Emily Bronson Conger.

An Ohio woman in the Philippines [microform] : giving personal experiences and descriptions including incidents of Honolulu, ports in Japan and China online

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An Ohio Woman in the Philippines

Giving Personal Experiences and Descriptions
Including Incidents of Honolulu,
Ports in Japan and China

Mrs. Emily Bronson Conger

Published with illustrations

Press of Richard H. Leighton
Akron, Ohio


To my beloved husband,
whose love was - Is my sweetest incentive;
whose approval was - Is my richest reward.



Out of the Golden Gate 7-14
First Glimpses of Japan 15-20
From Yokohama to Tokio 21-25
Tokio 26-33
Japan in General 34-41
In Shanghai 42-49
Hong Kong to Manila 50-55
Iloilo and Jaro 56-66
The Natives 67-77
Wooings and Weddings 78-82
My First Fourth in the Philippines 83-88
Flowers, Fruits and Berries 89-92
The Markets 93-95
Philippine Agriculture 96-100
Minerals 101-103
Animals 104-106
Amusements and Street Parades 107-110
Festivals of the Church 111-114
Osteopathy 115-122
The McKinley Campaign 123-125
Governor Taft at Jaro 126-132
Shipwreck 133-138
Filipino Domestic Life 139-151
Islands Cebu and Romblom 152-154
Literature 155-159
The Gordon Scouts 160-162
Trials of Getting Home 163-166



With the words ringing out over the clear waters of San Francisco
Bay as the Steamer Morgan City pulled from the dock, "Now, mother,
do be sure and take the very next boat and come to me," I waved a yes
as best I could, and, turning to my friends, said: "I am going to the
Philippines; but do not, I beg of you, come to the dock to see me off."

I did not then realize what it meant to start alone. I vowed to
stay in my cabin during the entire trip, but, as we steamed out of
the Golden Gate, there was an invitation to come forth, a prophesy
of good, a promise to return, in the glory of the last rays of the
setting sun as they traced upon the portals, "We shall be back in the
morning." And so I set out with something of cheer and hope, in spite
of all the remonstrances, all the woeful prognostications of friends.

If I could not find something useful to do for my boy and for other
boys, I could accept the appointment of nurse from the Secretary
of War, General Russell A. Alger. But, if it proved practicable,
I preferred to be under no obligations to render service, for my
health was poor, my strength uncertain.

The sail from San Francisco to Honolulu was almost without incident;
few of the two thousand souls on board were ill at all. They divided
up into various cliques and parties, such as are usually made up on
ocean voyages. When we arrived at Honolulu, I did not expect to land,
but I was fortunate in having friends of my son's, Hon. J. Mott Smith,
Secretary of State, and family meet me, and was taken to his more
than delightful home and very generously, royally entertained.

My impressions were, as we entered the bay, that the entire population
of Honolulu was in the water. There seemed to be hundreds of little
brown bodies afloat just like ducks.

The passengers threw small coins into the bay, and those aquatic,
human bodies would gather them before they could reach the bottom.

The city seemed like one vast tropical garden, with its waving palms,
gorgeous foliage and flowers, gaily colored birds and spicy odors,
but mingled with the floral fragrance were other odors that betokened
a foreign population.

It was my first experience in seeing all sorts and conditions of
people mingling together - Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiians, English,
Germans and Americans. Then the manner of dress seemed so strange,
especially for the women; they wore a garment they call halicoes like
the Mother Hubbard that we so much deride.

We visited the palace of the late Queen, Liliuokalani
(le-le-uo-ka-lá-ne), now turned into a government building; saw the
old throne room and the various articles that added to the pomp and
vanity of her reign. I heard only favorable comments on her career. All
seemed to think that she had been a wise and considerate ruler.

