The Social Cancer
Part 5 out of 11
Padre Salvi then replied slowly and with cutting sarcasm: "Come now,
I see that you don't catch the criminals nor do you know what is going
on in your own house, yet you try to set yourself up as a preacher
to point out their duties to others. You ought to keep in mind that
proverb about the fool in his own house--" 
"Gentlemen!" interrupted Ibarra, seeing that the alferez had grown
pale. "In this connection I should like to have your opinion about a
project of mine. I'm thinking of putting this crazy woman under the
care of a skilful physician and, in the meantime, with your aid and
advice, I'll search for her sons."
The return of the servants without the madwoman, whom they had been
unable to find, brought peace by turning the conversation to other
The meal ended, and while the tea and coffee were being served,
both old and young scattered about in different groups. Some took the
chessmen, others the cards, while the girls, curious about the future,
chose to put questions to a Wheel of Fortune.
"Come, Señor Ibarra," called Capitan Basilio in merry mood, "we have
a lawsuit fifteen years old, and there isn't a judge in the Audiencia
who can settle it. Let's see if we can't end it on the chess-board."
"With the greatest pleasure," replied the youth. "Just wait a moment,
the alferez is leaving."
Upon hearing about this match all the old men who understood chess
gathered around the board, for it promised to be an interesting one,
and attracted even spectators who were not familiar with the game. The
old women, however, surrounded the curate in order to converse with him
about spiritual matters, but Fray Salvi apparently did not consider
the place and time appropriate, for he gave vague answers and his
sad, rather bored, looks wandered in all directions except toward
The chess-match began with great solemnity. "If this game ends in a
draw, it's understood that the lawsuit is to be dropped," said Ibarra.
In the midst of the game Ibarra received a telegram which caused
his eyes to shine and his face to become pale. He put it into his
pocketbook, at the same time glancing toward the group of young people,
who were still with laughter and shouts putting questions to Destiny.
"Check to the king!" called the youth.
Capitan Basilio had no other recourse than to hide the piece behind
"Check to the queen!" called the youth as he threatened that piece
with a rook which was defended by a pawn.
Being unable to protect the queen or to withdraw the piece on account
of the king behind it, Capitan Basilio asked for time to reflect.
"Willingly," agreed Ibarra, "especially as I have something to say this
very minute to those young people in that group over there." He arose
with the agreement that his opponent should have a quarter of an hour.
Iday had the round card on which were written the forty-eight
questions, while Albino held the book of answers.
"A lie! It's not so!" cried Sinang, half in tears.
"What's the matter?" asked Maria Clara.
"Just imagine, I asked, 'When shall I have some sense?' I threw the
dice and that worn-out priest read from the book, 'When the frogs
raise hair.' What do you think of that? "As she said this, Sinang
made a grimace at the laughing ex-theological student.
"Who told you to ask that question?" her cousin Victoria asked her. "To
ask it is enough to deserve such an answer."
"You ask a question," they said to Ibarra, offering him the
wheel. "We're decided that whoever gets the best answer shall receive
a present from the rest. Each of us has already had a question."
"Who got the best answer?"
"Maria Clara, Maria Clara!" replied Sinang. "We made her ask,
willy-nilly, 'Is your sweetheart faithful and constant?' And the book
But here the blushing Maria Clara put her hands over Sinang's mouth
so that she could not finish.
"Well, give me the wheel," said Crisostomo, smiling. "My question is,
'Shall I succeed in my present enterprise?'"
"What an ugly question!" exclaimed Sinang.
Ibarra threw the dice and in accordance with the resulting number
the page and line were sought.
"Dreams are dreams," read Albino.
Ibarra drew out the telegram and opened it with trembling hands. "This
time your book is wrong!" he exclaimed joyfully. "Read this: 'School
project approved. Suit decided in your favor.'"
"What does it mean?" all asked.
"Didn't you say that a present is to be given to the one receiving
the best answer?" he asked in a voice shaking with emotion as he tore
the telegram carefully into two pieces.
"Well then, this is my present," he said as he gave one piece to
Maria Clara. "A school for boys and girls is to be built in the town
and this school is my present."
"And the other part, what does it mean?"
"It's to be given to the one who has received the worst answer."
"To me, then, to me!" cried Sinang.
Ibarra gave her the other piece of the telegram and hastily withdrew.
"What does it mean?" she asked, but the happy youth was already at
a distance, returning to the game of chess.
Fray Salvi in abstracted mood approached the circle of young
people. Maria Clara wiped away her tears of joy, the laughter ceased,
and the talk died away. The curate stared at the young people without
offering to say anything, while they silently waited for him to speak.
"What's this?" he at length asked, picking up the book and turning
"The Wheel of Fortune, a book of games," replied Leon.
"Don't you know that it's a sin to believe in these things?" he
scolded, tearing the leaves out angrily.
Cries of surprise and anger escaped from the lips of all.
"It's a greater sin to dispose of what isn't yours, against the wish
of the owner," contradicted Albino, rising. "Padre, that's what is
called stealing and it is forbidden by God and men!"
Maria Clara clasped her hands and gazed with tearful eyes at the
remnants of the book which a few moments before had been the source
of so much happiness for her.
Contrary to the general expectation, Fray Salvi did not reply to
Albino, but stood staring at the torn leaves as they were whirled
about, some falling in the wood, some in the water, then he staggered
away with his hands over his head. He stopped for a few moments
to speak with Ibarra, who accompanied him to one of the carriages,
which were at the disposal of the guests.
"He's doing well to leave, that kill-joy," murmured Sinang. "He has
a face that seems to say, 'Don't laugh, for I know about your sins!'"
After making the present to his fiancée, Ibarra was so happy that
he began to play without reflection or a careful examination of the
positions of the pieces. The result was that although Capitan Basilio
was hard pressed the game became a stalemate, owing to many careless
moves on the young man's part.
"It's settled, we're at peace!" exclaimed Capitan Basilio heartily.
"Yes, we're at peace," repeated the youth, "whatever the decision of
the court may be." And the two shook hands cordially.
While all present were rejoicing over this happy termination of a
quarrel of which both parties were tired, the sudden arrival of a
sergeant and four soldiers of the Civil Guard, all armed and with
bayonets fixed, disturbed the mirth and caused fright among the women.
"Keep still, everybody!" shouted the sergeant. "Shoot any one who
In spite of this blustering command, Ibarra arose and approached the
sergeant. "What do you want?" he asked.
"That you deliver to us at once a criminal named Elias, who was your
pilot this morning," was the threatening reply.
"A criminal--the pilot? You must be mistaken," answered Ibarra.
"No, sir, this Elias has just been accused of putting his hand on a
"Oh, was that the pilot?"
"The very same, according to reports. You admit persons of bad
character into your fiestas, Señor Ibarra."
Ibarra looked him over from head to foot and replied with great
disdain, "I don't have to give you an account of my actions! At our
fiestas all are welcome. Had you yourself come, you would have found
a place at our table, just as did your alferez, who was with us a
couple of hours ago." With this he turned his back.
The sergeant gnawed at the ends of his mustache but, considering
himself the weaker party, ordered the soldiers to institute a search,
especially among the trees, for the pilot, a description of whom he
carried on a piece of paper.
Don Filipo said to him, "Notice that this description fits nine tenths
of the natives. Don't make any false move!"
After a time the soldiers returned with the report that they
had been unable to see either banka or man that could be called
suspicious-looking, so the sergeant muttered a few words and went
away as he had come--in the manner of the Civil Guard!
The merriment was little by little restored, amid questions and
"So that's the Elias who threw the alferez into the mudhole," said
"How did that happen? How was it?" asked some of the more curious.
"They say that on a very rainy day in September the alferez met a man
who was carrying a bundle of firewood. The road was very muddy and
there was only a narrow path at the side, wide enough for but one
person. They say that the alferez, instead of reining in his pony,
put spurs to it, at the same time calling to the man to get out
of the way. It seemed that this man, on account of the heavy load
he was carrying on his shoulder, had little relish for going back
nor did he want to be swallowed up in the mud, so he continued on
his way forward. The alferez in irritation tried to knock him down,
but he snatched a piece of wood from his bundle and struck the pony
on the head with such great force that it fell, throwing its rider
into the mud. They also say that the man went on his way tranquilly
without taking any notice of the five bullets that were fired after
him by the alferez, who was blind with mud and rage. As the man was
entirely unknown to him it was supposed that he might be the famous
Elias who came to the province several months ago, having come from
no one knows where. He has given the Civil Guard cause to know him
in several towns for similar actions."
"Then he's a tulisan?" asked Victoria shuddering.
"I don't think so, for they say that he fought against some tulisanes
one day when they were robbing a house."
"He hasn't the look of a criminal," commented Sinang.
"No, but he looks very sad. I didn't see him smile the whole morning,"
added Maria Clara thoughtfully.
So the afternoon passed away and the hour for returning to the
town came. Under the last rays of the setting sun they left
the woods, passing in silence by the mysterious tomb of Ibarra's
ancestors. Afterwards, the merry talk was resumed in a lively manner,
full of warmth, beneath those branches so little accustomed to hear
so many voices. The trees seemed sad, while the vines swung back and
forth as if to say, "Farewell, youth! Farewell, dream of a day!"
Now in the light of the great red torches of bamboo and with the
sound of the guitars let us leave them on the road to the town. The
groups grow smaller, the lights are extinguished, the songs die away,
and the guitar becomes silent as they approach the abodes of men. Put
on the mask now that you are once more amongst your kind!
In the House of the Sage
On the morning of the following day, Ibarra, after visiting his lands,
made his way to the home of old Tasio. Complete stillness reigned in
the garden, for even the swallows circling about the eaves scarcely
made any noise. Moss grew on the old wall, over which a kind of ivy
clambered to form borders around the windows. The little house seemed
to be the abode of silence.
Ibarra hitched his horse carefully to a post and walking almost on
tiptoe crossed the clean and well-kept garden to the stairway, which
he ascended, and as the door was open, he entered. The first sight that
met his gaze was the old man bent over a book in which he seemed to be
writing. On the walls were collections of insects and plants arranged
among maps and stands filled with books and manuscripts. The old man
was so absorbed in his work that he did not notice the presence of the
youth until the latter, not wishing to disturb him, tried to retire.
"Ah, you here?" he asked, gazing at Ibarra with a strange
expression. "Excuse me," answered the youth, "I see that you're very
"True, I was writing a little, but it's not urgent, and I want to
rest. Can I do anything for you?"
"A great deal," answered Ibarra, drawing nearer, "but--"
A glance at the book on the table caused him to exclaim in surprise,
"What, are you given to deciphering hieroglyphics?"
"No," replied the old man, as he offered his visitor a chair. "I don't
understand Egyptian or Coptic either, but I know something about the
system of writing, so I write in hieroglyphics."
"You write in hieroglyphics! Why?" exclaimed the youth, doubting what
he saw and heard.
