Chapter 1: - Page 6 of 8

On the Upper Deck

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Don’t fool yourself, Don Custodio, continued Simoun dryly, only in this way are great enterprises carried out with small means.  Thus were constructed the Pyramids, Lake Moeris, and the Colosseum in Rome.  Entire provinces came in from the desert, bringing their tubers to feed on.  Old men, youths, and boys labored in transporting stones, hewing them, and carrying them on their shoulders under the direction of the official lash, and afterwards, the survivors returned to their homes or perished in the sands of the desert.  Then came other provinces, then others, succeeding one another in the work during years.  Thus the task was finished, and now we admire them, we travel, we go to Egypt and to Home, we extol the Pharaohs and the Antonines.  Don’t fool yourself—the dead remain dead, and might only is considered right by posterity.

But, Señor Simoun, such measures might provoke uprisings, objected Don Custodio, rather uneasy over the turn the affair had taken.

Uprisings, ha, ha! Did the Egyptian people ever rebel, I wonder? Did the Jewish prisoners rebel against the pious Titus? Man, I thought you were better informed in history!

Clearly Simoun was either very presumptuous or disregarded conventionalities! To say to Don Custodio’s face that he did not know history! It was enough to make any one lose his temper! So it seemed, for Don Custodio forgot himself and retorted, But the fact is that you’re not among Egyptians or Jews!

And these people have rebelled more than once, added the Dominican, somewhat timidly.  In the times when they were forced to transport heavy timbers for the construction of ships, if it hadn’t been for the clerics—

Those times are far away, answered Simoun, with a laugh even drier than usual.  These islands will never again rebel, no matter how much work and taxes they have.  Haven’t you lauded to me, Padre Salvi, he added, turning to the Franciscan, the house and hospital at Los Baños, where his Excellency is at present?

Padre Salvi gave a nod and looked up, evading the question.

Well, didn’t you tell me that both buildings were constructed by forcing the people to work on them under the whip of a lay-brother? Perhaps that wonderful bridge was built in the same way.  Now tell me, did these people rebel?

The fact is—they have rebelled before, replied the Dominican, and ab actu ad posse valet illatio!

No, no, nothing of the kind, continued Simoun, starting down a hatchway to the cabin.  What’s said, is said! And you, Padre Sibyla, don’t talk either Latin or nonsense.  What are you friars good for if the people can rebel?

Taking no notice of the replies and protests, Simoun descended the small companionway that led below, repeating disdainfully, Bosh, bosh!

Padre Sibyla turned pale; this was the first time that he, Vice-Rector of the University, had ever been credited with nonsense.  Don Custodio turned green; at no meeting in which he had ever found himself had he encountered such an adversary.

Learn this Filipino word:

siling labuyò