the business world, and if we get away without suddenly being dragged into some civil dispute it will be delightful.
I am glad to have been here these two years nearly, but it is time to thicken up one's blood again in cooler climes, and I feel these fair islands are no place for the permanent residence of an American. We seem to be like fish out of water here in the far east, and as few in numbers. The Englishman and the German are everywhere, and why shouldn't they be? Their home-roosts are too small for them to perch upon, and they are born with the instinct to fly from their nests to some foreign land. But, America is so big that we ought not to feel called upon to swelter in the tropics amid the fevers and the ferns, and I, for one, am content to " keep of the grass" of these distant foreign colonies.
The Englishman or German comes out here on a five-years' contract, and generally runs up a debit balance the first year that keeps him busy economizing the other four. At the end of his first season, he wishes he were at home. At the end of the second, he has exhausted all the novelties of the new situation. At the close of the third, he has settled down to humdrum life. At the end of the fourth, he has completely divorced from home habits and modern ideals. And at the close of the fifth, he goes home a true Filipino, though thinking all the while he is glad to get away. He says he is never coming back, but wiser heads know better. He has heard about America, and goes home via the States, to see Niagara and New York. But his first laundry-bill in San Francisco so scatters those depreciated silver " Mexicans" which have lost half their value in being turned into gold, that he takes the fast express to the Atlantic coast, and leaves our shores by the first steamer. At home, his friends have all got married or had appendicitis, and the bustle of London, the raw rainstorms of the cold weather and the conventionality of life all bring up memories of the Philippines, which now seem to lie off there in China Sea surrounded by a halo. And so, before a year is out, he renews his contract, and at the end of a twelvemonth goes sailing back Manilaward to take up the careless life where he left it, and grow old in Escolta or the Luneta. In London he paid his penny and took the bus, he lived in a dingy room, and packed his own bag. But in Manila, with no more outlay, he owns his horse and carriage, he lives in a spacious bungalow with many rooms, and he lets his servants wait on him by inches. How do I know? Oh, because we've talked it all over, now that our turn for departure comes next.
The whispering of a restlessness among the natives continue, and its hard to see why indeed they do not rise up against their persecutors, the tax-gatherers and the guardia civil. Ten per cent. of their average earning have to go to pay their poll-taxes, and if they can not produce the receipted bills from their very pockets on any avenue or street-corner, to the challenge of the veterana, they are hustled off to the cuartel, and you are minus your dinner or your coachman. Once in the hands of the law, they are then drafted into the native regiments for operations against those old enemies, the Moros, in the fever stricken districts of Mindanao, and their wives or families are left to swallow Spanish reglamentos. They have not forgotten their brothers, who, dragged down from the north, went to the bottom in the typhoon which pushed the Gravina down. They have not forgotten the execution in thepublic square. They remember that the Spaniards address them with the servile pronoun "tu," not "usted," and some day they may remember not to forget. They are not quarrelsome, but they are treacherous; they are not fighters,but when they run amuck they kill right and left alone, to be able to shake cocoanut from the palm for their morning's meal, or to collect the shakings from a thousand trees and and ship them to Manila; to collect the few strands of fibre to sew the nipa thath to the frame of their bamboo roof, or to gather enough to fill the schooner for the capital; in fact, to be able to work or not to work, and to know that the results of their labor are to be theirs, not somebody else's.
But what has all this got to do with our hegira? These last days have been replete with the labors attendant on breaking camp before the long march. Clearings out of furniture, selling one's ponies and carriages, closing up of books, shipping of one's cases and curious on those hemp-ships that are to start on the long 20,000-mile voyage to Boston,and trying to think of the things that have been left undone,or ought to be done, have all gone to make the season a busy one.
Now that it has come down to actually leaving Manila, I begin to feel the home sickness that comes from tearing one's self away from the midst of friends and a congenial life. I shall miss the hearty Englishman with whom I rowed or played tennis or went into the country. I shall miss the servants who got so little for making life the easier. I shall miss the ponies, the dogs with the black tongues, and the cats with the crooks in their tails; the big fire-engines which we used to run, and which has now been varnished over to save trouble in cleaning; the Luneta, with its soft breezes and good music, the walks out on to the long breakwater to see the sunset, and the hob-nobbing with the old salts from the ships in the bay, who called our office the American oasis in the midst of a great desert of foreign houses. But the clock has struck, and the Esmeralda ought early next month to start us on the forty-day voyage back to God's country.
Is this sleep, or not sleep? Is it reality or fancy? Am I laboring under a hallucination, a weird phantasmagoria, or are my powers of appreciation, my efferent nerve-centres and connecting links, my sum total of receptive faculties, doing their duty? I feel hypnotized. I kick myself to see if this is real, and am only led to conclude it is by looking into my sewing-kit, where the needles are rusty, the thread gone, and the depleted stock of suspender-buttons wrongly shoved into the partition labelled "piping cord." I never did know what piping-cord was.My socks are holy, my handkerchiefs have burst in tears, and my lingerie in general looks as if it had been used for a Chinese ensign onone of the ships that fought in the naval battle of the Yalu. For two years those garments have held together under the peculiar processes of Philippine laundering, but now that barbarians have once more got hold of them and subjected them to modern treatment, they recognize the enemy and go to pieces. And so the condition of my clothes leads me to believe I am awake, although everything else suggests the dream.
