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Title: Friars and Filipinos
An Abridged Translation of Dr. Jose Rizal's Tagalog Novel,
'Noli Me Tangere.'
Author: Jose Rizal
Translator: Frank Ernest Gannett
Release Date: October 17, 2009 [EBook #30278]
Friars and Filipinos
An abridged translation of
Dr. José Rizal’s
Tagalog Novel, “Noli Me Tangere.”
Frank Ernest Gannett.
The St. James Press.
by Frank Ernest Gannett
Jacob Gould Schurman,
President of Cornell University.
While serving on the staff of the first United States Commission to the Philippine Islands my attention was called to the life and writings of Dr. José Rizal. I found in his novel, “Noli Me Tangere,” the best picture of the life of the people of those islands under Spanish rule, and the clearest exposition of the governmental problems which Spain failed to solve, and with which our own people must deal. It occurred to me that an English translation of Rizal’s work would be of great value at the present time. My first intention was to reproduce the entire novel as it was written, but, after careful consideration, I thought best to abridge the story by the omission of some parts which did not seem essential to the main purpose of the work. The present volume is the result.
Readers should not understand any of Rizal’s references to priests and friars as reflections upon the Roman Catholic Church. He was throughout his life an ardent Catholic, and died a firm adherent of the Church. But he objected to the religious orders in the Philippine Islands, because he knew well that they were more zealous in furthering their own selfish ends than in seeking the advancement of Christianity. From experience, Dr. Rizal knew that the friars, under cloak of the gospel ministry, oppressed his fellow countrymen, and took advantage of their superstition and ignorance. These wrongs he was brave enough to expose in his writings. In the friars he saw an obstacle to the education and enlightenment of the Filipino people, and, using moderate means, he did his utmost to secure reform. His writings will explain to us the cause of the hatred shown by the Filipinos toward the religious corporations, and will make clearer the nature of one of the present problems in the Philippines.
There are in the Philippines five religious orders: the Dominicans, Franciscans, Recoletos, Augustines and Jesuits. According to John Foreman, an eminent authority, the members of all of these, except the last named, come from the lower classes in Spain, and are on the whole comparatively ignorant and uncultured. Under the Spanish system of government certain provinces were assigned to each of the orders—except the Jesuits—and the friars were distributed among the different parishes. In the town assigned to him the friar had much authority. He was chief adviser in all civil affairs, and, by his influence over the superstitious natives, maintained absolute control in all matters pertaining to the local government as well as to the local church. So firm was his hold that he led the Spanish government to believe that the islands could not be ruled without his aid. Knowing that his power rested on the ignorance of the people he discouraged education among them. When native Filipinos advanced so far as to prove an obstacle to the religious orders, as did Rizal and many others, the friars sought to destroy them. Forgetting their holy mission, the religious orders became commercial corporations, amassed enormous wealth, and gained possession of the most valuable parts of the islands, though to much of this property the titles are not clear.
From my own observation, and from information derived from the Spaniards themselves, I am convinced that the author has not overdrawn his pictures. In fact I have learned of instances where the oppression and practices of the friars were even worse than those described. Dr. Rizal has given us a portrayal of the Filipino character from the viewpoint of the most advanced Filipino. He brings out many facts that are pertinent to present-day questions, showing especially the Malayan ideas of vengeance, which will put great difficulties in the way of the pacifying of the islands by our forces. The reader will not fail to notice the striking similarity between the life of Ibarra, the hero, and that of Rizal, the author, a short sketch of whose career has been given in the following pages.
For assistance in preparing this volume for publication I offer sincere thanks to William H. Glasson, Ph.D., Instructor in History in the George School, Newtown, Pa. Dr. Glasson has read the entire manuscript and proofs, and I have been glad to avail myself of his advice on many doubtful points. I desire also to acknowledge my indebtedness for favors received to Horatio Green, Interpreter to the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands, to W. G. Richardson, of New York, and to the publishers.
F. E. G.
Ithaca, N. Y., Dec. 1, 1900. [ix]
Chapter I. Page
Don Santiago’s Dinner
At the Dinner Table
Heretic and Revolutionist
An Idyl on the Azotea
San Diego and Its People
Ibarra and the Grave-Digger
Adventures of a School Teacher
Lights and Shadows
The Fishing Party
In the Woods
In the House of Tasio
The Eve of the Fiesta
As Night Comes On
The Hoisting Crane
The First Cloud
Might and Right
Episode in Espadaña’s Life
The Cock Fight
The Two Señoras
The Voice of the Persecuted
Playing Cards with the Shades
What People Say and Think
Maria Clara is Married
The Pursuit on the Lake
Father Dámaso Explains
Dr. José Rizal, of whose “Noli Me Tangere,” the following story, is an abridgement, is the most striking character to be found in the history of the Philippine Islands. He was not only a great martyr to the cause of liberty, and to the advancement of his fellow men, but he was without doubt the greatest Filipino ever born, and his memory is cherished to-day by his people as we ourselves cherish the memory of Washington.
Rizal was born on June 19th, 1861, in the pueblo of Calamba, in the province of Laguna, on the Island of Luzon. He came of a Tagalog family, which, it is said, acknowledged a slight mixture of Chinese blood, and possessed considerable property. As a child he gave evidence of extraordinary precocity. He is said to have written poetry in his native tongue at eight years of age, produced a successful melodrama at fourteen, and later to have won prizes in literary contests with writers of recognized ability.
After passing through the universities in Manila, and receiving much instruction at the hands of the Jesuit fathers, he was sent to Europe to complete his education. He pursued courses of study in Spanish and German universities, and won the degrees of Doctor of Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy. Besides acquiring a knowledge of seven languages he gained a brilliant reputation for proficiency in the branch of optical surgery. For a time he was the leading assistant in the office of a world-renowned specialist at Vienna.
While in Europe Rizal wrote several books and also gave considerable time to sculpture and painting. His artistic ability was great, and some of his productions are now treasured by friends into whose possession they came. Rizal’s best known work is his “Noli Me Tangere,” written in Belgium about 1886 or 1887. This novel, with its vivid picture of life in the Philippines, and its exposure of Spanish misrule and oppression, won for him the bitter hatred of the friars, and inspired the relentless persecution which only ended with the taking of his life.
In 1889 Dr. Rizal returned to the Philippines, but was soon compelled to leave his native land in order to escape forcible banishment. After a short residence in Japan, he went to London, where he published a work on the History of the Philippine Islands. About the same time a sequel to “Noli Me Tangere,” entitled “El Filibusterismo,” was published. The hatred of the priests against him was further inflamed by this production, and the government in Manila was forced by the friars to forbid the circulation of any of his writings. Copies of his novels were burned in the public squares, and it was worth one’s life to be found possessing a copy. Until very recently it has been almost impossible to obtain a copy of Rizal’s works, and it was necessary to go to Europe to secure the one from which the following abridged translation was made.
In 1892 Dr. Rizal was so overcome with a desire to see again his beautiful fatherland that he ventured, in the face of all the dangers that threatened him, to return to Manila. He had scarcely set foot on shore, however, before he was arrested and thrown in prison. The friars demanded his execution on the ground that he carried incendiary leaflets for the purpose of stirring up a rebellion, but subsequent inquiries showed that such leaflets had been introduced into his baggage at the custom house through the intrigues of the Augustine friars. Despite his indignant protestations of innocence; Rizal was summarily condemned by the Spanish General, Despujols, to banishment at Dapitan in the island of Mindanao. Although the trickery of the friars became known to him, Despujols lacked courage to revoke his order of banishment, for fear that he, too, would incur the hatred of the powerful religious corporations.
After four years of exile Rizal saw plainly that the hostility of the friars would make it impossible for him to live in his native land. In 1896 a plague of yellow fever broke out in the island of Cuba and Rizal volunteered to lend his medical services to the Spanish government. Ramon Blanco, then general-in-chief of the Spanish forces in the Philippines, accepted the generous offer and recalled the young man to Manila that he might sail at once for Cuba. Alarmed by demonstrations of popular affection for Rizal, who represented the aspirations of the Filipino people, the Spanish authorities broke faith with him and imprisoned him in the Fuerza de Santiago. He was arraigned on false charges, given a military trial, and at the dictation of the religious orders was sentenced to be shot as a traitor.
At dawn on December 30th, 1896, he was led to the place of execution on the beautiful Luneta, overlooking the tranquil surface of Manila Bay. Notices of the event had been published throughout the islands and the day on which it was to occur was proclaimed a fiesta. Thousands gathered around the place selected, and so evident was the sympathy of the helpless Filipinos for the man who was to die for their sake that Spain marshalled ten regiments of her soldiers about the spot. The populace must be intimidated. A nation’s hero was about to become a nation’s martyr. With face uplifted he glanced at the multitude about him and smiled. They tied his arms behind him and made him face the waters of the bay. In vain he protested and begged that he might die facing his executioners. A squad of his fellow countrymen, who were serving in Spain’s army, were selected for the bloody work. They drew in position to shoot him in the back. The order was given to fire, but only one had the courage to obey. The bullet went straight and the hero fell, but another shot was necessary to despatch his life. His newly wedded wife remained with him to the end. The best hope of the Filipino people was crushed; a light in a dark place was snuffed out.
Rizal was no extremist, no believer in harsh and bloody methods, no revolutionist. He aimed to secure moderate and reasonable reforms, to lessen the oppressive exactions of the friars, to examine into titles of their land, and to make possible the education and uplifting of his people. He loved Spain as he did his own country, and repeatedly used his influence against the rebellious measures proposed by other Filipino leaders. His execution was only one of the numerous outrages which characterized Spain’s reign in the Philippines.
In closing this short sketch of Rizal’s life we can do no better than to quote the estimate of him made by Dr. Ferdinand Blumentritt, professor in the University of Leitmeritz, Austria, who prepared a biographical sketch of Rizal. Dr. Blumentritt said:
“Not only is Rizal the most prominent man of his own people, but the greatest man the Malayan race has produced. His memory will never perish in his fatherland, and future generations of Spaniards will yet learn to utter his name with respect and reverence.”
Friars and Filipinos.
Don Santiago’s Dinner.
In the latter part of October, Don Santiago de los Santos, popularly known as Captain Tiago, gave a dinner. Though, contrary to his custom, he had not announced it until the afternoon of the day on which it was to occur, the dinner became at once the absorbing topic of conversation in Binondo, in the other suburbs of Manila, and even in the walled city. Captain Tiago was generally considered a most liberal man, and his house, like his country, shut its doors to no one, whether bent on pleasure or on the development of some new and daring scheme.
The dinner was given in the captain’s house in Analoague street. The building is of ordinary size, of the style of architecture common to the country, and is situated on that arm of the Pasig called by some Binondo Creek. This, like all the streams in Manila, satisfies a multitude of needs. It serves for bathing, mortar-mixing, laundering, fishing, means of transportation and communication, and even for drinking water, when the Chinese water-carriers find it convenient to use it for that purpose. Although the most important artery of the busiest part of the town, where the roar of commerce is loudest and traffic most congested, the stream is, for a distance of a mile, crossed by only one wooden bridge. During six months of the year, one end of this bridge is out of order, and the other end is impassable during the remaining time.
The house is low and somewhat out of plumb. No one, however, knows whether the faulty lines of the building are due to a defect in the sight of the architect who constructed it, or whether they are the result of earthquakes and hurricanes.
A wide staircase, with green balustrades and carpeted here and there in spots, leads from the zaguan, or tiled entrance hall, to the second story of the house. On either side of this staircase is a row of flower-pots and vases, placed upon chinaware pedestals, brilliant in coloring and fantastic in design. Upstairs, we enter a spacious hall, which is, in these islands, called caida. This serves to-night for the dining hall. In the middle of the room is a large table, profusely and richly ornamented, fairly groaning under the weight of delicacies.
