The Social Cancer
Part 2 out of 11
religious demeanor or is it that the women here are an exception?
A cousin of Capitan Tiago, a sweet-faced old woman, who speaks Spanish
quite badly, is the only one receiving the ladies. To offer to the
Spanish ladies a plate of cigars and buyos, to extend her hand to
her countrywomen to be kissed, exactly as the friars do,--this is
the sum of her courtesy, her policy. The poor old lady soon became
bored, and taking advantage of the noise of a plate breaking, rushed
precipitately away, muttering, "Jesús! Just wait, you rascals!" and
failed to reappear.
The men, for their part, are making more of a stir. Some cadets
in one corner are conversing in a lively manner but in low tones,
looking around now and then to point out different persons in the room
while they laugh more or less openly among themselves. In contrast,
two foreigners dressed in white are promenading silently from one end
of the room to the other with their hands crossed behind their backs,
like the bored passengers on the deck of a ship. All the interest and
the greatest animation proceed from a group composed of two priests,
two civilians, and a soldier who are seated around a small table on
which are seen bottles of wine and English biscuits.
The soldier, a tall, elderly lieutenant with an austere countenance--
a Duke of Alva straggling behind in the roster of the Civil Guard--
talks little, but in a harsh, curt way. One of the priests, a youthful
Dominican friar, handsome, graceful, polished as the gold-mounted
eyeglasses he wears, maintains a premature gravity. He is the curate
of Binondo and has been in former years a professor in the college
of San Juan de Letran, where he enjoyed the reputation of being a
consummate dialectician, so much so that in the days when the sons of
Guzman still dared to match themselves in subtleties with laymen,
the able disputant B. de Luna had never been able either to catch
or to confuse him, the distinctions made by Fray Sibyla leaving his
opponent in the situation of a fisherman who tries to catch eels with
a lasso. The Dominican says little, appearing to weigh his words.
Quite in contrast, the other priest, a Franciscan, talks much and
gesticulates more. In spite of the fact that his hair is beginning to
turn gray, he seems to be preserving well his robust constitution,
while his regular features, his rather disquieting glance, his wide
jaws and herculean frame give him the appearance of a Roman noble in
disguise and make us involuntarily recall one of those three monks of
whom Heine tells in his "Gods in Exile," who at the September equinox
in the Tyrol used to cross a lake at midnight and each time place
in the hand of the poor boatman a silver piece, cold as ice, which
left him full of terror. But Fray Damaso is not so mysterious as
they were. He is full of merriment, and if the tone of his voice is
rough like that of a man who has never had occasion to correct himself
and who believes that whatever he says is holy and above improvement,
still his frank, merry laugh wipes out this disagreeable impression and
even obliges us to pardon his showing to the room bare feet and hairy
legs that would make the fortune of a Mendieta in the Quiapo fairs.
One of the civilians is a very small man with a black beard, the only
thing notable about him being his nose, which, to judge from its size,
ought not to belong to him. The other is a rubicund youth, who seems
to have arrived but recently in the country. With him the Franciscan
is carrying on a lively discussion.
"You'll see," the friar was saying, "when you've been here a few
months you'll be convinced of what I say. It's one thing to govern
in Madrid and another to live in the Philippines."
"I, for example," continued Fray Damaso, raising his voice still
higher to prevent the other from speaking, "I, for example, who can
look back over twenty-three years of bananas and morisqueta, know
whereof I speak. Don't come at me with theories and fine speeches,
for I know the Indian. Mark well that the moment I arrived in the
country I was assigned to a toxin, small it is true, but especially
devoted to agriculture. I didn't understand Tagalog very well then,
but I was, soon confessing the women, and we understood one another
and they came to like me so well that three years later, when I was
transferred to another and larger town, made vacant by the death of
the native curate, all fell to weeping, they heaped gifts upon me,
they escorted me with music--"
"But that only goes to show--"
"Wait, wait! Don't be so hasty! My successor remained a shorter
time, and when he left he had more attendance, more tears, and more
music. Yet he had been more given to whipping and had raised the fees
in the parish to almost double."
"But you will allow me--"
"But that isn't all. I stayed in the town of San Diego twenty years
and it has been only a few months since I left it."
Here he showed signs of chagrin.
"Twenty years, no one can deny, are more than sufficient
to get acquainted with a town. San Diego has a population of six
thousand souls and I knew every inhabitant as well as if I had
been his mother and wet-nurse. I knew in which foot this one was
lame, where the shoe pinched that one, who was courting that girl,
what affairs she had had and with whom, who was the real father of
the child, and so on--for I was the confessor of every last one,
and they took care not to fail in their duty. Our host, Santiago,
will tell you whether I am speaking the truth, for he has a lot of
land there and that was where we first became friends. Well then,
you may see what the Indian is: when I left I was escorted by only
a few old women and some of the tertiary brethren--and that after
I had been there twenty years!"
"But I don't see what that has to do with the abolition of the tobacco
monopoly,"  ventured the rubicund youth, taking advantage of the
Franciscan's pausing to drink a glass of sherry.
Fray Damaso was so greatly surprised that he nearly let his glass
fall. He remained for a moment staring fixedly at the young man.
"What? How's that?" he was finally able to exclaim in great
wonderment. "Is it possible that you don't see it as clear as
day? Don't you see, my son, that all this proves plainly that the
reforms of the ministers are irrational?"
It was now the youth's turn to look perplexed. The lieutenant wrinkled
his eyebrows a little more and the small man nodded toward Fray Damaso
equivocally. The Dominican contented himself with almost turning his
back on the whole group.
"Do you really believe so?" the young man at length asked with great
seriousness, as he looked at the friar with curiosity.
"Do I believe so? As I believe the Gospel! The Indian is so indolent!"
"Ah, pardon me for interrupting you," said the young man, lowering
his voice and drawing his chair a little closer, "but you have said
something that awakens all my interest. Does this indolence actually,
naturally, exist among the natives or is there some truth in what a
foreign traveler says: that with this indolence we excuse our own,
as well as our backwardness and our colonial system. He referred to
other colonies whose inhabitants belong to the same race--"
"Bah, jealousy! Ask Seņor Laruja, who also knows this country. Ask him
if there is any equal to the ignorance and indolence of the Indian."
"It's true," affirmed the little man, who was referred to as Seņor
Laruja. "In no part of the world can you find any one more indolent
than the Indian, in no part of the world."
"Nor more vicious, nor more ungrateful!"
"Nor more unmannerly!"
The rubicund youth began to glance about nervously. "Gentlemen," he
whispered, "I believe that we are in the house of an Indian. Those
"Bah, don't be so apprehensive! Santiago doesn't consider himself an
Indian--and besides, he's not here. And what if he were! These are
the nonsensical ideas of the newcomers. Let a few months pass and you
will change your opinion, after you have attended a lot of fiestas
and bailúhan, slept on cots, and eaten your fill of tinola."
"Ah, is this thing that you call tinola a variety of lotus which
"Nothing of the kind!" exclaimed Fray Damaso with a smile. "You're
getting absurd. Tinola is a stew of chicken and squash. How long has
it been since you got here?"
"Four days," responded the youth, rather offended.
"Have you come as a government employee?"
"No, sir, I've come at my own expense to study the country."
"Man, what a rare bird!" exclaimed Fray Damaso, staring at him with
curiosity. "To come at one's own expense and for such foolishness! What
a wonder! When there are so many books! And with two fingerbreadths
of forehead! Many have written books as big as that! With two
fingerbreadths of forehead!"
The Dominican here brusquely broke in upon the conversation. "Did
your Reverence, Fray Damaso, say that you had been twenty years in
the town of San Diego and that you had left it? Wasn't your Reverence
satisfied with the town?"
At this question, which was put in a very natural and almost
negligent tone, Fray Damaso suddenly lost all his merriment and stopped
laughing. "No!" he grunted dryly, and let himself back heavily against
the back of his chair.
The Dominican went on in a still more indifferent tone. "It must be
painful to leave a town where one has been for twenty years and which
he knows as well as the clothes he wears. I certainly was sorry to
leave Kamiling and that after I had been there only a few months. But
my superiors did it for the good of the Orders for my own good."
Fray Damaso, for the first time that evening, seemed to be very
thoughtful. Suddenly he brought his fist down on the arm of his chair
and with a heavy breath exclaimed: "Either Religion is a fact or it
is not! That is, either the curates are free or they are not! The
country is going to ruin, it is lost!" And again he struck the arm
of his chair.
Everybody in the sala turned toward the group with astonished
looks. The Dominican raised his head to stare at the Franciscan from
under his glasses. The two foreigners paused a moment, stared with an
expression of mingled severity and reproof, then immediately continued
"He's in a bad humor because you haven't treated him with deference,"
murmured Seņor Laruja into the ear of the rubicund youth.
"What does your Reverence mean? What's the trouble?" inquired the
Dominican and the lieutenant at the same time, but in different tones.
"That's why so many calamities come! The ruling powers support
heretics against the ministers of God!" continued the Franciscan,
raising his heavy fists.
"What do you mean?" again inquired the frowning lieutenant, half
rising from his chair.
"What do I mean?" repeated Fray Damaso, raising his voice and facing
the lieutenant. "I'll tell you what I mean. I, yes I, mean to say that
when a priest throws out of his cemetery the corpse of a heretic,
no one, not even the King himself, has any right to interfere and
much less to impose any punishment! But a little General--a little
"Padre, his Excellency is the Vice-Regal Patron!" shouted the soldier,
rising to his feet.
"Excellency! Vice-Regal Patron! What of that!" retorted the Franciscan,
also rising. "In other times he would have been dragged down a
staircase as the religious orders once did with the impious Governor
Bustamente. Those were indeed the days of faith."
"I warn you that I can't permit this! His Excellency represents his
Majesty the King!"
"King or rook! What difference does that make? For us there is no
king other than the legitimate--"
"Halt!" shouted the lieutenant in a threatening tone, as if he were
commanding his soldiers. "Either you withdraw what you have said or
tomorrow I will report it to his Excellency!"
"Go ahead--right now--go on!" was the sarcastic rejoinder of
Fray Damaso as he approached the officer with clenched fists. "Do
you think that because I wear the cloth, I'm afraid? Go now, while
I can lend you my carriage!"
The dispute was taking a ludicrous turn, but fortunately the Dominican
intervened. "Gentlemen," he began in an authoritative tone and
with the nasal twang that so well becomes the friars, "you must not
confuse things or seek for offenses where there are none. We must
distinguish in the words of Fray Damaso those of the man from those
of the priest. The latter, as such, per se, can never give offense,
because they spring from absolute truth, while in those of the man
there is a secondary distinction to be made: those which he utters ab
irato, those which he utters ex ore, but not in corde, and those which
he does utter in corde. These last are the only ones that can really
offend, and only according to whether they preexisted as a motive in
mente, or arose solely per accidens in the heat of the discussion,
if there really exist--"
"But I, by accidens and for my own part, understand his motives,
Padre Sibyla," broke in the old soldier, who saw himself about to be
entangled in so many distinctions that he feared lest he might still be
held to blame. "I understand the motives about which your Reverence is
going to make distinctions. During the absence of Padre Damaso from San
Diego, his coadjutor buried the body of an extremely worthy individual
--yes, sir, extremely worthy, for I had had dealings with him many
times and had been entertained in his house. What if he never went to
confession, what does that matter? Neither do I go to confession! But
to say that he committed suicide is a lie, a slander! A man such as
he was, who has a son upon whom he centers his affection and hopes,
a man who has faith in God, who recognizes his duties to society,
a just and honorable man, does not commit suicide. This much I will
say and will refrain from expressing the rest of my thoughts here,
so please your Reverence."
