The New York Times/Ferocity of the Filipinos

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Ferocity of the Filipinos

New York Times, Aug 7,1899; pg.4


Massacre and Rapine Marked the Course
of Their Biggest Warship Until It
Fell Foul of a Typhoon.

Special to The New York Times.

MANILA, July 2.—This Island of Luzon is so large, the country is so hilly, and at this rainy season of the year the roads are so very bad that, in spite of the fact that communication is carried on with remarkable rapidity, considering the primitive methods employed, news really travels slowly and frequently gets mired in the deep muds or extinguished by the tropical downpour long before its destination is reached. There are only telegraph lines for short distances, and but one railroad line, and that in the southwestern section of the island, from Manila to Lingayeu Bay, a distance of 100 miles as the crow flies, but as the snake crawls it is about double that distance.

We hold thirty or forty miles of the line outside Manila, and the terminus at Lingayen is guarded by the battleship Oregon. As the intermediate space is controlled by the insurgents no reliable information can beg depended upon by this means. This leaves the remaining 150 miles to the extreme northern end of Luzon in utter darkness as far as what is happening about Manila is concerned. Still, after remaining some little time at anchor in Manila Bay, where everything now seems to be devoted to peaceful pursuits, it is always more or less of a surprise, whenever any of the northern inhabitants are encountered, to find them so very bitter and warlike.

This may be due to what happened when the Spaniards were in control, and the extortions and hardships carried on against the natives have left scars that will require two or three generations of fair dealing and kind treatment to remove. The Spanish Government was accustomed to bestow large tracts of land upon its grandees as rewards or favors, and these properties were worked for all they were worth the result being immense revenues.

At the northern part of the island proper is grown the very best tobacco used in the cigar factories of Manila, while on the outlying islands is found the finest grazing lands in the Philippines. Cattle raised here are noted for the greater weight and finer flavor of the meat than can be found elsewhere in these latitudes. Consequently the prices commanded in the Manila markets, where everything is centred, are far and away above what are reached by the products of other sections. Attempts were often made to improve nature's landscape gardening; and very successful efforts they were. Probably the finest residences in the islands are in the northern portion. One sees houses that cost over $20,000, and in one instance twice that sum must have been paid for a most tasteful modern dwelling.

After the autumnal spell of bad weather is over hardly any climate could be finer from November to March than that which one can enjoy away up in the Northern Philippines. Just at this time, the season of the southwest monsoon, about the first thing to be sought for by small craft intending to make more or less of a stay "among the ports and islands to. the northward is a place having good holding ground for the anchors and sufficient protection against the fierce winds accompanying the typhoons.

The other day the Princeton, Commander Clifford H. West commanding, with her tender, the Pampanga, Ensign L. McNamee commanding, were cruising up north to see that there was no commerce and no smuggling being carried on. As the tender is rather a small craft in which to meet stormy winds a search for a harbor of refuge was among the first things to be undertaken. In going within Mauser rifle range of shore in the steam launch to take soundings and find a proper anchorage a sharp fusillade was opened. As the bullets were whistling about the launch, in which Commander West himself had embarked in order, as he says, not to order anybody into danger to which he would not expose himself, some of them struck her, and signal was made to the ship and her consort to open fire. The use of smokeless powder made it difficult to tell just where the bullets were coming from until, hidden partially by the woods-entrenchments were descried with an occasional insurgent's head bobbing up behind them. A brisk fire drove the enemy out and admitted the withdrawal of the steam launch before anybody was hit.

The following day an attempt to take soundings was again made, but numbers of Filipinos had flocked to the defense of the place, and in spite of our heavy guns the defenders fired away so rapidly that it was not deemed prudent to further expose the men, enough soundings having been taken for the purpose for which the survey was undertaken.

The idea all along the coast was that our vessels were there to pillage and destroy, and that the homes must at all hazards be defended. At present they are not aware how gladly would we have them use their bolos for plowshares and go ahead with their tobacco and hemp culture.

The present Harbor Master of the Port of Aparri, who is still numbered among the insurgents, bore a very conspicuous part in the earlier days of the troubles here in which we took a hand. The atrocities committed in those days show very clearly the fierce, revengeful spirit of the native, and how little he cares for the quieter, more peaceful life of civilization as we understand it. A steamer was seized by the insurgents at the time our troubles broke out with Spain, and early in Admiral Dewey's time here this vessel came two or three times for coal. Her battery was obtained from the wreck of a man-of-war that was caught by a typhoon in an Insufficiently protected anchorage in one of the northern islands, and literally twisted and torn apart on a neighboring reef. Another gun from this wreck was the one recently captured by the navy at Cavite Bay, so she has really played her part in the drama.

The insurgents and their steamer went cruising about, and wherever they could wreak vengeance on the Spaniards they proceeded to do so with a fierceness and cruelty reminding one forcibly of what our Indians used to do when on the warpath. The full weight of their wrath fell upon the inhabitants of the Spanish town of Santo Domingo, on the Island of Batan, one of a group of small islands between Luzon and Formosa. They landed their full force, and put every man they could find to the sword or shot him with their revolvers. Not content with this they gave a dance that same evening in the largest of the buildings and insisted that all the bereaved women should be present. This was followed by other violence, a natural sequence to murder and drunkenness; and then the steamer left to descend upon some other equally defenseless place. She came here once only after our troubles with the insurgents began, clearing out as soon as she found that she was getting into hot waters.

On a subsequent trip to the north she, too, met with a terrible storm and sought shelter in Aparri, where she was partly dismantled and taken sixteen miles up the river. Now volunteers are rising on every hand to go up there and capture, her, as she is the largest craft, the insurgents have. A cutting-out expedition, made up of two or three armored tugs, would be the only way to get at her but even that would be hazardous passing by banks lined with men armed with the Mauser. Just what will be done has not yet been decided; but as the steamer is so far up the river and not in good repair she can do very little in the way of smuggling in arms and munitions of war.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).