In direct contrast to these worldly preparations are the motley colored religious pictures on the walls—such subjects as “Purgatory,” “Hell,” “The Last Judgment,” “The Death of the Just,” and “The Death of the Sinner.” Below these, in a beautiful renaissance frame, is a large, curious linen engraving of two old ladies. The picture bears the inscription “Our Lady of Peace, Propitious to Travellers, Venerated in Antipolo, Visiting in the Guise of a Beggar the Pious Wife of the Famous Captain Inés in Her Sickness.” In the side of the room toward the river, Captain Tiago has arranged fantastic wooden arches, half Chinese, half European, through which one can pass to the roof which covers part of the first story. This roof serves as a veranda, and has been illuminated with Chinese lanterns in many colors and made into a pretty little arbor or garden. The sala or principal room of the house, where the guests assembled is resplendent with colossal mirrors and brilliant chandeliers, and, upon a platform of pine, is a costly piano of the finest workmanship.
People almost filled this room, the men keeping on one side and the women on the other, as though they were in a Catholic church or a synagogue. Among the women were a number of young girls, both native and Spanish. Occasionally one of them forgot herself and yawned, but immediately sought to conceal it by covering her mouth with her fan. Conversation was carried on in a low voice and died away in vague mono-syllables, like the indistinct noises heard by night in a large mansion.
An elderly woman with a kindly face, a cousin of Captain Tiago, received the ladies. She spoke Spanish regardless of all the grammatical rules, and her courtesies consisted in offering to the Spanish ladies cigarettes and betel nut (neither of which they use) and in kissing the hands of the native women after the manner of the friars. Finally the poor old lady was completely exhausted, and, taking advantage of a distant crash occasioned by the breaking of a plate, hurried off precipitately to investigate, murmuring: “Jesús! Just wait, you good-for-nothings!”
Among the men there was somewhat more animation. In one corner of the room were some cadets, who chatted with some show of interest, but in a low voice. From time to time they surveyed the crowd and indicated to each other different persons, meanwhile laughing more or less affectedly.
The only people who appeared to be really enjoying themselves were two friars, two citizens and an officer of the army who formed a group around a small table, on which were bottles of wine and English biscuits. The officer was old, tall and sunburnt, and looked as the Duke of Alva might have looked, had he been reduced to a command in the civil guard. He said little, but what he did say was short and to the point. One of the friars was a young Dominican, handsome and dressed with extreme nicety. He wore gold mounted spectacles and preserved the extreme gravity of youth. The other friar, however, who was a Franciscan, talked a great deal and gesticulated even more. Although his hair was getting gray, he seemed to be well preserved and in robust health. His splendid figure, keen glance, square jaw and herculean form gave him the appearance of a Roman patrician in disguise. He was gay and talked briskly, like one who is not afraid to speak out. Brusque though his words might be, his merry laugh removed any disagreeable impression.
As to the citizens, one of them was small in stature and wore a black beard, his most noticeable feature being his large nose—so large that you could scarcely believe that it was all his own. The other was a young blonde, apparently a recent arrival in the country. The latter was carrying on a lively discussion with the Franciscan.
“You will see,” said the friar, “when you have been in the country a few months, and will be convinced that what I say is right. It is one thing to govern in Madrid and another to rule in the Philippines.”
“I, for example,” continued Father Dámaso, raising his voice to prevent the other from speaking, “I, who can point to my twenty-three years of existence on bananas and rice, can speak with some authority on this subject. Do not come to me with theories or arguments, for I know the native. Remember, that when I came to this country, I was sent to a parish, small and largely devoted to agriculture. I did not understand Tagalog very well, but I received the confessions of the women and we managed to understand each other. In fact, they came to think so much of me that three years afterward, when I was sent to another and larger town, where a vacancy had been created by the death of the native parish priest, all the women were in tears. They overwhelmed me with presents, they saw me off with bands of music——”
“But this only shows——”
“Wait, wait! Do not be in a hurry! My successor remained there a still shorter time, but when he left there were more people to see him off, more tears shed, and more music played, although he had treated the people worse than I, and had raised the parish dues to a sum almost double the amount I had exacted.”
“But allow me——”
“Furthermore, I was twenty years in the town of San Diego and it was only a few months ago—that—that I left. Twenty years! Surely any one will admit that twenty years is time enough to get acquainted with a town. There were six thousand people in San Diego, and I knew every one of them as if he were my own child. I knew even the private affairs of them all; I knew in what way this man was ‘crooked,’ where the shoe pinched that one, what slips every girl had made and with whom, and who was the true father of each child, for I received all of their confessions and they always confessed scrupulously. I can prove what I say by Santiago, our host, for he has considerable property in that town, and it was there that we became friends. Well, then! This will show you what sort of people the natives are: when I went away, only a few old women and some lay brothers saw me off. And that, after I had been there twenty years! Don’t you see that this proves beyond a doubt that all the reforms attempted by the Ministers of the Government in Madrid are perfectly absurd?”
It was now the young man’s turn to be perplexed. The lieutenant, who had been listening to the argument, knit his brows. The little man with the black beard made ready to combat or support Father Dámaso’s arguments, while the Dominican was content to remain entirely neutral.
“But do you believe——,” the young man finally asked in a curious mood, and looking straight at the friar.
“Do I believe it? As I do the Gospel! The native is so indolent!”
“Ah! Pardon me for interrupting you,” said the young blonde, lowering his voice and drawing his chair closer, “but you have spoken a word that arouses my interest. Is this indolence an inherent characteristic of the native, or is it true, as a foreign traveller has said in speaking of a country whose inhabitants are of the same race as these, that this indolence is only a fabrication to excuse our own laziness, our backwardness and the faults of our celestial system?”
“Bah! That is nothing but envy! Ask Señor Laruja, who knows this country very well, whether the native has his equal in the world for indolence and ignorance.”
“It is a fact,” replied the little man referred to, “that nowhere in the world can any one be found more indolent than the native. Positively nowhere!”
“Nor more vicious and ungrateful!”
“Nor with less education!”
Somewhat uneasy, the blonde man began to glance about the room. “Gentlemen,” he said in a low voice, “I believe that we are in the house of a native, and these young ladies may——”
“Bah! Don’t be so sensitive. How long have you been in the country?”
“Four days,” answered the young man somewhat ruffled.
“Did you come here as an employee?”
“No, sir. I came on my own account in order to become acquainted with the country.”
“Man, what a rare bird you are!” exclaimed Father Dámaso, looking at him with curiosity. “To come here on your own account for such foolish ends! What a phenomenon! And when so many books have been written about this country——”
Then, striking the arm of his chair with sudden violence, he exclaimed: “The country is being lost; it is lost already. The governing power supports heretics against the ministers of God.”
“What do you mean?” again asked the lieutenant, half rising from his chair.
“What do I mean?” repeated Father Dámaso, again raising his voice, and facing the lieutenant. “I mean what I say. I mean that, when a priest turns away the corpse of a heretic from his cemetery, no one, not even the King himself, has the right to interfere, and still less to punish. And yet a general, a miserable little general——”
“Father! His Excellency is the vice-regal representative of His Majesty the King!” exclaimed the officer, rising to his feet.
“What do I care for His Excellency, or for any of your vice-regal representatives!” answered the Franciscan, rising in his turn. “In any other time than the present, he would have been thrown down stairs in the same way as the religious corporations treated the sacrilegious governor Bustamente in his time. Those were the days when there was faith!”
“I’ll tell you right here that I don’t allow any—His Excellency represents His Majesty the King!”
“I don’t care whether he is king or rogue. For us there is no king other than the true——”
“Stop this immediately!” shouted the lieutenant in a threatening manner, and as though he were commanding his own soldiers. “Take back what you have said, or to-morrow I shall inform His Excellency.”
“Go and tell him at once! Go tell him!” answered Father Dámaso, sarcastically, at the same time approaching the lieutenant with his fists doubled. “Don’t you think for a moment that, because I wear the dress of a monk, I’m not a man. Hurry! Go tell him! I’ll lend you my carriage.”
The discussion began to grow ridiculous as the speakers became more heated, but, at this point, fortunately, the Dominican interfered.
“Gentlemen!” he said in a tone of authority, and with that nasal twang which is so characteristic of the friars, “there is no reason why you should thus confuse matters or take offense where it is not intended. We should distinguish between what Father Dámaso says as a man, and what he says as a priest. Whatever he may say as a priest cannot be offensive, for the words of a priest are understood to be absolutely true.”
“But I understand what his motives are, Father Sibyla!” interrupted the lieutenant, who saw that he would be drawn into a net of such fine distinction that, if he allowed it to go on, Father Dámaso would get off scot free. “I know very well what his motives are, and Your Reverence will also perceive them. During the absence of Father Dámaso from San Diego, his assistant buried the body of a very worthy person. Yes, sir, an extremely worthy person! I had known the man from time to time and had often been his guest. What if he never had been to confession? I do not confess, either. To say that he committed suicide is a lie, a slander. A man such as he, with a son whose success and love were more than all the world to him; a man who believed in God, who fulfilled his duty to society, who was honorable and just—such a man does not commit suicide. That is what I say! I am not telling you all that I think about this matter, and Your Reverence should be very thankful that I restrain myself.”
Turning his back on the Franciscan, he continued: “As I was saying, this priest, when he returned to the town, after maltreating his coadjutor, ordered that the man’s body be taken up and thrown out of the cemetery, to be buried I know not where. The town of San Diego was too cowardly to protest, though, in fact, very few people knew much about the matter. The dead man had no relatives in the town and his only son was in Europe. His Excellency, however, learned about the affair, and being at heart upright and just, he ordered that the priest be punished. As a result, Father Dámaso was transferred to another but better town. That is all there was to it. Now you can make all the distinctions you like.”
So saying, he left the group.
“I am very sorry to have touched upon so delicate a subject,” said Father Sibyla, “but, after all, if the change from one town to another was to your advantage——”
“How could it be to my advantage? How about all the things that I lost?” interrupted Father Dámaso, fairly boiling over with rage.
“Good evening, gentlemen! Good evening, Father!” said Captain Santiago, who at that instant entered the room, leading a youth by the hand. On saluting his guests in this manner, he kissed the hands of the priests, who, by the way, forgot to give him their blessing. The Dominican took off his gold-rimmed spectacles in order to examine the new arrival at better advantage, while Father Dámaso, turning pale at the sight, stared at the youth with eyes wide open.
“I have the honor of presenting to you Don Crisostomo Ibarra, the son of my deceased friend,” said Captain Tiago. “The young man has just arrived from Europe, and I have been to meet him.” At the mere mention of the name, exclamations were heard in all parts of the room. The lieutenant, forgetting himself entirely, did not stop to salute his host, but at once approached the young man and surveyed him from head to foot. The youth exchanged the usual greetings with those who had gathered around him. He showed no striking peculiarity, except in his sombre dress, which was in deep contrast with that of the other persons present. His athletic build, his appearance, and every movement he made showed, however, that a fine mind and a healthy body had both been highly developed. You could see from his frank and vivacious face that he had Spanish blood in his veins. Although his hair, eyes and complexion were dark, his cheeks had a slight color, due, no doubt, to residence in cold countries.
“What!” he exclaimed with glad surprise, “the parish priest of my own town! Father Dámaso, my father’s intimate friend!” Every one in the room looked at the Franciscan, but the latter made no motion.
“You must excuse me, if I have made a mistake,” added Ibarra, somewhat in doubt because of the apathy of the friar.
“You have made no mistake,” the priest finally answered in a strained voice, “but your father was never an intimate friend of mine.”
Ibarra slowly withdrew the hand which he had offered, looking at the friar with great surprise. As he turned about, he came face to face with the lieutenant just approaching.
“My boy, are you the son of Don Rafael Ibarra?”
The young man bowed in acquiescence. Father Dámaso settled back into his arm-chair and fixed his eyes upon the lieutenant.
“Welcome to your country! May you be more happy in it than was your father!” exclaimed the officer in a trembling voice. “I had many dealings with your father and I knew him well, and I can say that he was one of the most worthy and honorable men in the Philippines.”
“Sir,” replied Ibarra with emotion, “your praise of my father puts me in doubt as to his fate. Even now I, his own son, am ignorant of it all.”
