Chapter 27: - Page 5 of 8

The Friar and the Filipino

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

You impute all the faults to us, because you see only us, who are near, he said in a less haughty tone.  It’s natural and doesn’t surprise me.  A person hates the soldier or policeman who arrests him and not the judge who sends him to prison. You and we are both dancing to the same measure of music—if at the same note you lift your foot in unison with us, don’t blame us for it, it’s the music that is directing our movements.  Do you think that we friars have no consciences and that we do not desire what is right? Do you believe that we do not think about you, that we do not heed our duty, that we only eat to live, and live to rule? Would that it were so! But we, like you, follow the cadence, finding ourselves between Scylla and Charybdis: either you reject us or the government rejects us.  The government commands, and he who commands, commands,—and must be obeyed!

From which it may be inferred, remarked Isagani with a bitter smile, that the government wishes our demoralization.

Oh, no, I didn’t mean that! What I meant to say is that there are beliefs, there are theories, there are laws, which, dictated with the best intention, produce the most deplorable consequences.  I’ll explain myself better by citing an example.  To stamp out a small evil, there are dictated many laws that cause greater evils still: ‘corruptissima in republica plurimae leges,’ said Tacitus.  To prevent one case of fraud, there are provided a million and a half preventive or humiliating regulations, which produce the immediate effect of awakening in the public the desire to elude and mock such regulations. To make a people criminal, there’s nothing more needed than to doubt its virtue.  Enact a law, not only here, but even in Spain, and you will see how the means of evading it will be sought, and this is for the very reason that the legislators have overlooked the fact that the more an object is hidden, the more a sight of it is desired.  Why are rascality and astuteness regarded as great qualities in the Spanish people, when there is no other so noble, so proud, so chivalrous as it? Because our legislators, with the best intentions, have doubted its nobility, wounded its pride, challenged its chivalry! Do you wish to open in Spain a road among the rocks? Then place there an imperative notice forbidding the passage, and the people, in order to protest against the order, will leave the highway to clamber over the rocks.  The day on which some legislator in Spain forbids virtue and commands vice, then all will become virtuous!

The Dominican paused for a brief space, then resumed: But you may say that we are getting away from the subject, so I’ll return to it.  What I can say to you, to convince you, is that the vices from which you suffer ought to be ascribed by you neither to us nor to the government.  They are due to the imperfect organization of our social system: qui multum probat, nihil probat, one loses himself through excessive caution, lacking what is necessary and having too much of what is superfluous.

If you admit those defects in your social system, replied Isagani, why then do you undertake to regulate alien societies, instead of first devoting your attention to yourselves?

We’re getting away from the subject, young man.  The theory in accomplished facts must be accepted.

Learn this Filipino word:

hindî makain