Then, turning his back on the Franciscan, he went on: "Now then, this
priest on his return to the town, after maltreating the poor coadjutor,
had the corpse dug up and taken away from the cemetery to be buried
I don't know where. The people of San Diego were cowardly enough not
to protest, although it is true that few knew of the outrage. The
dead man had no relatives there and his only son was in Europe. But
his Excellency learned of the affair and as he is an upright man
asked for some punishment--and Padre Damaso was transferred to a
better town. That's all there is to it. Now your Reverence can make
So saying, he withdrew from the group.
"I'm sorry that I inadvertently brought up so delicate a subject,"
said Padre Sibyla sadly. "But, after all, if there has been a gain
in the change of towns"
"How is there to be a gain? And what of all the things that are
lost in moving, the letters, and the--and everything that is
mislaid?" interrupted Fray Damaso, stammering in the vain effort to
control his anger.
Little by little the party resumed its former tranquillity. Other
guests had come in, among them a lame old Spaniard of mild and
inoffensive aspect leaning on the arm of an elderly Filipina, who
was resplendent in frizzes and paint and a European gown. The group
welcomed them heartily, and Doctor De Espadaņa and his seņora, the
Doctora Doņa Victorina, took their seats among our acquaintances. Some
newspaper reporters and shopkeepers greeted one another and moved
about aimlessly without knowing just what to do.
"But can you tell me, Seņor Laruja, what kind of man our host
is?" inquired the rubicund youth. "I haven't been introduced to
"They say that he has gone out. I haven't seen him either."
"There's no need of introductions here," volunteered Fray
Damaso. "Santiago is made of the right stuff."
"No, he's not the man who invented gunpowder,"  added Laruja.
"You too, Seņor Laruja," exclaimed Doņa Victorina in mild reproach,
as she fanned herself. "How could the poor man invent gunpowder if,
as is said, the Chinese invented it centuries ago?"
"The Chinese! Are you crazy?" cried Fray Damaso. "Out with you! A
Franciscan, one of my Order, Fray What-do-you-call-him Savalls, 
invented it in the--ah the seventh century!"
"A Franciscan? Well, he must have been a missionary in China, that
Padre Savalls," replied the lady, who did not thus easily part from
"Schwartz, perhaps you mean, seņora," said Fray Sibyla, without
looking at her.
"I don't know. Fray Damaso said a Franciscan and I was only repeating."
"Well, Savalls or Chevas, what does it matter? The difference of
a letter doesn't make him a Chinaman," replied the Franciscan in
"And in the fourteenth century, not the seventh," added the Dominican
in a tone of correction, as if to mortify the pride of the other friar.
"Well, neither does a century more or less make him a Dominican."
"Don't get angry, your Reverence," admonished Padre Sibyla,
smiling. "So much the better that he did invent it so as to save his
brethren the trouble."
"And did you say, Padre Sibyla, that it was in the fourteenth
century?" asked Doņa Victorina with great interest. "Was that before
or after Christ?"
Fortunately for the individual questioned, two persons entered
It was not two beautiful and well-gowned young women that attracted
the attention of all, even including Fray Sibyla, nor was it his
Excellency the Captain-General with his staff, that the lieutenant
should start from his abstraction and take a couple of steps forward,
or that Fray Damaso should look as if turned to stone; it was simply
the original of the oil-painting leading by the hand a young man
dressed in deep mourning.
"Good evening, gentlemen! Good evening, Padre!" were the greetings
of Capitan Tiago as he kissed the hands of the priests, who forgot
to bestow upon him their benediction. The Dominican had taken off
his glasses to stare at the newly arrived youth, while Fray Damaso
was pale and unnaturally wide-eyed.
"I have the honor of presenting to you Don Crisostomo Ibarra, the son
of my deceased friend," went on Capitan Tiago. "The young gentleman
has just arrived from Europe and I went to meet him."
At the mention of the name exclamations were heard. The lieutenant
forgot to pay his respects to his host and approached the young man,
looking him over from head to foot. The young man himself at that
moment was exchanging the conventional greetings with all in the group,
nor did there seem to be any thing extraordinary about him except
his mourning garments in the center of that brilliantly lighted
room. Yet in spite of them his remarkable stature, his features,
and his movements breathed forth an air of healthy youthfulness in
which both body and mind had equally developed. There might have been
noticed in his frank, pleasant face some faint traces of Spanish
blood showing through a beautiful brown color, slightly flushed at
the cheeks as a result perhaps of his residence in cold countries.
"What!" he exclaimed with joyful surprise, "the curate of my native
town! Padre Damaso, my father's intimate friend!"
Every look in the room was directed toward the Franciscan, who made
"Pardon me, perhaps I'm mistaken," added Ibarra, embarrassed.
"You are not mistaken," the friar was at last able to articulate in a
changed voice, "but your father was never an intimate friend of mine."
Ibarra slowly withdrew his extended hand, looking greatly surprised,
and turned to encounter the gloomy gaze of the lieutenant fixed on him.
"Young man, are you the son of Don Rafael Ibarra?" he asked.
The youth bowed. Fray Damaso partly rose in his chair and stared
fixedly at the lieutenant.
"Welcome back to your country! And may you be happier in it than your
father was!" exclaimed the officer in a trembling voice. "I knew him
well and can say that he was one of the worthiest and most honorable
men in the Philippines."
"Sir," replied Ibarra, deeply moved, "the praise you bestow upon my
father removes my doubts about the manner of his death, of which I,
his son, am yet ignorant."
The eyes of the old soldier filled with tears and turning away hastily
he withdrew. The young man thus found himself alone in the center
of the room. His host having disappeared, he saw no one who might
introduce him to the young ladies, many of whom were watching him
with interest. After a few moments of hesitation he started toward
them in a simple and natural manner.
"Allow me," he said, "to overstep the rules of strict etiquette. It
has been seven years since I have been in my own country and upon
returning to it I cannot suppress my admiration and refrain from
paying my respects to its most precious ornaments, the ladies."
But as none of them ventured a reply, he found himself obliged to
retire. He then turned toward a group of men who, upon seeing him
approach, arranged themselves in a semicircle.
"Gentlemen," he addressed them, "it is a custom in Germany,
when a stranger finds himself at a function and there is no one to
introduce him to those present, that he give his name and so introduce
himself. Allow me to adopt this usage here, not to introduce foreign
customs when our own are so beautiful, but because I find myself driven
to it by necessity. I have already paid my respects to the skies and
to the ladies of my native land; now I wish to greet its citizens,
my fellow-countrymen. Gentlemen, my name is Juan Crisostomo Ibarra
The others gave their names, more or less obscure, and unimportant
"My name is A----," said one youth dryly, as he made a slight bow.
"Then I have the honor of addressing the poet whose works have done
so much to keep up my enthusiasm for my native land. It is said that
you do not write any more, but I could not learn the reason."
"The reason? Because one does not seek inspiration in order to debase
himself and lie. One writer has been imprisoned for having put a
very obvious truth into verse. They may have called me a poet but
they sha'n't call me a fool."
"And may I enquire what that truth was?"
"He said that the lion's son is also a lion. He came very near to being
exiled for it," replied the strange youth, moving away from the group.
A man with a smiling face, dressed in the fashion of the natives
of the country, with diamond studs in his shirt-bosom, came up at
that moment almost running. He went directly to Ibarra and grasped
his hand, saying, "Seņor Ibarra, I've been eager to make your
acquaintance. Capitan Tiago is a friend of mine and I knew your
respected father. I am known as Capitan Tinong and live in Tondo,
where you will always be welcome. I hope that you will honor me with a
visit. Come and dine with us tomorrow." He smiled and rubbed his hands.
"Thank you," replied Ibarra, warmly, charmed with such amiability,
"but tomorrow morning I must leave for San Diego."
"How unfortunate! Then it will be on your return."
"Dinner is served!" announced a waiter from the café La Campana, and
the guests began to file out toward the table, the women, especially
the Filipinas, with great hesitation.
Jele, jele, bago quiere.
Fray Sibyla seemed to be very content as he moved along tranquilly
with the look of disdain no longer playing about his thin,
refined lips. He even condescended to speak to the lame doctor, De
Espadaņa, who answered in monosyllables only, as he was somewhat of
a stutterer. The Franciscan was in a frightful humor, kicking at the
chairs and even elbowing a cadet out of his way. The lieutenant was
grave while the others talked vivaciously, praising the magnificence
of the table. Doņa Victorina, however, was just turning up her nose in
disdain when she suddenly became as furious as a trampled serpent--
the lieutenant had stepped on the train of her gown.
"Haven't you any eyes?" she demanded.
"Yes, seņora, two better than yours, but the fact is that I was
admiring your frizzes," retorted the rather ungallant soldier as he
moved away from her.
As if from instinct the two friars both started toward the head of the
table, perhaps from habit, and then, as might have been expected, the
same thing happened that occurs with the competitors for a university
position, who openly exalt the qualifications and superiority of their
opponents, later giving to understand that just the contrary was meant,
and who murmur and grumble when they do not receive the appointment.
"For you, Fray Damaso."
"For you, Fray Sibyla."
"An older friend of the family--confessor of the deceased lady--
age, dignity, and authority--"
"Not so very old, either! On the other hand, you are the curate of
the district," replied Fray Damaso sourly, without taking his hand
from the back of the chair.
"Since you command it, I obey," concluded Fray Sibyla, disposing
himself to take the seat.
"I don't command it!" protested the Franciscan. "I don't command it!"
Fray Sibyla was about to seat himself without paying any more attention
to these protests when his eyes happened to encounter those of the
lieutenant. According to clerical opinion in the Philippines, the
highest secular official is inferior to a friar-cook: cedant arma
togae, said Cicero in the Senate--cedant arma cottae, say the
friars in the Philippines.
But Fray Sibyla was a well-bred person, so he said, "Lieutenant, here
we are in the world and not in the church. The seat of honor belongs
to you." To judge from the tone of his voice, however, even in the
world it really did belong to him, and the lieutenant, either to keep
out of trouble or to avoid sitting between two friars, curtly declined.
None of the claimants had given a thought to their host. Ibarra
noticed him watching the scene with a smile of satisfaction.
"How's this, Don Santiago, aren't you going to sit down with us?"
But all the seats were occupied; Lucullus was not to sup in the house
"Sit still, don't get up!" said Capitan Tiago, placing his hand on
the young man's shoulder. "This fiesta is for the special purpose of
giving thanks to the Virgin for your safe arrival. Oy! Bring on the
tinola! I ordered tinola as you doubtless have not tasted any for so
long a time."