Actually away from Manila, actually eating food that is food once more,actually sleeping on springs and mattresses, putting on heavier clothes, talking the English language, meeting civilized people, and realizing what it means to be homeward bound! It seems unreal after those two years of Manila life that was so different, so divorced from the busy life of the western world; much more unreal than did the new Philippine environment appear two years ago, after jumping into it fresh from God's country, as the Captain called it.
Here we are, eight days out from Manila, steaming up through that far-famed inland sea of Japan, on the good ship Coptic, bound for San Francisco; and for the life of me those twenty-four moons just passed all seem to huddle into yesterday. Surely it was only the day before that the China was taking me and my trunks the other way. And so it takes but eight short days of new experiences, new food, new air, to efface completely the effect of seven hundred yesterdays in the Philippines. Those whole seven hundred seem now as but one, and when I think of all the housekeeping, the bookkeeping, the hemp-pressing,and the cheerful putting up with all sorts of things, they all seem to be playing leapfrog with each other in the deam of the night, and I wake up to find the pines of Japan lending a certain cordial to the air that is very grateful. We never knew what we were missing in Manila in the slight matter of eating alone until we got over to Hong Kong again, and it is perhaps just as well we didn't. To think of the "dead hen," as they call it , and rice, the daily couple of eggs, the fried potatoes,and the banana-fritters on which we have tried to fatten our frames, and then look at the bill of fare on the Coptic! We exiles from Manila have gained over five pounds in these eight days, and would almost go through another two years in the haunts of heathendom for the sake of again living through a sundry few days like the past eight, in which the inner man wakes up to see his opportunities, and makes up for lost time on soups that are not all rice and water, on fish that is not fishy, on chickens that are not boiled almost alive, on roast that taste not of garlic, on vegetables that are something more than potatoes, on butter that is not axle-grease, and on puddings and pies that are not made of chopped blotting paper and flavored with pomatum sauces.
An exuberance of spirit must be forgiven, for so welcome is the change from the old cultivated Manila contentment that the present burst of native enthusiasm is but natural. Not that I am playing false to the Malay capital - for let it be said that when once you have forgotten the good things at home the articles which that Pearl of the Orient had to furnish went well enough indeed - but that after schooling one's taste to things of low degree it is peculiarly melodramatic to return to things of high estate.
Our send-off from Manila on the 14th was as gay as the sad occasion could warrant, and several launch-loads of the "bosses and the boys" worried out to bid us a last adios. The Esmeralda was to have the honor of taking us away from the place to which she had brought us, andI was thoroughly prepared to go through the interesting process that was needed finally to straighten me out after the peculiar twisting which the voyage from Manila to Hong Kong had given me two years before.
The sunset over the mountains at the mouth of the bay was eminently fitting in its concluding ceremonies, and it seemed to do its best for us on this last evening in the Philippines. The many ships in the fleet lay quietly swinging at their anchors. The breeze from the early northeast monsoon blew gently off the shore, and Manila never looked fairer than she did on that evening, with her white churches and towers backed up against the tall blue velvet mountains, and her whole long low-lying length lifted, as it were, into mid-air by the smooth sea-mirror between us and the shore.
Captain Taylor was as jovial and entertaining as ever, and the colony had no reason to regret being participators in the fairwell. We well realized that our departure was an epoch in the life of the little Anglo-Saxon colony, and in a city where important events are registered as occurring "just after Smith arrived" or "just before Jones went away," it was essential to give the occasion weight enough to carry it down into the weeks succeeding our departure.
Our native servants came off with the bags and baggage and seemed to show as much feeling as they had ever exhibited in the receipt of a Christmas present or a box in the ear. And some of our old Chinese friends, from whom we bought bales and bales of hemp in the days gone by, came too, bringing with them presents of silk and tea. Everybody looked sad and thirsty, and made frequent pilgrimages to the saloon inquest of the usual good-bye stimulant.
The Esmeralda panted to get away, and we had our last words with the motley little assemblage. We were seeing Manila and most of them for the last time, and I confess that they and the shore often looked gurgled up in the blur that somehow formed in our eyes.
The sun sank below the horizon; the swift darkness that in the tropics hurries after it, brought the electric lights&Mac226; twinkling gleam out onthe Luneta and the long Malecon road running along in front of the old city, from the promenade to the river. The revolving light on the breakwater cast a red streak over the river. The white eye on Corregidor, far away, blinked as the night began, and ,just as the warning of "all ashore" was sounded, the faint strains of the artillery band playing on the Luneta floated out on the breeze over the sleepy wares of the Bay.
Our friends clambered aboard the launch, the customs officers took a last taste of the refreshment that Captain Tayler gives them to make them genial, the anchor was hoisted, and, with cheers from the tug and the screeching of launch-whistles, the Esmeralda put to sea, bearing with her, in us two, half of the American colony in Manila and the only American firm in the Philippines.
Share this page:
Table of Contents of Yesterdays in the Philippines
© 2005-19 FabulousPhilippines.com. All Rights Reserved.