I noticed many churches of various denominations, but was
particularly interested in my own, the Protestant Episcopal. The
Rt. Rev. H. C. Potter, Bishop of New York, and his secretary,
Rev. Percy S. Grant, were passengers on board our ship, the Gælic. The
special purpose of the Bishop's visit to Honolulu was to effect
the transfer of the Episcopal churches of the Sandwich Islands to
the jurisdiction of our House of Bishops. He expressed himself as
delighted with his cordial reception and with the ready, Christian-like
manner with which the Supervision yielded. The success of his delicate
mission was due, on Bishop Potter's side, to the wise and fraternal
presentation of his cause and to his charming wit and courtesy.

It was still early morning when my friends with a pair of fine horses
drove from the shore level by winding roads up through the foot hills,
ever up and up above the luxuriant groves of banana and cocoanut, the
view widening, and the masses of rich foliage growing denser below or
broadening into the wide sugar plantations that surrounded palatial
homes. We returned for luncheon and I noted that not one house had
a chimney, that every house was protected with mosquito netting;
porches, doors, windows, beds, all carefully veiled.

After dinner we again set forth with a pair of fresh horses and drove
for miles along the coast, visiting some of the beautiful places that
we had already seen from the heights. The beauty of gardens, vines,
flowers, grasses, hills, shores, ocean was bewildering. In the city
itself are a thousand objects of interest, of which not the least is
the market.

I had never seen tropical fish before, and was somewhat surprised by
the curious shapes and varied colors of the hundreds and thousands of
fish exposed for sale. I do not think there was a single color scheme
that was not carried out in that harvest of the sea. Fruits and flowers
were there, too, in heaps and masses at prices absurdly low. With the
chatter of the natives and the shrill cry of the fishermen as they
came in with their heavily laden boats, the scene was one never to
be forgotten.

The natives have a time honored custom of crowning their friends at
leave-taking with "Lais" (lays). These garlands are made by threading
flowers on a string about a yard and a half long, usually each string
is of one kind of flower, and, as they throw these "Lais" over the
head of the friend about to leave, they say or sing, "Al-o-ah-o,
until we meet again."

This musical score is the greeting of good-day, good-morning, or
good-bye; always the greeting of friends. They chose for me strings
of purple and gold flowers. The golden ones were a sort of wax begonia
and the purple were almost like a petunia.

Instead of sitting on the deck of the steamer by myself, as I had
purposed, I had one of the most delightful days I have ever spent
in my life. It was with deep regret, when the boat pulled from the
wharf, that I answered with the newly acquired song, "Al-o-ah-o,"
the kindly voices wafted from the shore. We had taken on board many
new passengers, and were now very closely packed in, so much so,
that to our great disgust one family, a Chinaman, his wife, children
and servants, fourteen in number, occupied one small stateroom. It is
easy to believe that that room was full and overflowing into the narrow
hallways. Though he had eight or nine children and one or two wives,
he said he was going to China to get himself one more wife, because the
one that he had with him did bite the children so much and so badly.

I had never before seen so many various kinds of Chinese people,
and it was a curious study each day to watch them at their various
duties in caring for one another and preparing their food. Strange
concoctions were some of those meals. They all ate with chop-sticks,
and I never did find out how they carried to the mouth the amount
of food consumed each day. One day we heard a great commotion down
in their quarters, and, of course, all rushed to see what was the
matter. We were passing the spot where, years before, a ship had sunk
with a great number of Chinese on board. Our Chinese were sending off
fire crackers and burning thousands and thousands of small papers of
various colors and shapes, with six to ten holes in each paper. Some
were burning incense and praying before their Joss. The interpreter
told us that every time a steamer passes they go through these rites to
keep the Devils away from the souls of the shipwrecked Chinese. Before
any Evil Spirit can reach a soul it must go through each one of the
holes in the burnt papers that were cast overboard.

Bishop Potter asked us one day if we thought those Chinese people
were our brethren. I am sure it took some Christian charity to decide
that they were. One of these "brethren" was a Salvation Army man,
who was married to an American woman. They were living in heathen
quarters between decks and each day labored to teach the way of
salvation. Many of these poor people died during the passage; the
bodies were placed in boxes to be carried to their native land. A
large per cent. of the whole number seemed to be going home to die,
so emaciated and feeble were they.

