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Home Sections DrRizal.com The Social Cancer (Noli Me Tangere) Chapter XI to XX
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Written by Jose Rizal   
Monday, 18 June 2007 23:04

 

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The Social Cancer

A Complete English Version of Noli Me Tangere from the Spanish of
José Rizal
By
Charles Derbyshire

Manila
Philippine Education Company
New York: World Book Company
1912

THE NOVELS OF JOSÉ RIZAL

Translated from Spanish into English

BY CHARLES DERBYSHIRE

· THE SOCIAL CANCER (NOLI ME TANGERE)

· THE REIGN OF GREED (EL FILIBUSTERISMO)

Copyright, 1912, by Philippine Education Company.
Entered at Stationers’ Hall.
Registrado en las Islas Filipinas.
All rights reserved.

Contents

 

 

Author’s Dedication

I

A Social Gathering

II

Crisostomo Ibarra

III

The Dinner

IV

Heretic and Filibuster

V

A Star in a Dark Night

VI

Capitan Tiago

VII

An Idyl on an Azotea

VIII

Recollections

IX

Local Affairs

X

The Town

XI

The Rulers

XII

All Saints

XIII

Signs of Storm

XIV

Tasio: Lunatic or Sage

XV

The Sacristans

XVI

Sisa

XVII

Basilio

XVIII

Souls In Torment

XIX

A Schoolmaster’s Difficulties

XX

The Meeting in the Town Hall

XXI

The Story of a Mother[liv]

XXII

Lights and Shadows

XXIII

Fishing

XXIV

In the Wood

XXV

In the House of the Sage

XXVI

The Eve of the Fiesta

XXVII

In the Twilight

XXVIII

Correspondence

XXIX

The Morning

XXX

In the Church

XXXI

The Sermon

XXXII

The Derrick

XXXIII

Free Thought

XXXIV

The Dinner

XXXV

Comments

XXXVI

The First Cloud

XXXVII

His Excellency

XXXVIII

The Procession

XXXIX

Doña Consolación

XL

Right and Might

XLI

Two Visits

XLII

The Espadañas

XLIII

Plans

XLIV

An Examination of Conscience

XLV

The Hunted

XLVI

The Cockpit

XLVII

The Two Señoras

XLVIII

The Enigma

XLIX

The Voice of the Hunted[iv]

L

Elias’s Story

LI

Exchanges

LII

The Cards of the Dead and the Shadows

LIII

Il Buon Dí Si Conosce Da Mattina

LIV

Revelations

LV

The Catastrophe

LVI

Rumors and Belief

LVII

Vae Victis!

LVIII

The Accursed

LIX

Patriotism and Private Interests

LX

Maria Clara Weds

LXI

The Chase on the Lake

LXII

Padre Damaso Explains

LXIII

Christmas Eve

 

Epilogue

 

Glossary

 

 

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XI-The Rulers} 

Chapter XI The Rulers

Divide and rule.

(The New Machiavelli.)

Who were the caciques of the town?

Don Rafael, when alive, even though he was the richest, owned more land, and was the patron of nearly everybody, had not been one of them. As he was modest and depreciated the value of his own deeds, no faction in his favor had ever been formed in the town, and we have already seen how the people all rose up against him when they saw him hesitate upon being attacked.

Could it be Capitan Tiago? True it was that when he went there he was received with an orchestra by his debtors, who banqueted him and heaped gifts upon him. The finest fruits burdened his table and a quarter of deer or wild boar was his share of the hunt. If he found the horse of a debtor beautiful, half an hour afterwards it was in his stable. All this was true, but they laughed at him behind his back and in secret called him "Sacristan Tiago."

Perhaps it was the gobernadorcillo?1 No, for he was [77]only an unhappy mortal who commanded not, but obeyed; who ordered not, but was ordered; who drove not, but was driven. Nevertheless, he had to answer to the alcalde for having commanded, ordered, and driven, just as if he were the originator of everything. Yet be it said to his credit that he had never presumed upon or usurped such honors, which had cost him five thousand pesos and many humiliations. But considering the income it brought him, it was cheap. Well then, might it be God? Ah, the good God disturbed neither the consciences nor the sleep of the inhabitants. At least, He did not make them tremble, and if by chance He might have been mentioned in a sermon, surely they would have sighed longingly, "Oh, that only there were a God!" To the good Lord they paid little attention, as the saints gave them enough to do. For those poor folk God had come to be like those unfortunate monarchs who are surrounded by courtiers to whom alone the people render homage.

San Diego was a kind of Rome: not the Rome of the time when the cunning Romulus laid out its walls with a plow, nor of the later time when, bathed in its own and others’ blood, it dictated laws to the world—no, it was a Rome of our own times with the difference that in place of marble monuments and colosseums it had its monuments of sawali and its cockpit of nipa. The curate was the Pope in the Vatican; the alferez of the Civil Guard, the King of Italy on the Quirinal: all, it must be understood, on a scale of nipa and bamboo. Here, as there, continual quarreling went on, since each wished to be the master [78]and considered the other an intruder. Let us examine the characteristics of each. Fray Bernardo Salvi was that silent young Franciscan of whom we have spoken before. In his habits and manners he was quite different from his brethren and even from his predecessor, the violent Padre Damaso. He was thin and sickly, habitually pensive, strict in the fulfilment of his religious duties, and careful of his good name. In a month after his arrival nearly every one in the town had joined the Venerable Tertiary Order, to the great distress of its rival, the Society of the Holy Rosary. His soul leaped with joy to see about each neck four or five scapularies and around each waist a knotted girdle, and to behold the procession of corpses and ghosts in guingón habits. The senior sacristan made a small fortune selling—or giving away as alms, we should say—all things necessary for the salvation of the soul and the warfare against the devil, as it is well known that this spirit, which formerly had the temerity to contradict God himself face to face and to doubt His words, as is related in the holy book of Job, who carried our Lord Christ through the air as afterwards in the Dark Ages he carried the ghosts, and continues, according to report, to carry the asuang of the Philippines, now seems to have become so shamefaced that he cannot endure the sight of a piece of painted cloth and that he fears the knots on a cord. But all this proves nothing more than that there is progress on this side also and that the devil is backward, or at least a conservative, as are all who dwell in darkness. Otherwise, we must attribute to him the weakness of a fifteen-year-old girl.

As we have said, Fray Salvi was very assiduous in the fulfilment of his duties, too assiduous, the alferez thought. While he was preaching—he was very fond of preaching—the doors of the church were closed, wherein he was like Nero, who allowed no one to leave the theater while he was singing. But the former did it for the salvation and the latter for the corruption of souls. Fray Salvi [79]rarely resorted to blows, but was accustomed to punish every shortcoming of his subordinates with fines. In this respect he was very different from Padre Damaso, who had been accustomed to settle everything with his fists or a cane, administering such chastisement with the greatest good-will. For this, however, he should not be judged too harshly, as he was firm in the belief that the Indian could be managed only by beating him, just as was affirmed by a friar who knew enough to write books, and Padre Damaso never disputed anything that he saw in print, a credulity of which many might have reason to complain. Although Fray Salvi made little use of violence, yet, as an old wiseacre of the town said, what he lacked in quantity he made up in quality. But this should not be counted against him, for the fasts and abstinences thinned his blood and unstrung his nerves and, as the people said, the wind got into his head. Thus it came about that it was not possible to learn from the condition of the sacristans’ backs whether the curate was fasting or feasting. The only rival of this spiritual power, with tendencies toward the temporal, was, as we have said, the alferez: the only one, since the women told how the devil himself would flee from the curate, because, having one day dared to tempt him, he was caught, tied to a bedpost, soundly whipped with a rope, and set at liberty only after nine days. As a consequence, any one who after this would still be the enemy of such a man, deserved to fall into worse repute than even the weak and unwary devils.

But the alferez deserved his fate. His wife was an old Filipina of abundant rouge and paint, known as Doña Consolacion—although her husband and some others called her by quite another name. The alferez revenged his conjugal misfortunes on his own person by getting so drunk that he made a tank of himself, or by ordering his soldiers to drill in the sun while he remained in the shade, or, more frequently, by beating up his consort, who, if she was not a lamb of God to take away one’s [80]sins, at least served to lay up for her spouse many torments in Purgatory—if perchance he should get there, a matter of doubt to the devout women. As if for the fun of it, these two used to beat each other up beautifully, giving free shows to the neighborhood with vocal and instrumental accompaniments, four-handed, soft, loud, with pedal and all. Whenever these scandals reached the ears of Padre Salvi, he would smile, cross himself, and recite a paternoster. They called him a grafter, a hypocrite, a Carlist, and a miser: he merely smiled and recited more prayers. The alferez had a little anecdote which he always related to the occasional Spaniards who visited him:

"Are you going over to the convento to visit the sanctimonious rascal there, the little curate? Yes! Well, if he offers you chocolate which I doubt—but if he offers it remember this: if he calls to the servant and says, ‘Juan, make a cup of chocolate, eh!’ then stay without fear; but if he calls out, ‘Juan, make a cup of chocolate, ah!’ then take your hat and leave on a run."

"What!" the startled visitor would ask, "does he poison people? Carambas!"

"No, man, not at all!"

"What then?"

"‘Chocolate, eh!’ means thick and rich, while ‘chocolate, ah!’ means watered and thin."

But we are of the opinion that this was a slander on the part of the alferez, since the same story is told of many curates. At least, it may be a thing peculiar to the Order.

To make trouble for the curate, the soldier, at the instigation of his wife, would prohibit any one from walking abroad after nine o’clock at night. Doña Consolacion would then claim that she had seen the curate, disguised in a piña camisa and salakot, walking about late. Fray Salvi would take his revenge in a holy manner. Upon seeing the alferez enter the church he would innocently order the sacristan to close all the doors, and would then go [81]up into the pulpit and preach until the very saints closed their eyes and even the wooden dove above his head, the image of the Holy Ghost, murmured for mercy. But the alferez, like all the unregenerate, did not change his ways for this; he would go away cursing, and as soon as he was able to catch a sacristan, or one of the curate’s servants, he would arrest him, give him a beating, and make him scrub the floor of the barracks and that of his own house, which at such times was put in a decent condition. On going to pay the fine imposed by the curate for his absence, the sacristan would explain the cause. Fray Salvi would listen in silence, take the money, and at once turn out his goats and sheep so that they might graze in the alferez’s garden, while he himself looked up a new text for another longer and more edifying sermon. But these were only little pleasantries, and if the two chanced to meet they would shake hands and converse politely. When her husband was sleeping off the wine he had drunk, or was snoring through the siesta, and she could not quarrel with him, Doña Consolacion, in a blue flannel camisa, with a big cigar in her mouth, would take her stand at the window. She could not endure the young people, so from there she would scrutinize and mock the passing girls, who, being afraid of her, would hurry by in confusion, holding their breath the while, and not daring to raise their eyes. One great virtue Doña Consolation possessed, and this was that she had evidently never looked in a mirror.

These were the rulers of the town of San Diego. [82]

 

1 "Petty governor," the chief municipal official, chosen annually from among their own number, with the approval of the parish priest and the central government, by the principalía, i.e., persons who owned considerable property or who had previously held some municipal office. The manner of his selection is thus described by a German traveler (Jagor) in the Philippines in 1860: "The election is held in the town hall. The governor or his representative presides, having on his right the parish priest and on his left a clerk, who also acts as interpreter. All the cabezas de barangay, the gobernadorcillo, and those who have formerly occupied the latter position, seat themselves on benches. First, there are chosen by lot six cabezas de barangay and six ex-gobernadorcillos as electors, the actual gobernadorcillo being the thirteenth. The [77n]rest leave the hall. After the presiding officer has read the statutes in a loud voice and reminded the electors of their duty to act in accordance with their consciences and to heed only the welfare of the town, the electors move to a table and write three names on a slip of paper. The person receiving a majority of votes is declared elected gobernadorcillo for the ensuing year, provided that there is no protest from the curate or the electors, and always conditioned upon the approval of the superior authority in Manila, which is never withheld, since the influence of the curate is enough to prevent an unsatisfactory election."—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XII-All Saints}

Chapter XII

All Saints

The one thing perhaps that indisputably distinguishes man from the brute creation is the attention which he pays to those who have passed away and, wonder of wonders! this characteristic seems to be more deeply rooted in proportion to the lack of civilization. Historians relate that the ancient inhabitants of the Philippines venerated and deified their ancestors; but now the contrary is true, and the dead have to entrust themselves to the living. It is also related that the people of New Guinea preserve the bones of their dead in chests and maintain communication with them. The greater part of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and America offer them the finest products of their kitchens or dishes of what was their favorite food when alive, and give banquets at which they believe them to be present. The Egyptians raised up palaces and the Mussulmans built shrines, but the masters in these things, those who have most clearly read the human heart, are the people of Dahomey. These negroes know that man is revengeful, so they consider that nothing will more content the dead than to sacrifice all his enemies upon his grave, and, as man is curious and may not know how to entertain himself in the other life, each year they send him a newsletter under the skin of a beheaded slave.

