Came down the coast to-day from Iloilo on the Q. M. D. launch ‘Scotia,’ carrying rations for the garrison here. While off Guimbal we were hailed by a large native casco beating up toward Iloilo against the wind. Being the only American on board the launch I took the liberty of ordering her alongside the casco, which turned out to be carrying two wounded ladrones (brigands) to Iloilo from Miagao under guard of a sergeant and two men. The sergeant stated that one of his prisoners appeared to be dying and as his rate of progress against the wind was so slow desired to transfer the man to the launch, the probability being that, after making Miagao and discharging his load she would still beat the casco into Iloilo by some four or five hours and thus give the man a chance tor his life at the hospital. I gladly consented. The two ladrones, bandaged and helpless, were brought out from the matting “shelter” on the casco’s deck and placed as gently as possible in the bottom of the row-boat which we were towIng. They were then lifted over the launch’s side and stretched on the benches forward, not without
considerable difficulty, as we were dancing on a lively sea. Leaving the clumsy sail-boat to its snail’s progress in charge of the native crew and the two soldiers we headed on for Miagao with the sergeant and his prisoners. The appearance or the desperadoes was shocking. The heads of both were swathed in soiled and bloody cloth and the older of the two was badly cut about the body. They had, it appears, been captured by the native police of San Joaquin after a hard fight in a ladrone barrio in the foothills. These mountain brigands are cordially hated by the village people and they had been badly knifed in the struggle and treated alter capture. The skin was chafed from the
neck and wrist of one and the hair of the other was a clotted mass of filth and blood.
They had been held in the native guardhouse at Miagao two days without food or water and when we fed them rice reached for it like starving dogs. They will be given treatment to-night at the Iloilo hospital if the launch gets there before the weaker of the two expires.
The C. O. at this place, Captain Barker, acting major of the district between Iloilo and the Antique line, is a splendid man for the place. His district is in the most satisfactory
condition of any I have so far visited. The only disturbing factor is the ladrones, who are left largely to the tender mercies of the native police, a drilled, uniformed and armed detachment being stationed at four towns in the district, scouting and patrolling the
country and guarding the town gates at night. Captain Barker has had considerable
experience in municipal affairs in Rhode Island, and his efforts at organization here have been very successful. He kindly spent the greater part of the afternoon showing me his books and papers and explaining his methods and plans. Already the four chief towns (or, as we should call them, townships), San Joaquim, Miagao, Igbaras, and Guimbal, the second with a population of 20,068, have well-organized municipal government. Presidente, council, clerk, school teachers and police controlling the affairs of each center with out little friction.
The question of ‘church and state’ has been settled with unflinching Americanism, not a “daku” of the town money going to the village priests. General elections filled the
offices, and the taxes are raised by the officers thus chosen. There is as yet no property tax, but a surplus over all expenses of local administration, which include of course the maintenance of the native police, shows the excellent condition of affairs.
The Captain tells me that the American officers in the district, having set the machinery in motion, hardly do more than keep a watchful eye on affairs and act as a final and authoritative tribunal in extreme cases. The ‘gift system’ of Spanish days is sternly discountenanced, the officers (not only here but throughout the island) refusing
all the many presents offered them by natives who have ‘axes to grind.’ As these gifts range from a few simple vegetables up to a fine pony or even a pair, the American officer deserves no little praise for his self-denial. In the good old days of the Spanish occupation to attempt to secure justice from governor or judge without first warming the official’s heart by a suitable offering would have been as foolish as to expect the
blessing or a stone Butsu without offering a plate of rice.