There was fitted up in one of the bunks in the hold of the vessel a
Joss house. I did not dare to see it, but I learned that there was
the usual pyramid of shelves containing amongst them the gods of War
and Peace. Before each god is a small vessel of sand to hold the Joss
sticks, a perfumed taper to be burned in honor of the favorite deity,
and there is often added a cup of tea and a portion of rice. There are
no priests or preachers, but some man buys the privilege of running
the Joss house, and charges each worshipper a small fee. The devotee
falls on his knees, lays his forehead to the floor, and invocates
the god of his choice. Soothsayers are always in attendance, and for
a small sum one may know his future.

As between Chinese and Japanese, for fidelity, honesty, veracity and
uprightness, my impression is largely in favor of the Chinese as a
race. Captain Finch told me that on this ship, the Gælic, over which he
had had charge for the past fifteen years, he had had, as head waiter,
the same Chinaman that he started out with, and in all this period
of service he never had occasion to question the integrity of this
most faithful servant, who in the entire time had not been absent
from the ship more than three days in all. On these rare occasions,
this capable man had left for his substitute such minute instructions
on bits of rice paper, placed where needed, that the work was carried
on smoothly without need of supervision or other direction. The same
holds true of Chinese servants on our Pacific coast. I was much pleased
with the attention they gave each and every one of us during the entire
trip; it was better service than any that I have ever seen on Atlantic
ships. In the whole month's trip, I never heard one word of complaint.

Being a good sailor, I can hardly judge as to the "Peacefulness of
the Pacific." Many were quite ill when to me there was only a gentle
roll of the steamer, soothing to the nerves, and the splash of the
waves only lulled me to sleep.

By day there were many entertainments, such as races, walking matches,
quoits, and like games. Commander J. V. Bleecker, en route to take
charge of the Mercedes reclaimed in Manila Bay, was a masterly artist
in sleight-of-hand performances, and contributed much to the fun.

Often the evenings were enlivened with concerts and
readings. Col. J. H. Bird, of New York, gave memorized passages from
Shakespeare - scenes, acts, and even entire plays in perfect voice
and character. We thought we were most fortunate in the opportunity
to enjoy his clever rendition of several comedies.

But to one passenger, at least, the best and sweetest ministrations
of all were the religious services. Bishop Potter took part in all
wholesome amusements. He was often the director; he was the delightful
chairman at all our musical and literary sessions; but it was in sacred
service that his noble spiritual powers found expression. One calm,
radiant Sunday morning he spoke with noblest eloquence on these words
of the one hundred thirty-ninth psalm: -

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee
from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed
in hell, behold thou art there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost
part of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me.

Fifteen months later, when wrecked on the coast of Panay, his clear
voice again sounded in my soul with the assurance, "Even there shall
thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me."



But for all our devices to while away the time, the thirty-two days of
ship life was to all of us the longest month of our lives. The Pacific,
as Mr. Peggotty says, is "a mort of water," a vast, desolate waste of
waters from Honolulu to our first landing place, Yokohama. We had a
wonderful glimpse of the sacred mountain, Fujiyama. The snow-capped
peak stood transfigured as it caught full the rays of the descending
sun. Cone-shaped, triangular, perhaps; what was it like, this gleaming
silhouette against the deep blue sky? Was it a mighty altar, symbol
of earth's need of sacrifice, or emblem of the unity of the ever
present triune God? 'Tis little wonder that it is, to the people
over whom it stands guard, an object of reverence, of worship; that
pilgrimages are made to its sacred heights; that yearly many lives
are sacrificed in the toilsome ascent on bare feet, on bare knees.

As we went through Japan's inland sea, one of the most beautiful bodies
of water on the globe, it seemed, at times, as if we might reach out
and shake hands with the natives in their curious houses, we passed
so near to them - the odd little houses, unlike any we had ever seen;
while about us was every known kind of Japanese craft with curious
sails of every conceivable kind and shape. On the overloaded boats
the curious little Japanese sailors, oddly dressed in thick padded
coverings and bowl caps on their heads, with nothing on limbs and
feet save small straw sandals, strapped to the feet between great
and second toes, looked top-heavy.

