CHAPTER XXVIII – Correspondence
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 the plaza.
“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 SeÃ±or 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, SeÃ±or Ibarra, who in God’s mercy is now, according to report, somewhat recovered.
“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 BiÃ±an 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-pÃ³. 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-pÃ³ 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 good time.
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!”