MANILLA AND THE PHILIPPINES,
DURING 1848, 1849, AND 1850.
ROBERT MAC MICKING, ESQ.
LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET, Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty.
The Philippines, in many respects situated most advantageously for trade, having long been governed by a people whose notions of government and political economy have never produced the happiest results in any of their once numerous and important colonies, appear at last to be slowly reaping the benefit of the new commercial maxims now in course of operation, in Spain, and show symptoms of progressing with increased speed in the march of civilization, encouraged by commerce. As such a state is always interesting, more especially to my countrymen, whose commercial and manufacturing welfare is closely bound up with the rate at which civilization advances in every part of the world, I have attempted to give some idea of the actual state and prospects of this valuable colony, as they appeared to me during a residence there of the three years 1848-9-50, with the double object of directing more attention to these islands than has hitherto been paid to them by our merchants and manufacturers, and of deriving some employment in doing so, during a tedious voyage from Singapore to Hongkong, when, being in a great measure debarred from personal activity, an interesting occupation was felt to be more than usually necessary to engage the mind.
There are many imperfections in the execution of my task; but for these the critical reader is requested to make some allowance, and entreated not to forget the inconveniences all landsmen are subjected to at sea.
MANILLA AND THE PHILIPPINES.
About the time the Spanish arms under Hernan Cortez, Pizarro, and Almagro, were meeting with their most splendid successes in America, the thought occurred to Hernando Magallanes, a Portuguese gentleman in the service of King Charles the Fifth of Spain, that if by sailing south he could pass the new Western World, it would be possible to reach the famous Spice Islands of the East, which he supposed to contain untold-of wealth in their bosoms. This vast, and, in the state of their knowledge at the time, apparently hardy and even rash idea, met with approval by the King, who honoured Magallanes with the distinguished military order of Santiago, and appointed him to the command of a squadron which he immediately set about fitting out to accomplish the project, with the view of conquering and annexing these islands to his crown.
At length, when all the preparations were completed, on the 10th of August, 1519, six ships, no one of which exceeded 130 tons, and some of them being less than half that size, sailed from the port of San Lucan de Barrameda on this bold and perilous enterprise.
In the prosecution of their voyage, many obstacles were encountered; but everything disappeared before the ardour of their chief, who, discovering, passed through the Straits of Magellan, which alone immortalize his name, and spreading his sails to the gale, stood boldly with his squadron, now reduced to three crazy vessels, into the unknown and vast ocean which lay open before him, with all the hardihood characteristic of his time, traversing in its utmost breadth the Pacific, without, however, chancing to meet with any of the numerous islands now scattered throughout its extent. At last, the Mariana or Ladrone Islands were descried on the 16th of August, 1521, and a few days afterwards a cape on the east coast of Mindanao was seen.
Coasting along the shores of Caraga, the ships anchored off Limasna, where Magallanes was well received by the natives of the place; from thence steering towards Cebu, he managed to establish a good understanding with the country people, although upwards of two thousand of them had assembled, armed with spears and javelins, to oppose his landing.
Having constructed a house at this place, in order that mass might be decently said, he landed to hear it, accompanied by his crews.
The royal family of Cebu, curious to observe the manners of their strange visitors, attended its celebration, and, as the story goes, were so much edified by the sight, that they were baptized Christians, and an oath of allegiance and vassalage to the King of Spain administered to them; and their example being followed to a great extent by the nobles and people of Cebu, the Christian forms of faith and the symbolic cross were planted by the Spaniards in the country of the antipodes.
Some time afterwards, Magallanes met the end which best becomes a brave and good soldier, by dying in the battle-field in the cause of his new friends and allies.
But without his master-mind to direct them, things no longer went on so smoothly between the Spaniards and the natives; and under his successor, the hostile feelings then given birth to, soon found a tragical vent, which resulted in a number of the white men being cruelly massacred by their Indian hosts, and in the flight of their companions, who, fearful of their own safety, made all sail on their ships, and bore away, leaving their unfortunate countrymen to their fate, without attempting and even refusing to ransom such of them whose lives were spared, from having been less obnoxious to the Indians than the others. This fatal accident left the surviving crews so much weakened in numerical strength, that not having men enough left to work all the ships, the "Concepcion" was set fire to, and the survivors steered towards the Moluccas.
It were tedious to follow them through all their adventures; suffice it to say, that Juan Sebastian de El Cano was the only captain who succeeded in taking his ship home again round the Cape of Good Hope. After many anxieties and vicissitudes he entered the same port of San Lucar from which he had sailed about three years before; and as a memento of his skill and of his being the first navigator who had made the circuit of the world, the king granted him for an armorial bearing, a globe, with the legend, "Primus circumdedit me," which he had thus so honourably gained.
At intervals of about four years between each other, three separate expeditions were fitted out from Spain and America for these islands, which were named "Las Felipinas" by Villalobos, commander of the last of these squadrons, in honour of the then Prince of Asturias, afterwards better known as King Philip the Second of Spain.
In the meantime the Portuguese, jealous of the vicinity of such powerful neighbours as the Spaniards, to their empire of the East which Vasco de Gama and Albuquerque had so brilliantly founded for their country, took advantage of the financial distress of the Spanish king, who was then arming against France and Germany, and for an inconsiderable amount purchased his right of conquest over all the Philippines.
But they did not long retain them; for on Prince Philip of the Asturias becoming King of Spain he regained the islands by breaking through the treaty which confirmed their sale. Having, in 1564, appointed Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi commander of an expedition fitted out for the purpose of reacquiring them, and having made him Governor and Adelantado of all the countries he could conquer,—which now-a-days appears to be rather a vague commission, but was then a custom of that venturous time,—that dignitary reached the Philippines, which had been altogether neglected by the Portuguese, and without difficulty re-established Spanish supremacy over the group, of which he may be considered as the first governor.
Their favorable reception by the natives rendered the acquisition altogether, or nearly, a bloodless one, for the warriors who gained them over to Spain were not their steel-clad chivalry, but the soldiers of the cross:—the priests, who, going out among a simple but somewhat passionate people, astonished and kindled them by their enthusiasm in the cause of Christ; while the novel doctrines they taught so enthusiastically, aided by the usual splendid accompaniments of that religion, captivated their senses, and took possession of their imaginations.
Manilla was founded on the island of Luzon, the most important of all the islands in the group; and the situation of the new capital on the shore of a long bay, into which flow numerous rivers, bringing down from the interior of a fertile country through which they run, its varied and valuable produce, has secured for it prosperity and commercial importance. A trade with China sprang up, and its commencement was soon followed by many emigrants from that densely-peopled country, whose habits of industry and prudence very soon began to increase and develope the natural fertility of the soil, and whose numerous descendants have mingled with the native character some of those useful virtues which it seems scarcely probable they would possess but for this slight mixture of blood.
Alas, that priestly ambition and the desire of domination should in time usurp the place of those laborious, enthusiastic, and pious missionaries who, so happily for the natives, had managed to revolutionize their minds, and so spared their country those scenes of blood which blot with a fearful stain the history of Spanish power in America. But the influence of churchmen, as usual, in the Philippines, was not always to be well directed; for the merciless Inquisition having established itself at Manilla, commenced its terrible career. No one was safe, none were exempt from its powers; its emissaries penetrated even into the palace of the Governor. Moderation in religion, or remissness in its strictest observances, became crimes, punishable by the severest discipline of that fearful and cruel establishment. All attempts, even when aided or directed by the authority and influence of the highest officials, to lessen its power, proved unsuccessful; and frequently a Bishop was chosen to occupy the Governor-general's place, to perform his civil and military duties! Everything was in the hands of the churchmen, the subsequent effects of which were demonstrated to the world by the easy success of the British expedition of 1762, which they permitted to enter the bay without opposition, having passed the fortified island of Corregidor at its entrance without a shot being fired to prevent them. And the same effects caused but a feeble resistance to be opposed to their arms, and the speedy surrender of Manilla by its priest-ridden and effeminate defenders.
The Government of Spain has, ever since the period of their acquisition, shown itself ignorant or neglectful of the commercial importance of these islands, the commerce of which has long been subjected to regulations and restrictions as injurious in their tendency as can well be imagined,—they being framed, apparently at least, more for the purpose of smothering it in its earliest existence than with any kindly or paternal views of nourishing and increasing it.
