Noli Me Tangere: Chapter 59 – Patriotism and Private Interests

Secretly the telegraph transmitted the report to Manila, and thirty-six hours later the newspapers commented on it with great mystery and not a few dark hints–augmented, corrected, or mutilated by the censor. In the meantime, private reports, emanating from the convents, were the first to gain secret currency from mouth to mouth, to the great terror of those who heard them. The fact, distorted in a thousand ways, was believed with greater or less ease according to whether it was flattering or worked contrary to the passions and ways of thinking of each hearer.

Without public tranquillity seeming disturbed, at least outwardly, yet the peace of mind of each home was whirled about like the water in a pond: while the surface appears smooth and clear, in the depths the silent fishes swarm, dive about, and chase one another. For one part of the population crosses, decorations, epaulets, offices, prestige, power, importance, dignities began to whirl about like butterflies in a golden atmosphere. For the other part a dark cloud arose on the horizon, projecting from its gray depths, like black silhouettes, bars, chains, and even the fateful gibbet. In the air there seemed to be heard investigations, condemnations, and the cries from the torture chamber; Marianas[145] and Bagumbayan presented themselves wrapped in a torn and bloody veil, fishers and fished confused. Fate pictured the event to the imaginations of the Manilans like certain Chinese fans–one side painted black, the other gilded with bright-colored birds and flowers.

In the convents the greatest excitement prevailed. Carriages were harnessed, the Provincials exchanged visits and held secret conferences; they presented themselves in the palaces to offer their aid to the government in its perilous crisis. Again there was talk of comets and omens.

“A Te Deum! A Te Deum!” cried a friar in one convent. “This time let no one be absent from the chorus! It’s no small mercy from God to make it clear just now, especially in these hopeless times, how much we are worth!”

“The little general Mal-Aguero[146] can gnaw his lips over this lesson,” responded another.

“What would have become of him if not for the religious corporations?”

“And to celebrate the fiesta better, serve notice on the cook and the refectioner. Gaudeamus for three days!”

“Amen!” “Viva Salvi!” “Amen!”

In another convent they talked differently.

“You see, now, that fellow is a pupil of the Jesuits. The filibusters come from the Ateneo.”

“And the anti-friars.”

“I told you so. The Jesuits are ruining the country, they’re corrupting the youth, but they are tolerated because they trace a few scrawls on a piece of paper when there is an earthquake.”

“And God knows how they are made!”

“Yes, but don’t contradict them. When everything is shaking and moving about, who draws diagrams? Nothing, Padre Secchi–” [147]

And they smiled with sovereign disdain.

“But what about the weather forecasts and the typhoons?” asked another ironically. “Aren’t they divine?”

“Any fisherman foretells them!”

“When he who governs is a fool–tell me how your head is and I’ll tell you how your foot is! But you’ll see if the friends favor one another. The newspapers very nearly ask a miter for Padre Salvi.”

“He’s going to get it! He’ll lick it right up!”

“Do you think so?”

“Why not! Nowadays they grant one for anything whatsoever. I know of a fellow who got one for less. He wrote a cheap little work demonstrating that the Indians are not capable of being anything but mechanics. Pshaw, old-fogyisms!”

“That’s right! So much favoritism injures Religion!” exclaimed another. “If the miters only had eyes and could see what heads they were upon–”

“If the miters were natural objects,” added another in a nasal tone, “Natura abhorrer vacuum.”

“That’s why they grab for them, their emptiness attracts!” responded

These and many more things were said in the convents, but we will spare our reader other comments of a political, metaphysical, or piquant nature and conduct him to a private house. As we have few acquaintances in Manila, let us enter the home of Capitan Tinong, the polite individual whom we saw so profusely inviting Ibarra to honor him with a visit.

In the rich and spacious sala of his Tondo house, Capitan Tinong was seated in a wide armchair, rubbing his hands in a gesture of despair over his face and the nape of his neck, while his wife, Capitana Tinchang, was weeping and preaching to him. From the corner their two daughters listened silently and stupidly, yet greatly affected.

“Ay, Virgin of Antipolo!” cried the woman. “Ay, Virgin of the Rosary and of the Girdle![148] Ay, ay! Our Lady of Novaliches!”

