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The New York Times, September 13, 1903, p. 22:

Manila's Rainy Season

When the Filipino Goes About Dressed a la Crusoe.

The American Cannot Walk and the Street Car Line is Gilbertian--
Startling Tropical Growths.


    Special Correspondence THE NEW YORK TIMES.
    MANILA, Aug. 7.--The rainy season in upon us; our boots are covered wtih blue mold of mornings, our white clothes come home from the "wasayman" tastefully sprinkled with spots of mildew. Withal, the discomforts of the rainy season are not very great.
    It clears up from time to time, and on such days as the sun shines the weather is more pleasant than at any other part of the year. Last week Manila was visited by a typhoon, and it rained heavily and almost continuously for six days.

    The city being paved with macadam, the streets are mud puddles, while the rain lasts, so much so that no white man walks. At such times the sad lack of transportation is keenly felt; the means of transportation in the city are limited, for those who do not own carriages, to the rickety public carromatas and carretelas and a comic opera street car line.
    This line is furnished with cars that will, on occasions of great urgency, accomodate thirty persons. The closed cars--for the line has both closed and open cars--are constructed to carry ten persons sitting and an indefinite number standing. They are divided into three sections, one in the centre with seats for ten, and a section at each end without seats, in which those who are very short may stand, but as the clear headway in the centre of the arch of the car roof is just six feet, and at the sides about five and a half, any one of average American height needs to stoop considerably.
    Notwithstanding the low roof, these cars are provided with straps in the stand-up sections, hung from rods that are just five feet ten inches from the floor; the end of the strap hangs within four and a half feet from the floor.
    There are no platforms to these closed cars; the boards that form the floor of the car are extended in the centre for six inches further out than the boards at the sides, and on the projection so formed the driver and conductor stand. There are no doors to the cars, but you wriggle past the driver to enter.

    The cars frequently run off the line, and on such occasions, though it be a pouring rain, all the passengers get off into the sea of mud and lift the car back on the rails.
    One wet, dark night last week it was my privilege to assist at one of these functions, and I was so much impressed with the ease with which the car was raised to the track that I sneaked surreptitiously behind the car when it arrived at the terminus to see if I could not lift one end unassisted. I trust that this issue of The Times will not come to the attention of the Directors of the line, or they will know why one of the cars has the rear platform bent upward. I lifted it.

    The woodwork is mostly of Georgia pine, and is unvarnished. The seats are plain wood. Most of the permanent way is single track, and the service may be fairly judged from the time table of the branch running from the Bridge of Spain, Pasig River, to the Ermita and Malate section of the city, where a large part of the Americans live.
    On this section there are twenty cars a day running in each direction, the first car leaving at 6 o'clock A. M., and the last one at 8:05 P. M. The distance is pretty exactly two miles, and the running time twenty-five minutes.
    The fare is according to the distance traveled, the line being divided into three sections; if you go the full length of the line you are furnished with three tickets, numbered consecutively, each costing two cents Mexican, or about 2¾ cents American money, for the whole trip.
    At about six points on the line it is the duty of the conductor to make entries in his little book of the number of passengers aboard, the consecutive number with the last ticket issued, and the time. With a full load and good time the car earns about $1.50 gold per round trip of one and one-half hours.

    The motive power of these cars consists of two tiny ponies; they average between 49 and 50 inches high. There is no bell, but the driver keeps up a continuous squawking on a sort of speaker that sounds like the tin-pan voice of Punch and Judy.
    An American company is to begin operations on a modern trolley car line within a few weeks. With such a line, the terrors of the rainy season will come pretty nearly to an end, at least for those who live in the city.

COUNTRY ROADS ARE SWAMPS.

    In the country districts conditions are worse. While the heavy rain lasts, and for one or two days after it clears, the country roads, constructed of earth only, are quagmires. The only repairs made to the roads at a distance from Manila consist of patches of "corduroy," made by putting thin logs or bamboos across the deepest holes.
    For some reason known only to themselves the natives build their shacks on the lowest available ground, and during the storms they are generally surrounded with water. They are always built on poles so the the room is raised above the floods, and during the hot season the inhabitants spend most of the time under the house, where it is cooler, living on the bare earth with the chickens and pigs; at present they are living up stairs, the chickens are perching on the roofs, and the pigs wallowing in the mud.

