Last few days of December 1901

This month predicts a sad future for the prisoners in the prison house.

Ever since we arrived in the island, we have been fed with canned goods and it was very seldom that we were given fresh meat during the time of Commander Orwig. We had canned meat, canned salmon and bacon, potatoes, etc. Although in the last few days we were already satiated, we did not mind it too much since we were still able to buy from the Commissary sardines, shrimps in cans, ham and other things.

During the time of Captain Shaw, who manifested great concern for us, we were served salmon and given a supply of fresh meat twice a week. Besides, during this time, we could ask either though the guy with a shaven head or through our cook who also had a shaven head to buy for us vegetables, chicken and other goods.

Shaw finally left and Captain McKelvy assumed command. This time, we no longer had potatoes but beans; we could not buy from the Commissary other than cigarettes and they stopped giving us fresh meat. Besides, our head-shaven cook had left and was replaced by Agramon, another companion of ours, who was paid a salary of 30 pesos; however, we were still able to ask the milkman and the servants of those who transferred to Agaña, and who came to visit us often, to do this favor for us, since they were allowed to ride in a car-ambulance that plies through Agaña and Piti (round trip) three times a day.

Then the prisoners ran out of money and the milkman stopped coming, because only a few were able to buy milk. Later, our companions’ servants in Agaña were prohibited from riding in the ambulance, which was solely intended for the Americans and the government service. First we appealed to Captain McKelvy and then to Mr. Pressey, Judge of the Court of First Instance and Assistant to the Governor, that we be supplied fresh meat, as it used to be during the time of Captain Shaw. They promised to do so, but this was never fulfilled.

Lastly, at the start of this month, the prisoners could no longer eat canned meat, no matter how they forced themselves, because they felt nauseated and wanted to vomit. I found out later that the cook, in agreement with the prisoners, did not want to get the ration of canned meat from the Commissary, which supply was to last for ten days. Thinking Captain McKelvy would be offended, I talked to Mr. Llanero, who, being the President, represented the prisoners, so that he could write the captain telling him that the canned goods have not been claimed and that he was advising him about this so that the goods would not be wasted, since the prisoners would not take them.

Captain McKelvy got mad, saying that the prisoners have no right to refuse what is given them; nevertheless, he gave us a supply of fresh meat for a period of three weeks. Then, the cook was ordered to receive the usual supply of canned meat, and we were forbidden to ask the head-shaven guys to buy for us anything, since the Commissary takes care of buying what we need. Our companions ordered the purchase of twenty pounds of meat. It cost them a lot of money but the meat already smelled rotten when delivered to them. On the other hand, those who wish to live in Agaña were not granted a permit. We spent Christmas of 1901 with these painful thoughts. This is not surprising to me, because we were brought here precisely to make us suffer. Much as I am willing to suffer everything, I’m afraid my sick and weak body cannot withstand a prolonged self-deprivation. Be that as it may, I am convinced I will die all by myself, when my country shall no longer need my services.

Mr. Pressey invited me twice to live in Agaña, saying I must not worry about the money, since I would have enough. I have refused these offers, thinking it improper to leave our companions during these critical times.

Besides, I must add that in the past few days, when our companions had just transferred to Agaña, several times the community received from them gifts in kind, such as meat, fish and other things. I remember Mr. Dimayuga in particular, who has often sent me meat and vegetables, etc.

Lastly, I remember Captains Shaw and McKelvy, who took the trouble of teaching us (me and some companions) English, whenever their work allowed them to. Some weeks ago, I had given up studying the language, on account of my poor nourishment, which has deprived me of my high spirits, thinking it would be futile to continue, if, in the end I should die here or return to the Philippines, very sick and incapable of doing something good.

Goodbye to you, 1901! You are leaving us with a sad memory, yet a painful mark in my heart. I welcome you, 1902! Let this year be less severe, not with me anymore, but with my companions and friends.


17th of February 1901

Having been informed that a ship will soon arrive from America and bound for Manila, I wrote my brother, Alejandro Mabini, the following letter with the same date as above.

MY DEAR BROTHER: I guess you have been waiting to hear from your Kuya and me, so let me give you a brief account of what happened.

We boarded the ship Rosencrans in the morning of Tuesday, last January 18 and left Manila Bay in the afternoon of the next day. We sailed toward the south, passing in front of Camarines and Albay. We crossed the strait of San Bernardino and finally we reached the Pacific Sea, heading for the island of Guam toward the east, if I am not mistaken, where we arrived at about noontime on the 24th day.

Don’t ask me about the details of our trip, since I could not leave my cabin even once, during the journey. I do not know of any accidents that happened, except an engine trouble of the ship, which constrained us to stop until past noon in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. I got a little seasick when I inhaled its saline sea breeze. Kuya has no news to tell you.

According to them, for lack of accommodation, we had to stay on board for a period of 28 days. We disembarked in the afternoon of the 12th of this month in a barrio called Piti. Then we started to walk, which we did most of the time, while the others were carried in carts, towards the direction of Agaña, the former capital of the Marianas Islands. Now it is Guam. After a road’s journey for three fourths of an hour, we came to a barrio called Asan, which they claim, is an hour’s walk from Agaña (4 miles approximately), where we had encamped.

(In spite of having remained on board the ship for quite sometime, the prison house is not constructed yet. In view of this, we are temporarily housed in tents. We are occupying a place which used to be a hospital for the lepers during the Spanish rule. This was burned when the Americans took over the island. Apparently, they are telling us that this place is just the most appropriate for us, for our mind is afflicted with a contagious illness forcing them therefore, to isolate us and prevent us from mingling with our own kind, just like the lepers. I hope our isolation contributes to the pacification of our beloved land, because notwithstanding my exile, I think not of myself, but of all of you out there, who are exposed to so much risk while the war is going on.)

At first glance, this is an arid land. As we took the road from the time we disembarked, we have seen only a few houses. The mountains, as well as the plains we saw have scarce vegetation and the little that we have seen seems to have been scorched by the sun. Seeing it, one is tempted to say that the summer season is just about to end, rather than begin.

Nevertheless, we are occupying a beautiful lot. Can you imagine a land covered with very fine sand? It is even planted with coconut trees all over, whose trunks, I would wish were well-formed and whose foliage more lush and luxuriant, to prevent the scorching sun from penetrating through the canvas roofs of our tents. Facing the North, I behold the ever raging sea; a steep hill hides my back and my left side, and to my right, I could figure out a street, the little huts in the barrio, hidden among the coconut trees and half-destroyed by the last storm. Yonder is another almost shaven hill and behind which, they say, is Agaña hiding, toward the northeast.

At first glance, the natives of this island seem to belong to our race and their climate is the same as ours.

For one who views life not in terms of comfort and ease, our situation is bearable. We have good food, which is indispensable for one’s survival. The Prison’s commanding officer has so far done everything possible that would give us embarrassment and unnecessary work. Since this letter has to pass through him, I don’t want to praise him lest he thinks I’m flattering him. Besides he doesn’t need praises from any one of us.

The next day, after handing over the preceding letter to Mayor Orwig, he came to see me. There was annoyance in his face because he did not like what I’ve written in the paragraph marked with parenthesis. I said I did not mind erasing it, which in fact, I did, sending him the letter again which has not been returned to me. Because of this incident, I have decided not to write anymore, except in extreme cases, so as not to offend the sensibilities of these people.


12th of February 1901

This afternoon, we landed in the barrio of Piti. Then we walked toward the direction of Agaña. Upon reaching the barrio of Asan, we went to a place which used to be the hospital site for lepers during the time of the Spaniards. Here we stayed in tents which were prepared for this purpose.

We felt some relief after having been confined for 28 days in a big cabin intended for the soldiers, unable to stay on deck except during mealtime and a few minutes alloted for smoking. I have gone up the deck only once, when we were already at Agaña port.

Our companion, Lucas Camerino, is still sick, having caught a fever on board the ship, a week ago.