Chapter 20: - Page 2 of 9

The Meeting in the Town Hall

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

I shall leave it to you to present ours, answered Don Filipo with a smile, turning toward a youthful cabeza de barangay.[2]  You will propose it after I have been defeated.

We don’t understand you, sir, said his hearers, staring at him with doubtful looks.

Listen, continued the liberal leader in a low voice to several near him.  This morning I met old Tasio and the old man said to me: ‘Your rivals hate you more than they do your ideas.  Do you wish that a thing shall not be done? Then propose it yourself, and though it were more useful than a miter, it would be rejected.  Once they have defeated you, have the least forward person in the whole gathering propose what you want, and your rivals, in order to humiliate you, will accept it.’  But keep quiet about it.


So I will propose the plan of our rivals and exaggerate it to the point of making it ridiculous.  Ah, here come Señor Ibarra and the schoolmaster.

These two young men saluted each of the groups without joining either.  A few moments later the gobernadorcillo, the very same individual whom we saw yesterday carrying a bundle of candles, entered with a look of disgust on his face.  Upon his entrance the murmurs ceased, every one sat down, and silence was gradually established, as he took his seat under the picture of the King, coughed four or five times, rubbed his hand over his face and head, rested his elbows on the table, then withdrew them, coughed once more, and then the whole thing over again.

Gentlemen, he at last began in an unsteady voice, I have been so bold as to call you together here for this meeting—ahem! Ahem! We have to celebrate the fiesta of our patron saint, San Diego, on the twelfth of this month—ahem!—today is the second—ahem! Ahem! At this point a slow, dry cough cut off his speech.

A man of proud bearing, apparently about forty years of age, then arose from the bench of the elders.  He was the rich Capitan Basilio, the direct contrast of Don Rafael, Ibarra’s father.  He was a man who maintained that after the death of St. Thomas Aquinas the world had made no more progress, and that since St. John Lateran had left it, humanity had been retrograding.

[2] Headman and tax-collector of a district, generally including about fifty families, for whose annual tribute he was personally responsible.  The barangay is a Malay boat of the kind supposed to have been used by the first emigrants to the Philippines. Hence, at first, the head of a barangay meant the leader or chief of a family or group of families.  This office, quite analogous to the old Germanic or Anglo-Saxon head of a hundred, was adopted and perpetuated by the Spaniards in their system of local administration.—TR.

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