Chapter 63:

Christmas Eve

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

High up on the slope of the mountain near a roaring stream a hut built on the gnarled logs hides itself among the trees.  Over its kogon thatch clambers the branching gourd-vine, laden with flowers and fruit.  Deer antlers and skulls of wild boar, some with long tusks, adorn this mountain home, where lives a Tagalog family engaged in hunting and cutting firewood.

In the shade of a tree the grandsire was making brooms from the fibers of palm leaves, while a young woman was placing eggs, limes, and some vegetables in a wide basket.  Two children, a boy and a girl, were playing by the side of another, who, pale and sad, with large eyes and a deep gaze, was seated on a fallen tree-trunk.  In his thinned features we recognize Sisa’s son, Basilio, the brother of Crispin.

When your foot gets well, the little girl was saying to him, we’ll play hide-and-seek. I’ll be the leader.

You’ll go up to the top of the mountain with us, added the little boy, and drink deer blood with lime-juice and you’ll get fat, and then I’ll teach you how to jump from rock to rock above the torrent.

Basilio smiled sadly, stared at the sore on his foot, and then turned his gaze toward the sun, which shone resplendently.

Sell these brooms, said the grandfather to the young woman, and buy something for the children, for tomorrow is Christmas.

Firecrackers, I want some firecrackers! exclaimed the boy.

I want a head for my doll, cried the little girl, catching hold of her sister’s tapis.

And you, what do you want? the grandfather asked Basilio, who at the question arose laboriously and approached the old man.

Sir, he said, I’ve been sick more than a month now, haven’t I?

Since we found you lifeless and covered with wounds, two moons have come and gone.  We thought you were going to die.

May God reward you, for we are very poor, replied Basilio.  But now that tomorrow is Christmas I want to go to the town to see my mother and my little brother.  They will be seeking for me.

But, my son, you’re not yet well, and your town is far away.  You won’t get there by midnight.


Learn this Filipino word:

mahabà ang buntót

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