"So that I cannot be read now."
Ibarra gazed at him fixedly, wondering to himself if the old man were
not indeed crazy. He examined the book rapidly to learn if he was
telling the truth and saw neatly drawn figures of animals, circles,
semicircles, flowers, feet, hands, arms, and such things.
"But why do you write if you don't want to be read?"
"Because I'm not writing for this generation, but for other ages. If
this generation could read, it would burn my books, the labor of
my whole life. But the generation that deciphers these characters
will be an intelligent generation, it will understand and say,
'Not all were asleep in the night of our ancestors!' The mystery of
these curious characters will save my work from the ignorance of men,
just as the mystery of strange rites has saved many truths from the
destructive priestly classes."
"In what language do you write?" asked Ibarra after a pause.
"In our own, Tagalog."
"Are the hieroglyphical signs suitable?"
"If it were not for the difficulty of drawing them, which takes
time and patience, I would almost say that they are more suitable
than the Latin alphabet. The ancient Egyptian had our vowels; our o,
which is only final and is not like that of the Spanish, which is a
vowel between o and u. Like us, the Egyptians lacked the true sound
of e, and in their language are found our ha and kha, which we do not
have in the Latin alphabet such as is used in Spanish. For example,
in this word mukha," he went on, pointing to the book, "I transcribe
the syllable ha more correctly with the figure of a fish than with
the Latin h, which in Europe is pronounced in different ways. For a
weaker aspirate, as for example in this word haín, where the h has
less force, I avail myself of this lion's head or of these three
lotus flowers, according to the quantity of the vowel. Besides,
I have the nasal sound which does not exist in the Latin-Spanish
alphabet. I repeat that if it were not for the difficulty of drawing
them exactly, these hieroglyphics could almost be adopted, but this
same difficulty obliges me to be concise and not say more than what
is exact and necessary. Moreover, this work keeps me company when my
guests from China and Japan go away."
"Your guests from China and Japan?"
"Don't you hear them? My guests are the swallows. This year one of
them is missing--some bad boy in China or Japan must have caught it."
"How do you know that they come from those countries?"
"Easily enough! Several years ago, before they left I tied to
the foot of each one a slip of paper with the name 'Philippines'
in English on it, supposing that they must not travel very far and
because English is understood nearly everywhere. For years my slips
brought no reply, so that at last I had it written in Chinese and here
in the following November they have returned with other notes which
I have had deciphered. One is written in Chinese and is a greeting
from the banks of the Hoang-Ho and the other, as the Chinaman whom
I consulted supposes, must be in Japanese. But I'm taking your time
with these things and haven't asked you what I can do for you."
"I've come to speak to you about a matter of importance," said the
youth. "Yesterday afternoon--"
"Have they caught that poor fellow?"
"You mean Elias? How did you know about him?"
"I saw the Muse of the Civil Guard!"
"The Muse of the Civil Guard? Who is she?"
"The alferez's woman, whom you didn't invite to your picnic. Yesterday
morning the incident of the cayman became known through the town. The
Muse of the Civil Guard is as astute as she is malignant and she
guessed that the pilot must be the bold person who threw her husband
into the mudhole and who assaulted Padre Damaso. As she reads all the
reports that her husband is to receive, scarcely had he got back home,
drunk and not knowing what he was doing, when to revenge herself on
you she sent the sergeant with the soldiers to disturb the merriment
of your picnic. Be careful! Eve was a good woman, sprung from the
hands of God--they say that Doña Consolacion is evil and it's not
known whose hands she came from! In order to be good, a woman needs
to have been, at least sometime, either a maid or a mother."
Ibarra smiled slightly and replied by taking some documents from his
pocketbook. "My dead father used to consult you in some things and
I recall that he had only to congratulate himself on following your
advice. I have on hand a little enterprise, the success of which
I must assure." Here he explained briefly his plan for the school,
which he had offered to his fiancée, spreading out in view of the
astonished Sage some plans which had been prepared in Manila.
"I would like to have you advise me as to what persons in the
town I must first win over in order to assure the success of the
undertaking. You know the inhabitants well, while I have just arrived
and am almost a stranger in my own country."
Old Tasio examined the plans before him with tear-dimmed eyes. "What
you are going to do has been my dream, the dream of a poor lunatic!" he
exclaimed with emotion. "And now the first thing that I advise you
to do is never to come to consult with me."
The youth gazed at him in surprise.
"Because the sensible people," he continued with bitter irony, "would
take you for a madman also. The people consider madmen those who do
not think as they do, so they hold me as such, which I appreciate,
because the day in which they think me returned to sanity, they will
deprive me of the little liberty that I've purchased at the expense
of the reputation of being a sane individual. And who knows but they
are right? I do not live according to their rules, my principles
and ideals are different. The gobernadorcillo enjoys among them the
reputation of being a wise man because he learned nothing more than
to serve chocolate and to put up with Padre Damaso's bad humor, so now
he is wealthy, he disturbs the petty destinies of his fellow-townsmen,
and at times he even talks of justice. 'That's a man of talent,' think
the vulgar, 'look how from nothing he has made himself great!' But I,
I inherited fortune and position, I have studied, and now I am poor,
I am not trusted with the most ridiculous office, and all say, 'He's a
fool! He doesn't know how to live!' The curate calls me 'philosopher'
as a nickname and gives to understand that I am a charlatan who is
making a show of what I learned in the higher schools, when that is
exactly what benefits me the least. Perhaps I really am the fool and
they the wise ones--who can say?"
The old man shook his head as if to drive away that thought, and
continued: "The second thing I can advise is that you consult the
curate, the gobernadorcillo, and all persons in authority. They will
give you bad, stupid, or useless advice, but consultation doesn't
mean compliance, although you should make it appear that you are
taking their advice and acting according to it."
Ibarra reflected a moment before he replied: "The advice is good, but
difficult to follow. Couldn't I go ahead with my idea without a shadow
being thrown upon it? Couldn't a worthy enterprise make its way over
everything, since truth doesn't need to borrow garments from error?"
"Nobody loves the naked truth!" answered the old man. "That is good
in theory and practicable in the world of which youth dreams. Here is
the schoolmaster, who has struggled in a vacuum; with the enthusiasm
of a child, he has sought the good, yet he has won only jests and
laughter. You have said that you are a stranger in your own country,
and I believe it. The very first day you arrived you began by wounding
the vanity of a priest who is regarded by the people as a saint,
and as a sage among his fellows. God grant that such a misstep may
not have already determined your future! Because the Dominicans and
Augustinians look with disdain on the guingón habit, the rope girdle,
and the immodest foot-wear, because a learned doctor in Santo Tomas
may have once recalled that Pope Innocent III described the statutes
of that order as more fit for hogs than men, don't believe but that
all of them work hand in hand to affirm what a preacher once said,
'The most insignificant lay brother can do more than the government
with all its soldiers!' Cave ne cadas! Gold is powerful--the
golden calf has thrown God down from His altars many times, and that
too since the days of Moses!"
"I'm not so pessimistic nor does life appear to me so perilous in
my country," said Ibarra with a smile. "I believe that those fears
are somewhat exaggerated and I hope to be able to carry out my plans
without meeting any great opposition in that quarter."
"Yes, if they extend their hands to you; no, if they withhold them. All
your efforts will be shattered against the walls of the rectory if
the friar so much as waves his girdle or shakes his habit; tomorrow
the alcalde will on some pretext deny you what today he has granted;
no mother will allow her son to attend the school, and then all your
labors will produce a counter-effect--they will dishearten those
who afterwards may wish to attempt altruistic undertakings."
"But, after all," replied the youth, "I can't believe in that power of
which you speak, and even supposing it to exist and making allowance
for it, I should still have on my side the sensible people and the
government, which is animated by the best intentions, which has great
hopes, and which frankly desires the welfare of the Philippines."
"The government! The government!" muttered the Sage, raising his eyes
to stare at the ceiling. "However inspired it may be with the desire
for fostering the greatness of the country for the benefit of the
country itself and of the mother country, however some official or
other may recall the generous spirit of the Catholic Kings and
may agree with it, too, the government sees nothing, hears nothing,
nor does it decide anything, except what the curate or the Provincial
causes it to see, hear, and decide. The government is convinced that it
depends for its salvation wholly on them, that it is sustained because
they uphold it, and that the day on which they cease to support it,
it will fall like a manikin that has lost its prop. They intimidate
the government with an uprising of the people and the people with
the forces of the government, whence originates a simple game, very
much like what happens to timid persons when they visit gloomy places,
taking for ghosts their own shadows and for strange voices the echoes
of their own. As long as the government does not deal directly with
the country it will not get away from this tutelage, it will live
like those imbecile youths who tremble at the voice of their tutor,
whose kindness they are begging for. The government has no dream of a
healthy future; it is the arm, while the head is the convento. By this
inertia with which it allows itself to be dragged from depth to depth,
it becomes changed into a shadow, its integrity is impaired, and in
a weak and incapable way it trusts everything to mercenary hands. But
compare our system of government with those of the countries you have
"Oh!" interrupted Ibarra, "that's asking too much! Let us content
ourselves with observing that our people do not complain or suffer as
do the people of other countries, thanks to Religion and the benignity
of the governing powers.
"This people does not complain because it has no voice, it does not
move because it is lethargic, and you say that it does not suffer
because you haven't seen how its heart bleeds. But some day you will
see this, you will hear its complaints, and then woe unto those who
found their strength on ignorance and fanaticism! Woe unto those
who rejoice in deceit and labor during the night, believing that all
are asleep! When the light of day shows up the monsters of darkness,
the frightful reaction will come. So many sighs suppressed, so much
poison distilled drop by drop, so much force repressed for centuries,
will come to light and burst! Who then will pay those accounts which
oppressed peoples present from time to time and which History preserves
for us on her bloody pages?"
"God, the government, and Religion will not allow that day to
come!" replied Ibarra, impressed in spite of himself. "The Philippines
is religious and loves Spain, the Philippines will realize how much
the nation is doing for her. There are abuses, yes, there are defects,
that cannot be denied, but Spain is laboring to introduce reforms
that will correct these abuses and defects, she is formulating plans,
she is not selfish!"