We ourselves differ from all the rest. In spite of the inscriptions on the tombs, hardly any one believes that the dead rest, and much less, that they rest in peace. The most optimistic fancies his forefathers still roasting in purgatory and, if it turns out that he himself be not completely damned, he will yet be able to associate with them for many [83]years. If any one would contradict let him visit the churches and cemeteries of the country on All Saints’ day and he will be convinced. Now that we are in San Diego let us visit its cemetery, which is located in the midst of paddy-fields, there toward the west—not a city, merely a village of the dead, approached by a path dusty in dry weather and navigable on rainy days. A wooden gate and a fence half of stone and half of bamboo stakes, appear to separate it from the abode of the living but not from the curate’s goats and some of the pigs of the neighborhood, who come and go making explorations among the tombs and enlivening the solitude with their presence. In the center of this enclosure rises a large wooden cross set on a stone pedestal. The storms have doubled over the tin plate for the inscription INRI, and the rains have effaced the letters. At the foot of the cross, as on the real Golgotha, is a confused heap of skulls and bones which the indifferent grave-digger has thrown from the graves he digs, and there they will probably await, not the resurrection of the dead, but the coming of the animals to defile them. Round about may be noted signs of recent excavations; here the earth is sunken, there it forms a low mound. There grow in all their luxuriance the tarambulo to prick the feet with its spiny berries and the pandakaki to add its odor to that of the cemetery, as if the place did not have smells enough already. Yet the ground is sprinkled with a few little flowers which, like those skulls, are known only to their Creator; their petals wear a pale smile and their fragrance is the fragrance of the tombs. The grass and creepers fill up the corners or climb over the walls and niches to cover and beautify the naked ugliness and in places even penetrate into the fissures made by the earthquakes, so as to hide from sight the revered hollowness of the sepulcher.

At the time we enter, the people have driven the animals away, with the single exception of some old hog, an animal that is hard to convince, who shows his small eyes and [84]pulling back his head from a great gap in the fence, sticks up his snout and seems to say to a woman praying near, "Don’t eat it all, leave something for me, won’t you?" Two men are digging a grave near one of the tottering walls. One of them, the grave-digger, works with indifference, throwing about bones as a gardener does stones and dry branches, while the other, more intent on his work, is perspiring, smoking, and spitting at every moment.

"Listen," says the latter in Tagalog, "wouldn’t it be better for us to dig in some other place? This is too recent."

"One grave is as recent as another."

"I can’t stand it any longer! That bone you’re just cut in two has blood oozing from it—and those hairs?"

"But how sensitive you are!" was the other’s reproach. "Just as if you were a town clerk! If, like myself, you had dug up a corpse of twenty days, on a dark and rainy night—! My lantern went out—"

His companion shuddered.

"The coffin burst open, the corpse fell half-way out, it stunk—and supposing you had to carry it—the rain wet us both—"

"Ugh! And why did you dig it up?"

The grave-digger looked at him in surprise. "Why? How do I know? I was ordered to do so."

"Who ordered you?"

The grave-digger stepped backward and looked his companion over from head to foot. "Man, you’re like a Spaniard, for afterwards a Spaniard asked me the same questions, but in secret. So I’m going to answer you as I answered the Spaniard: the fat curate ordered me to do so."

"Ah! And what did you do with the corpse afterwards?" further questioned the sensitive one.

"The devil! If I didn’t know you and was not sure that you are a man I would say that you were certainly a Spaniard of the Civil Guard, since you ask questions just as he did. Well, the fat curate ordered me to bury it in [85]the Chinamen’s cemetery, but the coffin was heavy and the Chinese cemetery far away—" "No, no! I’m not going to dig any more!" the other interrupted in horror as he threw away his spade and jumped out of the hole. "I’ve cut a skull in two and I’m afraid that it won’t let me sleep tonight." The old grave-digger laughed to see how the chicken-hearted fellow left, crossing himself.

The cemetery was filling up with men and women dressed in mourning. Some sought a grave for a time, disputing among themselves the while, and as if they were unable to agree, they scattered about, each kneeling where he thought best. Others, who had niches for their deceased relatives, lighted candles and fell to praying devoutly. Exaggerated or suppressed sighs and sobs were heard amid the hum of prayers, orapreo, orapreiss, requiem-aeternams, that arose from all sides.

A little old man with bright eyes entered bareheaded. Upon seeing him many laughed, and some women knitted their eyebrows. The old man did not seem to pay any attention to these demonstrations as he went toward a pile of skulls and knelt to look earnestly for something among the bones. Then he carefully removed the skulls one by one, but apparently without finding what he sought, for he wrinkled his brow, nodded his head from side to side, looked all about him, and finally rose and approached the grave-digger, who raised his head when the old man spoke to him.

"Do you know where there is a beautiful skull, white as the meat of a coconut, with a complete set of teeth, which I had there at the foot of the cross under those leaves?"

The grave-digger shrugged his shoulders.

"Look!" added the old man, showing a silver coin, "I have only this, but I’ll give it to you if you find the skull for me."

The gleam of the silver caused the grave-digger to consider, [86]and staring toward the heap of bones he said, "Isn’t it there? No? Then I don’t know where it is." "Don’t you know? When those who owe me pay me, I’ll give you more," continued the old man. "It was the skull of my wife, so if you find it for me—"

"Isn’t it there? Then I don’t know! But if you wish, I can give you another."

"You’re like the grave you’re digging," apostrophized the old man nervously. "You don’t know the value of what you lose. For whom is that grave?"

"How should I know?" replied the other in bad humor.

"For a corpse!"

"Like the grave, like the grave!" repeated the old man with a dry smile. "You don’t know what you throw away nor what you receive! Dig, dig on!" And he turned away in the direction of the gate.

Meanwhile, the grave-digger had completed his task, attested by the two mounds of fresh red earth at the sides of the grave. He took some buyo from his salakot and began to chew it while he stared stupidly at what was going on around him. {mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XIII-Signs of Storm} [87] [Contents]

Chapter XIII

Signs of Storm

As the old man was leaving the cemetery there stopped at the head of the path a carriage which, from its dust-covered appearance and sweating horses, seemed to have come from a great distance. Followed by an aged servant, Ibarra left the carriage and dismissed it with a wave of his hand, then gravely and silently turned toward the cemetery.

"My illness and my duties have not permitted me to return," said the old servant timidly. "Capitan Tiago promised that he would see that a niche was constructed, but I planted some flowers on the grave and set up a cross carved by my own hands." Ibarra made no reply. "There behind that big cross, sir," he added when they were well inside the gate, as he pointed to the place.

Ibarra was so intent upon his quest that he did not notice the movement of surprise on the part of the persons who recognized him and suspended their prayers to watch him curiously. He walked along carefully to avoid stepping on any of the graves, which were easily distinguishable by the hollow places in the soil. In other times he had walked on them carelessly, but now they were to be respected: his father lay among them. When he reached the large cross he stopped and looked all around. His companion stood confused and confounded, seeking some mark in the ground, but nowhere was any cross to be seen.

"Was it here?" he murmured through his teeth. "No, there! But the ground has been disturbed."

Ibarra gave him a look of anguish.

"Yes," he went on, "I remember that there was a stone [88]near it. The grave was rather short. The grave-digger was sick, so a farmer had to dig it. But let’s ask that man what has become of the cross." They went over to where the grave-digger was watching them with curiosity. He removed his salakot respectfully as they approached.

"Can you tell me which is the grave there that had a cross over it?" asked the servant.

The grave-digger looked toward the place and reflected. "A big cross?"

"Yes, a big one!" affirmed the servant eagerly, with a significant look at Ibarra, whose face lighted up.

"A carved cross tied up with rattan?" continued the grave-digger.

"That’s it, that’s it, like this!" exclaimed the servant in answer as he drew on the ground the figure of a Byzantine cross.

"Were there flowers scattered on the grave?"

"Oleanders and tuberoses and forget-me-nots, yes!" the servant added joyfully, offering the grave-digger a cigar.

"Tell us which is the grave and where the cross is."

The grave-digger scratched his ear and answered with a yawn: "Well, as for the cross, I burned it."

"Burned it? Why did you burn it?"

"Because the fat curate ordered me to do so."

"Who is the fat curate?" asked Ibarra.

"Who? Why, the one that beats people with a big cane."

Ibarra drew his hand across his forehead. "But at least you can tell us where the grave is. You must remember that."

The grave-digger smiled as he answered quietly, "But the corpse is no longer there."

"What’s that you’re saying?"

"Yes," continued the grave-digger in a half-jesting tone. "I buried a woman in that place a week ago."

[89]"Are you crazy?" cried the servant. "It hasn’t been a year since we buried him." "That’s very true, but a good many months ago I dug the body up. The fat curate ordered me to do so and to take it to the cemetery of the Chinamen. But as it was heavy and there was rain that night—"

He was stopped by the threatening attitude of Ibarra, who had caught him by the arm and was shaking him. "Did you do that?" demanded the youth in an indescribable tone.

"Don’t be angry, sir," stammered the pale and trembling grave-digger. "I didn’t bury him among the Chinamen. Better be drowned than lie among Chinamen, I said to myself, so I threw the body into the lake."

Ibarra placed both his hands on the grave-digger’s shoulders and stared at him for a long time with an indefinable expression. Then, with the ejaculation, "You are only a miserable slave!" he turned away hurriedly, stepping upon bones, graves, and crosses, like one beside himself.

The grave-digger patted his arm and muttered, "All the trouble dead men cause! The fat padre caned me for allowing it to be buried while I was sick, and this fellow almost tore my arm off for having dug it up. That’s what these Spaniards are! I’ll lose my job yet!"

Ibarra walked rapidly with a far-away look in his eyes, while the aged servant followed him weeping. The sun was setting, and over the eastern sky was flung a heavy curtain of clouds. A dry wind shook the tree-tops and made the bamboo clumps creak. Ibarra went bareheaded, but no tear wet his eyes nor did any sigh escape from his breast. He moved as if fleeing from something, perhaps the shade of his father, perhaps the approaching storm. He crossed through the town to the outskirts on the opposite side and turned toward the old house which he had not entered for so many years. Surrounded by a cactus-covered wall it seemed to beckon to him with its open windows, while the ilang-ilang waved its flower-laden branches joyfully [90]and the doves circled about the conical roof of their cote in the middle of the garden. But the youth gave no heed to these signs of welcome back to his old home, his eyes being fixed on the figure of a priest approaching from the opposite direction. It was the curate of San Diego, the pensive Franciscan whom we have seen before, the rival of the alferez. The breeze folded back the brim of his wide hat and blew his guingón habit closely about him, revealing the outlines of his body and his thin, curved thighs. In his right hand he carried an ivory-headed palasan cane.

This was the first time that he and Ibarra had met. When they drew near each other Ibarra stopped and gazed at him from head to foot; Fray Salvi avoided the look and tried to appear unconcerned. After a moment of hesitation Ibarra went up to him quickly and dropping a heavy hand on his shoulder, asked in a husky voice, "What did you do with my father?"

Fray Salvi, pale and trembling as he read the deep feelings that flushed the youth’s face, could not answer; he seemed paralyzed.

"What did you do with my father?" again demanded the youth in a choking voice.

The priest, who was gradually being forced to his knees by the heavy hand that pressed upon his shoulder, made a great effort and answered, "You are mistaken, I did nothing to your father."

"You didn’t?" went on the youth, forcing him down upon his knees.

"No, I assure you! It was my predecessor, it was Padre Damaso!"

"Ah!" exclaimed the youth, releasing his hold, and clapping his hand desperately to his brow; then, leaving poor Fray Salvi, he turned away and hurried toward his house. The old servant came up and helped the friar to his feet. {mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XIV-Tasio: Lunatic or Sage} [91] [Contents]

Chapter XIV

Tasio: Lunatic or Sage

The peculiar old man wandered about the streets aimlessly. A former student of philosophy, he had given up his career in obedience to his mother’s wishes and not from any lack of means or ability. Quite the contrary, it was because his mother was rich and he was said to possess talent. The good woman feared that her son would become learned and forget God, so she had given him his choice of entering the priesthood or leaving college. Being in love, he chose the latter course and married. Then having lost both his wife and his mother within a year, he sought consolation in his books in order to free himself from sorrow, the cockpit, and the dangers of idleness. He became so addicted to his studies and the purchase of books, that he entirely neglected his fortune and gradually ruined himself. Persons of culture called him Don Anastasio, or Tasio the Sage, while the great crowd of the ignorant knew him as Tasio the Lunatic, on account of his peculiar ideas and his eccentric manner of dealing with others.

As we said before, the evening threatened to be stormy. The lightning flashed its pale rays across the leaden sky, the air was heavy and the slight breeze excessively sultry. Tasio had apparently already forgotten his beloved skull, and now he was smiling as he looked at the dark clouds. Near the church he met a man wearing an alpaca coat, who carried in one hand a large bundle of candles and in the other a tasseled cane, the emblem of his office as gobernadorcillo.

"You seem to be merry?" he greeted Tasio in Tagalog.

[92]"Truly I am, señor capitan, I’m merry because I hope for something." "Ah? What do you hope for?"

"The storm!"

"The storm? Are you thinking of taking a bath?" asked the gobernadorcillo in a jesting way as he stared at the simple attire of the old man.

"A bath? That’s not a bad idea, especially when one has just stumbled over some trash!" answered Tasio in a similar, though somewhat more offensive tone, staring at the other’s face. "But I hope for something better."

"What, then?"

"Some thunderbolts that will kill people and burn down houses," returned the Sage seriously.

"Why don’t you ask for the deluge at once?"

"We all deserve it, even you and I! You, señor gobernadorcillo, have there a bundle of tapers that came from some Chinese shop, yet this now makes the tenth year that I have been proposing to each new occupant of your office the purchase of lightning-rods. Every one laughs at me, and buys bombs and rockets and pays for the ringing of bells. Even you yourself, on the day after I made my proposition, ordered from the Chinese founders a bell in honor of St. Barbara,1 when science has shown that it is dangerous to ring the bells during a storm. Explain to me why in the year ’70, when lightning struck in Biñan, it hit the very church tower and destroyed the clock and altar. What was the bell of St. Barbara doing then?" At the moment there was a vivid flash. "Jesús, María, y José! Holy St. Barbara!" exclaimed the gobernadorcillo, turning pale and crossing himself.

Tasio burst out into a loud laugh. "You are worthy of your patroness," he remarked dryly in Spanish as he turned his back and went toward the church.

Inside, the sacristans were preparing a catafalque, bordered [93]with candles placed in wooden sockets. Two large tables had been placed one above the other and covered with black cloth across which ran white stripes, with here and there a skull painted on it. "Is that for the souls or for the candles?" inquired the old man, but noticing two boys, one about ten and the other seven, he turned to them without awaiting an answer from the sacristans.

