Daily Prompt: Rain

Raindrops fall on the roof above us
The winds sigh through the window seams
Nestled beneath warm covers
Skin to skin, lost in dreams
All that love demands
Lost in twined hands
in safety
you see

*A nonet is a nine line poem. The first line containing nine syllables, the next line has eight syllables, the next line has seven syllables. That continues until the last line (the ninth line) which has one syllable. Nonets can be written about any subject. Rhyming is optional.

**First published on June 15, 2013

#55WordChallenge: Week 16

As he walked the lonely path, the young man remembered her.  With every clink and clang of the chains, he remembered the way she looked at him, held him and told him that no matter what happened, she would always love him. And as he made his way home, he prayed that she still did


T is for Tobacco


If you happen to have many colonies under your control, it can be quite an expensive habit to maintain.  And when it came to the Philippines, it proved to be a drain on Spain’s treasury.  Expenses incurred in the colony were usually paid via an annual subsidy sent from Mexico, another of Spain’s colonies.

But with each year’s maintenance proving to be more expensive than the year before, the Spanish government had to come up with a plan.  So Francisco Leandro de Vianna, royal fiscal in Manila, came up with a tobacco monopoly.

Tobacco was already widely consumed by both the Spaniards and the indios, as well as foreigners in Manila, and though it would take some time before King Carlos III would issue a royal decree to set the plan in motion (when later on, Governor General Basco claimed that such a monopoly would make the colony self-sufficient), when he did, the tobacco monopoly was born on February 9, 1780.

By this decree a monopoly was created which remained in operation for a hundred years. This monopoly strictly supervised the growing and grading of the leaf and had factories in Manila for the manufacture of cigars, cigarettes and smoking tobacco . In the field the chief appraiser residing at the provincial capital had a force of subordinates known as “alumnos aforadores”. These were in charge of districts composed of municipalities and in each municipality there was a “caudilo” (headman) who was also the “gobernadorcillo” (little governor) who by the aid of his ” tenientes ” (lieutenants or overseers), supervised the growing of tobacco being remunerated for this service by a percentage of the crop produced.

via Tobacco Monopoly – Wikipilipinas: The Hip ‘n Free Philippine Encyclopedia.

Manila cigar factory, 1899
Manila cigar factory, 1899

Though slavery did not exist in the Philippine islands under Spanish rule (there could have been exceptions, of course), this did not prevent the mistreatment of tobacco workers. And of course, a lot of bribery and harassment, from the tobacco fields all the way to the cigar factories in Manila.

“Tobacco is an important crop in the Philippines, and from the year 1781 was cultivated in Cagayan as a government monopoly. In the villages of that province the people were called out by beat of drum and marched to the fields under the gobernadorcillo and principales, who were responsible for the careful ploughing, planting, weeding, and tending, the work being overlooked by Spanish officials. Premiums were paid to these and to the gobernadorcillos, and fines or floggings were administered in default. The native officials carried canes, which they freely applied to those who shirked their work.

“…I have referred to the series of abuses committed under the monopoly: how the wretched cultivators had to bribe the officials in charge of the scales to allow them the true weight, and the one who classified the leaves, so that he should not reject them as rubbish and order them to be destroyed; in fact, they had to tip every official in whose power it was to do them any injustice. Finally, they received orders on the treasury for the value of their tobacco, which were not paid for months, or, perhaps, for years. They sometimes had to sell their orders for 50 percent of the face value, or even less.

However, even the Spanish official conscience can be aroused, and at the end of 1882 the monopoly was abolished.

Here it is only right to honourably mention a Spanish gentleman to whom the natives of the Cagayan Valley in a great measure owe their freedom. Don Jose Jimenez Agius was Intendente General de Hacienda, and he laboured for years to bring about this reform, impressed with the cruelty and injustice of this worst form of slavery. The Cagayanes were prohibited from growing rice, but were allowed as an indulgence to plant a row or two of maize around their carefully tilled tobacco-fields.

Possibly this circumstance has led the author of the circular I have before quoted to make the extraordinary statement: “Tobacco, as a cultivated crop, is generally grown in the same field as maize.” Does he think it grows wild anywhere?

via The Inhabitants of the Philippines, by John Foreman, 1910

The tobacco monopoly was abolished in June 1881, at around the same time when Filipinos were thirsting for independence from Spanish rule.  Smoking is believed to have helped fuel the fight for independence.  According to historical documents, among the expenses by the First Philippine Republic in the late 1890’s were cigarillos distributed to the soldiers of the budding “Philippine Army.”

