The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes
By Fedor Jagor et al

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Public Domain Books

Chapter I

[Difference from European time.] When the clock strikes twelve in Madrid, [1] it is 8 hours, 18 minutes, and 41 seconds past eight in the evening at Manila; that is to say, the latter city lies 124° 40’ 15’’ to the east of the former (7 hours, 54 minutes, 35 seconds from Paris). Some time ago, however, while the new year was being celebrated in Madrid, it was only New Year’s eve at Manila.

[Magellan’s mistake in reckoning.] As Magellan, who discovered the Philippines in his memorable first circumnavigation of the globe, was following the sun in its apparent daily path around the world, every successive degree he compassed on his eastern course added four minutes to the length of his day; and, when he reached the Philippines, the difference amounted to sixteen hours. This, however, apparently escaped his notice, for Elcano, the captain of the only remaining vessel, was quite unaware, on his return to the longitude of his departure, why according to his ship’s log-book, he was a day behind the time of the port which he had reached again by continuously sailing westward. [2] [3]

[Change to the Asian day.] The error remained also unheeded in the Philippines. It was still, over there the last day of the old year, while the rest of the world was commencing the new one; and this state of things continued till the close of 1844, when it was resolved, with the approval of the archbishop, to pass over New Year’s eve for once altogether. [4] Since that time the Philippines are considered to lie no longer in the distant west, but in the far east, and are about eight hours in advance of their mother country. The proper field for their commerce, however, is what is to Europeans the far west; they were colonized thence, and for centuries, till 1811, they had almost no other communication with Europe but the indirect one by the annual voyage of the galleon between Manila and Acapulco. Now, however, when the eastern shores of the Pacific are at last beginning to teem with life, and, with unexampled speed, are pressing forward to grasp their stupendous future, the Philippines will no longer be able to remain in their past seclusion. No tropical Asiatic colony is so favorably situated for communication with the west coast of America, and it is only in a few matters that the Dutch Indies can compete with them for the favors of the Australian market. But, [Future in American and Australian trade.] on the other hand, they will have to abandon their traffic with China, whose principal emporium Manila originally was, as well as that with those westward-looking countries of Asia, Europe’s far east, which lie nearest to the Atlantic ports. [5] [6]

[Commercially in the New World.] When the circumstances mentioned come to be realized, the Philippines, or, at any rate, the principal market for their commerce, will finally fall within the limits of the western hemisphere, to which indeed they were relegated by the illustrious Spanish geographers at Badajoz.

[The Pope’s world-partitive.] The Bull issued by Alexander VI, [7] on May 4, 1493, which divided the earth into two hemispheres, decreed that all heathen lands discovered in the eastern half should belong to the Portuguese; in the western half to the Spaniards. According to this arrangement, the latter could only claim the Philippines under the pretext that they were situated in the western hemisphere. The demarcation line was to run from the north to the south, a hundred leagues to the south-west of all the so-called Azores and Cape de Verde Islands. In accordance with the treaty of Tordesillas, negotiated between Spain and Portugal on June 7, 1494, and approved by Julius II, in 1506, this line was drawn three hundred and seventy leagues west of the Cape de Verde Islands.

[Faulty Spanish and Portuguese geography.] At that time Spanish and Portuguese geographers reckoned seventeen and one-half leagues to a degree on the equator. In the latitude of the Cape de Verde Islands, three hundred and seventy leagues made 21° 55’. If to this we add the longitudinal difference between the westernmost point of the group and Cadiz, a difference of 18° 48’, we get 40° 43’ west, and 139° 17’ east from Cadiz (in round numbers 47° west and 133° east), as the limits of the Spanish hemisphere. At that time, however, the existing means for such calculations were entirely insufficient.

[Extravagant Spanish claims thru ignorance.] The latitude was measured with imperfect astrolabes, or wooden quadrants, and calculated from very deficient tables; the variation of the compass, moreover, was almost unknown, as well as the use of the log. [8] Both method and instruments were wanting for useful longitudinal calculations. It was under these circumstances that the Spaniards attempted, at Badajoz, to prove to the protesting Portuguese that the eastern boundary line intersected the mouths of the Ganges, and proceeded to lay claim to the possession of the Spice Islands.

