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ZAMBOANGA! The very name brings back our first daylight glimpse of Mindanao’s principal town — an adorable water-colour sketch, what with the soft, deep blue of sky and sea, the tropical freshness of green foliage, amidst which nestled picturesque white houses with overhanging balconies, the red and blue sails on the sunlit water, and to the right of the picture an old Spanish fort, gray and stern and forbidding.
This old fort, aside from its undoubted pictorial charm, is historically interesting, in that it is a relic of the seventeenth century and of those first Spanish governors, martially ambitious, who stirred up wars with the Moros for their own personal aggrandizement, wars which have been protracted through two bloody centuries.
Indeed, the history of Spain’s occupation of the islands is but a repetition of wars with the Mohammedans, religious wars, perhaps, at the very first, for the sixteenth century Spaniard was no less fanatical in his religion than is the Moro of to-day; and later, wars for the presumable abolishment of slavery, though we are told by Foreman that “Whilst Spaniards in Philippine waters were straining every nerve to extirpate slavery, their countrymen were diligently pursuing a profitable trade in it between the west coast of Africa and Cuba.”
Zamboanga seems so peaceful at present that it is hard to believe it was ever otherwise. All around the town stretch fine lands, much better cultivated than any we had seen on the trip, with here and there beautiful groves, now of cocoanut-palms, now of mangoes, interspersed by well ploughed paddy fields and acres of corn or sugar-cane. The town natives were extremely friendly and when passing always saluted us deferentially, while in the country the children, and sometimes the grown people as well, yelled cheerily after our carriage, “Hellojohn, hellojohn,” evidently under the impression that Hello, John, was one word, and a salutation 0f great respect as well as a sociable greeting.
No one wore arms around Zamboanga, in fact it was forbidden so to do; and the smiling, well-disposed natives testified highly to the efficiency of the American officer in command, the sight of whose jolly face brought ecstatic yells of recognition from the very babies, bare and dirty, tumbling around in the streets, greetings which the colonel always answered in kind, his eyes twinkling with amusement the while.
Most of our success with these southern Moros may be traced to religious tolerance, and the fact that we interfere with them only in their disturbance of non-Mohammedan neighbours. Slave raids are a thing of the past, and leading dattos have been notified that any piratical or fanatical incursions into American territory will be punished swiftly and surely.
QUARTERS OF THE COMMANDING OFFICER, ZAMBOANGA
It has also behooved us to respect their race prejudice, to be considerate of their religious idiosyncrasies, and to dispense justice untempered with mercy, the latter virtue being considered a weakness in the eyes of our Mohammedan brothers, and as such to be taken advantage of. The border troubles in India, the mutiny of ‘57, the Turkish atrocities in ‘95, the Pathan rising under Mad Mullah in ‘97, the French-Algerian difficulties, and the ever present reminder of Spain’s three hundred years of struggle for supremacy in the Philippines, all serve as mile-posts on the road to good government.
Although thus far we have made no little progress in the right direction, the path has not been strewn with roses, for Mohammedan customs, prohibitions, and theories of living are so strange to a North American intellect that mistakes are liable to occur at any moment. For example, it is a deadly insult for a man to even touch a Mohammedan woman not belonging to his harem, or to pay her the most conventional or trivial compliment. Then, too, as everyone knows, their dietetic observances are of the greatest import, and a good Mohammedan will not only refrain from eating pork, but will not hunt the wild boar or help carry it home for fear the contact might defile him. Wine is of course forbidden, though I have heard that in the Philippines food over which the shadow of an unbeliever has passed need not be thrown away, the Moros there being more thrifty and perhaps less fanatically devout than their brothers in India.
For some strange reason these people have taken most kindly to the Americans, though I am pained to confess that much of their liking is due to the fact that they think we are not Christians, our brand of religion being unlike that of Catholic Spain. This, coupled with the fact that in several instances we have been forced, by a lack of quarters, to shelter our soldiers in church or cathedral, has so strengthened them in their belief that Juramentados, or Mohammedans sworn to kill Christians, are without employment, it being obviously unwise to run amuck and kill, when the Holy Writ promises reward only to those dying while destroying followers of Christianity.
Many American customs that do not entrench on the Holy Law have been adopted with no little avidity by the Moros, and the Stars and Stripes float over the home of every native fortunate enough to possess a flag. This is particularly noticeable in and around Zamboanga, but an officer belonging to the regiment stationed there told us a tale illustrating the Moro’s love for things American, that reads like a romance.
It seems that the post assigned to this officer’s battalion was at Davao, in the southeastern part of the island, a wild and seldom visited country, whose inhabitants consist of a curious mixture of Christians, Mohammedans, and Pagans. In the mountains surrounding the town live numerous Pagan tribes, all speaking different dialects, and wild as the country itself. Having occasion to make a reconnoissance trip in this territory, the officer and his escort stopped overnight in a little village of Bogobos, whose chief did the honours with a savage dignity.
The town was dirty beyond belief, the natives were lazy even in their curiosity, and everything pertaining to the place was in a shocking state of disrepair. Among other items of interest, proudly pointed out to the American officer by his host, was a gruesome collection of human skulls, which decorated the dwelling both indoors and out. “Trophies of war,” he explained nonchalantly to his astonished guest, merely the skulls of his enemies. The American, with involuntary loathing, simulated a polite interest in these ghastly evidences of raids on the lower villages, and that night slept none too soundly in consequence. The following morning, on leaving, he thanked the chief for his hospitality, and asked him to some day return the visit.
Nothing loath, the savage accepted the invitation, and a short time later arrived in Davao, accompanied not by a paltry half-dozen as escort, but by the major part of his tribe. He was evidently not going to be outdone in ceremonial observances, and he and his followers remained long enough in Davao to cause the official larder sadly to need replenishment. During this visit the Bogobos were one and all delighted with the military life of the post; with the drills and parades where the soldiers marched as one man; the evolutions wherein they were deployed, moved in echelon, or wheeled into position; and their sureness and quickness in the manual of arms. Then, too, the cleanliness of the barracks impressed them, and the personal neatness of the khaki-clad men, not to mention the very desirable things to eat evolved by the company cook.
But perhaps nothing so filled them with awe and admiration as the ceremonial raising and lowering of the garrison flag. They never missed the opportunity of seeing it, especially at evening, when the improvised band played the “Star Spangled Banner” and the flag fluttered slowly down the staff, while the troops stood at attention with bared heads. It was so solemn an occasion that the very heavens darkened before it, and night was upon them always ere they half suspected it.
So impressed was the chief with this ceremony that on leaving Davao he asked the officer commanding the battalion if he would give him an American flag, that he might take the beautiful custom into his own village. This request was granted, and the presentation of the Stars and Stripes was made the occasion for a little sermon, in which the head of the Bogobos was informed that he and his people were under the protection of that flag, which represented the great American government, and that he, as chief of the tribe, stood for American authority in his village, so that it would become him to set an example to his people of humanity, liberality, and all civilized observances.
Then, with great tact and diplomacy, he was further informed that in the United States the custom of decorating houses with human skulls no longer prevailed; it had fallen into disfavour with the more enlightened “Natives” of the country and, in fact, they seriously objected to such practices. Consequently, as a representative of the American government, he must keep abreast of the times in this regard. The chief listened very gravely and with never a word to the little disquisition, while it was hard to tell from his expression if his silence meant only savage taciturnity, or if he were really deeply moved.
On a subsequent visit to the Bogobos, however, the officer was greatly surprised to see what weight his words had carried and to note the effect of the Star Spangled Banner upon a savage mountain people. Soldiers were drilling under the green trees; modern sanitation had been adopted; sweeping, heretofore unknown, was a custom of the village; the highly objectionable skulls had been removed from the executive mansion; while every evening the chief and his standing army failed not to face the splendid Stars and Stripes as they were reverently lowered from a bamboo flagstaff, where during the day they floated over a village redeemed by them from seemingly hopeless savagery.
On our first visit to Zamboanga we remained a day only, for by evening our shore end was laid and the office established, so that at daybreak the next morning we sailed for Tukuran, Mindanao, thus deferring our intercourse with Zamboanga, though not terminating it. After laying a hundred-knot stretch of cable between there and Point Flecha, we began to take soundings, and for four days sailed back and forth between Tukuran and the Point, seeking water not too deep for cable laying, though in places the sea swallowed up our sounding wire for twelve hundred fathoms. Think of it — a mile and a quarter! And once the iron marker came up on a sun-baked deck icy-cold from its abysmal plunge.
