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Written by Jose Rizal   
Monday, 18 June 2007 23:04

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The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere) Chapter I to X

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter I-A Social Gathering}

Chapter I

A Social Gathering

On the last of October Don Santiago de los Santos, popularly known as Capitan Tiago, gave a dinner. In spite of the fact that, contrary to his usual custom, he had made the announcement only that afternoon, it was already the sole topic of conversation in Binondo and adjacent districts, and even in the Walled City, for at that time Capitan Tiago was considered one of the most hospitable of men, and it was well known that his house, like his country, shut its doors against nothing except commerce and all new or bold ideas. Like an electric shock the announcement ran through the world of parasites, bores, and hangers-on, whom God in His infinite bounty creates and so kindly multiplies in Manila. Some looked at once for shoe-polish, others for buttons and cravats, but all were especially concerned about how to greet the master of the house in the most familiar tone, in order to create an atmosphere of ancient friendship or, if occasion should arise, to excuse a late arrival.

This dinner was given in a house on Calle Anloague, and although we do not remember the number we will describe it in such a way that it may still be recognized, provided the earthquakes have not destroyed it. We do not believe that its owner has had it torn down, for such labors are generally entrusted to God or nature—which Powers hold the contracts also for many of the projects of our government. It [2]is a rather large building, in the style of many in the country, and fronts upon the arm of the Pasig which is known to some as the Binondo River, and which, like all the streams in Manila, plays the varied rôles of bath, sewer, laundry, fishery, means of transportation and communication, and even drinking water if the Chinese water-carrier finds it convenient. It is worthy of note that in the distance of nearly a mile this important artery of the district, where traffic is most dense and movement most deafening, can boast of only one wooden bridge, which is out of repair on one side for six months and impassable on the other for the rest of the year, so that during the hot season the ponies take advantage of this permanent status quo to jump off the bridge into the water, to the great surprise of the abstracted mortal who may be dozing inside the carriage or philosophizing upon the progress of the age.

The house of which we are speaking is somewhat low and not exactly correct in all its lines: whether the architect who built it was afflicted with poor eyesight or whether the earthquakes and typhoons have twisted it out of shape, no one can say with certainty. A wide staircase with green newels and carpeted steps leads from the tiled entrance up to the main floor between rows of flower-pots set upon pedestals of motley-colored and fantastically decorated Chinese porcelain. Since there are neither porters nor servants who demand invitation cards, we will go in, O you who read this, whether friend or foe, if you are attracted by the strains of the orchestra, the lights, or the suggestive rattling of dishes, knives, and forks, and if you wish to see what such a gathering is like in the distant Pearl of the Orient. Gladly, and for my own comfort, I should spare you this description of the house, were it not of great importance, since we mortals in general are very much like tortoises: we are esteemed and classified according to our shells; in this and still other respects the mortals of the Philippines in particular also resemble tortoises.

If we go up the stairs, we immediately find ourselves in [3]a spacious hallway, called there, for some unknown reason, the caida, which tonight serves as the dining-room and at the same time affords a place for the orchestra. In the center a large table profusely and expensively decorated seems to beckon to the hanger-on with sweet promises, while it threatens the bashful maiden, the simple dalaga, with two mortal hours in the company of strangers whose language and conversation usually have a very restricted and special character.

Contrasted with these terrestrial preparations are the motley paintings on the walls representing religious matters, such as "Purgatory," "Hell," "The Last Judgment," "The Death of the Just," and "The Death of the Sinner."

At the back of the room, fastened in a splendid and elegant framework, in the Renaissance style, possibly by Arévalo, is a glass case in which are seen the figures of two old women. The inscription on this reads: "Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages, who is worshiped in Antipolo, visiting in the disguise of a beggar the holy and renowned Capitana Inez during her sickness."1 While the work reveals little taste or art, yet it possesses in compensation an extreme realism, for to judge from the yellow and bluish tints of her face the sick woman seems to be already a decaying corpse, and the glasses and other objects, accompaniments of long illness, are so minutely reproduced that even their contents may be distinguished. In looking at these pictures, which excite the appetite and inspire gay bucolic ideas, one may perhaps be led to think that the malicious host is well acquainted with the characters of the majority of those who are to sit at his table and that, in order to conceal his own way of thinking, he has hung from the ceiling costly Chinese lanterns; bird-cages without birds; red, green, and blue globes of frosted glass; faded air-plants; and dried and inflated fishes, which they call botetes. The view is closed on the side of the river by curious wooden arches, half Chinese and half [4]European, affording glimpses of a terrace with arbors and bowers faintly lighted by paper lanterns of many colors.

In the sala, among massive mirrors and gleaming chandeliers, the guests are assembled. Here, on a raised platform, stands a grand piano of great price, which tonight has the additional virtue of not being played upon. Here, hanging on the wall, is an oil-painting of a handsome man in full dress, rigid, erect, straight as the tasseled cane he holds in his stiff, ring-covered fingers—the whole seeming to say, "Ahem! See how well dressed and how dignified I am!" The furnishings of the room are elegant and perhaps uncomfortable and unhealthful, since the master of the house would consider not so much the comfort and health of his guests as his own ostentation, "A terrible thing is dysentery," he would say to them, "but you are sitting in European chairs and that is something you don’t find every day."

This room is almost filled with people, the men being separated from the women as in synagogues and Catholic churches. The women consist of a number of Filipino and Spanish maidens, who, when they open their mouths to yawn, instantly cover them with their fans and who murmur only a few words to each other, any conversation ventured upon dying out in monosyllables like the sounds heard in a house at night, sounds made by the rats and lizards. Is it perhaps the different likenesses of Our Lady hanging on the walls that force them to silence and a religious demeanor or is it that the women here are an exception?

A cousin of Capitan Tiago, a sweet-faced old woman, who speaks Spanish quite badly, is the only one receiving the ladies. To offer to the Spanish ladies a plate of cigars and buyos, to extend her hand to her countrywomen to be kissed, exactly as the friars do,—this is the sum of her courtesy, her policy. The poor old lady soon became bored, and taking advantage of the noise of a plate breaking, rushed precipitately away, muttering, "Jesús! Just wait, you rascals!" and failed to reappear.

The men, for their part, are making more of a stir. Some [5]cadets in one corner are conversing in a lively manner but in low tones, looking around now and then to point out different persons in the room while they laugh more or less openly among themselves. In contrast, two foreigners dressed in white are promenading silently from one end of the room to the other with their hands crossed behind their backs, like the bored passengers on the deck of a ship. All the interest and the greatest animation proceed from a group composed of two priests, two civilians, and a soldier who are seated around a small table on which are seen bottles of wine and English biscuits.

The soldier, a tall, elderly lieutenant with an austere countenance—a Duke of Alva straggling behind in the roster of the Civil Guard—talks little, but in a harsh, curt way. One of the priests, a youthful Dominican friar, handsome, graceful, polished as the gold-mounted eyeglasses he wears, maintains a premature gravity. He is the curate of Binondo and has been in former years a professor in the college of San Juan de Letran,2 where he enjoyed the reputation of being a consummate dialectician, so much so that in the days when the sons of Guzman3 still dared to match themselves in subtleties with laymen, the able disputant B. de Luna had never been able either to catch or to confuse him, the distinctions made by Fray Sibyla leaving his opponent in the situation of a fisherman who tries to catch eels with a lasso. The Dominican says little, appearing to weigh his words. Quite in contrast, the other priest, a Franciscan, talks much and gesticulates more. In spite of the fact that his hair is beginning to turn gray, he seems to be preserving

[6]well his robust constitution, while his regular features, his rather disquieting glance, his wide jaws and herculean frame give him the appearance of a Roman noble in disguise and make us involuntarily recall one of those three monks of whom Heine tells in his "Gods in Exile," who at the September equinox in the Tyrol used to cross a lake at midnight and each time place in the hand of the poor boatman a silver piece, cold as ice, which left him full of terror.4 But Fray Damaso is not so mysterious as they were. He is full of merriment, and if the tone of his voice is rough like that of a man who has never had occasion to correct himself and who believes that whatever he says is holy and above improvement, still his frank, merry laugh wipes out this disagreeable impression and even obliges us to pardon his showing to the room bare feet and hairy legs that would make the fortune of a Mendieta in the Quiapo fairs.5

One of the civilians is a very small man with a black beard, the only thing notable about him being his nose, which, to judge from its size, ought not to belong to him. The other is a rubicund youth, who seems to have arrived but recently in the country. With him the Franciscan is carrying on a lively discussion.

"You’ll see," the friar was saying, "when you’ve been here a few months you’ll be convinced of what I say. It’s one thing to govern in Madrid and another to live in the Philippines."

"But—"

"I, for example," continued Fray Damaso, raising his voice still higher to prevent the other from speaking, "I, for example, who can look back over twenty-three years of bananas and morisqueta, know whereof I speak. Don’t [7]come at me with theories and fine speeches, for I know the Indian.6 Mark well that the moment I arrived in the country I was assigned to a toxin, small it is true, but especially devoted to agriculture. I didn’t understand Tagalog very well then, but I was, soon confessing the women, and we understood one another and they came to like me so well that three years later, when I was transferred to another and larger town, made vacant by the death of the native curate, all fell to weeping, they heaped gifts upon me, they escorted me with music—"

"But that only goes to show—"

"Wait, wait! Don’t be so hasty! My successor remained a shorter time, and when he left he had more attendance, more tears, and more music. Yet he had been more given to whipping and had raised the fees in the parish to almost double."

"But you will allow me—"

"But that isn’t all. I stayed in the town of San Diego twenty years and it has been only a few months since I left it."

Here he showed signs of chagrin.

"Twenty years, no one can deny, are more than sufficient to get acquainted with a town. San Diego has a population of six thousand souls and I knew every inhabitant as well as if I had been his mother and wet-nurse. I knew in which foot this one was lame, where the shoe pinched that one, who was courting that girl, what affairs she had had and with whom, who was the real father of the child, and so on—for I was the confessor of every last one, and they took care not to fail in their duty. Our host, Santiago, will tell you whether I am speaking the truth, for he has a lot of land there and that was where we first became friends. Well then, you may see what the Indian is: when I left I was escorted by only a few old women and some of the tertiary brethren—and that after I had been there twenty years!"

"But I don’t see what that has to do with the abolition [8]of the tobacco monopoly,"7 ventured the rubicund youth, taking advantage of the Franciscan’s pausing to drink a glass of sherry.

Fray Damaso was so greatly surprised that he nearly let his glass fall. He remained for a moment staring fixedly at the young man.

"What? How’s that?" he was finally able to exclaim in great wonderment. "Is it possible that you don’t see it as clear as day? Don’t you see, my son, that all this proves plainly that the reforms of the ministers are irrational?"

It was now the youth’s turn to look perplexed. The lieutenant wrinkled his eyebrows a little more and the small man nodded toward Fray Damaso equivocally. The Dominican contented himself with almost turning his back on the whole group.

"Do you really believe so?" the young man at length asked with great seriousness, as he looked at the friar with curiosity.

"Do I believe so? As I believe the Gospel! The Indian is so indolent!"

"Ah, pardon me for interrupting you," said the young man, lowering his voice and drawing his chair a little closer, "but you have said something that awakens all my interest. Does this indolence actually, naturally, exist among the natives or is there some truth in what a foreign traveler says: that with this indolence we excuse our own, as well as our backwardness and our colonial system. He referred to other colonies whose inhabitants belong to the same race—"

[9]"Bah, jealousy! Ask Señor Laruja, who also knows this country. Ask him if there is any equal to the ignorance and indolence of the Indian."

"It’s true," affirmed the little man, who was referred to as Señor Laruja. "In no part of the world can you find any one more indolent than the Indian, in no part of the world."

"Nor more vicious, nor more ungrateful!"

"Nor more unmannerly!"

The rubicund youth began to glance about nervously. "Gentlemen," he whispered, "I believe that we are in the house of an Indian. Those young ladies—"

"Bah, don’t be so apprehensive! Santiago doesn’t consider himself an Indian—and besides, he’s not here. And what if he were! These are the nonsensical ideas of the newcomers. Let a few months pass and you will change your opinion, after you have attended a lot of fiestas and bailúhan, slept on cots, and eaten your fill of tinola."

"Ah, is this thing that you call tinola a variety of lotus which makes people—er—forgetful?"

"Nothing of the kind!" exclaimed Fray Damaso with a smile. "You’re getting absurd. Tinola is a stew of chicken and squash. How long has it been since you got here?"

"Four days," responded the youth, rather offended.

"Have you come as a government employee?"

"No, sir, I’ve come at my own expense to study the country."

"Man, what a rare bird!" exclaimed Fray Damaso, staring at him with curiosity. "To come at one’s own expense and for such foolishness! What a wonder! When there are so many books! And with two fingerbreadths of forehead! Many have written books as big as that! With two fingerbreadths of forehead!"

The Dominican here brusquely broke in upon the conversation. "Did your Reverence, Fray Damaso, say that [10]you had been twenty years in the town of San Diego and that you had left it? Wasn’t your Reverence satisfied with the town?"

At this question, which was put in a very natural and almost negligent tone, Fray Damaso suddenly lost all his merriment and stopped laughing. "No!" he grunted dryly, and let himself back heavily against the back of his chair.

The Dominican went on in a still more indifferent tone. "It must be painful to leave a town where one has been for twenty years and which he knows as well as the clothes he wears. I certainly was sorry to leave Kamiling and that after I had been there only a few months. But my superiors did it for the good of the Orders for my own good."

Fray Damaso, for the first time that evening, seemed to be very thoughtful. Suddenly he brought his fist down on the arm of his chair and with a heavy breath exclaimed: "Either Religion is a fact or it is not! That is, either the curates are free or they are not! The country is going to ruin, it is lost!" And again he struck the arm of his chair.

Everybody in the sala turned toward the group with astonished looks. The Dominican raised his head to stare at the Franciscan from under his glasses. The two foreigners paused a moment, stared with an expression of mingled severity and reproof, then immediately continued their promenade.

