Monday, November 17, 2008


DAMULAG POWER. Perhaps, the cheapest- but not necessarily the fastest--way to go around Fort Stotsenburg in the 1st decade of the 20th century was to take a carabao cart ride, like these what these two adventurous Americans did in 1915.

Caroline S. Shunk was the wife of army officer Col. Shunk stationed at Camp Stosenburg from 1909-1910. In 1914, she published her memoirs (“An Army Woman in the Philippines”) based on letters that described her personal experiences in the country, with some interesting references to Dau, her life in the camp and its environs. Excerpts from her book are as follows:

On the train ride from Manila to Dau:
“The small porters gathered up our packages (for in this hot country, we do not carry anything) and we entered the train, which looked exactly like a child’s toy—an absurd little affair….After dark, we had to change cars at a small town. The low, one-story station was covered with vines and flowers, and small Filipino boys, clothed only in thin shirts, climbed nimbly to the car windows, offering tan-san water for sale….The road is rough, ad we were knocked about, my precious Paris hat getting a new shape with every bump. After two hours, Lieutenant R_____ pointed to a dim light near the sky-line, which marked the station where we would take a wagon for Camp Stotsenburg”.

On Negritos:
“The Negritos are said to be the first inhabitants of the islands, and a great number of them live right at our back doors, in the grim-looking mountains behind the post…These savages bring the beautiful air-plants into camp, tied with bamboo and slung from their shoulders to sell to the Army people. These plants, of the orchid variety, are found in tall trees, and one sees them hanging from the roofs of almost all the porches—a graceful fringe of green”.

On her household helps:
“House-boy No. 1 is a treasure. At 7 o’clock, our dinner hour, he comes softly to the porch corner from which we watch the sunset and announces something which menas, “SeƱora, dinner is served”. He looks like a hired mourner at a funeral, dressed in crisp, white clothing…He serves quietly and well. The light from a Chinese lantern swaying from an arch of woven bamboo makes fitful shadows on the bare rafters. Lizards run down the wall to catch the insects attracted by the lights, great June-bugs buzz noisily about, and, coming too near the table, are deftly caught by the “boy” who takes them out to carry home later for “chow”…

Rickety train rides? Balugas peddling plants and other stuff? Efficient base workers? Bug-eating Kapampangans? Somehow, these things Mrs. Shunk wrote about still sound oh-so very current and familiar.After nearly a century, nothing has changed, indeed!

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