    The costumes worn during this season are novel. I saw a native driver in the city of Manila during a heavy storm with nothing on except an old mackintosh. I am indebted to the strong wind for the opportunity to state with certainty that he positively had nothing else on.
    In Rizal province I saw, during a recent rain, several men and women dressed in nipa. It was evidently taken from some old roof, and arranged in two circles, like capes, one tied around the neck and the other around the waist. Robinson Crusoe could not have done better.
    The Filipino has his own way of meeting the difficulties of the wet weather; he does not, if he be of the working class, try to keep dry. He does not usually wear waterproof clothes or rubber boots, nor carry an umbrella. He just takes off his slouchy slippers, that in the dry season are rather an impediment than an aid to walking, and wades in as if nothing were happening.

    A greater part of the heavy work of the farm is done in the hot weather; the ground is softer and easier to plow, and his cattle are not very strong, nor his plows very good. Those crops that had already started when the rains began are now growing at an amazing rate; the sugar cane looks magnificent.

    Although the typhoon just past was quite severe, little damage was done either to the trees or smaller crops. The trees of these islands are mostly of very hard wood, slow-growing, and so short in the trunk that to build a two-story house it is necessary to piece the uprights, and so they do not suffer from the wind. The only tall timber is the bamboo, and that is too springy to take harm.
    The bamboos have shot out sprouts during the month of rain that for quickness of growth surpass anything within my knowledge. From among the clumps of stalks that grow from each great root mass there have shot up stalks like giant asparagus, fifty, sixty, seventy feet high, and four to five inches thick at the root. While the dry season lasted the growth of the bamboos was scarcely perceptible.
    The Filipino bamboo is is very stout of growth with the stalks closely packed, so that they touch one another for six to ten feet from the ground, and the creaking and groaning in a bamboo thicket during a high wind is something terrifying.

UNNATURAL LOOKING FLOWERS.

    Hemp and bananas have also made growths that almost startle; there are no plants in the islands so coarse as these two which are closely related. When, during the wet season, a few days of calm hot weather comes, the banana or hemp shoots out long, pale green leaves eight to ten feet long; the first wind that comes tears them to rags, and they are then most dilapidated plants. The fruit and the flowers, great unnatural looking things, the size, shape, and color of a cow's heart, swing heavily among the tattered rags of leaves, but even a severe typhoon does not seem to damage them. Cocoanuts also are weather-proof.

    While the heavy winds last there is much activity among the natives living near the beach; at such times scraps of wood are thrown up on the sand, and there is nothing scarcer among the poor Filipinos than wood to cook their meals. There are trees, yes; but wheels must go round and papers be signed before any tree can be cut down. The forestry laws are extremely rigid. For this reason, women and children were combing the beach all the time the late typhoon lasted, careless of the storm if they could only secure a few scraps of wood.
    I truly believe that there is as much wood burned in the City of Manila that grew in the United States as there is of wood grown here, and certainly there is more American wood being used for building purposes in the city at the present time than there is of native timber. Perhaps the Government is right; the native wood is too good to use for house framing.

    The greater part of the arable land of the islands is very flat; in the hot weather it suffers from want of irrigation, although intersected by hundreds of little streams that would lend themselves to irrigation with great facility. At this time the same lands are drowning for want of a little drainage. Some of the crops do not mind the floods; hemp is all right, rice flourishes, but many other crops that might be grown under other circumstances are impossible with such bad management.

    When the rain stops for a few days the air is hot with steam; then we have a chilly shower or a heavy storm; following the storm the mud puddles are covered with green slime within six hours. The grass is full of toadstools. And in this changeable, treacherous weather, the cholera and other zymotic diseases disappear.
    There are three months more of wet weather to come, and at the end of that time there will be one of the finest crops of sugar cane ready to be wasted by miserable machinery and ignorant labor that these islands ever saw.
F. T.

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1903 was equivalent to $23.90 in 2008.

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Philippines map, from the CIA World Factbook

    The Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelago of some 7100 islands in southeast Asia, about 500 miles off the coast of Vietnam. The capital is Manila. The area of the Philippines is about 115,800 square miles (300,000 square kilometers). The estimated population of Philippines for July, 2009 is 97,976,603. The official language is Filipino.

    The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century; they were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War.

    In 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel QUEZON was elected president and was tasked with preparing the country for independence after a 10-year transition. In 1942 the islands fell under Japanese occupation during World War II, and US forces and Filipinos fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. On 4 July 1946 the Republic of the Philippines attained its independence.

