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Home Sections History Letters from an American Old-timer (Pioneer) in the Philippines (Part III)
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Saturday, 22 September 2007 00:47

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

The www.mabuhayradio.com presents the third 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. 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. This third letter is undated but it tells of Mr.Clark's adventure in Cagayan (de Oro), then a part of the Province of Misamis in Mindanao. Allan Albert was able to connect it with the Old Fort in Misamis, as published in a history book by Florence Russel. It is indeed a look back in time.

 

PHILIPPINE LETTER

Cagayan, Province of Misamis


My Darling Mother:

I am away from the office, there is a lull in business so I will begin your birthday letter for the day will soon be here, and as I will reach Cagayan on that date, I shall be pretty busy arranging my collections in the books.

Capt. Barton was dismissed from the service and so I shall continue acting treasurer for some time. Perhaps they will give me the position, I am earning it. He allowed the natives to steal right and left from the Government and I am showing them that all Americans are not built that way. One man has been sent to the penitentiary for six years, another for four years, one deputy has resigned and another will have to so the same unless I can get some more evidence against him, in which case he will not need to bother about resigning. I am going to make them come straight or get rid of them all. The governor says he is afraid I'll get him next, but he is standing by me. Three of the old town treasurers were short nearly 1900 pesos and I made them dig it up. They said it was a mistake but they knew that Barton never checked their accounts and so thot they were that much to the good. I have worked pretty hard since Barton quit, although I did most of it before he left. When I get his errors straightened out it will be easy. In one week I left the office and collected $11000 Mexican and $5000 of the new money, got my abstracts fixed up ready to enter in my books, boxed up this $16000, all in silver, and sent it to Manila on the same boat that I came home in. I had some experiences In g??/to one little town where no boat ????op, I had to go in a "barroto, a little boat built like ?????/ [missing a line and unsure if the pieces fit] it from upsetting. It was alright going to the town for the wind was dead ahead, so the natives got on the beach and dragged us with a rope. I collected 3000 pesos, put them in a box and, having good wind, we put to sea. The cursed little boat was so small that with four of us in, would sink right down, so one man got out and I stood on one outrigger, a native on the other, and the other in "gugu"- steered the thing. We put up the sail and scooted around a point in coral rock at a speed that I enjoyed, it was like racing. After rounding this point, we went pretty well out from the land and the wind began to increase more and more until we seemed to fairly skim over the water like we had wings, when the mast that held the little sails snapped short off at the bottom and the crazy boat rocked and careened and dipped water until I supposed that she was going to the bottom for sure. We paddled her to shore and got a new mast and started again but the waves were running high and we had to keep along shore, sometimes skimming over shallow rocks all covered with shells and starfishes of every color, and then we would dart across a streak of dark blue water that was perhaps a thousand feet deep. A big wave would sometimes almost ??? our little craft and the steersman would shoot her ashore, where we would dip out the water with some broken coconut shells. We were soaking wet, but it was nice, warm sea water and I rather enjoyed it, but sometimes when a gust of wind would drive the front of the boat underwater and the waves would wash up over my knees "a-goner," and my hair would stand up on end (I guess some of it went right on up for it is getting pretty thin) but I never let on to the natives that I was scared. I found out afterwards that you couldn't sink one of those "barrotos" but I didn't know it then, so this knowledge did me no particular good.

We reached Oroquieta and I collected 6000 pesos, put the treasurer to jail for being a thief; and then boxed up the money and left it to be sent down on the next boat. Two hours of riding over a fairly good road brought me and my guide to Jimenez, without accident except a crazy man who kept running after me and crying " the hand, the hand." I thought he wanted to cut off my arm and I had my gun all fixed to do him up, when the guide yelled that he was harmless and so I let him take my hand and what do you think he did?-kissed it the same as he was taught to do to the Spaniards before he went daft.


In Jimenez I slept in a house built by an American 80 years ago, and in the morning this man's grandson took me to the church designed by the same man, years ago. A Spaniard had painted it inside with pictures in white, buff and dark blue, very pretty indeed, and this Spaniard was killed by some of the wild inland cannibal tribes. But all this was long ago. The old American died years ago, his name was Thomas Hickson, he was marooned by a Yankee captain and put ashore without any means of living. No one knows why he was marooned, he never told but, the natives let him go to some Spanish monk missions, and so he lived here, marrying a native, and leaving many descendants who delight in telling how nearly related they are to the Americans.


I collected 2000 pesos in this town. Divided it into four packs, and with three guides and four horses I left about four P.M. for the town of Misamis. We reached there about midnight. We were so long on the way that I got afraid of my guides and made them lead, while I follow close behind with my revolver cocked and determined that if anything happened, those guides would be awfully sorry. It was a bright moonlit night and the last 8 miles we followed the seashore, travelling on the beach there being no road. The tide came in and sometimes we rode in water covering the saddles. It was a weird looking trail, for each horse left a track of phosphorescence, just like wet matches too in the dark. Right through the water we rode, and this phosphorescence was so bright that, actually the ???????? it was only imagination.

{ice 120 -link [Old Coral Fort in Misamis]}
We reached the old Spanish fort at midnight and the sentry let us in. This fort is built of coral rock walls, about 18 feet thick at the bottom, 25 feet high, nearly 2 acres inclosed. Sentry boxes, flagstaff and breaches for cannon on top. How I slept, and how I worked the next day! Got home and fixed up my accounts and now that they are all off, I am out again but I have a man along to help and I (boss) it.


Well mother, I read that Regnier, Gilbert, and the other are bankers, professors, etc. And I am just "Clark" here, but I wouldn't change nor my experiences with them for all the title they ever got. You do not do so much of a certain kind of work here and get a title, you live here if you're a man and if not, you are either killed off by the natives or the white men drive you away. Of course in the army it is different. Thanks to the U.S. army, these people have come to realize what an American is, and anyone who is not afraid, has no trouble. The Governor, who is a native, tells me that the sight of a white face hunting for them simply drives the natives out of their senses. He sent some native soldiers, police, out to arrest some outlaws and the latter simply cut the police all to pieces. Two white men with 14 natives, then went out and killed 30 of the outlaws and their families and brought 98 into jail. My Spanish Deputy and I rode down through the same country and had no trouble. I found one native woman dead, with a spear in her hand, she had evidently been running when shot by the soldiers. But she may have helped cut up some of the native soldiers, who knows? I have the spear that she held in her hand.


They have a division in their church here now and the 2 parties are at each others throat, but the Americans, of course, do not enter into this. They are quite friendly and will give up anything to make you a satisfied guest, I seem to be a welcome visitor, as they are giving a supper and dance tonight and 2 men are now roasting the pig which are to eat. This pig grew up in the kitchen and now he has a pole run through him. The pole is resting on cross sticks and has a crook on one end, which a man is diligently turning. A fire of coconut shells beneath is turning "piggy" a rich brown color.


I have my camera and take a few pictures of the natives, which they admire no matter how poor they are. Then I always bring the money to pay off and, of course, they like to have me come. I have a room in an old convent, so close to the sea I run down for a bath each morning. And my window has a fine view of the water from it, but I wish the church bells would loose their tongues. Well, mother dear, I have written enough for this time, so I will close for awhile.

John.

 

 



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