[Spain’s error in calculation.] The eastern boundary should, in reality, have been drawn 46 1/2° further to the east, that is to say, as much further as it is from Berlin to the coast of Labrador, or to the lesser Altai; for, in the latitude of Calcutta 46 1/2° are equivalent to two thousand five hundred and seventy-five nautical miles. Albo’s log-book gives the difference in longitude between the most eastern islands of the Archipelago and Cape Fermoso (Magellan’s Straits), as 106° 30’, while in reality it amounts to 159° 85’.

[Moluccan rights sold to Portugal.] The disputes between the Spaniards and the Portuguese, occasioned by the uncertainty of the eastern boundary–Portugal had already founded a settlement in the Spice Islands–were set at rest by an agreement made in 1529, in which Charles V. abandoned his pretended rights to the Moluccas in favor of Portugal, for the sum of 350,000 ducats. The Philippines, at that time, were of no value.


[Foreign mail facilities.] The distance from Manila to Hongkong is six hundred fifty nautical miles, and the course is almost exactly south-east. The mail steamer running between the two ports makes the trip in from three to four days. This allows of a fortnightly postal communication between the colony and the rest of the world. [9]

[Slight share in world commerce.] This small steamer is the only thing to remind an observer at Hongkong, a port thronged with the ships of all nations, that an island so specially favored in conditions and fertility lies in such close proximity.

[Little commerce with Spain.] Although the Philippines belong to Spain, there is but little commerce between the two countries. Once the tie which bound them was so close that Manila was wont to celebrate the arrival of the Spanish mail with Te Deums and bell-ringing, in honor of the successful achievement of so stupendous a journey. Until Portugal fell to Spain, the road round Africa to the Philippines was not open to Spanish vessels. The condition of the overland route is sufficiently shown by the fact that two Augustinian monks who, in 1603, were entrusted with an important message for the king, and who chose the direct line through Goa, Turkey, and Italy, needed three years for reaching Madrid. [10]

[Former Spanish ships mainly carried foreign goods.] The trade by Spanish ships, which the merchants were compelled to patronize in order to avoid paying an additional customs tax, in spite of the protective duties for Spanish products, was almost exclusively in foreign goods to the colony and returning the products of the latter for foreign ports. The traffic with Spain was limited to the conveyance of officials, priests, and their usual necessaries, such as provisions, wine and other liquors; and, except a few French novels, some atrociously dull books, histories of saints, and similar works.

[Manila’s fine bay.] The Bay of Manila is large enough to contain the united fleets of Europe; it has the reputation of being one of the finest in the world. The aspect of the coast, however, to a stranger arriving, as did the author, at the close of the dry season, falls short of the lively descriptions of some travellers. The circular bay, one hundred twenty nautical miles in circumference, the waters of which wash the shores of five different provinces, is fringed in the neighborhood of Manila by a level coast, behind which rises an equally flat table land. The scanty vegetation in the foreground, consisting chiefly of bamboos and areca palms, was dried up by the sun; while in the far distance the dull uniformity of the landscape was broken by the blue hills of San Mateo. In the rainy season the numerous unwalled canals overflow their banks and form a series of connected lakes, which soon, however, change into luxuriant and verdant ricefields.

[City’s appearance mediaeval European.] Manila is situated on both sides of the river Pasig. The town itself, surrounded with walls and ramparts, with its low tiled roofs and a few towers, had, in 1859, the appearance of some ancient European fortress. Four years later the greater part of it was destroyed by an earthquake.

[The 1863 earthquake.] On June 3, 1863, at thirty-one minutes past seven in the evening, after a day of tremendous heat while all Manila was busy in its preparations for the festival of Corpus Christi, the ground suddenly rocked to and fro with great violence. The firmest buildings reeled visibly, walls crumbled, and beams snapped in two. The dreadful shock lasted half a minute; but this little interval was enough to change the whole town into a mass of ruins, and to bury alive hundreds of its inhabitants. [11] A letter of the governor-general, which I have seen, states that the cathedral, the government-house, the barracks, and all the public buildings of Manila were entirely destroyed, and that the few private houses which remained standing threatened to fall in. Later accounts speak of four hundred killed and two thousand injured, and estimate the loss at eight millions of dollars. Forty-six public and five hundred and seventy private buildings were thrown down; twenty-eight public and five hundred twenty-eight private buildings were nearly destroyed, and all the houses left standing were more or less injured.