"He’s in a bad humor because you haven’t treated him with deference," murmured Señor Laruja into the ear of the rubicund youth.

"What does your Reverence mean? What’s the trouble?" inquired the Dominican and the lieutenant at the same time, but in different tones.

"That’s why so many calamities come! The ruling powers support heretics against the ministers of God!" continued the Franciscan, raising his heavy fists.

[11]"What do you mean?" again inquired the frowning lieutenant, half rising from his chair.

"What do I mean?" repeated Fray Damaso, raising his voice and facing the lieutenant. "I’ll tell you what I mean. I, yes I, mean to say that when a priest throws out of his cemetery the corpse of a heretic, no one, not even the King himself, has any right to interfere and much less to impose any punishment! But a little General—a little General Calamity—"

"Padre, his Excellency is the Vice-Regal Patron!" shouted the soldier, rising to his feet.

"Excellency! Vice-Regal Patron! What of that!" retorted the Franciscan, also rising. "In other times he would have been dragged down a staircase as the religious orders once did with the impious Governor Bustamente.8 Those were indeed the days of faith."

"I warn you that I can’t permit this! His Excellency represents his Majesty the King!"

"King or rook! What difference does that make? For us there is no king other than the legitimate9—"

"Halt!" shouted the lieutenant in a threatening tone, as if he were commanding his soldiers. "Either you withdraw what you have said or tomorrow I will report it to his Excellency!"

"Go ahead—right now—go on!" was the sarcastic [12]rejoinder of Fray Damaso as he approached the officer with clenched fists. "Do you think that because I wear the cloth, I’m afraid? Go now, while I can lend you my carriage!"

The dispute was taking a ludicrous turn, but fortunately the Dominican intervened. "Gentlemen," he began in an authoritative tone and with the nasal twang that so well becomes the friars, "you must not confuse things or seek for offenses where there are none. We must distinguish in the words of Fray Damaso those of the man from those of the priest. The latter, as such, per se, can never give offense, because they spring from absolute truth, while in those of the man there is a secondary distinction to be made: those which he utters ab irato, those which he utters ex ore, but not in corde, and those which he does utter in corde. These last are the only ones that can really offend, and only according to whether they preexisted as a motive in mente, or arose solely per accidens in the heat of the discussion, if there really exist—"

"But I, by accidens and for my own part, understand his motives, Padre Sibyla," broke in the old soldier, who saw himself about to be entangled in so many distinctions that he feared lest he might still be held to blame. "I understand the motives about which your Reverence is going to make distinctions. During the absence of Padre Damaso from San Diego, his coadjutor buried the body of an extremely worthy individual—yes, sir, extremely worthy, for I had had dealings with him many times and had been entertained in his house. What if he never went to confession, what does that matter? Neither do I go to confession! But to say that he committed suicide is a lie, a slander! A man such as he was, who has a son upon whom he centers his affection and hopes, a man who has faith in God, who recognizes his duties to society, a just and honorable man, does not commit suicide. This much I will say and will refrain from expressing the rest of my thoughts here, so please your Reverence."

[13]Then, turning his back on the Franciscan, he went on: "Now then, this priest on his return to the town, after maltreating the poor coadjutor, had the corpse dug up and taken away from the cemetery to be buried I don’t know where. The people of San Diego were cowardly enough not to protest, although it is true that few knew of the outrage. The dead man had no relatives there and his only son was in Europe. But his Excellency learned of the affair and as he is an upright man asked for some punishment—and Padre Damaso was transferred to a better town. That’s all there is to it. Now your Reverence can make your distinctions."

So saying, he withdrew from the group.

"I’m sorry that I inadvertently brought up so delicate a subject," said Padre Sibyla sadly. "But, after all, if there has been a gain in the change of towns—"

"How is there to be a gain? And what of all the things that are lost in moving, the letters, and the—and everything that is mislaid?" interrupted Fray Damaso, stammering in the vain effort to control his anger.

Little by little the party resumed its former tranquillity. Other guests had come in, among them a lame old Spaniard of mild and inoffensive aspect leaning on the arm of an elderly Filipina, who was resplendent in frizzes and paint and a European gown. The group welcomed them heartily, and Doctor De Espadaña and his señora, the Doctora Doña Victorina, took their seats among our acquaintances. Some newspaper reporters and shopkeepers greeted one another and moved about aimlessly without knowing just what to do.

"But can you tell me, Señor Laruja, what kind of man our host is?" inquired the rubicund youth. "I haven’t been introduced to him yet."

"They say that he has gone out. I haven’t seen him either."

"There’s no need of introductions here," volunteered Fray Damaso. "Santiago is made of the right stuff."

[14]"No, he’s not the man who invented gunpowder,"10 added Laruja.

"You too, Señor Laruja," exclaimed Doña Victorina in mild reproach, as she fanned herself. "How could the poor man invent gunpowder if, as is said, the Chinese invented it centuries ago?"

"The Chinese! Are you crazy?" cried Fray Damaso. "Out with you! A Franciscan, one of my Order, Fray What-do-you-call-him Savalls,11 invented it in the—ah the seventh century!"

"A Franciscan? Well, he must have been a missionary in China, that Padre Savalls," replied the lady, who did not thus easily part from her beliefs.

"Schwartz,12 perhaps you mean, señora," said Fray Sibyla, without looking at her.

"I don’t know. Fray Damaso said a Franciscan and I was only repeating."

"Well, Savalls or Chevas, what does it matter? The difference of a letter doesn’t make him a Chinaman," replied the Franciscan in bad humor.

"And in the fourteenth century, not the seventh," added the Dominican in a tone of correction, as if to mortify the pride of the other friar.

"Well, neither does a century more or less make him a Dominican."

"Don’t get angry, your Reverence," admonished Padre Sibyla, smiling. "So much the better that he did invent it so as to save his brethren the trouble."

"And did you say, Padre Sibyla, that it was in the fourteenth century?" asked Doña Victorina with great interest. "Was that before or after Christ?"

Fortunately for the individual questioned, two persons entered the room. [15]

 

1 A similar picture is found in the convento at Antipolo.—Author’s note.
2 A school of secondary instruction conducted by the Dominican Fathers, by whom it was taken over in 1640. "It had its first beginning in the house of a pious Spaniard, called Juan Geronimo Guerrero, who had dedicated himself, with Christian piety, to gathering orphan boys in his house, where he raised, clothed, and sustained them, and taught them to read and to write, and much more, to live in the fear of God."—Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLV, p. 208.—TR.
3 The Dominican friars, whose order was founded by Dominic de Guzman.—TR.
4 In the story mentioned, the three monks were the old Roman god Bacchus and two of his satellites, in the disguise of Franciscan friars,—TR.
5 According to a note to the Barcelona edition of this novel, Mendieta was a character well known in Manila, doorkeeper at the Alcaldía, impresario of children’s theaters, director of a merry-go-round, etc.—TR.
6 See Glossary.
7 The "tobacco monopoly" was established during the administration of Basco de Vargas (1778–1787), one of the ablest governors Spain sent to the Philippines, in order to provide revenue for the local government and to encourage agricultural development. The operation of the monopoly, however, soon degenerated into a system of "graft" and petty abuse which bore heartily upon the natives (see Zuñiga’s Estadismo), and the abolition of it in 1881 was one of the heroic efforts made by the Spanish civil administrators to adjust the archaic colonial system to the changing conditions in the Archipelago.—TR.
8 As a result of his severity in enforcing the payment of sums due the royal treasury on account of the galleon trade, in which the religious orders were heavily interested, Governor Fernando de Bustillos Bustamente y Rueda met a violent death at the hands of a mob headed by friars, October 11, 1719. See Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLIV; Montero y Vidal, Historia General de Filipinas, Vol. I, Chap. XXXV.—TR.
9 A reference to the fact that the clerical party in Spain refused to accept the decree of Ferdinand VII setting aside the Salic law and naming his daughter Isabella as his successor, and, upon the death of Ferdinand, supported the claim of the nearest male heir, Don Carlos de Bourbon, thus giving rise to the Carlist movement. Some writers state that severe measures had to be adopted to compel many of the friars in the Philippines to use the feminine pronoun in their prayers for the sovereign, just whom the reverend gentlemen expected to deceive not being explained.—TR.
10 An apothegm equivalent to the English, "He’ll never set any rivers on fire."—TR.
11 The name of a Carlist leader in Spain.—TR.
12 A German Franciscan monk who is said to have invented gunpowder about 1330.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter II-Crisostomo Ibarra}

 

 

Chapter II

Crisostomo Ibarra

It was not two beautiful and well-gowned young women that attracted the attention of all, even including Fray Sibyla, nor was it his Excellency the Captain-General with his staff, that the lieutenant should start from his abstraction and take a couple of steps forward, or that Fray Damaso should look as if turned to stone; it was simply the original of the oil-painting leading by the hand a young man dressed in deep mourning.

"Good evening, gentlemen! Good evening, Padre!" were the greetings of Capitan Tiago as he kissed the hands of the priests, who forgot to bestow upon him their benediction. The Dominican had taken off his glasses to stare at the newly arrived youth, while Fray Damaso was pale and unnaturally wide-eyed.

"I have the honor of presenting to you Don Crisostomo Ibarra, the son of my deceased friend," went on Capitan Tiago. "The young gentleman has just arrived from Europe and I went to meet him."

At the mention of the name exclamations were heard. The lieutenant forgot to pay his respects to his host and approached the young man, looking him over from head to foot. The young man himself at that moment was exchanging the conventional greetings with all in the group, nor did there seem to be any thing extraordinary about him except his mourning garments in the center of that brilliantly lighted room. Yet in spite of them his remarkable stature, his features, and his movements breathed forth an air of healthy youthfulness in which both body and mind had equally developed. There might have been [16]noticed in his frank, pleasant face some faint traces of Spanish blood showing through a beautiful brown color, slightly flushed at the cheeks as a result perhaps of his residence in cold countries.

"What!" he exclaimed with joyful surprise, "the curate of my native town! Padre Damaso, my father’s intimate friend!"

Every look in the room was directed toward the Franciscan, who made no movement.

"Pardon me, perhaps I’m mistaken," added Ibarra, embarrassed.

"You are not mistaken," the friar was at last able to articulate in a changed voice, "but your father was never an intimate friend of mine."

Ibarra slowly withdrew his extended hand, looking greatly surprised, and turned to encounter the gloomy gaze of the lieutenant fixed on him.

"Young man, are you the son of Don Rafael Ibarra?" he asked.

The youth bowed. Fray Damaso partly rose in his chair and stared fixedly at the lieutenant.

"Welcome back to your country! And may you be happier in it than your father was!" exclaimed the officer in a trembling voice. "I knew him well and can say that he was one of the worthiest and most honorable men in the Philippines."

"Sir," replied Ibarra, deeply moved, "the praise you bestow upon my father removes my doubts about the manner of his death, of which I, his son, am yet ignorant."

The eyes of the old soldier filled with tears and turning away hastily he withdrew. The young man thus found himself alone in the center of the room. His host having disappeared, he saw no one who might introduce him to the young ladies, many of whom were watching him with interest. After a few moments of hesitation he started toward them in a simple and natural manner.

"Allow me," he said, "to overstep the rules of strict [17]etiquette. It has been seven years since I have been in my own country and upon returning to it I cannot suppress my admiration and refrain from paying my respects to its most precious ornaments, the ladies."

But as none of them ventured a reply, he found himself obliged to retire. He then turned toward a group of men who, upon seeing him approach, arranged themselves in a semicircle.

"Gentlemen," he addressed them, "it is a custom in Germany, when a stranger finds himself at a function and there is no one to introduce him to those present, that he give his name and so introduce himself. Allow me to adopt this usage here, not to introduce foreign customs when our own are so beautiful, but because I find myself driven to it by necessity. I have already paid my respects to the skies and to the ladies of my native land; now I wish to greet its citizens, my fellow-countrymen. Gentlemen, my name is Juan Crisostomo Ibarra y Magsalin."

The others gave their names, more or less obscure, and unimportant here.

"My name is A———," said one youth dryly, as he made a slight bow.

"Then I have the honor of addressing the poet whose works have done so much to keep up my enthusiasm for my native land. It is said that you do not write any more, but I could not learn the reason."

"The reason? Because one does not seek inspiration in order to debase himself and lie. One writer has been imprisoned for having put a very obvious truth into verse. They may have called me a poet but they sha’n’t call me a fool."

"And may I enquire what that truth was?"

"He said that the lion’s son is also a lion. He came very near to being exiled for it," replied the strange youth, moving away from the group.

A man with a smiling face, dressed in the fashion of the natives of the country, with diamond studs in his shirt-bosom, [18]came up at that moment almost running. He went directly to Ibarra and grasped his hand, saying, "Señor Ibarra, I’ve been eager to make your acquaintance. Capitan Tiago is a friend of mine and I knew your respected father. I am known as Capitan Tinong and live in Tondo, where you will always be welcome. I hope that you will honor me with a visit. Come and dine with us tomorrow." He smiled and rubbed his hands.

"Thank you," replied Ibarra, warmly, charmed with such amiability, "but tomorrow morning I must leave for San Diego."

"How unfortunate! Then it will be on your return."

"Dinner is served!" announced a waiter from the café La Campana, and the guests began to file out toward the table, the women, especially the Filipinas, with great hesitation. [19]

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter III-The Dinner}

 

 

Chapter III

The Dinner

Jele, jele, bago quiere.1

Fray Sibyla seemed to be very content as he moved along tranquilly with the look of disdain no longer playing about his thin, refined lips. He even condescended to speak to the lame doctor, De Espadaña, who answered in monosyllables only, as he was somewhat of a stutterer. The Franciscan was in a frightful humor, kicking at the chairs and even elbowing a cadet out of his way. The lieutenant was grave while the others talked vivaciously, praising the magnificence of the table. Doña Victorina, however, was just turning up her nose in disdain when she suddenly became as furious as a trampled serpent—the lieutenant had stepped on the train of her gown.