The eyes of the old man filled with tears. He turned and hurriedly withdrew. Ibarra found himself standing alone in the middle of the room. His host had disappeared, and he turned to a group of gentlemen, who, as soon as they saw him coming, formed a semicircle to receive him.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “in Germany, when a stranger attends any social function and there is no one present to introduce him, it is allowable for him to introduce himself. Permit me to avail myself of this practice. Gentlemen, my name is Juan Crisostomo Ibarra y Magsalin.” The others gave their names in turn, of which the most were comparatively unknown.
“My name is A——a,” said one of the young men, bowing stiffly.
“Then, perhaps, I have the honor of addressing the poet whose works have kept up my enthusiasm for my country? I have been told that you have stopped writing, but no one has told me why.”
“Why? Because there is no use in invoking the muses for false and foolish ends. A case has been made out against one man for having put into verse a true story of Pero Grullo. I am not going to get myself into a similar scrape. They may call me a poet, but they shall not call me a fool.”
“And can you not tell us what that true story was?”
“Yes. The poet said that the son of a lion is also a lion, and for saying this he narrowly escaped being banished.”
“Dinner is ready,” announced a waiter who had been borrowed from the Cáfé Campaña. The guests began to file into the dining room, not, however, without many sighs, and even some prayers among the women, especially the natives, that the dreaded affair would soon be over.
At the Dinner Table.
Father Sibyla wore a satisfied air. He moved along tranquilly, and his closed, thin lips showed no signs of disdain. On the other hand, the Franciscan was in a very bad humor. As he walked toward the table, he kicked over the chairs which happened to be in his way and boxed the ears of one of the cadets. The lieutenant was very solemn and grave.
The two friars instinctively started for the head of the table, perhaps by force of habit, and, as might have been expected, they met on opposite sides of the same chair. Then, with ponderous courtesy, each entreated the other to sit down, giving in turn his reasons why the other should take precedence. Every one at the table understood how both really felt in the matter, and all knew well that the one who did not take the coveted seat would grumble discontentedly for the remainder of the evening. The farce proceeded something like this:
“You take it, Brother Dámaso! It is for you!”
“No, you take it, Brother Sibyla!”
“You are an old friend of the family, the confessor of its deepest mysteries; your age, your dignity, your——”
“No, that is all right as far as age goes, but, on the other hand you are the priest of this suburb,” answered Father Dámaso in an insincere tone, without, however, leaving the chair.
“As you order it, I obey,” concluded Father Sibyla, making ready to sit down.
“But I do not order it,” protested the Franciscan, “I do not order it.”
Father Sibyla was about to take the seat without any further regard to the protests of his brother, when his eyes chanced to meet those of the lieutenant. According to the religious customs in the Philippines, the highest military officer is inferior to even a convent cook. “Cedent arma togæ,” said Cicero in the Senate. “Cedent arma cottæ,” say the friars in the Philippines. Father Sibyla, however, was a person of some culture and refinement, and, as soon as he noticed the expression on the lieutenant’s face, said: “Here! We are now out in the world, and not in the Church. This seat belongs to you, lieutenant!” But, to judge from the tone of his voice, he thought that, although he was out in the world and not in the Church, the seat nevertheless belonged to him. The lieutenant, either to save himself trouble or in order to avoid sitting between two friars, declined the honor in a very few words.
Neither of the disputants had thought of the owner of the house. Ibarra saw him looking upon the scene and smiling with satisfaction.
“How is this, Don Santiago! Aren’t you going to sit down with us?”
But all of the seats were already occupied, and Lucullus did not dine in the house of Lucullus.
“Sit still! Don’t get up!” said Captain Tiago, laying his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “The fact is that this feast is given in honor of the Virgin on account of your safe arrival. Here! Bring on the tinola! I ordered some tinola made expressly for you, for I feel quite certain that you have not had any since you left the Philippines a long while ago.”
A large dish was brought in, still steaming and filled to the brim with tinola. The Dominican, after murmuring the Benedicite (to which only a few of those present could give the response), began to serve the contents of the dish. Either from carelessness or for some other reason, he passed to Father Dámaso a plate filled with the soup and stew, but containing only two small pieces of chicken, a bony neck and a tough wing. Meanwhile the others, especially Ibarra, were eating all sorts of choice bits. The Franciscan, of course, noticed this, mussed over the stew, took a mouthful of the soup, dropped his spoon with a clatter into his plate, and pushed the dish to one side. While this was going on, the Dominican appeared to be absorbed in conversation with the young blonde. Señor Laruja had also begun to converse with Ibarra.
“How long has it been since you were last in this country?” said he.
“About seven years,” responded Ibarra.
“You must have forgotten all about it.”
“On the contrary, although my country seems to have forgotten me, I have always kept her in mind.”
“What do you mean?” interposed the blonde.
“I mean that for over a year I have not received any news from here, so that now I feel like a total stranger. I do not yet know how or when my father died.”
“Ah!” exclaimed the lieutenant.
“Where have you been that you did not telegraph?” asked one of the ladies. “When I was married, we telegraphed to the Peninsula.”
“Señora, for the last two years I have been in northern Europe, in Germany and in Poland.”
“And what country of Europe do you like best?” asked the young blonde, who had been listening interestedly.
“After Spain, which is my second fatherland, oh—any free country in Europe.”
“You seem to have travelled a great deal—what is the most remarkable thing that you have observed?” asked Laruja.
Ibarra appeared to be reflecting on the question. “Remarkable? In what way?”
“For instance, in the life of the different peoples,—their social, political and religious life——”
Ibarra meditated for some little time. “I always made it a point to study the history of a country before visiting it, and I find that national development invariably follows perfectly natural rules. I have always noticed that the prosperity or poverty of different peoples is in direct proportion to their liberties or their lack of liberty, or, in other words, in proportion to the sacrifices or selfishness of their forefathers.”
“And is that all you have observed?” asked the Franciscan, with a loud laugh. Up to this time, he had not uttered a single word, but had given his attention to the dinner. “It was not worth while to squander your fortune for the purpose of learning such a trifle—a thing that every school boy knows.”
Ibarra looked at him intently, doubtful what to say. The guests glanced at each other, fearing that a quarrel would break out. “The dinner has been too long, and Your Reverence is affected by too much wine,” Ibarra was about to reply, but he checked himself in time and only said: “Gentlemen, do not wonder at the familiarity with which our old parish priest treats me. He treated me this way when I was a child, and the years that have passed since then have not changed His Reverence. I derive a certain amount of pleasure from it, for I am reminded of those days when His Reverence was a frequent visitor at our house and honored my father’s table.”
The Dominican glanced furtively at the Franciscan, who was trembling. Ibarra continued, rising from his chair: “You will allow me to withdraw, for I have only just arrived, and I must leave town to-morrow. Besides, I have a great many things to do before I leave. The dinner is practically finished, and I drink very little wine and scarcely touch spirits. Gentlemen, here’s to Spain and the Philippines.”
Saying this, he emptied the glass, which, until then, he had not touched. The old lieutenant followed his example, but said nothing.
“Do not go!” said Captain Tiago to him in a low voice. “Maria Clara is coming immediately. Isabel has just gone to get her. The new parish priest of your town is also coming, and he is a saint.”
“I shall come to-morrow before I leave. I have to make a most important visit yet to-night, and really must go!” With this he took his departure. In the meantime, the Franciscan had recovered himself.
“You see how it is,” said he to the young blonde, gesticulating with his dessert knife. “It is nothing but pride. He could not bear to have a priest reprove him. Can decent people believe it? This is the evil consequence of sending young men to Europe. The Government ought to prohibit it.”
That night, the young blonde wrote, among other things, in the first chapter of his “Colonial Studies”: “How the neck and wing of a chicken in a friar’s plate of tinola can disturb the gayety of a feast!” And among his other observations were the following: “In the Philippines the most insignificant person at a dinner or a feast is the host. The owner of the house has only to remain out in the street, and everything will go along beautifully. In the present state of affairs, it would be well to forbid the Filipinos to leave their country, and not to teach them how to read.”
Heretic and Revolutionist.
Ibarra was still confused, but the evening breeze, which, in Manila, is at this time of the year always cool and refreshing, seemed gently to lift the hazy mist which hung over his eyes. He removed his hat and drew a deep, long breath.
Men of all nationalities passed by in swift carriages or in slow-going, rented calesas. He was walking at that slow pace characteristic alike of deep thought and laziness, and was making his way toward the Plaza of Binondo. He looked about in search of any old and familiar objects. Yes, there were the same old streets, the same old houses with white and blue fronts, the same old walls covered with whitewash or repainted in poor imitation of granite; there was the same old church tower, its clock with transparent face still marking the hours; there, too, were the old Chinese shops, with their dirty curtains and iron rods, one of which remained unrepaired as he himself had bent it when a boy.
“Things go slowly here!” he muttered and continued up the street past the vestry.
As they dished up flavored ices, the street vendors were still crying “sorbettes.” The same little cocoanut oil lamps furnished light for the stands where native women and Chinese disposed of their sweetmeats and fruit.
“It is marvellous,” he exclaimed. “There is the same Chinaman who was at that stand seven years ago. There is that same old woman whom I remember so well. Why, one might think my seven years in Europe but a night’s sleep. And, by heavens, they have not yet repaired this broken place in the pavement!”
Indeed, the stone which had been torn out of the pavement before he left Manila had not yet been replaced. While he was meditating upon the wonderful stability of things in so unstable a country, some one placed a hand upon his shoulder. With a start he looked up, and his eyes met those of the old lieutenant, who also had left the Captain’s house. A smile had displaced the officer’s usual harsh expression and characteristic frown.
“Be careful, young man!” said he. “Remember what happened to your father!”
“I beg your pardon. You seem to have esteemed my father very highly. Can you tell me what has been his fate?” asked Ibarra, gazing intently into the lieutenant’s eyes.
“Do you not know?” said the officer.
“I asked Don Santiago, but he said that he would tell me nothing until to-morrow. Have you no information regarding him?”
“Why, yes; everybody knows about him. He died in prison.”
The young man stepped back and stared wildly at the officer. “In prison! Who died in prison?” he asked in astonishment.
“Why, your father, who had been arrested,” answered the officer somewhat surprised.
“What! My father in prison! Arrested and imprisoned! Man, what are you talking about? Do you know who my father was? Are you——?” asked the young man, nervously grasping the officer’s arm.
“I don’t think that I am mistaken: Don Rafael Ibarra.”
“Yes. Don Rafael Ibarra,” repeated the young man, scarcely able to utter the words.
“I thought that you knew it,” said the officer, in a sympathetic voice, as he saw the emotion his words had caused. “I thought that you knew it; but be brave. Here, you know, no man can be honorable without being imprisoned.”
“I cannot believe that you are not jesting,” replied Ibarra, after a few minutes of deep silence. “Can you tell me for what offense he was imprisoned?”
The old man paused as if to meditate. “It seems strange to me that you have not been kept informed as to the affairs of your family.”
“My father’s last letter, which I received a year ago, told me not to be uneasy if he failed to write to me, for he was very busy. He advised me to continue my studies, he sent me his blessing——”
“In that case, he must have written the letter to you shortly before his death. It is almost a year since we buried him in his own town.”
“Why was my father arrested?” asked Ibarra in a voice full of emotion.
“The cause of his arrest was an honorable one. I must go to my quarters now; walk along with me and then I can tell you on the way. Take my arm.”
They walked for some time in melancholy silence. Deep in thought and nervously stroking his goatee, the officer sought inspiration before he could begin the pitiful tale.