But at last a suitable course was chosen, and on the afternoon of February 16th we anchored off Tukuran. A prettier bit of country it would be hard to find. Hills on every side — forest hills — as far as the eye could reach, while a road, looking from the ship like a narrow white ribbon, trailed from the shore straight up the green hills to a stone wall, behind which was stationed a company of American soldiers.
The next morning early most of us went ashore, despite the winding ribbon of a road which from the ship looked even more formidable than it really was. As we neared the land in the ship’s launch two Moro boats anchored near the beach attracted our attention, the most absurdly picturesque crafts one could well imagine, with curving prows of rudely carved wood, outriggers of bamboo, and a thatched roof or awning at one end. A gaily coloured hat hung from one of the boats, and over each floated a red flag shaped like an isosceles triangle. These flags were finished by a white border ruffled on all around, such ruffles as we put on window-curtains in America, and over one of the crafts floated the striped red and white flag of the Mindanao Moro.
On reaching the post we found that the boats belonged to two prominent dattos visiting there. One of these dignitaries was an old, toothless man, with a mighty following, two or three of his army even carrying rifles and the others gigantic spears. The second datto was much younger, and repaired to the officers’ quarters to wait until the old chap had departed, evidently recognizing his own social inferiority, for he boasted half a dozen warriors only, and not a gun or spear among them, though they carried barongs of great beauty, with damascened blades and handles of handsomely carved wood, some of them being inlaid with pearl or ivory.
Each of the chiefs and all their followers were dressed in the picturesque Moro costume, which we had seen first in Misamis and Iligan, and all of them were frankly curious over the American women. They discussed us freely to our very faces, and kept changing their positions to get a better view of us, staring with amazement when the old datto was brought up and introduced. How curious of the Americans not to know that a woman should be taken to a datto, not a datto to a woman. And then, too, how odd that they should shake hands just like men, and not cover their faces at all, and what remarkable hair the child had, just the colour of hemp, and how very, very tall she was, though the interpreter insisted she was but nine years old.
Nor was this curiosity confined to the natives by any manner of means, for officers and soldiers alike crowded around us, and one non-commissioned officer took a snapshot of the group, explaining later to his captain, who took him to task for his boldness, that he had meant no harm, but just wanted the picture as a reminder of what American women really looked like, not having seen one before in two years. Needless to say he was forgiven, his interest being subjective rather than objective.
OFFICERS QUARTERS, ZAMBOANGA
We were told in Tukuran that when the troops first went there deer were so plentiful that the pretty, shy animals could be seen at any time of day around the garrison, while at night they would come so close to the barracks as to annoy the men, barking not unlike dogs, and stumbling over kettles and pots by the door of the company kitchen. I do not know that they ever became so annoying that the men had to resort to the cat-discouraging bootjack or soda bottle, but I do know that those Tukuran soldiers had so much venison that they would eat canned corned beef or bacon in preference. Good hunting stories were of course numerous, and some of these so fired the Nimrod of the trip — our major-quartermaster — that he set off at daybreak one morning, gun in hand, accompanied by the crack shot among the soldiers of Tukuran, each prepared to slay his tens of thousands. But although the two men tramped the hills from sunrise until dark they saw no deer, and all because the search-light from the ship on the previous night had frightened them away from their accustomed haunts. At least so said the officers on shore, an explanation at which we Burnside people sniffed, though feasting on venison at the time. But before we reached Zamboanga, a Signal Corps man, whom we left behind at Tukuran to complete the establishment of the lines there, sent a message to the major over the cable we were then laying, to the effect that he had seen a herd of deer from the window of his telegraph office that very morning, and, being a cable-ship man, and so not in league with the Ananiases of Tukuran, the major must fain believe him, whereupon he made some remarks not worthy of record.
Before leaving Tukuran one of the officers belonging to the Signal Corps well-nigh lost his reputation for veracity, or sobriety, by coming back to the ship one day with a most amazing tale as to some fish he had seen promenading — promenading, forsooth! — on the beach. Everyone was hilariously skeptical. Some shook their heads with mock commiseration and hinted darkly that much learning had made him mad, while still others wondered audibly how any man, no matter how vinaceous his tendencies, could have seen fish walk so early in the day. Only one among us all believed him, and she was obliged to — legally.
“Were they exercising for their health?” queried a scoffer, with what he was pleased to consider fine irony. “Undoubtedly,” responded the hitherto veracious one, with unabated good humour, “though perhaps one might more truthfully say they were walking less to gain an appetite than to find the means wherewith to satisfy it.” He then described these piscatorial pedestrians as small, dark fish with little bead-like eyes in the top of their heads, and a blunt nose — he called it a nose, I am not guilty. Moreover, their ventral fins were largely developed, and by this means the fish hopped, or rather, hitched along the sand, after the manner of seals.
It was a preposterous tale, and nothing would do but that the cable-ship Munchausen should take a party ashore where all might witness the fish of Tukuran taking a constitutional on the beach, after the manner of the oysters in “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Nothing daunted, the officer agreed to the proposition, and so confident was he that even Mrs. Munchausen became less apologetically sure of his infallibility. But on our arrival at the beach, not a fish was to be seen, and loud was the laughter at both Munchausens, and numerous the jokes at their expense.
However, the tide going out a little later discovered on the wet sand a multitude of small walking-fish, and thus spared a reputation, and at the same time saved to science a story that else might have been laughed out of existence. Text-books tell of India’s walking-fish, but I have been able to find nothing as to the walking-fish of the Philippines. In Luzon, during the rainy season, it is no uncommon sight to see natives casting their nets in the overflowed rice-fields, though perhaps but a few days before the ground there had been caked hard and dry from the sun. In this latter instance, it is more than probable that the fish do not walk back and forth, but bury themselves in the ground at the beginning of the hot season, remaining there until the first rains call them out in great numbers.
The Signal Corps found the trench at Tukuran a difficult problem in that it had to be dug down a very steep hill leading from the stone-enclosed fort to the beach, but by evening of the first day this was accomplished, and the shore end laid and buoyed. The next morning we left Tukuran, seeking better soundings than we had at first obtained, but finding the water nearly as deep in one place as another, it was decided to leave at sunrise on the following day and lay the cable as best we could.
All went well until late in the afternoon, when communication with Tukuran was suddenly interrupted, whereupon we hauled in several miles of cable, and coming upon the fault, cut it out and “spoke” Tukuran. By this time it was so late that the Signal Corps realized it would be impossible to sight the buoy at Flecha Point that night, though it was then but fifteen knots away, and so we lay to until morning.
As it was out of the question for the heavy cable to hang pendent from the stern of the ship all night at the mercy of the propeller; and as the three buoys were in use, there was one thing only to be done, and that was to fasten the cable to a small boat, with enough men to keep the craft bailed of water. It was a more hazardous proceeding than it sounds, for had a heavy squall come up, the boat, with nearly a ton of cable fastened to it, would surely have sunk. But notwithstanding this, one of the civilian cable experts, the able cable seaman, and three natives spent a most uncomfortable night afloat.
Before leaving the ship, the Americans joked about their possible fate, as Americans will, while the natives, on going down the gangway, crossed themselves and commended their souls to the Virgin, each race brave and stout-hearted in its own fashion. To be sure, they carried with them life-preservers and signals in case of accident, while the ship stayed as near the little twinkling lights on the small boat as possible, like some big mother hen hovering over her only chick.
The next morning the buoy at Flecha Point was picked up, the splice made, and the journey to Zamboanga continued. On the afternoon of February 21st, after making the final splice twelve miles out, we sailed into the harbour, to learn that the cable was working successfully in every detail, and that the natives of the town were overjoyed to be in communication with the world. The great event was celebrated on board by a jolly dinner, to which many officers from shore were bidden, after which we sat up on the quarter-deck until very late, exchanging home news and gossip some six or seven weeks old, while a round and red tropic moon hung in the heavens like a Japanese lantern, and the torchlights of innumerable fishing smacks bobbed up and down, as the natives speared for fish in the dark waters of the bay.
The next morning was Washington’s Birthday, in honour of which the ship was dressed, and, more wonderful still, a holiday declared for all hands aboard, the first one since leaving Manila. This was principally due to the fact that at this particular juncture a day more or less made no appreciable difference in the outcome, while at Christmas and New Year’s every moment was of import.
