MANILLA: LIFE IN TOWN AND SUBURB Icon

April 30, 2022

Manila is inhabited by Spaniards, Creoles, the natives directly connected with them, and Chinese.

It is surrounded by walls and wide ditches on the left or southern bank of the Pasig looking towards the sea.*

It is a hot dried-up place, full of monasteries, convents, barracks, and Government buildings.

Safety, not appearance, was the object of its builders. It reminds the beholder of a Spanish provincial town, and is, next to Goa, the oldest city in the Indies.

Foreigners reside on:

  • the northern bank of the river in Binondo, the headquarters of wholesale and retail commerce, or
  • in the pleasant suburban villages

The total population of city and suburbs has been estimated, perhaps with some exaggeration, at 200,000.

  • In 1855, its population consisted of 586 European Spaniards, 1,378 Creoles, 6,323 Indians and half-castes, 332 Chinamen, 2 Hamburghers, 1 Portuguese, and 1 Negro.

A handsome old stone bridge of 10 arches serves as the communication between the 2 banks of the Pasig, which, more recently, has been spanned by an iron suspension bridge.*

Very little intercourse exists between the inhabitants of Manila and Binondo. Life in the city proper cannot be very pleasant because pride, envy, place-hunting, and caste hatred, are the order of the day.

The Spaniards consider themselves superior to the Creoles, who, in their turn, reproach the former with the taunt that they have only come to fill their pockets.

A similar hatred and envy exists between the whites and the half-castes. This is the state of things in all Spanish colonies. It is chiefly caused by Madrid’s colonial policy which always does its best to sow discord between the different races and classes of its foreign possessions, because their union would imperil the sway of Spain.

In Manila, moreover, this state of things was rendered worse by the fact that the planter class, whose large landed possessions always give it a strong interest in the country of its inhabitance, was entirely wanting.

At the present day, however, the increasing demand for the produce of the colony seems to be bringing about a pleasant change in this respect.

The manner in which the Spanish population of the islands was affected by the gambling ventures of the galleons, at one time the only source of commercial wealth, is thus described by Murillo Velarde (page 272):

"The Spaniards who settle here look at these islands as a tavern rather than a permanent home. If they marry, it is by the mere chance. where can a family be found that has been settled here for several generations? The father amasses wealth, the son spends it, the grandson is a beggar. The largest capitals are not more stable than the waves of the ocean, across the crests of which they were gathered.”

There is nothing like the same amount of sociability amongst the foreigners in Binondo as that which prevails in English and Dutch colonies; and scarcely any intercourse at all with the Spaniards, who envy the strangers and almost seem to look upon the gains the latter make in the country as so many robberies committed upon themselves, its owners.

Besides all this, living is very expensive, much more so than in Singapore and Batavia. To many, the mere cost of existence seems greatly out of proportion to their official salaries.

The houses, which are generally spacious, are gloomy and ugly, and badly ventilated for such climates.

Instead of light jalousies, they are fitted with heavy sash windows, which admit the light through thin oyster shells, forming small panes scarcely two square inches in area, and held together by laths an inch thick.

The ground floors of the houses are generally uninhabited because of the great damp and are used as cellars, stables, and servants’ offices.

The beams which support it are generally made of the stems of the nibong palm (caryota). These are interlaced with poles of bamboo. The whole framework of the house is composed of these bamboos fastened together with canework.

The flooring is made of bamboo-laths, the walls of pandanus leaves, and the window-shutters of the leaves of the fan palm-tree (corypha), held together with thin strips of bamboo.

The flooring of the azotón is formed of entire, and its sides of split, bamboos. The roof is thatched with the nipa palm, and at its summit its ridges are fastened together with laths of bamboo.

These unassuming, but for their purpose very practical houses, of planks, bamboos, and palm leaves, are supported on account of the damp on isolated beams or props.

The space beneath, which is generally fenced in with a railing, is used as a stable or a warehouse; such was the case as early as the days of Magellan.

These dwellings are very lightly put together.

Lapérouse estimates the weight of some of them, furniture and all, at something less than 200 pounds.

Nearly all these houses, as well as the huts of the natives, are furnished with an azotea ; that is, an uncovered space, on the same level as the dwelling, which takes the place of yard and balcony. The Spaniards appear to have copied these useful contrivances from the Moors, but the natives were acquainted with them before the arrival of the Europeans, for Morga mentions (page · 140) similar batalanes.

In the suburbs nearly every hut stands in its own garden.

The drinking water, with the exception of that collected in cisterns, is extremely bad. It is taken from the river above the city and brought down for the use of the inhabitants in flat boats. The stream is often quite covered with green scum; and dead cats and dogs surrounded with weeds, like eggs in a dish of spinach, frequently adorn its waters. In the dry season, the numerous canals of the suburbs are so many stagnant drains, and at each ebb of the tide the ditches around the town exhibit a similar spectacle.

Manila offers few opportunities for amusement.

There was no Spanish theatre open during my stay there, but Tagalish plays (translations) were sometimes represented.

The town had no club, and contained no readable books.

Never once did the least excitement enliven its feeble newspapers, for the items of intelligence, forwarded fortnightly from Hongkong, were sifted by priestly censors, who left little but the chronicles of the Spanish and French courts to feed the barren columns of the local sheets.*

The pompously celebrated religious festivals were the only events that sometimes chequered the wearisome monotony.

