Chapter 2: - Page 6 of 7

On the Lower Deck

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

On one of the benches at the stern, huddled in among the other passengers, sat a native priest gazing at the landscapes that were successively unfolded to his view.  His neighbors made room for him, the men on passing taking off their hats, and the gamblers not daring to set their table near where he was.  He said little, but neither smoked nor assumed arrogant airs, nor did he disdain to mingle with the other men, returning the salutes with courtesy and affability as if he felt much honored and very grateful.  Although advanced in years, with hair almost completely gray, he appeared to be in vigorous health, and even when seated held his body straight and his head erect, but without pride or arrogance.  He differed from the ordinary native priests, few enough indeed, who at that period served merely as coadjutors or administered some curacies temporarily, in a certain self-possession and gravity, like one who was conscious of his personal dignity and the sacredness of his office.  A superficial examination of his appearance, if not his white hair, revealed at once that he belonged to another epoch, another generation, when the better young men were not afraid to risk their dignity by becoming priests, when the native clergy looked any friar at all in the face, and when their class, not yet degraded and vilified, called for free men and not slaves, superior intelligences and not servile wills.  In his sad and serious features was to be read the serenity of a soul fortified by study and meditation, perhaps tried out by deep moral suffering.  This priest was Padre Florentino, Isagani’s uncle, and his story is easily told.

Scion of a wealthy and influential family of Manila, of agreeable appearance and cheerful disposition, suited to shine in the world, he had never felt any call to the sacerdotal profession, but by reason of some promises or vows, his mother, after not a few struggles and violent disputes, compelled him to enter the seminary.  She was a great friend of the Archbishop, had a will of iron, and was as inexorable as is every devout woman who believes that she is interpreting the will of God.  Vainly the young Florentine offered resistance, vainly he begged, vainly he pleaded his love affairs, even provoking scandals: priest he had to become at twenty-five years of age, and priest he became.  The Archbishop ordained him, his first mass was celebrated with great pomp, three days were given over to feasting, and his mother died happy and content, leaving him all her fortune.

But in that struggle Florentine received a wound from which he never recovered.  Weeks before his first mass the woman he loved, in desperation, married a nobody—a blow the rudest he had ever experienced.  He lost his moral energy, life became dull and insupportable.  If not his virtue and the respect for his office, that unfortunate love affair saved him from the depths into which the regular orders and secular clergymen both fall in the Philippines.  He devoted himself to his parishioners as a duty, and by inclination to the natural sciences.

Learn this Filipino word:

sumikláb ang digmaan