Tuesday, 7 June, 1898

Skirmishes

Fighting has been going on in the environs of Manila almost daily since the 31st of May. The attacks resume at nightfall. A rather serious battle was fought at the mouth of the river in Cavite. At the start of this affair, the Tagals had been defecting. A few Americans had been seen leading the insurgents, some of whom were among the wounded. The Spaniards, furious about the defection of the natives, had made the most defiant sit on the ground and they were shot at close range.

Martial law is declared. There are patrols on the streets, and guards are doubled at the bridge points. There are a few speedy executions without trial. The Spaniards in Manila are very uneasy. Their fear of a Filipino offensive is greater than that of the bombing of the squadron. The atmosphere in the city is tense. The Tagals are not threatening the merchants, bankers and businessmen who are all foreigners. However, the Spaniards form a great colony of officials, including the religious and the soldiers, all fearful for their lives, in the event of an outbreak of a revolt in the capital while the insurrectionists mount an assault from outside. Aguinaldo could have benefitted from this bold coup de force if Admiral Dewey had not officially prevented him from doing so.

Manila is no longer recognizable as the city it used to be. Escolta is sad, almost desolate. The Chinese have fled, the shops are closed, and there are no more strollers, no more buyers, no coquettish ladies or idle chattering to provide entertainment for the enterprising Cantonese. There are no more quarrels or singing. The mandolins, the guitars, and the piercing off-key voices of the Tagals are no longer heard. One only hears soldiers and officers talking in groups. The general feeling is that there will soon be joint action by the squadron and the insurgents. In the event of a massacre, self-defense has taken precedence over the defense of the city.

The women, the religious sisters, and the monks have lost their composure. The consulates are besieged by the nationals who demand that they be given protection. They are annoyed that the consul is not in Manila at a time like this. More so because M. de B_____ is the doyen of the diplomatic corps and seems to have a great deal of credibility, while his subordinate is incapable of taking over the assigned duties. The fact that the district where the consulate is located has been completely deserted by the Spaniards has also created great anxiety among the French.

The insurgents could be mounting their attack in the east in order to surprise the city from the north, according to the ship’s doctor after indentifying their bullets which he had extracted from the wounded Spaniards.

Last Thursday, the battle in the Bacoor area lasted 10 hours. A small number of Americans was guarding the Divisoria bridge. The Spaniards, proud of themselves for their defense in Zapote, report six dead and 33 wounded as a result of several nights of fighting.

We have received a piece of news which surprises no one. The Yankees are allegedly very unhappy with their allies, the insurgents, so each side is becoming more isolated in the confusion.  It is even said that Admiral Dewey had Aguinaldo put in chains, convinced that the entire province of Cavite was supporting his cause. There is no doubt that it is an absurd tale. Admiral Dewey is too well informed to fall into his enemies’ schemes, do what they want him to do and what they would not hesitate to do if they were in his place. Everything indicates that while the Spaniards lack leadership, the Americans are prudent and firm.

The French Sisters of Charity came on board the Sotolongo, which was chartered to provide refuge. The poor women had to endure the rough seas. A few Irish nuns spoke of wanting to reach Singapore or Hongkong in order to place themselves under the Queen’s protection. I find it distasteful that no consideration was given the plight of these Catholic nuns. France does herself a disservice if she does not show herself the leader of nations.

On Sunday night, the flames of a fire were visible north of Manila. Each week there is a fire somewhere. The cause of these fires is always uncertain. Whether they be accidental or criminal, the Spaniards always see the involvement of the hand of the enemy.

The insurgents are closer to Manila. The consuls are asking the captains of the ships to proceed with the embarkation of their nationals. I went by car to see the Spanish troops in the suburbs of Malate and Paco. The streets were crawling with soldiers. There were small checkpoints at frequent intervals. In Malate we were refused passage: “Per orden general, no se puede pasar de paisano,” a light infantry lieutenant told me. There was no need to insist. I thought it would be imprudent to continue. We could clearly hear the insurgents’ gunfire in Pasay. Before leaving, I spoke to a sergeant-major of the 6th Artillery. He was complacent, and spoke frankly without exaggerating.

–How many Spanish troops are there in all?

–Eight or nine thousand men, including the military.

–Can they be depended on?

–They are our enemies. They defect at the first gun fired.

–And the others?

–It is said that they number 30,000. They have gold and are well armed. Look, these are the Remingtons taken from them.

–And here, how many soldiers?

–Two thousand. Light infantry and artillery.

–How many cannons?

–In all, 12 pieces of 80 millimeters — good cannons, too.

I leave at this point. All the men I see look very discouraged. My car follows the landau of a division general — a small man, old, dry, with a parrot nose, and a dry voice, who is carrying out reconnaisance from the Paco bridge to La Concordia. He is accompanied by a staff officer. They are dressed in drill and wear straw hats…

At La Concordia are some light infantry and seamen. They are under the command of a lieutenant. An 80mm cannon is leveled on the road.

We have just come to an agreement with the German consul to take a large number of Spanish refugees, women and children, on board the steamship. The Japanese have refused to shoulder the responsibility. The Germans claim to have two steamships, whereas we have only one.

The Darmstadt, which leaves tomorrow for Shanghai, is carrying high-ranking Spaniards. The Germans are acting generously to show that they are not against the Americans. Seeing their behavior in the bay, one would swear that tomorrow they would try to stop the fighting.

The English are navigating around the American squadron. The French are toeing the German line. I find this rather difficult to understand, but it is even more difficult to accept.

Almost every night, two or three of us meet on the boulevard to discuss the misfortunes of Spain, presently the object not only of our contempt but also our admiration. Our friend, the doctor, is bewildered by the Spaniards’ nonchalance and pleasure derived from their defeat, acknowledging that all is lost.

There is talk of a possible truce as the Belgian consul leads the negotiations with Aguinaldo, who entered the city disguised. Aguinaldo’s conditions remains the same: expulsion of the religious orders, secularization of the ecclesiastics, and autonomy. Whatever the conditions may be, the Spaniards should accept them, if they are intelligent and have good political sense. But they prefer vengeance to the most noble of interests. Spain would rather deliver the Filipinos to the United States rather than recognize them as a nation born of her colonization. In spite of high-sounding words, the narrow-mindedness of the Spaniards is evident.