But a change having at length once begun, a new era may be said to have commenced with regard to them, and it is to be hoped that increasing wisdom and liberality of ideas may clear away some of the remaining obstacles which for so long encumbered, and even yet impede and circumscribe within a very narrow circle, the natural course of their commerce. For the Spanish Government are far from following a similar policy to that of the great Henry the Fourth of France, who, as an encouragement to the manufacturing industry of the country, rewarded those silk manufacturers who had carried on business for twelve years, with patents of nobility, as men who by doing so not only benefited themselves, but deserved well of their country for their enterprise and commercial spirit. Don Simon Anda was about the first person who showed any desire to augment the trade of the islands; and his election to the highest offices of the colony, after its restoration by the English, was a most fortunate event for Manilla. Although, unluckily, many of the steps he took with the best intentions, notwithstanding being infinitely in advance of those of his predecessors in office, were not always in the right direction, and consequently unattended by the highest degree of success which he aimed at, partial good results were obtained by them, and a beneficial change began to regulate affairs.
The expulsion of the Jesuits from the Philippines in 1768, by throwing their immense estates out of cultivation, and also the wars and disturbances subsequent to the French Revolution, being felt even in this remote part of the world, were attended with the worst effects to the trade and agriculture of the islands. On the peace of 1814, the condition of the country was truly deplorable, as, during a long period of isolation and inactivity, abuses had multiplied to an alarming extent, and the minds of the Indian population especially had become divided between superstition and sedition, from each of which a sanguinary catastrophe resulted. Public opinion at the time fastened on the priests the guilt of the massacre of the Protestant foreigners at Manilla in 1820, and the growing discontent of the people blew into open rebellion in 1823, under a Creole leader, who then rose and attempted to shake off the Spanish authority.
To give the reader some idea of the commercial regulations then existing, which helped, no doubt, to bring about these disorders, it may be mentioned that among many other things, even after the port of Manilla was thrown open to ships of all nations, the vessels belonging to that port itself were not allowed to trade with Europe, or to proceed beyond the Cape of Good Hope; and Government yet further limited their intercourse with the only ports of China and India which were open to them, by issuing passes to all colonial ships, the conditions of which were perfectly incompatible with the usual course of commerce, as they were required to return home directly from the port to which they were destined from Manilla, and were not at liberty to touch at, or have any intercourse with, other places than those specified in their passport.
These absurd restrictions of course prevented a ship from profiting by any freight she might be offered at the port of her destination from Manilla, because the terms of her pass made it compulsory for her to return there before she could accept any new engagement such as might be offered her, and of course, in such a case, frequently forced them to decline most profitable business; consequently, the colonial shipowners found that they had to sail their vessels at a great disadvantage with all others who were free from such interference.
Neither was the trade with Spain open to them, for the Trading Company numbered among their many other privileges, that of having the sole right of placing ships on the berth for the Peninsula.
This state of things actually remained in force till 1820, when a royal order confirmed a decree of the Cortes exempting from all duties whatever any products of the Philippines which might be imported into Spain during the ensuing ten years; and this step may be considered as the first evidence of a desire shown by that Government to give an impulse to their colonial agriculture or to the manufactures and commerce of these splendid islands.
This good work, having once begun, was followed up by the enlightened and benevolent government of Don Pascual Enrile, who was Captain-General of the Philippines from 1831 to 1835, and whose entire administration has left behind it the happiest results for the people he governed.
Commencing his reform of the laws relating to navigation by giving passes to ships, for the period of two years, without requiring them to declare to what place or places they were bound, or might touch at during their absence from the port to which they belonged, he had an opportunity of satisfying himself of the good results ensuing from non-interference; and some time afterwards entirely loosed the fetters which burdened them, by giving colonial ships liberty to sail wherever they chose without restrictions as to time or place: and certainly, his doing so was an honour for the national flag, which then waved on every sea. These concessions proved alike wise and beneficent; and since the time of their being granted, the tonnage and commerce of Manilla has increased in an amazing degree, and still goes on prosperously augmenting Her Most Catholic Majesty's treasury, besides improving the condition of the people and the agriculture of the country.
But this was far from being the only wise act of Governor Enrile, for under his administration a boon of even greater importance was secured to the country and the people of the colony, by the opening of internal communications throughout the Philippines. He established a comprehensive system of roads, and organised posts throughout the islands. Although most of the roads are now kept in most wretched order, yet being nearly always passable by horses, they are found to be of the utmost importance to the well-being of the country, even as they now exist.
But should a time come when more attention will be bestowed upon them than now is, and new ones judiciously constructed in districts where they have not yet been, the agriculture of the islands will improve to a great degree, and corresponding advantages will follow in its train to be reaped by the Government that is enlightened enough to undertake them, and which is sensible enough to know what is most for its true interests. May that day soon come, for it will be a happy one to the Philippines and all belonging to them.
On approaching Manilla from the bay in one of the bancas—or canoes having a cover as a protection against the sun—which generally go off to all ships after their anchor has been let go, and the port-captain's boat has boarded the new arrival, the spires, towers of churches, and lofty red-tiled roofs of houses or convents are all that can be seen over the walls, so that the first impressions of a stranger are not in general very vivid or interesting.
On reaching the murallon, your banca enters the waters of the Pasig river, prolonged by two piers into the bay, on the extreme point of one of which is situated a small fort garrisoned by a company of soldiers, and on the other the lighthouse, a most insignificant and nearly useless building. Passing these, the boatmen pull up the river to the garrita, a small round house, where the banca is vised by the people of the gun-boats, at all times stationed there for that purpose, and should there be any packages or baggage in it, the port-captain's deputy, or aide-de-camp, puts a guard on board, who conducts you to the custom-house for the purpose of having it inspected there; but the examination is generally not a very minute one, and personal effects are for the most part passed merely by opening the boxes and showing the tops of their contents, although you may be asked whether it contains either pocket-pistols or a bible, both of which are prohibited and seizable.
The city of Manilla, ever since its foundation, which took place at a very early period of the Spanish power in Luzon, from the natural advantages combined in its situation—so judiciously chosen by them—continued to be the capital of the Philippines, whose history ever since may be said to have centered in the transactions which at various times have taken place under the shadow of its walls.
It is built at the mouth of the river Pasig, on the low-lying and sandy point formed by its junctions with the waters of the bay, between which and the ditch that surrounds the walls on the seaward side, a level sward stretches along the beach.
An Englishman, on arriving, perceives a marked difference between the place and people and any of his country's Indian possessions; the air he breathes, and the habits he gradually falls into from seeing them the customary ones of other people, are not the same as those of his countrymen in British India. Should he be fortunate enough to have arrived towards the end of the year, in addition to the greater coolness of the weather then usually prevalent, and so delightful in the tropics, he will most probably not want opportunities for enjoying himself; as, after suffering a penitential confinement to the house during the long rainy season, for some time before Christmas, the cool nights and other circumstances induce the residents to break out into greater gaiety than is prevalent at other seasons of the year; and amusement, about that time, generally appears to be the order of the day.
The city is not unworthy of a curiosity seeker's visit. The town, within the fortifications, although not of great size, is for the most part well planned, the streets being straight, regular, and some of them kept clean and in good order, although many of the smaller ones are allowed to fall into great disrepair. They are too narrow, moreover, for the heat of the climate, as the confined air and stench frequently existing in them, are principally generated by their closeness, and more especially during the cool of the evening and early morning, are far from conducing to the health of the population.
The latitude of the citadel, or Fuerza de Santiago, is 14 deg. 36' N., longitude 127 deg. 15' E. of Cadiz, or in latitude 14 deg. 36' 8'' N., and longitude 120 deg. 53 1/2' E. of Greenwich.
The fortifications surrounding the town are regular, and apparently strong, defences; but although the walls and ditch look formidable enough in themselves, the want of sufficient good artillery to protect them would probably be felt in the event of an assault, and might render the place not a very difficult prize to a large attacking force. But no invader need now-a-days expect to meet with such very easy success as attended our expedition last century, at a time when weak and priestly notions not only ruled the church, but governed the people and the camp.
Very different feelings and modes of action are now prevalent among the white population, from those then in operation among them.
For some years past the influx of fresh blood from Europe has been very much greater than in former times, the consequence of which is that a change is creeping over the place, from the energy and enterprize of the new comers.