While I watched all these new things, I was eagerly on the lookout for
the wreck of the Morgan City, on which my son had sailed. Nothing was
visible of the ill-fated ship but a single spar, one long finger of
warning held aloft. As we passed on, watching the busy boats plying
from shore to shore, the Chinese on the boat chattered and jabbered
faster with each other than before; we fancied they were making fun of
their little Japanese brethren. We arrived at Yokohama about 9 P. M.,
and were immediately placed in quarantine. The next morning a dozen
Japanese quarantine officers appeared, covered all over with straps
and bands of gold lace. They looked so insignificant and put on such
an air of austere authority that one did not know whether to laugh or
cry at their pomposity. They checked us off by squads and dozens, and
by 12 o'clock we were ready to land. It was our first touch of Japanese
soil, and we were about to take our first ride in a Jinricksha. It was
very beautiful to hear as a greeting, "Ohio." As I had been told by
a Japanese student, whom I met in Cambridge, Mass., that this is the
national greeting, I was not unprepared as was a fellow passenger,
who said, "Oh, he must know where you came from." My height and my
white hair seemed to make me an object of interest. It was such a
novel thing to be hauled around in those two-wheeled carts, one man
pulling at the thills and another pushing at the rear. It is a fine
experience, and one which we all enjoyed. The whole outfit is hired
by the day for about a dollar, the price depending upon the amount
of Pigeon English the leader can speak. The first thing they say to
you is, "Me can speak English." We found the hotel admirably kept.

The blind Japanese are an interesting class. They are trained at
government cost to give massage treatment, and no others are allowed
to practice. These blind nurses, male and female, go about the streets
in care of an attendant, playing a plaintive tune on a little reed
whistle in offer of their services. The treatment is delightful,
the sensation is wholly new, and is most restful and invigorating
after a long voyage.

No wonder that so many of the Japs are weak-eyed or totally blind. The
children are exposed to the intense rays of the sun, as, suspended on
their mothers' backs, they dangle in their straps with their little
heads wabbling helplessly. From friends who have kept house many years,
I learned that the service rendered by the Japanese is, as a whole,
unsatisfactory. Their cooking is entirely different from ours, and
they do not willingly adapt themselves to our mode of living.

It is not my purpose to tell much about Japan and China; they were only
stages on the way to the Philippines; and yet they were a preparation
for the new, strange life there. But such is the charm of Japan that
one's memories cling to its holiday scenes and life.

The Japanese are really wise in beginning their New Year in spring. The
first of April, cherry blossom day, is made the great day of all
the year. There are millions of cherry blossoms on trees larger
than many of our largest apple trees - wonderful double-flowering,
beautiful trees, just one mass of pink blossoms as far as the eye
can reach. They do so reverence these blossoms that they rarely pluck
them, but carry about bunches made of paper or silk tissue that rival
the natural ones in perfection. No person is so poor that he cannot,
on this great festal day, have his house, shop, place of amusement
or, at least, umbrella bedecked with these delicate blossoms. It is
almost beyond belief the extent to which they carry this festal day,
given up entirely to greetings and parades.

Then the wonderful wisteria! In its blossoming time the flower clusters
hang from long sprays like rich fringe. From the hill-tops the view
down on the tiny cottages, wreathed with the luxuriant vines, is most
beautiful. A single cluster is often three feet long. They make cups,
bowls and plates from the trunk of the vine.

There are marsh fields of the white lotus. The ridges of the heavily
thatched roofs are set with iris plants and their many hued blossoms
make a garden in the air.

One should visit Japan from April to November. In the cultivation of
the chrysanthemum they lay more stress on the small varieties than we
do; they prefer number to size. The autumn foliage is beautiful beyond
belief, - vision alone can do it justice. The hillsides, the mountain
slopes are thickly set with the miniature maples and evergreens;
the clear, brilliant hues of the one, heightened by contrast with
the dark green of the other, are strikingly vivid.

