Chapter 25: - Page 2 of 8

In the House of the Sage

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

In what language do you write? asked Ibarra after a pause.

In our own, Tagalog.

Are the hieroglyphical signs suitable?

If it were not for the difficulty of drawing them, which takes time and patience, I would almost say that they are more suitable than the Latin alphabet.  The ancient Egyptian had our vowels; our o, which is only final and is not like that of the Spanish, which is a vowel between o and u.  Like us, the Egyptians lacked the true sound of e, and in their language are found our ha and kha, which we do not have in the Latin alphabet such as is used in Spanish.  For example, in this word mukha, he went on, pointing to the book, I transcribe the syllable ha more correctly with the figure of a fish than with the Latin h, which in Europe is pronounced in different ways.  For a weaker aspirate, as for example in this word haín, where the h has less force, I avail myself of this lion’s head or of these three lotus flowers, according to the quantity of the vowel.  Besides, I have the nasal sound which does not exist in the Latin-Spanish alphabet. I repeat that if it were not for the difficulty of drawing them exactly, these hieroglyphics could almost be adopted, but this same difficulty obliges me to be concise and not say more than what is exact and necessary.  Moreover, this work keeps me company when my guests from China and Japan go away.

Your guests from China and Japan?

Don’t you hear them? My guests are the swallows.  This year one of them is missing—some bad boy in China or Japan must have caught it.

How do you know that they come from those countries?

Easily enough! Several years ago, before they left I tied to the foot of each one a slip of paper with the name ‘Philippines’ in English on it, supposing that they must not travel very far and because English is understood nearly everywhere.  For years my slips brought no reply, so that at last I had it written in Chinese and here in the following November they have returned with other notes which I have had deciphered. One is written in Chinese and is a greeting from the banks of the Hoang-Ho and the other, as the Chinaman whom I consulted supposes, must be in Japanese.  But I’m taking your time with these things and haven’t asked you what I can do for you.

I’ve come to speak to you about a matter of importance, said the youth. Yesterday afternoon—

Have they caught that poor fellow?

You mean Elias? How did you know about him?

I saw the Muse of the Civil Guard!

The Muse of the Civil Guard? Who is she?

Learn this Filipino word:

labì ng hukay