“As you very well know,” he at last began, “your father was the richest man in the province, and, although he was loved and highly respected by many, there were some envious persons who hated him. Your father had a great many enemies among the priests and the Spaniards. Some months after your departure, trouble arose between Don Rafael and Father Dámaso, but I do not know what it was all about. Father Dámaso accused your father of not attending confession. In former times, however, he had never attended confession. Nothing was said about it, and he and the priest were good friends, as you will remember. Furthermore, Don Rafael was a very honorable man and much more upright and just than many who go to confession regularly. He was very conscientious, and, in speaking to me in regard to his troubles with Father Dámaso, used to say:
“‘Señor Guevara, do you believe that God will forgive a crime, a murder for instance, simply because that crime has been confessed to a priest—confessed to a man who is in duty bound to keep it secret? Will God pardon a man whose repentance is brought about by his cowardly fear of hell? I have a very different opinion of God. I cannot see how one evil can be corrected by another, nor how pardon can be procured by mere idle tears and donations to the Church.’ Your father always followed the strictest rules of morality. I may safely say that he never harmed any one, but, on the contrary, always sought by doing good to offset certain unjust deeds committed by your grandfathers. However, his troubles with the priests continued and took on a dangerous aspect. Father Dámaso alluded to him from the pulpit, and, if he did not do so directly by name, it was an oversight on his part, for anything might be expected from a man of his character. I foresaw that sooner or later the affair would have a bad ending.”
The old lieutenant paused for a few minutes and then continued: “About this time there came to the province a man who had been in the artillery, but had been thrown out of the ranks on account of his brutality and ignorance. This man had to make a livelihood. He was not allowed to engage in the work of an ordinary laborer, since that might damage Spain’s prestige, but somehow obtained the position of collector of taxes on vehicles. He had no education whatever, and the natives soon found it out. A Spaniard who cannot read and write is a wonder to them, and hence he became the subject of all sorts of ridicule. Knowing that he was being laughed at, he became ashamed to collect his taxes. This had a bad effect on his character, which was already bad enough. People used to give him documents upside down to see him pretend to read them. He would make a show of doing so, and then, on the first blank space he found, would fill in some sprawling characters which, I may say, represented him very accurately. The natives continued to pay their taxes, but kept on ridiculing him. He fairly raved with anger and worked himself up to such a frame of mind that he respected none. Finally, he had some words with your father. It happened that one day, while the collector was studying a document which had been given to him in a store, some school boys came along. One of them called the attention of his companions to the collector, and they all began to laugh and point their fingers at the unhappy man. The collector finally lost his patience, turned quickly and chased his tormentors. The boys, of course, ran in all directions, at the same time mimicking a child learning the alphabet. Blind with rage because he could not reach them, he threw his cane, struck one of the boys on the head and knocked him down. Not content with this, he went up and kicked the boy several times. Unfortunately, your father happened to be passing just at the moment. Indignant at what he saw, he seized the tax collector by the arm and severely reproached him for his actions. The tax collector in anger raised his cane to strike, but your father was too quick for him. With that strength which he inherited from his forefathers, he, as some say, struck the collector, or, as others claim, only gave him a push. The fact is that the man staggered and fell to the ground, and, in falling, struck his head against a stone. Don Rafael quietly lifted up the wounded boy and carried him to the court house near by, leaving the collector where he had fallen. The ex-artilleryman began to bleed at the mouth and died without regaining consciousness.
“Naturally the law stepped in. They showered calumnies of all kinds upon your father and accused him of being a heretic and a revolutionist. To be a heretic is a great misfortune anywhere or at any time, but it was especially so at this particular time, for the chief magistrate of the province was the loudest prayer maker in the Church. To be a revolutionist is still worse. One might better have killed three highly educated tax collectors than be thus accused. Everybody deserted your father, and his books and papers were seized. He was accused of being a subscriber to ‘El Correo del Ultramar’ and to Madrid newspapers, of having sent you to Germany, of having in his possession incriminating papers and pictures, and—well, I don’t know what not. He was even attacked because, although he was the descendant of Spaniards, he wore the dress of the natives. If your father had been anybody else, he would have been acquitted, for the doctors pronounced the death of the collector due to natural causes. His fortune, however, his confidence in the law, and his hatred for everything which seemed unlawful and unjust, cost him his life. I myself, much as I dislike begging for mercy, called upon the Governor General, the predecessor of the present Governor. I brought out the fact that a man who aided every poor Spaniard, who gave food and shelter to all, and whose veins were filled with the generous blood of Spain—such a man could not be a revolutionist. In vain I argued for him, pledged my own life for him, and swore by my military honor. What did it all amount to? I was badly received, curtly and summarily dismissed, and called a fool.”
The old man paused to take breath. His young companion neither looked up nor made a sound. The narrator proceeded: “I took charge of the case for your father. I called upon the celebrated Filipino lawyer, young A——a, but he refused to undertake the defense. ‘I would lose the case,’ he said, ‘my defense would cause new accusations against him, and perhaps bring them upon me. Go and see Señor M——, who is an eloquent orator, a Spaniard and a man of great reputation.’ I did so, and the celebrated lawyer took charge of the case, which he conducted in a masterful and brilliant manner. But your father had many enemies, some of whom did their work secretly. There were many false witnesses in the case, and their calumnies, which anywhere else would have been overthrown by a single sarcastic phrase from the defending attorney, were here given a great deal of weight. As fast as the attorney proved the falsity of their accusations, new charges were brought forward. They accused him of having wrongfully taken possession of a large tract of land. They sued him for damages and for injuries caused. They said that he had dealings with the organized bandits or tulisanes, and that thus he had been able to keep his property unmolested. In fact, the case became so complicated that within a year no one understood it. The chief magistrate was called away from his post and replaced by another of good reputation, but unfortunately this magistrate, too, was displaced in a few months.
“The sufferings, disappointments and discomforts of prison life, and his great grief at seeing the ingratitude of so many supposed friends, finally broke down your father’s iron constitution and he became fatally ill. When it was all over; when he had proved himself not guilty of being an enemy to his country, and innocent of the death of the tax collector, he died in prison, with no one to care for him in his last hours. I arrived just as he was expiring.”
The old man had finished all he had to say. Ibarra, overcome with grief at the pathetic story he had heard, could not utter a word. The two had arrived at the gate of the barracks. Stopping and shaking hands with the young man, the officer said: “My boy, Captain Tiago can give you the details. I must say good night, for my duty calls me.” With deep emotion, Ibarra grasped the lean hand of the lieutenant, and then looked after him in silence until he disappeared in the building. Turning slowly about, he saw a carriage passing and made a sign to the cabman.
“Lala’s Hotel,” he said in a low voice.
“This fellow is just out of jail,” said the cabman to himself as he whipped up his horses.
Captain Tiago was short in stature, but both his body and his face were well filled out. His complexion was clear and he did not appear to be more than thirty or thirty-five years old, although he was really more than that. In these times his face always wore a pleasant expression. His head was small, round and covered with hair as black as ebony, long in front and very short behind. This head, according to reports, contained a great many things. His eyes were small but not terrifying, and always without expression. In short, the Captain might have passed for a good-looking little man, if his mouth had not been disfigured by the use of tobacco and the betel nut, the juices of which trickled out of the corners of his lips and destroyed the symmetry of his features. However, despite these habits, both his own teeth and the two that the dentist had made for him, at twelve pesos each, were well preserved.
Tiago was considered one of the richest property owners in Binondo, and he also owned large plantations in the provinces of Pampanga and Laguna de Bay, especially in the town of San Diego. The rent of all these lands increased every year. San Diego was his favorite town on account of its excellent bathing place, its famous cockpit and the pleasant memories associated with the neighborhood. He spent at least two months in this town every year. Captain Tiago also had a great deal of property in Santo Cristo, in Analoague Street and in Rosario Street. In partnership with a Chinaman he carried on a profitable business in opium. It is understood that he had contracts with the Government for feeding the prisoners in Bilibid and that he supplied fodder to many of the principal houses in Manila. He was in good standing with the authorities, able, clever, and even daring in his speculations in the necessities of others. Hence it was that at this time the Captain was as happy as a narrow-minded man could be in such a country. He was rich, and was at peace with God, the Government and man.
That Tiago was at peace with God was indisputable. In fact, there was no reason whatever for his not being so, since he was well situated as far as worldly matters go and had never loaned God any money. He never addressed God in his prayers, not even when he was in dire straits. He was rich, and his money, he thought, could pray for him. For masses and prayers, God had created powerful and lofty priests; for special religious functions and rosaries, God, in His infinite goodness, for the benefit of the rich, had created poor people—poor people who for a peso would make half a dozen prayers, and would read all the Holy Books, even to the Hebrew Bible, if the pay were large enough. If at any time he found himself in hard straits and needed heavenly aid and was out of red Chinese candles, he applied to the saints, making them great promises in order to win their favor and convince them of his good intentions.
Captain Tiago was therefore beloved by the priests, respected by the sacristans, fondled by the Chinese candle-makers and fire-cracker merchants, and thoroughly happy in the religion of the world. Some even attributed to him great influence in the ecclesiastical court.
That the Captain was at peace with the Government must not be doubted simply because such a thing seems impossible. Incapable of conceiving a new idea and content with the modus vivendi, he was always willing to obey the latest official recruit in any of the Government offices and even ready to give him at all times of the year such presents as hams, capons, turkeys, and Chinese fruit. He was the first to applaud any tax imposed by the Government, especially when he scented behind it a chance of securing the contract for its collection. He always kept orchestras on hand to serenade Government officials of all grades from governor to the lowest Government agent, on their birthdays, saint’s days, or when any occasion, such as the death of any of their relatives, or a birth in the family connection should afford a pretext. He even went so far as to dedicate laudatory verses to his royal patrons on these occasions, thus honoring the “suave and loving governor” or the “valiant and mighty alcalde.”
The Captain was a petty governor or gobernadorcillo of a rich colony of mestizos, in spite of the protests of many who considered him unfit for the position. He held the office for two years, but during this time he wore out ten frock coats, about the same number of high hats, and lost more than a half dozen of gobernadorcillo canes. His high hat and frock coat were always in evidence in the city hall, at the Government palace in Melacañan1 and at the army headquarters, and they always appeared, too, in the cock-pit, in the market, in all processions, and in the Chinese shops. Dressed in this official costume with the tasseled cane, Captain Tiago was to be found everywhere, arranging, ordering, and putting in disorder, everything with which he had anything to do—and all with wonderful activity and with still more wonderful gravity.
Sacrilegious people called him a fool; poor people called him a hypocrite, a cruel man who gained a livelihood by making others miserable; while his inferiors looked upon him as a despot and a tyrant. And the women? Ah, the women! Slanderous rumors circulated in the wretched nipa houses, and it was claimed that often lamentations and sobs, mingled with the cries of a child, could be heard. More than one young girl was pointed out by the malicious finger of the neighbors, with the remark: “See what a different expression she wears, and how plainly she shows evidences of her shame.” But such things as these never robbed the Captain of any sleep; no young girl disturbed his rest.
Such was the Captain at that time. His past history was as follows: He was the only son of a very wealthy but avaricious sugar manufacturer of Malabon, who was unwilling to spend a cent in his education. For this reason young Santiago became the servant of a good Dominican, a very virtuous man, who tried to teach him all the valuable knowledge which he possessed. About the time when he was to have the happiness of studying logic, the death of his protector, followed by that of his father, put an end to his studies and from that time on he devoted himself to business. He married a beautiful girl from Santa Cruz, who increased his fortune and gave him a social position.
Doña Pia Alba was not content with buying sugar, coffee and indigo; she wished to sow and reap, so the young husband bought lands in San Diego. It was in this town that he made the acquaintance and friendship of Father Dámaso and of Don Rafael Ibarra, the richest capitalist of the town.
The lack of an heir for the first six years of his married life gave him a great opportunity to accumulate wealth, which perhaps was a censurable ambition. Although Doña Pia was handsome, robust and well formed, she made her pilgrimages in vain. By advice of the devotees of San Diego, she visited the Virgin of Cayasay in Taal; she gave alms, and she danced in the procession before the Virgin of Turumba in Pakil under the May sun, but it was all in vain. Finally, on the advice of Father Dámaso, she went to Obando, and there danced at the fiesta of San Pascual Bailon and asked for a son. It is well known that in Obando there is a trinity—Our Lady of Salambau, Santa Clara and San Pascual—which grants sons or daughters as required. Thanks to this wise triumvirate, Doña Pia became a mother, but like the fisherman in Macbeth, who ceased to sing after he found a rich treasure, Doña Pia lost her gayety, became very sad and was never seen to smile again. Every one, even to Captain Tiago, declared that it was a pure caprice. A puerperal fever put an end to her grief, leaving a beautiful daughter motherless. Father Dámaso baptized the child, and, as San Pascual had not given the son which had been asked for, the name of Maria Clara was given to it in honor of the Virgin of Salambau and of Santa Clara. The little girl grew up under the care of her aunt Isabel,—that good old lady with the manners of a friar whom we met before. The little girl lived the greater part of the time in San Diego on account of the healthful climate, and while there Father Dámaso paid her much attention.
Maria Clara did not have the small eyes of her father. Like her mother, her eyes were large, black and shaded by long lashes, brilliant and smiling when she was playing, but sad, deep and pensive at other times. When a child her wavy hair was almost blond. Her nose was well formed, neither too large nor too flat. Her mouth was small and beautifully shaped like that of her mother, and her cheeks were set with dimples. Her skin was like silk and as white as snow, but her fond parent found traces of the paternity of Captain Tiago in her small and well shaped ears.
Aunt Isabel attributed the child’s semi-European features to impressions made upon Doña Pia. She remembered having seen the mother a short time before the child was born, weeping before the image of San Antonio. Then, too, a cousin of Captain Tiago had the same features, the only difference being in the choice of the saints, by which the phenomenon was explained. With her it was either the Virgin or San Miguel. A cousin of Captain Tiago, a famous philosopher, who knew Amat2 by heart, explained it all by attributing it to the effect of the planets.
Maria Clara, the idol of all, grew up surrounded by love and smiles. She won the favor of even the friars when she was dressed in white for some religious procession, her long, wavy hair interwoven with flowers, two silver or golden wings attached to the shoulders of her dress, and holding two white doves, tied with blue ribbons, in her hand. When she grew up, she was so full of childish mischief that Captain Tiago did nothing but bless the saints of Obando and advise everybody to buy handsome statues of that trinity.
In tropical countries a girl becomes a woman at the age of thirteen or fourteen years, like the plant which buds at night and blooms the following morning. During this period of transition, so full of mystery and romance, on the advice of the parish priest, Maria Clara entered the religious retreat of Santa Catalina in order to receive from the nuns a strictly religious education. She left Father Dámaso in tears, and likewise the only friend of her childhood, Crisostomo Ibarra. Shortly after the entrance to the convent, Ibarra went to Europe. For seven long years, the girl lived under the vigilance of the Mother Superior in the iron-grated building, shut off from any communication with the outer world.
Don Rafael and Captain Tiago, in the meantime, while Ibarra was in Europe and Maria Clara in the convent, noticing the trend of affairs, and at the same time having in mind their own interests, decided that the children should be married. It is needless to say that this agreement, which was arrived at some years after Ibarra had left for Europe, was celebrated with equal joy by two hearts, on opposite sides of the world and amid very different surroundings.
1 Street in Manila.
2 Archbishop and author of theological works.
An Idyl on the Azotea.1
On the morning after the dinner party, Aunt Isabel and Maria Clara went to mass early: the former carefully carrying her glasses, so that she might be able to read “The Anchor of Salvation” during communion; the latter beautifully dressed, carrying her rosary of blue beads as a bracelet. The priest had scarcely left the altar when, to the disgust and surprise of her good aunt, who thought that her niece was as pious and as fond of prayer as a nun, the young girl desired to go home. After a great deal of grumbling, the old lady crossed herself several times, and the two arose to leave. “Never mind,” said Maria, to cut off the scolding, “the good God will pardon me. He ought to understand the heart of a girl better than you, Aunt Isabel.”
After breakfast, Maria Clara occupied herself with some embroidery while her aunt bustled about with a duster removing the traces of the social event of the preceding evening. Captain Tiago was busy examining some papers.
Every noise in the street and every passing carriage made the girl tremble with anxiety and wish that she were again back in the convent among her friends. There, she thought, she could see him without trembling and with perfect equanimity.
“I believe, Maria, that the doctor is right,” said Captain Tiago. “You ought to go to the provinces. You are looking very pale and need a change of air. How does Malabon strike you, or San Diego?”
At the mere mention of the latter name, Maria Clara blushed and was unable to speak.
“Now, you and Isabel go to the convent to get your things and say good bye to your friends,” continued the Captain, without raising his head. “You will not return there. And in four or five days, when your clothes are ready we shall go to Malabon. —Your godfather, by the way, is not in San Diego at present. The priest whom you saw here last night, that young fellow, is now the priest in the town. He is a saint.”
“I think you will find San Diego better, cousin,” said Aunt Isabel. “Our house there is better than the one in Malabon, and besides, it is nearly time for the fiesta to take place.”
Maria Clara was about to embrace her aunt for these welcome words, but just then a carriage stopped in front of the house and the young girl suddenly turned pale.
“That’s so,” said the Captain, and then, in a changed tone, exclaimed, “Don Crisostomo!”
Maria Clara let fall the work which she was holding in her hands. A nervous trembling passed over her. Then steps were heard on the stairs and presently a young, manly voice. And, as if this voice had some magic power, the girl shook off her emotion, started to run, and hid herself in the oratory. Both father and aunt had to laugh at this, and even Ibarra heard the closing of the door behind her.
Pale and panting, the girl finally subdued her emotion and began to listen. She could hear his voice, that voice which for so long a time she had heard only in her dreams. Beside herself with joy, she kissed the nearest saint, which, by the way, happened to be San Antonio, the abbot. Happy saint! Whether alive or carved in wood, always tempted in the most charming manner! Becoming quite herself again, she looked about for some crack through which she might get a peep at the young man. Finally, when he came in range of the key-hole and she again saw his fine features, her face beamed with smiles. In fact, the sight filled her with such joy that when her aunt came to call her, Maria Clara fell on the old lady’s neck and kissed her repeatedly.
“You goose! What is the matter with you?” the old lady was finally able to ask, after wiping away her tears.
Maria Clara, in her modesty, covered her face with her round arm.
“Come! Hurry up and get yourself ready!” said the old lady in an affectionate tone. “While he is talking with your father about you—— Come, do not waste time!”
The girl did not respond, but allowed herself to be picked up like a child and carried to her room.
Captain Tiago and Ibarra were talking earnestly when at last Aunt Isabel appeared, half dragging her niece by the hand. At first the girl looked in every direction but at the persons present. At last, however, her eyes met Ibarra’s.
The conversation of the young lovers was at first confined to the usual trifling remarks, those pleasant little things which, like the boasts of European nations, are enjoyable and interesting to those who are concerned and understand them, but ridiculous to outsiders.
Finally, she, like all sisters of Cain, was moved by jealously and asked: “Have you always thought of me? Have you never forgotten me in your many travels among so many great cities and among such beautiful women?”
And he, a true brother of Cain, dodged the issue, and, being something of a diplomat, answered: “Could I forget you?” And then, gazing into her deep, dark eyes, “Could I break a sacred vow? Do you remember that stormy night when you, seeing me in tears beside my dead mother, came to me and placed your hand—that hand which I have not touched for so long—upon my shoulder, and said: ‘You have lost your mother,—I never had one.’ And then you wept with me. You loved my mother, and she loved you as only a mother can love a daughter. It was raining then, you will remember, and the lightning flashed, but I seemed to hear music and to see a smile on the face of my dead mother.—O, if my parents were only living and could see you now!—That night I took your hand and, joining it with my mother’s, I swore always to love you and make you happy, no matter what fate Heaven might have in store for me. I have never regretted that vow, and now renew it.”
“Since the day that I bade you good-bye and entered the convent,” she answered, smiling, “I have always remembered you, and have never forgotten you in spite of the commands of my confessor, who imposed severe penances on me. I remembered the little games we used to play together and our little quarrels. When we were children you used to find in the river the most beautiful shells for our games of siklot and the finest and most beautifully colored stones for our game of sinkat. You were always very slow and stupid and lost, but you always paid the forfeit, which I gave you with the palm of my hand. But I always tried to strike lightly, for I was sorry for you. You always cheated, even more than I, in the game of chouka and we generally quarrelled over it. Do you remember that time when you really became angry? Then you made me suffer, but when I found that I had no one to quarrel with, we made peace immediately. We were still children when we went with your mother one day to bathe in the stream under the shade of the reeds. Many flowers and plants grew on the bank of the river, and you used to tell me their strange Latin and Spanish names, for you were then studying at the Athenæum. I paid little attention, but amused myself by chasing butterflies and in trying to catch the little fish which slipped away from me so easily among the rocks and weeds of the shore. You suddenly disappeared from sight, but when you returned you brought a wreath of orange flowers and placed it on my head. On our way home, as the sun was hot, I collected some sage leaves from the side of the road for you to put into your hat and thus prevent headache. Then you laughed, we made up, and came the remainder of the way home hand in hand.”
Ibarra smiled as he listened attentively to every detail of the story. Opening his pocket book, he took out a paper in which he had wrapped some withered but fragrant sage leaves. “Your sage leaves,” said he in answer to her questioning glance. “The only thing you have ever given me.”
She, in turn, drew a little, white satin bag from the bosom of her dress. “Stop!” she said, tapping his hand with her own. “You must not touch it; it is a letter of farewell.”
“The one that I wrote you before leaving?”
“My dear sir, have you ever written any other.
“And what did I say then?”
“Many falsehoods; excuses of a bad debtor,” replied she, smiling and showing how agreeable these falsehoods had been to her. “But be quiet! I will read it to you, but I will omit your polite speeches out of consideration for your feelings.”
Raising the paper to the height of her eyes, in order to conceal her face, she began. “‘My——,’ I shall not read you what follows that, for it is not true.” She ran her eyes over some lines and began to read again: “‘My father wishes me to go away, in spite of my entreaties. He says that I am a man and must think of my future and my duty; that I must learn how to live, which I cannot do in my own country, so that in the future I may be of some use. He says that if I remain at his side, in his shadow, in this atmosphere of business, I will never learn how to look ahead, and that when he is gone, I shall be like the plant of which our poet Baltazar speaks—as it always lives in the water, it never learns how to endure a moment’s heat.—He reproached me because I wept, and his reproach hurt me so that I confessed that I loved you. My father stopped, thought a moment and, placing his hand on my shoulder, said in a trembling voice: “Do you think that you alone know how to love, that your father does not love you, and that his heart is not pained at being separated from you? It is a short time since your mother died, and I am already reaching that age when the help and counsel of youth are needed. And yet I consent to your going, not even knowing that I shall ever see you again. The future is opening to you, but closing to me. Your loves are being born; mine are dying. Fire blazes in your blood, but cold is gradually finding its way into mine. And yet you weep, and are not willing to sacrifice the present for a future useful to yourself and your country.” The eyes of my father filled with tears and I fell upon my knees at his feet and embraced him. I asked his pardon and said that I was willing to go.’”
The emotion which Ibarra manifested put an end to the reading. As pale as death, he arose and began to walk nervously from one side to the other.
“What is the matter?” she asked.
“You have made me forget that I have duties to perform, and that I ought to leave immediately for my town. To-morrow is the fiesta in memory of the dead.”
Maria Clara stopped and silently fixed her large and dreamy eyes upon him for some minutes. Then taking some flowers from a vase near by, she said with emotion: “Go! I do not wish to detain you. We shall see each other again in a few days. Place these flowers on the graves of your father and mother.”
A few moments later, Ibarra descended the stairs, accompanied by Captain Tiago and Doña Isabel, while Maria Clara locked herself up in the oratory.
“Do me the favor to tell Andeng to get the house ready, and that Maria and Isabel are coming. A pleasant journey!” While the Captain was saying this, Ibarra got into the carriage and drove off in the direction of the Plaza of San Gabriel.
