Myths & Legends of our New Possessions & Protectorate
by Charles M. Skinner
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The strange part of the incident is that, although the tree was thus ill-used to serve the Devil's convenience, and is marked along its bark by his cloven feet, it was not blasted, but to this hour is green and flourishing. The Devil's Bridge, as everybody calls it, is an arboreal wonder, curving lightly and gracefully over the chasm, its branches resting on the bank opposite to its root, some of them growing upside down, but all as green and healthy as those of any tree that the Devil spared when he was looking for a way to cross the ravine. Had he waded the stream he not only would have wet his feet, which would have been unpleasant, but would have touched water that had once been blessed, and that would have been torture. The bad farmer did not survive this spectacle by many years, though it is not related that he reformed. The fair-to-middling one lasted for a while longer. The good one may yet be in the land of the living, unless he enlisted under Aguinaldo, which is not likely, because old men cannot run fast enough to be effective members of the Filipino army.

The Great Earthquake

After months of fighting, Li Ma Hong, the Chinese pirate, and his six thousand followers had been beaten out of Philippine waters. Manila was celebrating the victory on this last night of November, 1645. The church bells had been clanging and chiming, the windows had been lighted, flags and pennants had streamed from the house-tops, sounds of music and cries of rejoicing were heard, a thousand fairy lamps starred the darkness and quivered in the Pasig. The flag of Spain had been carried through the streets in solemn procession, the cathedral altar had smoked with incense, the friars had chanted the "Te Deum," but now all was gayety and music and perfume. A ball was among the festivities, and military and civic officers, pranked in the lace and bullion so dear to the Latins, were going through the narrow ways with their ladies on their arms. Taking no part in the joyous hurly-burly, two men walked apart, near the cathedral, in talk. One was a father in the church; the other, secretary and major-domo of the governor. The calling of the one, the age and dignity of the other, to say nothing of an old wound that gave a hitch and drag to his step, forbade their mingling with the throng.

The secretary spoke: "No, father, I hardly agree with your view. That heaven has been on our side I admit, since we have conquered the infidels, seized their treasure, and strewn their corpses on our shores. But that the blessed St. Francis interposes in our behalf, I doubt."

"This is dangerous doctrine,—a reflection on our order. We have prayed daily for the success of the Spanish arms, and although we addressed the Virgin and all the saints, the statue of St. Francis is the only one that moved while we were at prayer——"

"With your eyes on the ground?"

"The sacristan saw it. Furthermore, let me tell you that the figure of the saint owned by the worthy Indian, Alonzo Cuyapit, at his house in Dilao, was stirred to tears last night."

"Tears! For victory?"

"I fear, for some reason worthy of tears."

"And your imaginations have nothing to do with all this? Men who are wasted with vigils and fasting"—here the secretary chuckled and made as if he would nudge the churchman in his ample paunch—"are prone to see what common men cannot. Though I protest that when I eat much cheese before retiring I have visions, too. But not always holy ones."

The priest answered with gravity, "A life of devotion does clear the vision. It opens the gates of heaven. I fear, senor, that too many in this doubting age are affected like you,—that a study of philosophy and ungodly sciences has harmed your respect for the saints and the church."

"By no means, father. All I maintain is that the figure of St. Francis was not seen in the thick of the battle, as some of the friars allege. Good sooth! What do they know of battle? Our victories were won by stout Spanish arms and good Toledo steel. All praise to Heaven that we had the power."

The priest shook his head and sighed. Then he looked curiously into the sky. The stars were shining, save in the south, where lightning flickered in a bank of cloud, and there was no threat of storm. Yet in the air was a curious stagnation that had fallen within the hour and brooded over the city like a palpable thing. It was hot and close and lifeless; stale smells from the streets reeked into the nostrils, and from the Pasig came a heavy, sickish odor of river vegetation.

"Sometimes it fills me with a fear that Heaven has a punishment in store for us," said the priest, stopping in his walk and looking meditatively into the distance, where the lightning now played more brightly. "We have grown worldly. We have thought less of serving God by our wars than of increasing our power and importance in the eyes of the nations. We have grown proud. We are in danger of losing our piety. Pray that the wrath do not fall."

"With all my heart,—especially to-night. Your blessing, father. And sound sleep."

