Chapter 5: - Page 3 of 5

A Cochero’s Christmas Eve

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

The procession was closed by the Virgin dressed as the Divine Shepherd, with a pilgrim’s hat of wide brim and long plumes to indicate the journey to Jerusalem.  That the birth might be made more explicable, the curate had ordered her figure to be stuffed with rags and cotton under her skirt, so that no one could be in any doubt as to her condition.  It was a very beautiful image, with the same sad expression of all the images that the Filipinos make, and a mien somewhat ashamed, doubtless at the way in which the curate had arranged her.  In front came several singers and behind, some musicians with the usual civil-guards.  The curate, as was to be expected after what he had done, was not in his place, for that year he was greatly displeased at having to use all his diplomacy and shrewdness to convince the townspeople that they should pay thirty pesos for each Christmas mass instead of the usual twenty.  You’re turning filibusters! he had said to them.

The cochero must have been greatly preoccupied with the sights of the procession, for when it had passed and Basilio ordered him to go on, he did not notice that the lamp on his carromata had gone out.  Neither did Basilio notice it, his attention being devoted to gazing at the houses, which were illuminated inside and out with little paper lanterns of fantastic shapes and colors, stars surrounded by hoops with long streamers which produced a pleasant murmur when shaken by the wind, and fishes of movable heads and tails, having a glass of oil inside, suspended from the eaves of the windows in the delightful fashion of a happy and homelike fiesta.  But he also noticed that the lights were flickering, that the stars were being eclipsed, that this year had fewer ornaments and hangings than the former, which in turn had had even fewer than the year preceding it.  There was scarcely any music in the streets, while the agreeable noises of the kitchen were not to be heard in all the houses, which the youth ascribed to the fact that for some time things had been going badly, the sugar did not bring a good price, the rice crops had failed, over half the live stock had died, but the taxes rose and increased for some inexplicable reason, while the abuses of the Civil Guard became more frequent to kill off the happiness of the people in the towns.

He was just pondering over this when an energetic Halt! resounded.  They were passing in front of the barracks and one of the guards had noticed the extinguished lamp of the carromata, which could not go on without it.  A hail of insults fell about the poor cochero, who vainly excused himself with the length of the procession.  He would be arrested for violating the ordinances and afterwards advertised in the newspapers, so the peaceful and prudent Basilio left the carromata and went his way on foot, carrying his valise.  This was San Diego, his native town, where he had not a single relative.

Learn this Filipino word:

matá-pobre