FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, II
The squadron resumed its voyage on the 2nd September, and reached the harbour of Cavité without any mishap. Meanwhile, M. du Camper, commander of theEspérance who had, during a residence of some years, become acquainted with the principal inhabitants, was ordered to go to Manilla, that he might inform the Governor-General of the Philippines of the arrival of the frigates, the reasons of their visit, &c., and at the same time gauge his feelings towards them, and form some idea of the reception the French might expect. The recent intervention of France in the affairs of Spain placed them indeed in a very delicate position with the then governor, Don Juan Antonio Martinez, who had been nominated to his post by the very Cortés which had just been overthrown by their government. The fears of the commandant, however, were not confirmed, for he met with the warmest kindness and most cordial co-operation from the Spanish authorities.
Cavité Bay, where the vessels cast anchor, was constantly encumbered with mud, but it was the chief port in the Philippine Islands, and there the Spaniards owned a very well supplied arsenal in which worked Indians from the surrounding districts, who though skilful and intelligent were excessively lazy. Whilst the Thetis was being sheathed, and the extensive repairs necessary to the Espérance were being carried out, the clerks and officers were at Manilla, seeing about the supply of provisions and cordage. The latter, which was made of "abaca," the fibre of a banana, vulgarly called "Manilla hemp," although recommended on account of its great elasticity, was not of much use on board ship. The delay at Manilla was rendered very disagreeable by earthquakes and typhoons, which are always of constant occurrence there. On October 24th there was an earthquake of such violence that the governor, troops, and a portion of the people were compelled hastily to leave the town, and the loss was estimated at 120,000l. Many houses were thrown down, eight people were buried in the ruins, and many others injured. Scarcely had the inhabitants begun to breathe freely again, when a frightful typhoon came to complete the panic. It lasted only part of the night of the 31st October, and the next day, when the sun rose, it might have been looked upon as a mere nightmare had not the melancholy sight of fields laid waste, and of the harbour with six ships lying on their sides, and all the others at anchor, almost entirely disabled, testified to the reality of the disaster. All around the town the country was devastated, the crops were ruined, the trees—even the largest of them—violently shaken, the village destroyed. It was a heart-rending spectacle! The Espérance had its main-mast and mizen-mast lifted several feet above deck, and its barricadings were carried off; the Thetis, more fortunate than its companion, escaped almost uninjured in the dreadful tempest.
The laziness of the workpeople, and the great number of holidays in which they indulge, early decided Bougainville to part for a time from his convoy, and on December 12th he set sail for Cochin-China. Before following the French to the little-frequented shores of that country, however, we must survey with them Manilla and its environs. The Bay of Manilla is one of the most extensive and beautiful in the world; numerous fleets might find anchorage in it; and its two channels were not yet closed to foreign vessels, and in 1798 two English frigates had been allowed to pass through them and carry off numerous vessels under the very guns of the town. The horizon is shut in by a barrier of mountains, ending on the south of the Taal, a volcano now almost extinct, but the eruptions of which have often caused frightful calamities. In the plains, framed in rice plantations, several hamlets and solitary houses give animation to the scene. Opposite to the mouth of the bay rises the town, containing 60,000 inhabitants, with its lighthouse and far-extending suburbs. It is watered by the Passig, a river issuing from Bay Lake, and its exceptionally good situation secures to it advantages which more than one capital might envy. The garrison, without including the militia, consisted at that time of 2200 soldiers; and, in addition to the military navy, always represented by some vessel at anchor, a marine service had been organized for the exclusive use of the colony, to which the name of "sutil" had been given, either on account of the small size, or the fleetness of the vessels employed. This service, all appointments in which are in the gift of the governor-general, is composed of schooners and gun-sloops, intended to protect the coasts and the trading-vessels against the pirates of Sulu. But it cannot be said that the organization, imposing as it is, has achieved any great results. Of this Bougainville gives the following curious illustration:—In 1828 the Suluans seized 3000 of the inhabitants upon the coast of Luzon, and an expedition sent against them cost 140,000 piastres, and resulted in the killing of six men!