Every night in Manila, when the bells of the city boom out the Angelus and lights begin to appear in the windows, the walks are filled with people hurrying toward the bay. In the streets hundreds of carriages, their lamps twinkling like fireflies, speed quickly by, as the cocheros urge on the little Filipino ponies. All are bound for the Luneta to hear the evening concert.
A pretty place is the Luneta, the garden spot of the city. It is laid out in elliptical form and its green lawns are covered with benches for the people. A broad driveway surrounds it and hundreds of electric lights transform the night into day.
A band stand is located at each end of the oval, and at night concerts are given by the military bands.
Thousands of people gather to listen to the music. The bright uniforms of officers and men, the white dresses of American ladies, the black mantillas of the dark-eyed señoritas, and the gayly colored camisas of the Filipino girls show that the beauty and chivalry of Manila have assembled at the concert.
The band plays many beautiful selections and finally closes with the “Star-Spangled Banner.” At once every head is bared and all stand at rigid attention till the glorious old song is finished. Then the musicians disperse, the carriages drive away, and people return to their homes.
Many, however, linger on the benches or stroll along the beach, watching the water curling upon the shore. As the waves reach the land a soft light seems to spring from them and to break into thousands of tiny stars. Now and then some one idly skips a stone over the water. Where it touches, a little fountain of liquid fire springs upward, and the water ripples away in gleaming circles that, growing wider and wider, finally disappear in a flash of silvery light.
Of all the beauties of the Islands, the water of Manila Bay at night ranks among the first. And those who ask why it flashes and glows in this way are told the story of the silver shower that saved the Pasig villages from the Moro Datto Bungtao.
Hundreds of years ago messengers came hurrying from the south of Luzon with the news that the great Datto Bungtao, with many ships and men, was on his way to the island to burn the villages and carry the people away into slavery.
Then great fear came into the hearts of the people, for the fierce Datto was the terror of the eastern seas, and all the southern islands were reported captured. Nevertheless, they resolved to defend their homes and save their people from shame and slavery.
The news proved true, for the Moro chief landed a great army on the shore of the Bay of Batangas, and his fierce followers, with fire and sword, started north to lay waste the country.
For a time they drove all before them, but soon Luzon was up in arms against them and great numbers of warriors hurried southward to battle with the Moros. All tribal feeling was forgotten and Tagalos, Macabebes, Igorrotes, and Pangasinanes hurried southward in thousands.
The Moros presently found themselves checked by a large army of men determined to save their homes or to die fighting.
Near the present town of Imus, in Cavite, a battle was fought and the Moros were defeated. They then retreated southward, but great numbers of Vicoles and Tinguianes rushed up from the southern part of the island and blocked their way.
On the shore of the great Lake Bombon the final battle was fought. The Moros were killed to a man, and with great rejoicing the tribes returned north and south to their homes.
But in the meantime Bungtao had not been idle. After landing his men, with his two hundred ships he set sail northward, never doubting that his army would sweep all before it. A typhoon carried his fleet far south into the China Sea, but he steered again for Luzon and three weeks later was in sight of Corregidor Island.
He sailed down Manila Bay and drew up his fleet in front of the villages on the Pasig River, the present site of Manila. On the shore the people gathered in terror, for all the warriors had gone to fight the invading army, and only old men and women and children remained in the villages.
Hastily they called a council and finally decided to send a messenger out to the Moro chief with all the gold and things of value they possessed, thinking thus to satisfy the fierce Datto and save their villages from harm.
Accordingly the women gave their rings and bracelets and the men their bangles and chains. Everything of value was taken from the houses. Even the temples of prayer were stripped and all the ornaments taken. So great was the fear of the people that they even sent the gold statue of the great god Captan that was the pride of the tribe, whose members came miles to worship it.
As Bungtao was preparing to land and attack the town with his sailors, the messenger in his canoe came alongside the ship and was at once taken before the Datto. Trembling with fear, the old man, with signs, begged for mercy for the people on the shore. He pointed to the presents and offered them to Bungtao. Then, placing the golden image of Captan at the feet of the Moro and bowing low, he again pleaded for the women and children.
Bungtao laughed in scorn at the offer. On his island was gold enough to satisfy his people. He needed slaves to work in the fields, for it was beneath the dignity of such warriors as himself and his companions to labor. So he kicked the messenger from him and, with a curse, picked up the sacred golden image and threw it far over the water. Instantly the sky grew dark and blackest night covered the land. The messenger felt himself seized by invisible hands and carried to the shore.
Then suddenly the heavens opened, and a shower of silver fire rained on the Moro boats. In vain the Moros tried to escape. The fire hemmed them in on every side. Many leaped from the burning ships into the boiling water. When the darkness cleared, boats and Moros had disappeared.
Joyfully the people on the shore ran to the temple of worship to pray to Captan. What was their surprise to find the golden image of the god in its usual place, and around it the bracelets and rings offered to the Moros!
When the warriors, a few days later, returned from their great victory in the south, they could hardly believe the story of the wonderful escape of their people. But at night, when they saw the heretofore dull waters dashing and breaking on the shore in crystals of silvery light, they knew that it was Captan who had saved their homes and families.
The villages are a thing of the past. The modern city of Manila now stands on the banks of the Pasig.
The nights here are very beautiful. The breeze sighs softly through the palm trees and the golden moon gleams on the waters of Manila Bay.
On the shore the waves break gently and little balls of silver light go rushing up the beach. Wise men say that the water is full of phosphorus. But they have never heard the story of the Silver Shower.