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Suppressing Magic In Manila


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Crowds of all kinds are easily swayed, but it is said that nowhere
is it so easy to rouse a panic or a revolution as in Manila. Several
times during the earlier months of the American occupation vague
fears spread through the city, people ran to their homes or locked
themselves in their shops in terror, lights were put out, armed guards
were posted; then, after a few hours, everybody asked everybody else
what the matter had been, and nobody knew.

In 1820 a strange scene was enacted in the Philippine capital. People
assembled in groups at evening and whispered mysteriously. Gowned
friars moved from group to group, but whether encouraging or
expostulating it was impossible for one to say, unless he understood
Spanish or Tagalog. The captain of an American ship that was taking
on its load of hemp reported to a neighbor captain, who sailed
under the cross of St. George, that there had been a violation of
the government order against the importing of Protestant Bibles and
pocket-pistols,--two things taboo in the country at that time. This,
however, may have been the Yankee captain's joke. As the night deepened
torches were seen flitting hither and thither, the crowds thickened,
the whispers and hushed talk increased by degrees to a widespread,
menacing growl, then arose to a roar. Now drums were heard in
the barracks, and the light, quick tread of marching feet could be
distinguished through the babble of voices. The mob was slowly wedging
itself into one of the streets before an inn, and just at the doors
of that hostelry the noise was loudest and most threatening.

Presently came a crash. The building had been entered. Instantly
there were shouts and cries, and the throng seemed fairly to boil
with anger. In the light of candles that shone through windows
the faces lifted toward the tavern were drawn and wolfish. Shots
were heard. The mob was shaken, as a wood is shaken by a gale, but
there was no retreat. There could be none. The people were packed too
densely. Now a glint of bayonets was seen at one end of the street, and
some sharp orders rang out. This was more effective. The throng began
to thin away at the farther end, and those nearest to the soldiers
attempted to break through the line, loudly declaring that they were
merely spectators, and did not know what had happened. But in another
moment everybody knew. Two dark shapes were passed out at the inn door,
and were, in some fashion, pushed along over the heads of the multitude
to its freer edge. These shapes had recently been men. With ropes about
their necks they were dragged at a run through the streets. More houses
were attacked. Other forms were found lying on the earth, pulseless,
bloody, after the mob had passed. The military was, seemingly, unable
to head it off or give effective chase. Flames now lighted various
quarters of the city, and shots were frequently heard. It was a night
of terror. History speaks of it as a night of rioting. Many declare
that it was a St. Bartholomew massacre, on a smaller scale, and that
the Protestants who were killed that night were put to death at the
instigation of the friars. Tradition relates that when the sun arose
the people, numbering thousands, marched in triumph through the city,
following a dozen of their number who bore in their hands the phials in
which two French naturalists, recently landed in Luzon, had preserved
a number of snakes and insects for their scientific collection.

There was the mischief,--in those jars and bottles. Nobody would put
a serpent or a scorpion into alcohol except for some grim purpose,
and that purpose could be nothing other than black magic. Hence the
raid on the inn; hence the killing of the naturalists and of other
people suspected of complicity or sympathy with forbidden arts;
hence the state of education of Luzon.

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