This is the day of the ” Santa Cruz “’ feast.
Santa Cruz is tho name of one of the divisions of Manilla ; the city being divided into a number of these, like our wards, although the city proper has a wall around it, distinct from the other parts. The Spaniards live inside the walls, and the Mestizos outside.
After breakfast I rode with several friends to call upon some Mestizo families. We were all made perfectly welcome at whatever house we entered, and invited to partake of everything the house afforded. Their tables were loaded with all kinds of pastry, preserves, confectionery, chocolate, &c. The ladies played to us on their harps, and produced very fine music. Those of our company who could speak Spanish held quite a lively conversation with them ; those who could not speak it had to sit silent. I of course was one of the silent ones. At one house they were dancing and waltzing, several of the families having bands of music, which they hire by the year. These are made up of natives, who play as well as Europeans. The ladies wore dressed like Europeans, and danced very well, though with a peculiar shuffling step.
One house, owned by a very wealthy widow lady, was almost like a museum, containing a great number of curiosities, with which several apartments were filled. Among these were stuffed skins of birds and wild beasts ; thousands of shells of different varieties, many of them the most beautiful I had ever seen; and coins from all parts of the world, not excepting the United States.
Most splendid representations of Christ and the cross, images of the saints in silver and gold, some costing hundreds of dollars, were to be seen ; and innumerable articles of a magnificent character, to which I could not give names, were arranged about the rooms ; and tables were covered with glass vases and ornaments without number. One large table was filled with every dainty to tempt the appetite, and we were strongly urged to partake. But I found it hard work to eat at every house, for we went to a great many. At each we must take at least one of their little cups of chocolate, which was very thick and rich, until I began to think I should have to sign off; for I had taken so many I could hardly taste or smell anything but chocolate.
We entered one Indian house where a dozen persons were seated around a table, and, although Sunday, were engaged in card-playing. One Indian Catholic priest was also playing. They were not in the least disconcerted by our visit, keeping on as before. Here we were offered water to drink, sweetmeats to eat, betel-nut to chew, and cheroots to smoke. The betel-nut seems to take the place of our tobacco for chewing, and to be a principal item in their offerings of hospitality. It is a bitter astringent nut, a piece of which is rolled in moistened lime, and wrapped in a freshly-gathered, pungent, aromatic leaf, belonging to the running vine of a pepper-plant. These
are then put into the mouth, and chewed all together. The betel-nut grows in largo clusters near the top of a tall and beautiful tree of the palm species. At two P.M. we returned homo.
I was invited by Mr. Kicrulf to dine with him, and go to witness the procession, which was to appear at five P.M. After dinner we called at a Mestizo house where he was acquainted, and there waited for the procession to pass. The streets were full of people and mounted police. No carriage was allowed to pass down this street, and several which had entered were stopped, the guard presenting a drawn sword. On one occasion the guard came racing down the street after a carriage ; and, dashing in front, struck tho postillion several times with his sword, in doing which his horse suddenly whirled about, and threw him fiat upon the pavement.
There were present in the house where we wore several families of the upper class of Spaniards, this boing the only occasion in the year when they visit their Mestizo friends. Several of the young ladies were very amiable and handsome, but I could not converse with them, which, after an introduction, was a great deprivation. A little after dark the procession passed. First came a large cross, and torch-bearers in long rows, with lighted torches; then the musicians ; then the images of different saints, and the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus, all dressed in beautiful robes and glittering tinsel. I should think there were some twelve or fifteen images in all, and each borne on platforms on the shoulders of several men. Lastly came the priests, &c. It was magnificent to look upon the first of the kind I had ever seen. We went around to the various houses, feasting and listening to music till near twelve at night. Several others joined our party, and we went in company. At one house we stepped in and took seats at the long table spread out at full length, and loaded with soups, meats, pies, wines, fruits, nuts, &c., for supper. People were constantly getting up and sitting down, as fast as room was made. Servants were busy replenishing and carrying away the empty dishes. We all received as cordial a welcome as if we had been acquainted for years, and were obliged to go through .the ceremonies of eating, however much against our inclinations. I never saw people so very hospitable ; it seemed as if they could not do enough for their guests. After the supper, we passed into the large front rooms open to the street. These were filled with ladies and gentlemen, walking, sitting, and standing ; and all engaged in lively, cheerful conversation. Some of the ladies were too pretty and interesting for me to resist having a little conversation with them; and, after I had exhausted my few words of Spanish, I found myself still engaged with them, using more than a dozen English words to one of Spanish. Sometimes one would ask me if I understood, to which I would reply, ” O, yes ; ” when she would
say, ” Why, no you don’t,” and away would run and bring an interpreter, who would set us aright, and then leave us to go on again. The Spanish Indies seem to have the faculty of making themselves very agreeable, even when with foreigners who do not speak their language.