Chapter 17: - Page 3 of 4

The Quiapo Fair

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

It was an old woman with one eye, with disheveled hair, seated on the ground like an Indian idol, ironing clothes.  The sad-iron was carefully imitated, being of copper with coals of red tinsel and smoke-wreaths of dirty twisted cotton.

Eh, Ben-Zayb, it wasn’t a fool who designed that asked Padre Camorra with a laugh.

Well, I don’t see the point, replied the journalist.

But, puñales, don’t you see the title, The Philippine Press? That utensil with which the old woman is ironing is here called the press!

All laughed at this, Ben-Zayb himself joining in good-naturedly.

Two soldiers of the Civil Guard, appropriately labeled, were placed behind a man who was tightly bound and had his face covered by his hat.  It was entitled The Country of Abaka,[1] and from appearances they were going to shoot him.

Many of our visitors were displeased with the exhibition.  They talked of rules of art, they sought proportion—one said that this figure did not have seven heads, that the face lacked a nose, having only three, all of which made Padre Camorra somewhat thoughtful, for he did not comprehend how a figure, to be correct, need have four noses and seven heads.  Others said, if they were muscular, that they could not be Indians; still others remarked that it was not sculpture, but mere carpentry.  Each added his spoonful of criticism, until Padre Camorra, not to be outdone, ventured to ask for at least thirty legs for each doll, because, if the others wanted noses, couldn’t he require feet? So they fell to discussing whether the Indian had or had not any aptitude for sculpture, and whether it would be advisable to encourage that art, until there arose a general dispute, which was cut short by Don Custodio’s declaration that the Indians had the aptitude, but that they should devote themselves exclusively to the manufacture of saints.

One would say, observed Ben-Zayb, who was full of bright ideas that night, that this Chinaman is Quiroga, but on close examination it looks like Padre Irene.  And what do you say about that British Indian? He looks like Simoun!

Fresh peals of laughter resounded, while Padre Irene rubbed his nose.

[1] Abaka is the fiber obtained from the leaves of the Musa textilis and is known commercially as Manila hemp. As it is exclusively a product of the Philippines, it may be taken here to symbolize the country.—Tr.

Learn this Filipino word:

kapilas ng kaniláng buhay