Sunday, September 15, 2013

La Oveja de Nathán (1922) - Segunda Parte

     Hernán González slowly closed the Bible. He looked around him and spoke:

    “Now, more than ever, our day of liberation is farthest. After the war, America has become excessively powerful. Like David, America is feared by its enemies, and respected by its friends. The battlefields of Europe sonorously affirmed the wholeness of its stature as a power of the first order, and now, in the intoxication of its triumph, it desires to confirm this personality even more, by exerting its power on those countries that, due to their weakness, cannot counter with arrogance, the arrogance of this great power. America now has everything, but is not satisfied. What cannot its power and wealth not attain? All nations are in its debt; while it owes nobody anything. All is found in the hands of America. Alexander the Great once dreamed of founding a universal empire, whose capital would be his kingdom of Macedonia; Caesar, Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, all those great tyrants, also wanted to grasp the scepter of dominion overall the world But from Alexander the Great to Napoleon, all have failed. In turn, America, solely with its power based on its gold, has realized what no one of these captains of preceding centuries had attained, with the point of their steel. What more does America lack? Nothing. And yet, having everything, power, riches, all that a nation could desire to satisfy its vanity, America deprives a poor and weak small country of its liberty, that desires nothing more in its life than its own liberty. America has behaved in the same way as the rich man in the parable of Nathan, who, having a great number of oxen and sheep, when a stranger came to his house, fed him not with the sheep of his herd, but with the lone little sheep of his impoverished and weak neighbor, that creature whom ‘he cared for in his own home, among his children,’ and who was loved ‘as if it were his own daughter.’ Who will be the new Nathan Prophet, who would throw in the face of the modern David the ugliness of his conduct? Who will tell him that from his house, the sword of death will never part, warning him with heaven’s punishment, that always attracts injustice and tyranny? Nobody, Mariano, nobody! Juan de la Cruz is the poor of Nathan’s parable; Filipinas is the little sheep coveted by the rich man, his neighbor. America, wealthy, powerful, feared, and respected, wants to give a banquet for its friends, to affirm its power and prestige, and in this banquet, it would present to its guests a magnificent dish, concocted with the meat and juices of a little sheep, snatched from a defenseless neighbor —the richest dish of the Philippines, which is the beloved little lamb of the unhappy Juan de la Cruz.”

Antonio M. Abad

Translated by Lourdes Castrillo Brillantes

Friday, August 16, 2013

India de Manila (1847)

The costume that is depicted in this drawing is exactly that of an elegant native woman of Manila. The peineta; the hair pin and the gold rings; the necklace or the gold and coral rosary with a medal of the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico hanging from one end; the payo or umbrella; the crepe  shawl; the shirt or the blouse of piña or jusi; the saya of silk or cambaya; the short tapis worn by the more elegant women, made of silk from Baliuag; and the embroidered slippers, constitute the true costume of the wealthy native women of Manila. To these they add an embroidered piña handkerchief, which they hold in their hands. When they go to church, they place the handkerchief on their heads, gathering the ends under their chin.

The Spanish that they speak is charming and has been given the name “Kitchen Spanish” due to the tone and the absolute languidness with which they speak it. Duele conmigo este mi cabeza means “I have a headache” but the way they say it can be literally translated as “This my head hurts with me”. Dale usté con de aquél su pañuelo, meaning “Give him his handkerchief”, literally translates as “Give you with him his handkerchief.  ¿Como no? meaning “why not?” literally translates as “how not?” Más que! Which does not mean anything in Spanish, can be literally translated as “even though”. But most charming of all is their use of the sentence: Usté cuidao. All of these are expressions that give one an idea of the Spanish spoken by the mestizos and the natives. They do not use the gender forms of Spanish words or the plural of adjectives and pronouns, as these are also absent in Tagalog.  Thus, they say Este Tijeras,  and un punda for una funda, as they also always interchange the “f” and the “p”, or other letters such as Pilifino for Filipino, cape for café, cabayo for caballo, buerta for vuelta.

The yo cuidao, el cuidao or usté cuidao, which is applied to all and used to answer various questions, is very expressive. ¿Harás esto? Yo cuidao, which can be translated as: “Will you do this? I’ll take care of it”.  ¿Cuánto vale esto? Usté cuidao meaning “How much is this? Make an offer or whatever you can afford”. Procura que no se vaya fulano. El cuidao, meaning “Make sure he does not leave. He should fend for himself or he is old enough to take care of himself”. Hence the short phrase uste cuidao expresses completely different concepts, depending on how it is said and the tone in which it is said. It also answers questions in such a manner that it does not compromise the speaker. 

José Honrato Lozano
Álbum de las Yslas Filipinas

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Damián, el Cojo (1940)

Damian was the most popular person on Rizal Avenue. Damian sold newspapers and sweepstakes tickets on the various sidewalks of our “Broadway” Manileño.

