Diary of Harriet Low

September 9, 1829

We awoke this morning early, and found the rain was pouring down in torrents. I had just made up my mind to spend a dull day, and to amuse myself by writing letters, when Mr. Johnson called out that Uncle was coming. We jumped with delight to think we were so soon relieved. We breakfasted, and about nine started for Manila in a government boat. It rained hard, but there was a covering to the boat, so that we did not get wet. I really do not know what to say about Manila. You cannot get any idea of it from description. I am told it is like all Spanish towns, the forts, convents, and churches taking up a large part of the place. The roofs of the houses are covered with tiles. They are mostly of one story only, and some are very spacious. They have no glass windows; but they are made of pearl-shell in little squares, and some of them have Venetian blinds. The houses are all whitewashed, but are soon turned black by the climate, which gives the whole city the appearance of having been smoked, as by a great fire. An immense number of people live on the water in boats. We arrived at Mr. Russell’s about ten o’clock. The boats go directly to the gate. The house is fine and spacious. The rooms are all on one floor, very high, and immensely large. We found a number of American gentlemen there, and after dinner I had a most delightful ride with Mr. R. on the Calzada, where we met all the nobility of Manila. It is the fashion to ride there every day about six. No ladies walk out. Our postilion stopped very suddenly, and Mr. R. told me that it was the hour of vespers, when every one is obliged to stop and say a short prayer.