"I know it, and that is the worst of it! The reforms which emanate
from the higher places are annulled in the lower circles, thanks to
the vices of all, thanks, for instance, to the eager desire to get
rich in a short time, and to the ignorance of the people, who consent
to everything. A royal decree does not correct abuses when there is
no zealous authority to watch over its execution, while freedom of
speech against the insolence of petty tyrants is not conceded. Plans
will remain plans, abuses will still be abuses, and the satisfied
ministry will sleep in peace in spite of everything. Moreover,
if perchance there does come into a high place a person with great
and generous ideas, he will begin to hear, while behind his back he
is considered a fool, 'Your Excellency does not know the country,
your Excellency does not understand the character of the Indians,
your Excellency is going to ruin them, your: Excellency will do well
to trust So-and-so,' and his Excellency in fact does not know the
country, for he has been until now stationed in America, and besides
that, he has all the shortcomings and weaknesses of other men, so he
allows himself to be convinced. His Excellency also remembers that
to secure the appointment he has had to sweat much and suffer more,
that he holds it for only three years, that he is getting old and
that it is necessary to think, not of quixotisms, but of the future:
a modest mansion in Madrid, a cozy house in the country, and a good
income in order to live in luxury at the capital--these are what
he must look for in the Philippines. Let us not ask for miracles,
let us not ask that he who comes as an outsider to make his fortune
and go away afterwards should interest himself in the welfare of the
country. What matters to him the gratitude or the curses of a people
whom he does not know, in a country where he has no associations,
where he has no affections? Fame to be sweet must resound in the
ears of those we love, in the atmosphere of our home or of the land
that will guard our ashes; we wish that fame should hover over our
tomb to warm with its breath the chill of death, so that we may
not be completely reduced to nothingness, that something of us may
survive. Naught of this can we offer to those who come to watch over
our destinies. And the worst of all this is that they go away just
when they are beginning to get an understanding of their duties. But
we are getting away from our subject."
"But before getting back to it I must make some things plain,"
interrupted the youth eagerly. "I can admit that the government does
not know the people, but I believe that the people know the government
even less. There are useless officials, bad ones, if you wish, but
there are also good ones, and if these are unable to do anything it
is because they meet with an inert mass, the people, who take little
part in the affairs that concern them. But I didn't come to hold a
discussion with you on that point, I came to ask for advice and you
tell me to lower my head before grotesque idols!"
"Yes, I repeat it, because here you must either lower your head or
"Either lower my head or lose it!" repeated Ibarra thoughtfully. "The
dilemma is hard! But why? Is love for my country incompatible with love
for Spain? Is it necessary to debase oneself to be a good Christian,
to prostitute one's conscience in order to carry out a good purpose? I
love my native land, the Philippines, because to it I owe my life and
my happiness, because every man should love his country. I love Spain,
the fatherland of my ancestors, because in spite of everything the
Philippines owes to it, and will continue to owe, her happiness and
her future. I am a Catholic, I preserve pure the faith of my fathers,
and I do not see why I have to lower my head when I can raise it,
to give it over to my enemies when I can humble them!"
"Because the field in which you wish to sow is in possession of your
enemies and against them you are powerless. It is necessary that you
first kiss the hand that--"
But the youth let him go no farther, exclaiming passionately, "Kiss
their hands! You forget that among them they killed my father and
threw his body from the tomb! I who am his son do not forget it,
and that I do not avenge it is because I have regard for the good
name of the Church!"
The old Sage bowed his head as he answered slowly: "Señor Ibarra, if
you preserve those memories, which I cannot counsel you to forget,
abandon the enterprise you are undertaking and seek in some other
way the welfare of your countrymen. The enterprise needs another man,
because to make it a success zeal and money alone are not sufficient;
in our country are required also self-denial, tenacity of purpose,
and faith, for the soil is not ready, it is only sown with discord."
Ibarra appreciated the value of these observations, but still would
not be discouraged. The thought of Maria Clara was in his mind and
his promise must be fulfilled.
"Doesn't your experience suggest any other than this hard means?" he
asked in a low voice.
The old man took him by the arm and led him to the window. A fresh
breeze, the precursor of the north wind, was blowing, and before their
eyes spread out the garden bounded by the wide forest that was a kind
"Why can we not do as that weak stalk laden with flowers and buds
does?" asked the Sage, pointing to a beautiful jasmine plant. "The wind
blows and shakes it and it bows its head as if to hide its precious
load. If the stalk should hold itself erect it would be broken,
its flowers would be scattered by the wind, and its buds would be
blighted. The wind passes by and the stalk raises itself erect,
proud of its treasure, yet who will blame it for having bowed before
necessity? There you see that gigantic kupang, which majestically
waves its light foliage wherein the eagle builds his nest. I brought
it from the forest as a weak sapling and braced its stem for months
with slender pieces of bamboo. If I had transplanted it large and
full of life, it is certain that it would not have lived here,
for the wind would have thrown it down before its roots could have
fixed themselves in the soil, before it could have become accustomed
to its surroundings, and before it could have secured sufficient
nourishment for its size and height. So you, transplanted from Europe
to this stony soil, may end, if you do not seek support and do not
humble yourself. You are among evil conditions, alone, elevated, the
ground shakes, the sky presages a storm, and the top of your family
tree has shown that it draws the thunderbolt. It is not courage,
but foolhardiness, to fight alone against all that exists. No one
censures the pilot who makes for a port at the first gust of the
whirlwind. To stoop as the bullet passes is not cowardly--it is
worse to defy it only to fall, never to rise again."
"But could this sacrifice produce the fruit that I hope for?" asked
Ibarra. "Would the priest believe in me and forget the affront? Would
they aid me frankly in behalf of the education that contests with the
conventos the wealth of the country? Can they not pretend friendship,
make a show of protection, and yet underneath in the shadows fight it,
undermine it, wound it in the heel, in order to weaken it quicker
than by attacking it in front? Granted the previous actions which
you surmise, anything may be expected!"
The old man remained silent from inability to answer these
questions. After meditating for some time, he said: "If such should
happen, if the enterprise should fail, you would be consoled by
the thought that you had done what was expected of you and thus
something would be gained. You would have placed the first stone,
you would have sown the seed, and after the storm had spent itself
perhaps some grain would have survived the catastrophe to grow and
save the species from destruction and to serve afterwards as the seed
for the sons of the dead sower. The example may encourage others who
are only afraid to begin."
Weighing these reasons, Ibarra realized the situation and saw that
with all the old man's pessimism there was a great deal of truth in
what he said.
"I believe you!" he exclaimed, pressing the old man's hand. "Not in
vain have I looked to you for advice. This very day I'll go and reach
an understanding with the curate, who, after all is said, has done
me no wrong and who must be good, since all of them are not like the
persecutor of my father. I have, besides, to interest him in behalf of
that unfortunate madwoman and her sons. I put my trust in God and men!"
After taking leave of the old man he mounted his horse and rode
away. As the pessimistic Sage followed him with his gaze, he muttered:
"Now let's watch how Destiny will unfold the drama that began in
the cemetery." But for once he was greatly mistaken--the drama had
begun long before!
The Eve of the Fiesta
It is now the tenth of November, the eve of the fiesta. Emerging from
its habitual monotony, the town has given itself over to unwonted
activity in house, church, cockpit, and field. Windows are covered
with banners and many-hued draperies. All space is filled with noise
and music, and the air is saturated with rejoicings.
On little tables with embroidered covers the dalagas arrange in
bright-hued glass dishes different kinds of sweetmeats made from
native fruits. In the yard the hens cackle, the cocks crow, and the
hogs grunt, all terrified by this merriment of man. Servants move
in and out carrying fancy dishes and silver cutlery. Here there is a
quarrel over a broken plate, there they laugh at the simple country
girl. Everywhere there is ordering, whispering, shouting. Comments
and conjectures are made, one hurries the other,--all is commotion,
noise, and confusion. All this effort and all this toil are for
the stranger as well as the acquaintance, to entertain every one,
whether he has been seen before or not, or whether he is expected
to be seen again, in order that the casual visitor, the foreigner,
friend, enemy, Filipino, Spaniard, the poor and the rich, may go
away happy and contented. No gratitude is even asked of them nor is
it expected that they do no damage to the hospitable family either
during or after digestion! The rich, those who have ever been to Manila
and have seen a little more than their neighbors, have bought beer,
champagne, liqueurs, wines, and food-stuffs from Europe, of which
they will hardly taste a bite or drink a drop.
Their tables are luxuriously furnished. In the center is a well-modeled
artificial pineapple in which are arranged toothpicks elaborately
carved by convicts in their rest-hours. Here they have designed
a fan, there a bouquet of flowers, a bird, a rose, a palm leaf,
or a chain, all wrought from a single piece of wood, the artisan
being a forced laborer, the tool a dull knife, and the taskmaster's
voice the inspiration. Around this toothpick-holder are placed glass
fruit-trays from which rise pyramids of oranges, lansons, ates, chicos,
and even mangos in spite of the fact that it is November. On wide
platters upon bright-hued sheets of perforated paper are to be seen
hams from Europe and China, stuffed turkeys, and a big pastry in the
shape of an Agnus Dei or a dove, the Holy Ghost perhaps. Among all
these are jars of appetizing acharas with fanciful decorations made
from the flowers of the areca palm and other fruits and vegetables,
all tastefully cut and fastened with sirup to the sides of the flasks.
Glass lamp globes that have been handed down from father to son are
cleaned, the copper ornaments polished, the kerosene lamps taken out
of the red wrappings which have protected them from the flies and
mosquitoes during the year and which have made them unserviceable;
the prismatic glass pendants shake to and fro, they clink together
harmoniously in song, and even seem to take part in the fiesta as
they flash back and break up the rays of light, reflecting them on
the white walls in all the colors of the rainbow. The children play
about amusing themselves by chasing the colors, they stumble and break
the globes, but this does not interfere with the general merriment,
although at other times in the year the tears in their round eyes
would be taken account of in a different way.
Along with these venerated lamps there also come forth from their
hiding-places the work of the girls: crocheted scarfs, rugs, artificial
flowers. There appear old glass trays, on the bottoms of which are
sketched miniature lakes with little fishes, caymans, shell-fish,
seaweeds, coral, and glassy stones of brilliant hues. These are heaped
with cigars, cigarettes, and diminutive buyos prepared by the delicate
fingers of the maidens. The floor of the house shines like a mirror,
curtains of piña and husi festoon the doorways, from the windows
hang lanterns covered with glass or with paper, pink, blue, green, or
red. The house itself is filled with plants and flower-pots on stands
of Chinese porcelain. Even the saints bedeck themselves, the images
and relics put on a festive air, the dust is brushed from them and
on the freshly-washed glass of their cases are hung flowery garlands.
In the streets are raised at intervals fanciful bamboo arches, known
as sinkában, constructed in various ways and adorned with kaluskús,
the curling bunches of shavings scraped on their sides, at the sight
of which alone the hearts of the children rejoice. About the front
of the church, where the procession is to pass, is a large and costly
canopy upheld on bamboo posts. Beneath this the children run and play,
climbing, jumping, and tearing the new camisas in which they should
shine on the principal day of the fiesta.
There on the plaza a platform has been erected, the scenery being
of bamboo, nipa, and wood; there the Tondo comedians will perform
wonders and compete with the gods in improbable miracles, there
will sing and dance Marianito, Chananay, Balbino, Ratia, Carvajal,
Yeyeng, Liceria, etc. The Filipino enjoys the theater and is a deeply
interested spectator of dramatic representations, but he listens in
silence to the song, he gazes delighted at the dancing and mimicry,
he never hisses or applauds.
