Arrival in Manila
by Rev. Fr. Roman C. Sagun, Jr.

Sister Jean-Helene, the archivist of the SPC motherhouse in Chartres, France wrote me in 1992: “Je suppose que vous trouverez quelqu’un pour vous les traduire.”

Thanks to Sister Caritas de St. Paul Sevilla, SPC in 1996, we have this English translation from the account in French of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Paul de Chartres in Manila in October 1904.

We arrived in Manila on Tuesday, October 25. The bay was magnificent, with more than seven hundred vessels afloat. We could make out a Russian ship and a Japanese one which did not want to come into port for fear of coming face to face with each other.

We were in a hurry to arrive. A launch came to accost our ship. It was the Health Service, asking for the paper on which our health report had been prepared and signed by the doctor in Saigon. The entire crew was on deck, holding their vaccination certificates; but this did not seem satisfactory to the American doctor, for he gave an order and, in a twinkling, each one rolled back his sleeve and showed the vaccination scar on his arm. As for us, the doctor simply greeted us.

Next came something more important for us. Someone had to issue us a permit to disembark. Another launch came toward us. From afar we could see written in big letters “Custom House”. It was the Bureau of Customs. Acting upon a recommendation of Mother Candide, we began to recite several De Profundis for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, for the Customs Inspection in Manila was very strict and we strongly feared that we would be asked to open our trunks.

Five or six American gentlemen came on board holding their notebooks. They had a long meeting with our good captain while we continued to pray. At last, we were requested to go to the drawing-room. It was a solemn moment. Sister Josephine acted as interpreter. At first, the conversation was a little stiff.

Suddenly, one of the gentlemen told her, in English, of course, “You speak English very well. What is your nationality?”

“American,” she answered.

At this word, everyone relaxed. Evidently delighted to have found a compatriot, all the gentlemen became very kind. They asked each of us our nationality and gave us permission to disembark and to stay in the Philippines. But when it came to Sister Charles, she was denied a permit because she was Chinese. It seem that the Emperor of China signed a treaty with the Americans which says, among other things, that no Chinese national can land on Philippine soil without a special authorization from the American government. What were we to do? We wanted to bring our little Sister Charles with us.

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...