"Won’t you come with me, boys?" he asked them. "Your mother has prepared a supper for you fit for a curate."

"The senior sacristan will not let us leave until eight o’clock, sir," answered the larger of the two boys. "I expect to get my pay to give it to our mother."

"Ah! And where are you going now?"

"To the belfry, sir, to ring the knell for the souls."

"Going to the belfry! Then take care! Don’t go near the bells during the storm!"

Tasio then left the church, not without first bestowing a look of pity on the two boys, who were climbing the stairway into the organ-loft. He passed his hand over his eyes, looked at the sky again, and murmured, "Now I should be sorry if thunderbolts should fall." With his head bowed in thought he started toward the outskirts of the town.

"Won’t you come in?" invited a voice in Spanish from a window.

The Sage raised his head and saw a man of thirty or thirty-five years of age smiling at him.

"What are you reading there?" asked Tasio, pointing to a book the man held in his hand.

"A work just published: ‘The Torments Suffered by the Blessed Souls in Purgatory,’" the other answered with a smile.

"Man, man, man!" exclaimed the Sage in an altered tone as he entered the house. "The author must be a very clever person."

[94]Upon reaching the top of the stairway, he was cordially received by the master of the house, Don Filipo Lino, and his young wife, Doña Teodora Viña. Don Filipo was the teniente-mayor of the town and leader of one of the parties—the liberal faction, if it be possible to speak so, and if there exist parties in the towns of the Philippines. "Did you meet in the cemetery the son of the deceased Don Rafael, who has just returned from Europe?"

"Yes, I saw him as he alighted from his carriage."

"They say that he went to look for his father’s grave. It must have been a terrible blow."

The Sage shrugged his shoulders.

"Doesn’t such a misfortune affect you?" asked the young wife.

"You know very well that I was one of the six who accompanied the body, and it was I who appealed to the Captain-General when I saw that no one, not even the authorities, said anything about such an outrage, although I always prefer to honor a good man in life rather than to worship him after his death."

"Well?"

"But, madam, I am not a believer in hereditary monarchy. By reason of the Chinese blood which I have received from my mother I believe a little like the Chinese: I honor the father on account of the son and not the son on account of the father. I believe that each one should receive the reward or punishment for his own deeds, not for those of another."

"Did you order a mass said for your dead wife, as I advised you yesterday?" asked the young woman, changing the subject of conversation.

"No," answered the old man with a smile.

"What a pity!" she exclaimed with unfeigned regret.

"They say that until ten o’clock tomorrow the souls will wander at liberty, awaiting the prayers of the living, and that during these days one mass is equivalent to five on [95]other days of the year, or even to six, as the curate said this morning." "What! Does that mean that we have a period without paying, which we should take advantage of?"

"But, Doray," interrupted Don Filipo, "you know that Don Anastasio doesn’t believe in purgatory."

"I don’t believe in purgatory!" protested the old man, partly rising from his seat. "Even when I know something of its history!"

"The history of purgatory!" exclaimed the couple, full of surprise. "Come, relate it to us."

"You don’t know it and yet you order masses and talk about its torments? Well, as it has begun to rain and threatens to continue, we shall have time to relieve the monotony," replied Tasio, falling into a thoughtful mood.

Don Filipo closed the book which he held in his hand and Doray sat down at his side determined not to believe anything that the old man was about to say.

The latter began in the following manner: "Purgatory existed long before Our Lord came into the world and must have been located in the center of the earth, according to Padre Astete; or somewhere near Cluny, according to the monk of whom Padre Girard tells us. But the location is of least importance here. Now then, who were scorching in those fires that had been burning from the beginning of the world? Its very ancient existence is proved by Christian philosophy, which teaches that God has created nothing new since he rested."

"But it could have existed in potentia and not in actu,"2 observed Don Filipo. "Very well! But yet I must answer that some knew of it and as existing in actu. One of these was Zarathustra, or Zoroaster, who wrote part of the Zend-Avesta and founded a religion which in some points resembles ours, and Zarathustra, according to the scholars, flourished at least eight hundred years before Christ. I say ‘at least,’ [96]since Gaffarel, after examining the testimony of Plato, Xanthus of Lydia, Pliny, Hermippus, and Eudoxus, believes it to have been two thousand five hundred years before our era. However that may be, it is certain that Zarathustra talked of a kind of purgatory and showed ways of getting free from it. The living could redeem the souls of those who died in sin by reciting passages from the Avesta and by doing good works, but under the condition that the person offering the petitions should be a relative, up to the fourth generation. The time for this occurred every year and lasted five days. Later, when this belief had become fixed among the people, the priests of that religion saw in it a chance of profit and so they exploited ‘the deep and dark prison where remorse reigns,’ as Zarathustra called it. They declared that by the payment of a small coin it was possible to save a soul from a year of torture, but as in that religion there were sins punishable by three hundred to a thousand years of suffering, such as lying, faithlessness, failure to keep one’s word, and so on, it resulted that the rascals took in countless sums. Here you will observe something like our purgatory, if you take into account the differences in the religions." A vivid flash of lightning, followed by rolling thunder, caused Doray to start up and exclaim, as she crossed herself: "Jesús, María, y José! I’m going to leave you, I’m going to burn some sacred palm and light candles of penitence."

The rain began to fall in torrents. The Sage Tasio, watching the young woman leave, continued: "Now that she is not here, we can consider this matter more rationally. Doray, even though a little superstitious, is a good Catholic, and I don’t care to root out the faith from her heart. A pure and simple faith is as distinct from fanaticism as the flame from smoke or music from discords: only the fools and the deaf confuse them. Between ourselves we can say that the idea of purgatory is good, holy, and rational. It perpetuates the union of those who [97]were and those who are, leading thus to greater purity of life. The evil is in its abuse. "But let us now see where Catholicism got this idea, which does not exist in the Old Testament nor in the Gospels. Neither Moses nor Christ made the slightest mention of it, and the single passage which is cited from Maccabees is insufficient. Besides, this book was declared apocryphal by the Council of Laodicea and the holy Catholic Church accepted it only later. Neither have the pagan religions anything like it. The oft-quoted passage in Virgil, Aliae panduntur inanes,

3 which probably gave occasion for St. Gregory the Great to speak of drowned souls, and to Dante for another narrative in his Divine Comedy, cannot have been the origin of this belief. Neither the Brahmins, the Buddhists, nor the Egyptians, who may have given Rome her Charon and her Avernus, had anything like this idea. I won’t speak now of the religions of northern Europe, for they were religions of warriors, bards, and hunters, and not of philosophers. While they yet preserve their beliefs and even their rites under Christian forms, they were unable to accompany the hordes in the spoliation of Rome or to seat themselves on the Capitoline; the religions of the mists were dissipated by the southern sun. Now then, the early Christians did not believe in a purgatory but died in the blissful confidence of shortly seeing God face to face. Apparently the first fathers of the Church who mentioned it were St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and St. Irenaeus, who were all perhaps influenced by Zarathustra’s religion, which still flourished and was widely spread throughout the East, since at every step we read reproaches against Origen’s Orientalism. St. Irenaeus proved its existence by the fact that Christ remained ‘three days in the depths of the [98]earth,’ three days of purgatory, and deduced from this that every soul must remain there until the resurrection of the body, although the ‘Hodie mecum eris in Paradiso’4 seems to contradict it. St. Augustine also speaks of purgatory and, if not affirming its existence, yet he did not believe it impossible, conjecturing that in another existence there might continue the punishments that we receive in this life for our sins." "The devil with St. Augustine!" ejaculated Don Filipo. "He wasn’t satisfied with what we suffer here but wished a continuance."

"Well, so it went" some believed it and others didn’t. Although St. Gregory finally came to admit it in his de quibusdam levibus culpis esse ante judicium purgatorius ignis credendus est,5 yet nothing definite was done until the year 1439, that is, eight centuries later, when the Council of Florence declared that there must exist a purifying fire for the souls of those who have died in the love of God but without having satisfied divine Justice. Lastly, the Council of Trent under Pius IV in 1563, in the twenty-fifth session, issued the purgatorial decree beginning Cura catholica ecclesia, Spiritu Santo edocta, wherein it deduces that, after the office of the mass, the petitions of the living, their prayers, alms, and other pious works are the surest means of freeing the souls. Nevertheless, the Protestants do not believe in it nor do the Greek Fathers, since they reject any Biblical authority for it and say that our responsibility ends with death, and that the ‘Quodcumque ligaberis in terra,’6 does not mean ‘usque ad purgatorium,’7 but to this the answer can be made that since purgatory is located in the center of the earth it fell naturally under the control of St. Peter. But I should never get through if I had to relate all that [99]has been said on the subject. Any day that you wish to discuss the matter with me, come to my house and there we will consult the books and talk freely and quietly. "Now I must go. I don’t understand why Christian piety permits robbery on this night—and you, the authorities, allow it—and I fear for my books. If they should steal them to read I wouldn’t object, but I know that there are many who wish to burn them in order to do for me an act of charity, and such charity, worthy of the Caliph Omar, is to be dreaded. Some believe that on account of those books I am already damned—"

"But I suppose that you do believe in damnation?" asked Doray with a smile, as she appeared carrying in a brazier the dry palm leaves, which gave off a peculiar smoke and an agreeable odor.

"I don’t know, madam, what God will do with me," replied the old man thoughtfully. "When I die I will commit myself to Him without fear and He may do with me what He wishes. But a thought strikes me!"

"What thought is that?"

"If the only ones who can be saved are the Catholics, and of them only five per cent—as many curates say—and as the Catholics form only a twelfth part of the population of the world—if we believe what statistics show—it would result that after damning millions and millions of men during the countless ages that passed before the Saviour came to the earth, after a Son of God has died for us, it is now possible to save only five in every twelve hundred. That cannot be so! I prefer to believe and say with Job: ‘Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro, and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?’ No, such a calamity is impossible and to believe it is blasphemy!"

"What do you wish? Divine Justice, divine Purity—"

"Oh, but divine Justice and divine Purity saw the future before the creation," answered the old man, as he rose shuddering. "Man is an accidental and not a necessary part of creation, and that God cannot have created [100]him, no indeed, only to make a few happy and condemn hundreds to eternal misery, and all in a moment, for hereditary faults! No! If that be true, strangle your baby son sleeping there! If such a belief were not a blasphemy against that God, who must be the Highest Good, then the Phenician Moloch, which was appeased with human sacrifices and innocent blood, and in whose belly were burned the babes torn from their mothers’ breasts, that bloody deity, that horrible divinity, would be by the side of Him a weak girl, a friend, a mother of humanity!" Horrified, the Lunatic—or the Sage—left the house and ran along the street in spite of the rain and the darkness. A lurid flash, followed by frightful thunder and filling the air with deadly currents, lighted the old man as he stretched his hand toward the sky and cried out: "Thou protestest! I know that Thou art not cruel, I know that I must only name Thee Good!"

The flashes of lightning became more frequent and the storm increased in violence. [101]

 

1 St. Barbara is invoked during thunder-storms as the special protectress against lightning.—TR. 2 In possibility (i.e., latent) and not: in fact.—TR.
3 "For this are various penances enjoined;
And some are hung to bleach upon the wind;
Some plunged in waters, others purged in fires,
Till all the dregs are drained, and all the rust expires."
Dryden, Virgil’s Aeneid, VI.
4 "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."—Luke xxiii, 43. 5 It should be believed that for some light faults there is a purgatorial fire before the judgment.
6 Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth.—Matt, xvi, 19. 7 Even up to purgatory.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XV-The Sacristans}

Chapter XV

The Sacristans

The thunder resounded, roar following close upon roar, each preceded’ by a blinding flash of zigzag lightning, so that it might have been said that God was writing his name in fire and that the eternal arch of heaven was trembling with fear. The rain, whipped about in a different direction each moment by the mournfully whistling wind, fell in torrents. With a voice full of fear the bells sounded their sad supplication, and in the brief pauses between the roars of the unchained elements tolled forth sorrowful peals, like plaintive groans.

On the second floor of the church tower were the two boys whom we saw talking to the Sage. The younger, a child of seven years with large black eyes and a timid countenance, was huddling close to his brother, a boy of ten, whom he greatly resembled in features, except that the look on the elder’s face was deeper and firmer.

Both were meanly dressed in clothes full of rents and patches. They sat upon a block of wood, each holding the end of a rope which extended upward and was lost amid the shadows above. The wind-driven rain reached them and snuffed the piece of candle burning dimly on the large round stone that was used to furnish the thunder on Good Friday by being rolled around the gallery.

"Pull on the rope, Crispin, pull!" cried the elder to his little brother, who did as he was told, so that from above was heard a faint peal, instantly drowned out by the reechoing thunder.

"Oh, if we were only at home now with mother," sighed [102]the younger, as he gazed at his brother. "There I shouldn’t be afraid." The elder did not answer; he was watching the melting wax of the candle, apparently lost in thought.

"There no one would say that I stole," went on Crispin. "Mother wouldn’t allow it. If she knew that they whip me—"

The elder took his gaze from the flame, raised his head, and clutching the thick rope pulled violently on it so that a sonorous peal of the bells was heard.

"Are we always going to live this way, brother?" continued Crispin. "I’d like to get sick at home tomorrow, I’d like to fall into a long sickness so that mother might take care of me and not let me come back to the convento. So I’d not be called a thief nor would they whip me. And you too, brother, you must get sick with me."

"No," answered the older, "we should all die: mother of grief and we of hunger."

Crispin remained silent for a moment, then asked, "How much will you get this month?"

"Two pesos. They’re fined me twice."

"Then pay what they say I’ve stolen, so that they won’t call us thieves. Pay it, brother!"

"Are you crazy, Crispin? Mother wouldn’t have anything to eat. The senior sacristan says that you’ve stolen two gold pieces, and they’re worth thirty-two pesos."