"Haven’t you any eyes?" she demanded.

"Yes, señora, two better than yours, but the fact is that I was admiring your frizzes," retorted the rather ungallant soldier as he moved away from her.

As if from instinct the two friars both started toward the head of the table, perhaps from habit, and then, as might have been expected, the same thing happened that occurs with the competitors for a university position, who openly exalt the qualifications and superiority of their opponents, later giving to understand that just the contrary was meant, and who murmur and grumble when they do not receive the appointment.

[20]"For you, Fray Damaso."

"For you, Fray Sibyla."

"An older friend of the family—confessor of the deceased lady—age, dignity, and authority—"

"Not so very old, either! On the other hand, you are the curate of the district," replied Fray Damaso sourly, without taking his hand from the back of the chair.

"Since you command it, I obey," concluded Fray Sibyla, disposing himself to take the seat.

"I don’t command it!" protested the Franciscan. "I don’t command it!"

Fray Sibyla was about to seat himself without paying any more attention to these protests when his eyes happened to encounter those of the lieutenant. According to clerical opinion in the Philippines, the highest secular official is inferior to a friar-cook: cedant arma togae, said Cicero in the Senate—cedant arma cottae, say the friars in the Philippines.2

But Fray Sibyla was a well-bred person, so he said, "Lieutenant, here we are in the world and not in the church. The seat of honor belongs to you." To judge from the tone of his voice, however, even in the world it really did belong to him, and the lieutenant, either to keep out of trouble or to avoid sitting between two friars, curtly declined.

None of the claimants had given a thought to their host. Ibarra noticed him watching the scene with a smile of satisfaction.

"How’s this, Don Santiago, aren’t you going to sit down with us?"

But all the seats were occupied; Lucullus was not to sup in the house of Lucullus.

"Sit still, don’t get up!" said Capitan Tiago, placing his hand on the young man’s shoulder. "This fiesta is for the special purpose of giving thanks to the Virgin for your [21]safe arrival. Oy! Bring on the tinola! I ordered tinola as you doubtless have not tasted any for so long a time."

A large steaming tureen was brought in. The Dominican, after muttering the benedicite, to which scarcely any one knew how to respond, began to serve the contents. But whether from carelessness or other cause, Padre Damaso received a plate in which a bare neck and a tough wing of chicken floated about in a large quantity of soup amid lumps of squash, while the others were eating legs and breasts, especially Ibarra, to whose lot fell the second joints. Observing all this, the Franciscan mashed up some pieces of squash, barely tasted the soup, dropped his spoon noisily, and roughly pushed his plate away. The Dominican was very busy talking to the rubicund youth.

"How long have you been away from the country?" Laruja asked Ibarra.

"Almost seven years."

"Then you have probably forgotten all about it."

"Quite the contrary. Even if my country does seem to have forgotten me, I have always thought about it."

"How do you mean that it has forgotten you?" inquired the rubicund youth.

"I mean that it has been a year since I have received any news from here, so that I find myself a stranger who does not yet know how and when his father died."

This statement drew a sudden exclamation from the lieutenant.

"And where were you that you didn’t telegraph?" asked Doña Victorina. "When we were married we telegraphed to the Peñinsula."3

"Señora, for the past two years I have been in the northern part of Europe, in Germany and Russian Poland."

Doctor De Espadaña, who until now had not ventured upon any conversation, thought this a good opportunity to say something. "I—I knew in S-spain a P-pole from [22]W-warsaw, c-called S-stadtnitzki, if I r-remember c-correctly. P-perhaps you s-saw him?" he asked timidly and almost blushingly.

"It’s very likely," answered Ibarra in a friendly manner, "but just at this moment I don’t recall him."

"B-but you c-couldn’t have c-confused him with any one else," went on the Doctor, taking courage. "He was r-ruddy as gold and t-talked Spanish very b-badly."

"Those are good clues, but unfortunately while there I talked Spanish only in a few consulates."

"How then did you get along?" asked the wondering Doña Victorina.

"The language of the country served my needs, madam."

"Do you also speak English?" inquired the Dominican, who had been in Hongkong, and who was a master of pidgin-English, that adulteration of Shakespeare’s tongue used by the sons of the Celestial Empire.

"I stayed in England a year among people who talked nothing but English."

"Which country of Europe pleased you the most?" asked the rubicund youth.

"After Spain, my second fatherland, any country of free Europe."

"And you who seem to have traveled so much, tell us what do you consider the most notable thing that you have seen?" inquired Laruja.

Ibarra appeared to reflect. "Notable—in what way?"

"For example, in regard to the life of the people—the social, political, religious life—in general, in its essential features—as a whole."

Ibarra paused thoughtfully before replying. "Frankly, I like everything in those people, setting aside the national pride of each one. But before visiting a country, I tried to familiarize myself with its history, its Exodus, if I may so speak, and afterwards I found everything quite natural. I have observed that the prosperity or misery of each people is in direct proportion to its liberties or its prejudices and, [23]accordingly, to the sacrifices or the selfishness of its forefathers."

"And haven’t you observed anything more than that?" broke in the Franciscan with a sneer. Since the beginning of the dinner he had not uttered a single word, his whole attention having been taking up, no doubt, with the food. "It wasn’t worth while to squander your fortune to learn so trifling a thing. Any schoolboy knows that."

Ibarra was placed in an embarrassing position, and the rest looked from one to the other as if fearing a disagreeable scene. He was about to say, "The dinner is nearly over and his Reverence is now satiated," but restrained himself and merely remarked to the others, "Gentlemen, don’t be surprised at the familiarity with which our former curate treats me. He treated me so when I was a child, and the years seem to make no difference in his Reverence. I appreciate it, too, because it recalls the days when his Reverence visited our home and honored my father’s table."

The Dominican glanced furtively at the Franciscan, who was trembling visibly. Ibarra continued as he rose from the table: "You will now permit me to retire, since, as I have just arrived and must go away tomorrow morning, there remain some important business matters for me to attend to. The principal part of the dinner is over and I drink but little wine and seldom touch cordials. Gentlemen, all for Spain and the Philippines!" Saying this, he drained his glass, which he had not before touched. The old lieutenant silently followed his example.

"Don’t go!" whispered Capitan Tiago. "Maria Clara will be here. Isabel has gone to get her. The new curate of your town, who is a saint, is also coming."

"I’ll call tomorrow before starting. I’ve a very important visit to make now." With this he went away.

Meanwhile the Franciscan had recovered himself. "Do you see?" he said to the rubicund youth, at the same time flourishing his dessert spoon. "That comes from pride. They can’t stand to have the curate correct them. [24]They even think that they are respectable persons. It’s the evil result of sending young men to Europe. The government ought to prohibit it."

"And how about the lieutenant?" Doña Victorina chimed in upon the Franciscan, "he didn’t get the frown off his face the whole evening. He did well to leave us so old and still only a lieutenant!" The lady could not forget the allusion to her frizzes and the trampled ruffles of her gown.

That night the rubicund youth wrote down, among other things, the following title for a chapter in his Colonial Studies: "Concerning the manner in which the neck and wing of a chicken in a friar’s plate of soup may disturb the merriment of a feast." Among his notes there appeared these observations: "In the Philippines the most unnecessary person at a dinner is he who gives it, for they are quite capable of beginning by throwing the host into the street and then everything will go on smoothly. Under present conditions it would perhaps be a good thing not to allow the Filipinos to leave the country, and even not to teach them to read." [25]

 

 

1 "He says that he doesn’t want it when it is exactly what he does want." An expression used in the mongrel Spanish-Tagalog ‘market language’ of Manila and Cavite, especially among the children,—somewhat akin to the English ‘sour grapes.’—TR. 2 Arms should yield to the toga (military to civil power). Arms should yield to the surplice (military to religious power),—TR.
3 For Peninsula, i.e., Spain. The change of n to ñ was common among ignorant Filipinos.—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter IV-Heretic and Filibuster}

 

 

Chapter IV

Heretic and Filibuster

Ibarra stood undecided for a moment. The night breeze, which during those months blows cool enough in Manila, seemed to drive from his forehead the light cloud that had darkened it. He took off his hat and drew a deep breath. Carriages flashed by, public rigs moved along at a sleepy pace, pedestrians of many nationalities were passing. He walked along at that irregular pace which indicates thoughtful abstraction or freedom from care, directing his steps toward Binondo Plaza and looking about him as if to recall the place. There were the same streets and the identical houses with their white and blue walls, whitewashed, or frescoed in bad imitation of granite; the church continued to show its illuminated clock face; there were the same Chinese shops with their soiled curtains and their iron gratings, in one of which was a bar that he, in imitation of the street urchins of Manila, had twisted one night; it was still unstraightened. "How slowly everything moves," he murmured as he turned into Calle Sacristia. The ice-cream venders were repeating the same shrill cry, "Sorbeteee!" while the smoky lamps still lighted the identical Chinese stands and those of the old women who sold candy and fruit.

"Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "There’s the same Chinese who was here seven years ago, and that old woman—the very same! It might be said that tonight I’ve dreamed of a seven years’ journey in Europe. Good heavens, that pavement is still in the same unrepaired condition as when I left!" True it was that the stones of the sidewalk on the corner of San Jacinto and Sacristia were still loose.

While he was meditating upon this marvel of the city’s [26]stability in a country where everything is so unstable, a hand was placed lightly on his shoulder. He raised his head to see the old lieutenant gazing at him with something like a smile in place of the hard expression and the frown which usually characterized him.

"Young man, be careful! Learn from your father!" was the abrupt greeting of the old soldier.

"Pardon me, but you seem to have thought a great deal of my father. Can you tell me how he died?" asked Ibarra, staring at him.

"What! Don’t you know about it?" asked the officer.

"I asked Don Santiago about it, but he wouldn’t promise to tell me until tomorrow. Perhaps you know?"

"I should say I do, as does everybody else. He died in prison!"

The young man stepped backward a pace and gazed searchingly at the lieutenant. "In prison? Who died in prison?"

"Your father, man, since he was in confinement," was the somewhat surprised answer.

"My father—in prison—confined in a prison? What are you talking about? Do you know who my father was? Are you—?" demanded the young man, seizing the officer’s arm.

"I rather think that I’m not mistaken. He was Don Rafael Ibarra."

"Yes, Don Rafael Ibarra," echoed the youth weakly.

"Well, I thought you knew about it," muttered the soldier in a tone of compassion as he saw what was passing in Ibarra’s mind. "I supposed that you—but be brave! Here one cannot be honest and keep out of jail."

"I must believe that you are not joking with me," replied Ibarra in a weak voice, after a few moments’ silence. "Can you tell me why he was in prison?"

The old man seemed to be perplexed. "It’s strange to me that your family affairs were not made known to you."

"His last letter, a year ago, said that I should not be [27]uneasy if he did not write, as he was very busy. He charged me to continue my studies and—sent me his blessing."

"Then he wrote that letter to you just before he died. It will soon be a year since we buried him."

"But why was my father a prisoner?"

"For a very honorable reason. But come with me to the barracks and I’ll tell you as we go along. Take my arm."

They moved along for some time in silence. The elder seemed to be in deep thought and to be seeking inspiration from his goatee, which he stroked continually.

"As you well know," he began, "your father was the richest man in the province, and while many loved and respected him, there were also some who envied and hated him. We Spaniards who come to the Philippines are unfortunately not all we ought to be. I say this as much on account of one of your ancestors as on account of your father’s enemies. The continual changes, the corruption in the higher circles, the favoritism, the low cost and the shortness of the journey, are to blame for it all. The worst characters of the Peninsula come here, and even if a good man does come, the country soon ruins him. So it was that your father had a number of enemies among the curates and other Spaniards."

Here he hesitated for a while. "Some months after your departure the troubles with Padre Damaso began, but I am unable to explain the real cause of them. Fray Damaso accused him of not coming to confession, although he had not done so formerly and they had nevertheless been good friends, as you may still remember. Moreover, Don Rafael was a very upright man, more so than many of those who regularly attend confession and than the confessors themselves. He had framed for himself a rigid morality and often said to me, when he talked of these troubles, ‘Señor Guevara, do you believe that God will pardon any crime, a murder for instance, solely by a man’s telling it to a priest—a man after all and one whose duty it is to keep quiet about it—by his fearing that he [28]will roast in hell as a penance—by being cowardly and certainly shameless into the bargain? I have another conception of God,’ he used to say, ‘for in my opinion one evil does not correct another, nor is a crime to be expiated by vain lamentings or by giving alms to the Church. Take this example: if I have killed the father of a family, if I have made of a woman a sorrowing widow and destitute orphans of some happy children, have I satisfied eternal Justice by letting myself be hanged, or by entrusting my secret to one who is obliged to guard it for me, or by giving alms to priests who are least in need of them, or by buying indulgences and lamenting night and day? What of the widow and the orphans? My conscience tells me that I should try to take the place of him whom I killed, that I should dedicate my whole life to the welfare of the family whose misfortunes I caused. But even so, who can replace the love of a husband and a father?’ Thus your father reasoned and by this strict standard of conduct regulated all his actions, so that it can be said that he never injured anybody. On the contrary, he endeavored by his good deeds to wipe out some injustices which he said your ancestors had committed. But to get back to his troubles with the curate—these took on a serious aspect. Padre Damaso denounced him from the pulpit, and that he did not expressly name him was a miracle, since anything might have been expected of such a character. I foresaw that sooner or later the affair would have serious results." Again the old lieutenant paused. "There happened to be wandering about the province an ex-artilleryman who has been discharged from the army on account of his stupidity and ignorance. As the man had to live and he was not permitted to engage in manual labor, which would injure our prestige, he somehow or other obtained a position as collector of the tax on vehicles. The poor devil had no education at all, a fact of which the natives soon became aware, as it was a marvel for them to see a Spaniard who didn’t know how to read and write. Every one [29]ridiculed him and the payment of the tax was the occasion of broad smiles. He knew that he was an object of ridicule and this tended to sour his disposition even more, rough and bad as it had formerly been. They would purposely hand him the papers upside down to see his efforts to read them, and wherever he found a blank space he would scribble a lot of pothooks which rather fitly passed for his signature. The natives mocked while they paid him. He swallowed his pride and made the collections, but was in such a state of mind that he had no respect for any one. He even came to have some hard words with your father.

