Chapter 25: - Page 7 of 8

In the House of the Sage

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Either lower my head or lose it! repeated Ibarra thoughtfully.  The dilemma is hard! But why? Is love for my country incompatible with love for Spain? Is it necessary to debase oneself to be a good Christian, to prostitute one’s conscience in order to carry out a good purpose? I love my native land, the Philippines, because to it I owe my life and my happiness, because every man should love his country. I love Spain, the fatherland of my ancestors, because in spite of everything the Philippines owes to it, and will continue to owe, her happiness and her future.  I am a Catholic, I preserve pure the faith of my fathers, and I do not see why I have to lower my head when I can raise it, to give it over to my enemies when I can humble them!

Because the field in which you wish to sow is in possession of your enemies and against them you are powerless. It is necessary that you first kiss the hand that—

But the youth let him go no farther, exclaiming passionately, Kiss their hands! You forget that among them they killed my father and threw his body from the tomb! I who am his son do not forget it, and that I do not avenge it is because I have regard for the good name of the Church!

The old Sage bowed his head as he answered slowly: Señor Ibarra, if you preserve those memories, which I cannot counsel you to forget, abandon the enterprise you are undertaking and seek in some other way the welfare of your countrymen.  The enterprise needs another man, because to make it a success zeal and money alone are not sufficient; in our country are required also self-denial, tenacity of purpose, and faith, for the soil is not ready, it is only sown with discord.

Ibarra appreciated the value of these observations, but still would not be discouraged.  The thought of Maria Clara was in his mind and his promise must be fulfilled.

Doesn’t your experience suggest any other than this hard means? he asked in a low voice.

The old man took him by the arm and led him to the window.  A fresh breeze, the precursor of the north wind, was blowing, and before their eyes spread out the garden bounded by the wide forest that was a kind of park.

Why can we not do as that weak stalk laden with flowers and buds does? asked the Sage, pointing to a beautiful jasmine plant.  The wind blows and shakes it and it bows its head as if to hide its precious load. If the stalk should hold itself erect it would be broken, its flowers would be scattered by the wind, and its buds would be blighted.  The wind passes by and the stalk raises itself erect, proud of its treasure, yet who will blame it for having bowed before necessity? There you see that gigantic kupang, which majestically waves its light foliage wherein the eagle builds his nest.  I brought it from the forest as a weak sapling and braced its stem for months with slender pieces of bamboo.  If I had transplanted it large and full of life, it is certain that it would not have lived here, for the wind would have thrown it down before its roots could have fixed themselves in the soil, before it could have become accustomed to its surroundings, and before it could have secured sufficient nourishment for its size and height.  So you, transplanted from Europe to this stony soil, may end, if you do not seek support and do not humble yourself.  You are among evil conditions, alone, elevated, the ground shakes, the sky presages a storm, and the top of your family tree has shown that it draws the thunderbolt. It is not courage, but foolhardiness, to fight alone against all that exists.  No one censures the pilot who makes for a port at the first gust of the whirlwind.  To stoop as the bullet passes is not cowardly—it is worse to defy it only to fall, never to rise again.

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