Suppressing Magic In Manila

: 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 matte
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.