Chapter 3b

Public Promenades

by Jagor Icon

How many of the prettiest natives are of perfectly unmixed blood is difficult to decide.

Many of them are very fair and of quite an European type. They are easily distinguished from their sisters in the outlying provinces.

The immediate environs of Manila can boast many beautiful spots, but they are not the resort of the local rank and fashion, the object of whose daily promenade is the display of their toilettes, and not the enjoyment of nature.

In the hot season, all who can afford it are driven every evening along the dusty streets to a scanty promenade on the beach, where several times a week the band of a native regiment plays some capital music, and there walk formally up and down. All the Spaniards are in uniform or in black frock coats.

When the bells ring out for evening prayer, carriages, horsemen, pedestrians, all suddenly stand motionless ; the men take off their hats, and everybody appears momentarily absorbed in prayer.

The same governor who laid out the promenade established a botanical garden. It is true that everything he planted in it, exposed on a marshy soil to the full heat of a powerful sun, soon faded away; but its ground was enclosed and laid out, and though it was overgrown with weeds, it had at least received a name. At present it is probably in a better condition.

  • The raw materials of these adventures were supplied by a French planter, M. de la Gironière, but their literary parent is avowedly Alexander Dumus.

† Botanical gardens do not seem to prosper under Spanish auspices.

Chamisso complains that, in his day, there were no traces left of the botanical gardens founded at Cavite by the learned Cuellar. The gardens at Madrid, even, are in a sorry plight; its hothouses are almost empty. The grounds which were laid out at great expense by a wealthy and patriotic Spaniard at Orotava (Teneriffe), a spot whose climate has been of the greatest service to invalids, are rapidly going to decay. Every year a considerable gum is appropriated to it in the national budget, but scarcely a fraction of it ever reaches Orotava. When I was there in 1867, the gardeners had received no salary for twenty-two months, all the workmen were dismissed, and even the indispensable water supply had been cut off.

The religious festivals in the neighbourhood of Manila are well worth a visit, if only for the sake of the numerous pretty Indian and half-caste women who make their appearance in the evening and walk up and down the streets, which are illuminated and profusely decked with flowers and bright colours. They offer a charming spectacle, particularly to a stranger lately arrived from Malaysia. The Indian women are very beautifully formed. They have luxuriant black hair, and large dark eyes ; the upper part of their bodies is clad in a homespun but often costly material of transparent fineness and snow-white purity; and, from their waist downwards, they are wrapped in a brightly-striped cloth (saya), which falls in broad folds, and which, as far as the knee, is so tightly compressed with a dark shawl (tapis), closely drawn around the figure, that the rich varie

gated folds of the saya burst out Tagal Girl,

beneath it like the blossoms of Dressed in sarong, tapis, chemise, and a pomegranate. This swathing

only allows the young girls to take very short steps, and this timidity of gait, in unison with their downcast eyes, gives them a very modest appearance. On their naked feet they wear embroidered slippers of such a small size that their little toes protrude for want of room, and grasp the outside of the sandal.*

The poorer Indian women clothe themselves in a saya, and in a * For a proof of this vide the Berlin “ Ethnographical Museum,” Nos. 294, 295.


Native Costume

so-called shirt, which is so extremely short that it frequently does not even reach the first fold of the former.

In the more eastern islands grown-up girls and women wear, with the exception of a Catholic amulet, nothing but these two garments, which are, particularly after bathing, and before they get dried by the sun, nearly transparent.

A hat, trousers, and a shirt worn outside them, both made of coarse Guinara cloth, compose the dress of the men of the poorer classes.

The shirts worn by the wealthy are often made of an extremely expensive home-made material, woven from pineapple or banana fibres. Some of them are ornamented with silk stripes, some are plain.

They are also frequently manufactured entirely of jusi (Chinese floret silk), in which case they will not stand washing, and can only be worn once.

The hat (salacot), a round piece of home-made plaiting, is used as both umbrella and sunshade, and is often adorned with silver ornaments of considerable value.

The Principalia enjoys the special privilege of wearing a short jacket above her shirt, and is usually easily recognisable by her amusing assumption of dignity, and by the faded old yellow cylindrical hat, a family heirloom she constantly wears.

The native dandies wear patent leather shoes on their naked feet, tight-fitting trousers of some material striped with black and white or with some other glaringly-contrasted colours, a starched plaited shirt of European make, a chimney-pot silk hat, and carry a cane in their hands.

The servants waiting at dinner in their white starched shirts and trousers are by no means an agreeable spectacle, and I never realised the full ludicrousness of European male costume till my eye fell upon its caricature, exemplified in the person of a “ Manila dandy.”

The half-caste women dress like the Indian women, but do not wear the tapis, and those of them who are married to Europeans are generally clad in both shoes and stockings.

Many of the half-castes are extremely pretty. But their gait drags a little, from their habit of wearing slippers.

As a rule they are prudent, thrifty, and clever businesswomen. But their conversation is often awkward and tedious. But this is not caused by their lack of education. The Andalusian women who only learn about the elementary doctrines of Christianity are among the most charming creatures in the world.

Their awkward conversation is caused by the equivocal position of half-castes. They are haughtily repelled by their white sisters, while they themselves disown their mother’s kin. They are lacking in the ease, in the tact, that the women of Spain show in every relation of existence.

The half-castes, particularly those born of Chinese and Tagal mothers, constitute the richest and the most enterprising portion of the native population.

They are well acquainted with all the good and bad qualities of the natives and use them unscrupulously for their own purposes.


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