Tuesday, September 23, 2014

María Clara (1905)

   María Clara has visited me in my dreams and I have told her:
    “Tell me, María Clara, tell me daughter of a sad country, is it true that you have died, that everything has ended?”
     María Clara looked at me for a long time: in her eyes gleamed that blissful childhood that the pale muse of Rettée knew.
    “What do you say, María Clara?”
    More silence. No word flowed from the lips of the spiritual virgin. All the anxieties awakened like an outburst of rebellion in my breast…
    “Talk to me, María Clara, talk to me.”
    And María Clara smiled sadly with an autumnal and ephemeral smile, and then she extended one of her white hands to me, hands like lilies and silk, hands of love and piety.
    “No,” María Clara has told me…” I cannot die. I am the spirit of my race, of your race; I am the incarnation of all the sadness, of all the glories, of all the happiness of the Fatherland. I live in you, as I have lived, as I live, as I will live, if you do not betray me, nor forget my good words.”
    Oh, yes. The words of María Clara were really very good. They were very good.
    “I am not going to betray you, I am not going to forget what you tell me.” I have answered her. “Look at me, I am my old usual self; a bit more sad and more bowed with life’s burden, it is true, but always at your side; always loving you like my own mother…always yours! Only in this way will we be able to save ourselves, attain glory and crown ourselves with laurels.”
    María Clara has not answered me, but she has placed her right hand to her breast and has given me her heart;
    “Take it,” María Clara has told me, “it is my keepsake for you. I gave Rizal that hear; I wish to give it to all Filipinos…  With it you will be great, strong and triumphant.”
    “And the danger, and the hand armed with steel? And the deep abyss and the inaccessible summit?”
    “None of that exists,” —María Clara has answered—“when the will is ready, when the intentions are true… I will know how to encourage you. Follow me. Do you not know that my kisses give life?”
    The dream vanished, and from then on I have followed María Clara — shadow of love and poetry — along the sad path of life.
    And María Clara has kissed me.

Fernando Ma. Guerrero
El Renacimiento. Manila
29 de diciembre de 1905

Sunday, July 6, 2014

País de Ensueño (1907)

Dream Country

    A princess was born in a land which the sun turns golden, that kisses the blue sea, and wherein the wind sings a hymn of eternal love.
    The immense palaces were filled with flowers, in the golden temples the bells reverberated, and on top of the walls of the imperial city, royal heralds of Happiness blew their trumpets of gold and trumpets of silver.
    A Chinese wizard wearing a sparkling dress baptized the princess. With his arms toward the sun and his forehead on his breast, he said:
    “In the name of Love and of Dreams, I baptize you little princess…
    “Oh my queen! How will the little princess be named?”
    And the queen, with the soul of a mother profaning the mystery of destiny, answered: “Well Happy.”

    The fairies began to arrive at the royal palace; the fairies arrived on fluttering carriages of doves and flowers, on carriages o wings and moonbeams. The palace was filled with music and dreams; the queen dressed in emeralds receive the court.
   And the fairies bending over the little princess, left in the royal cradle marvelous gifts.
     “You will be precious!”
    “You will be loved!”
    “You will have dreams!”
    “You will have joys!”
    “You will know how to cry!”
    The fairy of tears said, very slowly, preparing to pour over the eyes of the child her amphora’s essence. But the queen, trembling, interposed between the fairy and the cradle… “What were you saying? … her child should cry! her little princess should cry! her Princess Happy! No, never, she implored and moaned; that all the tears destined for her daughter should fall instead on her eyes and heart. The princess of the royal palace, the princes of the place of dreams and flowers could not, should not know tears…”

    The radiant and haughty fairy considered the request a slight and regarded the ignorance a malice, ascended her carriage of roses and bats, and disappeared through the air, entangling aromas and breezes along her golden route. But before leaving, she cursed the little girl:
    “Oh, you will not have tears! you will not know how to cry!”
    And the queen kissed her daughter. She had had saved her from tears.

    But not from pain. The child, a woman even as she was a princess, suffered like all women. And they would see the grimaces of anguish of that infantile and divine face that suffered and suffered without being able to cry.
    And the queen, looking at the girl, learned one thing.
    “That pain without tears is twice as painful”

    It was springtime. The princess was pretty. The princess was pale.
    Like the fairies said, she was beautiful, loved, she had dreams, and joys.
    But she has no tears. She knew pleasure, she yearned to cry with joy, she could not…
   And since then, Princess Happy became the most unhappy of princesses.

    One time—it was late afternoon in the royal gardens — the princess caught a glimpse of two lovers who were concealed by the foliage.
    The man had his arm round the waist of the beloved woman; she with her head thrown backwards, received a kiss on her lips.
    The princess followed with her sad eyes the idyllic dream; but suddenly the branches rippled, the sweet pair were lost among the flowers, and a vibrant and harmonic sob of love shook in the breezes.
    Each flower was a mystical censer, a light and vague perfume rose, like the soul of a poet, towards the heavens; a silvery trickle sang in the fountain where a pale swan supported the plinth of a fantasy statue.
    And the princess moved away, she moved away slowly from the garden, with her throbbing breast, with swollen eyes, with her heart full of envy and foolish things.
   The princess moved away, she moved away from the splendid and cursed garden of love.
   A heavenly heraldist. Over the gules Venus shone—golden light—and the new moon raised its great blue eyebrow, like the arch of light of a bowman who shot arrows in the sleeping atmosphere, the conquered monarch that moved away fleeing.

    Tears of sorrow, monstrous and bitter tears are the waves of the ocean. Tears of joy, tears of crystal and of laughter are the dewdrops that the morning showeres over the wings of birds and on the lips of the flowers. Melancholic tears, golden tears — perhaps tears of love —are the leaves that Autumn pulls off the dead branches.
    But in the luminous eyes, in those bid dreamy eyes of the princess, there are no tears.
    The queen, worried to death, requested national consolation for her daughter. Who knew the remedy to make the princess cry?
     Over the walls of the imperial city, the royal heralds of Pain blew their trumpets made of horn and their trumpets made of amber. It is not known from what cave came an old hunchback and horrible woman.
    “I am a thousand years old,” she said, “and I know that the only way to erase the hatred of the fairy of tears is that a handsome youth not related to the princess come to her palace to seek pardon.”
   The royal heralds of Pain again blew their trumpets of horn and their trumpets of amber. A handsome warrior presented himself in the court.
   “I shall go”
   As he offered his services, he looke at the purple and sad eyelids of the poor princess.
    “Blessed are you! said the queen.
    “And return soon,” she sighed.


    She dreamed about the return of the warrior, of the handsome and beloved warrior.
    Because she love him, she loved him with all her soul, since she saw his gallant eyes looking at hers stained with melancholy. And the warrior returned. The whole court dress in gold to receive him. He returned happy and satisfied, narrating adventures of the journey; abysses surmounted, monsters defeated.
   “And here is, Princess, the amphora of tears which you desired so mush; here are all your tears; you will cry, Princess, on the day the crystal that keeps them breaks.”
   “And what do you desire as a prize,” she asked, dreaming of putting the royal crown on him.
   “Nothing, Princess; only my pity urged me to make you happy. I am already happy, so very happy that I no longer wish for more.”
    From his eyes appeared a light of love; the Princess followed his eyes and she found them in the air, bursting into a kiss with that woman whom she heard one afternoon cry of love in the royal gardens..
    Then she felt jealous; in her soul she felt despair; and the glass of amphora of tears was broken.
    And before the royal court all dressed in gold, before all the court assembled to celebrate that matchless good fortune, the princess cried her first tears, which were more painful than all the sad pains in her past.

Jesus Balmori
Excelsior, Manila
May 30, 1907

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño

Monday, April 28, 2014

Quezon y El Idioma Inglés (1921)

One of the greatest problems that the Philippines must solve is the question of language. An independent nation for which the Philippines is aspiring to be must have one and only one official language. Up to the present time, English and Spanish are used interchangeably or simultaneously. Assurances have been given that the English language will finally become the official language of the people of these islands, the promise having been made many years ago. However, that promise has not as yet been redeemed. It is, however, reassuring to know that while the promise has not yet been fulfilled, no backward step has been taken in this connection. The millions of children in the public schools will be more than glad to learn that Senate President Quezon favors no language other English as the official language for the Philippines as shown in the Speech he delivered before the Inter-Alumin Union on March 12 which partly reads:

    “I have just read your constitution and found that one of the things for which you are working is to have the English language declared as the only official language in the Philippine Islands. I have been for the proposition long before I knew English, and I really think that this is not a debatable question. It has been settled long ago by our Government and by our own people. When it has been decided that the English language should be the language to be taught in the public schools, that was tantamount to a definite declaration on the part of the Government that English will ultimately be adopted as the only official language of the Philippine Islands. For it would have been a waste of money to teach a language that could not be used by the men and women who have to go through many years of schooling to learn it. It would not have been only a waste of money but unjust to these young men and women. Of course, the English language has to be the official language of the Philippine Islands. It is out of the question to think of any of our native dialects for this purpose because we could not come to an agreement as to which one would be adopted. As a Tagalog I will fight to the end of my life for the adoption of the Tagalog, and Mr. De Leon, your President, will try to have the Ilocano as the official language. Besides, our native dialects have not the literature necessary for the education and intellectual training of our youths: If we have to pick up a foreign language English is the only language. It is the international language in the Far East. I remember when I first left the Philippine Islands in my trip to Russia — that was in 1909 and at the time I could only speak the Spanish language — from the time I landed in Hongkong until I met the first Filipino in Paris I could not understand anybody whom I met. And that trip made me learn English.

    “On one occasion I sat on a table and intended to order for some eggs. I picked up the menu and pointed at something in it. I thought it was eggs but they gave me fish. So I was right there and then convinced that if I want to eat eggs and not fish I had to learn English.

    “But there are some more important reasons. One of the aims of this society, as I learn it tonight, is to preserve democratic institutions, and, my friends, the English language is the best means of preserving democratic institutions in the Philippine Islands. I do not want to be more unpopular than I am now with the Spaniards and therefore I am not going to say what could be learned thru the Spanish language of liberty. I shall simply say that if you want to have a clear notion and conception of liberty and freedom you have to get it through English literature.

    “But there is another reason which at this juncture is much more important from our point of view than all the others. You know that we are having a very hard time in convincing some Americans that we should have an independent Government. Those who are opposed to Philippine independence, as I have said on various occasions, may be divided into two or three classes. I am not going to describe now these different classes but I simply want to say that I think we can meet all of them through some kind of argument. When they see already that the hands of ate are pointing to the day when the separation must take place they will at least want to see that something permanent has been left here by the American people. And that should appeal to the pride of the American nation, to their sentiment — which according to Professor De Joya governs the world.

    It would be a source of satisfaction and pride on the part of the American people to know that the time spent here by the United states has not been lost, that something has remained and will remain in the Islands forever. It would appeal to the American nation to know that even after their flag has been pulled down that American institutions and American ideals have become the heritage of the Filipino people. They will be assured of this when they know that the English language has been adopted by the people of the Philippine Islands as their official language. This is important that when I was a Resident Commissioner in the United states, in my travels I met people who discussed with me Philippine independence and generally at the end of the discussion they would ask: “What would be your language? What would be taught in your schools when we leave you?”. They of course know that English is now being taught in the schools. I invariably answered that it would be the English language. So I say, that the adoption of English as the official language of the Philippine Islands is a good means of securing Philippine independence.

Revista Filipina
April-May 1921

Friday, March 21, 2014

Nelia (1912)

    Poor girl! That night, as she went towards his miserable quarters, her eyes were tearful with mournful sparks like those of a candle about to be blown.
    Juaning was already waiting for her.
    Finally, she had come.
    And the two were locked in a painful embrace.
   He could have been good looking, but his face had been disfigured by that cursed disease. It was red due to leprosy.
    They talked for quite a while; they talked about his departure the following day on a boat where he was to be taken to Culion.
    She wept in despair with tears that sprang from souls that are to be separated forever!...
    “I shall go in peace tomorrow,” he smiled sadly, “trusting that the pain of never seeing you again will not be accompanied by that of jealousy. The dead do not feel that. Tomorrow when we’re apart…”
    “Yes, jump into the sea,” she replied, “but not to your death as you have been thinking. Jump that you might swim and get back to the shore.”
    It was a great idea and he was all for it. Yes, he would throw himself into the sea but not die as he had planned before, but to swim back to the beach. Why not? He was a good swimmer. She would await him and once they were together they would flee and live in the heart of the forest and there they would live away from society and those who despised him.


    It was time for the lepers to go aboard, the inevitable parting hour during which each kiss was a bit slashed off a heart which is torn away from the breast and each beat of that heart bears the most dreadful of dramas, the drama that takes place in the soul.
   How tragic a lepers’ life is ! Who has not shuddered with compassion upon hearing about the isolation in which a leper finds himself. Leprosy carries with it the most painful of curses; the curse of being contagious, of that contamination which forms an emptiness around the afflicted one, comparable only to the emptiness that surrounds the cadaver in a forgotten tomb.
    One shrinks away from the criminal because he is ashamed to be his friend, he shrinks away from the dead out of fear, but only out of repugnance does he keep away from the leper.
    And the foul-smelling crowd kept watching the procession of lepers who are boarding the ship…
    Juaning was among these unfortunate ones to be exiled forever.  He got on the boat calmly with that serenity that augurs a great cataclysm.
   Finally, the deafening ship’s siren was heard and at the start of the motor it began to move like a monster awakening from a nightmare.


    The sea was agitated in the darkness of night. The waves, chasing each other, jumped with fantastic pirouettes of a macabre dance.
    And in the sky, the clouds were moving about extremely fast as in an invasion of ghosts.
    Nelia wandered in the beach hoping to see her loved on arrive swimming…
    Nelia was lovely. She dressed up beautifully as if she were going to her wedding.
    The waves continued murmuring mournfully, caressing the sands of the beach gently.
    Nelia looked into the darkness, she tried to look for the desired object in the mysterious bottom of the immensity of the sea but saw nothing.
    And that sweet virgin who seemed to have been born to be the heroine of a dream, felt that agony of disillusion. She felt broken hearted and two burning bitter tears rolled down her silky cheeks.
    She sat on the sand, sad, tired, and with her face in her hands, she began to cry for the lost one whom fate had snatched from her.
    Suddenly she saw the surf playing with a bundle. She saw that it was getting closer to the shore and she anxiously cried out with joy. This cry echoed in the vastness of the waters which kept approaching agonizingly.
    Nelia recognized Juaning. Yes, he was coming, transported by the rolling, bubbling waves and which were getting closer and breaking up in shrouds of foam in the sands of the beach.
    Nelia, filled with joy, ran to the shore to wait for her beloved.
    The darkness grew dense and the night became black, terribly black at that moment.
    Behind Nelia, the lepers’ huts remained still, with something akin to the apocalyptic in its stillness. It remained abandoned like an empty grave…
    Wrapped in the waves, Juaning’s body arrived slowly, and Nelia rushed to hold him in her arms, and showered him with kisses.
    “Juaning! Speak! I am here!”
    Silence. Nelia’s words echoed dismally in the emptiness of space.
    “How cold your lips are, dearest one,” the young woman went on. “Are you tired? What do you feel? Juaning! Oh, Juaning!”
    She let off with a dreadful scream and amidst the mysterious prayers of the polyphonic murmur which seemed to have surged from the bottom of the surf at that moment as a wretched call of death, Nelia’s body fell slowly on the ground.

    She had just discovered that the body which she was caressing was that of a dead man. The waves had mercilessly drowned him whom she idolized so.

Buenaventura Rodriguez
Renacimiento Filipino, Manila
September 14, 1912

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño