Chapter 12:

Placido Penitente

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Reluctantly, and almost with tearful eyes, Placido Penitente was going along the Escolta on his way to the University of Santo Tomas.  It had hardly been a week since he had come from his town, yet he had already written to his mother twice, reiterating his desire to abandon his studies and go back there to work. His mother answered that he should have patience, that at the least he must be graduated as a bachelor of arts, since it would be unwise to desert his books after four years of expense and sacrifices on both their parts.

Whence came to Penitente this aversion to study, when he had been one of the most diligent in the famous college conducted by Padre Valerio in Tanawan? There Penitente had been considered one of the best Latinists and the subtlest disputants, one who could tangle or untangle the simplest as well as the most abstruse questions.  His townspeople considered him very clever, and his curate, influenced by that opinion, already classified him as a filibuster—a sure proof that he was neither foolish nor incapable.  His friends could not explain those desires for abandoning his studies and returning: he had no sweethearts, was not a gambler, hardly knew anything about hunkían and rarely tried his luck at the more familiar revesino.  He did not believe in the advice of the curates, laughed at Tandang Basio Macunat, had plenty of money and good clothes, yet he went to school reluctantly and looked with repugnance on his books.

On the Bridge of Spain, a bridge whose name alone came from Spain, since even its ironwork came from foreign countries, he fell in with the long procession of young men on their way to the Walled City to their respective schools.  Some were dressed in the European fashion and walked rapidly, carrying books and notes, absorbed in thoughts of their lessons and essays—these were the students of the Ateneo.  Those from San Juan de Letran were nearly all dressed in the Filipino costume, but were more numerous and carried fewer books.  Those from the University are dressed more carefully and elegantly and saunter along carrying canes instead of books.  The collegians of the Philippines are not very noisy or turbulent.  They move along in a preoccupied manner, such that upon seeing them one would say that before their eyes shone no hope, no smiling future.  Even though here and there the line is brightened by the attractive appearance of the schoolgirls of the Escuela Municipal,[1] with their sashes across their shoulders and their books in their hands, followed by their servants, yet scarcely a laugh resounds or a joke can be heard—nothing of song or jest, at best a few heavy jokes or scuffles among the smaller boys.  The older ones nearly always proceed seriously and composedly, like the German students.

[1] The Municipal School for Girls was founded by the municipality of Manila in 1864....  The institution was in charge of the Sisters of Charity.—Census of the Philippine Islands, Volume III, page 615.


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