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DESCRIPTION of the Philippine Islands would be unsatisfac
tory without reference to what must necessarily be considered in their connection—the trip to the islands.
The great distance separating these islands from our Western Coast adds an especial interest to what is already an absorbing subject, in very much the same manner that distance lends enchantment to the view, and the voyage of nearly 17,000 miles from San Francisco to Manila and return is a feature of not the least
importance. It seems appropriate, therefore, that the writer should give a brief description of the trip made for the purpose of obtaining information contained in this book, which, by the way of calling up pleasant memories, becomes a very agreeable task.
After having decided to make the trip the next question to be considered was, which steamship line offered the best inducements to the prospective tourist. It was found, after a careful investigation of the various routes, that the Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company's terms and accommodations were the most satisfactory, and passage was secured at their office, No. 421 Market street, San Francisco, on the steamer Gaelic, sailing from San Francisco, December 24, 1898.
The route of travel between San Francisco and Manila is via Honolulu, Yokohama and Hongkong, the latter city being the terminus of this Steamship Company's Line. Connections are made with steamers running between Hongkong and Manila, and through tickets are sold by this company from San Francisco to Manila as follows: First-class cabin passage, one way, $261.00; four months round trip, $397.50; twelve months round trip, $453.75. All passengers holding cabin tickets, who desire to lay over at Honolulu or at any port of call in Japan and China, are at liberty to do so and resume their journey by any steamer of either the Occidental and Oriental, Pacific Mail or the Toyo Kisen Kaisha Steamship Companies.
Families of United States army and naval officials, also missionaries and their families and servants accompanying same, are accorded special rates. Cabin passengers are allowed to carry 350 pounds of baggage free. The distance between San Francisco and Hongkong via the above-described route is 7579 miles, and it takes twenty-eight days to make the trip. From Hongkong to Manila the distance is 850 miles, which is made in about three and a half days.
One would naturally suppose it would require a good deal of preparation for such a long voyage, but upon inquiring at the steamship company's office you are advised to take no unnecessary baggage, and divest yourself of all non-essentials in wardrobe or personal effects, except such as are necessary for ordinary use. Of course, customs change in the Orient, but your wants can be supplied much
cheaper there than here. When settled down on board you will find yourself sur. rounded with all the luxuries of a first-class hotel in one of these splendidly equipped steamers, and you are not long on the voyage when you commence to have a home-like feeling, which is hard to shake off when you find all too soon that you are obliged to bid farewell to your pleasant environments.
The scene at the Steamship Company's dock on the day of departure of one of their trans-Pacific liners is at once novel and interesting. The custom officials are busy marshaling on board the hundreds of Chinese, who constitute a large percentage of the human freight carried by these steamers. The Gaelic on this trip carried over 450 “Celestials,” who occupied a portion of the ship especially set apart for them, and are, therefore, not brought in contact with the cabin passengers in any way that is offensive. Passengers who have not already had their baggage checked are rustling around attending to this important duty, assisted by obliging and courteous employees. Friends of the passengers form an interesting feature of the crowd which is always present to watch the departure of one of these vessels. It was particularly noticeable on this occasion, as Lieut. Hobson, the hero of the Merrimac, was to be one of the passengers, and the esteem in which this gentleman is held by his admiring countrymen and “countrywomen” was shown by the great throng which had gathered at the dock to catch a glimpse of him and, if possible, shake his hand and wish him a pleasant voyage. The autograph and kodak “fiends" were well represented, and the gallant and obliging Lieutenant had much difficulty in elbowing his way through the crowd to the ship, shaking many hands and leaving his autograph on many slips of paper thrust before him.
The chorus of good-byes shouted back and forth soon make us realize that we are slowly backing away from the dock, and, as the ship swings around and points her bows toward the setting sun, we remember that it will be many moons before we can hope to again see those left behind. Out through the Golden Gate, past the light-ship, and we are on the great Pacific Ocean, steering a course for the Hawaiian Islands.
The trip from San Francisco to Honolulu has been described as "drifting to paradise on an even keel.” Whether the expression originated with some enterprising real estate dealer of Honolulu, or is the product of a bard of modern lore, we are unable to say, but, after having made the trip, one must become convinced that there is at least as much truth as poetry in the statement. Certainly no ocean voyage could be more delightful than this, and it would be difficult to imagine any combination of earth, sea and sky that would better represent the average mortal's idea of an earthly paradise than that which unfolded itself in these beautiful islands of the sea. Masters in the art of word-painting have sung their praise in poetry and prose; yet, after beholding this marvelous work of nature, one can but realize the inadequacy of words to describe this “Paradise of the Pacific."
Our life is much as we make it, whether aboard ship or elsewhere. After finding yourself pleasantly ensconced in one of the light and airy cabins for which these ships are justly famous, if you are like the rest, you soon join the genial throng and become one of them. On the Gaelic there was a continued overflow of this exhuberance, and acquaintance speedily ripened into friendship, the memories of which will be life long.
Our cabin passenger list, as is usually the case with the vessels of this line, ran up to the ship's full complement, and while the different walks of life were represented, the highly cultured class predominated. As it is desirable to have the best associations during this long voyage, one should be careful where he pitches his tent. The real luxuries of life are less in food supplies and physical comforts than in the satiation of our mental desires.
The courtesies of the ship were soon marked by the whole cabin. From genial Capt. Finch down through the gradation of attendants there was appar
ently nothing left undone that would add to the welfare and comfort of the passengers. A good library supplies the best literature, and a piano, organ and music-boxes furnish opportunity for those musically inclined to gratify their tastes. Games for upper deck, such as shuffle-board, quoits, etc., are provided, and an obliging attendant is always at hand to supply your slightest wish.
All the passengers, as a rule, participated in these sports, and even the venerable Dr. Allen, who, for forty years, has served as a missionary in China, and during this time has crossed the Pacific a dozen or more times, seemed to forget that he had passed the three-score-and-ten mark, and joined in the games with