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November 7, 1898 (Monday)

We received our pay today. Our company went on out-Post Duty. There are 4 Posts.

(Editor’s note: At some point in November, Briggs wrote detailed descriptions of Manila and its inhabitants and later inserted them into his journal. A sampling of these pages are excerpted here.)

The Old Wall

The city of Manila is situated on the East shore of the bay of the same name in the Southern part of the Island of Luzon. It is divided into the old city or wall{ed] city and the new city. The old city, Manila proper, is on the left bank of the Pasig River and is surrounded by a Wall some two miles and half in circumference. This wall, … one of the sights of Manila, is a [ full] twenty five feet. . . . it is surrounded by a double moat, which now is choked up with the mud and filth of centuries. . . .

The Pasig River

The Pasig River flows through the center of Manila, which [with] its estuaries reaching out in every direction make it a veritable city of canals. The canals or estuaries are of great importance as highway(s] and are largely used [as] such. The district of Benondo [Binondo] on the right bank of the river Pasig is the center of commercial activity of Manila. Along the banks of the river, which is here confined by stone embankments, are to be found the large Wholesale house and the custom house. The river is deep enough to admit vessels drawing up thirteen feet of water and the water is generally lined with boats of all kinds, steamers, schooners and scores of the big native cascoes, which are used as lighters [| freighters]. They are a purely native craft covered with bamboo wicker roofs and propelled by means of long bamboo poles. There is a narrow platform along the side of the cascoes at the The Pasig River, which flows through Manila, was an important transportation route. water level and the native boatm[a]n walk{s] along this with his pole and slowly propels this unruly craft, which is to him both home and lifehood. For the whole family lives in the little house or shed in the stern of the casco….

The Spanish Prisons

The city and general prison is well worth a visit. Large colony of evil doers confined there, the great [portion] of whom wore chains fastened to their ankles with . . . the pin firmly riveted in. [During the] daytime the ends of the long chains attached [were] fastened around the prisoners waist. As soon as the American authorities took charge of this institution, these chains were taken off and are now shown to visitors as relics. There are at present, Nov. ’98, confined in this place about 750 prisoners. They make all kinds of little things to sell such as horns, spoons, knives, forks from buffalo horns, shell carvings, baskets, weaving and all such work is beautifully done. One of the most interesting sights to be [s]een there is the garrote or strangling machine, with which capital punishment is inflicted under Spanish law. The original form of this was simply a short piece of rope [with] the ends spliced which was placed around the victim’s neck and them passed through a hole in a post. A stick was then inserted in the loop and twisted around until the subject was strangled. The modern machine is a great improvement on this cruel method. It is a rectangular iron frame sliding on grooved collar which is firmly bolted to a post. The front of the frame is hinged and can be opened to admit the neck of the condemned. The back of the frame is drilled and tapped to admit a large screw, very much like a litter press screw. The end of this screw or bolt rests against the collar, with which the garrote is fastened to the post and by turning the screw in contact with the collar. The execution always takes place in the open air in some public square. The
condemned dresses in a long black robe and is led to that post and made to sit on a narrow seat so spaced that his neck is on a level with the garrote. The victim of justice [is] bound [tightly to the post, the frame is pushed out and closed around his neck and the black cap adjusted. The officer gives the signal. The executioner rapidly turns the screw. There is a shudder, a short convulsive struggle and all is over. The body is left exposed for hours. Except when in actual use, the garrote is kept in the prison in charge of the executioner. I had the honor
of an interview with this functionary. Who is a native Philippine Islander, serving a twenty year term for murder. He gave me a very graphic description of the method of using the machine. The results seem to be like cutting a man’s head off with a dull pair of scissors, but doing it quickly. I asked the man if it did [not] horrify him to kill men in that manner [to] which he responded, “Oh no. | get sixteen dollars for doing it.” I have no doubt that . . . he would be glad to depopulate the whole island at that price. He has executed twenty-seven men and his machine has a record of over two hundred. . . .

