Sugar Sun series glossary term #2: Casco

Since we’re on the subject of transportation, we cannot forget the casco—or, as the Americans dubbed them, “lighters.” These were the workhorses of Manila. Until 1908 there was no port where ships could dock directly on shore, so cascos were sent out to meet them in the bay. All foreigners, therefore, had their first glimpse of Manila aboard a casco. They would pass Fort Santiago, enter the mouth of the Pasig River, and dock on the north bank, next to the warehouses of Binondo. A casco pilot often lived in his boat, along with his wife, children, and of course fighting cocks. As a person who raises chickens, I can say that had to smell lovely. Poor family.

The north shore of the Pasig River. Photo in the public domain at the Philippine Photographs Digital Archive. Featured photo also from the collection.

Sugar Sun series glossary term #1: Calesa

The calesa, or kalesa, is a two-wheeled carriage drawn by a single horse. It has one or two benches, plus a small seat for the driver (typically up front). Introduced in the 18th century by the Spanish, the calesa was a fashionable and popular mode of transportation in Philippine cities before the automobile. Wealthy people owned their own (and hired their own cochero, or driver) and others rented them for the day or a single ride, like taxis. The going rate in 1908 was 40 centavos for the first hour, and 30 for each additional hour. Tourist calesas can still be seen and ridden in Intramuros (Manila) or Vigan today, but don’t try to offer 40 centavos! Rates start at about 250 pesos, last I heard.

Featured image copyright Stephen Wallace, all rights reserved. Used with permission.