Chapter 12: - Page 2 of 3

All Saints

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

At the time we enter, the people have driven the animals away, with the single exception of some old hog, an animal that is hard to convince, who shows his small eyes and pulling back his head from a great gap in the fence, sticks up his snout and seems to say to a woman praying near, Don’t eat it all, leave something for me, won’t you?

Two men are digging a grave near one of the tottering walls.  One of them, the grave-digger, works with indifference, throwing about bones as a gardener does stones and dry branches, while the other, more intent on his work, is perspiring, smoking, and spitting at every moment.

Listen, says the latter in Tagalog, wouldn’t it be better for us to dig in some other place? This is too recent.

One grave is as recent as another.

I can’t stand it any longer! That bone you’re just cut in two has blood oozing from it—and those hairs?

But how sensitive you are! was the other’s reproach.  Just as if you were a town clerk! If, like myself, you had dug up a corpse of twenty days, on a dark and rainy night—! My lantern went out—

His companion shuddered.

The coffin burst open, the corpse fell half-way out, it stunk—and supposing you had to carry it—the rain wet us both—

Ugh! And why did you dig it up?

The grave-digger looked at him in surprise.  Why? How do I know? I was ordered to do so.

Who ordered you?

The grave-digger stepped backward and looked his companion over from head to foot.  Man, you’re like a Spaniard, for afterwards a Spaniard asked me the same questions, but in secret.  So I’m going to answer you as I answered the Spaniard: the fat curate ordered me to do so.

Ah! And what did you do with the corpse afterwards? further questioned the sensitive one.

The devil! If I didn’t know you and was not sure that you are a man I would say that you were certainly a Spaniard of the Civil Guard, since you ask questions just as he did.  Well, the fat curate ordered me to bury it in the Chinamen’s cemetery, but the coffin was heavy and the Chinese cemetery far away—

No, no! I’m not going to dig any more! the other interrupted in horror as he threw away his spade and jumped out of the hole.  I’ve cut a skull in two and I’m afraid that it won’t let me sleep tonight.  The old grave-digger laughed to see how the chicken-hearted fellow left, crossing himself.

Learn this Filipino word:

magtulák ng alon