A few minutes later the Captain shouted to Maria Clara, who was weeping by the side of the image of the Virgin: “Hurry up and light two peseta candles in honor of San Roque and another in honor of San Rafael, the patron saint of travellers. And light the lamp of Our Lady of Peace and Protector of Travellers, for there are many bandits about. It is better to spend four reales for wax and six cuartos for oil than to have to pay a big ransom later on.”
1 Roof of the first story used as a veranda.
Father Dámaso drove up in front of Captain Tiago’s house and the Franciscan stepped to the ground just as Aunt Isabel and Maria Clara were getting into their silver-trimmed carriage. They saluted Father Dámaso, and he, in his preoccupation, gently patted Maria Clara on the cheek.
“Where are you going?” the friar asked.
“To the convent to get my things,” replied the younger.
“Ah, ha! Ah, ha! We’ll see who is the stronger. We’ll see!” he muttered and turned away, leaving the two women in wonder as to what it all meant. The friar stepped along lightly, and reaching the stairs, went up.
“He must be studying his sermon,” said Isabel. “Get in, Maria; we shall be late.”
Whether Father Dámaso was studying his sermon or not we cannot say. At any rate, he was absorbed in some important matter, for he even forgot to extend his hand to Captain Tiago upon entering, greatly to the embarrassment of the Captain, who had to feign kissing it.
“Santiago, we have some very important matters to talk over; let us go to your office.”
The Captain, somewhat disturbed, was unable to reply, but he obeyed and followed the big priest into his office. Father Dámaso shut the door behind them.
While they are conferring in secret, let us find out what has become of Brother Sibyla. The wise Dominican was not to be found at his parochial residence, for early, immediately after mass, he had gone to the Dominican convent, situated near the gate called Isabel the Second or Magallanes, according to which family is in power in Madrid. Paying no attention to the delicious odor of chocolate or to the rattling of money boxes and coins in the treasurer’s office, and scarcely answering the deferential salute of the treasurer, Father Sibyla went upstairs, crossed several corridors and rapped on a door.
“Come in!” answered a voice.
“May God give back health to Your Reverence!” was the greeting of the young Dominican as he entered.
A very feeble old priest was seated in a large arm-chair. His complexion was as yellow as the saints which Revera paints; his eyes were sunk deep in their orbits, and his heavy eyebrows, which were nearly always knit in a frown, added to the brilliant glare of his death-foreboding eyes.
“I have come to talk to you about the charge with which you have entrusted me,” said Father Sibyla.
“Ah, yes. And what about it?”
“Pshaw!” answered the young man with disgust, seating himself and turning his face away with disdain. “They have been telling us a lot of lies. Young Ibarra is a prudent boy. He does not seem to be a fool. I think he is a pretty good sort of a chap.”
“Do you think so?”
“Hostilities began last night.”
“So soon? And how did it come about?”
Father Sibyla related briefly what had taken place between Father Dámaso and Crisostomo Ibarra.
“Furthermore,” he added, in conclusion, “the young man is going to marry that daughter of Captain Tiago, who was educated in the college of our sisters. He is rich and would not want to make any enemies who might cause the loss of his happiness and his fortune.”
The sick man bowed his head as a sign of assent. “Yes, that is my opinion. With such a wife and such a father-in-law we can hold him body and soul. And if not, it will be all the better for us if he declares himself our enemy.”
Father Sibyla looked at the old man with surprise.
“That is to say, for the good of our whole corporation,” he added, breathing with difficulty. “I prefer open attacks to the foolish praise and adulations of friends, for, the truth is, flattery is always paid for.”
“Does Your Reverence think so?”
The old man looked at him sadly. “Always bear this in mind,” he answered, panting with fatigue, “that our power will endure as long as it is believed in. If they attack us, the Government says, ‘They attack them, because they see in them an obstacle to their liberty, therefore let us preserve them.’”
“And if the Government gives them a hearing? Sometimes the Government——”
“The Government will do no such thing.”
“Nevertheless, if some bold and reckless man, impelled by covetousness, should dare to think that he wanted our possessions——”
“Then, woe to him!”
For a moment both remained silent.
“Furthermore,” continued the sick man, “it will do us good to have them attack us and wake us up. It would show us our weaknesses and strengthen us. The exaggerated praises which we get deceive us, and put us asleep. We are becoming ridiculous and on the day that we become ridiculous we shall fall as we fell in Europe. Money will no longer flow into our churches, no one will longer buy our scapularies or girdles, and when we cease to be rich we shall no longer possess the great influence which we wield at present.”
“Pshaw! We shall always have our property, our plantations——”
“We shall lose them all as we lost them in Europe. And the worst of it is that we are working for our own ruin. For instance, this immeasurable ambition to raise the incomes from our lands each year, this eagerness to increase the rents, which I have always opposed in vain, this eagerness will be our ruin. The natives already find themselves forced to buy land in other localities if they want lands as good as ours. I fear that we are degenerating. ‘Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.’ For this reason we should not be too hard on the people, for they are already grumbling under our exactions. You have considered well. Let us leave this thing to others, and keep up the prestige which we have and let us endeavor to appear before God with clean hands. May the God of pity have mercy on our weaknesses!”
“So you believe that the tax or tribute——”
“Let us talk no more of money!” interrupted the sick man with disgust. “You were saying that the lieutenant and Father Dámaso last night——”
“Yes, Father,” answered the young priest smiling. “But this morning I saw the lieutenant again and he told me that he was sorry for what had occurred at the dinner. He said he thought that he had been affected by too much wine and that the same was true of Father Dámaso. ‘And your boast to tell the Governor?’ I asked jokingly. ‘Father,’ he answered, ‘I know when to make my word good so long as it does not stain my honor. That is just the reason why I wear only two stars.’”
After talking over several minor matters, Father Sibyla took his leave.
As a matter of fact the lieutenant had not gone to the Governor General’s palace in Melacañan with any report in regard to the occurrence of the preceding evening. However, the Governor General had learned of it through another source, and discussing the matter with one of his aides, he said:
“A woman and a priest can give no offense. I intend to live peaceably while I remain in this country and I do not wish to have any trouble with men who wear skirts. And, furthermore, I have found out that the Father Provincial has evaded my orders in this matter. I asked for the removal of that friar as a punishment. What was done? They removed him, but they gave him another and much better town. ‘Tricks of the friars,’ as they say in Spain.”
But when His Excellency found himself alone he ceased to smile. “Ah!” he sighed, “if the people were not so stupid they would put a limit to their reverences. But every people deserves its fate, and we are no different in this respect from the rest of the world.”
Meanwhile Captain Tiago had concluded his conference with Father Dámaso, or rather Father Dámaso had concluded it.
“I have already warned you!” said the Franciscan on taking his leave. “You could have avoided all of this had you consulted with me before, and, if you had not lied to me, when I asked you about it. See to it that you do not do any more such foolish things, and have faith in your godfather.”
Captain Tiago took two or three steps towards the sala, meditating and sighing. All at once, as if some good idea had struck him, he ran to the oratory and put out the candles and the lamps which had been lighted for Ibarra’s protection.
“There is still time enough,” he murmured, “for he has a long road to travel.”
San Diego and Its People.
Not far from the shores of the Laguna de Bay lies the town of San Diego, surrounded by fertile fields and rice plantations. It exports sugar, rice, coffee, and fruits, or sells them at ridiculously low prices to the Chinese, who make large profits out of the credulity and vices of the laborers.
When the sky was serene and the atmosphere clear, the boys used to climb to the very peak of the old moss and vine covered church tower. And what exclamations they would utter when, from that high pinnacle, they looked out at the beautiful panorama that surrounded them. There before them lay a great mass of roofs, some nipa, some thatch, some zinc and some made out of the native grasses. And out of that mass, which here and there gave way to an orchard or a garden, every one of those boys could find his own little home, his own little nest. To them everything was a landmark; every tamarind tree with its light foliage, every cocoanut tree with its load of nuts, every bending cane, every bonga tree, every cross. Beyond the town is the crystal river, like a serpent asleep on a carpet of green. Here and there, its tranquil surface is broken by rocks projecting from its sandy bottom. In places, it is hemmed in between two high banks, and there the rapidly rushing waters turn and twist the half-bared roots of the overhanging shade trees. But further on it spreads itself out again and becomes calm and peaceful.
But what always attracts attention is a peninsula of forest projecting into this sea of cultivated land. There can be found hollow-trunked trees, a century old, trees which die only when struck by lightning and set on fire. They say, also, that even in that case the fire never spreads to any other tree. This old grove is held in a certain degree of awe, for around it have been woven many strange legends. Of these the most probable, and consequently the least known and believed is the following:
When the town was still a miserable group of huts, when weeds grew in abundance in the so-called streets, and deer and wild boar roamed about at night, there arrived one day an old Spaniard. His eyes were deep and thoughtful and he spoke Tagalog fluently. After visiting the different estates and peddling out some goods he inquired for the owners of this grove, which by the way, also contained several hot water springs. A number of persons claiming to be the owners presented themselves, and the old man purchased from them the grove, paying in exchange some money, jewelry and clothing. A short time afterward he disappeared, no one knew where.
His sudden disappearance made the people think for a time that he had been spirited away, but later on a fetid odor was noticeable near the grove, and some shepherds, upon investigation, found the body of the old man in a badly decomposed condition hanging from the limb of a balitî tree. When alive the old man had terrorized many by his deep and resonant voice, his sunken eyes and his silent laugh, but now that he was dead, and a suicide at that, the mere mention of his name gave the town women nightmare. Some of them threw the jewelry that they had bought from him into the river and burned all the clothing, and, for a long time after the body had been buried at the foot of the balitî tree, no one cared to venture near it. All sort of stories became current about the haunted place.
A shepherd, looking for his flock, said that he had seen lights in the grove. A party of young men, passing near the place, heard groans and lamentations. An unfortunate lover, in order to make an impression on the disdainful object of his affections, promised to spend a night under the tree and to bring her a branch from its trunk, but on the next day he was taken ill with a quick fever and died.
Before many months had passed, a youth came to the town one day. He was apparently a Spanish mestizo, declared himself the son of the dead stranger, and established himself in that far-off corner of the world. He began to farm the land and devoted himself especially to the cultivation of indigo. Don Saturnino was a taciturn young man, violent and sometimes cruel, but very active and industrious. He built a wall around his father’s grave and, from time to time, went all alone to visit it. A few years later he married a young girl from Manila who bore him a son, Rafael, the father of Crisostomo.
Don Rafael, from his earliest youth, was fond of farming. Under his care, the agriculture which had been started and fostered by his father was rapidly developed. New inhabitants flocked to the vicinity, and among them were a great many Chinese. The village grew very fast and was soon supporting a native priest. After it had become a pueblo, the native priest died and Father Dámaso took his place.
Still the grave and the adjoining lands were respected. At times, children, armed with sticks and stones, ventured to wander about, exploring the surrounding country and gathering guayabas, papays, lomboy and other native fruits. Then, all of a sudden, while they were busily engaged collecting the fruits, some one would catch a glimpse of the old rope hanging from the balitî tree, and stones would be heard to fall. Then some one would cry, “The old man!” “The old man!” Dropping fruit, sticks and stones, and leaping from the trees, the boys would flee in all directions through the thickets and between the rocks, not stopping until they emerged from the grove, pale and panting, some laughing, some crying.
You could not say that Don Rafael, while alive, was the most influential man in San Diego, although it is true that he was the richest, owned the most land, and had put almost everybody else under obligations to him. He was modest and always belittled his own deeds. He never tried to form a party of his own, and, as we have already seen, no one came to his aid when his fortune seemed to fail him.
Whenever Captain Tiago arrived in town, his debtors received him with an orchestra, gave him a banquet, and loaded him down with gifts. If a deer or a wild boar was caught he always had a quarter of it for his own table; if any of his debtors found a beautiful horse, within a half hour it would be in the Captain’s stable. All of this is true, but still when the Captain had his back turned they made fun of him and referred to him as Sacristan Tiago.