There is little doubt but that all this is for the best, and in the course of a few years more, I hope to hear that the Government, increasing in liberality and wisdom, will allow the natural capabilities of the Philippines to be developed, and their importance appreciated, by permitting foreigners to hold land and become planters, as without their capital and knowledge it will probably be a long time before the Spaniards of themselves attain these ends in the like perfection; such measures would ensure their doing so at once.
By far the most populous and important part of the town of Manilla is situated without the walls, and on the other side of the river from the fortified city, the intermediate communication being by a handsome bridge, one of the eight arches of which, having given way to the shock of an earthquake, has not been rebuilt, but is replaced by wood. It has been proposed to construct a drawbridge at this point, so as to allow the colonial shipping to proceed up the river above the bridge, which they cannot now do. And should the project be carried into effect, it is likely that the small sized coasting vessels, when nothing better offers for them to do, will go on to the Laguna, and supersede the clumsy cascos which now solely navigate the lake and bring down the produce of the fruitful country which surrounds it, to dispose of in the market of Manilla.
Without the walls nearly all the trade is carried on, the Escolta and Rosario, on that side of the river, being the principal streets, built however without any regard to regularity, so that they are not handsome, but in them nearly all the best Chinamen's shops are situated. These are in general very small confined places, though crammed with manufactures, the produce of Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, and of many other European and Chinese manufacturing marts. Some of the shops may also be seen stuffed to the door with the valuable Pina cloth, huse, and other productions of the native looms.
The great object of the Chinese shopmen appears to be, to show the most varied, and frequently miscellaneous, collection of goods in the smallest possible space; as, their shops being for the most part not more than ten feet broad towards the street, leaves but little space besides the doorway to display the attractions of their wares, and every inch has to be made the most of by them. These China shopkeepers have nearly driven all competition, except with each other out of the market,—very few Mestizos or Spaniards being able to live on the small profits which the competition among themselves has reduced them to. A China shopkeeper generally makes his shop his home, all of them sleeping in those confined dens at night, from which, on opening their doors about five in the morning, as they usually do, a most noisome and pestiferous smell issues and is diffused through the streets. The Mestizos cannot do this, but must have a house to live in out of the profits of the shop; and the consequence has been, that when their shopkeeping profits could no longer do that, they have nearly all betaken themselves to other more suitable occupations, from which the energies of their Chinese rivals are less likely to drive them. The number of Chinamen in Manilla and throughout the islands is very great, and nearly the whole provincial trade in manufactured goods is in their hands. Numerous traders of that nation have shops opened throughout the islands, their business being carried on by one of their own countrymen, generally the principal person of the concern, who remains resident at Manilla, while his various agents in the country keep him advised of their wants, to meet which he makes large purchases from the merchants, and forwards the same to his country friends. Besides having many shops in the provinces, each of these head men is generally in the habit of having a number of shops in Manilla, sometimes upwards of a dozen being frequently all contiguous to one another, so that any one going into one of his shops and asking for something the price of which appears too dear, refuses it and goes to the next shop, which probably belongs to the same man, and is likely to buy it, as he is apt to think—because they all ask the same price—that it cannot be got cheaper elsewhere, so gives the amount demanded for it, although it is probably very much too dear.
There is another advantage which the Chinese have found from the system they pursue,—that large purchasers of goods from the merchants who import them for sale are frequently able to buy them for less money than those smaller traders who are not in the habit of making purchases to the same amount from the importers,—as the credit of a small dealer is not sufficiently good to induce a merchant to sell them more than he imagines he is likely to be paid for.
In these Chinese shops, the owner usually engages all the activity of his countrymen employed by him in them, by giving each of them a share in the profits of the concern, or, in fact, by making them all small partners in the business, of which he of course takes care to retain the lion's share, so that while doing good for him by managing it well, they are also benefiting themselves. To such an extent is this principle carried, that it is usual to give even their coolies a share in the profits of the business in lieu of fixed wages, and the plan appears to suit their temper well; for although they are in general most complete eye-servants when working for a fixed wage, they are found to be most industrious and useful ones when interested even for the smallest share.
The amount of business done by some of these Chinamen with the principal importers of manufactured goods, who are the British merchants, is very considerable, some of them frequently making monthly purchases to the extent of ten or fifteen thousand dollars from one person, nearly all of the goods being sold to them on credits of three, four, or six months after the date of purchase and delivery of the merchandise. Occasionally, however, some of them break down, and those importers who have been trusting them for large amounts, of course burn their fingers; Chinamen, as a general rule, being honest and trustworthy only so long as it appears to be their own interest to remain so. Most of them at Manilla are people who have made everything for themselves, from nothing except their hands to begin with, as no rich Chinamen, such as are met with in their native country, and occasionally in Java and Singapore, are found at Manilla; for nearly all those who come there have originally arrived as coolies, earning their bread by manual labour, but very few of them indeed having inherited anything from their fathers, except the arts of reading and writing, which nearly the whole of them, however poor, understand and are able to perform. Whenever they make money, they invariably return to China, the Government holding out no inducements for them to remain in the Philippines, as they do elsewhere in the Archipelago, where greater freedom and protection are allowed them.
The streets of Manilla have at all times a dead and dull appearance, with the exception of the two already mentioned as being in the business part of the town. The basement-floor of the houses being generally uninhabited, there are no windows opened in their walls, which present a mass of whitewashed stone and lime, without an object to divert the eye, except here and there, where small shops have been opened in them, these being generally for selling rice, fruit, oil, &c., and entirely deficient in the glare or glittering colours of gay merchandise, nearly all of which is confined to the shops of the Escolta, Rosario, and Santo Christo.
The houses here, as elsewhere in hot climates, are arranged with great regard to ventilation and coolness, and are mostly large edifices; but are seldom well laid out, and are deficient in many respects. The entire white population, which amounts to upwards of 5,000, resides either in the city, by which is meant that portion of it within the walls, or in the principal part of the town outside the walls, and on the other side of the river from the city within the walls; and in this district is comprehended the great bulk of the population, which amounts to upwards of 200,000 souls.
Those resident within the walls are principally government servants, &c., induced, by the proximity of the public offices, regimental cantonments, &c., as well as a lower house-rent, to brave the greater heat usually felt there, from the confined space within the walls, and the narrow streets, not permitting so free a circulation of air as is enjoyed in the houses extra muros.
The largest description of houses, being the residences of Europeans, are spacious, and in many cases built on one plan, most of them being quadrangles inclosing a court-yard within their squares. Here the stables, &c., are usually situated; and, as may be supposed, the smell and view of them, should they happen to be in the least negligently kept, as they frequently are, afford but very little gratification to persons whose windows happen to be near.
The upper part of the house, or second story, as we would say in Scotland, is in general the only portion of the house inhabited by its residents. The rooms below, being considered unhealthy, are in general converted into warehouses or shops, if they can be let as such from happening to be conveniently situated, or serve as coach-houses, lumber-rooms, &c. &c. The masonry of the lower walls is usually very substantial and strong, being calculated to resist the shocks of earthquakes, which occasionally happen. Those of the upper stories, which rise from them, and form the habitable part of the house above, are much slighter than the lower ones, and the joists and wooden-work about the roof are adapted for security against such accidents, by their being fastened with bolts on either side of the masonry, thus enabling it to give a little play to the motion of the shock, without being displaced by it, and coming down, as thick and heavy walls would most certainly do.
However, on the occurrence of an earthquake, it is usual to run down stairs, and have the protection of the thick lower walls against any accident, such as that of the roof giving way. As the house I lived in while there may be taken as a specimen of many others, I shall describe it. After entering the gateway, the door of which is always very stout and heavy, and under the constant protection of a porter, for security's sake, you reach a flight of steps leading to the habitable part of the house, and enter a gallery running from the top of the staircase, and a suite of rooms facing the street, to the gala or drawing-room at the other end of the house, and a suite of rooms facing the river. The entire length of the gallery is about a hundred feet, by twenty broad, and it looks into the open court-yard forming the centre of the building, on one side. There are several large and spacious bedrooms on the other side, the windows of which are lighted from a narrow street running to the river. Facing the gallery, and on the other side of the house, across the central court-yard, that entire side of the building is appropriated by the servants for cooking and sleeping-places.
The beams supporting the upper or habitable floor extend four or five feet beyond the outer wall, towards the street, forming a sort of verandah, or corridor, as it is called in Spanish as well as in English, round the entire building, affording a considerable protection against the sun's rays. The outer side of this corridor is composed of coarse and dark-coloured mother-of-pearl shell of little value, set in a wooden framework of small squares, forming windows which move on slides. Although the light admitted through this sort of window is much inferior to what glass would give, it has the advantage of being strong, and is not very liable to be damaged by the severe weather to which it is occasionally exposed during some months of the year.
There are few buildings distinguishable for architectural beauty, and those few are for the most part churches. The governor's house, or the palace, is a large and spacious building within the walls, and forms one side of the Playa, the other three being formed by the cathedral, the Cabildo, and some private houses, whose irregular height detracts considerably from the appearance of the square. In the centre of the square stands a statue of I forget what King of Spain, well executed in bronze.
It is usual for a military band to perform before the palace on Sunday and feast-day evenings, and on these occasions many carriages go there from the drive, about eight o'clock, to enjoy the music, and give people a good opportunity for either gossip or love-making, as their tastes or the moonlight may incline them.
The native Indians appear to have a good ear for music, and execute many of the finest operas with spirit and taste; and the amateur musicians in particular, who train the casino band, have brought the native performers to a very high degree of perfection in most of the pieces performed by them. A good deal more attention, however, appears to be paid to training these military bands, than in perfecting the troops themselves in their evolutions.
Religious processions are as frequently passing through the streets, as they are in all the Roman Catholic countries of Europe, but the features of all are very nearly identical, and so need not be particularly described.
When one of these processions takes place during the day, an awning is spread along the streets it will pass through, to protect the bareheaded promenaders from the sun, the canvass being attached to the house roofs along the streets; making them incredibly hot to pass along, so long as it remains there.
A good deal of display in silver and gold ornaments may be seen in some of the churches, the collections of many successive years, as every incumbent shows his piety and zeal by adding something to them during the time he holds the cure.
The jewels in some of the dresses of the figures, especially those of the Virgin, are valued at, or amount to, a considerable sum of money, and I have heard twenty thousand dollars mentioned as the value of those belonging to one church in Manilla.
The houses of the Indian and Mestizo population are for the most part in the outskirts of the business part of the town, those of the richer sort being built of stone, and those of the poorest class being composed of nipa, or attap. Among houses of this sort, when a fire takes place, great and rapid destruction is inevitable, and the only way of saving any portion of them from its fury is by throwing down all those in the direction of its advance.
Nearly every season, however, some fires happen among them, and hundreds of families are frequently burned out before its progress can be arrested. This, however, is not anything like so calamitous an event for them as such an occurrence would be to the poor of Europe, for as the chief cost of a nipa house consists in the labour of erection, after such a misfortune, they are soon replaced by their own personal labour—for whatever their usual trade or occupation may be, nearly all of the Indians are quite capable of constructing these houses for themselves, and often manage to complete them roughly in a few days. No nails need be used in their construction, everything necessary being produced in the islands, and easily attainable. Houses so constructed are very suitable for the climate, affording all the shelter requisite; and indeed the people appear to be much better lodged than many of the poor in England, where the cold and damp of the climate demand a substantial house, which too often they do not possess.
The government of all the Philippine group, including the Mariana Islands, is intrusted to the charge of a Captain-General, who in virtue of his office is commander-in-chief of the forces, president of the Hacienda, admiral of marine, postmaster-general &c., &c. His power and authority, in short, extend to all those departments, over which his control, should he choose to exert it, is very absolute.
The civil department of Her Most Catholic Majesty's service, so far as finance, &c., are concerned, is left to the administration of an officer who takes the title of Super-Intendente of the Hacienda; and who, putting the Archbishop aside, is regarded as the second official person at Manilla, or as ranking next to the Governor, the revenue, &c., being the branch he has principal charge of; but his acts are always subject to the control of the Captain-General.
A military officer under the title of segundo Cabo, is under the Governor as acting commander-in-chief of the forces, and, in the event of the governor's absence from Manilla, is the person who fills his situation and succeeds him in his power. A post-captain of the navy is usually the rank of the person intrusted with the direction and management of the sea force, but he always has, I believe, the local or brevet rank of an admiral.
The internal administration of the country is carried on by officials subordinate to those above-mentioned, the whole of the islands being parcelled out or divided into several provinces, in each of which there is an Alcalde, or Lieutenant-Governor, receiving his orders from, and quite dependent on the Captain-General, to whose favour he generally owes his appointment.
These officers are invested with the chief civil and military authority in their own provinces; but although they have always a small guard of soldiers, the good order and quiet generally prevalent everywhere throughout the country render their military duties very unimportant, and their principal care is now required in the collection of revenue and the administration of justice within their several jurisdictions. These are not very arduous duties, owing principally to the efficient assistance derived from the authorities under them.
Every province is divided into districts or parishes, in which there is some village or town, and in each of these places there is an official whom I shall call the Major, or Capitan Gobernadorcillo, and also some Tenientes or Aldermen, as well as police alguacils. All of these have to report to the alcalde of the province any thing of importance occuring within their districts, and are commanded severally to assist and promote the views of the cura, or priest, by every means in their power. Most of the people who fill these situations are Indians or Mestizos, rather better off in worldly goods than the run of their countrymen.
These gobernadorcillos, or little governors, possess considerable authority over the natives, for, besides having the chief municipal authority in their own districts, they are allowed to decide judicially in civil cases, when the amount in dispute does not exceed the value of forty-four dollars, or about ten pounds sterling, and in criminal cases undertake the prosecution, collecting the evidence and ascertaining the charges against any delinquent within their district, all of which is remitted by them to the provincial-governor and judge for his decision. Their election takes place annually, on the commencement of the new year, all over the country, and their power is exactly defined in a printed commission which they all hold from the Governor of the Philippines.
The half-breeds, or people of mixed Chinese and Indian blood, known by the name of Sangleys, are usually permitted, in districts where their number is considerable, to elect a Major from among their own class, whose power over them is exactly similar to that of the captain of the village where they reside over the aboriginal Indians: they do not interfere with each other, and are quite independent of any one save the alcalde of the province. When there are two gobernadorcillos in the same village, they each look after their own class, whether Mestizos or natives.
In addition to these local officials there is another curious body of men, called Cabezas de barangay; each of whom has under his charge about fifty families, whose tribute to government he has to collect, and for the amount of which he is held accountable.
The persons who fill this office are usually resident in the immediate neighbourhood or in the same street with those from whom they have to collect the tribute, and have some slight authority over those who pay it to them, such as deciding petty quarrels and disputes among them, &c. The institution of this body is uncertain, and is said to have been originated by the aboriginal Indians themselves, and to have been found in full operation at the time of the earliest Spanish intercourse with them. The probability is, however, that at that period it was of a military nature, and their duties then were more to officer the armies of the native kings than for any of the uses it has been subsequently wisely put to by the white man. The office is hereditary in their families; but in the event of the person who exercises it changing his residence, or from other causes becoming unfit to discharge its duties, a successor is elected in his place.
They are recompensed for their trouble in collecting taxes, &c., by being themselves exempted from paying tribute to the state, and have several privileges by virtue of their office. As a body, they are always considered the principal people of their village, and only from among them, and by their votes alone, is the mayor or gobernadorcillo of the pueblo chosen; that is to say, they choose a list of three Indians from among their own number for that office, each of whom should by law be able to speak, read, and write Spanish; and this list being forwarded to the alcalde, he indicates which of them is to be chosen, by scratching his name and filling up his commission. The election of these candidates ought to be made with closed doors, and must be authorized by the presence of an escribano, or attorney, to note the proceedings. The parish priest is allowed to attend if he choose, in order that he may influence the election of fit persons for the office by speaking in their favour, but he has not any vote in the matter.
In the capital, owing to the number of Chinamen there, and in the neighbourhood, they are obliged to choose a capitan from among themselves, in order that he may collect their tribute and arrange their petty disputes with each other, which some one conversant with their customs and language is only fit to do.
There are some fees now attached to this office, but the duties are so troublesome that the industrious Celestials very frequently find them incompatible with the management of their own trade or business, and for the most part are not at all ambitious of the honour of filling the situation, even although some fees accompany it.
At the same time that the capitan is elected, his lieutenant and a head constable are also chosen by their countrymen.