If the show is not to his liking, he chews his buyo or withdraws
without disturbing the others who perhaps find pleasure in it. Only
at times the commoner sort will howl when the actors embrace or kiss
the actresses, but they never go beyond that. Formerly, dramas only
were played; the local poet composed a piece in which there must
necessarily be a fight every second minute, a clown, and terrifying
transformations. But since the Tondo artist have begun to fight every
fifteen seconds, with two clowns, and even greater marvels than before,
they have put to rout their provincial compeers. The gobernadorcillo
was very fond of this sort of thing, so, with the approval of the
curate, he chose a spectacle with magic and fireworks, entitled, "The
Prince Villardo or the Captives Rescued from the Infamous Cave." 
From time to time the bells chime out merrily, those same bells that
ten days ago were tolling so mournfully. Pin-wheels and mortars rend
the air, for the Filipino pyrotechnist, who learned the art from
no known instructor, displays his ability by preparing fire bulls,
castles of Bengal lights, paper balloons inflated with hot air, bombs,
rockets, and the like.
Now distant strains of music are heard and the small boys rush headlong
toward the outskirts of the town to meet the bands of music, five
of which have been engaged, as well as three orchestras. The band of
Pagsanhan belonging to the escribano must not be lacking nor that of
San Pedro de Tunasan, at that time famous because it was directed by
the maestro Austria, the vagabond "Corporal Mariano" who, according to
report, carried fame and harmony in the tip of his baton. Musicians
praise his funeral march, "El Sauce,"  and deplore his lack of
musical education, since with his genius he might have brought glory
to his country. The bands enter the town playing lively airs, followed
by ragged or half-naked urchins, one in the camisa of his brother,
another in his father's pantaloons. As soon as the band ceases, the
boys know the piece by heart, they hum and whistle it with rare skill,
they pronounce their judgment upon it.
Meanwhile, there are arriving in conveyances of all kinds relatives,
friends, strangers, the gamblers with their best game-cocks and their
bags of gold, ready to risk their fortune on the green cloth or within
the arena of the cockpit.
"The alferez has fifty pesos for each night," murmurs a small, chubby
individual into the ears of the latest arrivals. "Capitan Tiago's
coming and will set up a bank; Capitan Joaquin's bringing eighteen
thousand. There'll be liam-pó: Carlos the Chinaman will set it up with
ten thousand. Big stakes are coming from Tanawan, Lipa, and Batangas,
as well as from Santa Cruz. It's going to be on a big scale, yes,
sir, on a grand scale! But have some chocolate! This year Capitan
Tiago won't break us as he did last, since he's paid for only three
thanksgiving masses and I've got a cacao mutyâ. And how's your family?"
"Well, thank you," the visitors respond, "and Padre Damaso?"
"Padre Damaso will preach in the morning and sit in with us at night."
"Good enough! Then there's no danger."
"Sure, we're sure! Carlos the Chinaman will loosen up also." Here
the chubby individual works his fingers as though counting out pieces
Outside the town the hill-folk, the kasamá, are putting on their
best clothes to carry to the houses of their landlords well-fattened
chickens, wild pigs, deer, and birds. Some load firewood on the heavy
carts, others fruits, ferns, and orchids, the rarest that grow in
the forests, others bring broad-leafed caladiums and flame-colored
tikas-tikas blossoms to decorate the doors of the houses.
But the place where the greatest activity reigns, where it is converted
into a tumult, is there on a little plot of raised ground, a few
steps from Ibarra's house. Pulleys screech and yells are heard amid
the metallic sound of iron striking upon stone, hammers upon nails,
of axes chopping out posts. A crowd of laborers is digging in the
earth to open a wide, deep trench, while others place in line the
stones taken from the town quarries. Carts are unloaded, piles of
sand are heaped up, windlasses and derricks are set in place.
"Hey, you there! Hurry up!" cries a little old man with lively and
intelligent features, who has for a cane a copper-bound rule around
which is wound the cord of a plumb-bob. This is the foreman of the
work, Ñor Juan, architect, mason, carpenter, painter, locksmith,
stonecutter, and, on occasions, sculptor. "It must be finished right
now! Tomorrow there'll be no work and the day after tomorrow is the
"Cut that hole so that this cylinder will fit it exactly," he says
to some masons who are shaping a large square block of stone. "Within
that our names will be preserved."
He repeats to every newcomer who approaches the place what he
has already said a thousand times: "You know what we're going to
build? Well, it's a schoolhouse, a model of its kind, like those
in Germany, and even better. A great architect has drawn the plans,
and I--I am bossing the job! Yes, sir, look at it, it's going to
be a palace with two wings, one for the boys and the other for the
girls. Here in the middle a big garden with three fountains, there on
the sides shaded walks with little plots for the children to sow and
cultivate plants in during their recess-time, that they may improve
the hours and not waste them. Look how deep the foundations are,
three meters and seventy-five centimeters! This building is going
to have storerooms, cellars, and for those who are not diligent
students dungeons near the playgrounds so that the culprits may hear
how the studious children are enjoying themselves. Do you see that
big space? That will be a lawn for running and exercising in the
open air. The little girls will have a garden with benches, swings,
walks where they can jump the rope, fountains, bird-cages, and so
on. It's going to be magnificent!"
Then Ñor Juan would rub his hands together as he thought of the
fame that he was going to acquire. Strangers would come to see it
and would ask, "Who was the great artisan that built this?" and all
would answer, "Don't you know? Can it be that you've never heard
of Ñor Juan? Undoubtedly you've come from a great distance!" With
these thoughts he moved from one part to the other, examining and
"It seems to me that there's too much timber for one derrick," he
remarked to a yellowish man who was overseeing some laborers. "I
should have enough with three large beams for the tripod and three
more for the braces."
"Never mind!" answered the yellowish man, smiling in a peculiar
way. "The more apparatus we use in the work, so much the greater effect
we'll get. The whole thing will look better and of more importance,
so they'll say, 'How hard they've worked!' You'll see, you'll see
what a derrick I'll put up! Then I'll decorate it with banners, and
garlands of leaves and flowers. You'll say afterwards that you were
right in hiring me as one of your laborers, and Señor Ibarra couldn't
ask for more!" As he said this the man laughed and smiled. Ñor Juan
also smiled, but shook his head.
Some distance away were seen two kiosks united by a kind of arbor
covered with banana leaves. The schoolmaster and some thirty boys
were weaving crowns and fastening banners upon the frail bamboo posts,
which were wrapped in white cloth.
"Take care that the letters are well written," he admonished the boys
who were preparing inscriptions. "The alcalde is coming, many curates
will be present, perhaps even the Captain-General, who is now in the
province. If they see that you draw well, maybe they'll praise you."
"And give us a blackboard?"
"Perhaps, but Señor Ibarra has already ordered one from
Manila. Tomorrow some things will come to be distributed among you
as prizes. Leave those flowers in the water and tomorrow we'll make
the bouquets. Bring more flowers, for it's necessary that the table
be covered with them--flowers please the eye."
"My father will bring some water-lilies and a basket of sampaguitas
"Mine has brought three cartloads of sand without pay."
"My uncle has promised to pay a teacher," added a nephew of Capitan
Truly, the project was receiving help from all. The curate had asked to
stand sponsor for it and himself bless the laying of the corner-stone,
a ceremony to take place on the last day of the fiesta as one of its
greatest solemnities. The very coadjutor had timidly approached Ibarra
with an offer of all the fees for masses that the devout would pay
until the building was finished. Even more, the rich and economical
Sister Rufa had declared that if money should be lacking she would
canvass other towns and beg for alms, with the mere condition that she
be paid her expenses for travel and subsistence. Ibarra thanked them
all, as he answered, "We aren't going to have anything very great,
since I am not rich and this building is not a church. Besides,
I didn't undertake to erect it at the expense of others."
The younger men, students from Manila, who had come to take part
in the fiesta, gazed at him in admiration and took him for a model;
but, as it nearly always happens, when we wish to imitate great men,
that we copy only their foibles and even their defects, since we are
capable of nothing else, so many of these admirers took note of the
way in which he tied his cravat, others of the style of his collar,
and not a few of the number of buttons on his coat and vest.
The funereal presentiments of old Tasio seemed to have been dissipated
forever. So Ibarra observed to him one day, but the old pessimist
answered: "Remember what Baltazar says:
Kung ang isalúbong sa iyong pagdating
Ay masayang maukha't may pakitang giliw,
Lalong pag-iñgata't kaaway na lihim--
Baltazar was no less a thinker than a poet."
Thus in the gathering shadows before the setting of the sun events
were shaping themselves.
In the Twilight
In Capitan Tiago's house also great preparations had been made. We
know its owner, whose love of ostentation and whose pride as a
Manilan imposed the necessity of humiliating the provincials with his
splendor. Another reason, too, made it his duty to eclipse all others:
he had his daughter Maria Clara with him, and there was present his
future son-in-law, who was attracting universal attention.
In fact one of the most serious newspapers in Manila had devoted to
Ibarra an article on its front page, entitled, "Imitate him!" heaping
him with praise and giving him some advice. It had called him, "The
cultivated young gentleman and rich capitalist;" two lines further
on, "The distinguished philanthropist;" in the following paragraph,
"The disciple of Minerva who had gone to the mother country to
pay his respects to the true home of the arts and sciences;" and
a little further on, "The Filipino Spaniard." Capitan Tiago burned
with generous zeal to imitate him and wondered whether he ought not
to erect a convento at his own expense.
Some days before there had arrived at the house where Maria Clara
and Aunt Isabel were staying a profusion of eases of European wines
and food-stuffs, colossal mirrors, paintings, and Maria Clara's
piano. Capitan Tiago had arrived on the day before the fiesta and as
his daughter kissed his hand, had presented her with a beautiful locket
set with diamonds and emeralds, containing a sliver from St. Peter's
boat, in which Our Savior sat during the fishing. His first interview
with his future son-in-law could not have been more cordial. Naturally,
they talked about the school, and Capitan Tiago wanted it named
"School of St. Francis." "Believe me," he said, "St. Francis is a good
patron. If you call it 'School of Primary Instruction,' you will gain
nothing. Who is Primary Instruction, anyhow?"
Some friends of Maria Clara came and asked her to go for a walk. "But
come back quickly," said Capitan Tiago to his daughter, when she asked
his permission, "for you know that Padre Damaso, who has just arrived,
will dine with us."
Then turning to Ibarra, who had become thoughtful, he said, "You dine
with us also, you'll be all alone in your house."
"I would with the greatest pleasure, but I have to be at home in
case visitors come," stammered the youth, as he avoided the gaze of
"Bring your friends along," replied Capitan Tiago heartily. "In my
house there's always plenty to eat. Also, I want you and Padre Damaso
to get on good terms."