Even before sunrise the natives were astir in preparation for the great event. All of them discarded their tarred clothing, appearing in natty white “Americanos” and dinky straw hats, while some even sported swagger sticks. In the Philippines any white suit which consists of well fitting trousers and a coat buttoning up to the throat, as contra-distinguished from baggy pantaloons with a camisa worn on the outside, is called by the natives an “Americano,” and is by them greatly admired from a sartorial standpoint.
Nearly all the Signal Corps employees, being men of social standing because of their really princely salaries, fifteen gold dollars a month, sported such suits, which with the addition of stockings and neat tan shoes, instead of bare feet thrust carelessly into chinelas, gave them the appearance of belonging to the native four hundred, any one of them looking eligible for the high office of presidente or secretario. There must have been many a flutter under modest panuelas when the sixty young swells struck Zamboanga that day, with money sufficient to buy unlimited sorbetas and the little rice potas so dear to the heart of Philippine maidens.
The jackies having shore leave were most picturesque, and, alas, hot as well, in their blue flannel suits, with the round sailor cap set at a jaunty angle on their heads; while the Signal Corps soldiers and hospital men in fresh khaki, the officers in crisp duck, and the women freshly starched and ironed, gave a holiday aspect even beyond that of the fluttering flags aloft, as the ship had been dressed both on Christmas Day and New Year’s, although the work had gone on with unabated energy.
Indeed, some of the Irish sailors in the forecastle were overheard talking together that morning, one of them saying, as he rammed his tobacco down hard in his pipe with anticipatory joy in the smoke to come:
“Sure, not that I am complainin’ at the same, but will anny of yez tell me why the ship’s a-flutter with flags, and the lads all given a holiday, and that old coffee-mill of a cable machine stopped grinding for the once?”
“Because,” answered a comrade with an expressive wink, “it’s Garge’s birthday, Garge Washington, you know, the daddy of his counthry!”
“Oh, to be sure!” responded the other, meditatively, taking a whiff or two at his pipe to see that it was really lighted before he threw the match overboard. “To be sure! And it’s a great mon that same Garge must have bin, a great mon, Dinnis. Sure, St. Pathrick himself couldn’t touch him with a shillaly.”
“And for why?” demanded several Irishmen, truculently, their ire aroused at the invidiousness of the allusion.
“Because St. Pathrick, God love him, aint never been counted as ranking alongside of Christ, and this here Garge Washington seems to be of more importance than ayther of thim. Why, on Christmas we didn’t have no holiday — divil a bit of it — just a bite more to ate for dinner, with no shore leave, and the haythens working us and working thimsilves all day as if it had been an ordinary Chuesday ‘stead of Christmas, which is Christ’s birthday, while on Garge’s birthday the whole ship cilibrates. Ah, he certainly must have bin a great mon, that same Garge.”
But notwithstanding our philosopher’s grumble, he enjoyed his shore leave to the utmost, and he and Dennis came back on the evening boat hilarious as could be and reciprocally dependent upon one another for support.
That morning Datto Mandi, the Rajah Muda or heir to the Sultanate of Mindanao, came on board to pay his respects to the Powers-that-Be. The datto was accompanied by his wife, for notwithstanding he is a Mohammedan, he has but one, and the wife of his Philippine foster-brother, besides a large retinue of followers and slaves.
He also brought with him a band, and as a rival orchestra had come out earlier, we stationed the first one in the bow of the ship, and the datto’s musicians in the stern.
All would have been well had not a spirit of emulation caused the bands to play different selections at one and the same time, resulting in a discordant war of notes and the death of harmony. Peace was restored by some native rushing valiantly to the front and forcibly stopping the band on the forward deck, after which each set of musicians waited, with no little impatience, its turn to play, and after once getting the floor, or in this case the deck, held it longer than was quite parliamentary.
The datto proved himself a most delightful man, with an earnest, sensitive face and a manner indicative of such innate refinement that we found ourselves most favourably contrasting him with some of the Tagalog and Visayan dignitaries already met.
It is said that after Spain’s evacuation, and before the arrival of American troops in the southern islands, several insurgent leaders proposed to resist the landing of Americans in Zamboanga. Datto Mandi and the Philippine presidente of the town, knowing that the American government was unlike that of Spain, and realizing what an overwhelming defeat such a project would ultimately receive, although the first enterprise might meet with success, did all in their power to quell these martial aspirations.
