Monday, December 24, 2012

La Última Travesura (1932)

The eve of The Three kings! The nights of the Magi! A sacred legend which filled the young hearts with flame of Divine Illusion! The miracle which makes the porches bloom with shoes and fills them with gifts falling from the heavens!

Awake in her bed, the grandma thought of the kids, children of God, who would be sleeping with a smile on their lips, anxiously awaiting the dawn in order to run and see the gifts brought by the Kings. She thought of the men, boys who no longer believed in the Three Kings, but who still kept deep inside of them the memory of the Divine Illusion and felt it come alive again and again throughout their lives. And she thought of the grandchildren…

They were right. The following day they were definitely leaving and she had resigned herself to returning to her old loneliness, for she knew that they could not stay with her forever. The parting had to come. She had learned to put up a brave front. That same night, during dinner time, their departure already scheduled for the next day, she had suggested that they have something memorable to top their stay with her. Then children, going along with the idea, broke their heads trying to think of “something memorable” when Estrella, most mischievous and also most imaginative, made a gesture that she had thought of one and exclaimed:

“I got it, I got it!”
“Something silly,” Juan mocked her…
Estrella stuck out her tongue at him. The envious one! And, of course, she had an idea, a splendid idea…
“Come now, come now girl, what is it?” asked the grandma.
“Well, we, girls, will put our shoes on the window sills… and the boys…”
“Will be the Three kings! Great!” Enrique agreed, “I shall be Melchor.”
“And I, Gaspar…”
“And I, Blatazar…”

And so, at this time, the shoes were on the window sills of the dining room, precisely because the windows of the dining room were the most accessible for the Three Kings…

And the grandma was hatching a mischievous idea in her head, a nice prank. Oh, her youth long gone by! Just thinking of the “idea” made her feel like a girl again, vibrant with youth. Yes, yes, she should do it. Why not? It would be a joke and if by chance it worked, it would be great. Thus, she would have contributed to her grandchildren’s joy. That way the Divine Illusion would be re-born.

She jumped out of bed very quietly. She turned on the light. She searched for something in the boxes. Later, satisfied, she worked on the details of the idea.

The next day, at breakfast, the grandma looked at her grandchildren one by one. And she trembled… trembled!

The boys were very much amazed; the girls, very serious. And amidst the seriousness, the Divine Illusion vibrating with happiness. A Divine Illusion, so clear, so evident that the grandma felt rejuvenated. And it was her doing, the product of her sixty years. Because the night before, the eve of the Three Kings, she had wanted to be one of the Magi and had placed in the shoes… love letters!

Enrique K. Laygo
Excelsior. Manila
March 20, 1932

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño

Link to Spanish Translation

Friday, November 2, 2012

La Sultana de Joló (1876)

     The sultan, awed by the beauty of Lólen, chose her from all the others and made her go to his bedroom. The rest of the captives were either sold or assigned to different kinds of work.

     The sultan bade farewell to his kinsman, congratulating him for the beautiful captive he had brought to Balanguingui. Filled with admiration for Lólen, the sultan said in the Visayan dialect, “Calm yourself, beautiful lady; forget the grief that overwhelms you. May you discover form the tears in your eyes that such beautiful eyes shine better when lit by love rather that when moistened by tears! In your land you have no power, here you will be sultana.”

     Lólen answered: “Sire, I prefer to be the humblest in my country than to be queen here. I pray that you permit me to return to the place where I was cruelly seized. At this very moment my poor parents are dying of sorrow because of my misfortune.”

     “Should I allow your return to your country? I would be a crazy fool, indeed.”

     “Why, sire? Is your conduct just? What right do you have to make me a slave when I was born free? Why do you bring me here against my will?”