"There'll be time enough for that," answered Ibarra with a forced
smile, as he prepared to accompany the girls.
They went downstairs, Maria Clara in the center between Victoria
and Iday, Aunt Isabel following. The people made way for them
respectfully. Maria Clara was startling in her beauty; her pallor
was all gone, and if her eyes were still pensive, her mouth on the
contrary seemed to know only smiles. With maiden friendliness the
happy young woman greeted the acquaintances of her childhood, now
the admirers of her promising youth. In less than a fortnight she had
succeeded in recovering that frank confidence, that childish prattle,
which seemed to have been benumbed between the narrow walls of the
nunnery. It might be said that on leaving the cocoon the butterfly
recognized all the flowers, for it seemed to be enough for her to
spread her wings for a moment and warm herself in the sun's rays to
lose all the stiffness of the chrysalis. This new life manifested
itself in her whole nature. Everything she found good and beautiful,
and she showed her love with that maiden modesty which, having never
been conscious of any but pure thoughts, knows not the meaning of false
blushes. While she would cover her face when she was teased, still her
eyes smiled, and a light thrill would course through her whole being.
The houses were beginning to show lights, and in the streets where
the music was moving about there were lighted torches of bamboo and
wood made in imitation of those in the church. From the streets
the people in the houses might be seen through the windows in an
atmosphere of music and flowers, moving about to the sounds of piano,
harp, or orchestra. Swarming in the streets were Chinese, Spaniards,
Filipinos, some dressed in European style, some in the costumes
of the country. Crowding, elbowing, and pushing one another, walked
servants carrying meat and chickens, students in white, men and women,
all exposing themselves to be knocked down by the carriages which,
in spite of the drivers' cries, made their way with difficulty.
In front of Capitan Basilio's house some young women called to our
acquaintances and invited them to enter. The merry voice of Sinang as
she ran down the stairs put an end to all excuses. "Come up a moment
so that I may go with you," she said. "I'm bored staying here among
so many strangers who talk only of game-cocks and cards."
They were ushered into a large room filled with people, some of whom
came forward to greet Ibarra, for his name was now well known. All
gazed in ecstasy at the beauty of Maria Clara and some old women
murmured, as they chewed their buyo, "She looks like the Virgin!"
There they had to have chocolate, as Capitan Basilio had become a warm
friend and defender of Ibarra since the day of the picnic. He had
learned from the half of the telegram given to his daughter Sinang
that Ibarra had known beforehand about the court's decision in the
latter's favor, so, not wishing to be outdone in generosity, he had
tried to set aside the decision of the chess-match. But when Ibarra
would not consent to this, he had proposed that the money which would
have been spent in court fees should be used to pay a teacher in the
new school. In consequence, the orator employed all his eloquence to
the end that other litigants should give up their extravagant claims,
saying to them, "Believe me, in a lawsuit the winner is left without
a camisa." But he had succeeded in convincing no one, even though he
cited the Romans.
After drinking the chocolate our young people had to listen to
piano-playing by the town organist. "When I listen to him in the
church," exclaimed Sinang, pointing to the organist, "I want to dance,
and now that he's playing here I feel like praying, so I'm going out
"Don't you want to join us tonight?" whispered Capitan Basilio into
Ibarra's ear as they were leaving. "Padre Damaso is going to set up
a little bank." Ibarra smiled and answered with an equivocal shake
of his head.
"Who's that?" asked Maria Clara of Victoria, indicating with a rapid
glance a youth who was following them.
"He's--he's a cousin of mine," she answered with some agitation.
"And the other?"
"He's no cousin of mine," put in Sinang merrily. "He's my uncle's son."
They passed in front of the parish rectory, which was not one of the
least animated buildings. Sinang was unable to repress an exclamation
of surprise on seeing the lamps burning, those lamps of antique
pattern which Padre Salvi had never allowed to be lighted, in order
not to waste kerosene. Loud talk and resounding bursts of laughter
might be heard as the friars moved slowly about, nodding their heads
in unison with the big cigars that adorned their lips. The laymen
with them, who from their European garments appeared to be officials
and employees of the province, were endeavoring to imitate whatever
the good priests did. Maria Clara made out the rotund figure of Padre
Damaso at the side of the trim silhouette of Padre Sibyla. Motionless
in his place stood the silent and mysterious Fray Salvi.
"He's sad," observed Sinang, "for he's thinking about how much so
many visitors are going to cost. But you'll see how he'll not pay
it himself, but the sacristans will. His visitors always eat at
"Sinang!" scolded Victoria.
"I haven't been able to endure him since he tore up the Wheel of
Fortune. I don't go to confession to him any more."
Of all the houses one only was to be noticed without lights and with
all the windows closed--that of the alferez. Maria Clara expressed
surprise at this.
"The witch! The Muse of the Civil Guard, as the old man says,"
exclaimed the irrepressible Sinang. "What has she to do with our
merrymakings? I imagine she's raging! But just let the cholera come
and you'd see her give a banquet."
"But, Sinang!" again her cousin scolded.
"I never was able to endure her and especially since she disturbed our
picnic with her civil-guards. If I were the Archbishop I'd marry Her to
Padre Salvi--then think what children! Look how she tried to arrest
the poor pilot, who threw himself into the water simply to please"
She was not allowed to finish, for in the corner of the plaza
where a blind man was singing to the accompaniment of a guitar,
a curious spectacle was presented. It was a man miserably dressed,
wearing a broad salakot of palm leaves. His clothing consisted of a
ragged coat and wide pantaloons, like those worn by the Chinese, torn
in many places. Wretched sandals covered his feet. His countenance
remained hidden in the shadow of his wide hat, but from this shadow
there flashed intermittently two burning rays. Placing a flat basket
on the ground, he would withdraw a few paces and utter strange,
incomprehensible sounds, remaining the while standing entirely alone as
if he and the crowd were mutually avoiding each other. Then some women
would approach the basket and put into it fruit, fish, or rice. When
no one any longer approached, from the shadows would issue sadder
but less pitiful sounds, cries of gratitude perhaps. Then he would
take up the basket and make his way to another place to repeat the
Maria Clara divined that there must be some misfortune there, and
full of interest she asked concerning the strange creature.
"He's a leper," Iday told her. "Four years ago he contracted the
disease, some say from taking care of his mother, others from lying
in a damp prison. He lives in the fields near the Chinese cemetery,
having intercourse with no one, because all flee from him for fear of
contagion. If you might only see his home! It's a tumbledown shack,
through which the wind and rain pass like a needle through cloth. He
has been forbidden to touch anything belonging to the people. One day
when a little child fell into a shallow ditch as he was passing,
he helped to get it out. The child's father complained to the
gobernadorcillo, who ordered that the leper be flogged through the
streets and that the rattan be burned afterwards. It was horrible! The
leper fled with his flogger in pursuit, while the gobernadorcillo
cried, 'Catch him! Better be drowned than get the disease you have!'"
"Can it be true!" murmured Maria Clara, then, without saying what she
was about to do, went up to the wretch's basket and dropped into it
the locket her father had given her.
"What have you done?" her friends asked.
"I hadn't anything else," she answered, trying to conceal her tears
with a smile.
"What is he going to do with your locket?" Victoria asked her. "One
day they gave him some money, but he pushed it away with a stick;
why should he want it when no one accepts anything that comes from
him? As if the locket could be eaten!"
Maria Clara gazed enviously at the women who were selling food-stuffs
and shrugged her shoulders. The leper approached the basket, picked
up the jeweled locket, which glittered in his hands, then fell upon
his knees, kissed it, and taking off his salakot buried his forehead
in the dust where the maiden had stepped. Maria Clara hid her face
behind her fan and raised her handkerchief to her eyes.
Meanwhile, a poor woman had approached the leper, who seemed to be
praying. Her long hair was loose and unkempt, and in the light of
the torches could be recognized the extremely emaciated features of
the crazy Sisa. Feeling the touch of her hand, the leper jumped up
with a cry, but to the horror of the onlooker's Sisa caught him by
the arm and said:
"Let us pray, let us pray! Today is All Souls' day! Those lights are
the souls of men! Let us pray for my sons!"
"Separate them! Separate them! The madwoman will get the
disease!" cried the crowd, but no one dared to go near them.
"Do you see that light in the tower? That is my son Basilio sliding
down a rope! Do you see that light in the convento? That is my son
Crispin! But I'm not going to see them because the curate is sick
and had many gold pieces and the gold pieces are lost! Pray, let us
pray for the soul of the curate! I took him the finest fruits, for
my garden was full of flowers and I had two sons! I had a garden,
I used to take care of my flowers, and I had two sons!"
Then releasing her hold of the leper, she ran away singing, "I had
a garden and flowers, I had two sons, a garden, and flowers!"
"What have you been able to do for that poor woman?" Maria Clara
"Nothing! Lately she has been missing from the totem and wasn't to
be found," answered the youth, rather confusedly. "Besides, I have
been very busy. But don't let it trouble you. The curate has promised
to help me, but advised that I proceed with great tact and caution,
for the Civil Guard seems to be mixed up in it. The curate is greatly
interested in her case."
"Didn't the alferez say that he would have search made for her sons?"
"Yes, but at the time he was somewhat--drunk." Scarcely had he said
this when they saw the crazy woman being led, or rather dragged along,
by a soldier. Sisa was offering resistance.
"Why are you arresting her? What has she done?" asked Ibarra.
"Why, haven't you seen how she's been raising a disturbance?" was
the reply of the guardian of the public peace.
The leper caught up his basket hurriedly and ran away.
Maria Clara wanted to go home, as she had lost all her mirth and good
humor. "So there are people who are not happy," she murmured. Arriving
at her door, she felt her sadness increase when her fiancé declined
to go in, excusing himself on the plea of necessity. Maria Clara went
upstairs thinking what a bore are the fiesta days, when strangers
make their visits.
Cada uno habla de la feria como le va en ella.
As nothing of importance to our characters happened during the
first two days, we should gladly pass on to the third and last,
were it not that perhaps some foreign reader may wish to know how the
Filipinos celebrate their fiestas. For this reason we shall faithfully
reproduce in this chapter several letters, one of them being that
of the correspondent of a noted Manila newspaper, respected for its
grave tone and deep seriousness. Our readers will correct some natural
and trifling slips of the pen. Thus the worthy correspondent of the
respectable newspaper wrote:
"TO THE EDITOR, MY DISTINGUISHED FRIEND,--Never did I witness, nor
had I ever expected to see in the provinces, a religious fiesta so
solemn, so splendid, and so impressive as that now being celebrated
in this town by the Most Reverend and virtuous Franciscan Fathers.