Compaña General de Tabacos de Filipinas, better known as Tabacalera today, was founded in 1881, just before the abolition of the monopoly took effect the following year.  It was founded by the Marquis of Comillas, Antonio Lopez y Lopez.

But before I conclude my post for letter “T” in the A to Z challenge, here’s one more little tidbit about tobacco in the islands.

Filipinos, it turns out, smoked like it was going out of style.  In those days, even children as young as 2 or 3 years old smoked these huge cigars.  And they were H-U-G-E.  When I started this blog, one of my first posts was on a newspaper article  about an “embarrassing use of an instrument of hospitality.”

The Family Cigar
The Family Cigar

It was not unusual to have a “family cigar” hanging on a string from the ceiling and this would be lit and passed around from one family member to another, then to you, their lucky guest.  You, as the guest, would be offending the host if you said, “no, thank you.”

Here are a few pictures from Old Manila for your smoking viewing pleasure.

Blogging A to Z Challenge


F is for the Frenchman Who Made the Philippines His Home


F is for the French adventurer who made the Philippines his home from 1820 – 1840.  His name was Paul de la Gironiere and after finding his name in the “fueilleton of the Constituionnel” figuring among Alexandre Dumas’ “Thousand and One Phantoms,” he decided that it was high time he wrote about his adventures.

“As a traveller, he had seen strange sights – done valorous deeds – gained a marvellous experience.  He had outlived a massacre, married a fortune, founded a colony – he had combined in his own person the adventures of a Rajah Brooke and a Col. Dixon of Mairwara memory: – how, then, could he stand by and see himself reduced to “phantom” – and hear the story of his own colony of Jala-Jala mistold by the daring romance-writer of the Constitutionnel!”

– Via The Living Age, Volume 39

Gironiere was born in the region of Nantes, in western France.  His father was  a captain with the regiment and by all accounts they lived a good life.  The French Revolution changed their fortunes, and they were forced to move to La Planche, 18 kilometers from Nantes, where his father died shortly after from illness, leaving his widowed mother to raise all the six children herself.

The hard life he lived after his father’s death taught him and his brothers and sisters to be resourceful and hardworking and soon, Gironiere went to study medicine and became a naval surgeon.

“Twenty-four hours after my nomination as a surgeon, I went and offered my services to a ship-owner who was about freighting a shipping vessel to the East Indies.”

– Adventures in the Philippine Islands, by Paul de la Gironiere

At 22, he landed in Manila and made Cavite his home.  He certainly was not one to sit around, sip tea and watch life pass him by.  Besides, adventure seemed to follow him everywhere he went.  In Manila, among the many adventures he would encounter included surviving a cholera epidemic,  saving the life of a ship captain, and walking away from a massacre unscathed.

I had only resided a short time at Cavite when that terrible scourge, the cholera, broke out at Manilla, in September, 1820, and quickly ravaged the whole island. Within a few days of its first appearance the epidemic spread rapidly; the Indians succumbed by thousands; at all hours of the day and of the night the streets were crowded with the dead-carts. Next to the fright occasioned by the epidemic, quickly succeeded rage and despair. The Indians said, one to another, that the strangers poisoned the rivers and the fountains, in order to destroy the native population and possess themselves of the Philippines.

On the 9th October, 1820 … a dreadful massacre commenced at Manilla and at Cavite…Almost all the French who resided at Manilla were slain, and their houses pillaged and destroyed. The carnage only ceased when there were no longer any victims. 

…Four hundred Indians surrounded me; the only way of dealing with them was by audacity. I said in Tagaloc to the Indian who had attempted to stab the captain: “You are a scoundrel.” The Indian sprang towards me; he raised his arm: I struck him on the head with a cane which I held in my hand; he waited in astonishment for a moment, and then returned towards his companions to excite them. Daggers were drawn on every side; the crowd formed a circle around me, which gradually concentrated. Mysterious influence of the white man over his coloured brother! Of all these four hundred Indians, not one dared attack me the first; they all wished to strike together. Suddenly a native soldier, armed with a musket, broke through the crowd; he struck down my adversary, took away his dagger, and holding his musket by the bayonet end, he swung it round and round his head, thus enlarging the circle at first, and then dispersing a portion of my enemies. “Fly, sir!” said my liberator; “now that I am here, no one will touch a hair of your head.” In fact the crowd divided, and left me a free passage. I was saved, without knowing by whom, or for what reason, until the native soldier called after me: “You attended my wife who was sick, and you never asked payment of me. I now settle my debt.”

– Adventures in the Philippine Islands, by Paul de la Gironiere

Whew!  He certainly knew how to write, didn’t he?  I was on the edge of my seat there!  Anyway, like any story, I hoped that our adventurer would find love, and luckily, he did.

