Chapter 21:

The Story of a Mother

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Andaba incierto—volaba errante,
Un solo instante—sin descansar. [1]


Sisa ran in the direction of her home with her thoughts in that confused whirl which is produced in our being when, in the midst of misfortunes, protection and hope alike are gone.  It is then that everything seems to grow dark around us, and, if we do see some faint light shining from afar, we run toward it, we follow it, even though an abyss yawns in our path.  The mother wanted to save her sons, and mothers do not ask about means when their children are concerned.  Precipitately she ran, pursued by fear and dark forebodings. Had they already arrested her son Basilio? Whither had her boy Crispin fled?

As she approached her little hut she made out above the garden fence the caps of two soldiers.  It would be impossible to tell what her heart felt: she forgot everything.  She was not ignorant of the boldness of those men, who did not lower their gaze before even the richest people of the town.  What would they do now to her and to her sons, accused of theft! The civil-guards are not men, they are civil-guards; they do not listen to supplications and they are accustomed to see tears.

Sisa instinctively raised her eyes toward the sky, that sky which smiled with brilliance indescribable, and in whose transparent blue floated some little fleecy clouds.  She stopped to control the trembling that had seized her whole body.  The soldiers were leaving the house and were alone, as they had arrested nothing more than the hen which Sisa had been fattening.  She breathed more freely and took heart again. How good they are and what kind hearts they have! she murmured, almost weeping with joy. Had the soldiers burned her house but left her sons at liberty she would have heaped blessings upon them! She again looked gratefully toward the sky through which a flock of herons, those light clouds in the skies of the Philippines, were cutting their path, and with restored confidence she continued on her way.  As she approached those fearful men she threw her glances in every direction as if unconcerned and pretended not to see her hen, which was cackling for help.  Scarcely had she passed them when she wanted to run, but prudence restrained her steps.

She had not gone far when she heard herself called by an imperious voice. Shuddering, she pretended not to hear, and continued on her way. They called her again, this time with a yell and an insulting epithet. She turned toward them, pale and trembling in spite of herself. One of them beckoned to her. Mechanically Sisa approached them, her tongue paralyzed with fear and her throat parched.

[1] With uncertain pace, in wandering flight, for an instant only—without rest.


Learn this Filipino word:

tawang malutóng

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