It was the last time that these friends were to walk together. It was the last time in many a day when Manila would be in gala. At midnight the greasy calm that lay on the sea was broken by a breeze which ruffled the water and made a pleasant stir in the trees ashore. It eased the sultriness of the night and brought rest to many who had been tossing on their beds, excited doubtless by the shows and dissipations of the last few hours. Presently the sleepers were roused again, for the wind was rising steadily; the trees were writhing and wringing their branches in what was surely going to be a gale. The lightning was near. A growl of thunder could be heard. The clock boomed the hour of two. Out of an intense dark leaped a bolt of green fire, and the air was filled with baying and cannonade. Almost at the moment the earth began to rock. The city awoke. The rocking increased. Roofs began to fall, walls to bulge, masonry to split and sway.

"The earthquake! The earthquake!" screamed a thousand voices, and with cries and lamenting the people hurried into the streets and fell on their knees or their faces, unable to stand on the waving, trembling ground. It was an hour of terror. All lights were blown out by the storm or extinguished in the fall of houses, save one or two of baleful meaning that flickered above roofs which had caught fire. The sea could be heard advancing toward the land with tremendous roaring, driving up the channel of the Pasig and overspreading its banks on either side, while far below, and most dreadful of all, the fall could be heard of pieces of the earth's crust into pits of fire and the vast rumble and groan of a world. Houses crumbled, people were pressed to death and maimed in the blackness, streets cracked asunder, trees were uprooted, chaos was come again.

In the morning the survivors looked upon a scene of ruin worse than any wrought by the pirates. The sanctity of the cathedral had not saved it. Of its imposing walls hardly anything remained. A heap of masonry marked its place. Every public building was destroyed. Wretches hurt to the death were pinned under fallen stones and timbers, and many, willing enough to relieve them, were too dazed and agonized by their own pains and misfortunes to pull their wits together. Spain had enjoyed her triumphs. Now her calamities had begun.

On the night before the catastrophe, Alonzo Cuyapit, a rich Indian of Dilao, a suburb of the city, and his friend, the chaplain of the San Francisco Convent, were at prayers together before a statue of St. Francis, that was the Indian's dearest pride. He had shrined it fittingly in his home, with flowers and candles about it, and adored it daily. The statue was of life-size, the work of an adept carver; was brilliantly painted and gemmed, and had about the neck a rosary from which hung a cross of polished gold. So many miracles of healing had been performed by this figure that its renown had gone through all Luzon.

While Cuyapit and the chaplain were on their knees a tremor shook the floor. Slight earthquakes of this kind were not unusual. Though the walls of the house rattled, the statue remained fixed and still. Another jar was felt in the ground, and raising their hands to the saint, the petitioners begged him fervently to intercede against a dangerous shock. Presently they lifted their eyes, and were struck dumb with amazement, for the statue had unclasped its hands, the one pointing toward Manila, as if in warning; the other holding the golden cross toward heaven, as if in an appeal for mercy. A halo, so bright as to dazzle the beholders, played about the head, the lips moved, and from the upturned eyes tears trickled down the cheeks. Cuyapit and the priest arose and tried to stanch these tears, but the cloth they used was soon as wet as if they had just taken it from the river. Then the statue raised its arms high over its head, as in a last appeal for mercy to the world, while the tears gushed in such a stream that they made a continuous fall to the floor. A look of horror wrung the face, as if the prayer had been refused; and, extending its hands in benediction, the saint toppled from his pedestal and was broken into fragments.

When these occurrences had been told by Cuyapit in the Church of San Francisco, under an oath before the Virgin, the pieces were carried in reverential procession to Manila, and the miracle of San Francisco of the Tears is accepted there as history.

Suppressing Magic in Manila

Crowds of all kinds are easily swayed, but it is said that nowhere is it so easy to rouse a panic or a revolution as in Manila. Several times during the earlier months of the American occupation vague fears spread through the city, people ran to their homes or locked themselves in their shops in terror, lights were put out, armed guards were posted; then, after a few hours, everybody asked everybody else what the matter had been, and nobody knew.

In 1820 a strange scene was enacted in the Philippine capital. People assembled in groups at evening and whispered mysteriously. Gowned friars moved from group to group, but whether encouraging or expostulating it was impossible for one to say, unless he understood Spanish or Tagalog. The captain of an American ship that was taking on its load of hemp reported to a neighbor captain, who sailed under the cross of St. George, that there had been a violation of the government order against the importing of Protestant Bibles and pocket-pistols,—two things taboo in the country at that time. This, however, may have been the Yankee captain's joke. As the night deepened torches were seen flitting hither and thither, the crowds thickened, the whispers and hushed talk increased by degrees to a widespread, menacing growl, then arose to a roar. Now drums were heard in the barracks, and the light, quick tread of marching feet could be distinguished through the babble of voices. The mob was slowly wedging itself into one of the streets before an inn, and just at the doors of that hostelry the noise was loudest and most threatening.