All Chinese arriving at Manilla are registered in a book kept for the purpose, for, as they pay tribute according to their occupation, the amount of it, and their numbers, are at once ascertained from that. Should they leave the country, their passports have to be countersigned by their capitan, who is to some extent responsible for them while residing in it.
The emoluments of government offices are not very high; much too low, in fact, to recompense the class of men who are required to discharge them, and the consequence is, (as usual in such cases), that extortion and improper means are resorted to in order to increase their amount, all of which fall much heavier on the people than regularly collected taxes, sufficient to support their proper or adequate pay, would amount to.
In the province of Cagayan, for instance, the alcalde's nominal pay is 600 dollars a-year, which sum is of course totally insufficient to recompense any educated man for undertaking and supporting the dignity of governor of a considerable province. But as the best tobacco is grown there, one of his duties is to collect and forward it to Manilla, for which he is allowed a commission, and this, with other privileges, is found to yield him in ordinary years about 20,000 dollars a-year, being in reality one of the most lucrative situations at the disposal of the Government.
I believe that most people will concur with me in the opinion that the system of reducing the fixed official pay below a remuneration that will induce men of standing and education to undertake the duties which their situation requires them to exercise, and to trust to exaction supplying its place, is extremely impolitic, and much more expensive to the country than a more liberal scale of pay would prove.
The alcaldes are allowed to trade on their own account, and for this their position affords them many facilities; but for the permission to do so, they are required to pay a considerable annual fee to Government, ranging from about one hundred to three thousand dollars.
The wisdom of granting them this permission is very doubtful, as it not unfrequently happens that the privilege is abused by rapacious men, eager to make the most of their time and collect a fortune, and occasionally it gives rise to much oppression.
The poor Indian cultivators of the soil, accustomed all their lives to look upon the alcalde of their native province as the greatest and most powerful man they know of, have very little redress for their grievance, should that person, in the pursuit of money-making and trade buy up all their crop of sugar, rice, or other produce, whatever it may be, and in a falling market refuse to receive the articles contracted for, or to complete the bargain agreed upon with them. On the contrary, however, should anything he may have contracted to buy be rising in value at Manilla, the poor Indian, who has sold it too cheap to him, has no chance of getting clear of the bad bargain he may have made with the alcalde, should it appear to that individual worth his while to keep him to it, as every means are at his command or beck, aided by all the force of the executive, and the terrors of a law administered by himself, to compel him to ratify his contract.
In these circumstances the alcalde never makes a bad bargain, or loses money on any of his transactions, and there is little wonder that rapid fortunes are made by men holding these situations, when such scandalous means are constantly resorted to by them, so that generally, after a very few years of office, these people are upon very easy terms with the world, although nominally only receiving a wretchedly low pay.
Notwithstanding these abuses, however, the government of the people is on the whole much more effective, and consequently better, than it is in many places of British India. No such thing was ever known as disaffection becoming so generally diffused among them as to lead to a rebellion of the people, or an attempt to shake off the leeches who suck them so deeply; and this can only be attributed to the sway the priesthood have over the minds of the Indians, as without their influence and aid, beyond a doubt, such an attempt would be made; and if it should ever come about, it would be no very difficult affair for the natives, if properly led, to overthrow the sway of the Spaniards. Although there is very little religion among the Indians, there is abundance of superstitious feeling, and fear of the padre's displeasure; indeed, the church has long proved to be, upon the whole, by much the most cheap and efficacious instrument of good government and order that could be employed anywhere, so long as its influence has been properly directed. In the Philippines there appears to be little doubt but that it is one of the most beneficial that could be exerted as a medium for the preservation of good order among the people, who are admonished and taught to be contented, while it is not forgetful of their interests, as they very generally learn reading by its aid—so much of it, at least, as to enable them to read their prayer-books, or other religious manuals.
There are very few Indians who are unable to read, and I have always observed that the Manilla men serving on board of ships, and composing their crews, have been much oftener able to subscribe their names to the ship's articles than the British seamen on board the same vessels could do, or even on board of Scottish ships, whose crews are sometimes superior men, so far as education is concerned, to those born in other parts of Great Britain. This fact startled me at first; but it has been frequently remarked upon by people very strongly prejudiced in favour of white men, and who despise the black skins of Manilla men, regarding them as inferior beings to themselves, as strongly as many of our countrymen often do.
From old prejudices, and other causes, the Spanish people have not as yet learned how to work the more liberal form of government now enjoyed by their country. But there is no doubt that the experience necessary to do so is daily being acquired by them at home, and when it becomes prevalent, its effects may be expected to be shown by the class of men selected to administer the government of their colonies, the white population of which are of considerably more advanced intelligence than their countrymen in Spain.
In most colonies the people appear to possess a superior degree of vigour or freshness of mind to those born in Europe, or in old and thickly inhabited countries. This may result in a great degree from their comparative freedom from conventional prejudices, the results of a long and insensible growth in families, which trammel nearly every mind in densely peopled countries, and more especially in places where commerce is languidly carried on. Perhaps also in some measure it may be owing to the greater facility the poorer classes have in all colonies of earning a livelihood, which, by freeing their minds from anxiety on that score, leaves some room for their speculations on other matters.
In the administration of government, they are even now guided essentially by the most imperative rules; but I hope that, ere long, in many cases, the very arbitrary proceedings of their chief authorities abroad, may become subject to approval by a council such as exists in our Indian possessions, and in Java among the Dutch, as there can be little doubt but that it would prove advantageous to the country did such a body exist.
As an example of the procedures of the Manilla government, I may mention the following facts, which occurred to an acquaintance of my own, and on which every dependence may be placed.
Don Francisco P. de O—— having been presented with the governorship of one of the best or most lucrative provinces in the Philippines, set out for his residency and commenced his duties, which he continued to fulfil satisfactorily to himself and the people for upwards of a year—about fifteen months, I believe. His commission as Governor embraced four years from the date of his appointment; however, at the end of the first year in his office, a nephew of the then Governor happened to arrive at Manilla, and it became an object of interest to his uncle to get him into some good place before the term of his appointment as Governor expired. Casting his eyes around on everything that might serve his turn, he happened to recollect Don Francisco's alcalde-ship, and forthwith despatched an order to my unfortunate friend to return to Manilla, there to answer some complaints which, he alleged in the order of recall, had been made against his administration of the province, and at the same time told him to deliver over all authority to the person he sent for the purpose, that individual being neither more nor less than his own nephew.
Don Francisco, ignorant of committing any crime or fault, or of anything that could justify this very unceremonious recall, hastened to Manilla, and presenting himself at the palace, demanded what charges had been lodged against him, and by whom they had been made. But he could learn nothing of them, and was commanded by the Governor to wait in Manilla till he should be formally summoned to answer them. It is now, however, upwards of ten years since this happened, and from that day to this he has never been summoned, nor has he been even able to find out what the charges were on which he was recalled from his lucrative appointment, although repeated applications were made to the Governor who recalled him for a trial. All the subsequent Governors have professed their inability to give him the information, which, had such charges actually been framed, must have been found in the archives, so that no doubt can now exist but that this villanous trick was trumped up by the Governor to serve his own family by the bestowal of Don Francisco's place. And as my friend has since filled other situations, (and, in fact, is an Alcalde,) having been selected by different Governors for office, the accusation does not in the least affect his character.
But, in truth, many of the natives of Spain who are even now selected to fill the highest offices, are about as despotic and as unscrupulous as any Asiatics in their notions of government and in their exercise of power, and as bad even as the Turks themselves are in their administration of justice and equity; while the Spanish government, and the political knowledge of the people, are infinitely behind the Turkish government in everything concerning their commercial policy.
During the time of electing members for the Cortes, or parliament in Spain, of course the existing government were anxious to secure the tide of the general election running in their favour—but what means do you, my courteous reader, imagine they took to secure this object? Why, neither more nor less than to order the police to seize all persons suspected of being likely to oppose their party actively at the ensuing elections throughout the country. Thousands of people were actually seized and hurried off to jail, to be confined there till the danger was past; and many of them, on the jails becoming too full to contain them all, were hurried to a seaport town and put on board ships sailing to Manilla, or, by hundreds at a time, sent out on a voyage of four months' duration, to reconsider their political opinions, and then to find their road home as they best might.
These people were captured in all situations of time and place, and were not allowed to communicate with their friends while in prison in Spain, which must have given rise to at least as much distress and privation among as many persons as the numbers of those seized, for very many of them were people with families entirely dependent upon them for support.