"Great crowds are in attendance. I have here had the pleasure of
greeting nearly all the Spaniards who reside in this province,
three Reverend Augustinian Fathers from the province of Batangas,
and two Reverend Dominican Fathers. One of the latter is the Very
Reverend Fray Hernando Sibyla, who has come to honor this town with
his presence, a distinction which its worthy inhabitants should never
forget. I have also seen a great number of the best people of Cavite
and Pampanga, many wealthy persons from Manila, and many bands of
music,--among these the very artistic one of Pagsanhan belonging
to the escribano, Don Miguel Guevara,--swarms of Chinamen and
Indians, who, with the curiosity of the former and the piety of the,
latter, awaited anxiously the day on which was to be celebrated the
comic-mimic-lyric-lightning-change-dramatic spectacle, for which
a large and spacious theater had been erected in the middle of
"At nine on the night of the 10th, the eve of the fiesta, after a
succulent dinner set before us by the hermano mayor, the attention
of all the Spaniards and friars in the convento was attracted by
strains of music from a surging multitude which, with the noise of
bombs and rockets, preceded by the leading citizens of the town,
came to the convento to escort us to the place prepared and arranged
for us that we might witness the spectacle. Such a courteous offer we
had to accept, although I should have preferred to rest in the arms of
Morpheus and repose my weary limbs, which were aching, thanks to the
joltings of the vehicle furnished us by the gobernadorcillo of B----.
"Accordingly we joined them and proceeded to look for our companions,
who were dining in the house, owned here by the pious and wealthy Don
Santiago de los Santos. The curate of the town, the Very Reverend
Fray Bernardo Salvi, and the Very Reverend Fray Damaso Verdolagas,
who is now by the special favor of Heaven recovered from the suffering
caused him by an impious hand, in company with the Very Reverend
Fray Hernando Sibyla and the virtuous curate of Tanawan, with other
Spaniards, were guests in the house of the Filipino Croesus. There
we had the good fortune of admiring not only the luxury and good
taste of the host, which are not usual among the natives, but also
the beauty of the charming and wealthy heiress, who showed herself
to be a polished disciple of St. Cecelia by playing on her elegant
piano, with a mastery that recalled Galvez to me, the best German and
Italian compositions. It is a matter of regret that such a charming
young lady should be so excessively modest as to hide her talents
from a society which has only admiration for her. Nor should I leave
unwritten that in the house of our host there were set before us
champagne and fine liqueurs with the profusion and splendor that
characterize the well-known capitalist.
"We attended the spectacle. You already know our artists, Ratia,
Carvajal, and Fernandez, whose cleverness was comprehended by us alone,
since the uncultured crowd did not understand a jot of it. Chananay
and Balbino were very good, though a little hoarse; the latter made
one break, but together, and as regards earnest effort, they were
admirable. The Indians were greatly pleased with the Tagalog drama,
especially the gobernadorcillo, who rubbed his hands and informed us
that it was a pity that they had not made the princess join in combat
with the giant who had stolen her away, which in his opinion would
have been more marvelous, especially if the giant had been represented
as vulnerable only in the navel, like a certain Ferragus of whom
the stories of the Paladins tell. The Very Reverend Fray Damaso,
in his customary goodness of heart, concurred in this opinion, and
added that in such case the princess should be made to discover the
giant's weak spot and give him the coup de grace.
"Needless to tell you that during the show the affability of
the Filipino Rothschild allowed nothing to be lacking: ice-cream,
lemonade, wines, and refreshments of all kinds circulated profusely
among us. A matter of reasonable and special note was the absence of
the well-known and cultured youth, Don Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, who,
as you know, will tomorrow preside at the laying of the corner-stone
for the great edifice which he is so philanthropically erecting. This
worthy descendant of the Pelayos and Elcanos (for I have learned
that one of his paternal ancestors was from our heroic and noble
northern provinces, perhaps one of the companions of Magellan or
Legazpi) did not show himself during the entire day, owing to a slight
indisposition. His name runs from mouth to mouth, being uttered with
praises that can only reflect glory upon Spain and true Spaniards
like ourselves, who never deny our blood, however mixed it may be.
"Today, at eleven o'clock in the morning, we attended a deeply-moving
spectacle. Today, as is generally known, is the fiesta of the
Virgin of Peace and is being observed by the Brethren of the Holy
Rosary. Tomorrow will occur the fiesta of the patron, San Diego, and it
will be observed principally by the Venerable Tertiary Order. Between
these two societies there exists a pious rivalry in serving God,
which piety has reached the extreme of holy quarrels among them, as
has just happened in the dispute over the preacher of acknowledged
fame, the oft-mentioned Very Reverend Fray Damaso, who tomorrow will
occupy the pulpit of the Holy Ghost with a sermon, which, according
to general expectation, will be a literary and religious event.
"So, as we were saying, we attended a highly edifying and moving
spectacle. Six pious youths, three to recite the mass and three
for acolytes, marched out of the sacristy and prostrated themselves
before the altar, while the officiating priest, the Very Reverend
Fray Hernando Sibyla, chanted the Surge Domine--the signal for
commencing the procession around the church--with the magnificent
voice and religious unction that all recognize and that make him so
worthy of general admiration. When the Surge Domine was concluded, the
gobernadorcillo, in a frock coat, carrying the standard and followed
by four acolytes with incense-burners, headed the procession. Behind
them came the tall silver candelabra, the municipal corporation, the
precious images dressed in satin and gold, representing St. Dominic
and the Virgin of Peace in a magnificent blue robe trimmed
with gilded silver, the gift of the pious ex-gobernadorcillo, the
so-worthy-of-being-imitated and never-sufficiently-praised Don Santiago
de los Santos. All these images were borne on silver cars. Behind the
Mother of God came the Spaniards and the rest of the clergy, while the
officiating priest was protected by a canopy carried by the cabezas de
barangay, and the procession was closed by a squad of the worthy Civil
Guard. I believe it unnecessary to state that a multitude of Indians,
carrying lighted candles with great devotion, formed the two lines of
the procession. The musicians played religious marches, while bombs
and pinwheels furnished repeated salutes. It causes admiration to
see the modesty and the fervor which these ceremonies inspire in the
hearts of the true believers, the grand, pure faith professed for
the Virgin of Peace, the solemnity and fervent devotion with which
such ceremonies are performed by those of us who have had the good
fortune to be born under the sacrosanct and immaculate banner of Spain.
"The procession concluded, there began the mass rendered by the
orchestra and the theatrical artists. After the reading of the
Gospel, the Very Reverend Fray Manuel Martin, an Augustinian from the
province of Batangas, ascended the pulpit and kept the whole audience
enraptured and hanging on his words, especially the Spaniards, during
the exordium in Castilian, as he spoke with vigor and in such flowing
and well-rounded periods that our hearts were filled with fervor
and enthusiasm. This indeed is the term that should be used for
what is felt, or what we feel, when the Virgin of our beloved Spain
is considered, and above all when there can be intercalated in the
text, if the subject permits, the ideas of a prince of the Church,
the Señor Monescillo, which are surely those of all Spaniards.
"At the conclusion of the services all of us went up into the
convento with the leading citizens of the town and other persons of
note. There we were especially honored by the refinement, attention,
and prodigality that characterize the Very Reverend Fray Salvi,
there being set before us cigars and an abundant lunch which the
hermano mayor had prepared under the convento for all who might feel
the necessity for appeasing the cravings of their stomachs.
"During the day nothing has been lacking to make the fiesta joyous and
to preserve the animation so characteristic of Spaniards, and which it
is impossible to restrain on such occasions as this, showing itself
sometimes in singing and dancing, at other times in simple and merry
diversions of so strong and noble a nature that all sorrow is driven
away, and it is enough for three Spaniards to be gathered together in
one place in order that sadness and ill-humor be banished thence. Then
homage was paid to Terpsichore in many homes, but especially in that
of the cultured Filipino millionaire, where we were all invited to
dine. Needless to say, the banquet, which was sumptuous and elegantly
served, was a second edition of the wedding-feast in Cana, or of
Camacho, corrected and enlarged. While we were enjoying the meal,
which was directed by a cook from "La Campana," an orchestra played
harmonious melodies. The beautiful young lady of the house, in a
mestiza gown and a cascade of diamonds, was as ever the queen of
the feast.. All of us deplored from the bottom of our hearts a light
sprain in her shapely foot that deprived her of the pleasures of the
dance, for if we have to judge by her other conspicuous perfections,
the young lady must dance like a sylph.
"The alcalde of the province arrived this afternoon for the purpose of
honoring with his presence the ceremony of tomorrow. He has expressed
regret over the poor health of the distinguished landlord, Señor
Ibarra, who in God's mercy is now, according to report, somewhat
"Tonight there was a solemn procession, but of that I will speak in
my letter tomorrow, because in addition to the explosions that have
bewildered me and made me somewhat deaf I am tired and falling over
with sleep. While, therefore, I recover my strength in the arms of
Morpheus--or rather on a cot in the convento--I desire for you,
my distinguished friend, a pleasant night and take leave of you until
tomorrow, which will be the great day.
Your affectionate friend,
SAN DIEGO, November 11.
Thus wrote the worthy correspondent. Now let us see what Capitan
Martin wrote to his friend, Luis Chiquito:
"DEAR CHOY,--Come a-running if you can, for there's something doing
at the fiesta. Just imagine, Capitan Joaquin is almost broke. Capitan
Tiago has doubled up on him three times and won at the first turn of
the cards each time, so that Capitan Manuel, the owner of the house,
is growing smaller every minute from sheer joy. Padre Damaso smashed
a lamp with his fist because up to now he hasn't won on a single
card. The Consul has lost on his cocks and in the bank all that he
won from us at the fiesta of Biñan and at that of the Virgin of the
Pillar in Santa Cruz.
"We expected Capitan Tiago to bring us his future son-in-law, the rich
heir of Don Rafael, but it seems that he wishes to imitate his father,
for he does not even show himself. It's a pity, for it seems he never
will be any use to us.
"Carlos the Chinaman is making a big fortune with the liam-pó. I
suspect that he carries something hidden, probably a charm, for
he complains constantly of headaches and keeps his head bandaged,
and when the wheel of the liam-pó is slowing down he leans over,
almost touching it, as if he were looking at it closely. I am shocked,
because I know more stories of the same kind.
"Good-by, Choy. My birds are well and my wife is happy and having a
Ibarra had received a perfumed note which Andeng, Maria Clara's
foster-sister, delivered to him on the evening of the first day of
the fiesta. This note said:
"CRISOSTOMO,--It has been over a day since you have shown yourself. I
have heard that you are ill and have prayed for you and lighted two
candles, although papa says that you are not seriously ill. Last
night and today I've been bored by requests to play on the piano and
by invitations to dance. I didn't know before that there are so many
tiresome people in the world! If it were not for Padre Damaso, who
tries to entertain me by talking to me and telling me many things,
I would have shut myself up in my room and gone to sleep. Write me
what the matter is with you and I'll tell papa to visit you. For
the present I send Andeng to make you some tea, as she knows how to
prepare it well, probably better than your servants do.