"One day it happened that he was in a shop turning a document over and over in the effort to get it straight when a schoolboy began to make signs to his companions and to point laughingly at the collector with his finger. The fellow heard the laughter and saw the joke reflected in the solemn faces of the bystanders. He lost his patience and, turning quickly, started to chase the boys, who ran away shouting ba, be, bi, bo, bu.1 Blind with rage and unable to catch them, he threw his cane and struck one of the boys on the head, knocking him down. He ran up and began to kick the fallen boy, and none of those who had been laughing had the courage to interfere. Unfortunately, your father happened to come along just at that time. He ran forward indignantly, caught the collector by the arm, and reprimanded him severely. The artilleryman, who was no doubt beside himself with rage, raised his hand, but your father was too quick for him, and with the strength of a descendant of the Basques—some say that he struck him, others that he merely pushed him, but at any rate the man staggered and fell a little way off, striking his head against a stone. Don Rafael quietly picked the wounded boy up and carried him to the town hall. The artilleryman bled freely from the mouth and died a few moments later without recovering consciousness.

[30]"As was to be expected, the authorities intervened and arrested your father. All his hidden enemies at once rose up and false accusations came from all sides. He was accused of being a heretic and a filibuster. To be a heretic is a great danger anywhere, but especially so at that time when the province was governed by an alcalde who made a great show of his piety, who with his servants used to recite his rosary in the church in a loud voice, perhaps that all might hear and pray with him. But to be a filibuster is worse than to be a heretic and to kill three or four tax-collectors who know how to read, write, and attend to business. Every one abandoned him, and his books and papers were seized. He was accused of subscribing to El Correo de Ultramar, and to newspapers from Madrid, of having sent you to Germany, of having in his possession letters and a photograph of a priest who had been legally executed, and I don’t know what not. Everything served as an accusation, even the fact that he, a descendant of Peninsulars, wore a camisa. Had it been any one but your father, it is likely that he would soon have been set free, as there was a physician who ascribed the death of the unfortunate collector to a hemorrhage. But his wealth, his confidence in the law, and his hatred of everything that was not legal and just, wrought his undoing. In spite of my repugnance to asking for mercy from any one, I applied personally to the Captain-General—the predecessor of our present one—and urged upon him that there could not be anything of the filibuster about a man who took up with all the Spaniards, even the poor emigrants, and gave them food and shelter, and in whose veins yet flowed the generous blood of Spain. It was in vain that I pledged my life and swore by my poverty and my military honor. I succeeded only in being coldly listened to and roughly sent away with the epithet of chiflado."2

[31]The old man paused to take a deep breath, and after noticing the silence of his companion, who was listening with averted face, continued: "At your father’s request I prepared the defense in the case. I went first to the celebrated Filipino lawyer, young A———, but he refused to take the case. ‘I should lose it,’ he told me, ‘and my defending him would furnish the motive for another charge against him and perhaps one against me. Go to Señor M———, who is a forceful and fluent speaker and a Peninsular of great influence.’ I did so, and the noted lawyer took charge of the case, and conducted it with mastery and brilliance. But your father’s enemies were numerous, some of them hidden and unknown. False witnesses abounded, and their calumnies, which under other circumstances would have melted away before a sarcastic phrase from the defense, here assumed shape and substance. If the lawyer succeeded in destroying the force of their testimony by making them contradict each other and even perjure themselves, new charges were at once preferred. They accused him of having illegally taken possession of a great deal of land and demanded damages. They said that he maintained relations with the tulisanes in order that his crops and animals might not be molested by them. At last the case became so confused that at the end of a year no one understood it. The alcalde had to leave and there came in his place one who had the reputation of being honest, but unfortunately he stayed only a few months, and his successor was too fond of good horses.

"The sufferings, the worries, the hard life in the prison, or the pain of seeing so much ingratitude, broke your father’s iron constitution and he fell ill with that malady which only the tomb can cure. When the case was almost finished and he was about to be acquitted of the charge of being an enemy of the fatherland and of being the murderer of the tax-collector, he died in the prison with no one at his side. I arrived just in time to see him breathe his last."

[32]The old lieutenant became silent, but still Ibarra said nothing. They had arrived meanwhile at the door of the barracks, so the soldier stopped and said, as he grasped the youth’s hand, "Young man, for details ask Capitan Tiago. Now, good night, as I must return to duty and see that all’s well."

Silently, but with great feeling, Ibarra shook the lieutenant’s bony hand and followed him with his eyes until he disappeared. Then he turned slowly and signaled to a passing carriage. "To Lala’s Hotel," was the direction he gave in a scarcely audible voice.

"This fellow must have just got out of jail," thought the cochero as he whipped up his horses. [33]

 

 

1 The syllables which constitute the first reading lesson in Spanish primers.—TR.
2 A Spanish colloquial term ("cracked"), applied to a native of Spain who was considered to be mentally unbalanced from too long residence in the islands,—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter V-A Star in a Dark Night}

 

 

Chapter V

A Star in a Dark Night

Ibarra went to his room, which overlooked the river, and dropping into a chair gazed out into the vast expanse of the heavens spread before him through the open window. The house on the opposite bank was profusely lighted, and gay strains of music, largely from stringed instruments, were borne across the river even to his room.

If the young man had been less preoccupied, if he had had more curiosity and had cared to see with his opera glasses what was going on in that atmosphere of light, he would have been charmed with one of those magical and fantastic spectacles, the like of which is sometimes seen in the great theaters of Europe. To the subdued strains of the orchestra there seems to appear in the midst of a shower of light, a cascade of gold and diamonds in an Oriental setting, a deity wrapped in misty gauze, a sylph enveloped in a luminous halo, who moves forward apparently without touching the floor. In her presence the flowers bloom, the dance awakens, the music bursts forth, and troops of devils, nymphs, satyrs, demons, angels, shepherds and shepherdesses, dance, shake their tambourines, and whirl about in rhythmic evolutions, each one placing some tribute at the feet of the goddess. Ibarra would have seen a beautiful and graceful maiden, clothed in the picturesque garments of the daughters of the Philippines, standing in the center Of a semicircle made up of every class of people, Chinese, Spaniards, Filipinos, soldiers, curates, old men and young, all gesticulating and moving about in a lively manner. Padre Damaso stood at the side of the beauty, smiling like one especially blessed. Fray Sibyla—yes, Fray Sibyla [34]himself—was talking to her. Doña Victorina was arranging in the magnificent hair of the maiden a string of pearls and diamonds which threw out all the beautiful tints of the rainbow. She was white, perhaps too much so, and whenever she raised her downcast eyes there shone forth a spotless soul. When she smiled so as to show her small white teeth the beholder realized that the rose is only a flower and ivory but the elephant’s tusk. From out the filmy piña draperies around her white and shapely neck there blinked, as the Tagalogs say, the bright eyes of a collar of diamonds. One man only in all the crowd seemed insensible to her radiant influence—a young Franciscan, thin, wasted, and pale, who watched her from a distance, motionless as a statue and scarcely breathing.

But Ibarra saw nothing of all this—his eyes were fixed on other things. A small space was enclosed by four bare and grimy walls, in one of which was an iron grating. On the filthy and loathsome floor was a mat upon which an old man lay alone in the throes of death, an old man breathing with difficulty and turning his head from side to side as amid his tears he uttered a name. The old man was alone, but from time to time a groan or the rattle of a chain was heard on the other side of the wall. Far away there was a merry feast, almost an orgy; a youth was laughing, shouting, and pouring wine upon the flowers amid the applause and drunken laughter of his companions. The old man had the features of his father, the youth was himself, and the name that the old man uttered with tears was his own name! This was what the wretched young man saw before him. The lights in the house opposite were extinguished, the music and the noises ceased, but Ibarra still heard the anguished cry of his father calling upon his son in the hour of his death.

Silence had now blown its hollow breath over the city, and all things seemed to sleep in the embrace of nothingness. The cock-crow alternated with the strokes of the clocks in the church towers and the mournful cries of the weary [35]sentinels. A waning moon began to appear, and everything seemed to be at rest; even Ibarra himself, worn out by his sad thoughts or by his journey, now slept. Only the young Franciscan whom we saw not so long ago standing motionless and silent in the midst of the gaiety of the ballroom slept not, but kept vigil. In his cell, with his elbow upon the window sill and his pale, worn cheek resting on the palm of his hand, he was gazing silently into the distance where a bright star glittered in the dark sky. The star paled and disappeared, the dim light of the waning moon faded, but the friar did not move from his place—he was gazing out over the field of Bagumbayan and the sleeping sea at the far horizon wrapped in the morning mist.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter VI-Capitan Tiago} [36]

 

 

Chapter VI

Capitan Tiago

Thy will be done on earth.

While our characters are deep in slumber or busy with their breakfasts, let us turn our attention to Capitan Tiago. We have never had the honor of being his guest, so it is neither our right nor our duty to pass him by slightingly, even under the stress of important events.

Low in stature, with a clear complexion, a corpulent figure and a full face, thanks to the liberal supply of fat which according to his admirers was the gift of Heaven and which his enemies averred was the blood of the poor, Capitan Tiago appeared to be younger than he really was; he might have been thought between thirty and thirty-five years of age. At the time of our story his countenance always wore a sanctified look; his little round head, covered with ebony-black hair cut long in front and short behind, was reputed to contain many things of weight; his eyes, small but with no Chinese slant, never varied in expression; his nose was slender and not at all inclined to flatness; and if his mouth had not been disfigured by the immoderate use of tobacco and buyo, which, when chewed and gathered in one cheek, marred the symmetry of his features, we would say that he might properly have considered himself a handsome man and have passed for such. Yet in spite of this bad habit he kept marvelously white both his natural teeth and also the two which the dentist furnished him at twelve pesos each.

He was considered one of the richest landlords in Binondo and a planter of some importance by reason of his [37]estates in Pampanga and Laguna, principally in the town of San Diego, the income from which increased with each year. San Diego, on account of its agreeable baths, its famous cockpit, and his cherished memories of the place, was his favorite town, so that he spent at least two months of the year there. His holdings of real estate in the city were large, and it is superfluous to state that the opium monopoly controlled by him and a Chinese brought in large profits. They also had the lucrative contract of feeding the prisoners in Bilibid and furnished zacate to many of the stateliest establishments in Manila u through the medium of contracts, of course. Standing well with all the authorities, clever, cunning, and even bold in speculating upon the wants of others, he was the only formidable rival of a certain Perez in the matter of the farming-out of revenues and the sale of offices and appointments, which the Philippine government always confides to private persons. Thus, at the time of the events here narrated, Capitan Tiago was a happy man in so far as it is possible for a narrow-brained individual to be happy in such a land: he was rich, and at peace with God, the government, and men.

That he was at peace with God was beyond doubt,—almost like religion itself. There is no need to be on bad terms with the good God when one is prosperous on earth, when one has never had any direct dealings with Him and has never lent Him any money. Capitan Tiago himself had never offered any prayers to Him, even in his greatest difficulties, for he was rich and his gold prayed for him. For masses and supplications high and powerful priests had been created; for novenas and rosaries God in His infinite bounty had created the poor for the service of the rich—the poor who for a peso could be secured to recite sixteen mysteries and to read all the sacred books, even the Hebrew Bible, for a little extra. If at any time in the midst of pressing difficulties he needed celestial aid and had not at hand even a red Chinese taper, he would [38]call upon his most adored saints, promising them many things for the purpose of putting them under obligation to him and ultimately convincing them of the righteousness of his desires. The saint to whom he promised the most, and whose promises he was the most faithful in fulfilling, was the Virgin of Antipolo, Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages.

1 With many of the lesser saints he was not very punctual or even decent; and sometimes, after having his petitions granted, he thought no more about them, though of course after such treatment he did not bother them again, when occasion arose. Capitan Tiago knew that the calendar was full of idle saints who perhaps had nothing wherewith to occupy their time up there in heaven. Furthermore, to the Virgin of Antipolo he ascribed greater power and efficiency than to all the other Virgins combined, whether they carried silver canes, naked or richly clothed images of the Christ Child, scapularies, rosaries, or girdles. Perhaps this reverence was owing to the fact that she was a very strict Lady, watchful of her name, and, according to the senior sacristan of Antipolo, an enemy of photography. When she was angered she turned black as ebony, while [39]the other Virgins were softer of heart and more indulgent. It is a well-known fact that some minds love an absolute monarch rather than a constitutional one, as witness Louis XIV and Louis XVI, Philip II and Amadeo I. This fact perhaps explains why infidel Chinese and even Spaniards may be seen kneeling in the famous sanctuary; what is not explained is why the priests run away with the money of the terrible Image, go to America, and get married there. In the sala of Capitan Tiago’s house, that door, hidden by a silk curtain leads to a small chapel or oratory such as must be lacking in no Filipino home. There were placed his household gods—and we say "gods" because he was inclined to polytheism rather than to monotheism, which he had never come to understand. There could be seen images of the Holy Family with busts and extremities of ivory, glass eyes, long eyelashes, and curly blond hair—masterpieces of Santa Cruz sculpture. Paintings in oil by artists of Paco and Ermita2 represented martyrdoms of saints and miracles of the Virgin; St. Lucy gazing at the sky and carrying in a plate an extra pair of eyes with lashes and eyebrows, such as are seen painted in the triangle of the Trinity or on Egyptian tombs; St. Pascual Bailon; St. Anthony of Padua in a guingón habit looking with tears upon a Christ Child dressed as a Captain-General with the three-cornered hat, sword, and boots, as in the children’s ball at Madrid that character is represented—which signified for Capitan Tiago that while God might include in His omnipotence the power of a Captain-General of the Philippines, the Franciscans would nevertheless play with Him as with a doll. There, might also be seen a St. Anthony the Abbot with a hog by his side, a hog that for the worthy Capitan was as miraculous as the saint himself, for which reason he never dared to refer to it as the hog, but as the creature of holy St. Anthony; a St. Francis [40]of Assisi in a coffee-colored robe and with seven wings, placed over a St. Vincent who had only two but in compensation carried a trumpet; a St. Peter the Martyr with his head split open by the talibon of an evil-doer and held fast by a kneeling infidel, side by side with another St. Peter cutting off the ear of a Moro, Malchus3 no doubt, who was gnawing his lips and writhing with pain, while a fighting-cock on a doric column crowed and flapped his wings—from all of which Capitan Tiago deduced that in order to be a saint it was just as well to smite as to be smitten.