The little one counted on his fingers up to thirty-two. "Six hands and two fingers over and each finger a peso!" he murmured thoughtfully. "And each peso, how many cuartos?"

"A hundred and sixty."

"A hundred and sixty cuartos? A hundred and sixty times a cuarto? Goodness! And how many are a hundred and sixty?"

"Thirty-two hands," answered the older.

Crispin looked hard at his little hands. "Thirty-two hands," he repeated, "six hands and two fingers over [103]and each finger thirty-two hands and each finger a cuarto—goodness, what a lot of cuartos! I could hardly count them in three days; and with them could be bought shoes for our feet, a hat for my head when the sun shines hot, a big umbrella for the rain, and food, and clothes for you and mother, and—" He became silent and thoughtful again. "Now I’m sorry that I didn’t steal!" he soon exclaimed.

"Crispin!" reproached his brother.

"Don’t get angry! The curate has said that he’ll beat me to death if the money doesn’t appear, and if I had stolen it I could make it appear. Anyhow, if I died you and mother would at least have clothes. Oh, if I had only stolen it!"

The elder pulled on the rope in silence. After a time he replied with a sigh: "What I’m afraid of is that mother will scold you when she knows about it."

"Do you think so?" asked the younger with astonishment. "You will tell her that they’re whipped me and I’ll show the welts on my back and my torn pocket. I had only one cuarto, which was given to me last Easter, but the curate took that away from me yesterday. I never saw a prettier cuarto! No, mother won’t believe it."

"If the curate says so—"

Crispin began to cry, murmuring between his sobs, "Then go home alone! I don’t want to go. Tell mother that I’m sick. I don’t want to go."

"Crispin, don’t cry!" pleaded the elder. "Mother won’t believe it—don’t cry! Old Tasio told us that a fine supper is waiting for us."

"A fine supper! And I haven’t eaten for a long time. They won’t give me anything to eat until the two gold pieces appear. But, if mother believes it? You must tell her that the senior sacristan is a liar but that the curate believes him and that all of them are liars, that they say that we’re thieves because our father is a vagabond who—"

[104]At that instant a head appeared at the top of the stairway leading down to the floor below, and that head, like Medusa’s, froze the words on the child’s lips. It was a long, narrow head covered with black hair, with blue glasses concealing the fact that one eye was sightless. The senior sacristan was accustomed to appear thus without noise or warning of any kind. The two brothers turned cold with fear. "On you, Basilio, I impose a fine of two reals for not ringing the bells in time," he said in a voice so hollow that his throat seemed to lack vocal chords. "You, Crispin, must stay tonight, until what you stole reappears."

Crispin looked at his brother as if pleading for protection.

"But we already have permission—mother expects us at eight o’clock," objected Basilio timidly.

"Neither shall you go home at eight, you’ll stay until ten."

"But, sir, after nine o’clock no one is allowed to be out and our house is far from here."

"Are you trying to give me orders?" growled the man irritably, as he caught Crispin by the arm and started to drag him away.

"Oh, sir, it’s been a week now since we’re seen our mother," begged Basilio, catching hold of his brother as if to defend him.

The senior sacristan struck his hand away and jerked at Crispin, who began to weep as he fell to the floor, crying out to his brother, "Don’t leave me, they’re going to kill me!"

The sacristan gave no heed to this and dragged him on to the stairway. As they disappeared among the shadows below Basilio stood speechless, listening to the sounds of his brother’s body striking against the steps. Then followed the sound of a blow and heartrending cries that died away in the distance.

The boy stood on tiptoe, hardly breathing and listening [105]fixedly, with his eyes unnaturally wide and his fists clenched. "When shall I be strong enough to plow a field?" he muttered between his teeth as he started below hastily. Upon reaching the organ-loft he paused to listen; the voice of his brother was fast dying away in the distance and the cries of "Mother! Brother!" were at last completely cut off by the sound of a closing door. Trembling and perspiring, he paused for a moment with his fist in his mouth to keep down a cry of anguish. He let his gaze wander about the dimly lighted church where an oil-lamp gave a ghostly light, revealing the catafalque in the center. The doors were closed and fastened, and the windows had iron bars on them. Suddenly he reascended the stairway to the place where the candle was burning and then climbed up into the third floor of the belfry. After untying the ropes from the bell-clappers he again descended. He was pale and his eyes glistened, but not with tears. Meanwhile, the rain was gradually ceasing and the sky was clearing. Basilio knotted the ropes together, tied one end to a rail of the balustrade, and without even remembering to put out the light let himself down into the darkness outside. A few moments later voices were heard on one of the streets of the town, two shots resounded, but no one seemed to be alarmed and silence again reigned. {mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XVI-Sisa} [106] [Contents]

Chapter XVI

Sisa

Through the dark night the villagers slept. The families who had remembered their dead gave themselves up to quiet and satisfied sleep, for they had recited their requiems, the novena of the souls, and had burned many wax tapers before the sacred images. The rich and powerful had discharged the duties their positions imposed upon them. On the following day they would hear three masses said by each priest and would give two pesos for another, besides buying a bull of indulgences for the dead. Truly, divine justice is not nearly so exacting as human.

But the poor and indigent who earn scarcely enough to keep themselves alive and who also have to pay tribute to the petty officials, clerks, and soldiers, that they may be allowed to live in peace, sleep not so tranquilly as gentle poets who have perhaps not felt the pinches of want would have us believe. The poor are sad and thoughtful, for on that night, if they have not recited many prayers, yet they have prayed much—with pain in their eyes and tears in their hearts. They have not the novenas, nor do they know the responsories, versicles, and prayers which the friars have composed for those who lack original ideas and feelings, nor do they understand them. They pray in the language of their misery: their souls weep for them and for those dead beings whose love was their wealth. Their lips may proffer the salutations, but their minds cry out complaints, charged with lamentations. Wilt Thou be satisfied, O Thou who blessedst poverty, and you, O suffering souls, with the simple prayers of the poor, offered before a rude picture in the light of a dim wick, or do you [107]perhaps desire wax tapers before bleeding Christs and Virgins with small mouths and crystal eyes, and masses in Latin recited mechanically by priests? And thou, Religion preached for suffering humanity, hast thou forgotten thy mission of consoling the oppressed in their misery and of humiliating the powerful in their pride? Hast thou now promises only for the rich, for those who, can pay thee? The poor widow watches among the children who sleep at her side. She is thinking of the indulgences that she ought to buy for the repose of the souls of her parents and of her dead husband. "A peso," she says, "a peso is a week of happiness for my children, a week of laughter and joy, my savings for a month, a dress for my daughter who is becoming a woman." "But it is necessary that you put aside these worldly desires," says the voice that she heard in the pulpit, "it is necessary that you make sacrifices." Yes, it is necessary. The Church does not gratuitously save the beloved souls for you nor does it distribute indulgences without payment. You must buy them, so tonight instead of sleeping you should work. Think of your daughter, so poorly clothed! Fast, for heaven is dear! Decidedly, it seems that the poor enter not into heaven. Such thoughts wander through the space enclosed between the rough mats spread out on the bamboo floor and the ridge of the roof, from which hangs the hammock wherein the baby swings. The infant’s breathing is easy and peaceful, but from time to time he swallows and smacks his lips; his hungry stomach, which is not satisfied with what his older brothers have given him, dreams of eating.

The cicadas chant monotonously, mingling their ceaseless notes with the trills of the cricket hidden in the grass, or the chirp of the little lizard which has come out in search of food, while the big gekko, no longer fearing the water, disturbs the concert with its ill-omened voice as it shows its head from out the hollow of the decayed tree-trunk.

[108]The dogs howl mournfully in the streets and superstitious folk, hearing them, are convinced that they see spirits and ghosts. But neither the dogs nor the other animals see the sorrows of men—yet how many of these exist! Distant from the town an hour’s walk lives the mother of Basilio and Crispin. The wife of a heartless man, she struggles to live for her sons, while her husband is a vagrant gamester with whom her interviews are rare but always painful. He has gradually stripped her of her few jewels to pay the cost of his vices, and when the suffering Sisa no longer had anything that he might take to satisfy his whims, he had begun to maltreat her. Weak in character, with more heart than intellect, she knew only how to love and to weep. Her husband was a god and her sons were his angels, so he, knowing to what point he was loved and feared, conducted himself like all false gods: daily he became more cruel, more inhuman, more wilful. Once when he had appeared with his countenance gloomier than ever before, Sisa had consulted him about the plan of making a sacristan of Basilio, and he had merely continued to stroke his game-cock, saying neither yes nor no, only asking whether the boy would earn much money. She had not dared to insist, but her needy situation and her desire that the boys should learn to read and write in the town school forced her to carry out the plan. Still her husband had said nothing.

That night, between ten and eleven o’clock, when the stars were glittering in a sky now cleared of all signs of the storm of the early evening, Sisa sat on a wooden bench watching some fagots that smouldered upon the fireplace fashioned of rough pieces of natural rock. Upon a tripod, or tunko, was a small pot of boiling rice and upon the red coals lay three little dried fishes such as are sold at three for two cuartos. Her chin rested in the palm of her hand while she gazed at the weak yellow glow peculiar to the cane, which burns rapidly and leaves embers that quickly grow pale. A sad smile lighted up her face as she recalled [109]a funny riddle about the pot and the fire which Crispin had once propounded to her. The boy said: "The black man sat down and the red man looked at him, a moment passed, and cock-a-doodle-doo rang forth." Sisa was still young, and it was plain that at one time she had been pretty and attractive. Her eyes, which, like her disposition, she had given to her sons, were beautiful, with long lashes and a deep look. Her nose was regular and her pale lips curved pleasantly. She was what the Tagalogs call kayumanguing-kaligátan; that is, her color was a clear, pure brown. In spite of her youthfulness, pain and perhaps even hunger had begun to make hollow her pallid cheeks, and if her abundant hair, in other times the delight and adornment of her person, was even yet simply and neatly arranged, though without pins or combs, it was not from coquetry but from habit.

Sisa had been for several days confined to the house sewing upon some work which had been ordered for the earliest possible time. In order to earn the money, she had not attended mass that morning, as it would have taken two hours at least to go to the town and return: poverty obliges one to sin! She had finished the work and delivered it but had received only a promise of payment. All that day she had been anticipating the pleasures of the evening, for she knew that her sons were coming and she had intended to make them some presents. She had bought some small fishes, picked the most beautiful tomatoes in her little garden, as she knew that Crispin was very fond of them, and begged from a neighbor, old Tasio the Sage, who lived half a mile away, some slices of dried wild boar’s meat and a leg of wild duck, which Basilio especially liked. Full of hope, she had cooked the whitest of rice, which she herself had gleaned from the threshing-floors. It was indeed a curate’s meal for the poor boys.

But by an unfortunate chance her husband came and ate the rice, the slices of wild boar’s meat, the duck leg, five of the little fishes, and the tomatoes. Sisa said nothing, [110]although she felt as if she herself were being eaten. His hunger at length appeased, he remembered to ask for the boys. Then Sisa smiled happily and resolved that she would not eat that night, because what remained was not enough for three. The father had asked for their sons and that for her was better than eating. Soon he picked up his game-cock and started away.

"Don’t you want to see them?" she asked tremulously. "Old Tasio told me that they would be a little late. Crispin now knows how to read and perhaps Basilio will bring his wages."

This last reason caused the husband to pause and waver, but his good angel triumphed. "In that case keep a peso for me," he said as he went away.

Sisa wept bitterly, but the thought of her sons soon dried her tears. She cooked some more rice and prepared the only three fishes that were left: each would have one and a half. "They’ll have good appetites," she mused, "the way is long and hungry stomachs have no heart."

So she sat, he ear strained to catch every sound, listening to the lightest footfalls: strong and clear, Basilio; light and irregular, Crispin—thus she mused. The kalao called in the woods several times after the rain had ceased, but still her sons did not come. She put the fishes inside the pot to keep them warm and went to the threshold of the hut to look toward the road. To keep herself company, she began to sing in a low voice, a voice usually so sweet and tender that when her sons listened to her singing the kundíman they wept without knowing why, but tonight it trembled and the notes were halting. She stopped singing and gazed earnestly into the darkness, but no one was coming from the town—that noise was only the wind shaking the raindrops from the wide banana leaves.

Suddenly a black dog appeared before her dragging something along the path. Sisa was frightened but caught up a stone and threw it at the dog, which ran away howling mournfully. She was not superstitious, but she had heard [111]so much about presentiments and black dogs that terror seized her. She shut the door hastily and sat down by the light. Night favors credulity and the imagination peoples the air with specters. She tried to pray, to call upon the Virgin and upon God to watch over her sons, especially her little Crispin. Then she forgot her prayers as her thoughts wandered to think about them, to recall the features of each, those features that always wore a smile for her both asleep and awake. Suddenly she felt her hair rise on her head and her eyes stared wildly; illusion or reality, she saw Crispin standing by the fireplace, there where he was wont to sit and prattle to her, but now he said nothing as he gazed at her with those large, thoughtful eyes, and smiled. "Mother, open the door! Open, mother!" cried the voice of Basilio from without.

Sisa shuddered violently and the vision disappeared. {mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XVII-Basilio} [112] [Contents]

Chapter XVII

Basilio

La vida es sueño.

Basilio was scarcely inside when he staggered and fell into his mother’s arms. An inexplicable chill seized Sisa as she saw him enter alone. She wanted to speak but could make no sound; she wanted to embrace her son but lacked the strength; to weep was impossible. At sight of the blood which covered the boy’s forehead she cried in a tone that seemed to come from a breaking heart, "My sons!"

"Don’t be afraid, mother," Basilio reassured her. "Crispin stayed at the convento."

"At the convento? He stayed at the convento? Is he alive?"

The boy raised his eyes to her. "Ah!" she sighed, passing from the depths of sorrow to the heights of joy. She wept and embraced her son, covering his bloody forehead with kisses.

