The Sea of the Morning Sun - 1493

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This applies to Luzon. Or should the cause be at length carried to the Audiencia, or Supreme Court, and there, as is sometimes the case , be judged impartially, the delay of the decision renders it useless—the sentence is evaded—or treated with contempt! This may appear almost incredible, but known to any person who has resided in Manila. While the civil power is thus shamefully corrupt or negligent of its duties, the church has not forgotten that she too has claims on the Indian. She has marked out, exclusive of Sundays, above 40 days in the year on which no labour can be performed throughout the islands.

Exclusive of these are the numerous local feasts in honor of the patron saints of towns and churches. This alone is a heavy tax on the agricultural classes, by whom it is most severely felt; but its consequences are more so, from the habits of idleness and dissipation which it engenders and perpetuates.

These feasts are invariably, after the procession is over, scenes of gambling, drinking, and debauchery of every description. Will end in houghmagandie.

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Thus they unsettle and disturb the course of their labours [ 97 ] by calling off their attention from their domestic cares; and by continually offering occasions of dissipation destroy what little spirit of economy or foresight may exist amongst so rude and ignorant a people.

These appear trifles; but if to these are added the confessions, bulas , [ i. I say nothing here of the natural effect of the Roman Catholic religion on an ignorant people, who imagine, that verbal confession and pecuniary atonements rarely to the injured person are a salvo for crimes of all magnitudes: that such is the case, is notorious to every one who has visited Catholic countries. Let us for a moment retrace this picture. To whom after this is it attributable that the Indian is often a vicious and degraded being, particularly in the neighborhood of Manila?

If he sees all around him thieving and enjoying their plunder with impunity, what wonder is it that he should thieve also? If his tribunals of all descriptions afford him no redress, or place that redress beyond his reach, what resource has he but private revenge? If he is ignorant, why has he not been instructed?

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There exist scarcely any schools to teach him his duties: the few that do exist teach him Latin! Does he prevaricate and flatter? It is because [ ] he dare not speak the truth, and because a long system of oppression has broken his spirit. Does he endeavour to advance himself a few steps in civilization? In a word, the spirit of the followers of Cortes and Pizarro, appears to have left its last vestiges here, and perhaps the Indian has been saved from its persecutions only by the weakness of the Spaniard.

Such are some of the causes which have marked the character of the Indian, which is not naturally bad, with some of its prominent blemishes. I am far from holding up the Indian of the Phillippines as a faultless being; he is not so; the Indian of Manila 34 [ ] has all the vices attributed to him ; but I assert, that the Phillippine islander owes the greater part of his vices to example, to oppression, and above all to misgovernment; and that his character has traits, which under a different system, would have produced a widely different result.

To sum up his character:—He is brave, tolerably faithful, extremely sensible to kind treatment, and feelingly alive to injustice or contempt; proud of ancestry, which some of them carry to a remote epoch; fond of dress and show, hunting, riding, and other field exercises; but prone to gambling and dissipation.

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He is active, industrious, and remarkably ingenious. He possesses an acute ear, and a good taste for music and painting, but little inclination for abstruse studies. He has from nature excellent talents, but these are useless for want of instruction. The little he has received, has rendered him fanatical in religious opinions; and long contempt and hopeless misery has mingled with his character a degree of apathy, which nothing but an entire change of system and long perseverance will efface from it.

The Mestizos are the next class of men who inhabit these islands: under this name are not only included the descendants of Spaniards by Indian women and their progeny, but also those of the Chinese, who are in general whiter than either parent, and carefully distinguish themselves from the Indians.

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Their character has but few marked traits; the principal ones are [ ] their vanity, industry, and trading ingenuity: as to the rest, money is their god; to obtain it they take all shapes, promise and betray, submit to everything, trample and are trampled on; all is alike to them, if they get money; and this, when obtained, they dissipate in lawsuits, firing cannon, fireworks, illuminations, [ ] processions on feast days and rejoicings, in gifts to the churches, or in gambling.