A large steaming tureen was brought in. The Dominican, after muttering
the benedicite, to which scarcely any one knew how to respond, began
to serve the contents. But whether from carelessness or other cause,
Padre Damaso received a plate in which a bare neck and a tough wing
of chicken floated about in a large quantity of soup amid lumps of
squash, while the others were eating legs and breasts, especially
Ibarra, to whose lot fell the second joints. Observing all this, the
Franciscan mashed up some pieces of squash, barely tasted the soup,
dropped his spoon noisily, and roughly pushed his plate away. The
Dominican was very busy talking to the rubicund youth.
"How long have you been away from the country?" Laruja asked Ibarra.
"Almost seven years."
"Then you have probably forgotten all about it."
"Quite the contrary. Even if my country does seem to have forgotten
me, I have always thought about it."
"How do you mean that it has forgotten you?" inquired the rubicund
"I mean that it has been a year since I have received any news from
here, so that I find myself a stranger who does not yet know how and
when his father died."
This statement drew a sudden exclamation from the lieutenant.
"And where were you that you didn't telegraph?" asked Doņa
Victorina. "When we were married we telegraphed to the Peņinsula." 
"Seņora, for the past two years I have been in the northern part of
Europe, in Germany and Russian Poland."
Doctor De Espadaņa, who until now had not ventured upon any
conversation, thought this a good opportunity to say something. "I--
I knew in S-spain a P-pole from W-warsaw, c-called S-stadtnitzki, if
I r-remember c-correctly. P-perhaps you s-saw him?" he asked timidly
and almost blushingly.
"It's very likely," answered Ibarra in a friendly manner, "but just
at this moment I don't recall him."
"B-but you c-couldn't have c-confused him with any one else," went
on the Doctor, taking courage. "He was r-ruddy as gold and t-talked
Spanish very b-badly."
"Those are good clues, but unfortunately while there I talked Spanish
only in a few consulates."
"How then did you get along?" asked the wondering Doņa Victorina.
"The language of the country served my needs, madam."
"Do you also speak English?" inquired the Dominican, who had been in
Hongkong, and who was a master of pidgin-English, that adulteration
of Shakespeare's tongue used by the sons of the Celestial Empire.
"I stayed in England a year among people who talked nothing but
"Which country of Europe pleased you the most?" asked the rubicund
"After Spain, my second fatherland, any country of free Europe."
"And you who seem to have traveled so much, tell us what do you
consider the most notable thing that you have seen?" inquired Laruja.
Ibarra appeared to reflect. "Notable--in what way?"
"For example, in regard to the life of the people--the social,
political, religious life--in general, in its essential features--
as a whole."
Ibarra paused thoughtfully before replying. "Frankly, I like everything
in those people, setting aside the national pride of each one. But
before visiting a country, I tried to familiarize myself with its
history, its Exodus, if I may so speak, and afterwards I found
everything quite natural. I have observed that the prosperity or
misery of each people is in direct proportion to its liberties or its
prejudices and, accordingly, to the sacrifices or the selfishness of
"And haven't you observed anything more than that?" broke in the
Franciscan with a sneer. Since the beginning of the dinner he had not
uttered a single word, his whole attention having been taking up,
no doubt, with the food. "It wasn't worth while to squander your
fortune to learn so trifling a thing. Any schoolboy knows that."
Ibarra was placed in an embarrassing position, and the rest looked
from one to the other as if fearing a disagreeable scene. He was
about to say, "The dinner is nearly over and his Reverence is now
satiated," but restrained himself and merely remarked to the others,
"Gentlemen, don't be surprised at the familiarity with which our former
curate treats me. He treated me so when I was a child, and the years
seem to make no difference in his Reverence. I appreciate it, too,
because it recalls the days when his Reverence visited our home and
honored my father's table."
The Dominican glanced furtively at the Franciscan, who was trembling
visibly. Ibarra continued as he rose from the table: "You will now
permit me to retire, since, as I have just arrived and must go away
tomorrow morning, there remain some important business matters for me
to attend to. The principal part of the dinner is over and I drink
but little wine and seldom touch cordials. Gentlemen, all for Spain
and the Philippines!" Saying this, he drained his glass, which he had
not before touched. The old lieutenant silently followed his example.
"Don't go!" whispered Capitan Tiago. "Maria Clara will be here. Isabel
has gone to get her. The new curate of your town, who is a saint,
is also coming."
"I'll call tomorrow before starting. I've a very important visit to
make now." With this he went away.
Meanwhile the Franciscan had recovered himself. "Do you see?" he
said to the rubicund youth, at the same time flourishing his dessert
spoon. "That comes from pride. They can't stand to have the curate
correct them. They even think that they are respectable persons.
It's the evil result of sending young men to Europe. The government
ought to prohibit it."
"And how about the lieutenant?" Doņa Victorina chimed in upon the
Franciscan, "he didn't get the frown off his face the whole evening. He
did well to leave us so old and still only a lieutenant!" The lady
could not forget the allusion to her frizzes and the trampled ruffles
of her gown.
That night the rubicund youth wrote down, among other things, the
following title for a chapter in his Colonial Studies: "Concerning
the manner in which the neck and wing of a chicken in a friar's plate
of soup may disturb the merriment of a feast." Among his notes there
appeared these observations: "In the Philippines the most unnecessary
person at a dinner is he who gives it, for they are quite capable of
beginning by throwing the host into the street and then everything
will go on smoothly. Under present conditions it would perhaps be a
good thing not to allow the Filipinos to leave the country, and even
not to teach them to read."
Heretic and Filibuster
Ibarra stood undecided for a moment. The night breeze, which during
those months blows cool enough in Manila, seemed to drive from his
forehead the light cloud that had darkened it. He took off his hat and
drew a deep breath. Carriages flashed by, public rigs moved along at a
sleepy pace, pedestrians of many nationalities were passing. He walked
along at that irregular pace which indicates thoughtful abstraction or
freedom from care, directing his steps toward Binondo Plaza and looking
about him as if to recall the place. There were the same streets and
the identical houses with their white and blue walls, whitewashed,
or frescoed in bad imitation of granite; the church continued to
show its illuminated clock face; there were the same Chinese shops
with their soiled curtains and their iron gratings, in one of which
was a bar that he, in imitation of the street urchins of Manila, had
twisted one night; it was still unstraightened. "How slowly everything
moves," he murmured as he turned into Calle Sacristia. The ice-cream
venders were repeating the same shrill cry, "Sorbeteee!" while the
smoky lamps still lighted the identical Chinese stands and those of
the old women who sold candy and fruit.
"Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "There's the same Chinese who was here
seven years ago, and that old woman--the very same! It might be said
that tonight I've dreamed of a seven years' journey in Europe. Good
heavens, that pavement is still in the same unrepaired condition
as when I left!" True it was that the stones of the sidewalk on the
corner of San Jacinto and Sacristia were still loose.
While he was meditating upon this marvel of the city's stability in
a country where everything is so unstable, a hand was placed lightly
on his shoulder. He raised his head to see the old lieutenant gazing
at him with something like a smile in place of the hard expression
and the frown which usually characterized him.
"Young man, be careful! Learn from your father!" was the abrupt
greeting of the old soldier.
"Pardon me, but you seem to have thought a great deal of my father. Can
you tell me how he died?" asked Ibarra, staring at him.
"What! Don't you know about it?" asked the officer.
"I asked Don Santiago about it, but he wouldn't promise to tell me
until tomorrow. Perhaps you know?"
"I should say I do, as does everybody else. He died in prison!"
The young man stepped backward a pace and gazed searchingly at the
lieutenant. "In prison? Who died in prison?"
"Your father, man, since he was in confinement," was the somewhat
"My father--in prison--confined in a prison? What are you talking
about? Do you know who my father was? Are you--?" demanded the
young man, seizing the officer's arm.
"I rather think that I'm not mistaken. He was Don Rafael Ibarra."
"Yes, Don Rafael Ibarra," echoed the youth weakly.
"Well, I thought you knew about it," muttered the soldier in a tone of
compassion as he saw what was passing in Ibarra's mind. "I supposed
that you--but be brave! Here one cannot be honest and keep out
"I must believe that you are not joking with me," replied Ibarra in
a weak voice, after a few moments' silence. "Can you tell me why he
was in prison?"
The old man seemed to be perplexed. "It's strange to me that your
family affairs were not made known to you."
"His last letter, a year ago, said that I should not be uneasy if
he did not write, as he was very busy. He charged me to continue my
studies and--sent me his blessing."
"Then he wrote that letter to you just before he died. It will soon
be a year since we buried him."
"But why was my father a prisoner?"
"For a very honorable reason. But come with me to the barracks and
I'll tell you as we go along. Take my arm."
They moved along for some time in silence. The elder seemed to be in
deep thought and to be seeking inspiration from his goatee, which he
"As you well know," he began, "your father was the richest man in
the province, and while many loved and respected him, there were
also some who envied and hated him. We Spaniards who come to the
Philippines are unfortunately not all we ought to be. I say this as
much on account of one of your ancestors as on account of your father's
enemies. The continual changes, the corruption in the higher circles,
the favoritism, the low cost and the shortness of the journey, are to
blame for it all. The worst characters of the Peninsula come here,
and even if a good man does come, the country soon ruins him. So it
was that your father had a number of enemies among the curates and
Here he hesitated for a while. "Some months after your departure the
troubles with Padre Damaso began, but I am unable to explain the real
cause of them. Fray Damaso accused him of not coming to confession,
although he had not done so formerly and they had nevertheless been
good friends, as you may still remember. Moreover, Don Rafael was a
very upright man, more so than many of those who regularly attend
confession and than the confessors themselves. He had framed for
himself a rigid morality and often said to me, when he talked of these
troubles, 'Seņor Guevara, do you believe that God will pardon any
crime, a murder for instance, solely by a man's telling it to a priest
--a man after all and one whose duty it is to keep quiet about it--
by his fearing that he will roast in hell as a penance--by being
cowardly and certainly shameless into the bargain? I have another
conception of God,' he used to say, 'for in my opinion one evil does
not correct another, nor is a crime to be expiated by vain lamentings
or by giving alms to the Church. Take this example: if I have killed
the father of a family, if I have made of a woman a sorrowing widow
and destitute orphans of some happy children, have I satisfied eternal
Justice by letting myself be hanged, or by entrusting my secret to one
who is obliged to guard it for me, or by giving alms to priests who
are least in need of them, or by buying indulgences and lamenting
night and day? What of the widow and the orphans? My conscience
tells me that I should try to take the place of him whom I killed,
that I should dedicate my whole life to the welfare of the family
whose misfortunes I caused. But even so, who can replace the love of
a husband and a father?' Thus your father reasoned and by this strict
standard of conduct regulated all his actions, so that it can be said
that he never injured anybody. On the contrary, he endeavored by his
good deeds to wipe out some injustices which he said your ancestors
had committed. But to get back to his troubles with the curate--
these took on a serious aspect. Padre Damaso denounced him from the
pulpit, and that he did not expressly name him was a miracle, since
anything might have been expected of such a character. I foresaw that
sooner or later the affair would have serious results."
