Diary of Alfred Burton Welch

August 15 — Tuesday 1899

Some firing along lines around by shore early in a.m., but all day was very quiet. Killed a fat hog today and the boys fed well. Washing clothes in p.m. and laid around until they were dry. Many of the 21st boys suffering from fever. They are green, only been here four mos. Today they were going to take city, but the attack has not yet come off. The family of Dr. Jose Rizal, Patriot, lives here, and runs a stand. Also his brother, a General and the paymaster Gen. of the Phil. Army. The stock in trade of the Rizal tiende [tienda] is composed of ten lemons, several oranges, bananas, native cigarettes & cigars, sugar, two chickens, and H²O, and is well-stocked, too, for a native store. City is running full swing now –stores, shops (Tailors, barbers, meat, bakers, jewelers, dry goods, restaurants, &c) are all open. A general commissary is being put in.

A SCOUT TRIP

Took the outpost up about ¼ mile, to a point where we could view a stretch of open, and established the h’dqt. in the tall bamboo stems. I reconnoitered up the east tributary of the Pasig to where the river narrowed suddenly and was all but covered in by the interlocking boughs.

The current was running about 4 knots per hour and, after the moon sunk, I heard, behind a tier of comulous clouds, several canoes slip into the stream from the watery ways of the forest between my position and Laguna de Bahia. The paddles were handled with great care and I heard a whisper, but soon the showy, blinding forms drifted out of sight towards St Anna.

The right mist behan to steam & wreath upon the desolate rice fields and where the loathy floor of liquid mud lay bare beneath the bamboo dumps. Upon the floor of interlacing roots, great purple bugs were crawling with a clicking sound, as of a man in armour; a heavy, sickening, graveyard smell stole across the fields from the old cemetery and the depressing influences of that doleful place made me sick at heart. I sneaked back to the sentry, posted to command the white road to the bend 150 yds in front.

Then the weird, ghostly, oppressive silence –ugh! Wailing sadly, the slate-colored water rails off across the mud into the dreary dark of the black rings of jungle dumps ahead; the hoarse-voiced lizards, hidden among the bananas, broke the silence with a sudden shout, then all again was silent as the tomb behind.

Lines of tall herons stood dimply in the shallow H²O like white ghosts; and I almost expected to see a crew of skeletons glide past the openings where the river ran. All was foul, weird, sullen –then the storm broke.

We lost 4 men killed and 4 wounded. I was the only one who escaped.