The chief amusement of the natives is cock-fighting, which is carried on with a passionate eagerness that must strike every stranger. Nearly every Indian keeps a fighting cock.

Many are never seen out of doors without their favourite in their arms; they pay as much as 50 dollars and upwards for these pets, and heap the tenderest caresses on them. The passion for cock-fighting can well be termed a national vice; but the practice may have been introduced by the Spaniards, or the Mexicans who accompanied them, as, in a like manner, the habit of smoking opium among the Chinese, which has become a national curse, was first introduced by the English.

It is, however, more probable that the Malays brought the custom into the country. In the eastern portion of the Philippines, cock-fighting was unknown in the days of Pigafetta.

The first cock-fight he met with he saw at Paluan. “They keep large cocks, which from a species of superstition, they never eat, but keep for fighting purposes. Heavy bets are

The following figures will give an idea of the contents of the newspapers. I do not allude to the Boletin Official, which is reserved for official announcements, and contains little else of any importance. The number lying before me of the Comercio (Nov. 29, 1858), a paper that appears six times a week, consists of four pages, the printed portion in each of which is 11 inches by 17; the whole, therefore, contains 748 square inches of printed matter. They are distributed as follows:

Title, 27 sq. in.; an essay on the population of Spain, taken from a book, 102 sq. in.

under the heading, “News from Europe," an article, quoted from the Annals of La Caridad, upon the increase of charity and Catholic instruction in France, 404 sq. in.

Part I. of a treatise on Art and its Origin (a series of truisms), 70 sq. in.; extracts from the official sheet, 20 sq. in.; a few ancient anecdotes, 59 sq. in. Religious portion (this is divided into two parts-official and unofficial.

The first contains the saints for the different days of the year, etc., and the announcements of religious festivals ; the second advertises a forthcoming splendid procession, and contains the first half of a sermon preached three years before, on the anniversary of the same festival, “ a sermon so beautiful that it deserved being reissued to our readers at full length,”), 99 sq. in.; an instalment of an old novel, 154, and advertisements, 175 sq. in. ; total, 748 sq. in.

In former years the newspapers sometimes contained lony serious essays, but of late these appear extremely seldom.

made on the upshot of the contest, which are paid to the owner of the winning animal.”* The sight is one extremely repulsive to Europeans. Then ring around the cockpit is crowded with natives, perspiring at every pore, while their countenances bear the imprint of the ugliest passions. Each bird is armed with a sharp curved spur, three inches long, capable of making deep wounds, and which always causes the death of one or both birds by the serious injuries it inflicts.

If a cock shows symptoms of fear and declines the encounter, it is plucked alive. Incredibly large sums, in proportion to the means of the gamblers, are betted on the result.

These cock-fights greatly demoralized a people so addicted to idleness and dissipation, and so accustomed to give way to the impulse of the moment. Their effect is to make them little able to resist the temptation of procuring money without working for it.

The passion for the game leads many to borrow at usury, to embezzlement, to theft, and even to highway robbery. The land and sea pirates are principally composed of ruined gamesters.*

In the comeliness of the women who lend animation to its streets Manila surpasses all other towns in the Indian Archi

Cock-fighting is not alluded to in the ordinances of Buen Gobierno, collected by Hurtado Corcuero in the middle of the 17th century.

  • In 1779, cockfights were taxed for the first time.
  • In 1781, the Government farmed the right of entrance to the galleras (cock-pits) for the yearly sum of 14,798 dollars.
  • In 1863, the receipts from the galleras figured in the budget for 106,000 dollars.

A special decree of 100 clauses was issued in Madrid on March 21, 1861 to regulate cock-fights.

  • Clause 1 declares that since cock-fights are a source of revenue to the State, they shall only take place in arenas licensed by the Government.
  • Clause 6 restricts them to Sundays and holidays
  • Clause 7 restricts them from the end of high mass to sunset
  • Clause 12 forbids more than 50 dollars to be staked on one contest.
  • Clause 38 decrees that each cock shall carry but 1 weapon, and that on its left spur
  • Clause 52 says the fight is over when one or both cocks are dead, or when one shows the white feather.

In the Daily News of the June 30, 1869, 5 men were sentenced at Leeds to 2 months’ hard labour for setting 6 cocks to fight one another with iron spurs. From this it appears that this once favourite spectacle is no longer permitted in England.

Public Promenades

pelago. Mallat describes them in glowing colours. A charming picture of Manila street life, full of local colour, is given in the very amusing “ Aventures d’un gentilhomme Breton.” *

How many of the prettiest “ Indians" are of perfectly unmixed blood, it is, I confess, difficult to decide.

Many of them are very fair and of quite an European type, and are thereby 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.

shoulder-cloth.

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.

Comments

Avatar
No comments yet. Post a comment in the form at the bottom.

Latest Articles

Moneyless Maharlikan System to Solve Stagflation
Moneyless Maharlikan System to Solve Stagflation
Alternative to General Relativity
Alternative to General Relativity
How to Fix Russia and Ukraine
How to Fix Russia and Ukraine
How to Fix Afghanistan
How to Fix Afghanistan

All Superphysics principles in our books

The Simplified Series