This is Holy Week. Before my arrival this morning a procession headed by the padre and composed of the representative men and village officials of Miagao had marked the beginning of the Passion Season by solemnly filing across the plaza to the church. Miagao is said to be the most populous pueblo on Panay and formerly possessed an
unusually imposing church. Two Spanish Jesuits, always protected by a Spanish garrison, were associated in the work of the parish. When the events of the late war
compelled the evacuation of the town the friars, knowing that to remain and fall into the
hands of the insurgents meant certain death, withdrew with the soldiers. Before doing so, however, they filled the splendid interior of the church with combustibles, ignited the mass, and locked the heavy doors. Then entering the waiting boats they lay to off shore enjoying lhe pleasant spectacle. The insurgents who poured into the town an hour later found all eforts to save the structure unavailing, and only the lofty walls
remain for me to admire. On the smoke-blackened front of the building the stones are
carved in a most curious series of designs, the chief being an immense man with the Christ child upon his shoulder, tugging at the stem of a palm tree, probably a St. Christopher. Clambering over the ruins at the entrance I found the interior strewn with wreckage, fragments of tiling, broken marble fonts, twisted iron and shivered carvings. I could not but be reminded of the Iconoclasts of Flanders. But this furnished no parallel. Here was a work not of wrath but of spite. Jesuitism ruined Miagao to build this church, alienated the people by continual exaction, stamped out in the spirit of gloomy Philip every spark of intelligent education, turned every commercial venture into a feeder for the padre’s pouch, killed activity by tax, thought by edict, and truth by superstition, Then after years of this fine business the holy shepherds, unwilling to leave to the flock the fruitage of their own toil and sacrifices, destroy what to them
was no less than the temple of God, and watch with grim satisfaction from their departing boats the tower of flame and smoke which rose above the grief and disappointment of their erstwhile spiritual children! Such an act was worthy of a sect that descended to the pettiness of forbidding to the common people the privilege of wearing shoes, made an immense sum by compelling all candles to be blest before
burnt, and held a monopoly on women’s veilsl As I viewed, this afternoon, the desolate ruin on its beautiful site, I could not but wish that the melancholy mass might be symbolic of the complete destruction of all that is coercive, bigoted, tyrannical and superstitious in religion.
This parting shot of Jesuitism had left Miagao without a church, and a long bamboo
frame, patched over with the burnt roofing of the destroyed building, is compelled to meet the demands of worship and ceremonial.
This evening, in company with the officers of the garrison, I reviewed a typical religious
procession. It started from the make-shift church at dusk and beside the large number who directly participated it had drawn out an immense crowd of spectators. The native padre engineered the affair and acted a great deal like the distressed marshal of a county Sunday-school rally, as he shoved the various detachments ahead, attempted to right things that were going wrong,, and at the same time preserve the dignity necessary for such a solemn occasion.
The affair started out with the little boys of the town. each one tricked out in his best,
carrying tapers and marching in single file at either side of the street. Well toward the head of this juvenile advance and between its two lines stalked a fatherly parishioner in top-hat, black dress-coat and white trousers. The supply of boys becoming exhausted, the procession was continued by the little girls, each in a fancy dress with a train and high-heeled slippers and consequent vanity very apparent. But this time the padre saw fit to punctuate the line by a candle-decked float–an image of the Saviour carried upon the shoulders of a number of faithful adults. In its rear the local damsels flaunted black silk skirts, piña waists and cream mantillas before our eyes, and carried their long tapers with a fairly graceful air. More floats appeared, ‘Christ in the Soldier’s
Cloak, and ‘Christ Bearing His Cross,’ the latter accompanied by twelve old men dressed as monks to represent the twelve apostles(!), one amongst them ostentatiously dangling a huge Petrine key. The older people now fell into line and streamed by, and the native band, which had been playing at the church door, fell in before a huge float covered with glass globes and surmounted by an image of the
Virgin Mary. A native choir of boys followed singing Latin hymns, and last, in a hollow
square of young Visayan dandies attired in evening dress, came the padre himself, with
his best black gown well sprinkled with golden ornament and his holy eyes flitting from the open missal in his hand to the admiring people along the route. The blue uniforms of the police closed up the affair.
After passing us the procession descended into the quickly-gathering shades of the lower town. Going around the plaza we awaited its reappearance, and had the privilege of seeing it come back toward us in two long undulating lines of waving, shimmering, blinking lights the tapers all stars, the floats all constellations, the band still bravely blowing, and the police marching or fours and lary prancing, while above our head in the bell.tower of the ruined church vigorous natives rattled bamboo clappers with diabolic skill.
To-morrow and the next day (Easter) will be great occasions. Ripples of fire will run
from the altar out over the tapers of immense congregations, girls dressed as angels will sing from bamboo stands, flowers sill be scattered, more processions formed, and last of all, the bells, prohibited from Thursday to Sunday, will ring out the Easter joy. The American band will come up from Iloilo and play on Easter morning, and there will be cockfights, horse fights, bull fights, and a splendid native spree to end up everything on Easter afternoon. In short, a regular Fourth of July, Rally Day, Sunday-school Picnic, Torch-light Procession, Election Day combination.
Conducted a service for the troops immediately after the native procession had disbanded. A pretty bamboo bandstand on the plaza served for a pulpit. All men off duty present and a large crowd of natives in addition. Left reading and writing material in the hands of the orderly-sergeant to distribute as the men had need.