"P.S. If you don't come tomorrow, I won't go to the ceremony. Vale!"
At the first flush of dawn bands of music awoke the tired people of the
town with lively airs. Life and movement reawakened, the bells began
to chime, and the explosions commenced. It was the last day of the
fiesta, in fact the fiesta proper. Much was hoped for, even more than
on the previous day. The Brethren of the Venerable Tertiary Order were
more numerous than those of the Holy Rosary, so they smiled piously,
secure that they would humiliate their rivals. They had purchased a
greater number of tapers, wherefor the Chinese dealers had reaped a
harvest and in gratitude were thinking of being baptized, although
some remarked that this was not so much on account of their faith in
Catholicism as from a desire to get a wife. To this the pious women
answered, "Even so, the marriage of so many Chinamen at once would
be little short of a miracle and their wives would convert them."
The people arrayed themselves in their best clothes and dragged out
from their strong-boxes all their jewelry. The sharpers and gamblers
all shone in embroidered camisas with large diamond studs, heavy
gold chains, and white straw hats. Only the old Sage went his way
as usual in his dark-striped sinamay camisa buttoned up to the neck,
loose shoes, and wide gray felt hat.
"You look sadder than ever!" the teniente-mayor accosted him. "Don't
you want us to be happy now and then, since we have so much to
"To be happy doesn't mean to act the fool," answered the old man. "It's
the senseless orgy of every year! And all for no end but to squander
money, when there is so much misery and want. Yes, I understand it all,
it's the same orgy, the revel to drown the woes of all."
"You know that I share your opinion, though," replied Don Filipo,
half jestingly and half in earnest. "I have defended it, but what
can one do against the gobernadorcillo and the curate?"
"Resign!" was the old man's curt answer as he moved away.
Don Filipo stood perplexed, staring after the old man. "Resign!" he
muttered as he made his way toward the church. "Resign! Yes, if this
office were an honor and not a burden, yes, I would resign."
The paved court in front of the church was filled with people; men
and women, young and old, dressed in their best clothes, all crowded
together, came and went through the wide doors. There was a smell
of powder, of flowers, of incense, and of perfumes, while bombs,
rockets, and serpent-crackers made the women run and scream, the
children laugh. One band played in front of the convento, another
escorted the town officials, and still others marched about the
streets, where floated and waved a multitude of banners. Variegated
colors and lights distracted the sight, melodies and explosions the
hearing, while the bells kept up a ceaseless chime. Moving all about
were carriages whose horses at times became frightened, frisked and
reared all of which, while not included in the program of the fiesta,
formed a show in itself, free and by no means the least entertaining.
The hermano mayor for this day had sent servants to seek in the streets
for whomsoever they might invite, as did he who gave the feast of
which the Gospel tells us. Almost by force were urged invitations to
partake of chocolate, coffee, tea, and sweetmeats, these invitations
not seldom reaching the proportions of a demand.
There was to be celebrated the high mass, that known as the dalmatic,
like the one of the day before, about which the worthy correspondent
wrote, only that now the officiating priest was to be Padre Salvi,
and that the alcalde of the province, with many other Spaniards and
persons of note, was to attend it in order to hear Padre Damaso,
who enjoyed a great reputation in the province. Even the alferez,
smarting under the preachments of Padre Salvi, would also attend in
order to give evidence of his good-will and to recompense himself,
if possible, for the bad spells the curate had caused him.
Such was the reputation of Padre Damaso that the correspondent wrote
beforehand to the editor of his newspaper:
"As was announced in my badly executed account of yesterday, so it
has come to pass. We have had the especial pleasure of listening
to the Very Reverend Fray Damaso Verdolagas, former curate of this
town, recently transferred to a larger parish in recognition of his
meritorious services. The illustrious and holy orator occupied the
pulpit of the Holy Ghost and preached a most eloquent and profound
sermon, which edified and left marveling all the faithful who had
waited so anxiously to see spring from his fecund lips the restoring
fountain of eternal life. Sublimity of conception, boldness of
imagination, novelty of phraseology, gracefulness of style, naturalness
of gestures, cleverness of speech, vigor of ideas--these are the
traits of the Spanish Bossuet, who has justly earned such a high
reputation not only among the enlightened Spaniards but even among
the rude Indians and the cunning sons of the Celestial Empire."
But the confiding correspondent almost saw himself obliged to erase
what he had written. Padre Damaso complained of a cold that he had
contracted the night before, for after singing a few merry songs
he had eaten three plates of ice-cream and attended the show for a
short time. As a result of all this, he wished to renounce his part
as the spokesman of God to men, but as no one else was to be found
who was so well versed in the life and miracles of San Diego,--
the curate knew them, it is true, but it was his place to celebrate
mass,--the other priests unanimously declared that the tone of
Padre Damaso's voice could not be improved upon and that it would
be a great pity for him to forego delivering such an eloquent sermon
as he had written and memorized. Accordingly, his former housekeeper
prepared for him lemonade, rubbed his chest and neck with liniment and
olive-oil, massaged him, and wrapped him in warm cloths. He drank some
raw eggs beaten up in wine and for the whole morning neither talked
nor breakfasted, taking only a glass of milk and a cup of chocolate
with a dozen or so of crackers, heroically renouncing his usual fried
chicken and half of a Laguna cheese, because the housekeeper affirmed
that cheese contained salt and grease, which would aggravate his cough.
"All for the sake of meriting heaven and of converting us!" exclaimed
the Tertiary Sisters, much affected, upon being informed of these
"May Our Lady of Peace punish him!" muttered the Sisters of the Holy
Rosary, unable to forgive him for leaning to the side of their rivals.
At half past eight the procession started from the shadow of the
canvas canopy. It was the same as that of the previous day but for
the introduction of one novelty: the older members of the Venerable
Tertiary Order and some maidens dressed as old women displayed long
gowns, the poor having them of coarse cloth and the rich of silk,
or rather of Franciscan guingón, as it is called, since it is most
used by the reverend Franciscan friars. All these sacred garments
were genuine, having come from the convento in Manila, where the
people may obtain them as alms at a fixed price, if a commercial term
may be permitted; this fixed price was liable to increase but not to
reduction. In the convento itself and in the nunnery of St. Clara
are sold these same garments which possess, besides the special merit
of gaining many indulgences for those who may be shrouded in them,
the very special merit of being dearer in proportion as they are old,
threadbare, and unserviceable. We write this in case any pious reader
need such sacred relics--or any cunning rag-picker of Europe wish to
make a fortune by taking to the Philippines a consignment of patched
and grimy garments, since they are valued at sixteen pesos or more,
according to their more or less tattered appearance.
San Diego de Alcala was borne on a float adorned with plates of
repoussé silver. The saint, though rather thin, had an ivory bust
which gave him a severe and majestic mien, in spite of abundant kingly
bangs like those of the Negrito. His mantle was of satin embroidered
Our venerable father, St. Francis, followed the Virgin as on yesterday,
except that the priest under the canopy this time was Padre Salvi
and not the graceful Padre Sibyla, so refined in manner. But if the
former lacked a beautiful carriage he had more than enough unction,
walking half bent over with lowered eyes and hands crossed in mystic
attitude. The bearers of the canopy were the same cabezas de barangay,
sweating with satisfaction at seeing themselves at the same time
semi-sacristans, collectors of the tribute, redeemers of poor erring
humanity, and consequently Christs who were giving their blood for
the sins of others. The surpliced coadjutor went from float to float
carrying the censer, with the smoke from which he from time to time
regaled the nostrils of the curate, who then became even more serious
So the procession moved forward slowly and deliberately to the
sound of bombs, songs, and religious melodies let loose into the
air by bands of musicians that followed the floats. Meanwhile,
the hermano mayor distributed candles with such zeal that many of
the participants returned to their homes with light enough for four
nights of card-playing. Devoutly the curious spectators knelt at the
passage of the float of the Mother of God, reciting Credos and Salves
fervently. In front of a house in whose gaily decorated windows were
to be seen the alcalde, Capitan Tiago, Maria Clara, and Ibarra, with
various Spaniards and young ladies, the float was detained. Padre
Salvi happened to raise his eyes, but made not the slightest movement
that might have been taken for a salute or a recognition of them. He
merely stood erect, so that his cope fell over his shoulders more
gracefully and elegantly.
In the street under the window was a young woman of pleasing
countenance, dressed in deep mourning, carrying in her arms a young
baby. She must have been a nursemaid only, for the child was white
and ruddy while she was brown and had hair blacker than jet. Upon
seeing the curate the tender infant held out its arms, laughed with
the laugh that neither causes nor is caused by sorrow, and cried out
stammeringly in the midst of a brief silence, "Pa-pa! Papa! Papa!" The
young woman shuddered, slapped her hand hurriedly over the baby's
mouth and ran away in dismay, with the baby crying.
Malicious ones winked at each other, and the Spaniards who had
witnessed the short scene smiled, while the natural pallor of Padre
Salvi changed to the hue of poppies. Yet the people were wrong,
for the curate was not acquainted with the woman at all, she being
a stranger in the town.
In the Church
From end to end the huge barn that men dedicate as a home to the
Creator of all existing things was filled with people. Pushing,
crowding, and crushing one another, the few who were leaving and
the many who were entering filled the air with exclamations of
distress. Even from afar an arm would be stretched out to dip the
fingers in the holy water, but at the critical moment the surging crowd
would force the hand away. Then would be heard a complaint, a trampled
woman would upbraid some one, but the pushing would continue. Some old
people might succeed in dipping their fingers in the water, now the
color of slime, where the population of a whole town, with transients
besides, had washed. With it they would anoint themselves devoutly,
although with difficulty, on the neck, on the crown of the head,
on the forehead, on the chin, on the chest, and on the abdomen, in
the assurance that thus they were sanctifying those parts and that
they would suffer neither stiff neck, headache, consumption, nor
indigestion. The young people, whether they were not so ailing or did
not believe in that holy prophylactic, hardly more than moistened the
tip of a finger--and this only in order that the devout might have
no cause to talk--and pretended to make the sign of the cross on
their foreheads, of course without touching them. "It may be blessed
and everything you may wish," some young woman doubtless thought,
"but it has such a color!"
It was difficult to breathe in the: heat amid the smells of the
human animal, but the preacher was worth all these inconveniences,
as the sermon was costing the town two hundred and fifty pesos. Old
Tasio had said: "Two hundred and fifty pesos for a sermon! One man
on one occasion! Only a third of what comedians cost, who will work
for three nights! Surely you must be very rich!"
"What has that to do with the drama?" testily inquired the nervous
leader of the Tertiary Brethren. "With the drama souls go to hell but
with the sermon to heaven! If he had asked a thousand, we would have
paid him and should still owe him gratitude."
