Chapter 12: - Page 3 of 3

All Saints

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The cemetery was filling up with men and women dressed in mourning.  Some sought a grave for a time, disputing among themselves the while, and as if they were unable to agree, they scattered about, each kneeling where he thought best. Others, who had niches for their deceased relatives, lighted candles and fell to praying devoutly.  Exaggerated or suppressed sighs and sobs were heard amid the hum of prayers, orapreo, orapreiss, requiem-aeternams, that arose from all sides.

A little old man with bright eyes entered bareheaded.  Upon seeing him many laughed, and some women knitted their eyebrows.  The old man did not seem to pay any attention to these demonstrations as he went toward a pile of skulls and knelt to look earnestly for something among the bones.  Then he carefully removed the skulls one by one, but apparently without finding what he sought, for he wrinkled his brow, nodded his head from side to side, looked all about him, and finally rose and approached the grave-digger, who raised his head when the old man spoke to him.

Do you know where there is a beautiful skull, white as the meat of a coconut, with a complete set of teeth, which I had there at the foot of the cross under those leaves?

The grave-digger shrugged his shoulders.

Look! added the old man, showing a silver coin, I have only this, but I’ll give it to you if you find the skull for me.

The gleam of the silver caused the grave-digger to consider, and staring toward the heap of bones he said, Isn’t it there? No? Then I don’t know where it is.

Don’t you know? When those who owe me pay me, I’ll give you more, continued the old man.  It was the skull of my wife, so if you find it for me—

Isn’t it there? Then I don’t know! But if you wish, I can give you another.

You’re like the grave you’re digging, apostrophized the old man nervously.  You don’t know the value of what you lose. For whom is that grave?

How should I know? replied the other in bad humor.

For a corpse!

Like the grave, like the grave! repeated the old man with a dry smile.  You don’t know what you throw away nor what you receive! Dig, dig on! And he turned away in the direction of the gate.

Meanwhile, the grave-digger had completed his task, attested by the two mounds of fresh red earth at the sides of the grave.  He took some buyo from his salakot and began to chew it while he stared stupidly at what was going on around him.

Learn this Filipino word:

may-kaya