One of my American friends often called my attention in our walks towards a young lady in mourning, who passed for one of the prettiest senoras of the town. Each time we met her my American friend never failed to praise the beauty of the Marquesa de Las Salinas. She was about eighteen or nineteen years of age; her features were both regular and placid; she had beautiful black hair, and large expressive eyes; she was the widow of a colonel in the guards, who married her when almost a child. The sight of this young lady produced so lively an impression upon me, that I explored all the saloons at Binondoc, to endeavour to meet her elsewhere than in my walks. Fruitless attempts! The young widow saw nobody. I almost despaired of finding an opportunity of speaking to her, when one morning an Indian came to request me to visit his master. I got into the carriage and set off, without informing myself of the name of the sick person…Having examined the patient, and conversed a few minutes with him, I went to the table to write a prescription; suddenly I heard the rustling of a silk dress; I turned round—the pen fell from my hand. Before me stood the very lady I had so long sought after—appearing to me as in a dream! My amazement was so great that I muttered a few unintelligible words, and bowed with such awkwardness that she smiled.

– Adventures in the Philippine Islands, by Paul de la Gironiere

Gironiere go on to establish the Jala Jala (pronounced Hala Hala) hacienda in Morong, which is now known as Rizal province.  He raised hogs, planted indigo, sugarcane and even coffee.  He gained the respect of the clergy by building them a church and earned the good side of his workers by building them cock fighting pits.


The Real Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais de Pilipinas even awarded his efforts in the field of horticulture and agriculture with 1,000 pesos for raising 6,000 coffee plants.

Gironiere’s life was not without its sad moments, however, for despite his prosperity in Jala-Jala, his success with the natives, and in agriculture, he experienced much sadness as well.  He lived to see most everyone he loved die before him, including his wife, his premature daughter and later, his son, and…well, there’s more but it saddens me just thinking about it.

You can find out more about Gironiere’s Adventures in the Philippines via Gutenberg here.

Twenty Years in the Philippines by Paul P. De La Gironiere


Blogging A to Z Challenge


C is for the Chinese Settlers in Manila

So here we are – going on strong with Blogging from A to Z April challenge.  I’m organizing my research into 1890’s Philippines (when they were still under Spanish rule) and though I’ve been doing it now for the last ten years or so, it’s all just random notes on notepads and computer folders here and there – and never in one place.

So if you’ve stumbled upon this blog and wondering to yourself, what the heck…?  Well, it’s back in time for my challenge and for the letter C, I’m writing about the Chinese settlers who made their home in the Philippines, and their impact, or at least a glimpse of it because much of this stuff is too much to write in a blog post, to Manila.

CLong before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in 1521, the Chinese had already established trade between both China and Philippines.  Augustin Craig, who wrote  A Thousand Years of the Philippine History Before the coming of the Spaniards (Manila, 1914) states that according to Tome Pires, writing in 1512 – 1515, gold mining was a principal industry of the Filipinos long before the coming of Ferdinand Magellan (Magallanes to the rest of the world), and that Filipinos “exported gold to China.”

When the Spaniards colonized the archipelago and established Manila – and its walled city called Intramuros – as its capital, they segregated the ethnic Chinese population outside the walls of the city, called Parian.   It also happened to be within shooting range of the city’s canons, should an uprising occur – to which there were four such uprisings by ethnic unconverted Chinese residents.

Impressed by the craftsmanship and work of a group of Chinese merchants and artisans, Spanish Governor Luis Pérez Dasmariñas gave them the area of Binondo in 1594.  He also gave them tax-free and self-governing privileges for perpetuity.  When the Dominicans established their parish in Binondo in 1596, they converted many of the residents to Catholicism, and soon, it became a place where converted Chinese immigrants, their Filipino wives and their mixed-race children, could live in peace.

“Economic life … during the Spanish times depended largely on Chinese labor and industry.  The Chinese were merchants, agriculturists, masons, bankers, painters, shoemakers, metalworkers, and laborers….The country could not exist without Chinese services.”

– via The Philippines: A Unique Nation by Sonia M. Zaide with Gregorio F. Zaide’s History of the Republic of the Philippines

Binondo soon became the main center for business and finance in Manila for ethnic Chinese, Chinese mestizos (mixed-race) and Spanish Filipinos.  They also built esteros (canals) around Binondo which entered the Pasig River, serving as routes for cascos and boats to travel from one part of the area to another and was essential for trade and commerce.