Failing in this, war was declared, and the presidente, surrounded by a loyal few, and Datto Mandi with his numerous Moro followers, drove the insurgents from town. Meanwhile the wives and children of these belligerents would have starved had it not been for the datto, who, notwithstanding the difference in their faith, looked after them all, until the discomfited warriors returned to more peaceful pursuits.
On the first anniversary of the Americans’ arrival in Zamboanga, a great fiesta was held. It began, as all feast-days should begin, with high mass in the cathedral, after which the Mohammedans joined their Christian friends in games and cock-fights. Verily, Datto Mandi and the presidente had been right, Americans were unlike the Spaniards, and Zamboanga had never experienced so peaceful a year in all her history. Small wonder the fiesta was a success, and that the “Viva America’s” were uttered from full hearts. But it is primarily to Datto Mandi and the presidente that the people of Zamboanga should be grateful. Citizens of the world these men are, and statesmen, too, although their sphere is comparatively circumscribed.
The presidente was ill while we were in Zamboanga, his condition being so critical that none of us saw him, but one day while we were driving around the outskirts of the town, our coachman drew up his horses with a great flourish before a pretty vine-embowered house.
“Why are you stopping here?” I demanded, a trifle sharply, for heads had appeared at various windows and the situation was becoming embarrassing. The coachman turned with a dignified gesture, if one can look dignified in a shirt thin as mosquito-netting.
“It is the house of the presidente,” he said, in an injured tone. “Every American who comes to Zamboanga wishes to be driven here. He is a very great man, the presidente.”
I agreed with him heartily, if somewhat hastily, and then prevailed upon him to drive on, which he did with melancholy resignation, disapproval expressed in every line of his body, which, from his box, was outlined strongly against the sky through the thin white camisa, embroidered as daintily as a girl’s ball gown.
But to return to the datto. On the morning of his visit to the Burnside he wore a white “Americano” suit and white shoes, as, indeed, did most of his followers, one of the men topping off this very conventional attire with a magnificent red, green, and purple turban which he did not once remove while aboard ship. The headgear of the Moros consists entirely of turbans, fezes, or soft tam-o’-shanters, the latter a compromise, I fancy, between the hats of civilization and the head-covering demanded by the Moslem religion.
The datto’s wife was a shy little woman, with an unusually sweet voice and big, startled brown eyes, which gave her an indescribably pathetic look. She wore her hair straight back from a high, round forehead, and coiled it neatly at the top of her head. Her features were smaller and more regular than those of the average native, and her pearl earrings seemed an integral part of herself. Her frock, made after a European model — and very far after, I am obliged to admit — fitted badly, and she eyed our summer gowns with polite interest, evidently taking notes for a readjustment of her own wardrobe at home.
Unlike other Moro women, her teeth were white, the Zamboanga officers telling us she had the black enamelling removed after American occupation of the town; and the only thing about her that would have attracted attention at an American gathering was the fact that several finger-nails on her very small hands were long, almost as long again as from the first knuckle of the finger to the finger-tip, indicating that she was a Moro of high caste and did no manual labour of any kind. Her clumsy Spanish slippers covered feet small as a child’s, and her manner, while shy, was quite calm and dignified.
Of course the party was taken around the ship, and all expressed a polite interest and appreciation of what was shown them, although there was far less enthusiasm than when the more volatile Tagalog or Visayan had seen the wonders of electricity for the first time. To be sure, the datto himself had been to Spain, but we were told his wife had never been away from Mindanao, nor had many of his followers travelled more extensively than to Manila and back again; notwithstanding which they refused to be impressed or render indiscriminate approbation, however astounding, admirable, or strange the marvels might appear.
Only the Philippine sister-in-law lacked self-control and talked volubly, grabbing the datto’s wife by the hand, and expressing herself excitedly in unintelligible Spanish or Zamboanganese, which is a mixture of Castilian, Visayan, and Malay. Once, in an excess of emotion, she almost hugged me. I think it was on first seeing the wonders of a bathroom, and several times she came near enthusing the passive little “dattoess.”
A STREET IN ZAMBOANGA
But this princess of the blood always controlled herself just in time, and managed to look as indifferent as possible. Her dispassionate attitude launched me into wild tales of Farthest America, wherein thirty-storied buildings, elevated and underground railways, beautiful theatres and parks, cars which ran without horses or steam, and millions of inhabitants produced no impression whatsoever, my most improbable tale being received with a diffident condescension, equalled only by the metrical repose that stamps the caste of Vere de Vere. Given a few months in New York or Paris, and Mindanao’s future Sultana would bloom like a rose in manners and millinery, for, despite her reserve, she is adaptable and what the Spaniards call simpática.