    The 20-year rule of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986, when a "people power" movement in Manila ("EDSA 1") forced him into exile and installed Corazon AQUINO as president. Her presidency was hampered by several coup attempts, which prevented a return to full political stability and economic development.

    Fidel RAMOS was elected president in 1992 and his administration was marked by greater stability and progress on economic reforms. In 1992, the US closed its last military bases on the islands. Joseph ESTRADA was elected president in 1998, but was succeeded by his vice-president, Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, in January 2001 after ESTRADA's stormy impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and another "people power" movement ("EDSA 2") demanded his resignation. MACAPAGAL-ARROYO was elected to a six-year term as president in May 2004.

    The Philippine Government faces threats from three terrorist groups on the US Government's Foreign Terrorist Organization list, but in 2006 and 2007 scored some major successes in capturing or killing key wanted terrorists. Decades of Muslim insurgency in the southern Philippines have led to a peace accord with one group and on-again/off-again peace talks with another.
    The CIA World Factbook: Philippines

Philippines flag, from the CIA World Factbook

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The New York Times, June 21, 1874, p.9:

THE PHILIPPINES.

THE SOIL, PEOPLE, AND PRODUCTS...
From Our Own Correspondent.
MANILA, Monday, June 1, 1874   
    ...The Philippine Islands are, in truth, one of the most considerable possessions of Spain, and can boast of a large commerce. This group—one of the groups in the Eastern Archipelago—is situated between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, near the rich islands of Borneo, Java, and Sumatra, and not distant from the Empires of China and Japan. Its geographical situation is between the parallels 5° 32' and 19° 38' of latitude, and the meridians 117° 21' and 126° 8' of longitude; and it has been styled by the eminent geographer and philosopher Rieszi the "Pearl of Asia," a title to which it can fairly lay claim on account of its advantages of soil and position.

    The Philippines belong to Spain, and although 9,000 miles, more or less, from the mother country, under a tropical sky, rich by the variety and abundance of its productions, its resources if properly developed might enable it to become the most opulent colony of Spain, as much on account of its most advantageous position as the base of an extensive commerce, as because of the exceptional and wonderful resources it would open up to industry and skill.

    A country nearly three times larger in extent than Cuba, as the Philippine Archipelago really is, consisting of no less than 9,000 square leagues of territory, with 5,500,000 of inhabitants scattered among its different provinces, blessed with a wonderful fertility of soil, and drained by navigable rivers emptying east and west into the Pacific and into the Indian Ocean, it can only lay claim to less than 12,000 inhabitants who occupy its capital... Of these inhabitants only 2,350 are Europeans and creoles, while the remaining 9,300 are Indians and half-breeds, and include about 350 Chinamen. The five millions previously cited, comprise the Malay race, or Indians civilized and subject to the Spanish Government, and these inhabit the towns and villages which lie between the sea and the mountains.
    The remainder of the inhabitants of the Archipelago, some 600,000, are independent mountaineers of savage disposition who live in the centre of the different islands, hidden in the impenetrable fastnesses of the mountain ranges, running generally in a direction from north to south.

    Manufactures cannot be said to exist to any extent in the Philippines, although in the suburbs of Manila and at one or two other places small founderies, a sugar refinery, distilleries, and rope-walks are to be found in lazy operation... Trade with the interior is quite active, and it would be with the exterior, if the products, unrivaled, perhaps, in the world, could only be properly presented to the markets of nations. The Spanish merchant marine engaged in this traffic comprises but six or eight small vessels, which for many years past leave Cadiz, Santander, and Bilbao direct, without altering their course or cargo, not even to take cinnamon, cloves, or other articles from the neighboring Spice Islands. This is attributed to the slight interest felt by the Spanish Government in legislating for the benefit of this colony and taking steps to promote the mercantile spirit necessary to bind and make colonial relations intimate and beneficial—or to ignorance.

    The administrative elements of the Philippines should undoubtedly receive more attention from the Spanish Government, which now only spares small steamers and eighteen little gun-boats for their protection. These elements are: The Municipal Government, which differs from any other institution of its class; the regular clergy, to which is due the conquest and preservation of the Philippines and comprise some 1,500 persons born in the country, belonging to four different orders; and the Chinese colonists, now amounting to about 60,000 individuals, industrious, economical, and prudent to a degree, although despised and even hated.