Who could enumerate that army of images and recount the virtues and perfections that were treasured there! A whole chapter would hardly suffice. Yet we must not pass over in silence a beautiful St. Michael of painted and gilded wood almost four feet high. The Archangel is biting his lower lip and with flashing eyes, frowning forehead, and rosy cheeks is grasping a Greek shield and brandishing in his right hand a Sulu kris, ready, as would appear from his attitude and expression, to smite a worshiper or any one else who might approach, rather than the horned and tailed devil that had his teeth set in his girlish leg.

Capitan Tiago never went near this image from fear of a miracle. Had not other images, even those more rudely carved ones that issue from the carpenter shops of Paete,4 many times come to life for the confusion and punishment of incredulous sinners? It is a well-known fact that a certain image of Christ in Spain, when invoked as a witness of promises of love, had assented with a movement of the head in the presence of the judge, and that another such image had reached out its right arm to embrace St. Lutgarda. And furthermore, had he not himself read a booklet recently published about a mimic sermon preached [41]by an image of St. Dominic in Soriano? True, the saint had not said a single word, but from his movements it was inferred, at any rate the author of the booklet inferred, that he was announcing the end of the world.5 Was it not reported, too, that the Virgin of Luta in the town of Lipa had one cheek swollen larger than the other and that there was mud on the borders of her gown? Does not this prove mathematically that the holy images also walk about without holding up their skirts and that they even suffer from the toothache, perhaps for our sake? Had he not seen with his own eyes, during the regular Good-Friday sermon, all the images of Christ move and bow their heads thrice in unison, thereby calling forth wails and cries from the women and other sensitive souls destined for Heaven? More? We ourselves have seen the preacher show to the congregation at the moment of the descent from the cross a handkerchief stained with blood, and were ourselves on the point of weeping piously, when, to the sorrow of our soul, a sacristan assured us that it was all a joke, that the blood was that of a chicken which had been roasted and eaten on the spot in spite of the fact that it was Good Friday—and the sacristan was fat! So Capitan Tiago, even though he was a prudent and pious individual, took care not to approach the kris of St. Michael. "Let’s take no chances," he would say to himself, "I know that he’s an archangel, but I don’t trust him, no, I don’t trust him." Not a year passed without his joining with an orchestra in the pilgrimage to the wealthy shrine of Antipolo. He paid for two thanksgiving masses of the many that make up the three novenas, and also for the days when there are no novenas, and washed himself afterwards in the famous bátis, or pool, where the sacred Image herself had bathed. Her votaries can even yet discern the tracks of her feet and the traces of her locks in the hard rock, where she dried them, resembling exactly those made by any

[42]woman who uses coconut-oil, and just as if her hair had been steel or diamonds and she had weighed a thousand tons. We should like to see the terrible Image once shake her sacred hair in the eyes of those credulous persons and put her foot upon their tongues or their heads. There at the very edge of the pool Capitan Tiago made it his duty to eat roast pig, sinigang of dalag with alibambang leaves, and other more or less appetizing dishes. The two masses would cost him over four hundred pesos, but it was cheap, after all, if one considered the glory that the Mother of the Lord would acquire from the pin-wheels, rockets, bombs, and mortars, and also the increased profits which, thanks to these masses, would come to one during the year.

But Antipolo was not the only theater of his ostentatious devotion. In Binondo, in Pampanga, and in the town of San Diego, when he was about to put up a fighting-cock with large wagers, he would send gold moneys to the curate for propitiatory masses and, just as the Romans consulted the augurs before a battle, giving food to the sacred fowls, so Capitan Tiago would also consult his augurs, with the modifications befitting the times and the new truths, tie would watch closely the flame of the tapers, the smoke from the incense, the voice of the priest, and from it all attempt to forecast his luck. It was an admitted fact that he lost very few wagers, and in those cases it was due to the unlucky circumstance that the officiating priest was hoarse, or that the altar-candles were few or contained too much tallow, or that a bad piece of money had slipped in with the rest. The warden of the Brotherhood would then assure him that such reverses were tests to which he was subjected by Heaven to receive assurance of his fidelity and devotion. So, beloved by the priests, respected by the sacristans, humored by the Chinese chandlers and the dealers in fireworks, he was a man happy in the religion of this world, and persons of discernment and great piety even claimed for him great influence in the celestial court.

[43]That he was at peace with the government cannot be doubted, however difficult an achievement it may seem. Incapable of any new idea and satisfied with his modus vivendi, he was ever ready to gratify the desires of the last official of the fifth class in every one of the offices, to make presents of hams, capons, turkeys, and Chinese fruits at all seasons of the year. If he heard any one speak ill of the natives, he, who did not consider himself as such, would join in the chorus and speak worse of them; if any one aspersed the Chinese or Spanish mestizos, he would do the same, perhaps because he considered himself become a full-blooded Iberian. He was ever first to talk in favor of any new imposition of taxes, or special assessment, especially when he smelled a contract or a farming assignment behind it. He always had an orchestra ready for congratulating and serenading the governors, judges, and other officials on their name-days and birthdays, at the birth or death of a relative, and in fact at every variation from the usual monotony. For such occasions he would secure laudatory poems and hymns in which were celebrated "the kind and loving governor," "the brave and courageous judge for whom there awaits in heaven the palm of the just," with many other things of the same kind.

He was the president of the rich guild of mestizos in spite of the protests of many of them, who did not regard him as one of themselves. In the two years that he held this office he wore out ten frock coats, an equal number of high hats, and half a dozen canes. The frock coat and the high hat were in evidence at the Ayuntamiento, in the governor-general’s palace, and at military headquarters; the high hat and the frock coat might have been noticed in the cockpit, in the market, in the processions, in the Chinese shops, and under the hat and within the coat might have been seen the perspiring Capitan Tiago, waving his tasseled cane, directing, arranging, and throwing everything into disorder with marvelous activity and a gravity even more marvelous.

[44]So the authorities saw in him a safe man, gifted with the best of dispositions, peaceful, tractable, and obsequious, who read no books or newspapers from Spain, although he spoke Spanish well. Indeed, they rather looked upon him with the feeling with which a poor student contemplates the worn-out heel of his old shoe, twisted by his manner of walking. In his case there was truth in both the Christian and profane proverbs beati pauperes spiritu and beati possidentes,6 and there might well be applied to him that translation, according to some people incorrect, from the Greek, "Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of good-will on earth!" even though we shall see further along that it is not sufficient for men to have good-will in order to live in peace.

The irreverent considered him a fool, the poor regarded him as a heartless and cruel exploiter of misery and want, and his inferiors saw in him a despot and a tyrant. As to the women, ah, the women! Accusing rumors buzzed through the wretched nipa huts, and it was said that wails and sobs might be heard mingled with the weak cries of an infant. More than one young woman was pointed out by her neighbors with the finger of scorn: she had a downcast glance and a faded cheek. But such things never robbed him of sleep nor did any maiden disturb his peace. It was an old woman who made him suffer, an old woman who was his rival in piety and who had gained from many curates such enthusiastic praises and eulogies as he in his best days had never received.

Between Capitan Tiago and this widow, who had inherited from brothers and cousins, there existed a holy rivalry which redounded to the benefit of the Church as the competition among the Pampanga steamers then redounded to the benefit of the public. Did Capitan Tiago present to some Virgin a silver wand ornamented with emeralds and topazes? At once Doña Patrocinio had ordered another [45]of gold set with diamonds! If at the time of the Naval procession7 Capitan Tiago erected an arch with two façades, covered with ruffled cloth and decorated with mirrors, glass globes, and chandeliers, then Doña Patrocinio would have another with four facades, six feet higher, and more gorgeous hangings. Then he would fall back on his reserves, his strong point, his specialty—masses with bombs and fireworks; whereat Doña Patrocinia could only gnaw at her lips with her toothless gums, because, being exceedingly nervous, she could not endure the chiming of the bells and still less the explosions of the bombs. While he smiled in triumph, she would plan her revenge and pay the money of others to secure the best orators of the five Orders in Manila, the most famous preachers of the Cathedral, and even the Paulists,8 to preach on the holy days upon profound theological subjects to the sinners who understood only the vernacular of the mariners. The partizans of Capitan Tiago would observe that she slept during the sermon; but her adherents would answer that the sermon was paid for in advance, and by her, and that in any affair payment was the prime requisite. At length, she had driven him from the field completely by presenting to the church three andas of gilded silver, each one of which cost her over three thousand pesos. Capitan Tiago hoped that the old woman would breathe her last almost any day, or that she would lose five or six of her lawsuits, so that he might be alone in serving God; but unfortunately the best lawyers of the Real Audiencia looked after her interests, and as to her health, there was no part of her that could be attacked by sickness; she seemed to be a steel wire, no [46]doubt for the edification of souls, and she hung on in this vale of tears with the tenacity of a boil on the skin. Her adherents were secure in the belief that she would be canonized at her death and that Capitan Tiago himself would have to worship her at the altars—all of which he agreed to and cheerfully promised, provided only that she die soon.

Such was Capitan Tiago in the days of which we write. As for the past, he was the only son of a sugar-planter of Malabon, wealthy enough, but so miserly that he would not spend a cent to educate his son, for which reason the little Santiago had been the servant of a good Dominican, a worthy man who had tried to train him in all of good that he knew and could teach. When he had reached the happy stage of being known among his acquaintances as a logician, that is, when he began to study logic, the death of his protector, soon followed by that of his father, put an end to his studies and he had to turn his attention to business affairs. He married a pretty young woman of Santa Cruz, who gave him social position and helped him to make his fortune. Doña Pia Alba was not satisfied with buying and selling sugar, indigo, and coffee, but wished to plant and reap, so the newly-married couple bought land in San Diego. From this time dated their friendship with Padre Damoso and with Don Rafael Ibarra, the richest capitalist of the town.

The lack of an heir in the first six years of their wedded life made of that eagerness to accumulate riches almost a censurable ambition. Doña Pia was comely, strong, and healthy, yet it was in vain that she offered novenas and at the advice of the devout women of San Diego made a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Kaysaysay9 in Taal, distributed [47]alms to the poor, and danced at midday in May in the procession of the Virgin of Turumba10 in Pakil. But it was all with no result until Fray Damaso advised her to go to Obando to dance in the fiesta of St. Pascual Bailon and ask him for a son. Now it is well known that there is in Obando a trinity which grants sons or daughters according to request—Our Lady of Salambaw, St. Clara, and St. Pascual. Thanks to this wise advice, Doña Pia soon recognized the signs of approaching motherhood. But alas! like the fisherman of whom Shakespeare tells in Macbeth, who ceased to sing when he had found a treasure, she at once lost all her mirthfulness, fell into melancholy, and was never seen to smile again. "Capriciousness, [48]natural in her condition," commented all, even Capitan Tiago. A puerperal fever put an end to her hidden grief, and she died, leaving behind a beautiful girl baby for whom Fray Damaso himself stood sponsor. As St. Pascual had not granted the son that was asked, they gave the child the name of Maria Clara, in honor of the Virgin of Salambaw and St. Clara, punishing the worthy St. Pascual with silence.

The little girl grew up under the care of her aunt Isabel, that good old lady of monkish urbanity whom we met at the beginning of the story. For the most part, her early life was spent in San Diego, on account of its healthful climate, and there Padre Damaso was devoted to her.

Maria Clara had not the small eyes of her father; like her mother, she had eyes large, black, long-lashed, merry and smiling when she was playing but sad, deep, and pensive in moments of repose. As a child her hair was curly and almost blond, her straight nose was neither too pointed nor too flat, while her mouth with the merry dimples at the corners recalled the small and pleasing one of her mother, her skin had the fineness of an onion-cover and was white as cotton, according to her perplexed relatives, who found the traces of Capitan Tiago’s paternity in her small and shapely ears. Aunt Isabel ascribed her half-European features to the longings of Doña Pia, whom she remembered to have seen many times weeping before the image of St. Anthony. Another cousin was of the same opinion, differing only in the choice of the smut, as for her it was either the Virgin herself or St. Michael. A famous philosopher, who was the cousin of Capitan Tinong and who had memorized the "Amat,"11 sought for the true explanation in planetary influences.

The idol of all, Maria Clara grew up amidst smiles and love. The very friars showered her with attentions when she appeared in the processions dressed in white, her [49]abundant hair interwoven with tuberoses and sampaguitas, with two diminutive wings of silver and gold fastened on the back of her gown, and carrying in her hands a pair of white doves tied with blue ribbons. Afterwards, she would be so merry and talk so sweetly in her childish simplicity that the enraptured Capitan Tiago could do nothing but bless the saints of Obando and advise every one to purchase beautiful works of sculpture. In southern countries the girl of thirteen or fourteen years changes into a woman as the bud of the night becomes a flower in the morning. At this period of change, so full of mystery and romance, Maria Clara was placed, by the advice of the curate of Binondo, in the nunnery of St. Catherine

12 in order to receive strict religious training from the Sisters. With tears she took leave of Padre Damaso and of the only lad who had been a friend of her childhood, Crisostomo Ibarra, who himself shortly afterward went away to Europe. There in that convent, which communicates with the world through double bars, even under the watchful eyes of the nuns, she spent seven years.

Each having his own particular ends in view and knowing the mutual inclinations of the two young persons, Don Rafael and Capitan Tiago agreed upon the marriage of their children and the formation of a business partnership. This agreement, which was concluded some years after the younger Ibarra’s departure, was celebrated with equal joy by two hearts in widely separated parts of the world and under very different circumstances. [50]

 

1 This celebrated Lady was first brought from Acapulco, Mexico, by Juan Niño de Tabora, when he came to govern the Philippines in 1626. By reason of her miraculous powers of allaying the storms she was carried back and forth in the state galleons on a number of voyages, until in 1672 she was formally installed in a church in the hills northeast of Manila, under the care of the Augustinian Fathers. While her shrine was building she is said to have appeared to the faithful in the top of a large breadfruit tree, which is known to the Tagalogs as "antipolo"; hence her name. Hers is the best known and most frequented shrine in the country, while she disputes with the Holy Child of Cebu the glory of being the wealthiest individual in the whole archipelago.
There has always existed a pious rivalry between her and the Dominicans’ Lady of the Rosary as to which is the patron saint of the Philippines, the contest being at times complicated by counterclaims on the part of St. Francis, although the entire question would seem to have been definitely settled by a royal decree, published about 1650, officially conferring that honorable post upon St. Michael the Archangel (San Miguel). A rather irreverent sketch of this celebrated queen of the skies appears in Chapter XI of Foreman’s The Philippine Islands.—TR.
2 Santa Cruz, Paco, and Ermita are districts of Manila, outside the Walled City.—TR.
3 John xviii. 10.
4 A town in Laguna Province, noted for the manufacture of furniture.—TR.
5 God grant that this prophecy may soon be fulfilled for the author of the booklet and all of us who believe it. Amen.—Author’s note.
6 "Blessed are the poor in spirit" and "blessed are the possessors."—TR.
7 The annual celebration of the Dominican Order held in October in honor of its patroness, the Virgin of the Rosary, to whose intervention was ascribed the victory over a Dutch fleet in 1646, whence the name. See Guía Oficial de Filipinas, 1885, pp. 138, 139; Montero y Vidal, Historia General de Filipinas, Vol. I, Chap. XXIII; Blair and Robertson, The Philippine Islands, Vol. XXXV, pp. 249, 250.—TR.
8 Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, whose chief business is preaching and teaching. They entered the Philippines in 1862.—TR.
9 "Kaysaysay: A celebrated sanctuary in the island of Luzon, province of Batangas, jurisdiction, of Taal, so called because there is venerated in it a Virgin who bears that name .... "The image is in the center of the high altar, where there is seen an eagle in half-relief, whose abdomen is left open in order to afford a tabernacle for the Virgin: an idea enchanting to many of the Spaniards
[47n]established in the Philippines during the last century, but which in our opinion any sensible person will characterize as extravagant.
"This image of the Virgin of Kaysaysay enjoys the fame of being very miraculous, so that the Indians gather from great distances to hear mass in her sanctuary every Saturday. Her discovery, over two and a half centuries ago, is notable in that she was found in the sea during some fisheries, coming up in a drag-net with the fish. It is thought that this venerable image of the Filipinos may have been in some ship which was wrecked and that the currents carried her up to the coast, where she was found in the manner related.
"The Indians, naturally credulous and for the most part quite superstitious, in spite of the advancements in civilization and culture, relate that she appeared afterwards in some trees, and in memory of these manifestations an arch representing them was erected at a short distance from the place where her sanctuary is now located."—Buzeta and Bravo’s Diccionario, Madrid, 1850, but copied "with proper modifications for the times and the new truths" from Zuñiga’s Estadismo, which, though written in 1803 and not published until 1893, was yet used by later writers, since it was preserved in manuscript in the convent of the Augustinians in Manila, Buzeta and Bravo, as well as Zuñiga, being members of that order.
So great was the reverence for this Lady that the Acapulco galleons on their annual voyages were accustomed to fire salutes in her honor as they passed along the coast near her shrine.—Foreman. The Philippine Islands, quoting from the account of an eruption of Taal Volcano in 1749, by Fray Francisco Vencuchillo.
This Lady’s sanctuary, where she is still "enchanting" in her "eagle in half-relief," stands out prominently on the hill above the town of Taal, plainly visible from Balayan Bay.—TR.
10 A Tagalog term meaning "to tumble," or "to caper about," doubtless from the actions of the Lady’s devotees. Pakil is a town in Laguna Province.—TR. 11 A work on scholastic philosophy, by a Spanish prelate of that name.—TR.
12 The nunnery and college of St. Catherine of Sienna ("Santa Catalina de la Sena") was founded by the Dominican Fathers in 1696.—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter VIII-An Idyl on an Azotea}

 

 

Chapter VIII

An Idyl on an Azotea

The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

That morning Aunt Isabel and Maria Clara went early to mass, the latter elegantly dressed and wearing a rosary of blue beads, which partly served as a bracelet for her, and the former with her spectacles in order to read her Anchor of Salvation during the holy communion. Scarcely had the priest disappeared from the altar when the maiden expressed a desire for returning home, to the great surprise and displeasure of her good aunt, who believed her niece to be as pious and devoted to praying as a nun, at least. Grumbling and crossing herself, the good old lady rose. "The good Lord will forgive me, Aunt Isabel, since He must know the hearts of girls better than you do," Maria Clara might have said to check the severe yet maternal chidings.

After they had breakfasted, Maria Clara consumed her impatience in working at a silk purse while her aunt was trying to clean up the traces of the former night’s revelry by swinging a feather duster about. Capitan Tiago was busy looking over some papers. Every noise in the street, every carriage that passed, caused the maiden to tremble and quickened the beatings of her heart. Now she wished that she were back in the quiet convent among her friends; there she could have seen him without emotion and agitation! But was he not the companion of her infancy, had they not played together and even quarreled at times? The reason for all this I need not explain; if you, O reader, have ever loved, you will understand; and if you [51]have not, it is useless for me to tell you, as the uninitiated do not comprehend these mysteries.

"I believe, Maria, that the doctor is right," said Capitan Tiago. "You ought to go into the country, for you are pale and need fresh air. What do you think of Malabon or San Diego?" At the mention of the latter place Maria Clara blushed like a poppy and was unable to answer.

"You and Isabel can go at once to the convent to get your clothes and to say good-by to your friends," he continued, without raising his head. "You will not stay there any longer."

The girl felt the vague sadness that possesses the mind when we leave forever a place where we have been happy, but another thought softened this sorrow.

"In four or five days, after you get some new clothes made, we’ll go to Malabon. Your godfather is no longer in San Diego. The priest that you may have noticed here last night, that young padre, is the new curate whom we have there, and he is a saint."

"I think that San Diego would be better, cousin," observed Aunt Isabel. "Besides, our house there is better and the time for the fiesta draws near."

Maria Clara wanted to embrace her aunt for this speech, but hearing a carriage stop, she turned pale.

"Ah, very true," answered Capitan Tiago, and then in a different tone he exclaimed, "Don Crisostomo!"

The maiden let her sewing fall from her hands and wished to move but could not—a violent tremor ran through her body. Steps were heard on the stairway and then a fresh, manly voice. As if that voice had some magic power, the maiden controlled her emotion and ran to hide in the oratory among the saints. The two cousins laughed, and Ibarra even heard the noise of the door closing. Pale and breathing rapidly, the maiden pressed her beating heart and tried to listen. She heard his voice, that beloved voice that for so long a time she had heard only in her dreams he was asking for her! Overcome with joy, she kissed [52]the nearest saint, which happened to be St. Anthony the Abbot, a saint happy in flesh and in wood, ever the object of pleasing temptations! Afterwards she sought the keyhole in order to see and examine him. She smiled, and when her aunt snatched her from that position she unconsciously threw her arms around the old lady’s neck and rained kisses upon her.

"Foolish child, what’s the matter with you?" the old lady was at last able to say as she wiped a tear from her faded eyes. Maria Clara felt ashamed and covered her eyes with her plump arm.

"Come on, get ready, come!" added the old aunt fondly. "While he is talking to your father about you. Come, don’t make him wait." Like a child the maiden obediently followed her and they shut themselves up in her chamber.

Capitan Tiago and Ibarra were conversing in a lively manner when Aunt Isabel appeared half dragging her niece, who was looking in every direction except toward the persons in the room.

What said those two souls communicating through the language of the eyes, more perfect than that of the lips, the language given to the soul in order that sound may not mar the ecstasy of feeling? In such moments, when the thoughts of two happy beings penetrate into each other’s souls through the eyes, the spoken word is halting, rude, and weak—it is as the harsh, slow roar of the thunder compared with the rapidity of the dazzling lightning flash, expressing feelings already recognized, ideas already understood, and if words are made use of it is only because the heart’s desire, dominating all the being and flooding it with happiness, wills that the whole human organism with all its physical and psychical powers give expression to the song of joy that rolls through the soul. To the questioning glance of love, as it flashes out and then conceals itself, speech has no reply; the smile, the kiss, the sigh answer.

[53]Soon the two lovers, fleeing from the dust raised by Aunt Isabel’s broom, found themselves on the azotea where they could commune in liberty among the little arbors. What did they tell each other in murmurs that you nod your heads, O little red cypress flowers? Tell it, you who have fragrance in your breath and color on your lips. And thou, O zephyr, who learnest rare harmonies in the stillness of the dark night amid the hidden depths of our virgin forests! Tell it, O sunbeams, brilliant manifestation upon earth of the Eternal, sole immaterial essence in a material world, you tell it, for I only know how to relate prosaic commonplaces. But since you seem unwilling to do so, I am going to try myself.

The sky was blue and a fresh breeze, not yet laden with the fragrance of roses, stirred the leaves and flowers of the vines; that is why the cypresses, the orchids, the dried fishes, and the Chinese lanterns were trembling. The splash of paddles in the muddy waters of the river and the rattle of carriages and carts passing over the Binondo bridge came up to them distinctly, although they did not hear what the old aunt murmured as she saw where they were: "That’s better, there you’ll be watched by the whole neighborhood." At first they talked nonsense, giving utterance only to those sweet inanities which are so much like the boastings of the nations of Europe—pleasing and honey-sweet at home, but causing foreigners to laugh or frown.

She, like a sister of Cain, was of course jealous and asked her sweetheart, "Have you always thought of me? Have you never forgotten me on all your travels in the great cities among so many beautiful women?"

He, too, was a brother of Cain, and sought to evade such questions, making use of a little fiction. "Could I forget you?" he answered as he gazed enraptured into her dark eyes. "Could I be faithless to my oath, my sacred oath? Do you remember that stormy night when you saw me weeping alone by the side of my dead mother and, drawing [54]near to me, you put your hand on my shoulder, that hand which for so long a time you had not allowed me to touch, saying to me, ‘You have lost your mother while I never had one,’ and you wept with me? You loved her and she looked upon you as a daughter. Outside it rained and the lightning flashed, but within I seemed to hear music and to see a smile on the pallid face of the dead. Oh, that my parents were alive and might behold you now! I then caught your hand along with the hand of my mother and swore to love you and to make you happy, whatever fortune Heaven might have in store for me; and that oath, which has never weighed upon me as a burden, I now renew!

"Could I forget you? The thought of you has ever been with me, strengthening me amid the dangers of travel, and has been a comfort to my soul’s loneliness in foreign lands. The thoughts of you have neutralized the lotus-effect of Europe, which erases from the memories of so many of our countrymen the hopes and misfortunes of our fatherland. In dreams I saw you standing on the shore at Manila, gazing at the far horizon wrapped in the warm light of the early dawn. I heard the slow, sad song that awoke in me sleeping affections and called back to the memory of my heart the first years of our childhood, our joys, our pleasures, and all that happy past which you gave life to while you were in our town. It seemed to me that you were the fairy, the spirit, the poetic incarnation of my fatherland, beautiful, unaffected, lovable, frank, a true daughter of the Philippines, that beautiful land which unites with the imposing virtues of the mother country, Spain, the admirable qualities of a young people, as you unite in your being all that is beautiful and lovely, the inheritance of both races" so indeed the love of you and that of my fatherland have become fused into one.

"Could I forget you? Many times have I thought that I heard the sound of your piano and the accents of your voice. When in Germany, as I wandered at twilight [55]in the woods, peopled with the fantastic creations of its poets and the mysterious legends of past generations, always I called upon your name, imagining that I saw you in the mists that rose from the depths of the valley, or I fancied that I heard your voice in the rustling of the leaves. When from afar I heard the songs of the peasants as they returned from their labors, it seemed to me that their tones harmonized with my inner voices, that they were singing for you, and thus they lent reality to my illusions and dreams. At times I became lost among the mountain paths and while the night descended slowly, as it does there, I would find myself still wandering, seeking my way among the pines and beeches and oaks. Then when some scattering rays of moonlight slipped down into the clear spaces left in the dense foliage, I seemed to see you in the heart of the forest as a dim, loving shade wavering about between the spots of light and shadow. If perhaps the nightingale poured forth his varied trills, I fancied it was because he saw you and was inspired by you.

"Have I thought of you? The fever of love not only gave warmth to the snows but colored the ice! The beautiful skies of Italy with their clear depths reminded me of your eyes, its sunny landscape spoke to me of your smile; the plains of Andalusia with their scent-laden airs, peopled with oriental memories, full of romance and color, told me of your love! On dreamy, moonlit nights, while boating oil the Rhine, I have asked myself if my fancy did not deceive me as I saw you among the poplars on the banks, on the rocks of the Lorelei, or in the midst of the waters, singing in the silence of the night as if you were a comforting fairy maiden sent to enliven the solitude and sadness of those ruined castles!"

