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Sep 29th
Home Sections History Letters from an American Old-timer (Pioneer) in the Philippines (Part II)
Letters from an American Old-timer (Pioneer) in the Philippines (Part II) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 19 September 2007 09:53

Letters from an American Old-timer (Pioneer) in the Philippines (Part II)

The presents the second of a series of letters written by an American settler in Palawan, Philippines. His name was John Clark, the great-grandfather of our webmaster, Allan Albert. Most of the letters were written in the early 1900s. Serious students of Filipino history, Asian studies and/or Filipino-American relations perhaps may find them useful in knowing the Oriental culture and understanding the Asian mind. The letters were transcribed by the Albert Siblings who are in Southern California. Eventually, this online publication will print more data about the person of John Clark and his experiences in the Philippines and Asia. Mr. Clark’s letters are published unedited. The second letter is datelined Puerto Princesa, Palawan, April 21, 1909. At this time, Mr. Clark was Palawan's Secretary-Treasurer and from time to time, he was the Acting Governor of the province.



Puerto Princesa P.I.

(Cuyo) April 21, 1909.

Dear Grandfather:-

I received your most welcome letter of September 13, 1908, almost two months ago and failed to answer at once waiting a favorable time to send you a worthy reply, but it seems that such times never come so I'll write you now and ask you to excuse me if it's a bit hasty,

The Governor was gone during January, February, and March so that I was acting and some additional work besides my own. The Moros in the Southern part have been behaving badly and killed five Filipinos so that the Governor has some of them prisoners awaiting the judge of first instance to try them for murder. Two of the leaders were kept apart in a separate building under double guard but during the first week of the Governor's absence they pulled the door inward and went out past the double sentry, stole a row boat and got across the bay. I was worried for we had put on a double guard especially to keep it secure and I knew it wouldn't do for them to get away. They were now in a country separated from their own by the land of Tagbanuas (sic), these latter being the enemies of the Moros, so I offered a reward of P25 for their return and within 48 hours the Tagbanuas had them back but they had chased so hard that the weaker Moro died of heart trouble two days later. Then there was more trouble. He couldn't be buried in the Catholic cemetery. There were no Moro cemeteries near, nor priests, "hadjiis" they are called in Moro. And he couldn't be buried for 24 hours according to law; they wouldn't allow a non-Christian to remain in the church or chapel that long; he couldn't stay in the guard house; the Filipino policemen are too much afraid of ghosts to guard the body out of doors at night so I was forced to send the whole outfit down to my house for the night. I am glad that it was done now for the place is believed by the ignorant to be haunted and I no longer loose all the little things that are lying around loose. Don't need to guard the mango trees and the lumber pile. Before, all the small boards the carpenter hadn't nailed on had to be taken indoors or the small thieves would get them during the night, so that I actually run short of lumber before my house was finished, but there, I guess I hadn't told you I had built a house- a 'bungalow" rather it is. That is one thing that helped to keep me so busy. And this is why I did it; I bought first a large Spanish house of brick, cement, and hardwood, put up by prison labor during the Spanish times. A fine two story building with "salas" "almacen," balcon, barred windows, and all the rest that goes with a Spanish house- you know how they are built and all inclosed (sic) within a stonewall with about a half acre in the inclosure. I bought it for P2000, which is $1000, gold, and that very day the Comandante wanted it so I rented it to the government for P70 ($35, gold) per month. That was a year ago last December. I wanted a house of my own to live in as I was tired of my quarters in the office above the guard house, so then I bought a fine native house of hardwood and nipa palm, veranda, sala, and kitchen and about five acres. It was already occupied by the Captain of Constabulary and as he was a married man I haven't felt like asking him to leave it. You see a man with an American wife here can get most anything he wants because the American woman is mighty scarce here and it is good just to see one around and the Captain's wife is a mighty fine woman.

Then I decided to build me a house and I have enjoyed immensely. It is lots more interesting to create something like that than to dig around eternally in an old office with a dozen or so of ledgers and wearing out the typewriter answering official letters and keeping the safe in proper condition for inspection, worrying over checks, payrolls, vouchers, receipts, books, deeds and reports.