"Crispin is alive! You left him at the convento! But why are you wounded, my son? Have you had a fall?" she inquired, as she examined him anxiously.

"The senior sacristan took Crispin away and told me that I could not leave until ten o’clock, but it was already late and so I ran away. In the town the soldiers challenged me, I started to run, they fired, and a bullet grazed my forehead. I was afraid they would arrest me and beat me and make me scrub out the barracks, as they did with Pablo, who is still sick from it."

"My God, my God!" murmured his mother, shuddering. "Thou hast saved him!" Then while she sought for [113]bandages, water, vinegar, and a feather, she went on, "A finger’s breadth more and they would have killed you, they would have killed my boy! The civil-guards do not think of the mothers." "You must say that I fell from a tree so that no one will know they chased me," Basilio cautioned her.

"Why did Crispin stay?" asked Sisa, after dressing her son’s wound.

Basilio hesitated a few moments, then with his arms about her and their tears mingling, he related little by little the story of the gold pieces, without speaking, however, of the tortures they were inflicting upon his young brother.

"My good Crispin! To accuse my good Crispin! It’s because we’re poor and we poor people have to endure everything!" murmured Sisa, staring through her tears at the light of the lamp, which was now dying out from lack of oil. So they remained silent for a while.

"Haven’t you had any supper yet? Here are rice and fish."

"I don’t want anything, only a little water."

"Yes," answered his mother sadly, "I know that you don’t like dried fish. I had prepared something else, but your father came."

"Father came?" asked Basilio, instinctively examining the face and hands of his mother.

The son’s questioning gaze pained Sisa’s heart, for she understood it only too well, so she added hastily: "He came and asked a lot about you and wanted to see you, and he was very hungry. He said that if you continued to be so good he would come back to stay with us."

An exclamation of disgust from Basilio’s contracted lips interrupted her. "Son!" she reproached him.

"Forgive me, mother," he answered seriously. "But aren’t we three better off—you, Crispin, and I? You’re crying—I haven’t said anything."

Sisa sighed and asked, "Aren’t you going to eat? Then [114]let’s go to sleep, for it’s now very late." She then closed up the hut and covered the few coals with ashes so that the fire would not die out entirely, just as a man does with his inner feelings; he covers them with the ashes of his life, which he calls indifference, so that they may not be deadened by daily contact with his fellows. Basilio murmured his prayers and lay down near his mother, who was upon her knees praying. He felt hot and cold, he tried to close his eyes as he thought of his little brother who that night had expected to sleep in his mother’s lap and who now was probably trembling with terror and weeping in some dark corner of the convento. His ears were again pierced with those cries he had heard in the church tower. But wearied nature soon began to confuse his ideas and the veil of sleep descended upon his eyes.

He saw a bedroom where two dim tapers burned. The curate, with a rattan whip in his hand, was listening gloomily to something that the senior sacristan was telling him in a strange tongue with horrible gestures. Crispin quailed and turned his tearful eyes in every direction as if seeking some one or some hiding-place. The curate turned toward him and called to him irritably, the rattan whistled. The child ran to hide himself behind the sacristan, who caught and held him, thus exposing him to the curate’s fury. The unfortunate boy fought, kicked, screamed, threw himself on the floor and rolled about. He picked himself up, ran, slipped, fell, and parried the blows with his hands, which, wounded, he hid quickly, all the time shrieking with pain. Basilio saw him twist himself, strike the floor with his head, he saw and heard the rattan whistle. In desperation his little brother rose. Mad with pain he threw himself upon his tormentor and bit him on the hand. The curate gave a cry and dropped the rattan—the sacristan caught up a heavy cane and struck the boy a blow on the head so that he fell stunned—the curate, seeing him down, trampled him with his feet. [115]But the child no longer defended himself nor did he cry out; he rolled along the floor, a lifeless mass that left a damp track.1 Sisa’s voice brought him back to reality. "What’s the matter? Why are you crying?"

"I dreamed—O God!" exclaimed Basilio, sitting up, covered with perspiration. "It was a dream! Tell me, mother, that it was only a dream! Only a dream!"

"What did you dream?"

The boy did not answer, but sat drying his tears and wiping away the perspiration. The hut was in total darkness.

"A dream, a dream!" repeated Basilio in subdued tones.

"Tell me what you dreamed. I can’t sleep," said his mother when he lay down again.

"Well," he said in a low voice, "I dreamed that we had gone to glean the rice-stalks—in a field where there were many flowers—the women had baskets full of rice-stalks the men too had baskets full of rice-stalks—and the children too—I don’t remember any more, mother, I don’t remember the rest."

Sisa had no faith in dreams, so she did not insist.

"Mother, I’ve thought of a plan tonight," said Basilio after a few moments’ silence.

[116]"What is your plan?" she asked. Sisa was humble in everything, even with her own sons, trusting their judgment more than her own. "I don’t want to be a sacristan any longer."

"What?"

"Listen, mother, to what I’ve been thinking about. Today there arrived from Spain the son of the dead Don Rafael, and he will be a good man like his father. Well now, mother, tomorrow you will get Crispin, collect my wages, and say that I will not be a sacristan any longer. As soon as I get well I’ll go to see Don Crisostomo and ask him to hire me as a herdsman of his cattle and carabaos—I’m now big enough. Crispin can study with old Tasio, who does not whip and who is a good man, even if the curate does not believe so. What have we to fear now from the padre? Can he make us any poorer than we are? You may believe it, mother, the old man is good. I’ve seen him often in the church when no one else was about, kneeling and praying, believe it. So, mother, I’ll stop being a sacristan. I earn but little and that little is taken away from me in fines. Every one complains of the same thing. I’ll be a herdsman and by performing my tasks carefully I’ll make my employer like me. Perhaps he’ll let us milk a cow so that we can drink milk—Crispin likes milk so much. Who can tell! Maybe they’ll give us a little calf if they see that I behave well and we’ll take care of it and fatten it like our hen. I’ll pick fruits in the woods and sell them in the town along with the vegetables from our garden, so we’ll have money. I’ll set snares and traps to catch birds and wild cats,2 I’ll fish in the river, and when I’m bigger, I’ll hunt. I’ll be able also to cut firewood to sell or to present to the owner of the cows, and so he’ll be satisfied with us. When I’m able to plow, I’ll ask him to let me have a piece of land to plant in sugar-cane or corn and you won’t have to sew until midnight. We’ll [117]have new clothes for every fiesta, we’ll eat meat and big fish, we’ll live free, seeing each other every day and eating together. Old Tasio says that Crispin has a good head and so we’ll send him to Manila to study. I’ll support him by working hard. Isn’t that fine, mother? Perhaps he’ll be a doctor, what do you say?" "What can I say but yes?" said Sisa as she embraced her son. She noted, however, that in their future the boy took no account of his father, and shed silent tears.

Basilio went on talking of his plans with the confidence of the years that see only what they wish for. To everything Sisa said yes—everything appeared good.

Sleep again began to weigh down upon the tired eyelids of the boy, and this time Ole-Luk-Oie, of whom Andersen tells us, spread over him his beautiful umbrella with its pleasing pictures. Now he saw himself with his little brother as they picked guavas, alpay, and other fruits in the woods; they clambered from branch to branch, light as butterflies; they penetrated into the caves and saw the shining rocks; they bathed in the springs where the sand was gold-dust and the stones like the jewels in the Virgin’s crown. The little fishes sang and laughed, the plants bent their branches toward them laden with golden fruit. Then he saw a bell hanging in a tree with a long rope for ringing it; to the rope was tied a cow with a bird’s nest between her horns and Crispin was inside the bell.

Thus he went on dreaming, while his mother, who was not of his age and who had not run for an hour, slept not. [118]

 

1 Dream or reality, we do not know whether this may have happened to any Franciscan, but something similar is related of the Augustinian Padre Piernavieja.—Author’s note. Fray Antonio Piernavieja, O.S.A., was a parish curate in the province of Bulacan when this work was written. Later, on account of alleged brutality similar to the incident used here, he was transferred to the province of Cavite, where, in 1896, he was taken prisoner by the insurgents and by them made "bishop" of their camp. Having taken advantage of this position to collect and forward to the Spanish authorities in Manila information concerning the insurgents’ preparations and plans, he was tied out in an open field and left to perish of hunger and thirst under the tropical sun. See Guía Oficial de Filipinas, 1885, p. 195; El Katipunan ó El Filibusterismo en Filipinas (Madrid, 1897), p. 347; Foreman’s The Philippine Islands, Chap. XII.—TR.
2 The Philippine civet-cat, quite rare, and the only wild carnivore in the Philippine Islands.—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XVIII-Souls in Torment}

Chapter XVIII

Souls in Torment

It was about seven o’clock in the morning when Fray Salvi finished celebrating his last mass, having offered up three in the space of an hour. "The padre is ill," commented the pious women. "He doesn’t move about with his usual slowness and elegance of manner."

He took off his vestments without the least comment, without saying a word or looking at any one. "Attention!" whispered the sacristans among themselves. "The devil’s to pay! It’s going to rain fines, and all on account of those two brothers."

He left the sacristy to go up into the rectory, in the hallway of which there awaited him some seven or eight women seated upon benches and a man who was pacing back and forth. Upon seeing him approach, the women arose and one of them pressed forward to kiss his hand, but the holy man made a sign of impatience that stopped her short.

"Can it be that you’ve lost a real, kuriput?" exclaimed the woman with a jesting laugh, offended at such a reception. "Not to give his hand to me, Matron of the Sisterhood, Sister Rufa!" It was an unheard-of proceeding.

"He didn’t go into the confessional this morning," added Sister Sipa, a toothless old woman. "I wanted to confess myself so as to receive communion and get the indulgences."

"Well, I’m sorry for you," commented a young woman with a frank face. "This week I earned three plenary indulgences and dedicated them to the soul of my husband."

"Badly done, Sister Juana," said the offended Rufa. [119]"One plenary indulgence was enough to get him out of purgatory. You ought not to squander the holy indulgences. Do as I do." "I thought, so many more the better," answered the simple Sister Juana, smiling. "But tell me what you do."

Sister Rufa did not answer at once. First, she asked for a buyo and chewed at it, gazed at her audience, which was listening attentively, then spat to one side and commenced, chewing at the buyo meanwhile: "I don’t misspend one holy day! Since I’ve belonged to the Sisterhood I’ve earned four hundred and fifty-seven plenary indulgences, seven hundred sixty thousand five hundred and ninety-eight years of indulgence. I set down all that I earn, for I like to have clean accounts. I don’t want to cheat or be cheated."

Here Sister Rufa paused to give more attention to her chewing. The women gazed at her in admiration, but the man who was pacing back and forth remarked with some disdain, "Well, this year I’ve gained four plenary indulgences more than you have, Sister Rufa, and a hundred years more, and that without praying much either."

"More than I? More than six hundred and eighty-nine plenary indulgences or nine hundred ninety-four thousand eight hundred and fifty-six years?" queried Rufa, somewhat disgruntled.

"That’s it, eight indulgences and a hundred fifteen years more and a few months over," answered the man, from whose neck hung soiled scapularies and rosaries.

"That’s not strange!" admitted Rufa, at last admitting defeat. "You’re an expert, the best in the province."

The flattered man smiled and continued, "It isn’t so wonderful that I earn more than you do. Why, I can almost say that even when sleeping I earn indulgences."

"And what do you do with them, sir?" asked four or five voices at the same time.

"Pish!" answered the man with a gesture of proud disdain. "I have them to throw away!"

[120]"But in that I can’t commend you, sir," protested Rufa. "You’ll go to purgatory for wasting the indulgences. You know very well that for every idle word one must suffer forty days in fire, according to the curate; for every span of thread uselessly wasted, sixty days; and for every drop of water spilled, twenty. You’ll go to purgatory." "Well, I’ll know how to get out," answered Brother Pedro with sublime confidence. "How many souls have I saved from the flames! How many saints have I made! Besides, even in articulo mortis I can still earn, if I wish, at least seven plenary indulgences and shall be able to save others as I die." So saying, he strode proudly away.

Sister Rufa turned to the others: "Nevertheless, you must do as I do, for I don’t lose a single day and I keep my accounts well. I don’t want to cheat or be cheated."

"Well, what do you do?" asked Juana.

"You must imitate what I do. For example, suppose I earn a year of indulgence: I set it down in my account-book and say, ‘Most Blessed Father and Lord St. Dominic, please see if there is anybody in purgatory who needs exactly a year—neither a day more nor a day less.’ Then I play heads and tails: if it comes heads, no; if tails, yes. Let’s suppose that it comes tails, then I write down paid; if it comes heads, then I keep the indulgence. In this way I arrange groups of a hundred years each, of which I keep a careful account. It’s a pity that we can’t do with them as with money—put them out at interest, for in that way we should be able to save more souls. Believe me, and do as I do."

"Well, I do it a better way," remarked Sister Sipa.

"What? Better?" demanded the astonished Rufa. "That can’t be! My system can’t be improved upon!"

"Listen a moment and you’ll be convinced, Sister," said old Sipa in a tone of vexation.

"How is it? Let’s hear!" exclaimed the others.

After coughing ceremoniously the old woman began with [121]great care: "You know very well that by saying the Bendita sea tu pureza and the Señor mío Jesucristo, Padre dulcísimo por el gozo, ten years are gained for each letter—" "Twenty!" "No, less!" "Five!" interrupted several voices.

"A few years more or less make no difference. Now, when a servant breaks a plate, a glass, or a cup, I make him pick up the pieces; and for every scrap, even the very smallest, he has to recite for me one of those prayers. The indulgences that I earn in this way I devote to the souls. Every one in my house, except the cats, understands this system."

"But those indulgences are earned by the servants and not by you, Sister Sipa," objected Rufa.

"And my cups and plates, who pays for them? The servants are glad to pay for them in that way and it suits me also. I never resort to blows, only sometimes a pinch, or a whack on the head."