Damian was “half a man,” because the popular seller of newspaper lacked legs. He walked with a pair of skates. Damian had lost his legs when he was working in a gold mine in Baguio; a dynamite explosion blasted away his limbs. The company retired him with two thousand pesos which the lame man invested successfully.

Damian had very few needs. He was a bachelor, and the little income that his little capital produced was enough for him to live on. But he could not accustom himself to an idler. This is why he dedicated himself to the selling of newspapers and lotteries.

Damian, like it was said, roamed the sidewalks of Avenida Rizal morning, noon, and night. He was known in all the stores, restaurants, and cinemas. He was not a handsome man, but he was devastatingly warm and friendly. That is why he sold more newspapers and lotteries than all the rest of the vendors of his “zone.”

Damian, the cripple, like they called him, was something of a poet. In his spare time, he used to read all the literature that fell in his hands, and he wrote poetry that he sent to Taliba, Liwayway, Sampaguita, and other newspapers published in Tagalog, and this added some more pesos to his monthly income. He wrote, shielding himself with a pseudonym, because he was afraid that people would recognize him. Damian had always been very timid, and his misfortune had added to his timidity.

The cripple of Rizal Avenue had never been in love, not even when he was a whole man. But one fateful day, a woman came into his life. The first and the last. He saw her enter a Japanese business house. And she did not leave the store the whole day. Damian made the corresponding inquiries. She was called Inday and worked as a saleslady in the Japanese store.

Inday was not beautiful, but she had a beautiful body and what Americans call “it” attraction. Despite her modesty, she dressed elegantly, and she had an enchanting smile, a smile that captivated the cripple.

Damian resigned himself to seeing Inday enter and leave the store. He remembered the hours of the opening and closing of the Japanese store, and not a day passed that he did not contemplate the woman who had taken possession of his heart. And the poor cripple suffered his tragedy in silence. Until the day he saw Inday for the first time, the loss of his legs had never bothered him much.  But now it was different. If only he had legs!

If Damian had his limbs which he lost in the mines, Inday would have been his. But a “half a being”  like him could not win the heart of Inday, nor of any other woman. And for the fist time in his life, Damian felt his misfortune. And he cried, cried bitterly because of his misfortune.

To lighten his tragedy a little, he composed poems, many poems, and dedicated them to Inday. And these poems were so beautiful that they aroused the interest of the people, and he was paid a lot for them. These poems flowed from the bleeding heart of poor crippled Damian.

Inday received the poems that Damian sent her. The first ones she did not read. It is so silly to read poetry in these times, she thought. But she received them so often that her interest was aroused. And she read them … And Inday loved them. And she became interested in the author. But who was he? Why did he not introduce himself?

Inday dreamed about her unknown suitor. She imagined he was young, handsome, and intelligent. Because those poems could not be written by a person who was not such. How beautiful were those poems! And how its author must like her! But all the investigations she made did not reveal her anonymous lover.

Benigno G. del Río.
Prejuico de Raza
Manila. 1940.

Translated by Pilar E. Mariño.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

¿Qué vais á conseguir con el castellano, los pocos que lo habéis de hablar? (1891)

Now you ask for the teaching of Spanish, an aspiration that would be ridiculous if it did not entail such deplorable consequences. For you would add one more language to the more than forty already spoken in these islands, no doubt so that you may understand one another less and less!

“On the contrary,” objected Basilio, “if knowledge of Spanish may bring us closer to the Government, it can also unite all the islands.”

“A gross mistake,” interrupted Simoun. “ You let yourselves be fooled by big words and never get to the bottom of things to study the ultimate consequences. Spanish will never be the national language because the people will never speak it. That tongue cannot express their ideas and their emotions. Each people has its own way of speaking just as it has its own way of feeling. What will you do with Spanish, the few of you who will get to speak it? You will only kill your individual personality and subject your thoughts to other minds. Instead of making yourselves free, you will only make yourselves truly slaves. Nine out of ten among you who presume to be educated are renegades  to your country. Whoever among you speaks Spanish is so indifferent to his own language that he can neither write nor understand it. How many have I seen who pretend not to know a single word of their native tongue! Fortunately you have a stupid Government. While Russia compels the Poles to study Russian in order to enslave them, while Germany prohibits the use of French in the provinces she has conquered from France, your Government fights to keep alive your native languages, while you, on the other hand, an extraordinary people under an incredible government, struggle to get rid of your national identity.  Both of you forget that as long as a people keeps its own language, it keeps a pledge of liberty, just as a man is free as long as he can think for himself. Language is a people’s way of thinking. Fortunately your independence is secure. Human passions watch over it.