"After all, you're right," replied the Sage, "for the sermon is more
amusing to me at least than the drama."
"But I am not amused even by the drama!" yelled the other furiously.
"I believe it, since you understand one about as well as you do the
other!" And the impious old man moved away without paying any attention
to the insults and the direful prophecies that the irritated leader
offered concerning his future existence.
While they were waiting for the alcalde, the people sweated and yawned,
agitating the air with fans, hats, and handkerchiefs. Children shouted
and cried, which kept the sacristans busy putting them out of the
sacred edifice. Such action brought to the dull and conscientious
leader of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary this thought: "'Suffer
little children to come unto me,' said Our Savior, it is true, but
here must be understood, children who do not cry."
An old woman in a guingón habit, Sister Puté, chid her granddaughter,
a child of six years, who was kneeling at her side, "O lost one, give
heed, for you're going to hear a sermon like that of Good Friday!" Here
the old lady gave her a pinch to awaken the piety of the child,
who made a grimace, stuck out her nose, and wrinkled up her eyebrows.
Some men squatted on their heels and dozed beside the confessional. One
old man nodding caused our old woman to believe that he was mumbling
prayers, so, running her fingers rapidly over the beads of her rosary
--as that was the most reverent way of respecting the designs of
Heaven--little by little she set herself to imitating hint.
Ibarra stood in one corner while Maria Clara knelt near the high
altar in a space which tile curate had had the courtesy to order the
sacristans to clear for her. Capitan Tiago, in a frock coat, sat on
one of the benches provided for the authorities, which caused the
children who did not know him to take him for another gobernadorcillo
and to be wary about getting near him.
At last the alcalde with his staff arrived, proceeding from the
sacristy and taking their seats in magnificent chairs placed on strips
of carpet. The alcalde wore a full-dress uniform and displayed the
cordon of Carlos III, with four or five other decorations. The people
did not recognize him.
"Abá!" exclaimed a rustic. "A civil-guard dressed as a comedian!"
"Fool!" rejoined a bystander, nudging him with his elbow. "It's the
Prince Villardo that we saw at the show last night!"
So the alcalde went up several degrees in the popular estimation by
becoming an enchanted prince, a vanquisher of giants.
When the mass began, those who were seated arose and those who
had been asleep were awakened by the ringing of the bells and the
sonorous voices of the singers. Padre Salvi, in spite of his gravity,
wore a look of deep satisfaction, since there were serving him as
deacon and subdeacon none less than two Augustinians. Each one, as
it came his turn, sang well, in a more or less nasal tone and with
unintelligible articulation, except the officiating priest himself,
whose voice trembled somewhat, even getting out of tune at times,
to the great wonder of those who knew him. Still he moved about
with precision and elegance while he recited the Dominus vobiscum
unctuously, dropping his head a little to the side and gazing toward
heaven. Seeing him receive the smoke from the incense one would
have said that Galen was right in averring the passage of smoke in
the nasal canals to the head through a screen of ethmoids, since
he straightened himself, threw his head back, and moved toward the
middle of the altar with such pompousness and gravity that Capitan
Tiago found him more majestic than the Chinese comedian of the
night before, even though the latter had been dressed as an emperor,
paint-bedaubed, with beribboned sword, stiff beard like a horse's
mane, and high-soled slippers. "Undoubtedly," so his thoughts ran,
"a single curate of ours has more majesty than all the emperors."
At length came the expected moment, that of hearing Padre Damaso. The
three priests seated themselves in their chairs in an edifying
attitude, as the worthy correspondent would say, the alcalde and
other persons of place and position following their example. The
The sudden transition from noise to silence awoke our aged Sister Puté,
who was already snoring under cover of the music. Like Segismundo,
or like the cook in the story of the Sleeping Beauty, the first
thing that she did upon awaking was to whack her granddaughter on
the neck, as the child had also fallen asleep. The latter screamed,
but soon consoled herself at the sight of a woman who was beating her
breast with contrition and enthusiasm. All tried to place themselves
comfortably, those who had no benches squatting down on the floor or
on their heels.
Padre Damaso passed through the congregation preceded by two
sacristans and followed by another friar carrying a massive volume. He
disappeared as he went up the winding staircase, but his round head
soon reappeared, then his fat neck, followed immediately by his
body. Coughing slightly, he looked about him with assurance. He
noticed Ibarra and with a special wink gave to understand that he
would not overlook that youth in his prayers. Then he turned a look
of satisfaction upon Padre Sibyla and another of disdain upon Padre
Martin, the preacher of the previous day. This inspection concluded,
he turned cautiously and said, "Attention, brother!" to his companion,
who opened the massive volume.
But the sermon deserves a separate chapter. A young man who was then
learning stenography and who idolizes great orators, took it down;
thanks to this fact, we can here present a selection from the sacred
oratory of those regions.
Fray Damaso began slowly in a low voice: "'Et spiritum bonum dedisti,
qui doceret eos, et manna tuum non prohibuisti ab ore eorum, et aquam
dedisti eis in siti. And thou gavest thy good Spirit to teach them,
and thy manna thou didst not withhold from their mouth, and thou
gavest them water for their thirst!' Words which the Lord spoke
through the mouth of Esdras, in the second book, the ninth chapter,
and the twentieth verse." 
Padre Sibyla glanced in surprise at the preacher. Padre Manuel Martin
turned pale and swallowed hard that was better than his! Whether Padre
Damaso noticed this or whether he was still hoarse, the fact is that
he coughed several times as he placed both hands on the rail of the
pulpit. The Holy Ghost was above his head, freshly painted, clean and
white, with rose-colored beak and feet. "Most honorable sir" (to the
alcalde), "most holy priests, Christians, brethren in Jesus Christ!"
Here he made a solemn pause as again he swept his gaze over the
congregation, with whose attention and concentration he seemed
"The first part of the sermon is to be in Spanish and the other in
Tagalog; loquebantur omnes linguas."
After the salutations and the pause he extended his right hand
majestically toward the altar, at the same time fixing his gaze on
the alcalde. He slowly crossed his arms without uttering a word, then
suddenly passing from calmness to action, threw back his head and
made a sign toward the main door, sawing the air with his open hand
so forcibly that the sacristans interpreted the gesture as a command
and closed the doors. The alferez became uneasy, doubting whether
he should go or stay, when the preacher began in a strong voice,
full and sonorous; truly his old housekeeper was skilled in medicine.
"Radiant and resplendent is the altar, wide is the great door, the
air is the vehicle of the holy and divine words that will spring
from my mouth! Hear ye then with the ears of your souls and hearts
that the words of the Lord may not fall on the stony soil where the
birds of Hell may consume them, but that ye may grow and flourish
as holy seed in the field of our venerable and seraphic father,
St. Francis! O ye great sinners, captives of the Moros of the soul
that infest the sea of eternal life in the powerful craft of the
flesh and the world, ye who are laden with the fetters of lust and
avarice, and who toil in the galleys of the infernal Satan, look
ye here with reverent repentance upon him who saved souls from the
captivity of the devil, upon the intrepid Gideon, upon the valiant
David, upon the triumphant Roland of Christianity, upon the celestial
Civil Guard, more powerful than all the Civil Guards together, now
existing or to exist!" (The alferez frowned.) "Yes, señor alferez,
more valiant and powerful, he who with no other weapon than a wooden
cross boldly vanquishes the eternal tulisan of the shades and all
the hosts of Lucifer, and who would have exterminated them forever,
were not the spirits immortal! This marvel of divine creation, this
wonderful prodigy, is the blessed Diego of Alcala, who, if I may avail
myself of a comparison, since comparisons aid in the comprehension of
incomprehensible things, as another has said, I say then that this
great saint is merely a private soldier, a steward in the powerful
company which our seraphic father, St. Francis, sends from Heaven,
and to which I have the honor to belong as a corporal or sergeant,
by the grace of God!"
The "rude Indians," as the correspondent would say, caught nothing
more from this paragraph than the words "Civil Guard," "tulisan,"
"San Diego," and "St. Francis," so, observing the wry face of the
alferez and the bellicose gestures of the preacher, they deduced that
the latter was reprehending him for not running down the tulisanes. San
Diego and St. Francis would be commissioned in this duty and justly
so, as is proved by a picture existing in the convento at Manila,
representing St. Francis, by means of his girdle only, holding back the
Chinese invasion in the first years after the discovery. The devout
were accordingly not a little rejoiced and thanked God for this aid,
not doubting that once the tulisanes had disappeared, St. Francis would
also destroy the Civil Guard. With redoubled attention, therefore,
they listened to Padre Damaso, as he continued"
"Most honorable sir" Great affairs are great affairs even by the side
of the small and the small are always small even by the side of the
great. So History says, but since History hits the nail on the head
only once in a hundred times, being a thing made by men, and men make
mistakes--errarle es hominum, as Cicero said--he who opens
his mouth makes mistakes, as they say in my country then the result
is that there are profound truths which History does not record. These
truths, most honorable sir, the divine Spirit spoke with that supreme
wisdom which human intelligence has not comprehended since the times
of Seneca and Aristotle, those wise priests of antiquity, even to our
sinful days, and these truths are that not always are small affairs
small, but that they are great, not by the side of the little things,
but by the side of the grandest of the earth and of the heavens and
of the air and of the clouds and of the waters and of space and of
life and of death!"
"Amen!" exclaimed the leader of the Tertiaries, crossing himself.
With this figure of rhetoric, which he had learned from a famous
preacher in Manila, Padre Damaso wished to startle his audience,
and in fact his holy ghost was so fascinated with such great truths
that it was necessary to kick him to remind him of his business.
"Patent to your eyes--" prompted the holy ghost below.
"Patent to your eyes is the conclusive and impressive proof of this
eternal philosophical truth! Patent is that sun of virtue, and I say
sun and not moon, for there is no great merit in the fact that the moon
shines during the night,--in the land of the blind the one-eyed man
is king; by night may shine a light, a tiny star,--so the greatest
merit is to be able to shine even in the middle of the day, as the sun
does; so shines our brother Diego even in the midst of the greatest
saints! Here you have patent to your eyes, in your impious disbelief,
the masterpiece of the Highest for the confusion of the great of the
earth, yes, my brethren, patent, patent to all, PATENT!"
A man rose pale and trembling and hid himself in a confessional. He was
a liquor dealer who had been dozing and dreaming that the carbineers
were demanding the patent, or license, that he did not have. It may
safely be affirmed that he did not come out from his hiding-place
while the sermon lasted.
"Humble and lowly saint, thy wooden cross" (the one that the image held
was of silver), "thy modest gown, honors the great Francis whose sons
and imitators we are. We propagate thy holy race in the whole world,
in the remote places, in the cities, in the towns, without distinction
between black and white" (the alcalde held his breath), "suffering
hardships and martyrdoms, thy holy race of faith and religion militant"
("Ah!" breathed the alcalde) "which holds the world in balance and
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