Chapter 4: - Page 3 of 7

Cabesang Tales

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

I serve and have been serving the King with my money and my services, he said to those who remonstrated with him.  I’m asking for justice and he is obliged to give it to me.

Drawn on by fatality, and as if he had put into play in the lawsuit the whole future of himself and his children, he went on spending his savings to pay lawyers, notaries, and solicitors, not to mention the officials and clerks who exploited his ignorance and his needs.  He moved to and fro between the village and the capital, passed his days without eating and his nights without sleeping, while his talk was always about briefs, exhibits, and appeals.  There was then seen a struggle such as was never before carried on under the skies of the Philippines: that of a poor Indian,  ignorant and friendless, confiding in the justness and righteousness of his cause, fighting against a powerful corporation before which Justice bowed her head, while the judges let fall the scales and surrendered the sword.  He fought as tenaciously as the ant which bites when it knows that it is going to be crushed, as does the fly which looks into space only through a pane of glass.  Yet the clay jar defying the iron pot and smashing itself into a thousand pieces bad in it something impressive—it had the sublimeness of desperation!

On the days when his journeys left him free he patrolled his fields armed with a shotgun, saying that the tulisanes were hovering around and he had need of defending himself in order not to fall into their hands and thus lose his lawsuit.  As if to improve his marksmanship, he shot at birds and fruits, even the butterflies, with such accurate aim that the friar-administrator did not dare to go to Sagpang without an escort of civil-guards, while the friar’s hireling, who gazed from afar at the threatening figure of Tales wandering over the fields like a sentinel upon the walls, was terror stricken and refused to take the property away from him.

But the local judges and those at the capital, warned by the experience of one of their number who had been summarily dismissed, dared not give him the decision, fearing their own dismissal.  Yet they were not really bad men, those judges, they were upright and conscientious, good citizens, excellent fathers, dutiful sons—and they were able to appreciate poor Tales’ situation better than Tales himself could. Many of them were versed in the scientific and historical basis of property, they knew that the friars by their own statutes could not own property, but they also knew that to come from far across the sea with an appointment secured with great difficulty, to undertake the duties of the position with the best intentions, and now to lose it because an Indian fancied that justice had to be done on earth as in heaven—that surely was an idea! They had their families and greater needs surely than that Indian: one had a mother to provide for, and what duty is more sacred than that of caring for a mother? Another had sisters, all of marriageable age; that other there had many little children who expected their daily bread and who, like fledglings in a nest, would surely die of hunger the day he was out of a job; even the very least of them had there, far away, a wife who would be in distress if the monthly remittance failed.  All these moral and conscientious judges tried everything in their power in the way of counsel, advising Cabesang Tales to pay the rent demanded.  But Tales, like all simple souls, once he had seen what was just, went straight toward it.  He demanded proofs, documents, papers, title-deeds, but the friars had none of these, resting their case on his concessions in the past.

Learn this Filipino word:

may gatas pa sa labì