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James Earle Stevens’ on Christmas during the Philippine Revolution

James Earle Stevens’ on Christmas during the Philippine Revolution

The Christmas season is upon us again. And, with the events that are happening in our country, one cannot reminisce about celebrating Christmas in the past. One might wonder how Filipinos celebrate Christmas at the time of the Philippine Revolution. One particular account was written in 1898 by James Earle Stevens.

Entitled Yesterdays in the Philippines, it describes what happened in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. It inspired Americans to go into the country. James Earle Stevens was an employee of Peabody and Co. They traded Philippine Hemp to international companies.

James Earle Stevens’ on Christmas during the Philippine Revolution

A Nostalgic Christmas

Being from the Americas, his expectations were low as he celebrates Christmas eve in Manila. But was surprised that the local food can compete with the culinary cultures of the West. The local gastronomical scene exhibits Chinese and Filipino food, as well as Spanish and even French, offered along the streets of Escolta. He stayed in the Hotel de Oriente. 

After he spent his Christmas eve in the hotel, he went outside and strolled in the night breeze. Stevens described the food at the hotel to the menus of Waldorf or Parker House, both elegant hotels in America. He also accounted for long punkahs or fans that swing to and fro to cool the customers. The waiters or serving boys were described as working in bare feet throughout the place with meat and drink such as wine. 

Christmas Local Scene

The foods served were soups, fish, hors d’oeuvres, mince pies, and plum puddings. The festive air also was filled with songs and speeches. Everyone takes part in the chorus. The air was joyous as jokes and conversation fill the evening.

As malls were not a thing in the old cities, there were many shops along Escolta and Rosario. The Botica Inglesa is, to Stevens’ surprise, more than just a pharmacy. In his account, he bought photographic supplies and a glass of soda.

Stevens wrote that “Here it is possible to buy anything from a glass of soda to a full-fledged lawnmower, including all the intermediates that reach from toothbrushes to photographic cameras.”

Other Philippine Culture

He also discovered the chit system in the stores. Basically, when people from neighboring houses buy something, either food or other necessities, they might pay for it or just tell the owner, they will pay for it later. 

See Also

In his travels in the Philippines, Stevens’ money was not in Mexican silver dollars. This money is just too heavy to bring around in your pocket. So, he just signed an I. O. U every time he went to buy something. And at the end of the month, a collector will reach him. These were the beginnings of using credit cards.

He was able to write vivid descriptions of life in the Philippines. His work gave him the chance to travel in and outside Manila before the situation worsen in 1896. The account of his time in the Philippines was in full detail. 

His book is about his observations about his travels from Hong Kong, his first impressions of the old city, the old Manila, the tram car, his trip to the South, and many more. These detailed observations and writings reflect Philippine culture at the turn of the century. As it brings you back in time.

You can read Stevens’ book, Yesterdays in the Philippines ebook here, or get a hard copy here.

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