The gobernadorcillo1 was an unhappy fellow who never commanded but always obeyed; he never attacked any one, but was always attacked; he never ordered anybody, but everybody ordered him; and besides, he had to take the responsibility for everything that they had commanded, ordered or disposed. The position had cost him five thousand pesos and many humiliations, but, considering the profits he made, the price was very cheap.
San Diego was like Rome; not the Rome of the time of Romulus, when he marked out the walls with a plough, nor when, later, he bathed in his own blood and that of others and dictated laws to the world: no, San Diego was like the Rome of contemporaneous history, with this difference—instead of being a city of marble, monuments and coliseums, it was a city of saualî2 and cock-pits. The parochial priest of San Diego corresponded to the Pope in the Vatican; the alferez3 of the Civil Guard to the King of Italy in the Quirinal, but both in the same proportion as the sauali or native wood and the nipa cock-pits corresponded to the monuments of marble and coliseums. And in San Diego, as in Rome, there was continual trouble. Everybody wanted to be the leading señor, and there was always some one else in the way. Let us describe two of these ambitious citizens.
Friar Bernando Salvi was the young and silent Franciscan whom we mentioned in a preceding chapter. He had even more of the customs and manners of his brotherhood than had his predecessor, the violent Father Dámaso. He was slender, sickly, almost always pensive, and very strict in the fulfillment of his religious duties as well as very careful of his good name. A month after his arrival in the parish almost all the inhabitants became brothers of the “Venerable Third Order,” to the great grief of its rival, “The Brotherhood of the Most Sacred Rosary.” His heart leaped with joy at seeing on every neck in the town from four to five scapularies, a knotted cord around every waist, and every funeral procession dressed in habits of guingon. The sacristan mayor or head warden of the order made quite a little capital by selling and giving away all those things considered necessary to save the soul and overcome the devil.
The only enemy of this powerful soul saver, with tendencies in accord with the times, was, as we have already stated, the alferez. The women relate a story of how the devil tried one day to tempt Father Salvi and how the latter caught him, tied him to the bed post, whipped him with a lash and kept him tied fast for nine days. Thus he had been able to conquer the devil entirely. As a result, any one who persisted in being an enemy of the priest was generally considered a worse man than the devil himself—an honor which the alferez alone enjoyed. But he merited this reputation. He had a wife, an old, powdered and painted Filipino by the name of Doña Consolación. The husband and several other people called her by a different name, but that does not matter. Anyway, the alferez was accustomed to drown the sorrows of unhappy wedlock by getting as drunk as a toper. Then, when he was thoroughly intoxicated he would order his men to drill in the sun, he himself remaining in the shade, or, perhaps, he would occupy himself in beating his wife.
When her husband was dead drunk, or was snoring away in a siesta, and Doña Consolación could not fight with him, then, wearing a blue flannel shirt, she would seat herself in the window, with a cigar in her mouth. She had a dislike of children and so from her window she would scowl and make faces at every girl that passed. The girls, on the other hand, were afraid of her, and would hurry by at a quick pace, never daring to raise their eyes or draw a breath. But say what you may, Doña Consolación had one great virtue; she was never known to look into a mirror.
These were the leading people of San Diego.
Toward the west of San Diego, surrounded by rice fields, lies a village of the dead. A single, narrow path, dusty on dry days, and navigable by boats when it rains, leads thither from the town. A wooden gate, and a fence, half stone and half bamboo, seem to separate the cemetery from the people in the town, but not from the goats and sheep of the parochial priest of the immediate vicinity. These animals go in and out to rummage among the tombs or to make that solitary place glad with their presence.
One day a little old man entered the cemetery, his eyes sparkling and his head uncovered. Upon seeing him, many laughed, while a number of the women knit their eyebrows in scorn. The old man seemed to take no notice of these manifestations, but went directly toward a pile of skulls, knelt down and began to search among the bones. After he had sorted over with considerable care the skulls one by one, he drew his eyebrows together, as though he did not find what he was looking for, moved his head from side to side, looked in all directions, and finally got up and went over toward a grave-digger.
“Eh, there!” he shouted to him.
The grave-digger raised his head.
“Do you know where that beautiful skull is, the one white as the meat of a cocoanut, with a complete set of teeth, which I had over there at the foot of the cross under those leaves?”The grave-digger shrugged his shoulders.
“Look you!” added the little old man, bringing out of his pocket a handful of silver. “I have more than that, but I will give it to you if you find the skull for me.”
The glitter of the coin made the grave-digger reflect. He looked over in the direction of the bone pile and said: “Isn’t it over there? No? Then I don’t know where it is.”
“Don’t you know? When my debtors pay me, I will give you more,” continued the old man. “It was my wife’s skull, and if you find it for me——”
“Isn’t it there. Then I don’t know where it is,” repeated the grave-digger with emphasis. “But I will give you another.”
“You are like the grave that you are digging,” cried the old man irritably. “You don’t know the value of what you lose. For whom is this grave?”
“For a dead person, of course,” replied the bad-humored man.
“Like a tomb! Like a tomb!” repeated the old man dryly. “You don’t know what you throw out nor what you swallow. Dig! dig!”
At this the old man, who was Tasio, the village philosopher, turned and started toward the gate.
In the meantime, the grave-digger had finished his job, and two little mounds of fresh, red clay were piled on either side of the grave. He took some betel nut out of his broad-brimmed hat, and began to chew away, looking with an air of stupidity at everything within his horizon.
1 Petty governor, the highest local official.
2 Trellis work made of reeds.
3 Local commander of the Civil Guard.
Ibarra and the Grave-Digger.
Just as the old man was leaving the cemetery, a carriage stopped at the entrance. It looked as though it had made a long journey; the horses were sweating and the vehicle was covered with dust. Ibarra stepped out and was followed by an old servant. He made a gesture to the driver and then turned down the path into the cemetery. He was silent and grave.
“My sickness and my work have not permitted me to return, since the day of the funeral,” said the old servant timidly. “Captain Tiago said that he would see to it that a niche was arranged for, but I planted some flowers on the grave and erected a cross made by my own hands.”
Ibarra did not reply.
“Right there behind that large cross, señor,” continued the servant, making a gesture toward one of the corners just as they passed through the gate.
Ibarra was so preoccupied with sad thoughts that he did not notice the astonishment which some of the people in the cemetery manifested when they saw him enter. Those who were kneeling broke off their prayers and followed the young man, their eyes full of curiosity.
Ibarra walked along very carefully, and avoided stepping on the graves, which could be easily distinguished by the sunken ground. In other times he had walked over them; but to-day he respected them. His father lay in one of them. On coming to the other side of the large cross, he stopped and looked in all directions. His companion was confused and out of countenance. He searched for marks on the ground but could not find the cross anywhere.
“Is it here?” he murmured between his teeth. “No, it is over there, but the earth has been removed.” 
Ibarra looked at him with an expression of anguish.
“Yes,” he continued. “I remember that there was a stone by the side of the grave. The grave was a little short, a farm hand had to dig it, as the grave-digger was sick at the time, but we will ask him what he has done with the cross.”
They turned toward the grave-digger, who looked at them with curiosity. He saluted them, taking off his hat.
“Can you tell us which of the graves over there is the one which had a cross?” asked the servant.
The grave-digger looked toward the place and seemed to reflect. “A large cross?”
“Yes, a large cross,” answered the old man with joy, looking significantly at Ibarra, whose face was somewhat animated.
“An ornamented cross, and fastened with reeds?” repeated the grave-digger, questioning the servant.
“That’s it, that’s it, yes, yes! Like this, like this,” and the servant traced an outline of a Byzantine cross.
“And were there some flowers sown on the grave?”
“Adelphas, sampagas and pansies! That’s it,” added the servant, delighted, and offering the grave-digger a cigar. “Tell us where the grave is and where the cross.
The grave-digger scratched his ear and replied, yawning: “Well, the cross—I have already burned it up.”
“Burned it? and why have you burned it?”
“Because the head priest so ordered.”
“Who is the head priest?” asked Ibarra.
“Who? The one who does the whipping.”
Ibarra put his hand to his head.
“But you can at least tell us where the grave is? You ought to remember.”
The grave-digger smiled. “The body is no longer there,” he replied tranquilly.
“What do you say?”
“Yes, no longer,” the man added in a joking tone. “Only a week ago I buried a woman in its place.”
“Are you crazy?” the servant asked. “Why, it is not yet a year since we buried him.”
“Then that is the one, for it was many months ago that I took up the body. The head priest of the parish ordered me to do it, in order to bury it in the Chinese cemetery. But as it was heavy and it was raining that night——”
The man could not finish. He stepped back, half frightened at the expression on Crisostomo’s face. Ibarra made a rush at him, and, grabbing him by the arm, shook him.
“And what did you do?” the young man asked, in an indescribable tone.
“Honored sir, do not get angry,” he replied, pale and trembling. “I did not bury the body among the Chinese. In my opinion a person might better be a suicide than be buried among the Chinese. I threw the body into the lake.”
Ibarra laid both his hands on the man’s shoulders and looked at him for a long time in a terrifying manner. “You are only an unfortunate fellow,” he said, at last, and left the place on a run across bones, graves, and crosses, like a madman.
The grave-digger felt of his arm and murmured: “What would they do with the dead! The head priest whips me with his cane for having left the body in the cemetery when I was sick. Now this fellow comes along and nearly breaks my arm for having taken it up. That is just like the Spaniards! I’ll lose my place yet.”
Ibarra went on in great haste, keeping his eyes fixed in the distance. The old servant followed him, crying. Already the sun was hidden; a large, dark cloud hung over the western horizon; and a dry wind bent the tops of the trees and made the fields of sugar cane groan. With hat in hand, he went on. Not one tear dropped from his eye, not one sigh came from his breast. He hurried on as if he were fleeing from somebody, or something—perhaps the shade of his father, perhaps the tempest which was approaching. He hurried through the town and headed toward the outlying country, toward that old house which he had not entered for so many years. The house was surrounded by a wall, near which many cacti grew, and as he approached they seemed to signal to him. The windows seemed to open, the ilang-ilang joyfully waved its branches, and the doves fluttered about the little tower on the peak of their garden house.
ut the young man did not notice these signs of welcome on his return to his old home. His eyes were riveted on the form of a priest who was advancing from the opposite direction. It was the priest of San Diego, that meditative Franciscan, the enemy of the alferez whom we have mentioned. The wind was playing with the wide wings of his hat, and the robe of guingon was flattened out, moulded by the wind to the outline of his form, marking his slender thighs and bow-legs. In his right hand he carried a cane. It was the first time that he and Ibarra had met.
As they approached each other, the young man stopped and looked at him fixedly. Father Salvi avoided the look and was somewhat distracted. This vacillation lasted only a moment. Ibarra made a rush toward him, and stopped the priest from falling only by grasping his shoulder. Then, in a voice scarcely intelligible, he exclaimed:
“What have you done with my father?”
Friar Salvi, pale and trembling, as he read the unmistakable sentiments which were depicted on the young man’s face, could not reply.
“What have you done with my father?” he asked again, his voice almost choking him.
The priest, shrinking from the tight grasp of Ibarra’s hand, at last made a great effort and said: “You are mistaken. I have done nothing with your father.”
“What? No?” continued the young man, the weight of his hand on the priest’s shoulder almost making him kneel.
“No, I assure you. It was my predecessor. It was Father Dámaso——”
“Ah!” exclaimed the young man, throwing the priest down and giving him a slap in the face. And leaving Father Salvi, he turned quickly and went toward the house.
Adventures of a School Teacher.
Laguna de Bay, surrounded by mountains, sleeps tranquilly in the stillness of the elements, as if it had not joined the chorus of the tempest on the night before. As first rays of dawn appear in the eastern sky and awaken the phosphorescent myriads in the water, long, grey shadows appear in the dim distance, almost on the border of the horizon. They are shadows of fishermen’s boats at work drawing in the nets.
Two men, dressed in deep mourning, from a lofty height contemplate the scene in silence. One is Ibarra, and the other is a young, meek-looking man with a melancholy countenance.
“Here is the place!” said the latter. “Here is where your father’s body was thrown into the water! The grave-digger brought Lieutenant Guevara and me here and pointed out the spot.”
