Chapter 16: - Page 4 of 9

The Tribulations of a Chinese

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

To this end an opportunity had soon presented itself.  The guilds of mestizos and natives were continually watching one another, venting their bellicose spirits and their activities in jealousy and distrust.  At mass one day the gobernadorcillo of the natives was seated on a bench to the right, and, being extremely thin, happened to cross one of his legs over the other, thus adopting a nonchalant  attitude, in order to expose his thighs more and display his pretty shoes.  The gobernadorcillo of the guild of mestizos, who was seated on the opposite bench, as he had bunions, and could not cross his legs on account of his obesity, spread his legs wide apart to expose a plain waistcoat adorned with a beautiful gold chain set with diamonds.  The two cliques comprehended these maneuvers and joined battle.  On the following Sunday all the mestizos, even the thinnest, had large paunches and spread their legs wide apart as though on horseback, while the natives placed one leg over the other, even the fattest, there being one cabeza de barangay who turned a somersault.  Seeing these movements, the Chinese all adopted their own peculiar attitude, that of sitting as they do in their shops, with one leg drawn back and upward, the other swinging loose.  There resulted protests and petitions, the police rushed to arms ready to start a civil war, the curates rejoiced, the Spaniards were amused and made money out of everybody, until the General settled the quarrel by ordering that every one should sit as the Chinese did, since they were the heaviest contributors, even though they were not the best Catholics.  The difficulty for the mestizos and natives then was that their trousers were too tight to permit of their imitating the Chinese.  But to make the intention of humiliating them the more evident, the measure was carried out with great pomp and ceremony, the church being surrounded by a troop of cavalry, while all those within were sweating.  The matter was carried to the Cortes, but it was repeated that the Chinese, as the ones who paid, should have their way in the religious ceremonies, even though they apostatized and laughed at Christianity immediately after.  The natives and the mestizos had to be content, learning thus not to waste time over such fatuity.[3] 

[3]In this paragraph Rizal alludes to an incident that had very serious results. There was annually celebrated in Binondo a certain religious festival, principally at the expense of the Chinese mestizos. The latter finally petitioned that their gobernadorcillo be given the presidency of it, and this was granted, thanks to the fact that the parish priest (the Dominican, Fray José Hevia Campomanes) held to the opinion that the presidency belonged to those who paid the most. The Tagalogs protested, alleging their better right to it, as the genuine sons of the country, not to mention the historical precedent, but the friar, who was looking after his own interests, did not yield. General Terrero (Governor, 1885–1888), at the advice of his liberal councilors, finally had the parish priest removed and for the time being decided the affair in favor of the Tagalogs. The matter reached the Colonial Office (Ministerio de Ultramar) and the Minister was not even content merely to settle it in the way the friars desired, but made amends to Padre Hevia by appointing him a bishop.—W. E. Retana, who was a journalist in Manila at the time, in a note to this chapter.

Childish and ridiculous as this may appear now, it was far from being so at the time, especially in view of the supreme contempt with which the pugnacious Tagalog looks down upon the meek and complaisant Chinese and the mortal antipathy that exists between the two races.—Tr.

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