    The frequent changes among the principal officers of its Government—for Spain sends a Captain General and other high officials to this colony—is complained of as productive of troubles and as delaying the country's growth. Although the clergy is accused of a desire to block the wheels of progress, it is they who have hitherto done everything to help the islands onward.
    As to the Chinese element, it is conceded that twice during the seventeenth century they could have risen because of the rigorous treatment received from agents of the Spanish Government, but their submission to the condition assigned them is in keeping with the qualities that make them the representatives of the real active force of the country.

    The coolie requires special permission to enter and leave the islands. If he engages in trade he pays a tax nearly six times larger than that exacted of the creole or native, and if he wishes to open a shop he must obtain a license, for which he has to pay one hundred dollars. Withal, notwithstanding the tendency of the Chinaman to return to his native country—so strong a tendency that he desires even after his death to have his bones transported thither—in the Philippines he generally marries the daughter of the Indian native, thereby increasing the half-breed race, which is called there Sangley, and which is destined, for want of Europeans, to develop the immense resources offered by bounteous nature to commerce.

    Still, the great question concerning agriculture is the want of labor. The native Indian can live almost without exertion, as the soil about him produces enough for his immediate wants, and he has no ambition to acquire riches, which, if he acquired them, he would not have the knowledge to use. And in this respect it is impossible for the Chinaman to act as his substitute. In vain are efforts made to induce the almond-eyed and pig-tailed coolie to engage in agricultural pursuits; his natural inclination is toward trade, and consequently the proportion between the Chinamen occupied with agriculture and those busied with commerce is as one to forty.
    Therefore the landowner or planter has to depend upon the native, who is persuaded with difficulty to work by the day, or to engage for a long job; should he do so, the probability is that he would desert his occupation on the slightest caprice and when his services were most needed. For this reason most of the large plantations are uncultivated or let out in small lots.

    Such a situation cannot but profoundly affect the development of the productive and commercial interests of the country. The mountains abound in minerals and valuable timber, which last can be cut in single pieces large enough for the keel of a 400 ton vessel. Near the forests the temperature is cool enough to warrant the cultivation of wheat, potatoes and other imported products; coffee grows readily in the hills, and the sugar-cane, cocoa, cotton, rice, &c., are of easy growth upon the plains.
    Notwithstanding that commerce since 1851 has tripled, the progress of the colony is still far from what it should be. The value of the unrefined sugar annually exported to England and her colonies, Australia especially—about four-fifths of all that is made—is about three millions of dollars. The abacá, a special textile production of the country, and the peculiar kind of hemp used in making ropes, sails &c., is annually exported to the value of two millions. Two-thirds of this is taken by the United States. The finer part of the abacá is not exported, but retained to be woven with silk, the whole forming a material of which the natives make the finest cloths.
    Foreign nations are represented by about seventy per cent. of the persons engaged in commerce, a fact to the discredit of Spain, in whose name Magellanes and Legaspis discovered and took possession of the islands some four centuries ago.

    The first commercial relations were those opened with China in 1576. Then the Spaniards at Manila were allowed only the privilege of bartering the products of America against those of Asia; but the home Government deemed this traffic so prejudicial to the interests of the colony that it was restricted first to two vessels, and then to one, called the Acapulco.
    In 1785 the Company of the Philippines was formed, with the monopoly of all trade with Spain, although it was open to all vessels under the Malayan flag. In 1789 commerce was free to all nations, and after the establishment of the English house, in 1809, at Manila, permission to settle and engage in commerce was, in 1814, extended to all other nations.

    To-day England imports into the islands over £500,000 of cotton and mixed goods only. This almost covers the foreign importation, although much of it comes in Spanish vessels, which go to London, Liverpool, and Manchester in search of freight. The greater part of the Philippine vessels, 7,000 or 8,000 in number, with a tonnage of 160,000 in aggregate, and 50,000 to 60,000 seamen, consists of junks of the Chinamen, who are settled and trade in this archipelago. The total movement of trade is between $10,000,000 and $12,000,000 annually.

    New life and vigor were given to commerce in the Eastern seas, the Asian ports, and the Philippine possessions by the opening of the Suez Canal, but much has yet to be done in view of the future which that new means of communication has opened to nations interested in problems of colonization...

The Federal Reserve Bank's estimated consumer price index shows that $1 in 1874 was equivalent to $18.98 in 2008.

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