Chapter 8: - Page 2 of 2

Merry Christmas!

(English version of “El Filibusterismo”)

Christmas day in the Philippines is, according to the elders, a fiesta for the children, who are perhaps not of the same opinion and who, it may be supposed, have for it an instinctive dread.  They are roused early, washed, dressed, and decked out with everything new, dear, and precious that they possess—high silk shoes, big hats, woolen or velvet suits, without overlooking four or five scapularies, which contain texts from St. John, and thus burdened they are carried to the high mass, where for almost an hour they are subjected to the heat and the human smells from so many crowding, perspiring people, and if they are not made to recite the rosary they must remain quiet, bored, or asleep.  At each movement or antic that may soil their clothing they are pinched and scolded, so the fact is that they do not laugh or feel happy, while in their round eyes can be read a protest against so much embroidery and a longing for the old shirt of week-days.

Afterwards, they are dragged from house to house to kiss their relatives’ hands.  There they have to dance, sing, and recite all the amusing things they know, whether in the humor or not, whether comfortable or not in their fine clothes, with the eternal pinchings and scoldings if they play any of their tricks.  Their relatives give them cuartos which their parents seize upon and of which they hear nothing more.  The only positive results they are accustomed to get from the fiesta are the marks of the aforesaid pinchings, the vexations, and at best an attack of indigestion from gorging themselves with candy and cake in the houses of kind relatives.  But such is the custom, and Filipino children enter the world through these ordeals, which afterwards prove the least sad, the least hard, of their lives.

Adult persons who live independently also share in this fiesta, by visiting their parents and their parents’ relatives, crooking their knees, and wishing them a merry Christmas.  Their Christmas gift consists of a sweetmeat, some fruit, a glass of water, or some insignificant present.

Tandang Selo saw all his friends pass and thought sadly that this year he had no Christmas gift for anybody, while his granddaughter had gone without hers, without wishing him a merry Christinas.  Was it delicacy on Juli’s part or pure forgetfulness?

When he tried to greet the relatives who called on him, bringing their children, he found to his great surprise that he could not articulate a word.  Vainly he tried, but no sound could he utter.  He placed his hands on his throat, shook his head, but without effect.  When he tried to laugh, his lips trembled convulsively and the only noise produced was a hoarse wheeze like the blowing of bellows.

The women gazed at him in consternation.  He’s dumb, he’s dumb! they cried in astonishment, raising at once a literal pandemonium.  

Learn this Filipino word:

bálikatan