This anomaly of actions is the business of their lives. Too proud to consider themselves as Indians, and not sufficiently pure in blood to be acknowledged as Spaniards, they affect the manners of the last, with the dress of the first, and despising, are despised by both. The Indian repays them with a keen contempt, not unmixed with hatred. And these feuds, [ ] while they contribute to the safety of a government too imbecile and corrupt to unite the good wishes of all classes, have not unfrequently given rise to affrays which have polluted even the churches and their altars with blood.

Such are the three great classes of men which may be considered as natives of the Phillippine Islands. The Creole 38 Spaniards, or those whose blood is but little mingled with the Indian ancestry, pass as Spaniards. Many of them are respectable merchants and men of large property; while others, from causes which will be seen hereafter, are sunk in all the vices of the Indian and Mestizo. The government of the Phillippine Islands is composed of a governor, who has the title of Captain General, with very extensive powers; a Teniente Rey, or Lieutenant Governor; the Audiencia or Supreme Court, who are also the Council.

He has the entire control and administration of all matters relative to the revenue, the civil and military auditors and accountants being under him. Commercial affairs [ ] are decided by the Consulado, or chamber of commerce, composed of all the principal, and, in Manila, some of the inferior merchants. The civic administration is confided to the Ayuntamiento Courts of Aldermen or Municipality. This body, composed of the two Alcaldes, twelve Regidors or Aldermen and a Syndic, enjoy very extensive privileges, approaching those of Houses of Assembly; their powers, however, appear more confined to remonstrances and protests, representations against what they conceive arbitrary or erroneous in government, or recommendations of measures suggested either by themselves or others.

They have, in general, well answered the object of their institution as a barrier against the encroachments of government, and as a permanent body for reference in cases where local knowledge was necessary, which last deficiency they well supply.

The civil power and police are lodged in the hands of a Corregidor and two Alcaldes: the decision of these is final in cases of civil suits, where the value in question is small, dollars being about the maximum. The police is confided to the care of the Corregidor, who has more extensive powers, and also the inspection and control of the prisons.

To him are also subject the Indian Captains and [ ] Officers of towns, who are annually elected by the natives. They also have the power of inflicting slight punishments on the refractory. This tax is then paid to the Alcalde or Corregidor, and from him to the treasury.

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The Mestizos and Chinese have also their captains and heads, who are equally answerable for the poll-tax. The different districts and islands, which are called provinces, and are 29 in number, are governed by Alcaldes. The more troublesome ones, or those requiring a military form of government, by military officers, who are also Corregidors. Samboangan on the south west coast of Mindanao, and the Marianas, have governors named from Manila, and these are continued from three to five years in office.

These Alcaldeships are a fertile source of abuses and oppression: their pay is mean to the last degree, not exceeding dollars per annum, and a trifling per centage on the poll-tax. They are in general held by Spaniards of the lower classes, who finding no possible resource in Manila, solicit an Alcadeship. Of the nature and amount of these abuses an idea will be better formed from the following abridged quotations, which are translated from the work of Comyn before quoted p. In all his enterprises he requires the forced assistance of his subjects, and if he condescends to pay them, it is at least only at the price paid for the royal works.

These miserable beings carry their produce and manufactures to him, who directly or indirectly has fixed an arbitrary price for them. To offer that price is to prohibit any other from being offered—to insinuate is to command—the Indian dares not hesitate—he must please the Alcalde, or submit to his persecution: and thus, free from all rivalry in his trade, being the only Spaniard in the province, the Alcalde gives the law without fear or even risk, that a denunciation of his tyranny should reach the seat of government.

This is exactly one of those opportunities, when, founding his profits on the misery of his people, the Alcalde can in the most unjust manner abuse the power confided to him. He pays no attention to their representations. He is the zealous collector of the royal revenues;—he issues proclamations and edicts, and these are followed by his armed satellites, who seize on the harvests, exacting inexorably the tribute, until nothing more is to be obtained.