Presently came a crash. The building had been entered. Instantly there were shouts and cries, and the throng seemed fairly to boil with anger. In the light of candles that shone through windows the faces lifted toward the tavern were drawn and wolfish. Shots were heard. The mob was shaken, as a wood is shaken by a gale, but there was no retreat. There could be none. The people were packed too densely. Now a glint of bayonets was seen at one end of the street, and some sharp orders rang out. This was more effective. The throng began to thin away at the farther end, and those nearest to the soldiers attempted to break through the line, loudly declaring that they were merely spectators, and did not know what had happened. But in another moment everybody knew. Two dark shapes were passed out at the inn door, and were, in some fashion, pushed along over the heads of the multitude to its freer edge. These shapes had recently been men. With ropes about their necks they were dragged at a run through the streets. More houses were attacked. Other forms were found lying on the earth, pulseless, bloody, after the mob had passed. The military was, seemingly, unable to head it off or give effective chase. Flames now lighted various quarters of the city, and shots were frequently heard. It was a night of terror. History speaks of it as a night of rioting. Many declare that it was a St. Bartholomew massacre, on a smaller scale, and that the Protestants who were killed that night were put to death at the instigation of the friars. Tradition relates that when the sun arose the people, numbering thousands, marched in triumph through the city, following a dozen of their number who bore in their hands the phials in which two French naturalists, recently landed in Luzon, had preserved a number of snakes and insects for their scientific collection.

There was the mischief,—in those jars and bottles. Nobody would put a serpent or a scorpion into alcohol except for some grim purpose, and that purpose could be nothing other than black magic. Hence the raid on the inn; hence the killing of the naturalists and of other people suspected of complicity or sympathy with forbidden arts; hence the state of education of Luzon.

Faith that Killed

Back in the 30's an emigrant of some account arrived in Manila. He was a young doctor of medicine who had just won his sheepskin in Salamanca, and had been persuaded that there was small hope of a living for him in a province where the people were too poor to be ill and too lazy to die. The Philippines had been suggested as a promising field for his practice, and realizing that he needed practice he made the long journey around Good Hope and reached the Luzon capital nearly penniless, but full of gratitude and expectancy. Having secured lodgings, to which he at once affixed his shingle, he sallied forth to see the town and its people, and one of the first of its inhabitants to claim his attention, though she claimed it unwittingly, was a girl of the lower class who was walking along the street with an easy, elastic step, and in seeming health, yet who was evidently suffering from a hemorrhage, for at every few paces she paused and spat blood. Her bearing and expression were in odd contrast with her peril, for she seemed indifferent to the danger.

Prompted by compassion as well as by a professional interest, the physician followed the invalid, expecting at every moment to see her fall or hear her beg for help, his wonder at the stoicism and endurance of the Filipino growing constantly. When she reached her home, an humble house in a poor quarter of the city, he begged immediate audience with her parents, who were, unfortunately, acquainted with the Spanish tongue, and told them it was his duty to warn them that the girl had not twenty-four hours to live; that she was afflicted with a mortal illness; that a priest should be called at once. The girl's cheeks were ruddy, she was in good spirits, and the old people were inclined to resent the warning as a joke, being an exceeding poor one. The visitor explained that he was a medical man, that he was actuated by the most charitable of motives, that he would do everything in his power to delay the fatal ending of the disease, but that restoration to health was impossible.

When this dreadful news was broken to the girl she had a violent fit of weeping, then hysterics, then a long fainting spell, and sank into a decline so swift that the parents were in despair. Neighbors flocked in to offer condolences and comforts; a priest received the young woman's confession and performed the last rites; the doctor plied his patient with drugs, fomentations, and stimulants; father, mother, and friends groaned, prayed, and tore their hair. All the time the poor creature sank steadily, the color left her face, her breath grew labored, and as night fell the doctor's warning was fulfilled,—she was dead.

In a single day the fame of this wonderful physician spread through all the city, and people flocked to his lodging with money and diseases. He was dazzled at the prospect of riches. After three or four years of this kind of thing, if the tax man did not hear too much of his success, he could return to Spain and live in comfortable retirement. Alas! for human hopes, he returned sooner than he had intended. A few days after the death of his first patient somebody asked how he forecast her fate so exactly.

"It was easy enough,—she spat blood," he answered.

"Are you sure it was blood?"

"Certainly. It was red."

"Ah, senor, every one spits red in Manila."


"Oh, it is true! Everybody chews the buyo leaf, which is like the betel of India, that you have heard of, just as everybody smokes in Luzon. The juice of the buyo is red."