“Mother!” responded the elder of the daughters.

“I told you so!” continued the wife in an accusing tone. “I told you so! Ay, Virgin of Carmen,[149] ay!”

“But you didn’t tell me anything,” Capitan Tinong dared to answer tearfully. “On the contrary, you told me that I was doing well to frequent Capitan Tiago’s house and cultivate friendship with him, because he’s rich–and you told me–”

“What! What did I tell you? I didn’t tell you that, I didn’t tell you anything! Ay, if you had only listened to me!”

“Now you’re throwing the blame on me,” he replied bitterly, slapping the arm of his chair. “Didn’t you tell me that I had done well to invite him to dine with us, because he was wealthy? Didn’t you say that we ought to have friends only among the wealthy? Abá!”

“It’s true that I told you so, because–because there wasn’t anything else for me to do. You did nothing but sing his praises” Don Ibarra here, Don Ibarra there, Don Ibarra everywhere. Abaá! But I didn’t advise you to hunt him up and talk to him at that reception! You can’t deny that!”

“Did I know that he was to be there, perhaps?”

“But you ought to have known it!”

“How so, if I didn’t even know him?”

“But you ought to have known him!”

“But, Tinchang, it was the first time that I ever saw him, that I ever heard him spoken of!”

“Well then, you ought to have known him before and heard him spoken of. That’s what you’re a man for and wear trousers and read El Diario de Manila,” [150] answered his unterrified spouse, casting on him a terrible look.

To this Capitan Tinong did not know what to reply. Capitana Tinchang, however, was not satisfied with this victory, but wished to silence him completely. So she approached him with clenched fists. “Is this what I’ve worked for, year after year, toiling and saving, that you by your stupidity may throw away the fruits of my labor?” she scolded. “Now they’ll come to deport you, they’ll take away all our property, just as they did from the wife of–Oh, if I were a man, if I were a man!”

Seeing that her husband bowed his head, she again fell to sobbing, but still repeating, “Ay, if I were a man, if I were a man!”

“Well, if you were a man,” the provoked husband at length asked, “what would you do?”

“What would I do? Well–well–well, this very minute I’d go to the Captain-General and offer to fight against the rebels, this very minute!”

“But haven’t you seen what the Diario says? Read it: ‘The vile and infamous treason has been suppressed with energy, strength, and vigor, and soon the rebellious enemies of the Fatherland and their accomplices will feel all the weight and severity of the law.’ Don’t you see it? There isn’t any more rebellion.”

“That doesn’t matter! You ought to offer yourself as they did in ’72;[151] they saved themselves.”

“Yes, that’s what was done by Padre Burg–”

But he was unable to finish this name, for his wife ran to him and slapped her hand over his mouth. “Shut up! Are you saying that name so that they may garrote you tomorrow on Bagumbayan? Don’t you know that to pronounce it is enough to get yourself condemned without trial? Keep quiet!”

However Capitan Tinong may have felt about obeying her, he could hardly have done otherwise, for she had his mouth covered with both her hands, pressing his little head against the back of the chair, so that the poor fellow might have been smothered to death had not a new personage appeared on the scene. This was their cousin, Don Primitivo, who had memorized the “Amat,” a man of some forty years, plump, big-paunched, and elegantly dressed.

“Quid video?” he exclaimed as he entered. “What’s happening? Quare?” [152]

“Ay, cousin!” cried the woman, running toward him in tears, “I’ve sent for you because I don’t know what’s going to become of us. What do you advise? Speak, you’ve studied Latin and know how to argue.”

“But first, quid quaeritis? Nihil est in intellectu quod prius non fuerit in sensu; nihil volitum quin praecognitum.” [153]

He sat down gravely and, just as if the Latin phrases had possessed a soothing virtue, the couple ceased weeping and drew nearer to him to hang upon the advice from his lips, as at one time the Greeks did before the words of salvation from the oracle that was to free them from the Persian invaders.

“Why do you weep? Ubinam gentium sumus?” [154]

“You’ve already heard of the uprising?”

“Alzamentum Ibarrae ab alferesio Guardiae Civilis destructum? Et nunc? [155] What! Does Don Crisostomo owe you anything?”