Again the old lieutenant paused. "There happened to be wandering about
the province an ex-artilleryman who has been discharged from the army
on account of his stupidity and ignorance. As the man had to live and
he was not permitted to engage in manual labor, which would injure
our prestige, he somehow or other obtained a position as collector of
the tax on vehicles. The poor devil had no education at all, a fact of
which the natives soon became aware, as it was a marvel for them to see
a Spaniard who didn't know how to read and write. Every one ridiculed
him and the payment of the tax was the occasion of broad smiles. He
knew that he was an object of ridicule and this tended to sour his
disposition even more, rough and bad as it had formerly been. They
would purposely hand him the papers upside down to see his efforts
to read them, and wherever he found a blank space he would scribble
a lot of pothooks which rather fitly passed for his signature. The
natives mocked while they paid him. He swallowed his pride and made
the collections, but was in such a state of mind that he had no respect
for any one. He even came to have some hard words with your father.
"One day it happened that he was in a shop turning a document over and
over in the effort to get it straight when a schoolboy began to make
signs to his companions and to point laughingly at the collector with
his finger. The fellow heard the laughter and saw the joke reflected
in the solemn faces of the bystanders. He lost his patience and,
turning quickly, started to chase the boys, who ran away shouting
ba, be, bi, bo, bu. Blind with rage and unable to catch them, he
threw his cane and struck one of the boys on the head, knocking him
down. He ran up and began to kick the fallen boy, and none of those
who had been laughing had the courage to interfere. Unfortunately,
your father happened to come along just at that time. He ran forward
indignantly, caught the collector by the arm, and reprimanded him
severely. The artilleryman, who was no doubt beside himself with
rage, raised his hand, but your father was too quick for him, and
with the strength of a descendant of the Basques--some say that
he struck him, others that he merely pushed him, but at any rate the
man staggered and fell a little way off, striking his head against a
stone. Don Rafael quietly picked the wounded boy up and carried him
to the town hall. The artilleryman bled freely from the mouth and
died a few moments later without recovering consciousness.
"As was to be expected, the authorities intervened and arrested
your father. All his hidden enemies at once rose up and false
accusations came from all sides. He was accused of being a heretic
and a filibuster. To be a heretic is a great danger anywhere,
but especially so at that time when the province was governed by an
alcalde who made a great show of his piety, who with his servants used
to recite his rosary in the church in a loud voice, perhaps that all
might hear and pray with him. But to be a filibuster is worse than
to be a heretic and to kill three or four tax-collectors who know
how to read, write, and attend to business. Every one abandoned him,
and his books and papers were seized. He was accused of subscribing to
El Correo de Ultramar, and to newspapers from Madrid, of having sent
you to Germany, of having in his possession letters and a photograph
of a priest who had been legally executed, and I don't know what
not. Everything served as an accusation, even the fact that he, a
descendant of Peninsulars, wore a camisa. Had it been any one but
your father, it is likely that he would soon have been set free,
as there was a physician who ascribed the death of the unfortunate
collector to a hemorrhage. But his wealth, his confidence in the law,
and his hatred of everything that was not legal and just, wrought his
undoing. In spite of my repugnance to asking for mercy from any one,
I applied personally to the Captain-General--the predecessor of our
present one--and urged upon him that there could not be anything
of the filibuster about a man who took up with all the Spaniards,
even the poor emigrants, and gave them food and shelter, and in whose
veins yet flowed the generous blood of Spain. It was in vain that
I pledged my life and swore by my poverty and my military honor. I
succeeded only in being coldly listened to and roughly sent away with
the epithet of chiflado." 
The old man paused to take a deep breath, and after noticing the
silence of his companion, who was listening with averted face,
continued: "At your father's request I prepared the defense in the
case. I went first to the celebrated Filipino lawyer, young A----,
but he refused to take the case. 'I should lose it,' he told me,
'and my defending him would furnish the motive for another charge
against him and perhaps one against me. Go to Seņor M----, who is a
forceful and fluent speaker and a Peninsular of great influence.' I
did so, and the noted lawyer took charge of the case, and conducted it
with mastery and brilliance. But your father's enemies were numerous,
some of them hidden and unknown. False witnesses abounded, and their
calumnies, which under other circumstances would have melted away
before a sarcastic phrase from the defense, here assumed shape and
substance. If the lawyer succeeded in destroying the force of their
testimony by making them contradict each other and even perjure
themselves, new charges were at once preferred. They accused him of
having illegally taken possession of a great deal of land and demanded
damages. They said that he maintained relations with the tulisanes in
order that his crops and animals might not be molested by them. At
last the case became so confused that at the end of a year no one
understood it. The alcalde had to leave and there came in his place
one who had the reputation of being honest, but unfortunately he stayed
only a few months, and his successor was too fond of good horses.
"The sufferings, the worries, the hard life in the prison, or the pain
of seeing so much ingratitude, broke your father's iron constitution
and he fell ill with that malady which only the tomb can cure. When
the case was almost finished and he was about to be acquitted of the
charge of being an enemy of the fatherland and of being the murderer
of the tax-collector, he died in the prison with no one at his side. I
arrived just in time to see him breathe his last."
The old lieutenant became silent, but still Ibarra said nothing. They
had arrived meanwhile at the door of the barracks, so the soldier
stopped and said, as he grasped the youth's hand, "Young man, for
details ask Capitan Tiago. Now, good night, as I must return to duty
and see that all's well."
Silently, but with great feeling, Ibarra shook the lieutenant's bony
hand and followed him with his eyes until he disappeared. Then he
turned slowly and signaled to a passing carriage. "To Lala's Hotel,"
was the direction he gave in a scarcely audible voice.
"This fellow must have just got out of jail," thought the cochero as
he whipped up his horses.
A Star in a Dark Night
Ibarra went to his room, which overlooked the river, and dropping
into a chair gazed out into the vast expanse of the heavens spread
before him through the open window. The house on the opposite bank
was profusely lighted, and gay strains of music, largely from stringed
instruments, were borne across the river even to his room.
If the young man had been less preoccupied, if he had had more
curiosity and had cared to see with his opera glasses what was going
on in that atmosphere of light, he would have been charmed with one of
those magical and fantastic spectacles, the like of which is sometimes
seen in the great theaters of Europe. To the subdued strains of the
orchestra there seems to appear in the midst of a shower of light, a
cascade of gold and diamonds in an Oriental setting, a deity wrapped
in misty gauze, a sylph enveloped in a luminous halo, who moves
forward apparently without touching the floor. In her presence the
flowers bloom, the dance awakens, the music bursts forth, and troops
of devils, nymphs, satyrs, demons, angels, shepherds and shepherdesses,
dance, shake their tambourines, and whirl about in rhythmic evolutions,
each one placing some tribute at the feet of the goddess. Ibarra would
have seen a beautiful and graceful maiden, clothed in the picturesque
garments of the daughters of the Philippines, standing in the center
Of a semicircle made up of every class of people, Chinese, Spaniards,
Filipinos, soldiers, curates, old men and young, all gesticulating
and moving about in a lively manner. Padre Damaso stood at the side
of the beauty, smiling like one especially blessed. Fray Sibyla--
yes, Fray Sibyla himself--was talking to her. Doņa Victorina was
arranging in the magnificent hair of the maiden a string of pearls and
diamonds which threw out all the beautiful tints of the rainbow. She
was white, perhaps too much so, and whenever she raised her downcast
eyes there shone forth a spotless soul. When she smiled so as to
show her small white teeth the beholder realized that the rose is
only a flower and ivory but the elephant's tusk. From out the filmy
piņa draperies around her white and shapely neck there blinked, as
the Tagalogs say, the bright eyes of a collar of diamonds. One man
only in all the crowd seemed insensible to her radiant influence--
a young Franciscan, thin, wasted, and pale, who watched her from a
distance, motionless as a statue and scarcely breathing.
But Ibarra saw nothing of all this--his eyes were fixed on other
things. A small space was enclosed by four bare and grimy walls, in
one of which was an iron grating. On the filthy and loathsome floor
was a mat upon which an old man lay alone in the throes of death,
an old man breathing with difficulty and turning his head from side
to side as amid his tears he uttered a name. The old man was alone,
but from time to time a groan or the rattle of a chain was heard on
the other side of the wall. Far away there was a merry feast, almost
an orgy; a youth was laughing, shouting, and pouring wine upon the
flowers amid the applause and drunken laughter of his companions. The
old man had the features of his father, the youth was himself, and
the name that the old man uttered with tears was his own name! This
was what the wretched young man saw before him. The lights in the
house opposite were extinguished, the music and the noises ceased,
but Ibarra still heard the anguished cry of his father calling upon
his son in the hour of his death.
Silence had now blown its hollow breath over the city, and all
things seemed to sleep in the embrace of nothingness. The cock-crow
alternated with the strokes of the clocks in the church towers and
the mournful cries of the weary sentinels. A waning moon began to
appear, and everything seemed to be at rest; even Ibarra himself,
worn out by his sad thoughts or by his journey, now slept.
Only the young Franciscan whom we saw not so long ago standing
motionless and silent in the midst of the gaiety of the ballroom slept
not, but kept vigil. In his cell, with his elbow upon the window
sill and his pale, worn cheek resting on the palm of his hand, he
was gazing silently into the distance where a bright star glittered
in the dark sky. The star paled and disappeared, the dim light of
the waning moon faded, but the friar did not move from his place--
he was gazing out over the field of Bagumbayan and the sleeping sea
at the far horizon wrapped in the morning mist.
Thy will be done on earth.
While our characters are deep in slumber or busy with their breakfasts,
let us turn our attention to Capitan Tiago. We have never had the
honor of being his guest, so it is neither our right nor our duty to
pass him by slightingly, even under the stress of important events.
Low in stature, with a clear complexion, a corpulent figure and a
full face, thanks to the liberal supply of fat which according to his
admirers was the gift of Heaven and which his enemies averred was the
blood of the poor, Capitan Tiago appeared to be younger than he really
was; he might have been thought between thirty and thirty-five years of
age. At the time of our story his countenance always wore a sanctified
look; his little round head, covered with ebony-black hair cut long in
front and short behind, was reputed to contain many things of weight;
his eyes, small but with no Chinese slant, never varied in expression;
his nose was slender and not at all inclined to flatness; and if his
mouth had not been disfigured by the immoderate use of tobacco and
buyo, which, when chewed and gathered in one cheek, marred the symmetry
of his features, we would say that he might properly have considered
himself a handsome man and have passed for such. Yet in spite of this
bad habit he kept marvelously white both his natural teeth and also
the two which the dentist furnished him at twelve pesos each.