Having thus made himself master of the miserable subsistence of his subjects, he changes his tone on a sudden—he is the humble suppliant to government in behalf of the unfortunate Indians, whose wants he describes in the most pathetic terms, urging the impossibility of their paying the tribute in produce—no difficulty is experienced in procuring permission for it to be paid in money—to save appearance, a small portion of it is collected in cash, and the whole amount paid by him into the treasury, while he resells at an enormous profit, the whole of the produce generally rice which has been before collected!


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This extract, though long, is introduced as an evidence from a Spaniard not of the lower order, or a disappointed adventurer, but a man of high respectability , of the shameless abuses which are daily practiced in this unfortunate country, and of which the Indian is invariably the victim: and it is far from being an overcharged one. Hundreds of other instances might be cited, 42 but this one will perhaps [ ] suffice to exonerate the writer of these remarks from suspicion of exaggeration, in pointing out some of the most prominent of them.

While treating of the government of the Phillippines, we must not forget the ministers of their religion, and the share which they have in preserving these islands as dominions to the crown of Spain. This influence dates from the earliest epoch of their discovery.

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The followers of Cortes and Pizarro, with their successors, were employed in enriching themselves in the new world; and the spirit of conquest and discovery having found wherewith to satiate the brutal avarice by which it was directed, abandoned these islands to the pious efforts of the missionaries by whom, rather than by force of arms, they were in a great measure subdued; and even in the present day, they still preserve so great an influence, that the Phillippines may be almost said to exist under a theocracy approaching to that of the Jesuits in Paraguay.

The ecclesiastical administration is composed of an Archbishop of Manila , who has three suffragans, Ylocos, Camarines, and Zebu; the first two on Luzon, the last on the island of the same name. The revenue of the Archbishop is , and that of the bishops dollars annually. The regular Spanish clergy of all orders are about , the major part of which are distributed in various convents in [ ] the different islands, though their principal seats are in that of Luzon; and many of them, from age or infirmity, are confined to their convents in Manila.

It approaches to adoration, and must be seen to be credited.


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In the most distant provinces, with no other safeguard than the respect with which he has inspired the Indians, he exercises the most unlimited authority, and administers the whole of the civil and ecclesiastical government, not only of a parish, but often of a whole province. His word is law—his advice is taken on all subjects. No order from the Alcalde, or even the government 43 is executed without his counsel and approbation, rendered too in many cases the more indispensable from his being the only person who understands Spanish in the village.

Their hospitality is equally praiseworthy. The stranger who is travelling through the country, no matter what be his nation or his religion, 45 finds at every town the gates of the convent open to him, and nothing is spared that can contribute to his comfort and entertainment. They too are the architects and mechanists: many of them are the physicians and schoolmasters of the country, and the little that has been done towards the amelioration of the condition of the Indian, has generally been done by the Spanish clergy. It is painful, however, to remark, that much that [ ] might have been done, has been left undone.

The exclusive spirit of the Roman church, which confines its knowledge to its priests, is but too visible even here: they appear to be more anxious to make Christians, than citizens, and by neglecting this last part of their duty, have but very indifferently fulfilled the first,—the too common error of proselytists of all denominations, which has probably its source in that vanity of human nature, which is as insatiable beneath the cowl as under any garb it has yet assumed.

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Let us draw a veil over these infirmities. He who has lived amidst the busy hum of crowds, amidst the wild whirl of human passions and interests, can have but little conception of the state of that mind, which perhaps feeling alive to the blessings of social intercourse, is cut off for years from civilized men; and thus buried mentally, is constrained to seek all its resources within itself.

There are instances indeed of some of them forgetting in a great measure their language! The next and lowest order of ecclesiastics are the Indian clergy clerigos ; they are in number from to , and though from the want of Spaniards, the administration of many large districts and towns is confided to them, they are as a body far from being worthy of such an important charge.

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