Chapter 16: - Page 3 of 3

Sisa

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

But by an unfortunate chance her husband came and ate the rice, the slices of wild boar’s meat, the duck leg, five of the little fishes, and the tomatoes.  Sisa said nothing, although she felt as if she herself were being eaten.  His hunger at length appeased, he remembered to ask for the boys.  Then Sisa smiled happily and resolved that she would not eat that night, because what remained was not enough for three.  The father had asked for their sons and that for her was better than eating.

Soon he picked up his game-cock and started away.

Don’t you want to see them? she asked tremulously.  Old Tasio told me that they would be a little late. Crispin now knows how to read and perhaps Basilio will bring his wages.

This last reason caused the husband to pause and waver, but his good angel triumphed.  In that case keep a peso for me, he said as he went away.

Sisa wept bitterly, but the thought of her sons soon dried her tears.  She cooked some more rice and prepared the only three fishes that were left: each would have one and a half.  They’ll have good appetites, she mused, the way is long and hungry stomachs have no heart.

So she sat, he ear strained to catch every sound, listening to the lightest footfalls: strong and clear, Basilio; light and irregular, Crispin—thus she mused.  The kalao called in the woods several times after the rain had ceased, but still her sons did not come.  She put the fishes inside the pot to keep them warm and went to the threshold of the hut to look toward the road.  To keep herself company, she began to sing in a low voice, a voice usually so sweet and tender that when her sons listened to her singing the kundíman they wept without knowing why, but tonight it trembled and the notes were halting.  She stopped singing and gazed earnestly into the darkness, but no one was coming from the town—that noise was only the wind shaking the raindrops from the wide banana leaves.

Suddenly a black dog appeared before her dragging something along the path.  Sisa was frightened but caught up a stone and threw it at the dog, which ran away howling mournfully.  She was not superstitious, but she had heard so much about presentiments and black dogs that terror seized her.  She shut the door hastily and sat down by the light.  Night favors credulity and the imagination peoples the air with specters.  She tried to pray, to call upon the Virgin and upon God to watch over her sons, especially her little Crispin.  Then she forgot her prayers as her thoughts wandered to think about them, to recall the features of each, those features that always wore a smile for her both asleep and awake.  Suddenly she felt her hair rise on her head and her eyes stared wildly; illusion or reality, she saw Crispin standing by the fireplace, there where he was wont to sit and prattle to her, but now he said nothing as he gazed at her with those large, thoughtful eyes, and smiled.

Mother, open the door! Open, mother! cried the voice of Basilio from without.

Sisa shuddered violently and the vision disappeared.

Learn this Filipino word:

mahabà ang kamáy