"I’m going to do as you do!" "I’ll do the same!" "And I!" exclaimed the women.

"But suppose the plate is only broken into two or three pieces, then you earn very few," observed the obstinate Rufa.

"Abá!" answered old Sipa. "I make them recite the prayers anyhow. Then I glue the pieces together again and so lose nothing."

Sister Rufa had no more objections left.

"Allow me to ask about a doubt of mine," said young Juana timidly. "You ladies understand so well these matters of heaven, purgatory, and hell, while I confess that I’m ignorant. Often I find in the novenas and other books this direction: three paternosters, three Ave Marias, and three Gloria Patris—"

"Yes, well?"

"Now I want to know how they should be recited: whether three paternosters in succession, three Ave Marias [122]in succession, and three Gloria Patris in succession; or a paternoster, an Ave Maria, and a Gloria Patri together, three times?" "This way: a paternoster three times—"

"Pardon me, Sister Sipa," interrupted Rufa, "they must be recited in the other way. You mustn’t mix up males and females. The paternosters are males, the Ave Marias are females, and the Gloria Patris are the children."

"Eh? Excuse me, Sister Rufa: paternoster, Ave Maria, and Gloria are like rice, meat, and sauce—a mouthful for the saints—"

"You’re wrong! You’ll see, for you who pray that way will never get what you ask for."

"And you who pray the other way won’t get anything from your novenas," replied old Sipa.

"Who won’t?" asked Rufa, rising. "A short time ago I lost a little pig, I prayed to St. Anthony and found it, and then I sold it for a good price. Abá!"

"Yes? Then that’s why one of your neighbors was saying that you sold a pig of hers."

"Who? The shameless one! Perhaps I’m like you—"

Here the expert had to interfere to restore peace, for no one was thinking any more about paternosters—the talk was all about pigs. "Come, come, there mustn’t be any quarrel over a pig, Sisters! The Holy Scriptures give us an example to follow. The heretics and Protestants didn’t quarrel with Our Lord for driving into the water a herd of swine that belonged to them, and we that are Christians and besides, Brethren of the Holy Rosary, shall we have hard words on account of a little pig! What would our rivals, the Tertiary Brethren, say?"

All became silent before such wisdom, at the same time fearing what the Tertiary Brethren might say. The expert, well satisfied with such acquiescence, changed his tone and continued: "Soon the curate will send for us. We must tell him which preacher we’ve chosen of the [123]three that he suggested yesterday, whether Padre Damaso, Padre Martin, or the coadjutor. I don’t know whether the Tertiary Brethren have yet made any choice, so we must decide." "The coadjutor," murmured Juana timidly.

"Ahem! The coadjutor doesn’t know how to preach," declared Sipa. "Padre Martin is better."

"Padre Martin!" exclaimed another disdainfully. "He hasn’t any voice. Padre Damaso would be better."

"That’s right!" cried Rufa. "Padre Damaso surely does know how to preach! He looks like a comedian!"

"But we don’t understand him," murmured Juana.

"Because he’s very deep! And as he preaches well—"

This speech was interrupted by the arrival of Sisa, who was carrying a basket on her head. She saluted the Sisters and went on up the stairway.

"She’s going in! Let’s go in too!" they exclaimed. Sisa felt her heart beating violently as she ascended the stairs. She did not know just what to say to the padre to placate his wrath or what reasons she could advance in defense of her son. That morning at the first flush of dawn she had gone into her garden to pick the choicest vegetables, which she placed in a basket among banana-leaves and flowers; then she had looked along the bank of the river for the pakó which she knew the curate liked for salads. Putting on her best clothes and without awakening her son, she had set out for the town with the basket on her head. As she went up the stairway she, tried to make as little noise as possible and listened attentively in the hope that she might hear a fresh, childish voice, so well known to her. But she heard nothing nor did she meet any one as she made her way to the kitchen. There she looked into all the corners. The servants and sacristans received her coldly, scarcely acknowledging her greeting.

"Where can I put these vegetables?" she asked, not taking any offense at their coldness.

"There, anywhere!" growled the cook, hardly looking [124]at her as he busied himself in picking the feathers from a capon. With great care Sisa arranged the vegetables and the salad leaves on the table, placing the flowers above them. Smiling, she then addressed one of the servants, who seemed to be more approachable than the cook: "May I speak with the padre?"

"He’s sick," was the whispered answer.

"And Crispin? Do you know if he is in the sacristy?" The servant looked surprised and wrinkled his eyebrows. "Crispin? Isn’t he at your house? Do you mean to deny it?"

"Basilio is at home, but Crispin stayed here," answered Sisa, "and I want to see him."

"Yes, he stayed, but afterwards he ran away, after stealing a lot of things. Early this morning the curate ordered me to go and report it to the Civil Guard. They must have gone to your house already to hunt for the boys."

Sisa covered her ears and opened her mouth to speak, but her lips moved without giving out any sound.

"A pretty pair of sons you have!" exclaimed the cook. "It’s plain that you’re a faithful wife, the sons are so like the father. Take care that the younger doesn’t surpass him."

Sisa broke out into bitter weeping and let herself fall upon a bench.

"Don’t cry here!" yelled the cook. "Don’t you know that the padre’s sick? Get out in the street and cry!"

The unfortunate mother was almost shoved down the stairway at the very time when the Sisters were coming down, complaining and making conjectures about the curate’s illness, so she hid her face in her pañuelo and suppressed the sounds of her grief. Upon reaching the street she looked about uncertainly for a moment and then, as if having reached a decision, walked rapidly away. {mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XIX-A Schoolmasters Difficulties} [125] [Contents]

Chapter XIX

A Schoolmaster’s Difficulties

El vulgo es necio y pues lo paga, es justo

Hablarle en necio para darle el gusto.

1 LOPE DE VEGA.

The mountain-encircled lake slept peacefully with that hypocrisy of the elements which gave no hint of how its waters had the night before responded to the fury of the storm. As the first reflections of light awoke on its surface the phosphorescent spirits, there were outlined in the distance, almost on the horizon, the gray silhouettes of the little bankas of the fishermen who were taking in their nets and of the larger craft spreading their sails. Two men dressed in deep mourning stood gazing at the water from a little elevation: one was Ibarra and the other a youth of humble aspect and melancholy features.

"This is the place," the latter was saying. "From here your father’s body was thrown into the water. Here’s where the grave-digger brought Lieutenant Guevara and me."

Ibarra warmly grasped the hand of the young man, who went on: "You have no occasion to thank me. I owed many favors to your father, and the only thing that I could do for him was to accompany his body to the grave. I came here without knowing any one, without recommendation, and having neither name nor fortune, just as at present. My predecessor had abandoned the school to engage in the tobacco trade. Your father protected me, secured me a house, and furnished whatever was necessary [126]for running the school. He used to visit the classes and distribute pictures among the poor but studious children, as well as provide them with books and paper. But this, like all good things, lasted only a little while." Ibarra took off his hat and seemed to be praying for a time. Then he turned to his companion: "Did you say that my father helped the poor children? And now?"

"Now they get along as well as possible and write when they can," answered the youth.

"What is the reason?"

"The reason lies in their torn camisas and their downcast eyes."

"How many pupils have you now?" asked Ibarra with interest, after a pause.

"More than two hundred on the roll but only about twenty-five in actual attendance."

"How does that happen?"

The schoolmaster smiled sadly as he answered, "To tell you the reasons would make a long and tiresome story."

"Don’t attribute my question to idle curiosity," replied Ibarra gravely, while he stared at the distant horizon. "I’ve thought better of it and believe that to carry out my father’s ideas will be more fitting than to weep for him, and far better than to revenge him. Sacred nature has become his grave, and his enemies were the people and a priest. The former I pardon on account of their ignorance and the latter because I wish that Religion, which elevated society, should be respected. I wish to be inspired with the spirit of him who gave me life and therefore desire to know about the obstacles encountered here in educational work."

"The country will bless your memory, sir," said the schoolmaster, "if you carry out the beautiful plans of your dead father! You wish to know the obstacles which the progress of education meets? Well then, under present circumstances, without substantial aid education will never amount to much; in the very first place because, even when [127]we have the pupils, lack of suitable means, and other things that attract them more, kill off their interest. It is said that in Germany a peasant’s son studies for eight years in the town school, but who here would spend half that time when such poor results are to be obtained? They read, write, and memorize selections, and sometimes whole books, in Spanish, without understanding a single word.2 What benefit does our country child get from the school?" "And why have you, who see the evil, not thought of remedying it?"

The schoolmaster shook his head sadly. "A poor teacher struggles not only against prejudices but also against certain influences. First, it would be necessary to have a suitable place and not to do as I must at present—hold the classes under the convento by the side of the padre’s carriage. There the children, who like to read aloud, very naturally disturb the padre, and he often comes down, nervous, especially when he has his attacks, yells at them, and even insults me at times. You know that no one can either teach or learn under such circumstances, for the child will not respect his teacher when he sees him abused without standing up for his rights. In order to be heeded and to maintain his authority the teacher needs prestige, reputation, moral strength, and some freedom of action.

[128]"Now let me recount to you even sadder details. I have wished to introduce reforms and have been laughed at. In order to remedy the evil of which I just spoke to you, I tried to teach Spanish to the children because, in addition to the fact that the government so orders, I thought also that it would be of advantage for everybody. I used the simplest method of words and phrases without paying any attention to long rules, expecting to teach them grammar when they should understand the language. At the end of a few weeks some of the brightest were almost able to understand me and could use a few phrases." The schoolmaster paused and seemed to hesitate, then, as if making a resolution, he went on: "I must not be ashamed of the story of my wrongs, for any one in my place would have acted the same as I did. As I said, it was a good beginning, but a few days afterwards Padre Damaso, who was the curate then, sent for me by the senior sacristan. Knowing his disposition and fearing to make him wait, I went upstairs at once, saluted him, and wished him good-morning in Spanish. His only greeting had been to put out his hand for me to kiss, but at this he drew it back and without answering me began to laugh loud and mockingly. I was very much embarrassed, as the senior sacristan was present. At the moment I didn’t know just what to say, for the curate continued his laughter and I stood staring at him. Then I began to get impatient and saw that I was about to do something indiscreet, since to be a good Christian and to preserve one’s dignity are not incompatible. I was going to put a question to him when suddenly, passing from ridicule to insult, he said sarcastically, ‘So it’s buenos dins, eh? Buenos dias! How nice that you know how to talk Spanish!’ Then again he broke out into laughter."

Ibarra was unable to repress a smile.

"You smile," continued the schoolmaster, following Ibarra’s example, "but I must confess that at the time I had very little desire to laugh. I was still standing—I [129]felt the blood rush to my head and lightning seemed to flash through my brain. The curate I saw far, far away. I advanced to reply to him without knowing just what I was going to say, but the senior sacristan put himself between us. Padre Damaso arose and said to me in Tagalog: ‘Don’t try to shine in borrowed finery. Be content to talk your own dialect and don’t spoil Spanish, which isn’t meant for you. Do you know the teacher Ciruela?3 Well, Ciruela was a teacher who didn’t know how to read, and he had a school.’ I wanted to detain him, but he went into his bedroom and slammed the door. "What was I to do with only my meager salary, to collect which I have to get the curate’s approval and make a trip to the capital of the province, what could I do against him, the foremost religious and political power in the town, backed up by his Order, feared by the government, rich, powerful, sought after and listened to, always believed and heeded by everybody? Although he insulted me, I had to remain silent, for if I replied he would have had me removed from my position, by which I should lose all hope in my chosen profession. Nor would the cause of education gain anything, but the opposite, for everybody would take the curate’s side, they would curse me and call me presumptuous, proud, vain, a bad Christian, uncultured, and if not those things, then anti-Spanish and a filibuster. Of a schoolmaster neither learning nor zeal is expected; resignation, humility, and inaction only are asked. May God pardon me if I have gone against my conscience and my judgement, but I was born in this country, I have to live, I have a mother, so I have abandoned myself to my fate like a corpse tossed about by the waves."

"Did this difficulty discourage you for all time? Have you lived so since?"