Then the doctor realized that he had killed his patient by making her believe she was doomed to die, and with the earnings of his brief career in the Philippines he bought a passage back to Spain in the same ship that had carried him to the East. So, if you hear that a person is ill, but if your informant winks and says that he is spitting red, you may believe that the invalid will be out after a good sleep and a little bromide.

The Widow Velarde's Husband

Enchanted Lake, near Los Banos, on the Pasig, fills an ancient crater and is an object of natural interest. Its enchantment, so far as is generally known, consists in the visits of Widow Velarde's husband to its shores, and his occasional moonlight excursions over its waters in a boat that has the same pale green shine as himself. This Velarde was a fisherman and being somewhat of a gallant he had roused the mortal jealousy of his wife. In revenge for his supposed slights she engaged two of his friends to confer on her the joys of widowhood, which they agreed to do for a consideration. The amount promised was six dollars, but the preliminary negotiations appear to have been hasty, for when these worthies had earned the money, having held the unfortunate Velarde under the water until he ceased to bubble, the thrifty woman wanted them to accept three dollars apiece. They held stoutly for six dollars apiece. The widow would not pay it. There was a long and undignified wrangle,—disputes over funeral bills are often warranted, but are seldom seemly,—and it ended in the angry departure of the fishermen, without even their three dollars, to lodge a complaint against the Widow Velarde for cheating.

Now, would you suppose that two men, having just murdered a fellow-creature, would go to a magistrate to complain about the payment? These Filipinos did it. They went to a judge at Los Banos and tried to get an order for the woman's arrest. The judge, fancying this must be a kind of joke peculiar to Luzon, said he would think over the matter, and he resumed his slumbers. In a day or two he learned that the men had really killed their companion, and had fallen out with the widow on the matter of terms. They meanwhile had learned that their act was contrary to white man's law and had escaped, though it is said they were afterward caught and put to death. Perhaps it is the disquiet caused by the reflection that he was worth no more than six dollars that leads the extinguished husband to vex the scene of his demise.

The Grateful Bandits

Monsieur de la Gironiere, a French planter and trader, who visited the Philippines a lifetime ago, or more, told stories of the islands and their people that are taken in these days with a lump of salt. Among these narrations is one pertaining to the bandits who in the first years of the nineteenth century were numerous and troublesome on several of the islands, and who were alternately harassed and befriended by the officials,—chased when they had money and well treated when they had parted with most of it to cool the sweating palms of authority. Gironiere was visiting the cascades of Yang Yang when he found himself surrounded by brigands who were chattering volubly and pointing to his horses. They did not at first offer violence, but presently he understood that soldiers were in chase of them, and they were considering whether it would not be wise to kill the horses, lest the troop, on its arrival, should seize them to aid in the pursuit.

Gironiere could not afford horses often. He eagerly assured the thieves that he would not give his nags to the military; that he would, on the contrary, depart by the road over which he had come, in order to avoid meeting the soldiers, and this promise he made on the honor of a gentleman. The leader of the brigands saluted, and the Frenchman drove away, as he had agreed, the thieves watching him until he was out of sight. For months after this incident he had no trouble with the natives. His household goods, his garden products, his poultry were spared. Some years later, when he had definitely cast his fortunes with the Spaniards, he accepted a commission as captain of the horse guards at Laguna, and it then became his duty to trouble the very robbers who once had spared him. Their fighting was usually open, and, as the marksmanship on both sides was the very worst, it was seldom that anybody was hurt. Truces were made, as in honorable war, and the leaders corresponded with one another as to terms of battle or surrender. One unofficial document received by Gironiere cautioned him to look out for himself, as there was one in the bandit ranks who was ungrateful. "Beware of Pedro Tumbaga," it said. "He has ordered us to take you by surprise in your house. This warning is in payment for your kindness at the cascades. You kept your word. We are ready to fight you now, as you would fight us; but we don't strike in the back. Tumbaga will shoot you from hiding."

Gironiere was a crafty person, likewise a cautious one. He knew where to send an answer to this epistle, and he sent it: "You are brave men, and I thank you. I do not fear Tumbaga, for he is a coward. How can you keep among you a man who would shoot another in the back?" Just look at that for slyness! And the message had the effect he desired and expected. Some brave bandit got behind a tree a couple of weeks afterward and shot a bullet through Tumbaga. Thus was the power of the brigands weakened, the safety of Gironiere assured, and good feeling re-established between the law and its habitual breakers.


By Charles M. Skinner

Myths and Legends of Our Own Land Illustrated. Two volumes in a box. 12mo. Buckram, $3.00; half calf or half morocco, $6.00

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With Feet to the Earth

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Do-Nothing Days

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Flowers in the Pave

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