Ibarra, with emotion, warmly grasped the young man’s hand.
“You need not thank me!” replied the latter. “I owed your father for many favors he did me. The only thing I could ever do for him was to accompany his body to the grave. I had come to the town without knowing anybody, without any recommendations, without a reputation, without money, just as I am now. Your father protected me, procured a house for me, helped secure whatever was needed to advance education; he used to come to the school and distribute pennies among the poor and diligent pupils; he provided them with books and papers. But that, like all good things, did not last long.”
Ibarra took off his hat and seemed to pray for a short time. Then he turned to his companion and said: “Did you tell me that my father used to help the poor children? How is it now?”
“Oh, now they do the best they can.”
“And don’t they come to school regularly?
“No, for their shirts are ragged and they are ashamed.”
Ibarra kept silent for a few moments.
“How many pupils have you now?” he asked, with a certain interest.
“There are more than two hundred on the register, but only twenty-five in the class.”
“How does that happen?”
The school teacher sadly smiled.
“It is a long and tedious story,” said he.
“Don’t think that I am asking out of vain curiosity,” replied Ibarra, looking seriously at the distant horizon. “I have been meditating a great deal on the matter, and I believe that it is far better to try to carry out the ideas of my father than to try to avenge him. His tomb is sacred Nature; and his enemies were the people and the priest. I can forgive the people for their ignorance, and as to the priest, I will pardon his character because I wish to respect the religion which he represents. I wish to be inspired with the spirit of the one who gave me life, and, that I may lend my help, I wish to know what are the obstacles here in the way of education.”
“The country will bless your memory, Señor, if you can carry out the beautiful and noble ideas of your dead father,” said the school teacher. “You wish to know what the obstacles are? Very well. We are now in such circumstances that unless something powerful intervenes, there will never be any education here. First, because there is no incentive or stimulus to the children, and, secondly, even when there is an incentive, lack of means and many prejudices kill it. They say that the son of a German peasant studies eight years in the town school. Who would want to spend half of that time in our schools, when the benefits to be derived are so small? Here the children read, and commit to memory verses and at times entire books in Spanish, but all without understanding a single word. What good can the sons of our farmers get out of the school so long as this is the case?”
“And you see the evil; have you not thought out a remedy?”
“Ah, poor me!” replied the teacher, shaking his head, “a poor teacher cannot alone fight against prejudices, against existing influences. Above all, I would need to have a school house, so that I would not, as I do now, have to teach from the priest’s carriage, under the convent. There, when the children want to read aloud, they naturally disturb the Father, who at times comes down and very nervous, especially when he has his attacks, finds fault with the children and insults me. You know very well that under such conditions no one can do any teaching. The child does not respect the teacher from that moment when he sees him mistreated by some one else without maintaining his rights. The teacher, if he is to be listened to, or if his authority is not to be doubted, needs prestige, a good name, moral strength, and a certain amount of freedom. If you will allow me, I will give you an illustration. I wished to introduce some reforms and they laughed at me. In order to remedy the evil that I spoke of a moment ago, I tried to teach the children Spanish, because, not only does the Government order it, but because it will be a great advantage for them to know the language. I employed the simplest method, used simple phrases and nouns without making use of hard rules, with the expectation of teaching them the grammar as soon as they had learned the language. At the end of several weeks, almost all the smarter ones in the school understood me and were able to compose phrases in Castellano.”
The teacher stopped and seemed to be in doubt. Then, as if he had made up his mind, he began again.
“I ought not to be ashamed of the history of my grievances. If any one had been in my place, he would have had the same story to tell. As I was saying, I began well. Several days later the priest, who was then Father Dámaso, sent the sacristan mayor to tell me that he wanted to see me. As I knew his character and was afraid to make him wait for me, I went up immediately, saluted him and said good morning to him in Spanish. As was customary, when I saluted him, I advanced to kiss the hand which he held out, but just at that moment he withdrew it and, without replying to me, began to chuckle scoffingly. I was naturally disconcerted, and it was all done in the presence of the sacristan mayor. At the moment, I did not know what to say. I stood and looked at him while he went on laughing. I had already become impatient and saw that I was on the point of committing an indiscretion. All of a sudden, he stopped laughing and added insult to injury. With a cunning air, he said to me: ‘So it is buenos dias, eh? buenos dias, ha, ha! How funny! Why, you know how to speak Spanish, do you?’ And then he continued his laugh.”
Ibarra could not keep back his smile.
“You laugh,” replied the teacher, also smiling. “I confess that I did not feel like smiling at that time. I felt the blood rush to my head, and a thunderbolt seemed to dazzle my brain. I saw the priest far off, very far from me. I started toward him to reply. The sacristan mayor interposed and said very seriously, in Tagalog: ‘You want to stop wearing borrowed clothes. Be content to speak in your own language and do not spoil Spanish, which is not meant for you. You have heard about Ciruela? Well, Ciruela was a teacher who did not know how to read, but he taught school.’ I wanted to detain him for a moment, but he went quickly into his room and closed the door violently. What was I to do? In order to collect my salary I have to have the approval of the priest on my bill, and have to make a journey to the capital of the province. What could I do to him—the moral, political and civil authority of the town, sustained by his corporation, feared by the Government, rich, powerful, always consulting, advising, listening, believing and attending to everything—what could I do to him? If he insulted me, I had to keep my mouth closed. If I talked back, he would throw me out of work, spoiling my career. And what good would it do—education? On the contrary, everybody would take up the priest’s side of the matter; they would criticise me, they would call me vain, proud, arrogant, a poor Christian, poorly educated, and when not this, they would call me an anti-Spaniard and an agitator. The school teacher should have no authority. He should only be lazy, humble, and resigned to his low position. May God pardon me if I do not speak conscientiously and truthfully, but I was born in this country, I have to live, I have a mother to support and I have to be resigned to my lot.”
“And have you continued to be discouraged on account of this trouble? Have you attempted nothing since?”
“Would to God that it had ended there!” he replied. “Would to God that that had been the end of my misfortunes. The truth is that from that day I began to take a dislike to my profession. Every day the school brought to my mind my disgrace and made every hour a bitter one for me. But what could I do? I could not disappoint my mother. I had to tell her that the three years of sacrifices which she had made for me in order that I might learn the profession now made me happy. I had to make her believe that the profession was a most honorable one, that the work was most pleasant, that the road was strewn with flowers and that the fulfillment of my duty produced nothing but friendships. If I had told her the contrary, I myself would still be as unhappy and would only make another unhappy, which was not only useless but a sin. So, I kept at my work and tried not to be discouraged. I tried to fight it down.”
The school teacher made a short pause and then began again.
“You know that the books in most of the schools are in Spanish, excepting the Tagalog catechism, which varies according to the corporation which appoints the priest of the parish. The books generally used in the school are novenaries, the ‘Doxology’ and Father Astete’s catechism, which are no more edifying than the books of heretics. On account of the fact that it was impossible to teach the children Spanish, as I wanted to do, and owing to the fact that I could not translate so many books into the native language, I decided to try to substitute for them gradually, short verses, extracts from the best Tagalog books, such as the ‘Treatise on Urbanity’ by Hortensio y Feliza, and some of the little pamphlets on agriculture. Sometimes I myself translated small works, such as the ‘History of the Philippines,’ by Father Barranera, and afterward dictated to the pupils for their note books, adding at times some of my own observations. As I had no maps to teach them geography, I copied one of those of the province which I saw in the capital, and with this reproduction and, by the aid of the tiles on the floor, I was able to give them some ideas about the country. The new priest sent for me. Although he did not reprimand me severely, he told me, however, that my first duty was to teach religion, and that before I began to teach any such things I must prove by an examination that all the children knew by heart the ‘Mysteries,’ the ‘Doxology,’ and the ‘Catechism of the Christian Doctrine.’
“So, in the meantime, I am endeavoring to convert the children into parrots so that they will know by heart all of these things of which they do not understand a single word. Many of the pupils already know the ‘Mysteries’ and the ‘Doxology,’ but I fear that I am making Father Astete’s efforts useless, inasmuch as my pupils do not even distinguish between the questions and the answers, or what either of them signifies. Thus we shall die and thus shall do those who are yet to be born; yet in Europe they talk about Progress!”
“Let us not be so pessimistic,” replied Ibarra, rising to his feet. “The teniente mayor has invited me to attend a town meeting to be held in the tribunal. Who knows but that some plan for improvement may there be adopted!”
The school teacher arose to go, shaking his head in token of doubt.
Lights and Shadows.
The people of the town have made their preparation for the festival in honor of the patron saint, San Diego, and are gossiping about it, and about the arrival of Maria Clara, accompanied by her aunt Isabel. They rejoiced over it, because they liked her, and admired her beauty very much. They also rejoiced in the change it had made in the priest, Father Salvi. “He is often absent-minded during the holy services,” they said. “He scarcely speaks with us, and he plainly grows more thin and taciturn.” His cook saw this constantly and complained of the little honor that he did his dishes. But what most excited the wonder of the people were the two lights which one could see shining in the convent during the night, while Father Salvi was visiting at the house of Maria Clara! The old dames crossed themselves and kept on gossiping.
Juan Crisostomo Ibarra had telegraphed from the capital of the province his compliments to Aunt Isabel and her niece, but he had not explained his absence. Many thought that he had been arrested for assaulting Father Salvi on the afternoon of “All Saint’s Day.” But the comments increased still more when, on the afternoon of the third day, they saw Ibarra get out of a carriage in front of the little house of his betrothed, and courteously salute the priest, who was also making his way thither.
If we go to Maria Clara’s house, we will find it like a little nest among orange and ilang-ilang trees, surrounded by flowers and vines which creep up on bamboo sticks and wires, diffusing their delicious perfume. The rich fragrance of the ilang-ilang reaches even to the window which looks out on the lake. Here sit the two young lovers. Ibarra was saying to Maria Clara:
“To-morrow, before the first ray of morning, your desire shall be fulfilled. To-night, I shall arrange all so that nothing will be lacking.”
“Then I will write to my friends, so that they may come along. Arrange it so that the priest cannot come.”
“Because he seems to be watching me. His deep and sombre eyes pain me. When he fixes them upon me, they frighten me. He speaks to me of extraordinary things, so incomprehensible, so strange. He asked me once if I had not dreamed about my mother’s letters. I believe he is half crazy. My friend Sinang, and Andeng, my foster sister, say that he is a little out of his head, for he neither eats nor bathes, and he lives entirely in the darkness. Don’t have him come!”
“We cannot but invite him,” replied Ibarra. “The customs of the country require it. He is the priest of your house and, besides, he has conducted himself nobly toward me. When the Alcalde consulted him on the business of which I have spoken to you, he had nothing but praises for me and did not pretend to offer the slightest obstacle. But I see that you are serious. I shall take care that he does not accompany us in the boat.”
Light steps were heard. They were those of the priest, who was approaching with a forced smile on his lips. They began to talk of different subjects, about the weather, the town and the festival. Maria Clara devised an excuse and went out.
“And while we are speaking about festivals,” said Ibarra, “allow me to invite you to the one which we are going to celebrate to-morrow. It is going to be a country picnic, which we and our friends are planning.”
“And where will it be held?”
“The girls want to hold it near the brook in the woods, near the balitî tree. So we will have to get up early to reach the place before the sun gets hot.”
The priest reflected, and a moment later replied: “The invitation is very tempting, and I accept it in order to prove that I hold no grudge against you for what has happened in the past. But I will have to be a little late, as I must fulfill my religious duties first. How happy to be like you, entirely free and independent!”
A few minutes later, Ibarra took his leave in order to arrange for the picnic on the following day. It was already quite dark when he left the house.
( TO CONTINUE IN PART 2 )
Related Links :
Noli Me Tangere - Part 2 (Chapter XI to XX1 )
Noli Me Tangere - Part 3 ( Chapter XXII to XXXII )
Noli Me Tangere - Part 4 ( From Chapter XXXIII to XLI )