Datto Mandi was frankly pleased with what he saw, though unenthusiastic, and he compared Spanish methods of government with American administration much to our advantage, saying tersely and epigrammatically that the Spaniards promised much and accomplished little, while the Americans promised little and accomplished much. In speaking of the cable, one of the Signal Corps officers told the Rajah Muda that it was a gift of half a million pesos from the United States to the Philippine Islands, at which the datto was obviously impressed. He translated this bit of information into Malay for the benefit of his followers, the monetary item seeming to have a profound effect upon them all, even the little wife showing a decided interest at the thought of that slimy rubber garden hose costing such a lot of silver dollars.
Just at noon we stood on the bridge while a national salute was fired from the forward gun. Twenty-one times the hills around Zamboanga reverberated to the warlike sound, and twenty-one times the excitable little sister-in-law squealed with a pleasurable terror. “Madame Mandi” lost none of her serenity, but she did not like the cannonading, and covered both ears to shut out the sound. Moreover, she turned her back upon the guns, explaining that she feared their flash might make her blind. Meanwhile the datto and his followers stood calmly and unflinchingly erect with uncovered heads, to show their respect for that great American, George Washington, who little thought that in the first year of the twentieth century his birthday would be celebrated on American territory ten thousand miles away from the United States.
That night we dined on shore with the commanding officer, and though the mess china, silver, and napery were not of the best, the dinner was one to remember in one’s prayers. Moreover, it was extremely well served by swift and noiseless Chinese servants, who poured the wine at the psychologic moment, and needed no premonitory lift of the eyebrows to remind them when a course should be taken out or brought in. Throughout the repast the regimental band played patriotic airs, and only the consciousness of being at a formal dinner in our best clothes restrained us from humming the music or beating time to it with fork or spoon.
The table was decorated with an ornate floral design in the centre, from which trailed wreaths of green to every plate. It was extremely effective, and I spoke of it to one of the hosts, who told me in a whisper that he had been rather astonished earlier in the evening by the gorgeousness of these decorations, especially as there were no florists in Zamboanga, and on asking one of the Chinamen where he had obtained the flowers, was not a little startled to hear that they had been stolen from a neighbouring cemetery. I looked with admiration upon this resourceful Celestial, and then felt mildly irritated at the completeness of the whole ménage. Dinners by men always exasperate me. They show so clearly how unnecessary women really are in the scheme of domestic existence.
After our black coffee and liqueur, we sat out on the broad cahida, or covered veranda running around three sides of the house, and watched the rockets from the shore and ship replying to each other in the clear, starlit night, while a theatrical-looking moon came up slowly out of the bay, leaving a trail of red light on the rippling water.
The next morning we planned to call on Datto Mandi and his wife, having promised ourselves that pleasure the afternoon before, but the day dawned so fiercely hot that I, for one, rather wilted in my resolutions, until business called my especial Signal Corps officer to town, whereupon I yielded to his persuasion and accompanied him, the other members of the party having left the ship some hours before.
On disembarking, we turned directly into the Mohammedan quarter. This is just beyond the bay to the south, and the several streets teemed with Moro inhabitants, the men and women in their gaily coloured clothes making the place more like a watercolour sketch than ever. On the banks of one of the many streams that intersect the town, bathers clad in a single garment held stone jars of water above their heads and let the contents slowly trickle down over the entire body. On the steps beside them coloured stuffs were spread to dry in the sun, giving an added splash of green and red to the already variegated landscape.
Reaching the datto’s house, we found it decorated gaily in the Moro colours for our reception, while at the top of the stairs stood the future Sultana, petite and self-possessed, but with more animation than on the previous day. She was genuinely glad to see us, and from the sala we could hear the voices of our friends who had preceded us.
“So sorry we are late,” I said with sudden compunction, for the decorations told their tale, and then, as airily as I could in Spanish, “Did you think we were not coming?” The future Sultana smiled her sweet, grave smile. “No, indeed,” she said; “you promised you would come, and Americans never break their word.” The Rajah Muda came out just then and spared my guilty blushes.