“No, but you know, Tinong invited him to dinner and spoke to him on the Bridge of Spain–in broad daylight! They’ll say that he’s a friend of his!”

“A friend of his!” exclaimed the startled Latinist, rising. “Amice, amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas. Birds of a feather flock together. Malum est negotium et est timendum rerum istarum horrendissimum resultatum![156] Ahem!”

Capitan Tinong turned deathly pale at hearing so many words in um; such a sound presaged ill. His wife clasped her hands supplicatingly and said:

“Cousin, don’t talk to us in Latin now. You know that we’re not philosophers like you. Let’s talk in Spanish or Tagalog. Give us some advice.”

“It’s a pity that you don’t understand Latin, cousin. Truths in Latin are lies in Tagalog; for example, contra principia negantem fustibus est arguendum[157] in Latin is a truth like Noah’s ark, but I put it into practise once and I was the one who got whipped. So, it’s a pity that you don’t know Latin. In Latin everything would be straightened out.”

“We, too, know many oremus, parcenobis, and Agnus Dei Catolis,[158] but now we shouldn’t understand one another. Provide Tinong with an argument so that they won’t hang him!”

“You’re done wrong, very wrong, cousin, in cultivating friendship with that young man,” replied the Latinist.

“The righteous suffer for the sinners. I was almost going to advise you to make your will. Vae illis! Ubi est fumus ibi est ignis! Similis simili audet; atqui Ibarra ahorcatur, ergo ahorcaberis–” [159] With this he shook his head from side to side disgustedly.

“Saturnino, what’s the matter?” cried Capitana Tinchang in dismay. “Ay, he’s dead! A doctor! Tinong, Tinongoy!”

The two daughters ran to her, and all three fell to weeping. “It’s nothing more than a swoon, cousin! I would have been more pleased that –that–but unfortunately it’s only a swoon. Non timeo mortem in catre sed super espaldonem Bagumbayanis.[160] Get some water!”

“Don’t die!” sobbed the wife. “Don’t die, for they’ll come and arrest you! Ay, if you die and the soldiers come, ay, ay!”

The learned cousin rubbed the victim’s face with water until he recovered consciousness. “Come, don’t cry. Inveni remedium: I’ve found a remedy. Let’s carry him to bed. Come, take courage! Here I am with you–and all the wisdom of the ancients. Call a doctor, and you, cousin, go right away to the Captain-General and take him a present– a gold ring, a chain. Dadivae quebrantant peñas.[161] Say that it’s a Christmas gift. Close the windows, the doors, and if any one asks for my cousin, say that he is seriously ill. Meanwhile, I’ll burn all his letters, papers, and books, so that they can’t find anything, just as Don Crisostomo did. Scripti testes sunt! Quod medicamenta non sanant, ferrum sanat, quod ferrum non sanat, ignis sanat.” [162]

“Yes, do so, cousin, burn everything!” said Capitana Tinchang. “Here are the keys, here are the letters from Capitan Tiago. Burn them! Don’t leave a single European newspaper, for they’re very dangerous. Here are the copies of The Times that I’ve kept for wrapping up soap and old clothes. Here are the books.”

“Go to the Captain-General, cousin,” said Don Primitivo, “and leave us alone. In extremis extrema.[163] Give me the authority of a Roman dictator, and you’ll see how soon I’ll save the coun–I mean, my cousin.”

He began to give orders and more orders, to upset bookcases, to tear up papers, books, and letters. Soon a big fire was burning in the kitchen. Old shotguns were smashed with axes, rusty revolvers were thrown away. The maidservant who wanted to keep the barrel of one for a blowpipe received a reprimand”

“Conservare etiam sperasti, perfida?[164] Into the fire!” So he continued his auto da fé. Seeing an old volume in vellum, he read the title, Revolutions of the Celestial Globes, by Copernicus. Whew! “Ite, maledicti, in ignem kalanis!” [165] he exclaimed, hurling it into the flames. “Revolutions and Copernicus! Crimes on crimes! If I hadn’t come in time! Liberty in the Philippines! Ta, ta, ta! What books! Into the fire!”

Harmless books, written by simple authors, were burned; not even the most innocent work escaped. Cousin Primitivo was right: the righteous suffer for the sinners.