He was considered one of the richest landlords in Binondo and a
planter of some importance by reason of his estates in Pampanga and
Laguna, principally in the town of San Diego, the income from which
increased with each year. San Diego, on account of its agreeable
baths, its famous cockpit, and his cherished memories of the place,
was his favorite town, so that he spent at least two months of the year
there. His holdings of real estate in the city were large, and it is
superfluous to state that the opium monopoly controlled by him and a
Chinese brought in large profits. They also had the lucrative contract
of feeding the prisoners in Bilibid and furnished zacate to many of the
stateliest establishments in Manila u through the medium of contracts,
of course. Standing well with all the authorities, clever, cunning,
and even bold in speculating upon the wants of others, he was the only
formidable rival of a certain Perez in the matter of the farming-out of
revenues and the sale of offices and appointments, which the Philippine
government always confides to private persons. Thus, at the time of
the events here narrated, Capitan Tiago was a happy man in so far as
it is possible for a narrow-brained individual to be happy in such
a land: he was rich, and at peace with God, the government, and men.
That he was at peace with God was beyond doubt,--almost like religion
itself. There is no need to be on bad terms with the good God when one
is prosperous on earth, when one has never had any direct dealings with
Him and has never lent Him any money. Capitan Tiago himself had never
offered any prayers to Him, even in his greatest difficulties, for
he was rich and his gold prayed for him. For masses and supplications
high and powerful priests had been created; for novenas and rosaries
God in His infinite bounty had created the poor for the service
of the rich--the poor who for a peso could be secured to recite
sixteen mysteries and to read all the sacred books, even the Hebrew
Bible, for a little extra. If at any time in the midst of pressing
difficulties he needed celestial aid and had not at hand even a red
Chinese taper, he would call upon his most adored saints, promising
them many things for the purpose of putting them under obligation to
him and ultimately convincing them of the righteousness of his desires.
The saint to whom he promised the most, and whose promises he was
the most faithful in fulfilling, was the Virgin of Antipolo, Our
Lady of Peace and Prosperous Voyages. With many of the lesser
saints he was not very punctual or even decent; and sometimes,
after having his petitions granted, he thought no more about them,
though of course after such treatment he did not bother them again,
when occasion arose. Capitan Tiago knew that the calendar was full of
idle saints who perhaps had nothing wherewith to occupy their time up
there in heaven. Furthermore, to the Virgin of Antipolo he ascribed
greater power and efficiency than to all the other Virgins combined,
whether they carried silver canes, naked or richly clothed images of
the Christ Child, scapularies, rosaries, or girdles. Perhaps this
reverence was owing to the fact that she was a very strict Lady,
watchful of her name, and, according to the senior sacristan of
Antipolo, an enemy of photography. When she was angered she turned
black as ebony, while the other Virgins were softer of heart and more
indulgent. It is a well-known fact that some minds love an absolute
monarch rather than a constitutional one, as witness Louis XIV and
Louis XVI, Philip II and Amadeo I. This fact perhaps explains why
infidel Chinese and even Spaniards may be seen kneeling in the famous
sanctuary; what is not explained is why the priests run away with
the money of the terrible Image, go to America, and get married there.
In the sala of Capitan Tiago's house, that door, hidden by a silk
curtain leads to a small chapel or oratory such as must be lacking
in no Filipino home. There were placed his household gods--and
we say "gods" because he was inclined to polytheism rather than to
monotheism, which he had never come to understand. There could be seen
images of the Holy Family with busts and extremities of ivory, glass
eyes, long eyelashes, and curly blond hair--masterpieces of Santa
Cruz sculpture. Paintings in oil by artists of Paco and Ermita
represented martyrdoms of saints and miracles of the Virgin; St. Lucy
gazing at the sky and carrying in a plate an extra pair of eyes with
lashes and eyebrows, such as are seen painted in the triangle of the
Trinity or on Egyptian tombs; St. Pascual Bailon; St. Anthony of Padua
in a guingón habit looking with tears upon a Christ Child dressed
as a Captain-General with the three-cornered hat, sword, and boots,
as in the children's ball at Madrid that character is represented--
which signified for Capitan Tiago that while God might include in His
omnipotence the power of a Captain-General of the Philippines, the
Franciscans would nevertheless play with Him as with a doll. There,
might also be seen a St. Anthony the Abbot with a hog by his side,
a hog that for the worthy Capitan was as miraculous as the saint
himself, for which reason he never dared to refer to it as the hog,
but as the creature of holy St. Anthony; a St. Francis of Assisi in
a coffee-colored robe and with seven wings, placed over a St. Vincent
who had only two but in compensation carried a trumpet; a St. Peter the
Martyr with his head split open by the talibon of an evil-doer and held
fast by a kneeling infidel, side by side with another St. Peter cutting
off the ear of a Moro, Malchus no doubt, who was gnawing his lips
and writhing with pain, while a fighting-cock on a doric column crowed
and flapped his wings--from all of which Capitan Tiago deduced that
in order to be a saint it was just as well to smite as to be smitten.
Who could enumerate that army of images and recount the virtues and
perfections that were treasured there! A whole chapter would hardly
suffice. Yet we must not pass over in silence a beautiful St. Michael
of painted and gilded wood almost four feet high. The Archangel
is biting his lower lip and with flashing eyes, frowning forehead,
and rosy cheeks is grasping a Greek shield and brandishing in his
right hand a Sulu kris, ready, as would appear from his attitude and
expression, to smite a worshiper or any one else who might approach,
rather than the horned and tailed devil that had his teeth set in
his girlish leg.
Capitan Tiago never went near this image from fear of a miracle. Had
not other images, even those more rudely carved ones that issue from
the carpenter shops of Paete, many times come to life for the
confusion and punishment of incredulous sinners? It is a well-known
fact that a certain image of Christ in Spain, when invoked as a witness
of promises of love, had assented with a movement of the head in the
presence of the judge, and that another such image had reached out its
right arm to embrace St. Lutgarda. And furthermore, had he not himself
read a booklet recently published about a mimic sermon preached by an
image of St. Dominic in Soriano? True, the saint had not said a single
word, but from his movements it was inferred, at any rate the author of
the booklet inferred, that he was announcing the end of the world.
Was it not reported, too, that the Virgin of Luta in the town of Lipa
had one cheek swollen larger than the other and that there was mud
on the borders of her gown? Does not this prove mathematically that
the holy images also walk about without holding up their skirts and
that they even suffer from the toothache, perhaps for our sake? Had
he not seen with his own eyes, during the regular Good-Friday sermon,
all the images of Christ move and bow their heads thrice in unison,
thereby calling forth wails and cries from the women and other
sensitive souls destined for Heaven? More? We ourselves have seen
the preacher show to the congregation at the moment of the descent
from the cross a handkerchief stained with blood, and were ourselves
on the point of weeping piously, when, to the sorrow of our soul, a
sacristan assured us that it was all a joke, that the blood was that
of a chicken which had been roasted and eaten on the spot in spite
of the fact that it was Good Friday--and the sacristan was fat! So
Capitan Tiago, even though he was a prudent and pious individual,
took care not to approach the kris of St. Michael. "Let's take no
chances," he would say to himself, "I know that he's an archangel,
but I don't trust him, no, I don't trust him."
Not a year passed without his joining with an orchestra in the
pilgrimage to the wealthy shrine of Antipolo. He paid for two
thanksgiving masses of the many that make up the three novenas,
and also for the days when there are no novenas, and washed himself
afterwards in the famous bátis, or pool, where the sacred Image herself
had bathed. Her votaries can even yet discern the tracks of her feet
and the traces of her locks in the hard rock, where she dried them,
resembling exactly those made by any woman who uses coconut-oil, and
just as if her hair had been steel or diamonds and she had weighed a
thousand tons. We should like to see the terrible Image once shake
her sacred hair in the eyes of those credulous persons and put her
foot upon their tongues or their heads. There at the very edge of
the pool Capitan Tiago made it his duty to eat roast pig, sinigang
of dalag with alibambang leaves, and other more or less appetizing
dishes. The two masses would cost him over four hundred pesos, but
it was cheap, after all, if one considered the glory that the Mother
of the Lord would acquire from the pin-wheels, rockets, bombs, and
mortars, and also the increased profits which, thanks to these masses,
would come to one during the year.
But Antipolo was not the only theater of his ostentatious devotion. In
Binondo, in Pampanga, and in the town of San Diego, when he was about
to put up a fighting-cock with large wagers, he would send gold moneys
to the curate for propitiatory masses and, just as the Romans consulted
the augurs before a battle, giving food to the sacred fowls, so Capitan
Tiago would also consult his augurs, with the modifications befitting
the times and the new truths, tie would watch closely the flame of
the tapers, the smoke from the incense, the voice of the priest,
and from it all attempt to forecast his luck. It was an admitted
fact that he lost very few wagers, and in those cases it was due to
the unlucky circumstance that the officiating priest was hoarse,
or that the altar-candles were few or contained too much tallow,
or that a bad piece of money had slipped in with the rest. The
warden of the Brotherhood would then assure him that such reverses
were tests to which he was subjected by Heaven to receive assurance
of his fidelity and devotion. So, beloved by the priests, respected
by the sacristans, humored by the Chinese chandlers and the dealers
in fireworks, he was a man happy in the religion of this world, and
persons of discernment and great piety even claimed for him great
influence in the celestial court.
That he was at peace with the government cannot be doubted, however
difficult an achievement it may seem. Incapable of any new idea
and satisfied with his modus vivendi, he was ever ready to gratify
the desires of the last official of the fifth class in every one of
the offices, to make presents of hams, capons, turkeys, and Chinese
fruits at all seasons of the year. If he heard any one speak ill of
the natives, he, who did not consider himself as such, would join in
the chorus and speak worse of them; if any one aspersed the Chinese or
Spanish mestizos, he would do the same, perhaps because he considered
himself become a full-blooded Iberian. He was ever first to talk in
favor of any new imposition of taxes, or special assessment, especially
when he smelled a contract or a farming assignment behind it. He always
had an orchestra ready for congratulating and serenading the governors,
judges, and other officials on their name-days and birthdays, at the
birth or death of a relative, and in fact at every variation from the
usual monotony. For such occasions he would secure laudatory poems
and hymns in which were celebrated "the kind and loving governor,"
"the brave and courageous judge for whom there awaits in heaven the
palm of the just," with many other things of the same kind.
He was the president of the rich guild of mestizos in spite of
the protests of many of them, who did not regard him as one of
themselves. In the two years that he held this office he wore out ten
frock coats, an equal number of high hats, and half a dozen canes. The
frock coat and the high hat were in evidence at the Ayuntamiento,
in the governor-general's palace, and at military headquarters; the
high hat and the frock coat might have been noticed in the cockpit,
in the market, in the processions, in the Chinese shops, and under the
hat and within the coat might have been seen the perspiring Capitan
Tiago, waving his tasseled cane, directing, arranging, and throwing
everything into disorder with marvelous activity and a gravity even
So the authorities saw in him a safe man, gifted with the best of
dispositions, peaceful, tractable, and obsequious, who read no books
or newspapers from Spain, although he spoke Spanish well. Indeed,
they rather looked upon him with the feeling with which a poor student
contemplates the worn-out heel of his old shoe, twisted by his manner
of walking. In his case there was truth in both the Christian and
profane proverbs "beati pauperes spiritu" and "beati possidentes", 
and there might well be applied to him that translation, according to
some people incorrect, from the Greek, "Glory to God in the highest
and peace to men of good-will on earth!" even though we shall see
further along that it is not sufficient for men to have good-will in
order to live in peace.
