Chapter 20: - Page 5 of 6

The Arbiter

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

At other times he would say: I love the Indians fondly, I’ve constituted myself their father and defender, but it’s necessary to keep everything in its proper place.  Some were born to command and others to serve—plainly, that is a truism which can’t be uttered very loudly, but it can be put into practise without many words.  For look, the trick depends upon trifles. When you wish to reduce a people to subjection, assure it that it is in subjection.  The first day it will laugh, the second protest, the third doubt, and the fourth be convinced.  To keep the Filipino docile, he must have repeated to him day after day what he is, to convince him that he is incompetent. What good would it do, besides, to have him believe in something else that would make him wretched? Believe me, it’s an act of charity to hold every creature in his place—that is order, harmony.  That constitutes the science of government.

In referring to his policies, Don Custodio was not satisfied with the word art, and upon pronouncing the word government, he would extend his hand downwards to the height of a man bent over on his knees.

In regard to his religious ideas, he prided himself on being a Catholic, very much a Catholic—ah, Catholic Spain, the land of María Santísima! A liberal could be and ought to be a Catholic, when the reactionaries were setting themselves up as gods or saints, just as a mulatto passes for a white man in Kaffirland.  But with all that, he ate meat during Lent, except on Good Friday, never went to confession, believed neither in miracles nor the infallibility of the Pope, and when he attended mass, went to the one at ten o’clock, or to the shortest, the military mass.  Although in Madrid he had spoken ill of the religious orders, so as not to be out of harmony with his surroundings, considering them anachronisms, and had hurled curses against the Inquisition, while relating this or that lurid or droll story wherein the habits danced, or rather friars without habits, yet in speaking of the Philippines, which should be ruled by special laws, he would cough, look wise, and again extend his hand downwards to that mysterious altitude.

The friars are necessary, they’re a necessary evil, he would declare.

But how he would rage when any Indian dared to doubt the miracles or did not acknowledge the Pope! All the tortures of the Inquisition were insufficient to punish such temerity.

When it was objected that to rule or to live at the expense of ignorance has another and somewhat ugly name and is punished by law when the culprit is a single person, he would justify his position by referring to other colonies.  We, he would announce in his official tone, can speak out plainly! We’re not like the British and the Dutch who, in order to hold people in subjection, make use of the lash.  We avail ourselves of other means, milder and surer.  The salutary influence of the friars is superior to the British lash.

This last remark made his fortune.  For a long time Ben-Zayb continued to use adaptations of it, and with him all Manila.  The thinking part of Manila applauded it, and it even got to Madrid, where it was quoted in the Parliament as from a liberal of long residence there.  The friars, flattered by the comparison and seeing their prestige enhanced, sent him sacks of chocolate, presents which the incorruptible Don Custodio returned, so that Ben-Zayb immediately compared him to Epaminondas.  Nevertheless, this modern Epaminondas made use of the rattan in his choleric moments, and advised its use!

Learn this Filipino word:

sugat ng pusò