Four or five hours later, at a pretentious reception in the Walled City, current events were being commented upon. There were present a lot of old women and maidens of marriageable age, the wives and daughters of government employees, dressed in loose gowns, fanning themselves and yawning. Among the men, who, like the women, showed in their faces their education and origin, was an elderly gentleman, small and one-armed, whom the others treated with great respect. He himself maintained a disdainful silence.

“To tell the truth, formerly I couldn’t endure the friars and the civil-guards, they’re so rude,” said a corpulent dame, “but now that I see their usefulness and their services, I would almost marry any one of them gladly. I’m a patriot.”

“That’s what I say!” added a thin lady. “What a pity that we haven’t our former governor. He would leave the country as clean as a platter.”

“And the whole race of filibusters would be exterminated!”

“Don’t they say that there are still a lot of islands to be populated? Why don’t they deport all these crazy Indians to them? If I were the Captain-General–”

“Señoras,” interrupted the one-armed individual, “the Captain-General knows his duty. As I’ve heard, he’s very much irritated, for he had heaped favors on that Ibarra.”

“Heaped favors on him!” echoed the thin lady, fanning herself furiously. “Look how ungrateful these Indians are! Is it possible to treat them as if they were human beings? Jesús!”

“Do you know what I’ve heard?” asked a military official.

“What’s that?”

“Let’s hear it!”

“What do they say?”

“Reputable persons,” replied the officer in the midst of a profound silence, “state that this agitation for building a schoolhouse was a pure fairy tale.”

“Jesús! Just see that!” the señoras exclaimed, already believing in the trick.

“The school was a pretext. What he wanted to build was a fort from which he could safely defend himself when we should come to attack him.”

“What infamy! Only an Indian is capable of such cowardly thoughts,” exclaimed the fat lady. “If I were the Captain-General they would soon seem they would soon see–”

“That’s what I say!” exclaimed the thin lady, turning to the one-armed man. “Arrest all the little lawyers, priestlings, merchants, and without trial banish or deport them! Tear out the evil by the roots!”

“But it’s said that this filibuster is the descendant of Spaniards,” observed the one-armed man, without looking at any one in particular.

“Oh, yes!” exclaimed the fat lady, unterrified. “It’s always the creoles! No Indian knows anything about revolution! Rear crows, rear crows!” [166]

“Do you know what I’ve heard?” asked a creole lady, to change the topic of conversation. “The wife of Capitan Tinong, you remember her, the woman in whose house we danced and dined during the fiesta of Tondo–”

“The one who has two daughters? What about her?”

“Well, that woman just this afternoon presented the Captain-General with a ring worth a thousand pesos!”

The one-armed man turned around. “Is that so? Why?” he asked with shining eyes.

“She said that it was a Christmas gift–”

“But Christmas doesn’t come for a month yet!”

“Perhaps she’s afraid the storm is blowing her way,” observed the fat lady.

“And is getting under cover,” added the thin señora.

“When no return is asked, it’s a confession of guilt.”

“This must be carefully looked into,” declared the one-armed man thoughtfully. “I fear that there’s a cat in the bag.”

“A cat in the bag, yes! That’s just what I was going to say,” echoed the thin lady.

“And so was I,” said the other, taking the words out of her mouth, “the wife of Capitan Tinong is so stingy–she hasn’t yet sent us any present and that after we’ve been in her house. So, when such a grasping and covetous woman lets go of a little present worth a thousand pesos–”

“But, is it a fact?” inquired the one-armed man.

“Certainly! Most certainly! My cousin’s sweetheart, his Excellency’s adjutant, told her so. And I’m of the opinion that it’s the very same ring that the older daughter wore on the day of the fiesta. She’s always covered with diamonds.”

“A walking show-case!”

“A way of attracting attention, like any other! Instead of buying a fashion plate or paying a dressmaker–”

Giving some pretext, the one-armed man left the gathering. Two hours later, when the world slept, various residents of Tondo received an invitation through some soldiers. The authorities could not consent to having certain persons of position and property sleep in such poorly guarded and badly ventilated houses–in Fort Santiago and other government buildings their sleep would be calmer and more refreshing. Among these favored persons was included the unfortunate Capitan Tinong.






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