     “I should not discuss this with you. I can only tell you that you are a beautiful enchantress and that you will be mine.”
     “I will die first”
     “How is that? You refuse to be my wife?”
     “I prefer not.”
     “Because it cannot be. If you allow me to stay in Jolo. I will detest you. I do not give my heart to one I do not love.”
     “And if you were not my captive, would you love me?”
     “No, because I love someone else.”
     “You have a husband,” exclaimed the sultan in an angry tone that instilled fear.
     “I have a fiancé who will be my husband.”
     “He will not be while I live.”
     “Well, I will not have another.”
     “Yes, you will have me.”
     The sultan approached Lólen to embrace her. Lólen stepped back and taking a dagger that was on top of the night table, she said with energetic resolve, “If you come near, I will stab your chest or pierce my heart with this dagger.”

     The sultan became still, restrained by the young lady’s determined manner. Presuming that affectionate gestures and flattery instead of violence would produce more favorable results, he said, “You are mad. Drop the dagger and let us talk.”

     “Talk all you want!” she answered without letting go of the dagger.

     “I have fallen in love with you. It is necessary then that you be prudent, for if you irritate me, I will take by force what you do not grant me willingly. Here, there is no power other than mine. I long for your love and I will have it. Contrary to my practice, I will desist from using violent means. You are now irritable because they have seized you from your country. I want to give you enough time to reflect calmly. In the next house, you will have women to serve you. Tomorrow I will visit you.”

Don José Montero Y Vidal
Cuentos Filipinos

English Translation from the Book “Cuentos Filipinos”  published by the Ateneo de Manila University in 2004 (Renán S. Prado, et al.).

Link to Spanish Translation

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Tormenta (1906)


     The first drops of rain – crystal and silver rain – thrummed pompously over the nipa thatches of the hut. A hot wind, like a breath of lust, shook the banana plants of the uncultivated ground; the red flash of lightning set on fire the whole forest, and like crackling on the very foreheads of the woodcutters, an immense thunderclap opened the arch of its thunderous noise.
     “Mother, there’s a storm”
     “Yes, my dear son, go…”
     And she kissed his forehead


     She was a mother who had nothing in the world except that child, half of her heart.
     She was a poor woman, widow of a woodcutter, without any treasures but the boy, the hope of her life.
     And the boy was given fifty centavos to ring the bell of the secluded chapel of Ermita during a storm.


     In the sky, black like the pearls of Ormuz, the flashes of lightning sparkled like in silvery fantasies.
    The forest trembled under the claps of thunder; the rain continued thrumming over the nipa thatches of the hut…
    Finally, the sound of a bell vibrated from afar…
    “Clang!... Claang!...Claaang! …”


    Her eyes opened, frightened and sorrowful, her heart throbbed like a captive bird, and before an old image of Christ, lean and bloodstained, her lips said, trembling and in prayer:
    “My Jesus, by the steps You took in the street of Sorrow while burdened with your cross, have pity on my son!...”


    The rain was becoming heavier, the woodcutters fled fearfully to their huts; the poor women lighted yellow candles and sputtered through gabbled prayers; some abandoned goats whined under branches of trees.
    And the humble sound of the bell, riding on each thunderbolt, sain crying:
    “Clang!... Claang!...Claaang! …”


    Suddenly a lightning flashed in the darkness like a serpent of rubies and carnations.
    The bell of Ermita did not ring.


    The black clouds fled with the winds and thunder.
    The fragrant and humid night smiled diaphanously in her starry splendor.
    And at the foot of the poor mother, of the poor, delirious, and insane mother, was found the body of the dead boy, under the golden rays of the moon.