The irreverent considered him a fool, the poor regarded him
as a heartless and cruel exploiter of misery and want, and his
inferiors saw in him a despot and a tyrant. As to the women, ah,
the women! Accusing rumors buzzed through the wretched nipa huts,
and it was said that wails and sobs might be heard mingled with the
weak cries of an infant. More than one young woman was pointed out by
her neighbors with the finger of scorn: she had a downcast glance and
a faded cheek. But such things never robbed him of sleep nor did any
maiden disturb his peace. It was an old woman who made him suffer,
an old woman who was his rival in piety and who had gained from many
curates such enthusiastic praises and eulogies as he in his best days
had never received.
Between Capitan Tiago and this widow, who had inherited from
brothers and cousins, there existed a holy rivalry which redounded
to the benefit of the Church as the competition among the Pampanga
steamers then redounded to the benefit of the public. Did Capitan
Tiago present to some Virgin a silver wand ornamented with emeralds
and topazes? At once Doņa Patrocinio had ordered another of gold set
with diamonds! If at the time of the Naval procession Capitan
Tiago erected an arch with two faįades, covered with ruffled cloth
and decorated with mirrors, glass globes, and chandeliers, then Doņa
Patrocinio would have another with four facades, six feet higher,
and more gorgeous hangings. Then he would fall back on his reserves,
his strong point, his specialty--masses with bombs and fireworks;
whereat Doņa Patrocinia could only gnaw at her lips with her toothless
gums, because, being exceedingly nervous, she could not endure the
chiming of the bells and still less the explosions of the bombs. While
he smiled in triumph, she would plan her revenge and pay the money of
others to secure the best orators of the five Orders in Manila, the
most famous preachers of the Cathedral, and even the Paulists,
to preach on the holy days upon profound theological subjects to
the sinners who understood only the vernacular of the mariners. The
partizans of Capitan Tiago would observe that she slept during the
sermon; but her adherents would answer that the sermon was paid for
in advance, and by her, and that in any affair payment was the prime
requisite. At length, she had driven him from the field completely
by presenting to the church three andas of gilded silver, each one of
which cost her over three thousand pesos. Capitan Tiago hoped that the
old woman would breathe her last almost any day, or that she would lose
five or six of her lawsuits, so that he might be alone in serving God;
but unfortunately the best lawyers of the Real Audiencia looked after
her interests, and as to her health, there was no part of her that
could be attacked by sickness; she seemed to be a steel wire, no doubt
for the edification of souls, and she hung on in this vale of tears
with the tenacity of a boil on the skin. Her adherents were secure in
the belief that she would be canonized at her death and that Capitan
Tiago himself would have to worship her at the altars--all of which
he agreed to and cheerfully promised, provided only that she die soon.
Such was Capitan Tiago in the days of which we write. As for the past,
he was the only son of a sugar-planter of Malabon, wealthy enough, but
so miserly that he would not spend a cent to educate his son, for which
reason the little Santiago had been the servant of a good Dominican,
a worthy man who had tried to train him in all of good that he knew
and could teach. When he had reached the happy stage of being known
among his acquaintances as a logician, that is, when he began to study
logic, the death of his protector, soon followed by that of his father,
put an end to his studies and he had to turn his attention to business
affairs. He married a pretty young woman of Santa Cruz, who gave him
social position and helped him to make his fortune. Doņa Pia Alba
was not satisfied with buying and selling sugar, indigo, and coffee,
but wished to plant and reap, so the newly-married couple bought land
in San Diego. From this time dated their friendship with Padre Damoso
and with Don Rafael Ibarra, the richest capitalist of the town.
The lack of an heir in the first six years of their wedded life
made of that eagerness to accumulate riches almost a censurable
ambition. Doņa Pia was comely, strong, and healthy, yet it was
in vain that she offered novenas and at the advice of the devout
women of San Diego made a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Kaysaysay
in Taal, distributed alms to the poor, and danced at midday in May
in the procession of the Virgin of Turumba in Pakil. But it was
all with no result until Fray Damaso advised her to go to Obando to
dance in the fiesta of St. Pascual Bailon and ask him for a son. Now
it is well known that there is in Obando a trinity which grants sons or
daughters according to request--Our Lady of Salambaw, St. Clara, and
St. Pascual. Thanks to this wise advice, Doņa Pia soon recognized the
signs of approaching motherhood. But alas! like the fisherman of whom
Shakespeare tells in Macbeth, who ceased to sing when he had found a
treasure, she at once lost all her mirthfulness, fell into melancholy,
and was never seen to smile again. "Capriciousness, natural in her
condition," commented all, even Capitan Tiago. A puerperal fever put
an end to her hidden grief, and she died, leaving behind a beautiful
girl baby for whom Fray Damaso himself stood sponsor. As St. Pascual
had not granted the son that was asked, they gave the child the name
of Maria Clara, in honor of the Virgin of Salambaw and St. Clara,
punishing the worthy St. Pascual with silence.
The little girl grew up under the care of her aunt Isabel, that good
old lady of monkish urbanity whom we met at the beginning of the
story. For the most part, her early life was spent in San Diego, on
account of its healthful climate, and there Padre Damaso was devoted
Maria Clara had not the small eyes of her father; like her mother,
she had eyes large, black, long-lashed, merry and smiling when she
was playing but sad, deep, and pensive in moments of repose. As a
child her hair was curly and almost blond, her straight nose was
neither too pointed nor too flat, while her mouth with the merry
dimples at the corners recalled the small and pleasing one of her
mother, tier skin had the fineness of an onion-cover and was white as
cotton, according to her perplexed relatives, who found the traces
of Capitan Tiago's paternity in her small and shapely ears. Aunt
Isabel ascribed her half-European features to the longings of Doņa
Pia, whom she remembered to have seen many times weeping before
the image of St. Anthony. Another cousin was of the same opinion,
differing only in the choice of the smut, as for her it was either
the Virgin herself or St. Michael. A famous philosopher, who was
the cousin of Capitan Tinong and who had memorized the "Amat," 
sought for the true explanation in planetary influences.
The idol of all, Maria Clara grew up amidst smiles and love. The
very friars showered her with attentions when she appeared in the
processions dressed in white, her abundant hair interwoven with
tuberoses and sampaguitas, with two diminutive wings of silver and
gold fastened on the back of her gown, and carrying in her hands a
pair of white doves tied with blue ribbons. Afterwards, she would
be so merry and talk so sweetly in her childish simplicity that the
enraptured Capitan Tiago could do nothing but bless the saints of
Obando and advise every one to purchase beautiful works of sculpture.
In southern countries the girl of thirteen or fourteen years
changes into a woman as the bud of the night becomes a flower in the
morning. At this period of change, so full of mystery and romance,
Maria Clara was placed, by the advice of the curate of Binondo, in
the nunnery of St. Catherine in order to receive strict religious
training from the Sisters. With tears she took leave of Padre Damaso
and of the only lad who had been a friend of her childhood, Crisostomo
Ibarra, who himself shortly afterward went away to Europe. There in
that convent, which communicates with the world through double bars,
even under the watchful eyes of the nuns, she spent seven years.
Each having his own particular ends in view and knowing the mutual
inclinations of the two young persons, Don Rafael and Capitan Tiago
agreed upon the marriage of their children and the formation of a
business partnership. This agreement, which was concluded some years
after the younger Ibarra's departure, was celebrated with equal joy
by two hearts in widely separated parts of the world and under very
An Idyl on an Azotea
The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.
That morning Aunt Isabel and Maria Clara went early to mass,
the latter elegantly dressed and wearing a rosary of blue beads,
which partly served as a bracelet for her, and the former with her
spectacles in order to read her Anchor of Salvation during the holy
communion. Scarcely had the priest disappeared from the altar when the
maiden expressed a desire for returning home, to the great surprise and
displeasure of her good aunt, who believed her niece to be as pious
and devoted to praying as a nun, at least. Grumbling and crossing
herself, the good old lady rose. "The good Lord will forgive me, Aunt
Isabel, since He must know the hearts of girls better than you do,"
Maria Clara might have said to check the severe yet maternal chidings.
After they had breakfasted, Maria Clara consumed her impatience in
working at a silk purse while her aunt was trying to clean up the
traces of the former night's revelry by swinging a feather duster
about. Capitan Tiago was busy looking over some papers. Every noise in
the street, every carriage that passed, caused the maiden to tremble
and quickened the beatings of her heart. Now she wished that she were
back in the quiet convent among her friends; there she could have seen
him without emotion and agitation! But was he not the companion of her
infancy, had they not played together and even quarreled at times? The
reason for all this I need not explain; if you, O reader, have ever
loved, you will understand; and if you have not, it is useless for
me to tell you, as the uninitiated do not comprehend these mysteries.
"I believe, Maria, that the doctor is right," said Capitan Tiago. "You
ought to go into the country, for you are pale and need fresh air. What
do you think of Malabon or San Diego?" At the mention of the latter
place Maria Clara blushed like a poppy and was unable to answer.
"You and Isabel can go at once to the convent to get your clothes
and to say good-by to your friends," he continued, without raising
his head. "You will not stay there any longer."
The girl felt the vague sadness that possesses the mind when we leave
forever a place where we have been happy, but another thought softened
"In four or five days, after you get some new clothes made, we'll
go to Malabon. Your godfather is no longer in San Diego. The priest
that you may have noticed here last night, that young padre, is the
new curate whom we have there, and he is a saint."
"I think that San Diego would be better, cousin," observed Aunt
Isabel. "Besides, our house there is better and the time for the
fiesta draws near."
Maria Clara wanted to embrace her aunt for this speech, but hearing
a carriage stop, she turned pale.
"Ah, very true," answered Capitan Tiago, and then in a different tone
he exclaimed, "Don Crisostomo!"
The maiden let her sewing fall from her hands and wished to move but
could not--a violent tremor ran through her body. Steps were heard
on the stairway and then a fresh, manly voice. As if that voice had
some magic power, the maiden controlled her emotion and ran to hide
in the oratory among the saints. The two cousins laughed, and Ibarra
even heard the noise of the door closing. Pale and breathing rapidly,
the maiden pressed her beating heart and tried to listen. She heard
his voice, that beloved voice that for so long a time she had heard
only in her dreams he was asking for her! Overcome with joy, she
kissed the nearest saint, which happened to be St. Anthony the Abbot,
a saint happy in flesh and in wood, ever the object of pleasing
temptations! Afterwards she sought the keyhole in order to see and
examine him. She smiled, and when her aunt snatched her from that
position she unconsciously threw her arms around the old lady's neck
and rained kisses upon her.
"Foolish child, what's the matter with you?" the old lady was at last
able to say as she wiped a tear from her faded eyes. Maria Clara felt
ashamed and covered her eyes with her plump arm.
"Come on, get ready, come!" added the old aunt fondly. "While he is
talking to your father about you. Come, don't make him wait." Like
a child the maiden obediently followed her and they shut themselves
up in her chamber.