"Would that it had been a warning to me! If only [130]my troubles had been limited to that! It is true that from that time I began to dislike my profession and thought of seeking some other occupation, as my predecessor had done, because any work that is done in disgust and shame is a kind of martyrdom and because every day the school recalled the insult to my mind, causing me hours of great bitterness. But what was I to do? I could not undeceive my mother, I had to say to her that her three years of sacrifice to give me this profession now constituted my happiness. It is necessary to make her believe that this profession is most honorable, the work delightful, the way strewn with flowers, that the performance of my duties brings me only friendship, that the people respect me and show me every consideration. By doing otherwise, without ceasing to be unhappy myself, I should have caused more sorrow, which besides being useless would also be a sin. I stayed on, therefore, and tried not to feel discouraged. I tried to struggle on." Here he paused for a while, then resumed: "From the day on which I was so grossly insulted I began to examine myself and I found that I was in fact very ignorant. I applied myself day and night to the study of Spanish and whatever concerned my profession. The old Sage lent me some books, and I read and pondered over everything that I could get hold of. With the new ideas that I have been acquiring in one place and another my point of view has changed and I have seen many things under a different aspect from what they had appeared to me before. I saw error where before I had seen only truth, and truth in many things where I had formerly seen only error. Corporal punishment, for example, which from time immemorial has been the distinctive feature in the schools and which has heretofore been considered as the only efficacious means of making pupils learn—so we have been accustomed to believe—soon appeared to me to be a great hindrance rather than in any way an aid to the child’s progress. I became convinced that it was impossible to use one’s mind [131]properly when blows, or similar punishment, were in prospect. Fear and terror disturb the most serene, and a child’s imagination, besides being very lively, is also very impressionable. As it is on the brain that ideas are impressed, it is necessary that there be both inner and outer calm, that there be serenity of spirit, physical and moral repose, and willingness, so I thought that before everything else I should cultivate in the children confidence, assurance, and some personal pride. Moreover, I comprehended that the daily sight of floggings destroyed kindness in their hearts and deadened all sense of dignity, which is such a powerful lever in the world. At the same time it caused them to lose their sense of shame, which is a difficult thing to restore. I have also observed that when one pupil is flogged, he gets comfort from the fact that the others are treated in the same way, and that he smiles with satisfaction upon hearing the wails of the others. As for the person who does the flogging, while at first he may do it with repugnance, he soon becomes hardened to it and even takes delight in his gloomy task. The past filled me with horror, so I wanted to save the present by modifying the old system. I endeavored to make study a thing of love and joy, I wished to make the primer not a black book bathed in the tears of childhood but a friend who was going to reveal wonderful secrets, and of the schoolroom not a place of sorrows but a scene of intellectual refreshment. So, little by little, I abolished corporal punishment, taking the instruments of it entirely away from the school and replacing them with emulation and personal pride. If one was careless about his lesson, I charged it to lack of desire and never to lack of capacity. I made them think that they were more capable than they really were, which urged them on to study just as any confidence leads to notable achievements. At first it seemed that the change of method was impracticable; many ceased their studies, but I persisted and observed that little by little their minds were being elevated and that more children came, that they [132]came with more regularity, and that he who was praised in the presence of the others studied with double diligence on the next day. "It soon became known throughout the town that I did not whip the children. The curate sent for me, and fearing another scene I greeted him curtly in Tagalog. On this occasion he was very serious with me. He said that I was exposing the children to destruction, that I was wasting time, that I was not fulfilling my duties, that the father who spared the rod was spoiling the child—according to the Holy Ghost—that learning enters with blood, and so on. He quoted to me sayings of barbarous times just as if it were enough that a thing had been said by the ancients to make it indisputable; according to which we ought to believe that there really existed those monsters which in past ages were imaged and sculptured in the palaces and temples. Finally, he charged me to be more careful and to return to the old system, otherwise he would make unfavorable report about me to the alcalde of the province. Nor was this the end of my troubles. A few days afterward some of the parents of the children presented themselves under the convento and I had to call to my aid all my patience and resignation. They began by reminding me of former times when teachers had character and taught as their grandfathers had. ‘Those indeed were the times of the wise men,’ they declared, ‘they whipped, and straightened the bent tree. They were not boys but old men of experience, gray-haired and severe. Don Catalino, king of them all and founder of this very school, used to administer no less than twenty-five blows and as a result his pupils became wise men and priests. Ah, the old people were worth more than we ourselves, yes, sir, more than we ourselves!’ Some did not content themselves with such indirect rudeness, but told me plainly that if I continued my system their children would learn nothing and that they would be obliged to take them from the school It was useless to argue with them, for as a

[133]young man they thought me incapable of sound judgment. What would I not have given for some gray hairs! They cited the authority of the curate, of this one and that one, and even called attention to themselves, saying that if it had not been for the whippings they had received from their teachers they would never have learned anything. Only a few persons showed any sympathy to sweeten for me the bitterness of such a disillusioning. "In view of all this I had to give up my system, which, after so much toil, was just beginning to produce results. In desperation I carried the whips bank to the school the next day and began the barbarous practice again. Serenity disappeared and sadness reigned in the faces of the children, who had just begun to care for me, and who were my only kindred and friends. Although I tried to spare the whippings and to administer them with all the moderation possible, yet the children felt the change keenly, they became discouraged and wept bitterly. It touched my heart, and even though in my own mind I was vexed with the stupid parents, still I was unable to take any spite out on those innocent victims of their parents’ prejudices. Their tears burned me, my heart seemed bursting from my breast, and that day I left the school before closing-time to go home and weep alone. Perhaps my sensitiveness may seem strange to you, but if you had been in my place you would understand it. Old Don Anastasio said to me, ‘So the parents want floggings? Why not inflict them on themselves?’ As a result of it all I became sick." Ibarra was listening thoughtfully.

"Scarcely had I recovered when I returned to the school to find the number of my pupils reduced to a fifth. The better ones had run away upon the return to the old system, and of those who remained—mostly those who came to school to escape work at home—not one showed any joy, not one congratulated me on my recovery. It would have been the same to them whether I got well or not, or they might have preferred that I continue sick since my [134]substitute, although he whipped them more, rarely went to the school. My other pupils, those whose parents had obliged them to attend school, had gone to other places. Their parents blamed me for having spoiled them and heaped reproaches on me for it. One, however, the son of a country woman who visited me during my illness, had not returned on account of having been made a sacristan, and the senior sacristan says that the sacristans must not attend school: they would be dismissed." "Were you resigned in looking after your new pupils?" asked Ibarra.

"What else could I do?" was the queried reply. "Nevertheless, during my illness many things had happened, among them a change of curates, so I took new hope and made another attempt to the end that the children should not lose all their time and should, in so far as possible, get some benefit from the floggings, that such things might at least have some good result for them. I pondered over the matter, as I wished that even if they could not love me, by getting something useful from me, they might remember me with less bitterness. You know that in nearly all the schools the books are in Spanish, with the exception of the catechism in Tagalog, which varies according to the religious order to which the curate belongs. These books are generally novenas, canticles, and the Catechism of Padre Astete,4 from which they learn about as much piety as they would from the books of heretics. Seeing the impossibility of teaching the pupils in Spanish or of translating so many books, I tried to substitute short passages from useful works in Tagalog, such as the Treatise on Manners by Hortensio y Feliza, some manuals of Agriculture, and so forth. Sometimes I would myself translate simple works, such as Padre Barranera’s [135]History of the Philippines, which I then dictated to the children, with at times a few observations of my own, so that they might make note-books. As I had no maps for teaching geography, I copied one of the province that I saw at the capital and with this and the tiles of the floor I gave them some idea of the country. This time it was the women who got excited. The men contented themselves with smiling, as they saw in it only one of my vagaries. The new curate sent for me, and while he did not reprimand me, yet he said that I should first take care of religion, that before learning such things the children must pass an examination to show that they had memorized the mysteries, the canticles, and the catechism of Christian Doctrine. "So then, I am now working to the end that the children become changed into parrots and know by heart so many things of which they do not understand a single word. Many of them now know the mysteries and the canticles, but I fear that my efforts will come to grief with the Catechism of Padre Astete, since the greater part of the pupils do not distinguish between the questions and the answers, nor do they understand what either may mean. Thus we shall die, thus those unborn will do, while in Europe they will talk of progress."

"Let’s not be so pessimistic," said Ibarra. "The teniente-mayor has sent me an invitation to attend a meeting in the town hall. Who knows but that there you may find an answer to your questions?"

The schoolmaster shook his head in doubt as he answered: "You’ll see how the plan of which they talked to me meets the same fate as mine has. But yet, let us see!" [136]

 

 

1 The common crowd is a fool and since it pays for it, it is proper to talk to it foolishly to please it. 2 "The schools are under the inspection of the parish priests. Reading and writing in Spanish are taught, or at least it is so ordered; but the schoolmaster himself usually does not know it, and on the other hand the Spanish government employees do not understand the vernacular. Besides, the curates, in order to preserve their influence intact, do not look favorably upon the spread of Castilian. About the only ones who know Spanish are the Indians who have been in the service of Europeans. The first reading exercise is some devotional book, then the catechism; the reader is called Casaysayan. On the average half of the children between seven and ten years attend school; they learn to read fairly well and some to write a little, but they soon forget it."—Jagor, Viajes por Filipinas (Vidal’s Spanish version). Jagor was speaking particularly of the settled parts of the Bicol region. Referring to the islands generally, his "half of the children" would be a great exaggeration.—TR.
3 A delicate bit of sarcasm is lost in the translation here. The reference to Maestro Ciruela in Spanish is somewhat similar to a mention in English of Mr. Squeers, of Dotheboys Hall fame.—TR. 4 By one of the provisions of a royal decree of December 20, 1863, the Catecismo de la Doctrina Cristina, by Gaspar Astete, was prescribed as the text-book for primary schools, in the Philippines. See Blair and Robertson’s The Philippine Islands, Vol. XLVI, p. 98; Census of the Philippine Islands (Washington, 1905), p. 584.—TR.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Chapter XX-The Meeting in the Town Hall}

Chapter XX

The Meeting in the Town Hall

The hall was about twelve to fifteen meters long by eight to ten wide. Its whitewashed walls were covered with drawings in charcoal, more or less ugly and obscene, with inscriptions to complete their meanings. Stacked neatly against the wall in one corner were to be seen about a dozen old flint-locks among rusty swords and talibons, the armament of the cuadrilleros.1 At one end of the hall there hung, half hidden by soiled red curtains, a picture of his Majesty, the King of Spain. Underneath this picture, upon a wooden platform, an old chair spread out its broken arms. In front of the chair was a wooden table spotted with ink stains and whittled and carved with inscriptions and initials like the tables in the German taverns frequented by students. Benches and broken chairs completed the furniture. This is the hall of council, of judgment, and of torture, wherein are now gathered the officials of the town and its dependent villages. The faction of old men does not mix with that of the youths, for they are mutually hostile. They represent respectively the conservative and the liberal [137]parties, save that their disputes assume in the towns an extreme character. "The conduct of the gobernadorcillo fills me with distrust," Don Filipo, the teniente-mayor and leader of the liberal faction, was saying to his friends. "It was a deep-laid scheme, this thing of putting off the discussion of expenses until the eleventh hour. Remember that we have scarcely eleven days left."

"And he has staved at the convento to hold a conference with the curate, who is sick," observed one of the youths.

"It doesn’t matter," remarked another. "We have everything prepared. Just so the plan of the old men doesn’t receive a majority—"

"I don’t believe it will," interrupted Don Filipo, "as I shall present the plan of the old men myself!"

"What! What are you saying?" asked his surprised hearers.

"I said that if I speak first I shall present the plan of our rivals."

"But what about our plan?"

"I shall leave it to you to present ours," answered Don Filipo with a smile, turning toward a youthful cabeza de barangay.2 "You will propose it after I have been defeated." "We don’t understand you, sir," said his hearers, staring at him with doubtful looks.

"Listen," continued the liberal leader in a low voice to several near him. "This morning I met old Tasio and the old man said to me: ‘Your rivals hate you more than they do your ideas. Do you wish that a thing shall [138]not be done? Then propose it yourself, and though it were more useful than a miter, it would be rejected. Once they have defeated you, have the least forward person in the whole gathering propose what you want, and your rivals, in order to humiliate you, will accept it.’ But keep quiet about it." "But—"

"So I will propose the plan of our rivals and exaggerate it to the point of making it ridiculous. Ah, here come Señor Ibarra and the schoolmaster."

These two young men saluted each of the groups without joining either. A few moments later the gobernadorcillo, the very same individual whom we saw yesterday carrying a bundle of candles, entered with a look of disgust on his face. Upon his entrance the murmurs ceased, every one sat down, and silence was gradually established, as he took his seat under the picture of the King, coughed four or five times, rubbed his hand over his face and head, rested his elbows on the table, then withdrew them, coughed once more, and then the whole thing over again.

"Gentlemen," he at last began in an unsteady voice, "I have been so bold as to call you together here for this meeting—ahem! Ahem! We have to celebrate the fiesta of our patron saint, San Diego, on the twelfth of this month—ahem!—today is the second—ahem! Ahem!" At this point a slow, dry cough cut off his speech.

A man of proud bearing, apparently about forty years of age, then arose from the bench of the elders. He was the rich Capitan Basilio, the direct contrast of Don Rafael, Ibarra’s father. He was a man who maintained that after the death of St. Thomas Aquinas the world had made no more progress, and that since St. John Lateran had left it, humanity had been retrograding.

"Gentlemen, allow me to speak a few words about such an interesting matter," he began. "I speak first even though there are others here present who have more right to do so than I have, but I speak first because in these [139]matters it seems to me that by speaking first one does not take the first place—no more than that by speaking last does one become the least. Besides, the things that I have to say are of such importance that they should not be put off or last spoken of, and accordingly I wish to speak first in order to give them due weight. So you will allow me to speak first in this meeting where I see so many notable persons, such as the present señor capitan, the former capitan; my distinguished friend, Don Valentin, a former capitan; the friend of my infancy, Don Julio; our celebrated captain of cuadrilleros, Don Melchor; and many other personages, whom, for the sake of brevity, I must omit to enumerate—all of whom you see present here. I beg of you that I may be allowed a few words before any one else speaks. Have I the good fortune to see my humble request granted by the meeting?" Here the orator with a faint smile inclined his head respectfully. "Go on, you have our undivided attention!" said the notables alluded to and some others who considered Capitan Basilio a great orator. The elders coughed in a satisfied way and rubbed their hands. After wiping the perspiration from his brow with a silk handkerchief, he then proceeded:

"Now that you have been so kind and complaisant with my humble self as to grant me the use of a few words before any one else of those here present, I shall take advantage of this permission, so generously granted, and shall talk. In imagination I fancy myself in the midst of the august Roman senate, senatus populusque romanus, as was said in those happy days which, unfortunately for humanity, will nevermore return. I propose to the Patres Conscripti, as the learned Cicero would say if he were in my place, I propose, in view of the short time left, and time is money as Solomon said, that concerning this important matter each one set forth his opinion clearly, briefly, and simply."

Satisfied with himself and flattered by the attention in [140]the hall, the orator took his seat, not without first casting a glance of superiority toward Ibarra, who was seated in a corner, and a significant look at his friends as if to say, "Aha! Haven’t I spoken well?" His friends reflected both of these expressions by staring at the youths as though to make them die of envy. "Now any one may speak who wishes that—ahem!" began the gobernadorcillo, but a repetition of the cough and sighs cut short the phrase.

To judge from the silence, no one wished to consider himself called upon as one of the Conscript Fathers, since no one rose. Then Don Filipo seized the opportunity and rose to speak. The conservatives winked and made significant signs to each other.

