Chapter 23: - Page 4 of 10


(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Do you remember, one old woman was saying to Capitana Tika, do you remember the time we went to bathe in the river, before we were married? In little boats made from banana-stalks there drifted down with the current fruits of many kinds and fragrant flowers.  The little boats had banners on them and each of us could see her name on one of them.

And when we were on our way back home? added another, without letting her go on.  We found the bamboo bridges destroyed and so we had to wade the brooks.  The rascals!

Yes, I know that I chose rather to let the borders of my skirt get wet than to uncover my feet, said Capitana Tika, for I knew that in the thickets on the bank there were eyes watching us.

Some of the girls who heard these reminiscences winked and smiled, while the others were so occupied with their own conversations that they took no notice.

One man alone, he who performed the duty of pilot, remained silent and removed from all the merriment.  He was a youth of athletic build and striking features, with large, sad eyes and compressed lips.  His black hair, long and unkempt, fell over a stout neck.  A dark striped shirt afforded a suggestion through its folds of the powerful muscles that enabled the vigorous arms to handle as if it were a pen the wide and unwieldy paddle which’ served as a rudder for steering the two bankas.

Maria Clara had more than once caught him looking at her, but on such occasions he had quickly turned his gaze toward the distant mountain or the shore.  The young woman was moved with pity at his loneliness and offered him some crackers.  The pilot gave her a surprised stare, which, however, lasted for only a second.  He took a cracker and thanked her briefly in a scarcely audible voice.  After this no one paid any more attention to him.  The sallies and merry laughter of the young folks caused not the slightest movement in the muscles of his face.  Even the merry Sinang did not make him smile when she received pinchings that caused her to wrinkle up her eyebrows for an instant, only to return to her former merry mood.

The lunch over, they proceeded on their way toward the fish-corrals, of which there were two situated near each other, both belonging to Capitan Tiago.  From afar were to be seen some herons perched in contemplative attitude on the tops of the bamboo posts, while a number of white birds, which the Tagalogs call kalaway, flew about in different directions, skimming the water with their wings and filling the air with shrill cries.  At the approach of the bankas the herons took to flight, and Maria Clara followed them with her gaze as they flew in the direction of the neighboring mountain.

Do those birds build their nests on the mountain? she asked the pilot, not so much from a desire to know as for the purpose of making him talk.

Learn this Filipino word:

waláng preno ang bibíg