"I have not traveled like you, so I know only your town and Manila and Antipolo," she answered with a smile which showed that she believed all he said. "But since I said good-by to you and entered the convent, I have always thought of you and have only put you out of my mind [56]when ordered to do so by my confessor, who imposed many penances upon me. I recalled our games and our quarrels when we were children. You used to pick up the most beautiful shells and search in the river for the roundest and smoothest pebbles of different colors that we might play games with them. You were very stupid and always lost, and by way of a forfeit I would slap you with the palm of my hand, but I always tried not to strike you hard, for I had pity on you. In those games you cheated much, even more than I did, and we used to finish our play in a quarrel. Do you remember that time when you became really angry at me? Then you made me suffer, but afterwards, when I thought of it in the convent, I smiled and longed for you so that we might quarrel again—so that we might once more make up. We were still children and had gone with your mother to bathe in the brook under the shade of the thick bamboo. On the banks grew many flowers and plants whose strange names you told me in Latin and Spanish, for you were even then studying in the Ateneo.1 I paid no attention, but amused myself by running after the needle-like dragon-flies and the butterflies with their rainbow colors and tints of mother-of-pearl as they swarmed about among the flowers. Sometimes I tried to surprise them with my hands or to catch the little fishes that slipped rapidly about amongst the moss and stones in the edge of the water. Once you disappeared suddenly and when you returned you brought a crown of leaves and orange blossoms, which you placed upon my head, calling me Chloe. For yourself you made one of vines. But your mother snatched away my crown, and after mashing it with a stone mixed it with the gogo with which she was going to wash our heads. The tears came into your eyes and you said that she did not understand mythology. ‘Silly boy,’ your mother exclaimed, ‘you’ll [57]see how sweet your hair will smell afterwards.’ I laughed, but you were offended and would not talk with me, and for the rest of the day appeared so serious that then I wanted to cry. On our way back to the town through the hot sun, I picked some sage leaves that grew beside the path and gave them to you to put in your hat so that you might not get a headache. You smiled and caught my hand, and we made up."

Ibarra smiled with happiness as he opened his pocketbook and took from it a piece of paper in which were wrapped some dry, blackened leaves which gave off a sweet odor. "Your sage leaves," he said, in answer to her inquiring look. "This is all that you have ever given me."

She in turn snatched from her bosom a little pouch of white satin. "You must not touch this," she said, tapping the palm of his hand lightly. "It’s a letter of farewell."

"The one I wrote to you before leaving?"

"Have you ever written me any other, sir?"

"And what did I say to you then?"

"Many fibs, excuses of a delinquent debtor," she answered smilingly, thus giving him to understand how sweet to her those fibs were. "Be quiet now and I’ll read it to you. I’ll leave out your fine phrases in order not to make a martyr of you."

Raising the paper to the height of her eyes so that the youth might not see her face, she began: "‘My’—but I’ll not read what follows that because it’s not true."

Her eyes ran along some lines.

"‘My father wishes me to go away, in spite of all my pleadings. ‘You are a man now,’ he told me, ‘and you must think about your future and about your duties. You must learn the science of life, a thing which your fatherland cannot teach you, so that you may some day be useful to it. If you remain here in my shadow, in this environment of business affairs, you will not learn to look far ahead. The day in which you lose me you will find yourself like the plant of which our poet Baltazar tells: grown in the water, its leaves wither at the least scarcity of moisture [58]and a moment’s heat dries it up. Don’t you understand? You are almost a young man, and yet you weep!’ These reproaches hurt me and I confessed that I loved you. My father reflected for a time in silence and then, placing his hand on my shoulder, said in a trembling voice, ‘Do you think that you alone know how to love, that your father does not love you, and that he will not feel the separation from you? It is only a short time since we lost your mother, and I must journey on alone toward old age, toward the very time of life when I would seek help and comfort from your youth, yet I accept my loneliness, hardly knowing whether I shall ever see you again. But you must think of other and greater things; the future lies open before you, while for me it is already passing behind; your love is just awakening, while mine is dying; fire burns in your blood, while the chill is creeping into mine. Yet you weep and cannot sacrifice the present for the future, useful as it may be alike to yourself and to your country.’ My father’s eyes filled with tears and I fell upon my knees at his feet, I embraced him, I begged his forgiveness, and I assured him that I was ready to set out—’"

Ibarra’s growing agitation caused her to suspend the reading, for he had grown pale and was pacing back and forth.

"What’s the matter? What is troubling you?" she asked him.

"You have almost made me forget that I have my duties, that I must leave at once for the town. Tomorrow is the day for commemorating the dead."

Maria Clara silently fixed her large dreamy eyes upon him for a few moments and then, picking some flowers, she said with emotion, "Go, I won’t detain you longer! In a few days we shall see each other again. Lay these flowers on the tomb of your parents."

A few moments later the youth descended the stairway accompanied by Capitan Tiago and Aunt Isabel, while Maria Clara shut herself up in the oratory.

"Please tell Andeng to get the house ready, as Maria and Isabel are coming. A pleasant journey!" said Capitan [59]Tiago as Ibarra stepped into the carriage, which at once started in the direction of the plaza of San Gabriel.

Afterwards, by way of consolation, her father said to Maria Clara, who was weeping beside an image of the Virgin, "Come, light two candles worth two reals each, one to St. Roch,2 and one to St. Raphael, the protector of travelers. Light the lamp of Our Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages, since there are so many tulisanes. It’s better to spend four reals for wax and six cuartos for oil now than to pay a big ransom later." [60]

 

1 The "Ateneo Municipal," where the author, as well as nearly every other Filipino of note in the past generation, received his early education, was founded by the Jesuits shortly after their return to the islands in 1859.—TR.
2 The patron saint of Tondo, Manila’s Saint-Antoine. He is invoked for aid in driving away plagues,—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter VIII-Recollections}

 

Chapter VIII

Recollections

Ibarra’s carriage was passing through a part of the busiest district in Manila, the same which the night before had made him feel sad, but which by daylight caused him to smile in spite of himself. The movement in every part, so many carriages coming and going at full speed, the carromatas and calesas, the Europeans, the Chinese, the natives, each in his own peculiar costume, the fruit-venders, the money-changers, the naked porters, the grocery stores, the lunch stands and restaurants, the shops, and even the carts drawn by the impassive and indifferent carabao, who seems to amuse himself in carrying burdens while he patiently ruminates, all this noise and confusion, the very sun itself, the distinctive odors and the motley colors, awoke in the youth’s mind a world of sleeping recollections.

Those streets had not yet been paved, and two successive days of sunshine filled them with dust which covered everything and made the passer-by cough while it nearly blinded him. A day of rain formed pools of muddy water, which at night reflected the carriage lights and splashed mud a distance of several yards away upon the pedestrians on the narrow sidewalks. And how many women have left their embroidered slippers in those waves of mud!

Then there might have been seen repairing those streets the lines of convicts with their shaven heads, dressed in short-sleeved camisas and pantaloons that reached only to their knees, each with his letter and number in blue. On their legs were chains partly wrapped in dirty rags to [61]ease the chafing or perhaps the chill of the iron. Joined two by two, scorched in the sun, worn out by the heat and fatigue, they were lashed and goaded by a whip in the hands of one of their own number, who perhaps consoled himself with this power of maltreating others. They were tall men with somber faces, which he had never seen brightened with the light of a smile. Yet their eyes gleamed when the whistling lash fell upon their shoulders or when a passer-by threw them the chewed and broken stub of a cigar, which the nearest would snatch up and hide in his salakot, while the rest remained gazing at the passers-by with strange looks.

The noise of the stones being crushed to fill the puddles and the merry clank of the heavy fetters on the swollen ankles seemed to remain with Ibarra. He shuddered as he recalled a scene that had made a deep impression on his childish imagination. It was a hot afternoon, and the burning rays of the sun fell perpendicularly upon a large cart by the side of which was stretched out one of those unfortunates, lifeless, yet with his eyes half opened. Two others were silently preparing a bamboo bier, showing no signs of anger or sorrow or impatience, for such is the character attributed to the natives: today it is you, tomorrow it will be I, they say to themselves. The people moved rapidly about without giving heed, women came up and after a look of curiosity continued unconcerned on their way—it was such a common sight that their hearts had become callous. Carriages passed, flashing back from their varnished sides the rays of the sun that burned in a cloudless sky. Only he, a child of eleven years and fresh from the country, was moved, and to him alone it brought bad dreams on the following night.

There no longer existed the useful and honored Puente de Barcas, the good Filipino pontoon bridge that had done its best to be of service in spite of its natural imperfections and its rising and falling at the caprice of the Pasig, which had more than once abused it and finally destroyed [62]it. The almond trees in the plaza of San Gabriel1 had not grown; they were still in the same feeble and stunted condition. The Escolta appeared less beautiful in spite of the fact that an imposing building with caryatids carved on its front now occupied the place of the old row of shops. The new Bridge of Spain caught his attention, while the houses on the right bank of the river among the clumps of bamboo and trees where the Escolta ends and the Isla de Romero begins, reminded him of the cool mornings when he used to pass there in a boat on his way to the baths of Uli-Uli.

He met many carriages, drawn by beautiful pairs of dwarfish ponies, within which were government clerks who seemed yet half asleep as they made their way to their offices, or military officers, or Chinese in foolish and ridiculous attitudes, or Gave friars and canons. In an elegant victoria he thought he recognized Padre Damaso, grave and frowning, but he had already passed. Now he was pleasantly greeted by Capitan Tinong, who was passing in a carretela with his wife and two daughters.

As they went down off the bridge the horses broke into a trot along the Sabana Drive.2 On the left the Arroceros Cigar Factory resounded with the noise of the cigar-makers pounding the tobacco leaves, and Ibarra was unable to restrain a smile as he thought of the strong odor which about five o’clock in the afternoon used to float all over the Puente de Barcas and which had made him sick when he was a child. The lively conversations and the repartee of the crowds from the cigar factories carried him back to the district of Lavapiés in Madrid, with its riots of cigar-makers, so fatal for the unfortunate policemen. The Botanical Garden drove away these agreeable recollections; the demon of comparison brought before his mind the Botanical Gardens of Europe, in countries where great, labor and much money are needed to make a single [63]leaf grow or one flower open its calyx; he recalled those of the colonies, where they are well supplied and tended, and all open to the public. Ibarra turned away his gaze toward the old Manila surrounded still by its walls and moats like a sickly girl wrapped in the garments of her grandmother’s better days.

Then the sight of the sea losing itself in the distance! "On the other shore lies Europe," thought the young man,—"Europe, with its attractive peoples in constant movement in the search for happiness, weaving their dreams in the morning and disillusioning themselves at the setting of the sun, happy even in the midst of their calamities. Yes, on the farther shore of the boundless sea are the really spiritual nations, those who, even though they put no restraints on material development, are still more spiritual than those who pride themselves on adoring only the spirit!"

But these musings were in turn banished from his mind as he came in sight of the little mound in Bagumbayan Field.3 This isolated knoll at the side of the Luneta now caught his attention and made him reminiscent. He thought of the man who had awakened his intellect and made him understand goodness and justice. The ideas which that man had impressed upon him were not many, to be sure, but they were not meaningless repetitions, they were convictions which had not paled in the light of the most brilliant foci of progress. That man was an old priest whose words of farewell still resounded in his ears: "Do [64]not forget that if knowledge is the heritage of mankind, it is only the courageous who inherit it," he had reminded him. "I have tried to pass on to you what I got from my teachers, the sum of which I have endeavored to increase and transmit to the coming generation as far as in me lay. You will now do the same for those who come after you, and you can treble it, since you are going to rich countries." Then he had added with a smile, "They come here seeking wealth, go you to their country to seek also that other wealth which we lack! But remember that all that glitters is not gold." The old man had died on that spot.

At these recollections the youth murmured audibly: "No, in spite of everything, the fatherland first, first the Philippines, the child of Spain, first the Spanish fatherland! No, that which is decreed by fate does not tarnish the honor of the fatherland, no!"

He gave little heed to Ermita, the phenix of nipa that had rearisen from its ashes under the form of blue and white houses with red-painted roofs of corrugated iron. Nor was his attention caught by Malate, neither by the cavalry barracks with the spreading trees in front, nor by the inhabitants or their little nipa huts, pyramidal or prismatic in shape, hidden away among the banana plants and areca palms, constructed like nests by each father of a family.

The carriage continued on its way, meeting now and then carromatas drawn by one or two ponies whose abaka harness indicated that they were from the country. The drivers would try to catch a glimpse of the occupant of the fine carriage, but would pass on without exchanging a word, without a single salute. At times a heavy cart drawn by a slow and indifferent carabao would appear on the dusty road over which beat the brilliant sunlight of the tropics. The mournful and monotonous song of the driver mounted on the back of the carabao would be mingled at one time with the screechings of a dry wheel on the huge axle of the heavy vehicle or at another time with [65]the dull scraping of worn-out runners on a sledge which was dragged heavily through the dust, and over the ruts in the road. In the fields and wide meadows the herds were grazing, attended ever by the white buffalo-birds which roosted peacefully on the backs of the animals while these chewed their cuds or browsed in lazy contentment upon the rich grass. In the distance ponies frisked, jumping and running about, pursued by the lively colts with long tails and abundant manes who whinnied and pawed the ground with their hard hoofs.