One of the well-known streets in Binondo is called Escolta, known as “Broadway of Manila” during the American Occupation.  Running parallel to the Pasig River, during the Spanish period, it was known as calle del la Escolta and is considered one of the oldest streets in Manila.  Interestingly, the origin of its name came from the brief British occupation of Manila.

The name “Escolta,” which means escort, convoy, guard, was given during the British occupation of Manila (1762-1764), because the British Commander-in-chief would ride down the street daily with his escort.

– Via The Rise of Modern Manila, ArtInSite Magazine





Blogging A to Z Challenge


B is for the British in Manila

BDid you know that the British occupied Manila and neighboring Cavite from 1762 – 1764?  The Capture of Manila, as brief as it was, ended as part of the peace settlement of the Seven Years War.

The British had long hoped to establish a trading route from the Philippines to their colonies in India or the East Indies, despite the fact that the Spaniards got there first.  And though they were unable to establish a successful and long lasting trade agreement between the sultan of the southern island of Mindanao without incurring much financial loss in the process (the Sulu merchants owed the East India Company more than they could afford to repay even in goods), you can’t fault the British for trying.

So in 1844, they sent a British consul, John Farren, to Manila to secure free labor sugar.  This would replace the loss of West Indian sugar after Parliament passed a bill emancipating the slaves in those British colonies.  England would become the Philippines’ chief buyer of sugar in the late 18th century.  For the next 20 years, Farren, who would remain British consul to Manila until his death in 1864, was continually obliged to furnish proof that Philippine sugar was not the proof of slave labor to appease the anti-slavery wing in London.

Before his death, Farren appointed Nicholas Loney as Vice Consul to Iloilo, an island known for its sugar production.  While Loney is known in Philippine history books for his role in the rise in production and supply of sugar for export and nicknamed as the “Father of Iloilo’s Sugar Industry,” it is through his letters to his sister that we get to see life in Manila in 1850’s.

One almost imagines himself painting the scene before him along with Loney’s words as he describes, in this letter to his sister in 1852, a Manila scene:

This (Manila) is not at all a bad place to live in, and to a fellow with health and spirits and fond of amusement it would be quite the reverse. It is a large place containing some 20,000 inhabitants. Beyond the more regular and stone-built part of the town, an endless amount of nipa (palm leaf) houses stretch away into the distance, each with its little Indian occupants, its pig, its small naked urchins, its little prints of different saintly personages, its small effigy of Our Saviour or the Virgin Mary, its little crop of vegetables, its indispensable ladder for purposes of ascent or descent, and its equally indispensable pool of dirt beneath the whole.

The street in which we live, the Escolta, is, after the Rosario, about the best in the place. In it are the best of the Chinese shops which display an ample store of articles of the Central Flowery Land, with goods of the kind most adapted to the consumption of the European population. The Rosario again contains an almost entirely British manufactured goods in the shape of gaudy handkerchiefs, prints, sayas, cambayas, trouserings, muslins, cards and the like; hoc genus omne are prominently displayed both inside and outside the doors of the celestial establishments underneath the shade of the capricious awnings (sustained by light iron poles) the size cut, colour and duration of which are regulated by government ordinance, and which keep the pavement eventually cool and shaded during the whole of the day.

Here flock Indians of various colours, sorts, and sizes, from a fine clear olive yellow, to a dark and dirty brown (the majority) others again of attractions sufficient to render the place dangerous…..

via Iloilo City Boy: The Letters of Nicholas Loney (1).

Loney loved to travel around the island to study the natural resources and also to meet personally with the sugar farmers.  Six years into his stay, in which he was able to improve the standard of living and social conditions of the people on the island, Loney fell ill with typhoid fever and never recovered.  He died at 41, and at his funeral, his nephew wrote, “all of Iloilo followed him to his grave and over 100 carriages besides lots of buffalo carts filled with people were there.”

But not all of the British were like Farren, who devoted much of his own money to help the local indians (the name for Filipinos then) and stranded British sailors, often paying the price of passage back to England himself, or Loney.

“Englishmen in the Philippines were totally English,” recorded one British traveler, “and more exagerratedly so, being so far away from their own country.”  They insisted on sipping their tea while the Spaniards gulped chocolate, they sported waistcoats during the hot summer months, they doffed top hats and walked with canes and silk umbrellas, they refused siestas as “tiresome occupations,” they talked incessantly of the climate, they despised the local treatment of animals, they denounced cockfights as “the most horrible spectacle I have ever had the misfortune to witness!” and they bewail almost everything that was not British and was not conducted in the British fashion.

– Via Philippine Heritage, The Making of A Nation, Volume 6

And with the entry above, I can’t but help direct you to the presence of the English Club, better known as the Manila Club, comprised of Brits and Scots living and working in Manila.

“The saying goes in the Far East that if an Englishman, a Spaniard and an American were to be left upon a desert island, the first would organize a club, the second build a church, and the third start a newspaper.” 

Life in Manila: Description of the Philippine Island City,
written by Charles B. Howard shortly after the Americans defeated the Spanish, as it appeared in the American publication “Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly,” Vol. 46: July-October 1898

Manila Club – Nagtahan image from Manila Nostalgia

The Manila Club in the 1880s included many nationalities within its membership but the British and Scots comprised the majority of members, all male. It was financed by its members through shares or debentures and an entrance fee and monthly dues.

The clubhouse was a comfortable, cool resort with a large verandah overlooking the Pasig. It was a 3-storied building including an attic and opened from 6am to midnight. It held guest bedrooms, a bar, dining room and lounge, a bowling alley on the ground floor and billiard room. The reading and music rooms were towards the rear facing the Pasig. “The club house is long, low and rambling. The reading, writing and music rooms from on the river, and the glossy hard wood floors, hand hewn out of solid trees , seem to suggest music and coolness. It is possible to reach the city by jumping into a native boat at the portico on the river bank, or to go by one of the two wheeled gigs, called carromatas, waiting at the front gate, or to walk a block and take the tram car which jogs down through the busy high road. “ Yesterdays in the Philippines by Joseph Earle Stevens

At the gateway was a sign announcing “No Women or Dogs Allowed” , typical of the London-styled chauvinistic attitude of the day. The property was not large, measuring some 200 yards deep from the river bank to Calle Aciete and about 250 yards across Calle Nagtahan to the Estero de Valencia but still contained a garden, stables, a few annexes, a boat house, and at least one tennis court. Arthur D. Hall, author recalls, “The English (Manila) Club is not only a sort of social centre and bureau of information but it is also a trade centre at which sales are made, contracts closed and deals consummated.”

– Via The Manila Club, Manila Nostalgia

One can only hope that things have changed since the 1880’s…

If you’ve read this far, thank you.  I didn’t expect it to be so long – and I’m only at B.  But since the main character in the novel I’m working on is a Brit, I hope you forgive me this indulgence.  I love my muse after all, even if no women or dogs were allowed in his place of respite…

Blogging A to Z Challenge

A is For Anito and Albularyo

Yep, I am doing the Blogging From A to Z Challenge and to make it even harder, I’m blogging about something I don’t know that much about – other than it is the setting for the novel that I am currently working on (you see the muse up there on the right). 

I wrote about the overall theme for the April challenge here, which is my A to Z take on 1890’s Philippines. 

So without further ado, here’s letter A.


Before the Spanish “discovered” the Philippine islands in the 16th century – naming it after their king – and converted everyone they could find to Roman Catholicism, the inhabitants were primarily pagan.  They practiced a nature-based, polytheistic belief system, collectively called Anito, that included the worship of household deities and even the spirits of their ancestors.

The supreme god was Bathala, creator of heaven, earth and men.  Below him were other gods and goddesses – Idianale, Tagalog goddess of agriculture; Lakapati, Tagalog god of harvest; Sidapa, Visayan god of death; Apolaki, Pangasinan war god; Kidul, Kalinga god of thunder; Dal’lang, Ilocano goddess of beauty; Malyari, Zambal god of power and strength; Poko, Tagbanua god of the sea; and Kolyog, Ifugao god of earthquakes.

– via The Philippines: A Unique Nation by Sonia M. Zaide with Gregorio F. Zaide’s History of the Republic of the Philippines

These polytheistic practices were facilitated by the male priest or female priestess called katalona or babaylan, similar to shamans and other spiritual leaders.  However, with the colonization and conversion of its people to Catholicism, much of these practices were suppressed by the friars who ruled the country for the next 300 years until the Americans took over in 1898.

But old habits die hard, as we all know, and much of the incantations and spells of the katalona or babaylan were replaced by Catholic oraciones and prayers, this time performed by the albularyo, who incorporated the use of herbs, oils and various local minerals like alum into their sessions.  It became a form of folk healing and religion all rolled into one, if you will.

Albularyos can still be found in the barrios, the small towns outside of the city, and it’s not unusual to see someone call on the deities and gods of old when one goes to an albularyo to seek help, especially when easy access to modern medical facilities is unavailable.

Wooden images of the ancestors (Bulul) in a museum in Bontoc, Mountain Province, Philippines

Blogging A to Z Challenge