Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Manila

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From volume XV of the work.
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MANILA (less correctly Manilla), the capital of Luzon and the Philippine Islands, and the centre of Spanish commerce in the East, was founded by Legaspi in 1571, and is situated on the eastern shore of a circular bay 120 nautical miles in circumference, 14° 36' N. lat. and 120° 52' E. long. The country around the bay is more or less flat in character, and in the dry season almost bare of vegetation, so that, excepting the Mafonso and Matéo mountains behind Manila, and the chains of mountains running north and south of the entrance to the bay, there is really nothing attractive about the harbour. It is unsafe in the north-east and south-west monsoons, and vessels over 300 tons have to run for shelter to the naval port of Cavité, the smaller craft finding a safe anchorage behind a breakwater facing the mouth of the Pasig. A new breakwater, however, was commenced in 1880 for large vessels. This river Pasig, which is about 14 miles long, is fed by an inland lake called the Laguna de Bayo, and on its way into the harbour it divides Manila into two parts. On its northern bank are large commercial warehouses, a bazaar occupied chiefly by Chinese, known as the Escolta, and trending eastwards an extensive suburb of native dwellings extending some miles up the Pasig. Beyond the Escolta lie Binondo, the business part of Manila, and San Miguel, the fashionable quarter where Spaniards and foreigners have their residence, and where since the earthquake of 1880 two palaces have been erected for the governor or captain-general and for the admiral of the fleet. There are numerous churches and barracks in this part of the town, and several public buildings, of which the following may be mentioned, the hospital of St Lazarus, the garnero or large military storehouse, and the famous cigar factory, covering a space of about 6 acres, and employing daily 10,000 women. Beyond and blending as it were with Binondo are villages in which the governor has his country house, and where Europeans have built pretty villa residences. A stone bridge and a new suspension bridge connect Binondo or modern Manila with the suburb opposite and the old fort of St Iago, situated on the south bank and about a mile from the mouth of the Pasig. Within the fort wall lies the old city, or, as it is commonly called, the Plaza de Manila. It is approached by several gates—the principal being the Entrada, near which stands the custom-house. It has several squares, and the streets running at right angles with each other are fairly broad and clean, but, as no trade is carried on in this part of the town, they are dull by day, and, as only oil lamps are used, gloomy by night. The public edifices, such as the governor's palace, the town-hall, and the cathedral, are in a large square, in the centre of which is a statue of Charles IV. surrounded by a garden of flowers. To these may be added the civil and military hospitals, the mint and museum, the university and the academy of arts, the arsenal, the prison, and numerous barracks, convents, and monasteries. Beyond the walls is the calzada or esplanade, with a small paseo or promenade facing the bay, where three or four military bands play twice a week to a large concourse of people. This forms the chief out-door attraction for the elite of Manila. There are two theatres—occasionally visited by European companies; but there is a want of the cafés and bull fights so associated with Spanish life. Evening receptions are given by the Spaniards, where cards and music serve to while away the time, and the well-to-do Tagalo, besides imitating his masters in all their amusements, has another to which he is passionately addicted, viz., cockfighting. This is under Government control, and in town can only be held in licensed cockpits, which in 1878 yielded above £33,000 to the revenue. The native officials may sometimes be a little officious and overbearing; but the natives generally, especially those out of Manila, are as hospitable to the stranger as the Spaniard. The population in the walled town, inclusive of the garrison, is given in the consular reports for 1880 as 12,000, and that of Binondo and the suburbs as 250,000 to 300,000. In 1842 the total was rather more than 150,000.

The climate is healthy, and though hot is not unbearably so, the mean temperature being about 82°.6 Fahr. The hot season prevails from March to the end of June; the rest of the year may be said to be showery and stormy. The chief climatic drawbacks to a residence in Manila are hurricanes, earthquakes, and fearful thunderstorms. Great damage was done to property by a tornado of exceptional severity in October 1882.

The cemetery of Manila is well suited for a hot climate and the backward condition of its sanitary arrangements. It is a large circular area, surrounded by an outer and an inner wall, with horizontal recesses between them placed one above another in tiers. On the arrival of a body for sepulture it is taken out of its coffin and put into one of these recesses; quicklime is then spread upon it and the mouth of the recess bricked up. If the recess is the property of the relatives of the dead, the body remains undisturbed for ever. If otherwise, it remains until the recess is absolutely required for another inmate, when the bones, the only remains left of the deceased, are collected and carefully deposited in a large hollow or fosse kept for that purpose.

For two centuries after the Spanish settlement the trade of Manila with the Western world was carried on via Acapulco and Mexico; and it was not till 1764 that even the Spanish vessels began to come round by the Cape. The port, however, was opened with some restrictions to foreign vessels in 1789; permission for the establishment of an English commercial house was granted in 1809; the same liberty was before long extended to other nationalities; and in 1834 the privileges of the Royal Company of the Philippines expired and left the commercial movement to its natural tendencies. Since that time the trade of Manila has greatly increased. While in 1840 the port was entered by 187 vessels with a burden of about 57,000 tons, the corresponding figures for 1881 are, including 182 steamers, 317 vessels (British, 118; Spanish, 95; German, 38), with a burden of 244,000 tons. Manila hemp (abaca), sugar, cigars, and coffee are the chief articles of export; and sapan wood, mother of pearl, and gum are regular though secondary items. The quantity of hemp shipped at Manila has increased from 528,206 piculs (1 picul = 139 ℔) in 1877 to 662,886 in 1881, and in the same period the quantity of sugar has risen from 1,215,066 piculs to 2,001,310. Britain and the United States are the great markets for both. The average number of cigars exported is 92,620,000, the greater proportion going to Singapore and China. The total value of the exports was £5,460,000 in 1881, against £2,679,000 in 1864; and a corresponding increase has taken place in the imports.

Telegraphic communication between Manila and Hong-Kong was established in 1880.