The trees and shrubs are surely more gnarled and knotted than they are
in Christian countries. They are trained in curious fashion. One limb
of a tree is coaxed and stretched to see how far it can be extended
from the body of the tree. At first I could not believe that these
limbs belonged to a stump so far away. The Japanese pride themselves
on their shrubs and flowers. Nothing gave me more pleasure than
seeing all this cultivation of the gardens, no matter how small,
around each home. I did not see a single bit of wood in Japan like
anything that we have. The veining, color, texture and adaptiveness
to polish suggest marble of every variety.

At Yokohama I engaged a guide, Takenouchi. I found him to be a faithful
attendant; his devotion and energy in satisfying my various requests
was unwearied; I shall ever feel grateful to him. He would make me
understand by little nods, winks, and sly pushes that I was not to
purchase, and he would afterwards say: "I will go back and get the
articles for you for just one-half the price the shop-keeper told
you." They hope to sell to Americans for a better price than they
ever get from each other. We went to every kind of shop; they are
amusingly different from ours. Few things are displayed in the windows
or on the shelves, but they are done up in fine parcels and tucked
away out of sight. It is the rule to take two or three days to sit
at various counters before you attempt to purchase. The seller would
much rather keep his best things; he tries in every way to induce you
to take the cheaper ones, or ones of inferior quality. My guide was in
every way capable and efficient in the selection of fine embroideries,
porcelain, bronzes, and pictures.



From Yokohama to Tokio, a two hours' ride on the steam cars,
one is constantly gazing at the wonderful country and its perfect
cultivation. There are no vast prairies of wheat or corn, but the land
is divided into little patches, and each patch is so lovingly tended
that it looks not like a farm but like a garden; while each garden is
laid out with as much care as if it were some part of Central Park,
thick with little lakes, artistic bridges and little waterfalls with
little mills, all too diminutive, seemingly, to be of any use, and
yet all occupied and all busy turning out their various wares.

I understand they even hoe the drilled-in wheat. The rice, the staple
of the country, is so cared for and tended that it sells for much
more than other rice. Imported rice is the common food.

As our guide said, we must go to the "Proud of Japan," Nikko, to see
the most wonderful temples of their kind in all the world. We took the
cars at Yokohama for Nikko. It was an all day trip with five changes of
cars, but every step of the way was through one vast curious workshop
of both divine and human hands. The railway fare is only two cents a
mile, first class, and half that, second class; we left the choice
to our guide. A good guide is almost indispensable. Our faithful
Takenouchi was proficient in everything; he was valet, courier,
guide, instructor, purchasing agent, and maid. I never knew a person
so efficient in every way; he could be attentively absent; he never
intruded himself upon us in any way. It is impossible to describe
the wonderful temples! They must be seen to be appreciated and, even
then, one must needs have a microscope, so minute are the carvings in
ivory, bronze, and porcelain, inlaid and wrought with gold and silver;
many of them, ancient though they are, are still marvels of delicate
lines of the patient labor of the past centuries. One of the gods,
which was in a darkened temple, had a hundred heads, and the only way
one could see it was by a little lantern hung on the end of a string
and pulled up slowly. But even in that dim light we stood awestruck
before that miracle wrought in stone. No one is allowed to walk near
this god with shoes upon his feet. Unbelievers though we were, we were
awed by the colossal grandeur of this great idol. The God of Wind,
the God of War, the God of Peace, "the hundred Gods" all in line,
were, when counted one way, one hundred, but in the reverse order
only ninety-nine. To pray to the One Hundred, it is necessary only
to buy a few characters of Japanese writings and paste them upon any

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Online LibraryEmily Bronson CongerAn Ohio woman in the Philippines [microform] : giving personal experiences and descriptions including incidents of Honolulu, ports in Japan and China → online text (page 1 of 10)