FROM THE PHILIPPINES


January 12, 1905

 

FROM THE PHILIPPINES.

 

CAMP CONNELL, SAMAR, P. I., Nov. 21, 1904.--Many a long evening have I sat in a weatherboard shack in old Kentucky, when the wind howled across the fields, and read weird tales running something like this:

The Phillippines [sic]:  Land of sunshine and flowers, waving palms and beautiful ferns, majestic mountains and roaring torrents, luscious fruits and picturesque people.

Now from the business man's standpoint or that of the traveler with leisure in search of the picturesque this description fits all right.  The mercantile opportunities are here and so are the scenic novelties.  But the regular soldier pays no heed to those things and although the country may be a veritable Garden of Eden he will find something to grumble about.  It is this standpoint I am taking in writing to the good people of old Crittenden.

I was tempted to enlist by an overwhelming sense of patriotism, I am over here now, and woe betide the "personally conducted traveler" who wrote those enticing sketches should I ever meet him.

I do not wish to be classed as a pessamist [sic], but simply wish to describes things as a private in the regulars sees them.

The beautiful sunshine is a glare, hotter than the hinges of h---.  The average Philippine flower would stink a hyena away from a glue factory.  The waving palms are described by Mark Twain as resembling dilapidated umbrellas, and the ferns, one and all, have stickers that leave a wound that one will remember for six months.  The majestic mountains--well, just carry a Krag rifle and one hundred rounds of 30.3s, blankets, haversack and three days rations over one of those mountains, and then try to extract any poetry out of the situation.  This load itself on a dead level would make a Mexican burro bat his eyes; and the roaring torrents are here all right.  I know, because I paid $13.15 for a rifle that lies at the bottom of one of them.  But there are lots of romantic, sentimental people who never see a river tilted up more than it ought to be, and getting a hump on itself without raving about it.  The fruit, little shriveled up bananas about the size of a Carolina peanut, and cocoanuts a half cent apiece.

The ten commandments of the hospital corps are all condensed into "Don't eat the fruit or you will have the dysenterry [sic];" and "sleep under a mosquito bar or you will have fever."  And the people picturesque!  But we tell you about them as we see them.  The high priced correspondents have been charitable enough to divide them into tribes and to credit them with distinguished traits, but the fact can not be disguised, that these natives are the missing link between the babboon [sic] and the human race.  There is one tribe that can always be named at sight and that is the Ingorotes.  They wear nothing but a "gee" string, but their hair grows long and is said to be cannibles [sic]; carry spears and talk a language that sounds something like the combination of a base drum and a flute.

If the word picturesque can be applied to any Philippino [sic] this tribe certainly deserves the appellation.

Take the bamboo and the dogs away from most of these islands and the people would collapse.  Nearly everything is made of bamboo; houses, hats, cooking utensils, clothing, carts, whitewash, whips, brushes, why they even eat the tender sprouts of one variety.  And the dogs, you all know what they do with them; if you read about the bunch at the World's fair.

They don't need matches, most any observant soldier knows how to start a fire by rubbing together two bamboo sticks. So the Indian stories of our childhood are realized at last.

B [A] soldier never goes into a hospital over here until it is the last resort. You may think I am suggesting incompetency of the medical department; but no. Sick soldiers are given the best of care obtainable. They are dieted and waited upon and convalescents are fed like kings. But no patient is ever turned out of hospital until he is pronounced absolutely well. Hikes are always hailed with delight by the soldiers, for they mean plenty of chickens.

By the way, chickens and hogs are the only connecting link between this God forsaken home of malaria and monkeys and the States.

The very sight of a barrio seems to suggest chicken to the average soldier's mind, and I don't belong to a colored regiment either. But it is well known that the Filipino don't recognize any breed of chicken except game chicken, and they are game, too, and tough. Eating one of these was looked on like chewing a brand new Goodyear boot; but at that it is a change and a relief.

The chickens have one redeeming feature, they are handsome, along athletic lines; but the hogs are a disgrace, even to the half-caste natives that own them; they are two thirds nose and their eyes resemble beads stuck in a cucumber. But their intelligence is wonderful, so much so that I will never order pork chops in a Filipino restaurant.

But I am getting too serious, and this little affair of ours we are having over here should not be taken too seriously. So I will bring my letter to a close with my best wishes for the Press and its readers.

Respectfully yours,
BURT WOODY.

 

Source:  Crittenden Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1879-1907, January 12, 1905, Image 6 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.

 

[My comments are in brackets.]