[Damage in Cavite.] At the same time, an earthquake of forty seconds’ duration occurred at Cavite, the naval port of the Philippines, and destroyed many buildings.

[Destruction in walled city.] Three years afterwards, the Duc d’Alencon (Lucon et Mindanao; Paris, 1870, S. 38) found the traces of the catastrophe everywhere. Three sides of the principal square of the city, in which formerly stood the government, or governor’s, palace, the cathedral, and the townhouse, were lying like dust heaps overgrown with weeds. All the large public edifices were “temporarily" constructed of wood; but nobody then seemed to plan anything permanent.

[Former heavy shocks.] Manila is very often subject to earthquakes; the most fatal occurred in 1601; in 1610 (Nov. 30); in 1645 (Nov. 30); in 1658 (Aug. 20); in 1675; in 1699; in 1796; in 1824; in 1852; and in 1863. In 1645, six hundred [12], or, according to some accounts, three thousand [13] persons perished, buried under the ruins of their houses. Their monastery, the church of the Augustinians, and that of the Jesuits, were the only public buildings which remained standing.

[Frequent minor disturbances.] Smaller shocks, which suddenly set the hanging lamps swinging, occur very often and generally remain unnoticed. The houses are on this account generally of but one story, and the loose volcanic soil on which they are built may lessen the violence of the shock. Their heavy tiled roofs, however, appear very inappropriate under such circumstances. Earthquakes are also of frequent occurrence in the provinces, but they, as a rule, cause so little damage, owing to the houses being constructed of timber or bamboo, that they are never mentioned.

[Scanty data available.] M. Alexis Perrey (Mém. de l’Académie de Dijon, 1860) has published a list, collected with much diligence from every accessible source, of the earthquakes which have visited the Philippines, and particularly Manila. But the accounts, even of the most important, are very scanty, and the dates of their occurrence very unreliable. Of the minor shocks, only a few are mentioned, those which were noticed by scientific observers accidentally present at the time.

[The 1610 catastrophe.] Aduarte (I. 141) mentions a tremendous earthquake which occurred in 1610. I briefly quote his version of the details of the catastrophe, as I find them mentioned nowhere else.

“Towards the close of November, 1610, on St. Andrew’s Day, a more violent earthquake than had ever before been witnessed, visited these Islands; its effects extended from Manila to the extreme end of the province of Nueva Segovia (the whole northern part of Luzon), a distance of 200 leagues. It caused great destruction over the entire area; in the province of Ilocos it buried palm trees, so that only the tops of their branches were left above the earth’s surface; through the power of the earthquake mountains were pushed against each other; it threw down many buildings, and killed a great number of people. Its fury was greatest in Nueva Segovia, where it opened the mountains, and created new lake basins. The earth threw up immense fountains of sand, and vibrated so terribly that the people, unable to stand upon it, laid down and fastened themselves to the ground, as if they had been on a ship in a stormy sea. In the range inhabited by the Mendayas a mountain fell in, crushing a village and killing its inhabitants. An immense portion of the cliff sank into the river; and now, where the stream was formerly bordered by a range of hills of considerable altitude, its banks are nearly level with the watercourse. The commotion was so great in the bed of the river that waves arose like those of the ocean, or as if the water had been lashed by a furious wind. Those edifices which were of stone suffered the most damage, our church and the convent fell in, etc., etc.”


Preface  •  Chapter I  •  Chapter II  •  Chapter III  •  Chapter IV  •  Chapter V  •  Chapter VI  •  Chapter VII  •  Chapter VIII  •  Chapter IX  •  Chapter X  •  Chapter XI  •  Chapter XII  •  Chapter XIII  •  Chapter XIV  •  Chapter XV  •  Chapter XVI  •  Chapter XVII  •  Chapter XVIII  •  Chapter XIX  •  Chapter XX  •  Chapter XXI  •  Chapter XXII  •  Chapter XXIII  •  Chapter XXIV  •  Chapter XXV  •  Chapter XXVI  •  Chapter XXVII