Chapter 23: - Page 9 of 10

Fishing

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

We call him ‘The Pilot’ and he’s the best I’ve ever seen, only he doesn’t like the business.

The water became disturbed, then broke into ripples, the fence shook; a struggle seemed to be going on in the depths.  All were silent and hardly breathed.  Ibarra grasped the handle of the sharp knife convulsively.

Now the struggle seemed to be at an end and the head of the youth appeared, to be greeted with joyful cries.  The eyes of the old women filled with tears.  The pilot climbed up with one end of the rope in his hand and once on the platform began to pull on it.  The monster soon appeared above the water with the rope tied in a double band around its neck and underneath its front legs.  It was a large one, as Leon had said, speckled, and on its back grew the green moss which is to the caymans what gray hairs are to men.  Roaring like a bull and beating its tail against or catching hold of the sides of the corral, it opened its huge jaws and showed its long, sharp teeth.  The pilot was hoisting it alone, for no one had thought to assist him.

Once out of the water and resting on the platform, he placed his foot upon it and with his strong hands forced its huge jaws together and tried to tie its snout with stout knots.  With a last effort the reptile arched its body, struck the floor with its powerful tail, and jerking free, hurled itself with one leap into the water outside the corral, dragging its captor along with it.   cry of horror broke from the lips of all.  But like a flash of lightning another body shot into the water so quickly that there was hardly time to realize that it was Ibarra.  Maria Clara did not swoon only for the reason that the Filipino women do not yet know how to do so.

The anxious watchers saw the water become colored and dyed with blood.  The young fisherman jumped down with his bolo in his hand and was followed by his father, but they had scarcely disappeared when Crisostomo and the pilot reappeared clinging to the dead body of the reptile, which had the whole length of its white belly slit open and the knife still sticking in its throat.

To describe the joy were impossible, as a dozen arms reached out to drag the young men from the water.  The old women were beside themselves between laughter and prayers.  Andeng forgot that her sinigang had boiled over three times, spilling the soup and putting out the fire.  The only one who could say nothing was Maria Clara.

Ibarra was uninjured, while the pilot had only a slight scratch on his arm.  I owe my life to you, said the latter to Ibarra, who was wrapping himself up in blankets and cloths.   pilot’s voice seemed to have a note of sadness in it.

You are too daring, answered Ibarra.  Don’t tempt fate again.

If you had not come up again— murmured the still pale and trembling Maria Clara.

If I had not come up and you had followed me, replied Ibarra, completing the thought in his own way, in the bottom of the lake, I should still have been with my family! He had not forgotten that there lay the bones of his father.

Learn this Filipino word:

nábuká sa bibíg