Capitan Tiago and Ibarra were conversing in a lively manner when Aunt
Isabel appeared half dragging her niece, who was looking in every
direction except toward the persons in the room.
What said those two souls communicating through the language of the
eyes, more perfect than that of the lips, the language given to the
soul in order that sound may not mar the ecstasy of feeling? In such
moments, when the thoughts of two happy beings penetrate into each
other's souls through the eyes, the spoken word is halting, rude, and
weak--it is as the harsh, slow roar of the thunder compared with the
rapidity of the dazzling lightning flash, expressing feelings already
recognized, ideas already understood, and if words are made use of
it is only because the heart's desire, dominating all the being and
flooding it with happiness, wills that the whole human organism with
all its physical and psychical powers give expression to the song of
joy that rolls through the soul. To the questioning glance of love,
as it flashes out and then conceals itself, speech has no reply;
the smile, the kiss, the sigh answer.
Soon the two lovers, fleeing from the dust raised by Aunt Isabel's
broom, found themselves on the azotea where they could commune in
liberty among the little arbors. What did they tell each other in
murmurs that you nod your heads, O little red cypress flowers? Tell
it, you who have fragrance in your breath and color on your lips. And
thou, O zephyr, who learnest rare harmonies in the stillness of the
dark night amid the hidden depths of our virgin forests! Tell it,
O sunbeams, brilliant manifestation upon earth of the Eternal, sole
immaterial essence in a material world, you tell it, for I only know
how to relate prosaic commonplaces. But since you seem unwilling to
do so, I am going to try myself.
The sky was blue and a fresh breeze, not yet laden with the fragrance
of roses, stirred the leaves and flowers of the vines; that is why
the cypresses, the orchids, the dried fishes, and the Chinese lanterns
were trembling. The splash of paddles in the muddy waters of the river
and the rattle of carriages and carts passing over the Binondo bridge
came up to them distinctly, although they did not hear what the old
aunt murmured as she saw where they were: "That's better, there you'll
be watched by the whole neighborhood." At first they talked nonsense,
giving utterance only to those sweet inanities which are so much like
the boastings of the nations of Europe--pleasing and honey-sweet
at home, but causing foreigners to laugh or frown.
She, like a sister of Cain, was of course jealous and asked her
sweetheart, "Have you always thought of me? Have you never forgotten me
on all your travels in the great cities among so many beautiful women?"
He, too, was a brother of Cain, and sought to evade such questions,
making use of a little fiction. "Could I forget you?" he answered
as he gazed enraptured into her dark eyes. "Could I be faithless
to my oath, my sacred oath? Do you remember that stormy night when
you saw me weeping alone by the side of my dead mother and, drawing
near to me, you put your hand on my shoulder, that hand which for so
long a time you had not allowed me to touch, saying to me, 'You have
lost your mother while I never had one,' and you wept with me? You
loved her and she looked upon you as a daughter. Outside it rained
and the lightning flashed, but within I seemed to hear music and to
see a smile on the pallid face of the dead. Oh, that my parents were
alive and might behold you now! I then caught your hand along with
the hand of my mother and swore to love you and to make you happy,
whatever fortune Heaven might have in store for me; and that oath,
which has never weighed upon me as a burden, I now renew!
"Could I forget you? The thought of you has ever been with me,
strengthening me amid the dangers of travel, and has been a comfort
to my soul's loneliness in foreign lands. The thoughts of you
have neutralized the lotus-effect of Europe, which erases from the
memories of so many of our countrymen the hopes and misfortunes of our
fatherland. In dreams I saw you standing on the shore at Manila, gazing
at the far horizon wrapped in the warm light of the early dawn. I heard
the slow, sad song that awoke in me sleeping affections and called
back to the memory of my heart the first years of our childhood, our
joys, our pleasures, and all that happy past which you gave life to
while you were in our town. It seemed to me that you were the fairy,
the spirit, the poetic incarnation of my fatherland, beautiful,
unaffected, lovable, frank, a true daughter of the Philippines,
that beautiful land which unites with the imposing virtues of the
mother country, Spain, the admirable qualities of a young people,
as you unite in your being all that is beautiful and lovely, the
inheritance of both races" so indeed the love of you and that of my
fatherland have become fused into one.
"Could I forget you? Many times have I thought that I heard the
sound of your piano and the accents of your voice. When in Germany,
as I wandered at twilight in the woods, peopled with the fantastic
creations of its poets and the mysterious legends of past generations,
always I called upon your name, imagining that I saw you in the mists
that rose from the depths of the valley, or I fancied that I heard
your voice in the rustling of the leaves. When from afar I heard the
songs of the peasants as they returned from their labors, it seemed
to me that their tones harmonized with my inner voices, that they
were singing for you, and thus they lent reality to my illusions and
dreams. At times I became lost among the mountain paths and while the
night descended slowly, as it does there, I would find myself still
wandering, seeking my way among the pines and beeches and oaks. Then
when some scattering rays of moonlight slipped down into the clear
spaces left in the dense foliage, I seemed to see you in the heart of
the forest as a dim, loving shade wavering about between the spots of
light and shadow. If perhaps the nightingale poured forth his varied
trills, I fancied it was because he saw you and was inspired by you.
"Have I thought of you? The fever of love not only gave warmth to the
snows but colored the ice! The beautiful skies of Italy with their
clear depths reminded me of your eyes, its sunny landscape spoke to
me of your smile; the plains of Andalusia with their scent-laden
airs, peopled with oriental memories, full of romance and color,
told me of your love! On dreamy, moonlit nights, while boating oil
the Rhine, I have asked myself if my fancy did not deceive me as I
saw you among the poplars on the banks, on the rocks of the Lorelei,
or in the midst of the waters, singing in the silence of the night
as if you were a comforting fairy maiden sent to enliven the solitude
and sadness of those ruined castles!"
"I have not traveled like you, so I know only your town and Manila and
Antipolo," she answered with a smile which showed that she believed
all he said. "But since I said good-by to you and entered the convent,
I have always thought of you and have only put you out of my mind
when ordered to do so by my confessor, who imposed many penances upon
me. I recalled our games and our quarrels when we were children. You
used to pick up the most beautiful shells and search in the river
for the roundest and smoothest pebbles of different colors that we
might play games with them. You were very stupid and always lost,
and by way of a forfeit I would slap you with the palm of my hand,
but I always tried not to strike you hard, for I had pity on you. In
those games you cheated much, even more than I did, and we used to
finish our play in a quarrel. Do you remember that time when you
became really angry at me? Then you made me suffer, but afterwards,
when I thought of it in the convent, I smiled and longed for you so
that we might quarrel again--so that we might once more make up. We
were still children and had gone with your mother to bathe in the brook
under the shade of the thick bamboo. On the banks grew many flowers
and plants whose strange names you told me in Latin and Spanish, for
you were even then studying in the Ateneo. I paid no attention,
but amused myself by running after the needle-like dragon-flies and
the butterflies with their rainbow colors and tints of mother-of-pearl
as they swarmed about among the flowers. Sometimes I tried to surprise
them with my hands or to catch the little fishes that slipped rapidly
about amongst the moss and stones in the edge of the water. Once you
disappeared suddenly and when you returned you brought a crown of
leaves and orange blossoms, which you placed upon my head, calling me
Chloe. For yourself you made one of vines. But your mother snatched
away my crown, and after mashing it with a stone mixed it with the gogo
with which she was going to wash our heads. The tears came into your
eyes and you said that she did not understand mythology. 'Silly boy,'
your mother exclaimed, 'you'll see how sweet your hair will smell
afterwards.' I laughed, but you were offended and would not talk
with me, and for the rest of the day appeared so serious that then
I wanted to cry. On our way back to the town through the hot sun,
I picked some sage leaves that grew beside the path and gave them
to you to put in your hat so that you might not get a headache. You
smiled and caught my hand, and we made up."
Ibarra smiled with happiness as he opened his pocketbook and took from
it a piece of paper in which were wrapped some dry, blackened leaves
which gave off a sweet odor. "Your sage leaves," he said, in answer
to her inquiring look. "This is all that you have ever given me."
She in turn snatched from her bosom a little pouch of white
satin. "You must not touch this," she said, tapping the palm of his
hand lightly. "It's a letter of farewell."
"The one I wrote to you before leaving?"
"Have you ever written me any other, sir?"
"And what did I say to you then?"
"Many fibs, excuses of a delinquent debtor," she answered smilingly,
thus giving him to understand how sweet to her those fibs were. "Be
quiet now and I'll read it to you. I'll leave out your fine phrases
in order not to make a martyr of you."
Raising the paper to the height of her eyes so that the youth might
not see her face, she began: "'My'--but I'll not read what follows
that because it's not true."
Her eyes ran along some lines.
"'My father wishes me to go away, in spite of all my pleadings. 'You
are a man now,' he told me, 'and you must think about your future
and about your duties. You must learn the science of life, a thing
which your fatherland cannot teach you, so that you may some day be
useful to it. If you remain here in my shadow, in this environment
of business affairs, you will not learn to look far ahead. The
day in which you lose me you will find yourself like the plant
of which our poet Baltazar tells: grown in the water, its leaves
wither at the least scarcity of moisture and a moment's heat dries
it up. Don't you understand? You are almost a young man, and yet you
weep!' These reproaches hurt me and I confessed that I loved you. My
father reflected for a time in silence and then, placing his hand on
my shoulder, said in a trembling voice, 'Do you think that you alone
know how to love, that your father does not love you, and that he will
not feel the separation from you? It is only a short time since we
lost your mother, and I must journey on alone toward old age, toward
the very time of life when I would seek help and comfort from your
youth, yet I accept my loneliness, hardly knowing whether I shall
ever see you again. But you must think of other and greater things;
the future lies open before you, while for me it is already passing
behind; your love is just awakening, while mine is dying; fire burns
in your blood, while the chill is creeping into mine. Yet you weep
and cannot sacrifice the present for the future, useful as it may be
alike to yourself and to your country.' My father's eyes filled with
tears and I fell upon my knees at his feet, I embraced him, I begged
his forgiveness, and I assured him that I was ready to set out--'"
Ibarra's growing agitation caused her to suspend the reading, for he
had grown pale and was pacing back and forth.
"What's the matter? What is troubling you?" she asked him.
"You have almost made me forget that I have my duties, that I must
leave at once for the town. Tomorrow is the day for commemorating
Maria Clara silently fixed her large dreamy eyes upon him for a few
moments and then, picking some flowers, she said with emotion, "Go,
I won't detain you longer! In a few days we shall see each other
again. Lay these flowers on the tomb of your parents."
A few moments later the youth descended the stairway accompanied by
Capitan Tiago and Aunt Isabel, while Maria Clara shut herself up in
"Please tell Andeng to get the house ready, as Maria and Isabel are
coming. A pleasant journey!" said Capitan Tiago as Ibarra stepped into
the carriage, which at once started in the direction of the plaza of
Afterwards, by way of consolation, her father said to Maria Clara, who
was weeping beside an image of the Virgin, "Come, light two candles
worth two reals each, one to St. Roch, and one to St. Raphael,
the protector of travelers. Light the lamp of Our Lady of Peace and
Prosperous Voyages, since there are so many tulisanes. It's better
to spend four reals for wax and six cuartos for oil now than to pay
a big ransom later."