The Escolta

The principal street in Manila is the Escolta, on which are the large retail establishments of the city mostly in the hands of Europeans. It is quite narrow and only about a third of a mile in length. May be imagined during the busy hours of the day and early in the evening and quite a struggle is necessary to force oneself along the streets where Americans and Spaniards soldiers, natives and Chinese push and scramble through the crowd. At 12:00, however, all is [quiet]. The stores are closed and the shopkeepers are all away sleeping the siesta. A universal and in this hot climate a most salubriaus habit. . . .

The Native Quarters

Fondo [Tondo] the suburb beyond [Binondo] is the dwelling place of the poor class of natives. … The ground is perfectly flat. As there is no system of drainage, all the filth from the houses accumulate[s] and pools of water [form] in the hollows during the wet season. The result is that when the dry season comes, the | fever] makes fearful [ravages] among these people. The average death rate in Manila is under ordinary conditions of from eighteen to thirty a day, which for a city of this size, nearly 400,000, is very moderate under the present conditions of sanitation. The wonder is not that people die here, but that they live at all. It seems to prove that the climate is [not] of its self very unhealthy.

The Beautiful Palace of the Governor General

The rich class of merchants and military men have their residence in the San Miguel and San Sabastain (Sebastian) districts where some very beautiful houses and grounds are to be seen. One of the most beautiful places in the city is the Palace of Malacanan the Summer residence of the Captain General of the Philippines.

The Architecture

The general appearance of Manila is uninteresting in the extreme. The street{s] except in San Miguel and San Sabastion are narrow and the houses present an appearance of monotonous similarity. The prevailing style of architecture is the [hollow] square with an interior court, but the square [is] generally small and serves [as] a dumping ground instead of being used [as] a flower garden as is often the case in Mexico. Two [stories] is in the ordinary limit of height. . . .

A Unique Building

A striking exception to this generality is the church of St. Ignatius attached [to] the Jesuit college. This church is a little gem of art and is proudly unique in the world. The interior is constructed entirely of woods of the country, [carved] by master hands. The floor is a mosaic of different colored wood. … Around the church are statues of Christ and the saints all carved from wood and absolutely without flaw. The rail of the high alter is adorned with wreathes of carved wood. The delicacy of the work is something marvelous. Every petal of the flowers, every vein in the leaf being beautifully copied. The church took 12 years to complete and all the work was done by natives, with native material except the carving of the marble pillar biases, which were imported from Italy. The whole place is [in] effect [a] lesson of the genius of the native for imitation [for] the designing was European. They have unlimited patien|ce] and wonderful mechanical skill. One small [panel] in the pulpit alter work, some twenty by eighteen inches in size representing the Ascension, . . . took three months to execute. . . .

Drives and Walks

Manila is a sombre place. The heavy walls and cannon every where seems to keep the idea of defense uppermost. [Futile have these preparations proved in the crucial test. There is no theater worthy of the name and there are no parks unless the one or two little places in the old city can be [dignified] with that name. There is a fine boulevard along the waterfront however, outside of the moat and here in the cool hours of the evening, the upperfechelon] of Manila society may be seen driving along in open carriages drawn by the diminutive but [spirited] little native horses. The Spanish ladies, some of them extremely handsome, bareheaded [and] dressed in the light gauzy fabrics proper to the climate are very pleasing to the sight of the exiled American youth as they ride by, their eyes flashing and pretty teeth sparkling through the smiling lips, but alas they are very loyal to the lost cause and cast no looks of favor [on] the rude Northerners who have humbled the pride of their country. Some of the men are very friendly with us, but I [have] yet to see a Spanish lady in the company of an American.

The Trade
Trade is largely in the hands of the Chinese. [T]hey are every where and handle everything. . . . [T]hey manufacture sugar and soap and many other articles of value [to] carpenters under tribute. [Binondo] is full to over flowing with Chinese. Del Rosario and Adjacent streets are lined with the diminutive space showing shops of these thrifty people. They understand the tricks of trade to perfection .. . .