Jesús Balmori
El Renacimeinto
November 24, 1906

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño

Link to Spanish Version

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Uña De Caballo (1923)

            “Well,” he began, “ I know you do not fear the tulisanes (bandits) or the highwaymen. But the binangunan, tikbalang, matandas, and kapres, these are something else. With them your ‘repober’ won’t be of any use.”
            “But sir, those are rubbish that even one who is not that well educated no longer believes in.”
            “Yes, those who wear the vest, the Panama hat, and silver watch and other stuff… To hell with the educated ones!”
            And he was so disconcerted at the young man’s vehemence that the latter became a little frightened and sort of regretted his flippance.
            “That’s a joke, sir, you can’t imagine how much I enjoy knowing the history of those whom you are sure would fill me with terror and on whom my ‘repober’ wouldn’t be any good. And I shall not leave until you have told me those wonderful tales reserved for your special friends. Will you tell them to me?
            “Yes, of course, my son.”
            And so the old man began to narrate the exploits and prowess of his heroes. Our young man was all ears, for even if he did not believe them, he considered them enchanting for peasants tell their tales with that indescribable charm, free from circumlocution and twists. And he thought that they were the most delightful and enjoyable stories that he had ever heard until then.
            This is what the old man related to him:
            “When I was a boy, my mother told me that there were very beautiful maidens, with their bodies bare and their hair in disarray who lived in places hardly, if ever, frequented by man. Whoever, passed there, man or woman, worse if he was a man, was never spared by them. They never let go of him, overwhelmed him with caresses, kissed him and left him dead without his being able to fulfill his intentions if he had them at all; for, they kissed him in such a way that they sucked his blood, and immediately the man dies. Thus, they were named binangunan (suckers, a species of vampires).
            “What I’m  about to tell you, I experienced myself not more than twenty one years ago,” he continued. “I was going to a nearby place. And to go there, there was only one pathway between shrubs. how could anyone get lost there? But listen, I went on my way and on and on but never reached my destination. Damn it! I told myself it must have been some naughty tianak playing tricks on me. And no matter how much and how well I looked, I saw no one, I walked on. Damn it! I had scarcely  taken three steps when I began to hear boisterous laughter. That enraged me and I looked and looked with these sharp eyes to see if I could find him and at a distance, I saw a small child about a handbreadth’s height who laughed with all its might.
            “After locating him, I felt sure I’d be able to trap him, but I only got hold of a piece of charcoal as big as a cucumber and farther away, the same child kept on laughing at me.
            “Trying to figure what to do, I decided to remove my shirt and put it on again but inside out. As soon as I did this, I got to the place right away.”

Epifanio C. de los Santos
The Independent
February 10, 1923

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

El Hombre Que No Sabía Llorar (1939)

One time when he was twenty years old, while studying for his Bachelor’s degree at the Ateneo, Silvio came across a book of poetry in English entitled First Leaves , by Rafael Zulueta de Costa, a young professor of De La Salle College.

One of the poems began: “Tired of myself, one day I made a child sob … He did not cry; only men cry… ask the night. But from this child’s heavy eyes the tears gushed…”

Incredulous, Silvio read and re-read those lines, but he never comprehended them. It must have been a printing error, he said to himself. Some editors are stupid at times. He would have wanted to say: “… only women cry…”

In one of the gospels of the seven o’clock Sunday masses at San Beda Church, he heard the priest say: “Blessed are those who weep, because for them is the Kingdom of the heaven.” As if he had not heard. Silvio said to himself; “These words are incomprehensible to me. Heaven is not gained by tears. Only the strong of heart enter it.”

And the months and years passed. Life that is so good showered Silvio with so many problems, disillusionment, and humiliation. But even when he was grieved, he did not cry. His friends saw him crestfallen, but his eyes were always serene and clear. Tears, your name is woman… and weakness.

As if is the fate of all man, sons of Adam, Silvio fell ill and died.

And nobody cried. He had friends are relatives who liked and appreciated him, but no one cried. It was not that they did not want to. Others even made superhuman efforts to do so… always one cries for a departed friend … but they could not cry for Silvio, because Silvio never cried for anyone.

And how many Silvios are there in this world who do not cry, that have never cried, that do not want to cry?

During the burial of Silvio an old woman was heard mumbling: “Those who cannot or do not want to cry, have mercy on them, Lord.”

Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero

Sabatino de la Vanguardia
February 25, 1939

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño

Link to Spanish Version