Let us leave the youth dreaming or dozing, since neither the sad nor the animated poetry of the open country held his attention. For him there was no charm in the sun that gleamed upon the tops of the trees and caused the rustics, with feet burned by the hot ground in spite of their callousness, to hurry along, or that made the villager pause beneath the shade of an almond tree or a bamboo brake while he pondered upon vague and inexplicable things. While the youth’s carriage sways along like a drunken thing on account of the inequalities in the surface of the road when passing over a bamboo bridge or going up an incline or descending a steep slope, let us return to Manila. [66]

 

 

1 Now Plaza Cervantes.—TR.
2 Now Plaza Lawton and Bagumbayan; see note, infra.— TR.
3 The Field of Bagumbayan, adjoining the Luneta, was the place where political prisoners were shot or garroted, and was the scene of the author’s execution on December 30, 1906. It is situated just outside and east of the old Walled City (Manila proper), being the location to which the natives who had occupied the site of Manila moved their town after having been driven back by the Spaniards—hence the name, which is a Tagalog compound meaning "new town." This place is now called Wallace Field, the name Bagumbayan being applied to the driveway which was known to the Spaniards as the Paseo de las Aguadas, or de Vidal, extending from the Luneta to the Bridge of Spain, just outside the moat that, formerly encircled the Walled City.—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter IX-Local Affairs}

 

 

Chapter IX

Local Affairs

Ibarra had not been mistaken about the occupant of the victoria, for it was indeed Padre Damaso, and he was on his way to the house which the youth had just left.

"Where are you going?" asked the friar of Maria Clara and Aunt Isabel, who were about to enter a silver-mounted carriage. In the midst of his preoccupation Padre Damaso stroked the maiden’s cheek lightly.

"To the convent to get my things," answered the latter.

"Ahaa! Aha! We’ll see who’s stronger, we’ll see," muttered the friar abstractedly, as with bowed head and slow step he turned to the stairway, leaving the two women not a little amazed.

"He must have a sermon to preach and is memorizing it," commented Aunt Isabel. "Get in, Maria, or we’ll be late."

Whether or not Padre Damaso was preparing a sermon we cannot say, but it is certain that some grave matter filled his mind, for he did not extend his hand to Capitan Tiago, who had almost to get down on his knees to kiss it.

"Santiago," said the friar at once, "I have an important matter to talk to you about. Let’s go into your office."

Capitan Tiago began to feel uneasy, so much so that he did not know what to say; but he obeyed, following the heavy figure of the priest, who closed the door behind him.

While they confer in secret, let us learn what Fray [67]Sibyla has been doing. The astute Dominican is not at the rectory, for very soon after celebrating mass he had gone to the convent of his order, situated just inside the gate of Isabel II, or of Magellan, according to what family happened to be reigning in Madrid. Without paying any attention to the rich odor of chocolate, or to the rattle of boxes and coins which came from the treasury, and scarcely acknowledging the respectful and deferential salute of the procurator-brother, he entered, passed along several corridors, and knocked at a door.

"Come in," sighed a weak voice.

"May God restore health to your Reverence," was the young Dominican’s greeting as he entered.

Seated in a large armchair was an aged priest, wasted and rather sallow, like the saints that Rivera painted. His eyes were sunken in their hollow sockets, over which his heavy eyebrows were almost always contracted, thus accentuating their brilliant gleam. Padre Sibyla, with his arms crossed under the venerable scapulary of St. Dominic, gazed at him feelingly, then bowed his head and waited in silence.

"Ah," sighed the old man, "they advise an operation, an operation, Hernando, at my age! This country, O this terrible country! Take warning from my ease, Hernando!"

Fray Sibyla raised his eyes slowly and fixed them on the sick man’s face. "What has your Reverence decided to do?" he asked.

"To die! Ah, what else can I do? I am suffering too much, but—I have made many suffer, I am paying my debt! And how are you? What has brought you here?"

"I’ve come to talk about the business which you committed to my care."

"Ah! What about it?"

"Pish!" answered the young man disgustedly, as he seated himself and turned away his face with a contemptuous [68]expression, "They’ve been telling us fairy tales. Young Ibarra is a youth of discernment; he doesn’t seem to be a fool, but I believe that he is a good lad."

"You believe so?"

"Hostilities began last night."

"Already? How?"

Fray Sibyla then recounted briefly what had taken place between Padre Damaso and Ibarra. "Besides," he said in conclusion, "the young man is going to marry Capitan Tiago’s daughter, who was educated in the college of our Sisterhood. He’s rich, and won’t care to make enemies and to run the risk of ruining his fortune and his happiness."

The sick man nodded in agreement. "Yes, I think as you do. With a wife like that and such a father-in-law, we’ll own him body and soul. If not, so much the better for him to declare himself an enemy of ours."

Fray Sibyla looked at the old man in surprise.

"For the good of our holy Order, I mean, of course," he added, breathing heavily. "I prefer open attacks to the silly praises and flatteries of friends, which are really paid for."

"Does your Reverence think—"

The old man regarded him sadly. "Keep it clearly before you," he answered, gasping for breath. "Our power will last as long as it is believed in. If they attack us, the government will say, ‘They attack them because they see in them an obstacle to their liberty, so then let us preserve them.’"

"But if it should listen to them? Sometimes the government—"

"It will not listen!"

"Nevertheless, if, led on by cupidity, it should come to wish for itself what we are taking in—if there should be some bold and daring one—"

"Then woe unto that one!"

Both remained silent for a time, then the sick man continued: [69]"Besides, we need their attacks, to keep us awake; that makes us see our weaknesses so that we may remedy them. Exaggerated flattery will deceive us and put us to sleep, while outside our walls we shall be laughed at, and the day in which we become an object of ridicule, we shall fall as we fell in Europe. Money will not flow into our churches, no one will buy our scapularies or girdles or anything else, and when we cease to be rich we shall no longer be able to control consciences."

"But we shall always have our estates, our property."

"All will be lost as we lost them in Europe! And the worst of it is that we are working toward our own ruin. For example, this unrestrained eagerness to raise arbitrarily the rents on our lands each year, this eagerness which I have so vainly combated in all the chapters, this will ruin us! The native sees himself obliged to purchase farms in other places, which bring him as good returns as ours, or better. I fear that we are already on the decline; quos vult perdere Jupiter dementat prius.1 For this reason we should not increase our burden; the people are already murmuring. You have decided well: let us leave the others to settle their accounts in that quarter; let us preserve the prestige that remains to us, and as we shall soon appear before God, let us wash our hands of it—and may the God of mercy have pity on our weakness!"

"So your Reverence thinks that the rent or tax—"

"Let’s not talk any more about money," interrupted the sick man with signs of disgust. "You say that the lieutenant threatened to Padre Damaso that—"

"Yes, Padre," broke in Fray Sibyla with a faint smile, "but this morning I saw him and he told me that he was sorry for what occurred last night, that the sherry had gone to his head, and that he believed that Padre Damaso was in the same condition. ‘And your threat?’ I asked him jokingly. ‘Padre,’ he answered me, ‘I know how to keep my word when my honor is affected, but I am not nor have [70]ever been an informer—for that reason I wear only two stars.’"

After they had conversed a while longer on unimportant subjects, Fray Sibyla took his departure.

It was true that the lieutenant had not gone to the Palace, but the Captain-General heard what had occurred. While talking with some of his aides about the allusions that the Manila newspapers were making to him under the names of comets and celestial apparitions, one of them told him about the affair of Padre Damaso, with a somewhat heightened coloring although substantially correct as to matter.

"From whom did you learn this?" asked his Excellency, smiling.

"From Laruja, who was telling it this morning in the office."

The Captain-General again smiled and said: "A woman or a friar can’t insult one. I contemplate living in peace for the time that I shall remain in this country and I don’t want any more quarrels with men who wear skirts. Besides, I’ve learned that the Provincial has scoffed at my orders. I asked for the removal of this friar as a punishment and they transferred him to a better town ‘monkish tricks,’ as we say in Spain."

But when his Excellency found himself alone he stopped smiling. "Ah, if this people were not so stupid, I would put a curb on their Reverences," he sighed to himself. "But every people deserves its fate, so let’s do as everybody else does."

Capitan Tiago, meanwhile, had concluded his interview with Padre Damaso, or rather, to speak more exactly, Padre Damaso had concluded with him.

"So now you are warned!" said the Franciscan on leaving. "All this could have been avoided if you had consulted me beforehand, if you had not lied when I asked you. Try not to play any more foolish tricks, and trust your protector."

[71]Capitan Tiago walked up and down the sala a few times, meditating and sighing. Suddenly, as if a happy thought had occurred to him, he ran to the oratory and extinguished the candles and the lamp that had been lighted for Ibarra’s safety. "The way is long and there’s yet time," he muttered. [72]

 

 

1 Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter X-The Town}

 

 

Chapter X

The Town

Almost on the margin of the lake, in the midst of meadows and paddy-fields, lies the town of San Diego.1 From it sugar, rice, coffee, and fruits are either exported or sold for a small part of their value to the Chinese, who exploit the simplicity and vices of the native farmers. When on a clear day the boys ascend to the upper part of the church tower, which is beautified by moss and creeping plants, they break out into joyful exclamations at the beauty of the scene spread out before them. In the midst of the clustering roofs of nipa, tiles, corrugated iron, and palm leaves, separated by groves and gardens, each one is able to discover his own home, his little nest. Everything serves as a mark: a tree, that tamarind with its light foliage, that coco palm laden with nuts, like the Astarte Genetrix, or the Diana of Ephesus with her numerous breasts, a bending bamboo, an areca palm, or a cross. Yonder is the river, a huge glassy serpent sleeping on a green carpet, with rocks, scattered here and there along its sandy channel, that break its current into ripples. There, the bed is narrowed between high banks to which the gnarled trees cling with bared roots; here, it becomes a gentle slope where the stream widens and eddies about. Farther away, a small hut built on the edge of the high bank seems to defy the winds, the heights and the depths, presenting [73]with its slender posts the appearance of a huge, long-legged bird watching for a reptile to seize upon. Trunks of palm or other trees with their bark still on them unite the banks by a shaky and infirm foot-bridge which, if not a very secure crossing, is nevertheless a wonderful contrivance for gymnastic exercises in preserving one’s balance, a thing not to be despised. The boys bathing in the river are amused by the difficulties of the old woman crossing with a basket on her head or by the antics of the old man who moves tremblingly and loses his staff in the water.

But that which always attracts particular notice is what might be called a peninsula of forest in the sea of cultivated fields. There in that wood are century-old trees with hollow trunks, which die only when their high tops are struck and set on fire by the lightning—and it is said that the fire always checks itself and dies out in the same spot. There are huge points of rock which time and nature are clothing with velvet garments of moss. Layer after layer of dust settles in the hollows, the rains beat it down, and the birds bring seeds. The tropical vegetation spreads out luxuriantly in thickets and underbrush, while curtains of interwoven vines hang from the branches of the trees and twine about their roots or spread along the ground, as if Flora were not yet satisfied but must place plant above plant. Mosses and fungi live upon the cracked trunks, and orchids—graceful guests—twine in loving embrace with the foliage of the hospitable trees.

Strange legends exist concerning this wood, which is held in awe by the country folk. The most credible account, and therefore the one least known and believed, seems to be this. When the town was still a collection of miserable huts with the grass growing abundantly in the so-called streets, at the time when the wild boar and deer roamed about during the nights, there arrived in the place one day an old, hollow-eyed Spaniard, who spoke Tagalog rather well. After looking about and inspecting the land, he finally inquired for the owners of this wood, in which [74]there were hot springs. Some persons who claimed to be such presented themselves, and the old man acquired it in exchange for clothes, jewels, and a sum of money. Soon afterward he disappeared mysteriously. The people thought that he had been spirited away, when a bad odor from the neighboring wood attracted the attention of some herdsmen. Tracing this, they found the decaying corpse of the old Spaniard hanging from the branch of a balete tree.2 In life he had inspired fear by his deep, hollow voice, his sunken eyes, and his mirthless laugh, but now, dead by his own act, he disturbed the sleep of the women. Some threw the jewels into the river and burned the clothes, and from the time that the corpse was buried at the foot of the balete itself, no one willingly ventured near the spot. A belated herdsman looking for some of his strayed charges told of lights that he had seen there, and when some venturesome youths went to the place they heard mournful cries. To win the smiles of his disdainful lady, a forlorn lover agreed to spend the night there and in proof to wrap around the trunk a long piece of rattan, but he died of a quick fever that seized him the very next day. Stories and legends still cluster about the place. A few months after the finding of the old Spaniard’s body there appeared a youth, apparently a Spanish mestizo, who said that he was the son of the deceased. He established himself in the place and devoted his attention to agriculture, especially the raising of indigo. Don Saturnino was a silent young man with a violent disposition, even cruel at times, yet he was energetic and industrious. He surrounded the grave of his father with a

[75]wall, but visited it only at rare intervals. When he was along in years, he married a young woman from Manila, and she became the mother of Don Rafael, the father of Crisostomo. From his youth Don Rafael was a favorite with the country people. The agricultural methods introduced and encouraged by his father spread rapidly, new settlers poured in, the Chinese came, and the settlement became a village with a native priest. Later the village grew into a town, the priest died, and Fray Damaso came.

All this time the tomb and the land around it remained unmolested. Sometimes a crowd of boys armed with clubs and stones would become bold enough to wander into the place to gather guavas, papayas, lomboy, and other fruits, but it frequently happened that when their sport was at its height, or while they gazed in awed silence at the rotting piece of rope which still swung from the branch, stones would fall, coming from they knew not where. Then with cries of "The old man! The old man!" they would throw away fruit and clubs, jump from the trees, and hurry between the rocks and through the thickets; nor would they stop running until they were well out of the wood, some pale and breathless, others weeping, and only a few laughing. [76]

1 We have been unable to find any town of this name, but many of these conditions.—Author’s note.
San Diego and Santiago are variant forms of the name of the patron saint of Spain, St. James.—TR.
2 The "sacred tree" of Malaya, being a species of banyan that begins life as a vine twining on another tree, which it finally strangles, using the dead trunk as a support until it is able to stand alone. When old it often covers a large space with gnarled and twisted trunks of varied shapes and sizes, thus presenting a weird and grotesque appearance. This tree was held in reverent awe by the primitive Filipinos, who believed it to be the abode of the nono, or ancestral ghosts, and is still the object of superstitious beliefs,—TR.
Continue Reading - Chapters XI to XX


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