Ibarra's carriage was passing through a part of the busiest district
in Manila, the same which the night before had made him feel sad,
but which by daylight caused him to smile in spite of himself. The
movement in every part, so many carriages coming and going at full
speed, the carromatas and calesas, the Europeans, the Chinese,
the natives, each in his own peculiar costume, the fruit-venders,
the money-changers, the naked porters, the grocery stores, the lunch
stands and restaurants, the shops, and even the carts drawn by the
impassive and indifferent carabao, who seems to amuse himself in
carrying burdens while he patiently ruminates, all this noise and
confusion, the very sun itself, the distinctive odors and the motley
colors, awoke in the youth's mind a world of sleeping recollections.
Those streets had not yet been paved, and two successive days of
sunshine filled them with dust which covered everything and made the
passer-by cough while it nearly blinded him. A day of rain formed
pools of muddy water, which at night reflected the carriage lights and
splashed mud a distance of several yards away upon the pedestrians on
the narrow sidewalks. And how many women have left their embroidered
slippers in those waves of mud!
Then there might have been seen repairing those streets the lines of
convicts with their shaven heads, dressed in short-sleeved camisas
and pantaloons that reached only to their knees, each with his letter
and number in blue. On their legs were chains partly wrapped in dirty
rags to ease the chafing or perhaps the chill of the iron. Joined
two by two, scorched in the sun, worn out by the heat and fatigue,
they were lashed and goaded by a whip in the hands of one of their own
number, who perhaps consoled himself with this power of maltreating
others. They were tall men with somber faces, which he had never seen
brightened with the light of a smile. Yet their eyes gleamed when the
whistling lash fell upon their shoulders or when a passer-by threw
them the chewed and broken stub of a cigar, which the nearest would
snatch up and hide in his salakot, while the rest remained gazing at
the passers-by with strange looks.
The noise of the stones being crushed to fill the puddles and the
merry clank of the heavy fetters on the swollen ankles seemed to remain
with Ibarra. He shuddered as he recalled a scene that had made a deep
impression on his childish imagination. It was a hot afternoon, and the
burning rays of the sun fell perpendicularly upon a large cart by the
side of which was stretched out one of those unfortunates, lifeless,
yet with his eyes half opened. Two others were silently preparing
a bamboo bier, showing no signs of anger or sorrow or impatience,
for such is the character attributed to the natives: today it is you,
tomorrow it will be I, they say to themselves. The people moved rapidly
about without giving heed, women came up and after a look of curiosity
continued unconcerned on their way--it was such a common sight that
their hearts had become callous. Carriages passed, flashing back from
their varnished sides the rays of the sun that burned in a cloudless
sky. Only he, a child of eleven years and fresh from the country, was
moved, and to him alone it brought bad dreams on the following night.
There no longer existed the useful and honored Puente de Barcas, the
good Filipino pontoon bridge that had done its best to be of service in
spite of its natural imperfections and its rising and falling at the
caprice of the Pasig, which had more than once abused it and finally
destroyed it. The almond trees in the plaza of San Gabriel had not
grown; they were still in the same feeble and stunted condition. The
Escolta appeared less beautiful in spite of the fact that an imposing
building with caryatids carved on its front now occupied the place of
the old row of shops. The new Bridge of Spain caught his attention,
while the houses on the right bank of the river among the clumps of
bamboo and trees where the Escolta ends and the Isla de Romero begins,
reminded him of the cool mornings when he used to pass there in a
boat on his way to the baths of Uli-Uli.
He met many carriages, drawn by beautiful pairs of dwarfish ponies,
within which were government clerks who seemed yet half asleep as they
made their way to their offices, or military officers, or Chinese in
foolish and ridiculous attitudes, or Gave friars and canons. In an
elegant victoria he thought he recognized Padre Damaso, grave and
frowning, but he had already passed. Now he was pleasantly greeted
by Capitan Tinong, who was passing in a carretela with his wife and
As they went down off the bridge the horses broke into a trot along the
Sabana Drive. On the left the Arroceros Cigar Factory resounded
with the noise of the cigar-makers pounding the tobacco leaves, and
Ibarra was unable to restrain a smile as he thought of the strong odor
which about five o'clock in the afternoon used to float all over the
Puente de Barcas and which had made him sick when he was a child. The
lively conversations and the repartee of the crowds from the cigar
factories carried him back to the district of Lavapiés in Madrid,
with its riots of cigar-makers, so fatal for the unfortunate policemen.
The Botanical Garden drove away these agreeable recollections; the
demon of comparison brought before his mind the Botanical Gardens
of Europe, in countries where great, labor and much money are needed
to make a single leaf grow or one flower open its calyx; he recalled
those of the colonies, where they are well supplied and tended, and
all open to the public. Ibarra turned away his gaze toward the old
Manila surrounded still by its walls and moats like a sickly girl
wrapped in the garments of her grandmother's better days.
Then the sight of the sea losing itself in the distance! "On
the other shore lies Europe," thought the young man,--"Europe,
with its attractive peoples in constant movement in the search for
happiness, weaving their dreams in the morning and disillusioning
themselves at the setting of the sun, happy even in the midst of
their calamities. Yes, on the farther shore of the boundless sea
are the really spiritual nations, those who, even though they put
no restraints on material development, are still more spiritual than
those who pride themselves on adoring only the spirit!"
But these musings were in turn banished from his mind as he came
in sight of the little mound in Bagumbayan Field. This isolated
knoll at the side of the Luneta now caught his attention and made him
reminiscent. He thought of the man who had awakened his intellect and
made him understand goodness and justice. The ideas which that man
had impressed upon him were not many, to be sure, but they were not
meaningless repetitions, they were convictions which had not paled
in the light of the most brilliant foci of progress. That man was an
old priest whose words of farewell still resounded in his ears: "Do
not forget that if knowledge is the heritage of mankind, it is only
the courageous who inherit it," he had reminded him. "I have tried to
pass on to you what I got from my teachers, the sum of which I have
endeavored to increase and transmit to the coming generation as far
as in me lay. You will now do the same for those who come after you,
and you can treble it, since you are going to rich countries." Then he
had added with a smile, "They come here seeking wealth, go you to their
country to seek also that other wealth which we lack! But remember
that all that glitters is not gold." The old man had died on that spot.
At these recollections the youth murmured audibly: "No, in spite of
everything, the fatherland first, first the Philippines, the child
of Spain, first the Spanish fatherland! No, that which is decreed by
fate does not tarnish the honor of the fatherland, no!"
He gave little heed to Ermita, the phenix of nipa that had rearisen
from its ashes under the form of blue and white houses with red-painted
roofs of corrugated iron. Nor was his attention caught by Malate,
neither by the cavalry barracks with the spreading trees in front,
nor by the inhabitants or their little nipa huts, pyramidal or
prismatic in shape, hidden away among the banana plants and areca
palms, constructed like nests by each father of a family.
The carriage continued on its way, meeting now and then carromatas
drawn by one or two ponies whose abaka harness indicated that they
were from the country. The drivers would try to catch a glimpse of the
occupant of the fine carriage, but would pass on without exchanging a
word, without a single salute. At times a heavy cart drawn by a slow
and indifferent carabao would appear on the dusty road over which beat
the brilliant sunlight of the tropics. The mournful and monotonous song
of the driver mounted on the back of the carabao would be mingled at
one time with the screechings of a dry wheel on the huge axle of the
heavy vehicle or at another time with the dull scraping of worn-out
runners on a sledge which was dragged heavily through the dust, and
over the ruts in the road. In the fields and wide meadows the herds
were grazing, attended ever by the white buffalo-birds which roosted
peacefully on the backs of the animals while these chewed their cuds
or browsed in lazy contentment upon the rich grass. In the distance
ponies frisked, jumping and running about, pursued by the lively colts
with long tails and abundant manes who whinnied and pawed the ground
with their hard hoofs.
Let us leave the youth dreaming or dozing, since neither the sad
nor the animated poetry of the open country held his attention. For
him there was no charm in the sun that gleamed upon the tops of the
trees and caused the rustics, with feet burned by the hot ground in
spite of their callousness, to hurry along, or that made the villager
pause beneath the shade of an almond tree or a bamboo brake while he
pondered upon vague and inexplicable things. While the youth's carriage
sways along like a drunken thing on account of the inequalities in
the surface of the road when passing over a bamboo bridge or going
up an incline or descending a steep slope, let us return to Manila.
Ibarra had not been mistaken about the occupant of the victoria,
for it was indeed Padre Damaso, and he was on his way to the house
which the youth had just left.
"Where are you going?" asked the friar of Maria Clara and Aunt Isabel,
who were about to enter a silver-mounted carriage. In the midst of
his preoccupation Padre Damaso stroked the maiden's cheek lightly.
"To the convent to get my things," answered the latter.
"Ahaa! Aha! We'll see who's stronger, we'll see," muttered the friar
abstractedly, as with bowed head and slow step he turned to the
stairway, leaving the two women not a little amazed.
"He must have a sermon to preach and is memorizing it," commented
Aunt Isabel. "Get in, Maria, or we'll be late."
Whether or not Padre Damaso was preparing a sermon we cannot say,
but it is certain that some grave matter filled his mind, for he did
not extend his hand to Capitan Tiago, who had almost to get down on
his knees to kiss it.
"Santiago," said the friar at once, "I have an important matter to
talk to you about. Let's go into your office."
Capitan Tiago began to feel uneasy, so much so that he did not know
what to say; but he obeyed, following the heavy figure of the priest,
who closed the door behind him.
While they confer in secret, let us learn what Fray Sibyla has
been doing. The astute Dominican is not at the rectory, for very
soon after celebrating mass he had gone to the convent of his order,
situated just inside the gate of Isabel II, or of Magellan, according
to what family happened to be reigning in Madrid. Without paying any
attention to the rich odor of chocolate, or to the rattle of boxes
and coins which came from the treasury, and scarcely acknowledging
the respectful and deferential salute of the procurator-brother,
he entered, passed along several corridors, and knocked at a door.
"Come in," sighed a weak voice.
"May God restore health to your Reverence," was the young Dominican's
greeting as he entered.
Seated in a large armchair was an aged priest, wasted and rather
sallow, like the saints that Rivera painted. His eyes were sunken in
their hollow sockets, over which his heavy eyebrows were almost always
contracted, thus accentuating their brilliant gleam. Padre Sibyla,
with his arms crossed under the venerable scapulary of St. Dominic,
gazed at him feelingly, then bowed his head and waited in silence.
"Ah," sighed the old man, "they advise an operation, an operation,
Hernando, at my age! This country, O this terrible country! Take
warning from my ease, Hernando!"
Fray Sibyla raised his eyes slowly and fixed them on the sick man's
face. "What has your Reverence decided to do?" he asked.
"To die! Ah, what else can I do? I am suffering too much, but--
I have made many suffer, I am paying my debt! And how are you? What
has brought you here?"
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