"I rise, gentlemen, to present my estimate of expenses for the fiesta," he began. "We can’t allow it," commented a consumptive old man, who was an irreconcilable conservative.

"We’ll vote against it," corroborated others. "Gentlemen!" exclaimed Don Filipo, repressing a smile, "I haven’t yet made known the plan which we, the younger men, bring here. We feel sure that this great plan will be preferred by all over any other that our opponents think of or are capable of conceiving."

This presumptuous exordium so thoroughly irritated the minds of the conservatives that they swore in their hearts to offer determined opposition.

"We have estimated three thousand five hundred pesos for the expenses," went on Don Filipo. "Now then, with such a sum we shall be able to celebrate a fiesta that will eclipse in magnificence any that has been seen up to this time in our own or neighboring provinces."

"Ahem!" coughed some doubters. "The town of A——— has five thousand, B——— has four thousand, ahem! Humbug!"

"Listen to me, gentlemen, and I’ll convince you," continued the unterrified speaker. "I propose that we erect [141]a theater in the middle of the plaza, to cost one hundred and fifty pesos." "That won’t be enough! It’ll take one hundred and sixty," objected a confirmed conservative.

"Write it down, Señor Director, two hundred pesos for the theater," said Don Filipo. "I further propose that we contract with a troupe of comedians from Tondo for seven performances on seven successive nights. Seven performances at two hundred pesos a night make fourteen hundred pesos. Write down fourteen hundred pesos, Señor Director!"

Both the elders and the youths stared in amazement. Only those in the secret gave no sign.

"I propose besides that we have magnificent fireworks; no little lights and pin-wheels such as please children and old maids, nothing of the sort. We want big bombs and immense rockets. I propose two hundred big bombs at two pesos each and two hundred rockets at the same price. We’ll have them made by the pyrotechnists of Malabon."

"Huh!" grunted an old man, "a two-peso bomb doesn’t frighten or deafen me! They ought to be three-peso ones."

"Write down one thousand pesos for two hundred bombs and two hundred rockets."

The conservatives could no longer restrain themselves. Some of them rose and began to whisper together. "Moreover, in order that our visitors may see that we are a liberal people and have plenty of money," continued the speaker, raising his voice and casting a rapid glance at the whispering group of elders, "I propose: first, four hermanos mayores3 for the two days of the fiesta; and second, that each day there be thrown into the lake two hundred fried chickens, one hundred stuffed capons, and [142]forty roast pigs, as did Sylla, a contemporary of that Cicero, of whom Capitan Basilio just spoke." "That’s it, like Sylla," repeated the flattered Capitan Basilio.

The surprise steadily increased.

"Since many rich people will attend and each one will bring thousands of pesos, his best game-cocks, and his playing-cards, I propose that the cockpit run for fifteen days and that license be granted to open all gambling houses—"

The youths interrupted him by rising, thinking that he had gone crazy. The elders were arguing heatedly.

"And, finally, that we may not neglect the pleasures of the soul—"

The murmurs and cries which arose all over the hall drowned his voice out completely, and tumult reigned.

"No!" yelled an irreconcilable conservative. "I don’t want him to flatter himself over having run the whole fiesta, no! Let me speak! Let me speak!"

"Don Filipo has deceived us," cried the liberals. "We’ll vote against his plan. He has gone over to the old men. We’ll vote against him!"

The gobernadorcillo, more overwhelmed than ever, did nothing to restore order, but rather was waiting for them to restore it themselves.

The captain of the cuadrilleros begged to be heard and was granted permission to speak, but he did not open his mouth and sat down again confused and ashamed.

By good fortune, Capitan Valentin, the most moderate of all the conservatives, arose and said: "We cannot agree to what the teniente-mayor has proposed, as it appears to be exaggerated. So many bombs and so many nights of theatrical performances can only be desired by a young man, such as he is, who can spend night after night sitting up and listening to so many explosions without becoming deaf. I have consulted the opinion of the sensible persons here and all of them unanimously disapprove Don Filipo’s plan. Is it not so, gentlemen?"

[143]"Yes, yes!" cried the youths and elders with one voice. The youths were delighted to hear an old man speak so. "What are we going to do with four hermanos mayores?" went on the old man. "What is the meaning of those chickens, capons, and roast pigs, thrown into the lake? ‘Humbug!’ our neighbors would say. And afterwards we should have to fast for six months! What have we to do with Sylla and the Romans? Have they ever invited us to any of their festivities, I wonder? I, at least, have never received any invitation from them, and you can all see that I’m an old man!"

"The Romans live in Rome, where the Pope is," Capitan Basilio prompted him in a low voice. "Now I understand!" exclaimed the old man calmly.

"They would make of their festivals watch-meetings, and the Pope would order them to throw their food into the sea so that they might commit no sin. But, in spite of all that, your plan is inadmissible, impossible, a piece of foolishness!"

Being so stoutly opposed, Don Filipo had to withdraw his proposal. Now that their chief rival had been defeated, even the worst of the irreconcilable insurgents looked on with calmness while a young cabeza de barangay asked for the floor.

"I beg that you excuse the boldness of one so young as I am in daring to speak before so many persons respected for their age and prudence and judgment in affairs, but since the eloquent orator, Capitan Basilio, has requested every one to express his opinion, let the authoritative words spoken by him excuse my insignificance."

The conservatives nodded their heads with satisfaction, remarking to one another: "This young man talks sensibly." "He’s modest." "He reasons admirably."

"What a pity that he doesn’t know very well how to gesticulate," observed Capitan Basilio. "But there’s [144]time yet! He hasn’t studied Cicero and he’s still a young man!" "If I present to you, gentlemen, any program or plan," the young man continued, "I don’t do so with the thought that you will find it perfect or that you will accept it, but at the same time that I once more bow to the judgment of all of you, I wish to prove to our elders that our thoughts are always like theirs, since we take as our own those ideas so eloquently expressed by Capitan Basilio."

"Well spoken! Well spoken!" cried the flattered conservatives. Capitan Basilio made signs to the speaker showing him how he should stand and how he ought to move his arm. The only one remaining impassive was the gobernadorcillo, who was either bewildered or preoccupied; as a matter of fact, he seemed to be both. The young man went on with more warmth:

"My plan, gentlemen, reduces itself to this: invent new shows that are not common and ordinary, such as we see every day, and endeavor that the money collected may not leave the town, and that it be not wasted in smoke, but that it be used in some manner beneficial to all."

"That’s right!" assented the youths. "That’s what we want."

"Excellent!" added the elders.

"What should we get from a week of comedies, as the teniente-mayor proposes? What can we learn from the kings of Bohemia and Granada, who commanded that their daughters’ heads be cut off, or that they should be blown from a cannon, which later is converted into a throne? We are not kings, neither are we barbarians; we have no cannon, and if we should imitate those people, they would hang us on Bagumbayan. What are those princesses who mingle in the battles, scattering thrusts and blows about in combat with princes, or who wander alone over mountains and through valleys as though seduced by the tikbálang? Our nature is to love sweetness and tenderness in woman, and we would shudder at the thought of [145]taking the blood-stained hand of a maiden, even when the blood was that of a Moro or a giant, so abhorred by us. We consider vile the man who raises his hand against a woman, be he prince or alferez or rude countryman. Would it not be a thousand times better to give a representation of our own customs in order to correct our defects and vices and to encourage our better qualities?" "That’s right! That’s right!" exclaimed some of his faction.

"He’s right," muttered several old men thoughtfully.

"I should never have thought of that," murmured Capitan Basilio.

"But how are you going to do it?" asked the irreconcilable.

"Very easily," answered the youth. "I have brought here two dramas which I feel sure the good taste and recognized judgment of the respected elders here assembled will find very agreeable and entertaining. One is entitled ‘The Election of the Gobernadorcillo,’ being a comedy in prose in five acts, written by one who is here present. The other is in nine acts for two nights and is a fantastical drama of a satirical nature, entitled ‘Mariang Makiling,’4 written by one of the best poets of the province. Seeing that the discussion of preparations for the fiesta has been postponed and fearing that there would not be time enough left, we have secretly secured the actors and had them learn their parts. We hope that with a week of rehearsal they will have plenty of time to know their parts thoroughly. This, gentlemen, besides being new, useful, and reasonable, has the great advantage of being economical; we shall not need costumes, as those of our daily life will be suitable."

[146]"I’ll pay for the theater!" shouted Capitan Basilio enthusiastically. "If you need cuadrilleros, I’ll lend you mine," cried their captain.

"And I—and I—if art old man is needed—" stammered another one, swelling with pride.

"Accepted! Accepted!" cried many voices.

Don Filipo became pale with emotion and his eyes filled with tears.

"He’s crying from spite," thought the irreconcilable, so he yelled, "Accepted! Accepted without discussion!" Thus satisfied with revenge and the complete defeat of his rival, this fellow began to praise the young man’s plan.

The latter continued his speech: "A fifth of the money collected may be used to distribute a few prizes, such as to the best school child, the best herdsman, farmer, fisherman, and so on. We can arrange for boat races on the river and lake and for horse races on shore, we can raise greased poles and also have other games in which our country people can take part. I concede that on account of our long-established customs we must have some fireworks; wheels and fire castles are very beautiful and entertaining, but I don’t believe it necessary to have bombs, as the former speaker proposed. Two bands of music will afford sufficient merriment and thus we shall avoid those rivalries and quarrels between the poor musicians who come to gladden our fiesta with their work and who so often behave like fighting-cocks, afterwards going away poorly paid, underfed, and even bruised and wounded at times. With the money left over we can begin the erection of a small building for a schoolhouse, since we can’t wait until God Himself comes down and builds one for us, and it is a sad state of affairs that while we have a fine cockpit our children study almost in the curate’s stable. Such are the outlines of my plan; the details can be worked out by all."

A murmur of pleasure ran through the hall, as nearly every one agreed with the youth.

[147]Some few muttered, "Innovations! Innovations! When we were young—" "Let’s adopt it for the time being and humiliate that fellow," said others, indicating Don Filipo.

When silence was restored all were agreed. There was lacking only the approval of the gobernadorcillo. That worthy official was perspiring and fidgeting about. He rubbed his hand over his forehead and was at length able to stammer out in a weak voice: "I also agree, but—ahem!"

Every one in the hall listened in silence.

"But what?" asked Capitan Basilio.

"Very agreeable," repeated the gobernadorcillo, "that is to say—I don’t agree—I mean—yes, but—" Here he rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. "But the curate," the poor fellow went on, "the curate wants something else."

"Does the curate or do we ourselves pay for this fiesta? Has he given a cuarto for it?" exclaimed a penetrating voice. All looked toward the place whence these questions came and saw there the Sage Tasio.

Don Filipo remained motionless with his eyes fixed on the gobernadorcillo.

"What does the curate want?" asked Capitan Basilio.

"Well, the padre wants six processions, three sermons, three high masses, and if there is any money left, a comedy from Tondo with songs in the intermissions."

"But we don’t want that," said the youths and some of the old men.

"The curate wants it," repeated the gobernadorcillo. "I’ve promised him that his wish shall be carried out."

"Then why did you have us assemble here?"

"F-for the very purpose of telling you this!"

"Why didn’t you tell us so at the start?"

"I wanted to tell you, gentlemen, but Capitan Basilio spoke and I haven’t had a chance. The curate must be obeyed."

[148]"He must be obeyed," echoed several old men. "He must be obeyed or else the alcalde will put us all in jail," added several other old men sadly.

"Well then, obey him, and run the fiesta yourselves," exclaimed the youths, rising. "We withdraw our contributions."

"Everything has already been collected," said the gobernadorcillo.

Don Filipo approached this official and said to him bitterly, "I sacrificed my pride in favor of a good cause; you are sacrificing your dignity as a man in favor of a bad one, and you’ve spoiled everything."

Ibarra turned to the schoolmaster and asked him, "Is there anything that I can do for you at the capital of the province? I leave for there immediately."

"Have you some business there?"

"We have business there!" answered Ibarra mysteriously.

On the way home, when Don Filipo was cursing his bad luck, old Tasio said to him: "The blame is ours! You didn’t protest when they gave you a slave for a chief, and I, fool that I am, had forgotten it!" [149]

 

1 The municipal police of the old régime. They were thus described by a Spanish writer, W. E. Retana, in a note to Ventura F. Lopez’s El Filibustero (Madrid, 1893): "Municipal guards, whose duties are principally rural. Their uniform is a disaster; they go barefoot; on horseback, they hold the reins in the right hand and a lance in the left. They are usually good-for-nothing, but to their credit it must be said that they do no damage. Lacking military instruction, provided with fire-arms of the first part of the century, of which one in a hundred might go off in case of need, and for other arms bolos, talibons, old swords, etc., the cuadrilleros are truly a parody on armed force."—TR.
2 Headman and tax-collector of a district, generally including about fifty families, for whose annual tribute he was personally responsible. The "barangay" is a Malay boat of the kind supposed to have been used by the first emigrants to the Philippines. Hence, at first, the "head of a barangay" meant the leader or chief of a family or group of families. This office, quite analogous to the old Germanic or Anglo-Saxon "head of a hundred," was adopted and perpetuated by the Spaniards in their system of local administration.—TR.
3 The hermano mayor was a person appointed to direct the ceremonies during the fiesta, an appointment carrying with it great honor and importance, but also entailing considerable expense, as the appointee was supposed to furnish a large share of the entertainments. Hence, the greater the number of hermanos mayores the more splendid the fiesta,—TR. 4 Mt. Makiling is a volcanic cone at the southern end of the Lake of Bay. At its base is situated the town of Kalamba, the author’s birthplace. About this mountain cluster a number of native legends having as their principal character a celebrated sorceress or enchantress, known as "Mariang Makiling."—TR.
 Continue Readiing - Chapter XXI to Chapter XXX


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Comments (1)
1 Saturday, 09 October 2010 16:50
my coment where is the savior of ideas of writing of noli

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