STREET SCENE, ZAMBOANGA
NATIVE BATHING-PLACE, ZAMBOANGA
He, too, was delighted to see us, and the little sister-in-law bobbed about like a distracted butterfly, while the prospective Sultana grew almost effusive in her gracious hospitality, and as we sat down in the sala, reached over and gave my hand a little shy caress. She was so very pleased that we had come.
This sala, or drawing-room, was a spacious apartment, and had evidently been arranged by the Philippine sister-in-law, as it was an exact counterpart of those in all native houses. There was little in the room save chairs and tables, and these were all of black bamboo arranged in two long sociable rows from every window. Between the chairs stood an occasional table, suggestive of something eatable or drinkable to come, and on every table and nearly every chair were sepulchral looking antimacassars of macreme cord.
Swarms of servants and slaves hung around in every available door, all of them in Moro costume, with the exception of the small children, and they were legion, who revelled in the luxury of bare brown skins, and, strange to say, did not look at all undressed, as would Caucasian children under similar conditions, the dark skins rather suggesting a spontaneous covering.
These retainers of Datto Mandi seemed eminently happy, and from all we could learn, slavery among the Moros is a sort of feudal state, the slaves having many privileges and considering themselves always as members of the family to which they belong. They live their own lives to a great degree, marry, and bring up their children, seeming to be considered more as followers than servants. This probably is less true of slaves by conquest, but the hereditary bondsman likes his fetters and would doubtless feel ill-used were he forced to work for his sustenance rather than receive it at the hands of a liberal master.
Before we left, the little hostess, quite forgetting her shyness, showed us women many of her native costumes, several of them being wonderfully beautiful in their rich, barbaric colours. There were jabuls or sarongs of gaily striped cotton stuff woven by the Moros; there were European silks and satins embroidered by natives of Zamboanga; there were brocaded stuffs from Paris, and roughly woven fabrics of home manufacture, comprising in one garment all the colours of the spectrum.
Two or three of the long, skirt-like sarongs the little woman tried on then and there, that we might get the effect of them when worn; and with her creamy skin and big, dark eyes, she looked so attractive in the barbaric colours that we could not resist telling her the Moro dress was even more becoming than the European.
She shook her head deprecatingly at this, that she might not appear critical of our wearing-apparel, but she stroked each native garment wistfully as if she loved it, and smiled at our approval of the picture she made standing there in the big, sunlit room, the gaily coloured jabuls scattered about her on the polished floor, and one more gorgeous than the rest wrapped loosely around her, yet not quite hiding the European cut of her sleeve and collar. On every side stood women slaves watching their mistress and her guests with amused wonder, while the little sister-in-law became more voluble than ever and told us there were no jabuls in all Mindanao so handsome as these.
About this time the young daughter of the house was brought in and introduced to the American visitors. She was an attractive girl of eleven, the oldest of four children, and her dark eyes shone with suppressed excitement as she shook everybody’s hand with a gracious little manner, and answered our many questions in her pretty, hesitating Spanish. She was a dear little thing, and comely even from an American standpoint, with her dark eyes, thick, dark hair hanging in a braid far below her slender waist, and a faint rose tint in her dusky cheeks. She and Half-a-Woman were of a size, although the little Moro was full two years the older, and a very pretty picture the children made, struggling through the medium of their imperfect Spanish to arrive at a starting-point of mutual interest — dusky daughter of the East and fair little maid of the West.
Despite the datto’s wine-forbidden code of ethics, whiskey and soda were passed to the men, as well as fine cigars and cigarettes; and when we finally left it was to be followed to the launch in real Arabian Nights style by two picturesque slaves carrying gifts for us all from the future Sultan and Sultana of Mindanao — jabuls magnificently embroidered, hand-woven turbans, and knives with silver handles — truly right royal gifts and charming mementos of a very charming visit.
The next day, February 24th, we left Zamboanga for Sulu, laying cable as we went, instead of having to take soundings first, the charts in this one instance being reliable.
As it was the dark of the moon, however, we made the journey very
slowly, having to anchor each night and cut and buoy the cable to prevent its
fouling. By eight o’clock every morning the buoy was picked up, the splice
made, and we were under way for another uninterrupted run of ten hours, which
brought us into the harbour of Sulu on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 26th.