Chapter 4: - Page 2 of 7

Cabesang Tales

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

But this dream seemed destined not to be realized.  The first care the community took when they saw the family prospering was to appoint as cabeza de barangay its most industrious member, which left only Tano, the son, who was only fourteen years old.  The father was therefore called Cabesang Tales and had to order a sack coat, buy a felt hat, and prepare to spend his money.  In order to avoid any quarrel with the curate or the government, he settled from his own pocket the shortages in the tax-lists, paying for those who had died or moved away, and he lost considerable time in making the collections and on his trips to the capital.

Patience! Pretend that the cayman’s relatives have joined him, advised Tandang Selo, smiling placidly.

Next year you’ll put on a long skirt and go to Manila to study like the young ladies of the town, Cabesang Tales told his daughter every time he heard her talking of Basilio’s progress.

But that next year did not come, and in its stead there was another increase in the rent.  Cabesang Tales became serious and scratched his head.  The clay jar was giving up all its rice to the iron pot.

When the rent had risen to two hundred pesos, Tales was not content with scratching his head and sighing; he murmured and protested.  The friar-administrator then told him that if he could not pay, some one else would be assigned to cultivate that land—many who desired it had offered themselves.

He thought at first that the friar was joking, but the friar was talking seriously, and indicated a servant of his to take possession of the land.  Poor Tales turned pale, he felt a buzzing in his ears, he saw in the red mist that rose before his eyes his wife and daughter, pallid, emaciated, dying, victims of the intermittent fevers—then he saw the thick forest converted into productive fields, he saw the stream of sweat watering its furrows, he saw himself plowing under the hot sun, bruising his feet against the stones and roots, while this friar had been driving about in his carriage with the wretch who was to get the land following like a slave behind his master.  No, a thousand times, no! First let the fields sink into the depths of the earth and bury them all! Who was this intruder that he should have any right to his land? Had he brought from his own country a single handful of that soil? Had he crooked a single one of his fingers to pull up the roots that ran through it?

Exasperated by the threats of the friar, who tried to uphold his authority at any cost in the presence of the other tenants, Cabesang Tales rebelled and refused to pay a single cuarto, having ever before himself that red mist, saying that he would give up his fields to the first man who could irrigate it with blood drawn from his own veins.

Old Selo, on looking at his son’s face, did not dare to mention the cayman, but tried to calm him by talking of clay jars, reminding him that the winner in a lawsuit was left without a shirt to his back.

We shall all be turned to clay, father, and without shirts we were born, was the reply.

So he resolutely refused to pay or to give up a single span of his land unless the friars should first prove the legality of their claim by exhibiting a title-deed of some kind.  As they had none, a lawsuit followed, and Cabesang Tales entered into it, confiding that some at least, if not all, were lovers of justice and respecters of the law.

Learn this Filipino word:

maitím ang butó