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Two Runaways From Manila


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

The name Corregidor, which stands for mayor, albeit the translation
is corrector, is applied to the gateway to Manila. Thus named it was
a place to inspire a wholesome fear in the breasts of dignitaries,
for on at least two occasions proud and refractory bishops were sent
there in exile to endure a season of correction and repentance. It
was thought to be a desert. In the seventeenth century the treasure
galleon arriving at Manila, after a voyage of months from Mexico,
brought a family from that country. One of the daughters of this house
of Velez was a girl with a bit of human nature in her composition,
for Maria was prone to flirting, and had no affection for sermons. In
order to repress her high spirits and love of mischief, she was sent
by her father to the convent of Santa Clara, which had been founded
in 1621 (a few years before this incident). The parent even hoped
that she might qualify as a nun.

It was not the right convent, for Fray Sanchez, one of the fathers,
who said the offices in the chapel, was a Franciscan friar, young,
handsome, and not an ascetic. The novice was always prompt when he
said mass, and often when her pretty head should have been bowed in
prayer she was peeping over the edge of her breviary, following the
graceful motions of the brother as he shone in full canonicals in the
candle-light, and thrilling at the sound of his rich, low voice. The
priest several times caught the glance of those eyes, so black,
so liquid, saw the long fringe of lashes fall across them, saw the
face bend behind the prayer-book in a vain endeavor to hide a flush,
realized what a pretty face it was, and went to his cell with a vague
aching at his heart. He sought Maria among the pupils to give spiritual
advice, or she sought him to ask it,--it little matters,--and so the
first full moon looked into a corner of the convent garden and saw,
despite the swaying shadow of vines and palms, that the friar was
making confession to the nun,--a confession of love. The face that
had peered above the prayer-book was lifted to his, a white arm stole
about his neck: it was the answering confession. The priest strained
her to his breast and half stifled her with kisses.

These raptures were interrupted by the retiring bell, and they hastily
returned to the convent by separate ways. It was the last night they
expected to spend beneath that roof, for a galleon was to sail for
Mexico in a day or two, and they had agreed to elope. Dressed in
worldly garb, which she concealed under the robe and cowl of a monk,
Maria slipped through the garden gate next day, met her lover, ran to
the shore, where a boat had been tied, crossed with him to Camaya,
the ship being promised there for a fag end of cargo, and prayed
for a quick departure from the Philippines. In vain. They fell into
the hands of unfriendly natives, who, having learned to distrust the
Spanish, were always ready to wreak small injuries on them when the
chance afforded. These natives attempted to separate the pair and
drag the girl to their huts. The friar attacked them with spirit,
but the brown men were too many for him, and in the melee both he
and Maria were wounded.

A boat was seen approaching. The assailants fled, leaving the friar,
bleeding and weak, but kneeling beside his mistress, whose white
skin was splashed and striped with red, and whose liquid eyes stared
vacantly at the sky. As the boat touched the shore the corregidor
leaped from it, and the friar now confronted a new peril. His flight
had been discovered, the town-crier had bawled it through the streets,
commanding the people to refuse shelter to the guilty pair under
heavy penalty, and, to enforce their return, the mayor had brought
with him twelve soldiers of the garrison. The loaded arquebuses of
the men were not needed. Feeble, sore in body and spirit, repentant,
the monk surrendered, Maria was lifted into the boat, and the company
returned to Manila.

There it was decided that the monk should be sent to an inland mission,
that in the lifting of souls to a finer faith the stain of human
love that had fallen upon his own soul might be wiped away. As to
the girl, her good looks and gay disposition had proved the undoing
of one devotee. She was to have no chance to enslave another; so she
was sent back to Mexico, forced to enter a cloistered nunnery, and
so ended her life in loneliness and sanctity. The incident has left
its impress on the names about the harbor, Corregidor being so called
for the officer who pursued and arrested the runaways, Camaya being
rechristened Mariveles,--which, you see, is Maria Velez,--while two
rocks beyond the Boca Grande are named for the friar and his would-be
bride,--Fraile and Monja: monk and nun.

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