BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


Theory of Colours

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


A visit to the Philippine Islands

by Sir John Bowring

Excerpt:

D

was intended to exhibit an Indian play in the Tagal language, for our edification and amusement. I was too unwell to attend, but I heard there was much talk on the stage (unintelligible, of course, to our party), and brandishing of swords, and frowns and fierce fighting, and genii hunting women into wild forests, and kings and queens gaily dressed. The stage was open from the street to the multitude, of whom many thousands were reported to be present, showing great interest and excitement. I was told that some of the actors had been imported from Manila. The hospitality of our host was superabundant, and his table crowded not only with native but with many European luxuries. He was dressed , as an Indian, and exhibited his wardrobe with some pride. He himself served us at his own table, and looked and moved about as if he were greatly honoured by the service. His name, which I gratefully record, is Valentin Valenzuela, and his brother has reached the distinction of being an ordained priest.

Santa Cruz has a population of about 10,000 souls. Many of its inhabitants are said to be opulent. The church is handsome; the roads in the neighbourhood broad and in good repair. There is much game in the adjacent forests, but there is not much devotion to the chase. Almost every variety of tropical produce grows in the vicinity. Wild honey is collected by the natives of the interior, and stuffs of cotton and abaca are woven for domestic use. The house to' which we were invited was well furnished, but with the usual adornings of saints' images and vessels for

holy water. In the evening the Tagala ladies of the town and neighbourhood were invited to a ball, and the day was closed with the accustomed lightheartedness and festivity: the bolero and the jota seemed the favourite attractions. Dance and music are the Indians' delight, and very many of the evenings we passed in the Philippines were devoted to these enjoyments. Next morning the carriages of the Alcalde, drawn by the' pretty little ponies of Luzon, conducted us to the casa real at Pagsanjan, the seat of the government, or Cabacera, of the province, where we met with the usual warm reception from our escort Senor Tafalla, the Alcalde. Pagsanjan has about 5,000 inhabitants, being less populous than Binan and other pueblos in the province. Hospitality was here, as everywhere, the order of the day and of the night, all the more to be valued as there are no inns out of the capital, and no places of reception for travellers; but he who is recommended to the authorities and patronized by the friars will find nothing wanting for his accommodation and comfort, and will rather be surprised at the superfluities of good living than struck with the absence of anything necessary. I have been sometimes amazed when the stores of the convent furnished wines which had been kept from twenty to twenty-five years; and to say that the cigars and chocolate provided by the good friars would satisfy the most critical of critics, is only to do justice to the gifts and the givers.

We made an excursion to the pretty village of Lumbang, having, as customary, been escorted to the banks of the river, which forms the limit of the pueblo, by the mounted principalia of Pagsanjan. The current was strong, but a barge awaited us and conveyed us to the front of the convent on the other side, where the principal ecclesiastic, a friar, conducted us to the reception rooms. We walked through the pueblo, whose inhabitants amount to 5,000 Indians, occupying one long broad street, where many coloured handkerchiefs and garments were hung out as flags from the windows, which were crowded with spectators. We returned to the Cabacera, where we slept. Early in the morning we took our departure from Pagsanjan. The pueblo has about 8,500 inhabitants; the climate is humid, and its effects are seen in the magnificent vegetation which surrounds the place. The church and convent are by far the most remarkable of its edifices. Here we are surrounded by mountain scenery, and the forest trees present beautiful and various pictures. In addition to leaves, flowers and fruits of novel shapes and colours, the grotesque forms which the trunks and branches of tropical trees assume, as if encouraged to indulge in a thousand odd caprices, are among the characteristics of these regions. The native population availed themselves of the rude and rugged character of the region to offer a long resistance to the Spaniards on their first invasion, and its traditional means of defence were reported to be so great that the treasures of Manila were ordered to be transported thither on the landing of the English in 1762. Fortunately, say the Spanish historians, the arrangement was not carried out, as the English had taken 'their measures for the seizure of the spoils, and it was found the locality could not have been defended against them.

We next advanced into the more elevated regions, growing more wild and wonderful in their beauties. As we proceeded the roads became worse and worse, and our horses had some difficulty in dragging the carriages through the deep mud. We had often to ask for assistance from the Indians to extricate us from the ruts, and they came to our aid with patient and persevering cheerfulness. When the main road was absolutely impassable, we deviated into the forest, and the Indians, with large knives—their constant companions—chopped down the impeding bushes and branches, and made for us a practicable way. After some hours' journey we arrived at Majayjay, and between files of Indians, with their flags and music, were escorted to the convent, whence the good Franciscan friar Maximo Rico came to meet us, and led us up the wide staircase to the vast apartments above.

We were now about to ascend the mountains, and were obliged to abandon our carriages. Palanquins, in which we had to stretch ourselves at full length, borne each by eight bearers, and relays of an equal number,.were provided for our accommodation. The Alcalde of the adjacent province of Tayabas had come down to. Majayjay to invite us into his district, where, he said, the people were on the tiptoe of expectation, had made arrangements for our reception, and would be sadly disappointed if we failed to visit Lucban. We could not resist the kind urgency of his representations, and deposited ourselves in the palanquins, which had been got ready for us, and were indeed well rewarded. The paths through the mountains are such as have been made by the torrents, and are frequently almost impassable from the masses of rock brought down by the rushing waters. Sometimes we had to turn back from the selected road, and choose another less impracticable. In some places the mud was so deep that our bearers were immersed far above their knees, and nothing but long practice and the assistance of their companions could have enabled them to extricate themselves or us from so disagreeable a condition. But cheerfulness and buoyancy of spirits, exclamations of encouragement, loud laughter, and a general and brotherly co-operation surmounted every difficulty. Around us all was solitude, all silence, but the hum of the bees and the shrieks of the birds; deep ravines below, covered with forest trees, which no axe of the woodman would ever disturb; heights above still more difficult to explore, crowned with arboreous glories; brooks and rivulets noisily descending to larger streams, and then making their quiet way to the ocean receptacle. At last we reached a plain on the top of a mountain, where two grandly adorned litters, with a great number of bearers, were waiting, and we were welcomed by a gathering of graceful young women, all on ponies, which they managed with admirable agility. They were clad in the gayest dresses.


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