Feb. 18th (Sunday), 1866

Went on shore to-day and went all over the city, and returned to the ship with a very poor opinion of Manila. The city is on the banks of the river Pasig and is built on the segment of a circle between the river and the sea. Its suburbs extend over numerous islets formed by the Pasig and its branches, and are reached in all parts by either carriages or boats; but the former method of conveyance is the most aristocratic. Behind the city are extensive plains which rise into hills and finally into mountains several thousand feet high.

On the north side of the river is the suburb in which are the residences of all Europeans and is by far the most aristocratic part. The aspect of the whole is decidedly Spanish and Oriental. Long lines of batteries, sombre churches and ungainly towers with narrow, dirty streets meet the eye everywhere. In the suburbs are light, airy cottages, raised on posts to permit the free passage of waters in the rainy season; and they are so constructed as to be very elastic so as to withstand the shock of earthquakes, to which Manila is subject at intervals.

The streets generally are straight and unpaved, with bridges across the river at intervals. The bridge that crosses the river in the Binondo district comes on a street called the Escolta, which street is lined with numberless bamboo shops and stalls where a foreigner is able to find anything. The street is crowded with a motley population of all races, Chinese, Portuguese, Indians and half-breeds.

The public buildings are the palaces of the Governor and Bishop, the cathedral, town houses, churches of different denominations, monasteries, convents, arsenal, prisons and cigar factories, etc. There are several squares, the largest, the Prado, having a bronze statue of Charles IV.

Manila, like many of these Oriental cities, is fast going to the dogs. It is admirably fitted by nature for trade and if it were not for her people and government it would shortly be one of the first cities in the East as far as trade, etc., is concerned. Her chief manufactures are Manila cordage, cigars, cheroots and the beautiful fabrics called piñas, woven from the fibers of the pineapple leaf and afterward beautifully embroidered, which bring a very high price in the market.

The city has been destroyed several times by earthquakes, the last being on June 3, 1863, which laid most of the city in ruins and killed nearly five thousand people, i.e., including Chinese.

It now being Lent the city is unusually dull and stupid, the celebrated “Manila cock-fighting” being the only amusement the people have. I am tired of Manila already and hope that the ship may never be ordered here again—at least not until our supply of cigars and cheroots gives out, and then only for a very short time.

Feb. 5th, 1866

At midnight last night, having run up our distance, we came to anchor off the entrance to the harbor of Ambong to wait for daylight. At 8 a. mM. we got under way and steamed into Ambong Bay and came to anchor at the upper end.

The object of this expedition was to meet a Yankee by the name of Moses, who, so it was reported at Batavia, had been acknowledged by the Sultan of Borneo and had received a grant of land in this region with the title of “Rajah of Ambong.” If this had been the case it might have been of some benefit to the United States later on It was the Captain’s intention to come in and communicate with the Mr. Moses and report fully to the Secretary of the Navy. But it will be impossible now to do this, simply because there is no Moses here and we could not find a single native we could communicate with.

The bay is a beautiful roadstead, having a good anchorage, with plenty of water for the ships. We could see nothing from the ship except wild vegetation and very thick forests close to the water, with no signs of life anywhere about.

After having been anchored a short time, a single canoe with nine natives in it pulled out from the shore and came alongside. They showed great curiosity as to who and what we were, but we could not understand a word they said, so after looking at the ship outside and in they quietly left and returned to the shore, apparently satisfied.

The natives here look like the natives of Java and are in rather a wild state. Any European is perfectly safe, so long as he faces them, but allow them to get behind you and they will murder you for the sake of your clothing; so that with these cowardly natives one must be armed and on his guard while on shore.

Several of our officers went on shore, and after great difficulty succeeded in landing and finding a sort of a footpath through the forest of palms and cocoanuts, etc., and after a time found the village of Ambong. This is a native village of about fifty small bamboo huts, the inhabitants being in very primitive costume. From the anchorage the only object of interest is a high mountain which towers almost fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea.

As the object of this expedition has not been accomplished, I think that we will now go to Manila, on the island of Luzon.

Tuesday, 23 January 1565

On Tuesday, 23 January, we anchored at the western band, in the middle of the island at 12 brazas, a very fine place for anchoring. This is the form of this island: (figure) At the western part, there are good anchoring places; there is potable water and many people living along the coast. It runs at the western part north northeast south southwest. At the south there is a small island; from this island there is a shoal that extends until the big island. There are in this island many people who are good natured; go about naked; the women cover their private parts with leaves of herbs; their weapons are lances with sharp ends that penetrate, round shields and slingshots and stones which they brought in a esportilla made of palm which served as a shield. They are treacherous and distrustful. They have much rice, yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, sugar cane, fruits and many coconuts and fish. They came out to the ships to trade with us on their paraos, 6 or 8 natives in each boat and they were so fast at the oars that
no galley could overtake them. Of these paraos they have a great number. All
their goods are exchanged for nails. We were on this island getting water and provisions for eleven days. I measured the sun at 13 1/3 degrees and we left and
continued our voyage.

Saturday, August 1, 1861

Take Banker with four men, for a trip up the river to Pasig + the Laguna entrance. Our Comprador, Juan Barberry, is my indian guide and interpreter. Sick all day, + don’t much care what I saw. Though I did enjoy the Laguna + cool evening paddle homeward. A company of guitar players + their dancing girls, enlivened the hotel after my return.