We accustomed ourselves at last to typhoons and earthquakes, and, on the whole, decided that they were less fearful than tornadoes at home. Meanwhile we rather luxuriated in the sensations of romance inspired by living in a town surrounded by a hostile population and protected by soldiery. It was very, very new, and we made the best of it.
War Alarms and the Suffering Poor
A Surprise Party of Bolo-Men—Forty_ Insurrectos Arrive in Our Neighborhood—Anecdotes of Encounters with Insurgents—Anxiety Because of Treachery of the Natives—A False Alarm—Five Hundred Starving Persons—Great Lack of Institutions for the Poor—Smallpox Patient in the School Building—The Newspaper a Creator of Hysteria.
As I said before, Capiz had never been a warlike province, and there had been comparatively little resistance to the American occupation. Antique province to the west of us had fought stubbornly and was still infested by ladrones, or guerilla troops. One engagement took place at Ibajay, a town on the north coast close to the western border of Capiz, quite worthy of description.
There was a small American garrison at Ibajay—about seventy-five or a hundred—and the Filipinos planned to surprise and massacre them just at day-break when the reveille was sounded. But the bugler was an astute youth, with an observing mind, and as he made his morning promenade, it seemed to him that there were far too many ladies squatting about on the plaza. So he got as close to quarters as he could, and instead of blowing reveille, blew the call to arms with all his soul, and then ran for his life. The American troops swarmed out in their underdrawers and cartridge belts, and that surprise party turned right about face. The squatting women on the plaza, who were bolo-men in disguise, left for the hills with the yelling undergarmented in pursuit. A Filipino girl who saw it all described the affair to me, and said, “Abao,” as she recalled the shouts of enjoyment with which the Americans returned after the fray. They seemed to regard the episode as planned to relieve the monotony of life in quarters and to give them a hearty breakfast appetite.
I had been little more than a month in Capiz when the rumor went abroad that a parao with forty insurrectos from Samar had landed at Panay, just east of us, and the occupants had scattered themselves out between Panay and Pontevedra. Pontevedra was supposed to be an insurrecto town, thirsting for American gore.
As we at Capiz were protected by a company of the Sixth Infantry and one of the Tenth Cavalry, and the Islands were theoretically at peace, we were not very much alarmed by this. But it gave us something to talk about, and we enjoyed it just as we do telling ghost stories on winter nights, when the fire is low, and there is plenty of company in case the ghosts materialize. Shortly after, however, came the shocking details of the affair at Balangiga, and we—I speak of the feminine portion of our colony—did not feel so secure by any means. The Supervisor’s wife insisted upon having a guard at her house, and when any two American women got together they discussed what they would do in case of a sudden alarm.