As this letter is written just to you I'll tell you just how I built this "bungalow".
First we planted 8 "harigues" - logs about 18 inches in diameter and 25 feet long - digging the holes about 5 feet deep, and filling these holes around the harigues with cement and small broken rock . Made a three -legged derrick to hoist them up with as they are of "ipil", a heavy, oily, dark wood that lasts a hundred years and which the ants will not eat.

The harigues were set like this:


O O           on top of them about 20 feet from the ground we
                  mortised in the ipil 3 X 4's - I don't know what
O O O       you cal them in English- joists , scantiling, sleepers, maybe in Cuyono we    called them "balabacs", "dormientes", "paseantes", "tablas", etc.

About 7 feet from the ground we bolted on the heavy sleepers for the floor and put 7 more supports below them so that the floor will be solid- I don't like a wobbly floor. Then we planted 14 more harigues around this structure and extended the floor out to them thus making a veranda all the way round. I put 6 more supports underneath the sleepers so that I have altogether 35 posts or "harigues" planted in cement of which 13 reach but to the floor and 22 reach up to the beginning of the roof. The posts for the veranda are but about 20 feet high. The floor is of ipil the same as the posts as well as the frame work for the walls. I am sending you a piece of this wood. All wood must be of the kind that the ants won't eat or your house would be eaten up in a single week. Oregon pine lasts about three months here unless it is treated with creosote or some other preparation. On top of these 22 posts they put on rafters of "Tañgal", a red, bitter wood that the ants do not destroy. The rafters are called "tijeras" or scissors because they cross a little at the top and are tied with bejucco. The roof was made of nipa palm sewed on with bejucco also. This bejucco is a cane like the bottoms of chairs are woven of. Very little metal is used in the house-either wooden pins or bejucco and they last much longer than nails. I have induced the carpenters to use some big bolts, well painted, to hold up the heavier floor joists and nails to put on the siding with. The walls around the 8 posts first planted are a variety of woods, all ant proof, and are all hardwood, some yellow, some almost black, a few rich browns, and some white. Some are of ipil like the posts and floors. I wish you could see them or that you had been here to have overseen the work. I had six carpenters part of the time at 40 cents a day. They are very irregular in their attendance . Then I had about 10 or 15 men at 20 and 30 cents a day to dig holes, work in the cement, put on the roof, etc. The carpenters smoothed all the boards by hand and grooved them. They make a funny looking wall as they are all colors but with fine grains and seems a pity to have to cover them up with paint. If they had been all one kind of wood I should have just put on ship's varnish. The doors and windows are of ipil. I have very large, low windows and double doors. The whole bungalow is all doors, windows, and verandah. The kitchen and bathroom and servants quarters are about 50 feet away connected with a covered "pantalan" (bridge, I guess you would call it, or "runway") so that the meals are brought in to and served in the veranda, as we eat out of doors all the time. I have just moved in and it is so cool and clean that I am quite well satisfied. It was finished in just three months and is looked upon as a miracle by the natives because it was finished so quickly. With them the first roof is ready to be repaired before the floor and walls are finished. Below the floor there are no walls but bamboo strips. A daily sweeping below keeps the house free from insects and makes for more ventilation and coolness. I have a cook, a boy, to help him and a man-of -all-works. They cost about $15 a mo. An Army lieutenant wants to rent t5ehplace and I will let him have it when I go on leave. I am going home by way of Europe but expect to go through the Northern part this time.

I am mighty glad that you are so well and able to enjoy yourself with the folks. I wish I were close enough for a yearly visit as you make with them. I shall expect to find you the same as ever when I get back and I think we can make a trip over to old "Scott" County together. We may get to spend a day at Kirk's together also. It makes me homesick to think about all of them over there. I try to keep so busy that AI don't have time to think too much about the "States." You can see by the inclosed clippings what a lot of things I have to look after. Please send this to Aunt Hebe but tell her to send it to Lucy, I haven't any other copies and it will save a lot of writing. Don't show this to any editor-it is only for the folks. Tell John that I am coming back to see him and the little Clark before very long now. My 5 years' leave is up and I'll have to go now- they don't allow us to stay more than five years- that is we can't draw more than 5 years' leave at one time. With lots of love to you and grandma Lucy".

Your grandson.


Please address,

John T. Clark,
Province of Palawan
Puerto Princesa, Philippine Islands.

Footnote Handwriting stating " this letter must be sent back to me J.A. Read.


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Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 September 2007 09:58

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