José Rizal
Chapter VII – Simoun
El Filibusterismo. 1891

Translated by Leon Ma. Guerrero (1961)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cuando los Dioses Lloran (1936)

     Aunt Valentina was sleeping. The girls were very careful not to disturb her, for nothing infuriated her more than to have her sleep disrupted.
    The crimson velvet of the armchair enhanced the fairness of her face and her still smooth body. Her hands, covered with jewels, were lily white. Aunt Valentina, an incurable worshipper of herself, had happily reached her sixtieth year. The Gods favored the youthfulness of that body that seemed to remain strong and beautiful.
    Every morning, upon getting out of bed, in front of the mirror, she scrutinized her face on which not a single wrinkle had dared draw the sadness of its lines. When she parted her lips, rosy like those of a child, they revealed the sparkling harmony of her healthy teeth. She had stifled the only treacherous cry of the enemy in the secrecy of her bedroom, her inaccessible sanctuary, where only Monica, her old maid, was allowed. She was faithful to her like a dog, and zealously kept the secrets of her mistress. Only she knew that Valentina by indiscreet how she kept herself so fit, Valentina would reply smiling tat all it took were a good sleep and a cold shower. Monica knew that she was lying with admirable rheumatism which was torturing her! No one but the maid knew about the famous and indispensable foot baths which her mistress had to undergo before she went to bed. How her hands could soothe the pain of those muscles softened by massages and liniments.
     Valentina loved to be surrounded by beautiful faces, by the frolicsome gaiety of everything that was truly youthful. She tried to have her unmarried nieces with her. And since she had never had a daughter of her own, all her zeal for embellishment and care centered on herself and also a bit on the naughty youngsters who filled her house with laughter and chattering like a singing goldfinch. Monica was the target of their mischief. How often she felt suddenly embraced by playful arms: two, four, six, eight hands on her shoulders and back moving her to and fro and turning her round and round. She would drop the dressed chicken and between fuss and complaints, she would free herself from them raising an outcry.
     Other times they would approach her silently, and whisper in her ears the question which infuriated her: “ Tell us the truth, dear one. How do you manage to have Pedro, the charcoal maker, kiss you all the time?”
     Pandemonium would break loose! Monica, furious, —she had always been the most ardent champion of celibacy —would grab the broom and chase the mischievous girls trying in vain to attack them.
     Valentina would come to the rescue, in the midst of their continuous shouting and running around wildly.
    “What’s that noise all about, girls? And you, Monica, what are you up to with that furious broomstick?”
     “What do you expect me to do? The girls, Señora, the girls who …” Panting, Monica would become speechless and turning away would go to the kitchen.
     Valentina, trying to appear serious, reprimanded the naughty girls, but as if joining with them in a certain complicity, would end up saying:
     “Girls, don’t be mean. Poor Monica is old. She is very old! The poor creature is very old!”
     “Poor Monica” was just as old as Valentina.

Evangelina E. Guerrero- Zacarias
Excelsior. Manila

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

El Escándalo (1924)

     Father Alberto was really a handsome fellow, despite his cassock, and more than one penitent had sinned mentally in contemplating her father confessor when he occupied the penitential tribunal, asking herself why such a handsome man had become a priest, when he could have driven crazy any young marriageable girl. He was arrogant, with black expressive eyes, in which one could notice something roguish. When he occupied his place in the confessional, the young girls surrounded him emulously eager to receive absolution form those lips made to pour out honey instead of reprimands among his penitents.
     On one occasion a young lady eighteen years of age, went to confession. She was tall, blond, of poetic bearing, with rosy lips, gentle and innocent look, and ingenuous outfit, that Father Alberto looked askance at her, but the young woman did not seem to notice it.
    Since then, every Monday, at the time the penitential tribunal opened, any observer could have seen kneeling in it a young girl who with signs of great unction awaited for her turn. And when this came, the priest who had been pale and nervous would acquire a very rosy color and would begin the confession that should be exhaustive judging by the time spent in it and by the excitement produced in one and the other.
    But, since everything has an end in this world, those who had confessed to Father Alberto, not satisfied with role of extras in that show, began to murmur about such confessions, whether because of envy, or because of malevolence, subjecting the confessor to the most scrupulous examination before and after the act to which he was devoted.
    But let us hear what two of those who had confessed say. They are not young, nor beautiful, but have more than enough of ulterior motive and mischief.

    “ Today, madam Flaviana, Father Alberto must have overslept because it is six thirty in the morning and he hasn’t turned up round here.”
    “Father Alberto is very young, and sometimes he must go to bed with a very hot head because of too many confessions, and perhaps…”
    “And especially if the penitents are blondies and beautiful. Lord, forgive me, because I am sinning without wanting to.”
    “The flesh is weak and our resistance is so feeble. But there’s  the assistant priest. Without a doubt he will give us news about Father Alberto.”
    “Jesus, Mary, Joseph! Is it true?
    “That Father Alberto is very badly injured. The car he was riding in has overturned, and the good Father has dislocated one foot and broken his right arm. Also it is assured that a young girl … But it must not be true.”
    “What has happened to the young girl?”
    “That she is also badly injured.”
    “One of those who go to confession?”
    “A very beautiful blond.”

Angeles L. De Ayala
The Independent Manila
April 12, 1924

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño