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