About a thousand of these deportados reached Manilla in 1848-9, and being entirely destitute of all resources or means of subsistence, they had to be taken care of by the Colonial Government, who allowed them some rice and water every day, and had, finally, to charter vessels to re-ship them for the Peninsula. One of them was an Irishman, who having entered the Spanish service when a lad, had reached the rank of Colonel; his father was a general officer and K.C.B. of our own army, who, I believe, had married a Spanish lady, and after his death, his family had become resident in Spain.
The bad accommodation of a crowded ship, together with the want of change of clothes, which he was not allowed to procure from his friends, and the general filthiness of the people with whom he was obliged to be cooped up during the long voyage, acted on him so severely that it caused his death a very short time after his arrival at Manilla. Thus the poor fellow fell a sacrifice to this abominable stretch of arbitrary power, and dying destitute, was buried there, after having been maintained decently in a hotel during the remainder of his existence, at the expense of his countrymen then at Manilla.
When acts so atrocious as these can be done with impunity in any European country by a powerful minister of the crown, we may form some idea of its advance in the arts of self-government and the security of its people.
This young man was very far from being the only person who fell a victim to these acts, as many died from causes similar to those which deprived him of life; and his case is only mentioned to give some idea of the lengths men will proceed to when no checks are placed on the Government machine, to prevent its bursting, and damaging thousands. These abuses are so shameful, that they are scarcely credible in Britain; but they are easily capable of corroboration by inquiry and a little knowledge of Spain, where very frequently caprice is the only law in existence, or at least is the only one acted upon. I might multiply instances, but this is doubtless sufficient.
The orders of the Court at Madrid are not always laws in their colonies, for every now and then the most imperative commands come out from Spain which are refused obedience to at Manilla, where it is openly asserted that the home government gives orders in favour of importunate suitors, without the least expectation that they will be acted upon by those to whom they are addressed; granting them, in fact, merely to get rid of troublesome people who might annoy them at home if their demands were refused.
People are generally seen to most advantage in their own houses; and nowhere, I think, does any one appear to play the host better than an average specimen of a Spanish gentleman under his own roof.
Notwithstanding a great deal of ceremony and the customary exaggerated polite expressions used to every stranger, there is so much innate hospitality in the national character that it is not to be mistaken, and is perhaps one of their best and greatest virtues as individuals.
The modes of expression usual on occasions such as that of a first visit to a house appear rather strange to any one born under a colder sun than that of old Castile, and the first time that one is told, on taking leave of his host at a place he has been visiting for the first time, that the house, and every thing and person in it, are his, or at his disposal, he is apt to be puzzled by the exaggeration of the speech which contains such an unlimited offer, should he be ignorant that it is quite a usual expression. Of course it means nothing more than were any one to say or subscribe himself in English, "I am your obedient servant," which he may be very far from feeling, and may be constantly in the habit of using to his inferiors, and even to people paid or employed by himself.
Some years ago an eccentric man, when this expression was used to him, was known occasionally to interpret the words in their literal sense, and in more than one instance he had the credit of having adroitly made his court to a lady in that manner. He would watch for an opportunity, or give a turn to the conversation, which would afford him a chance of expressing admiration of some ornament she wore at the time, when the fair owner would, as a matter of course, say that it was at his disposal. Much to her surprise, the offer would be accepted, and the swain would walk off with the ornament he had praised. However, next day he always returned it in person; and to soothe her irritation, which must have been excited by such conduct, he took the opportunity of presenting her with some other ornament, or complimentary gift of some description. This, if done as an atonement and peace-offering, would probably be accepted, and the way was paved for an entrance into her good graces, which he might have been quite unable to obtain by any more direct means.
Frankness or openness of manner is considered by the Spaniards to be the most desirable point of good breeding; and when any one possesses that quality, he is pretty sure to be well received by them.
It is the custom at Manilla for any respectably-dressed European passing by a house where music and dancing are going on, to be permitted to join the party, although he may be a perfect stranger to every one there; and should any one do so, after having made his bow to the master of the house, and said some words, of course about the liberty he was taking, and his fondness for music and dancing, &c., he is always welcomed by him, and is at perfect liberty to ask any lady present to dance; nor is she likely to refuse him, as her doing so would scarcely be considered well bred.
This degree of freedom is not, however, at all times acted on in the houses of the natives of Spain, or of any European foreigners, as any one going so unceremoniously into these might not meet with so cordial a reception as he would do from the rich Mestizos, who, when they give such fetes on feast days, are in general well pleased to receive Europeans, although perfect strangers, in their houses.
These very free and unceremonious manners, among people who have such a reputation for the love of ceremony in all forms, are strange enough, for the same custom prevails in Spain, although to a more limited extent.
Some years ago a British merchant, resident at Manilla, was very much blamed by his countrymen for not conforming to the customs of the country in this respect. He broke through them in this manner;—
After the China war, a part of the expedition visited Manilla, including some of the principal officers both of the army and navy, who had just been so gallantly distinguishing themselves in that country. On their arrival at Manilla, the houses of their countrymen to whom they went provided with introductions were in a great measure thrown open to them; and of course, as their hospitable entertainers wished to show them something of the people and the place, a good deal of gaiety was got up to amuse them. Among others the gentleman in question gave a ball to General Lord Saltoun and the Admiral, including, of course, most of the other officers of the expedition. The party was a large one, and included nearly all the British residents there, together with his Spanish acquaintances.
Hearing the sounds of music and dancing in the street, a stranger entered the house and walked up stairs; and unperceived, I believe, by the landlord, entered the ball-room, where he engaged a Spanish lady to dance,—the girl whom he asked chancing to be the daughter of a military officer of rank, and a particular friend of the giver of the party. On leading her up to her place, the stranger was remarked, and recognised by some one present, who asked his host if he knew who the person was; but he, on looking at him, merely said that he did not, and was passing on without more notice or thought about him. Just at the moment, some one wishing to quiz him, said to the host, who was a man of hasty temper and feelings,—"So, D——, you have got my tailor to meet your guests," pointing, at the same time, towards the stranger whom he had just been observing.
Of course, Mr. D—— was angry at the liberty taken by such a person in joining his party, and probably afraid of the laugh it would give rise to; for he walked up to the tailor, and asked him in a most angry manner by whose invitation he came there, and then, without waiting for any reply, catching his coat-collar, walked with him to the top of the stairs, and kicked him down. The man complained to the governor, and the consequence was that Mr. D—— was fined a considerable amount, and for some time banished to a place at a short distance from Manilla, which he was forbidden to enter. As he was a merchant, and of course had his business to attend to, this was a most severe punishment, which, by the influence of the Consul, however, was subsequently rescinded, and he was allowed to return to town.
In giving entertainments in honour of their saints, great sums of money are frequently spent by the richer class of Mestizos and Indians, every one appearing to vie with his neighbour, as to who shall be most splendid in his saint's honour; and even among nearly the whole of the poor people there is always some little extravagance gone into on these occasions: some time previous to the feast taking place, part of their earnings are carefully set apart for the feast-night's enjoyment.
At many of their fiestas, besides the devotional exercises, there is a great deal of amusement going on, the Mestiza girls being frequently good-looking, and nearly all of them addicted to dancing; many of them are passionately fond of waltzes, and dance them remarkably well—better, I think, than any women I have elsewhere seen in a private room.
Their dress, which is well adapted to the climate, is, when worn by a good-looking girl, particularly neat.
It consists of a little shirt, generally made of pina cloth, with wide short sleeves: it is worn loose, and, quite unbound to the figure in any way, reaches to the waist, round which the saya or petticoat is girt, it being generally made of silk, checked or striped, of gay colours, of huse cloth, or of cotton cloth. Within doors, these compose their dress, no stockings being worn, but their well-formed feet, inserted in slight slippers without heels, and embroidered with gold and silver lace, lose nothing in beauty from the want of them.
Out of doors, another piece of dress called the sapiz, composed of dark blue silk or cotton cloth, slightly striped with narrow white stripes, is usually worn over the saya.
No bonnets or hats of any sort are worn by them, their long and beautiful hair being considered a sufficient protection to the head, which they arrange in something like the European fashion, it being fastened by a comb, or some gold ornament in a knot at the back of the head.
On going out of doors, a handkerchief is often thrown over the head, should the sun be strong, or an umbrella or parasol is carried as a protection against it.
A similar dress, made of coarser and cheaper materials, is the usual costume of all the native women.
The men, both native and Mestizo, wear trousers fastened round the waist by a cord or tape, the fabric being sometimes silk of country manufacture, for their gala dresses, or of cotton cloth striped and coloured, for every-day use.
The shirt, which is worn outside the trousers, that is to say, the tails hanging loose above the trousers, and reaching to just below the hips, is generally made of pina cloth, or, among the poorest people, of blue or white cotton cloth. When of pina cloth, the pattern is generally of blue or other coloured stripes with flowers, &c. worked on them, and it is a very handsome and gay piece of dress. When worn outside the trousers, it is much cooler than when stuffed into them in the European manner. A hat and slippers, or sandals of native manufacture, complete their dress, and the only difference of costume between the rich and poor consists in the greater or less value of the materials which compose it. No coat or jacket is worn, but many of the men, and nearly all the women, wear a rosary of beads or gold round their necks; and frequently a gold cross, suspended by a chain of the same metal, rests between the bosoms of the fair. Many of them also wear charms, which having been blessed by the priest, are supposed to be faithful guardians, and to preserve the wearer from all evil.
The honours paid to the saints by the celebration of their feast-days are nearly altogether practised by the Mestizo and Indian population, the richer or upper classes of Spaniards being for the most part too careless on such occasions, except when their turn comes to dance at the fetes, or to eat the supper set out by their Mestizo neighbours on these anniversaries; and certainly, if their piety be judged by the alacrity usually displayed on such occasions, they will stand very forward in the race out of purgatory. For, strange to say, the modern Spaniards—at least those who come to the Philippines—are as little superstitious or priest-ridden as the people of any nation in Europe. Probably this is a symptom of their return to a more moderate degree of faith than they used to evince prior to the French Revolution, which has altered the tone of opinion and manners throughout the world. And after the severity and rigid observance of all the church high-days and holydays formerly prevalent among them, the tide of opinion appears to have run into the opposite extreme.
I have frequently been astonished at discovering the extent to which infidel notions are current among my Spanish acquaintances; their prevailing opinions on the subject being, that the priests and some of the tenets of the Catholic church are behind the age, and as such, are to some extent unworthy of the serious attention of well-informed people of the present day, and that those things are only suitable for women and children. Es cosa de mugeres, is the usual expression, should the subject be mentioned; and as regards the priests, the laity very generally fancy that they must be watched carefully, as they are certain to assume importance should an opportunity offer for thrusting their noses into any affair they can, military or civil—it matters not which to these ambitious men.
Among the native population, however, high church opinions, or a notion that virtue is inherent in the walls of the church and the priestly office, is very common, so that whatever the padre says is looked upon as indisputable by them. But I cannot say that any rational systems of religion, or feelings not associated so much with the padre's office and dress, and with the stone and lime of the church, as with the more pure and immaterial subjects of religious belief, exist among them, or influence their conduct. Frequently one sees instances of this, which place their feelings in the grossest and worst light. For example, the first act of a courtesan in the morning is generally to repair to the church, and after, as a matter of course, having said her prayers, to pass the time in any species of debauchery or immorality her lovers may wish. I state this fact, to give some idea of the extent of superstition and of priestly influence over their conduct, which shows how powerfully mere habits and custom may influence our manners without improving our minds, when we are brought up in a formal routine of habits of respect for we don't know well what; for they have no further acquaintance with the principles of religious belief than the habit of crossing themselves before figures of the Virgin and the crucifixion.
For even these women, infamous though they be, seldom omit the observance of such practices, and are in general as punctual in repeating diurnally the formal prayer which has been taught them in childhood, as any Christian can be, whenever the hour of oracion is come, which is notified to all the population by the tolling of the church bells.
However, Manilla appears not to be quite singular as to these matters; for it has been frequently stated by visitors to the states of the Church, that nine months after the great religious festival of the Carnival there, a much greater number of illegitimate children are born than during other seasons of the year.
This statement, which I have seen mentioned as a statistical fact, is probably attributable to the idleness of the people, ignorant and uninstructed as to any higher devotional feelings than those which custom teaches; although, doubtless, religious admonition, having a tendency to unloose the mind, and withdraw it from its customary objects of interest, may induce these softer emotions, and among people in whom the animal passions preponderate over those of the mind, or of a spiritual nature, may frequently lead to conduct of this loose description.
Perhaps, also, the sense of satisfaction after having gone through the ceremony of attending church, and of having performed the humble duty which all are taught to practise there, disposes the people to this license, for they carry away no new idea with them from the sacred house. The formal exercise there being gone through by rote, without exciting new feelings, or touching new chords in their hearts, may cause them to break away from strictness, and give a rein to their passions after the exercise of their religious duties.
The Indians are people who, being bred up with a regard to observances which retain no hold over their minds—at least, over the reason which God has endowed them with—in order to judge for themselves, think religious observances derive their importance only from custom; but having been trained up with little regard to the sterner and self-denying mental duties or instruction usually held up to our admiration in Britain and other Protestant countries, they can scarcely be expected to practise them. In addition to this, the heat of the climate probably disposes them this way; as in all countries where the dolce far niente is most agreeable to them, or is generally practised by the inhabitants, those feelings are likely to prevail in a greater degree than where active habits are more congenial to the people and the temperature of the climate.
The habits of the Spanish residents at Manilla are exceedingly indolent. As persons in the government service form the great proportion of the white population, a sketch of the habits of one of them may not be uninteresting;—say those of an average officer of the Hacienda, for instance. He usually gets out of bed about six, or a little after, to enjoy the cool air of the morning, and sip his chocolate, with the aid of broas, without which he could scarcely manage to get through the day; he then dresses, and drives to his office, where he remains till twelve o'clock, which hour finishes his official duties for the day. While in his office the nature of his work is not very arduous, and does not appear to call into play any powers of the mind, as it appears to consist only in his remaining for about four hours in a cool and large room, generally seated at a table or desk, overlooking a number of native writers, occupied in making out and filling up forms which are required by the existing regulations for the government service. The Spaniard, however, has nothing to do with all that, only occasionally exerting himself so far as to sign his name, or merely to dash his rubrica, without taking the trouble to sign his name, to the papers presented to him by these native copyists; and should you enter his office, he generally appears to be just awaking from a nap, as he opens his eyes, and rouses himself to salute a visitor.
At noon the public offices are closed, and he drives home to dine about one or two o'clock, after which he generally sleeps till about five, for nearly all of the Spanish residents take a long siesta. About that time of the day, however, he is awakened to dress and prepare for the paseo on the Calyada, and for the tertulia after it, at the house of some acquaintance; or if he should by any chance happen to be without acquaintance, to saunter through the Chinamen's shops, admiring walking-canes, cravats, or waistcoat-pieces; and while so engaged, he is pretty sure to meet some companion for a gossip, or other amusement. After this he sets off to sup at home, and to sleep till another day comes round, when the same routine must be gone through.
It would be hard to conjecture a mode of passing or sauntering through life with less apparent object than many of them have. Books are scarce and expensive, and are in little demand by most of the residents, even if they were worth reading, and cheaper, and more procurable than they now are; the library—if the term may be applied to their collection—of such people, generally only comprising one or two plays, and perhaps a novel—sometimes also Don Quixote's adventures, which, with a volume of poetry, is about the average amount of learning and amusement on their book-shelves. But should the owner be a military man, he probably has, in addition to these, some Spanish standard book, equivalent to our "Dundas's Principles," or "Regulations for the Cavalry."
Smoking, sleeping, and eating, are the labours of their days, and in all of these they are adepts. Their prevalent taste, however, as regards cookery, is not suitable to a British palate, as the favourite accompaniment of garlic is commonly used in such a quantity by their cooks, that they are very apt to spoil a dinner for a foreigner's eating, unless they are checked or cautioned with regard to the use of it.
Their usual drink is wine of different kinds, which they take out of a glass or tumbler, as we would beer or water: the quantity consumed is moderate enough, about a pint being a usual allowance—and that is frequently mixed with about an equal quantity of water. Sherry, claret, priorato, pajarete, manzanilla, malaga, and muscatel, are the sorts most in request, all of them being of ordinary quality, to the taste of any one accustomed to drink good wine at home, from which the wines procurable here are as different as possible, and especially the sherry. But in that resides a mystery known best to the wine-merchants, who doctor up the wine consumed in Great Britain to suit the taste of those who buy it from them. Strange to say, even to this, a Spanish colony, there is not sent out a single pipe of wine, such as any one accustomed to drink the British composition would call good sherry.
Claret, or vino tinto, is very generally used in preference to tea or coffee at breakfast, but at that early time of the day it is mixed with a large proportion of water. This meal, however, is not a general one in the Philippines, as the custom of taking chocolate in the morning destroys all appetite for it, and the early dinner hour of the Spaniards in general, does not render it essential.
The want of interesting occupation, and the heat of the sun, preventing out-of-door exercise during the day, has doubtless originated these indolent customs, which have given rise to many bad habits, and the low scale of morality prevailing among them.
A large proportion of them being bachelors, are in the habit of selecting a mistress as a companion with whom they may forget the dullness, and shake off the apathy of their aimless existence; a very large proportion, in fact, nearly all of them, being in the habit of choosing such a household companion from among the Creole, Mestiza, or native girls, but generally from the last two races.
The native girls have the reputation of proving more faithful to their lovers than the other two, as they look upon such a connection in the light of a marriage, and consider themselves guilty of no immorality during its continuance. When a native beauty forms such a connection with a white man, her relations do not sunder all the former ties existing between her and them, by casting her off, but on the contrary are, as frequently as not, highly pleased at it, viewing the affair in the light of a fortunate marriage for her.
These feelings, however, are not universal, for some of the richer class of Indians would be highly displeased with a female relation forming such a connection.
Among the Indians themselves this arrangement frequently takes place, as very many of the poorest people are unable to save money enough to pay their marriage fees, and in the event of a couple living together without having had the ceremony performed previously, they regard themselves, and are considered by their neighbours, as not the less man and wife. As an instance of the extent to which this prevails among them, I may mention a circumstance which struck me much at the time:—
Being near the cathedral at Manilla one evening in April last, I entered an open door of the edifice and wandered into a room attached to it, where several people were in waiting, and among them several women with children to be baptized. I stopped to witness the ceremony, and had the curiosity to look into the register where their names were enrolled; in that book, two of them were described as illegitimate children, and the third was the only one born in matrimony.
Although the custom does not prevail to anything like the extent of two-thirds of the population, still it is a very frequent one, and proves among other things, that the sort of religion prevailing among the people is only that of forms, possessing no sufficient hold over their minds to regulate their conduct.
Compare their religious ideas with those of the old Scottish covenanters, or English puritans, and how different are the effects of faith; but perhaps they are not more dissimilar than the natures of the two races are. For there is no race in the world with all the good qualities of the Celtic breed crossed by the Saxon, and that again by the Norman; for depend upon it, blood tells in every human being—aye, and as much in men as in dogs or horses.
But, unfortunately for ourselves, men pay less attention to the innate qualities and virtues of blood and pedigree, when selecting a mate for themselves, than they do when their dogs or horses are in question, as then no trouble is spared to trace out and scrutinise the qualities of their sires, and to breed only from a good stock.
By pedigree, of course not the worldly station of men is meant, but the history of their lives and reputations, as good and useful men of their time. Of necessity both parents affect the character of their offspring, and so we frequently see a great and good man leaving behind him none in his family capable of supplying his place. Now, how is this? Why, it comes from the mistake he has made in selecting his mate, for if he had been more cautious in that respect the produce would have been equal to the promise.
How often do we see wise men with silly wives and tall men with short wives. The only wonder is, that the offspring of such couples are not worse than they are.
The intercourse between the Spaniards and many of the foreigners residing at Manilla is not very great, as the British here, as everywhere else, appear to prefer associating with their own countrymen to frequenting the houses of their Spanish friends, even although quite sure of a cordial reception there. The time for visiting is in the evening, when there are numbers of impromptu conversaziones—or tertulias, as they are called—of which the Dons are very fond, and in which very many of their evenings are passed.
Any one having a few Spanish acquaintances is pretty sure to number among them some persons who, from their own character, or that of some member of their family, such as a pretty and pleasant wife, or a handsome daughter, has generally many visitors at his house, perhaps six, ten, or a dozen of an evening, who call there without any preconcerted plan, and sit down to play a round game at cards or gossip with each other for an hour. Should there be ladies of the party, music and dancing are probably the amusements for an hour or two; you may, of course, escape and go on to the house of some one else should the party turn out to be dull, which, however, is very seldom the case when Spaniards are the company, as every one appears to exert himself to amuse and be amused to the best of his power.
The time for evening visits is any time after seven o'clock, for till about that hour nearly all the white population are enjoying the cool air on the Calyada, or on some of the other drives, all of which are crowded with carriages from about half-past five till that time of the evening.
Some of these equipages are handsome enough, and are almost universally horsed by a pair of the country ponies, there being only one or two people who turn out with a pair of Sydney horses, and very few who drive a single-horse vehicle, although it is met with now and then. The only persons allowed to drive four horses in their carriages are the Governor and the Archbishop: this regulation is frequently grumbled at by the Spanish Jehus, and one gentleman, the colonel of a regiment, having applied to the government for permission to indulge his taste in this respect by driving a four-in-hand, was refused it, so he had to content himself with turning out with only three in his drag. With that number of quadrupeds, however, he did a good deal to frighten and amuse the world, apparently wishing to break his neck, in which he very nearly succeeded on more than one occasion; Spanish accomplishments in driving being by no means equal to those general at home.
A young Spaniard who fills an important office connected with the commerce of Manilla, a situation he is said to owe more to the frailty of his mother, a fair lady at the court of the late King of Spain, whom he exactly resembles in appearance, temper, and manners, than to any qualifications especially pointing him out for the post, used frequently to assert his royal blood by turning out a neat barouche and pair, accompanied by two outriders, and certainly he looked much smarter and better appointed than either of the authorities driving four horses.
The expense of keeping horses is very small, so that nearly all, except the very poorest people, keep carriages, which in that climate are considered more as necessaries of life than as luxuries, and to a certain extent really are so; for the sun most effectually prevents Europeans walking to any distance during the heat of the day, and should any one attempt doing so, a month of it is about time enough seriously to injure or perhaps to kill him. About sunset everybody is most glad to escape from the impure air of the town and the crowded narrow streets, to inhale the fresh breeze from the bay on the Calyada, which is the most frequented drive.
Formerly all the ladies turned out to drive without bonnets or coverings of any sort on the head, but bowled along, seated in open carriages, in about the same style of evening dress they would appear in at a tertulia or the theatre, or, in fact, at a ball-room. They were in the habit of spreading a sort of gum, which washed easily off, over the hair after it had been dressed, in order to keep out the dust, &c.; but within the last two years several bonnets have made their appearance in the carriages at the drive, and I fear their general use will supersede the former fashion, which from its simplicity allowed their most striking beauties of eyes, hair, &c., to be seen in a most charming manner.
Many of the Creole girls have very handsome countenances, and there are not a few who would be remarked upon as fine women by the side of any European beauty: but they are generally seen to most advantage in the evening, as their chief attraction does not consist in freshness of complexion so much as in fine features, which are often full of character and lighted up by eyes as brilliant as they are soft. Their figures are good, and their feet and ankles quite unexceptionable, being generally very much more neatly turned than those of my handsomest countrywomen.
As dress is a study which has a good deal of their attention, they appear to understand it pretty well, but show a marked fondness for gay colours, as no doubt their pale complexions require their aid more than when ruddy health is upon their cheeks. In the forenoon the skin of a Creole or Spanish beauty appears to be rather too pale to please the general taste; and sometimes their colour degenerates into sallowness, which I fancy may proceed from their fondness for chocolate, that being very largely consumed by all of them. This, and the want of exercise, communicated a somewhat bilious look to their appearance.
Many ladies, especially those from the northern provinces of Spain, have sometimes the beautiful white skins and the ruddy freshness of complexion so much admired in my countrywomen; but, unfortunately, that colour is not very lasting, as the first season they pass in the Philippines is generally sufficient to blanch their bloom, but it is very often succeeded by a soft and delicate-looking paleness, which is perhaps not a whit less dangerous to amatory bachelors than the more brilliant colours which preceded it.
Although lively and talkative enough, Spanish women seldom shine in conversation, which perhaps is more owing to the narrow and defective education they too often have in youth than to any natural want of the quickness and tact to talk well.