Fort Stotsenburg, Pampanga, P. I.
After twelve thousand five hundred miles at, & believe it or not, the magnificent speed of fourteen miles an hour, we have finally reached what is to be our home for the next two years. Having been on the Army transport Grant since the ninth of September, when we said farewell to the Statue of Liberty, I am a little bewildered at living in anything larger than a cubicle.To be able to brush my hair without forcing my husband to take refuge in the lower bunk is my very considerable pleasure at the present moment.
The ship was anchored in Manila Bay, just outside the breakwater when we awoke this morning and the fog was a light dirty gray over the harbor and the city. little boats were putt-putting around us while their brown passengers kept up a constant stream of conversation with our crew, their dialect reminiscent of a warming radiator on a cold morning. After the arrival of the launch with the various inspectors, States mail for the passengers, and the officers from various garrisons to greet and aid their newcomers, we pulled into the dock.
We were met by friends from Stotsenburg who took command of the situation immediately. Helen piloted me down the dock to a waiting car and took me to the Army and Navy Club while her husband stayed on the pier with Ham and helped him with the baggage. I was bedecked with corsages which friends had pinned on me as I struggled through the mob; some of the donors I recognized but others it took time and thought to place. When you have grown up in the Army it is hard to remember just where and when you last saw a face.
After lunch we started the sixty mile drive to Fort Stotsenburg. Although it is very hot from one to three o’clock, it is the best time to travel by car as the native population is taking its “siesta” and the roads are comparatively empty. The roads in the Islands are universally used to sit on as well as to drive on, since there are no fences,
with the result is that chickens, carabao, goats, sway-backed pigs, mangy dogs and scraggly cats are where cars are laughingly supposed to have to have the right of way. Driving on the left hand side is an added complication for the newcomer.
That drive was an eye opener. We had to cross town, through the shopping and business districts where the streets are narrow and jammed with cars and little pony-drawn, two-wheeled calesas. Most of the latter are so disgracefully overloaded with people that the carriages lean backward at an alarming angle, are kept from going over only by the weight of the little ponies that struggle along practically on tiptoe.
We turned off the Escolta, which is the main shopping street, into a perfect maelstrom of a thoroughfare known as Avenida Rizal. Over its entire length hangs an almost solidified compound of noises and smells; along it travel lumbering carabao (water-buffalo) carts, street cars, motor calesas, ordinary calesas, “calesabusses” (these have two ponies and hold more people), and a collection of automobiles piloted by very poor but impetuous drivers– all this scrambles up, down, and back and forth across the street, which in itself adds further hazards by way of a row of concrete posts down the middle, to hold the trolley wires.
As we got out into the country the scene changed to green rice paddies and cane fields, worked by little brown men in various colored shirts and short pants but almost all topped by large straw Chinese hats. The intense green was broken by the tan of the nipa shacks perched on tall stilts to keep them out of water in the wet season. Under the houses the ponies, the carabaos and the pigs are kept with the resulting stench, while sometimes in the yards are lovely bushes of hibiscus, gardenias and poinsettias; and bougainvilla blazes magenta trails over the nipa palm roofs. Most of the houses consist of one room in which the cooking is done over an open fire and the dining is done from a communal bowl of rice and fish placed in the center of the floor and dipped into by fingers. The family sleeps in the corner on a mat or mats on the split-bamboo floor. The illumination, except in large barrios (villages) and towns, is by oil lamps. Crane’s fixtures have made no ingress, whatsoever, and Chick Sales are very, very few.
At the Fort Stotsenburg gate the filth of the surrounding country recedes. The post, sprawled at the foot of the mountains, is built around the neatly clipped polo field and parade ground just as is many another American Cavalry and Artillery post, with the officers quarters on one side and the barracks on the other with the stables behind them. These are all frame bulldings with no glass windows and few doors. They are kept off the ground by cement posts around the bases of which are gutter arrangements which are filled with crude oil to keep out the ants. Our bungalow type house has a screened porch along two sides, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room and a dining room. At the back is the kitchen, servants rooms and bath and the back porch where the lavendera [lavandera] washes daily. We have a cook at fifteen dollars gold a month and a houseboy and a lavendera [lavandera] at seven-fifty each. Strange as it may seem, it takes all these to run a home for two people. I’m afraid it will take some perseverance on my part to be able to manage the three of them, for their English is almost a foreign language.