The Austrian Frigate Novara visits Manila in 1858

excerpts from
Karl Scherzer (1861)

  • Historical notes relating to the Philippines
  • From Cavite to Manila
  • The river Pasig
  • First impressions of the city
  • Its inhabitants
  • Tagales and Negritoes
  • Preponderating influence of Monks
  • Visit to the four chief monasteries
  • Conversation with an Augustine Monk
  • Grammars and Dictionaries of the idioms chiefly in use in Manila
  • Reception by the Governor-general of the Philippines
  • Monument in honour of Magelhaens
  • The "Calzada"
  • Cockfighting
  • "Fiestas Reales"
  • Causes of the languid trade with Europe hitherto
  • Visit to the Cigar-manufactories
  • Tobacco cultivation in Luzon and at the Havanna
  • Abáca, or Manila hemp
  • Excursion to the "Laguna de Bay"
  • A row on the river Pasig
  • The village of Patero
  • Wild-duck breeding
  • Sail on the Lagoon
  • Plans for canalization
  • Arrival at Los Banos
  • Canaoe trip on the "enchanted sea"
  • Alligators
  • Kalong Bats
  • Gobernador and Gobernadorcillo
  • The Poll-tax
  • A hunt in the swamps of Calamba
  • Padre Lorenzo
  • Return to Manila
  • The "Pebete"
  • The military Library
  • The civil and military Hospital
  • Ecclesiatical processions
  • Ave Maria
  • Tagalian merriness
  • Condiman
  • Lunatic Asylum
  • Gigantic serpent thirty-two years old
  • Departure
  • Chinese pilots
  • First glimpse of the Celestial Empire
  • The Lemmas Channel
  • Arrival in Hongkong Harbour
Plans for canalization

The Lagune de Bay is a fresh-water lake of such dimensions that even on a clear day it is impossible, from the entrance, to see the coast on the further side, much less, of course, in the wretched rainy weather which stuck by us throughout our trip. Nevertheless, it is far inferior in size to the great lakes of North America. Its greatest breadth is little more than 30 miles.* All around the fertile shores of this charming lake nestle little villages, and the daily intercourse with the capital is so extensive that a steam-boat company would pay well. While on the one hand the Colonial Government objects to the expense of entering upon an undertaking so important for developing the general trade, engineers, on the other hand, have for the last 14 years been busily engaged project the immense work of connecting the Lagune with the ocean by means of a canal, in such manner as would enable ships approaching Luzon front the southwards to reach Manila easily, and with great saving in time, instead of having to sail all round the island. This short cut through the tongue of land would, it may well be supposed, be in other respects of incalculable benefit for the country, for the shipping and for trade generally, especially were the execution of this splendid project to be carried out hand in hand with a liberal policy, that should shake off that despotism which at present weighs like a mountain upon every sort of intellectual and political activity.

Let Manila be declared a free port, let the ships of all mercantile nations visit unrestrictedly the various harbours of the Archipelago, and Spain will under such relaxations reap far more profit than from her present retrograde colonial policy, which can only result in permanent discontent and impoverishment. A thoroughly unprejudiced Spanish statesman might make most valuable observations by a brief visit to the neighbouring colony of Singapore, that marvellous British settlement, which, owing to a commercial policy conceived in the free, liberal spirit that characterizes the 19th century, has sprung lip from a nest of pirates into the most flourishing and the wealthiest emporium in the entire Malay Archipelago. The situation of Manila, as also its numerous natural advantages and resources, would soon make it a rival to Singapore. But of what avail are the choicest treasures of nature, if the mind be wanting which can turn them to their proper use, and elicit their real value?


* According to Buzeta the Lagoon is 36 Spanish leagues in circumference, by an average depth of 15 to 16 brazos (fathoms). while thirteen rivers of various dimensions flow into the lake, the Pasig alone issues from it, to carry off its waters to the sea.
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created: March 08, 1998
updated: March 08, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger