Monday, October 12, 2015

La Maestra de Mi Pueblo

    But all these friendship between the parish priest and the teacher, though not apparent was fictitious. Fray Pedro (and to say “fray” us to say that he was the cacique – the absolute despot of the town) could not tolerate that Jacinta should be a teacher, as all of them should be. Solicitous in the performance of her job, lover of all that was progress, propagandist of Spanish and of education, religious without being fanatic, admitting in her ideals all that contributed to the moral and material advancement of the country.

    “The teacher Jacinta,” Fray Pedro used to exclaim—“is an enemy of Spain; she teaches catechism in Spanish, she makes her pupils master this language and allows them to read the books of Pardo Bazan, of Velarde, of Perez Galdos and other malignant beings, freaks of the devil and of hell. Those young girls do not need grammar, geography, history, rhetoric, arithmetic, social graces, living languages in order to rear children for heaven. The day when they become mothers, provided they know how to pray, it will be more than enough.

    “But Father,” the teacher would say, “because the son takes more from his mother that from his father, because of the deep affection between them, because of that closeness that is established forever, if I do not educate those young girls, who tomorrow will be teachers of their children, I would be guilty. I would have a painful void in my conscience. Mothers educate their children; tomorrow they will constitute the nation, and from the instruction of those girls could solely spring up an educated, civilized country. You can see then what responsibility falls on me, when I take charge of the education of these young ladies. Furthermore, I try to give them the complete knowledge necessary for a woman who will tomorrow be a member of society. What would be said of a lady who does not know how to write a letter? What about a wife who does not know the most simple arithmetic of domestic economy? Would people not laugh if a young girl in society would say that Spain is Europe, or that Madrid is a seaport? That Legaspi declared war on the English, or that Magellan died traitorously assassinated? Would it not be shameful that these young girls, not knowing the principles of good education, repled to a compliment like this: “Young lady, you are as kind hearted as good-natured,” with these phrases: “shameless”, “impudent,” “heretic” ? When they become mistresses of their respective homes, they will have to entertain, and this is why I teach them the social graces. Tomorrow, perhaps, they will travel through Europe, and the study of French, English, or German will be necessary. I’m not enthusiastic that they embroider much, nor make flowers, nor crochet silk, or chenille; all these works are useless, they are not applicable. It is better that they know how to cut shirts, that they know culinary art, that they learn, those who have talent, music and painting because the cultivation of the arts cultivates the sentiments and ennobles the soul.

    “Don’t be stupid. Jacinta, all those things are mischiefs of the century. Let them learn to pray and stop being stupid. Knowing those things, they will not go to heaven”.

    “But Father, without having cultivated the spirit, without trying to be useful to one’s fellowmen, living the life of animals, I think the gates of paradise will no open to them. I want my students to become fervent Christians because without Christianity the morality of the family cannot exist; but it is not my desire to make them fanatics because from fanaticism to prison there is but one step.”

    “My God, Jacinta, do not blaspheme. Abandon those ideas suggested by the devil. I command you, God demands it of you through my mouth, and if you are familiar with “Si Tandang Basiong Macunat” written by a sage and a saint, there the education of your people is synthesized: The indio beside the carabao and the plow; away from them he becomes an enemy of God and Spain. Do not forget this maxim of a saint.”

Antonio Luna
The Independent, Manila
January 15, 1927

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño

Friday, May 15, 2015

Teatro de Binondo (1847)

A theater company of natives and mestizos has  been organized, and the company performs Spanish dramas and comedies. The plays are not good enough to catch the attention of the Europeans. Neither are they so bad to cause endless laughter. Thus, one can experience more hours of entertainment here that  in the old one at Arroceros. One can be convinced that the company is achieving more than can be expected from people who have not seen real plays and have no script  to guide them. Especially if one notices the huge difference between a native and a comedian, or the bad Spanish they speak as their intonation is naturally languid, especially the women who have a high-pitched voices. They also dance Spanish national dances, and they are superior to the dancers of India and China, who, undoubtedly, can also attract a lot of attention.

José Honrato Lozano
Álbum Vistas de las Yslas Filipinas

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bienaventurados Los Humildes (1941)

Velvet Apple (English), Camagón (Spanish), Kamagong (Tagalog)

    The whole forest burned with the heat of a forge, of hell, even if the sun had hidden itself and the thicket lay enveloped in very dense shades and darkness.
    From time to time, the flash of lightning shook the clouds like a crack of a whip. And after an instant the thunder rumbled in the distance harshly.
   The beautiful birds of spring had sought refuge anywhere they could. The big red, yellow and white flowers, withered over their bent stems, fell. A swift wind, hot and cutting like the vapor of a crate, carpeted everything with petals and shattered leaves.
    The green pine tree, trembling and frightened, spoke:
    “Old kamagon, are you not afraid?”
    The kamagon smiled: “Afraid? Of what?...”
    “Of the storm that is coming.”
    The kamagon continued smiling:
    “Bah!... My friend; not everything has to be enchantment, light , flowers, and kisses… In the happiest life, there are many days of storm like this; I have seen so many, so many that now it is all the same to me whether  it’s the fire of sunlight or the gentle and white light of the full moon that illumines the forest. Furthermore, the storm passes away, like all things do; youth, love and glory itself.”
    “Yes, but the storm returns…”
    “And who tells you that youth, glory, and love do not return?”
    The atmosphere was becoming darker, the lightning each time sharper and almost without interruption, the thunder rumbled nearby; and some great drops of rain started falling indistinctly, raising a rustle of whiplashes.
    In the agitated forest one could hear the hissing of the reptiles, the screech of the kalaws, and the groans of the injured trees. A strong windstorm rose destroying everything in its way, throwing down nests and tearing down branches… Suddenly a red flame set the forest on fire, and it was followed by an infernal noise which stirred up the depths of the earth. Then the first thunderbolt fell, coiling itself like a snake of crackling embers around the beautiful and proud ilang-ilang, which slowly fell into pieces.
    When the devastating roar passed, the kamagon looked at the pine tree with pity. He had been stripped of all his arrogance, of all his stupid pride, and he seemed harassed and tremulous, prey of a terror that corroded even the sap of his deepest roots. Covered by his graceful branches which the rain mercilessly lashed, he seemed to be crying, shedding all the drops of water that were blown through his leaves. The kamagon, feeling sorry for the pine tree, spoke to him then over the tremulous sound of the wild elements.
    “Do not tremble, do not cry, this will pass”
    “Oh, grandfather, I am afraid to die!”

    “You will not die. You are still young; but if it is written that today you will stop existing, what difference does that make? Sooner of later it has to happen. All of us go the same way. It is only a question of some years more or less.”
    The echo of another thunder drowned his voice. Another infernal blaze blinded them, and both listened as at their very back a poor ilang-ilang tree scorched by the thunderbolt dryly plunged to the ground…
    The pine tree even more terrified, rose in a cry of desperate protest.
    “No, he did not want, could not, should not die, and die just like that, split by a thunderbolt. He was still young, and hardly had he enjoyed the divine sweetness of April. Why for black fetid death’s sake tear him away from his silvery nights that smell of flowers and dreams, from his golden days full of wings and rosy dawns?”
    Suddenly he kept silent, shuddered, shaken by a horrible death rattle, bending the ideal treetop that a thunderbolt now streaked with its blue, red, green, and yellow phosphorescence, like a long necklace of turquoises, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires hanging over its dead trunk. The poor pine tree was yet another dream which was falling, and immense dream of grandeur lost in the grandeur of the universe!


     After a year, during another bright April morning, some woodcutters invaded the forest.
    And among the trunks and fresh branches of the trees which they hacked down with bolos and axes, they brought with them the withered remains of the green pine tree and the back kamagon.
    And it happened that while the people of the village needed firewood, the priest of the town needed a big cross for his church. And that was why he took the trunk of the old kamagon so he could entrust it to a skilled sculptor.
    And in that same night, while shattered into a thousand pieces, the pine became ashes in the rustic home-made stoves of the village; the kamagon, converted into a divine cross and adored, was raise over the holy and humble thrill of prayers.
   There it was humble, black, affectionate, serving as a support for a God who on top of him was dying and died of love…
    Meanwhile the priest over the pulpit began to speak, and his words penetrated the simple souls of the multitude like stars, like spikenards…

    “Blessed are the meek…”

Jesús Balmori
Manila (May 1941)

Translated to English by Pilar E. Mariño