Chapter 26: - Page 2 of 6

The Eve of the Fiesta

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Along with these venerated lamps there also come forth from their hiding-places the work of the girls: crocheted scarfs, rugs, artificial flowers.  There appear old glass trays, on the bottoms of which are sketched miniature lakes with little fishes, caymans, shell-fish, seaweeds, coral, and glassy stones of brilliant hues.  These are heaped with cigars, cigarettes, and diminutive buyos prepared by the delicate fingers of the maidens. The floor of the house shines like a mirror, curtains of piña and husi festoon the doorways, from the windows hang lanterns covered with glass or with paper, pink, blue, green, or red.  The house itself is filled with plants and flower-pots on stands of Chinese porcelain. Even the saints bedeck themselves, the images and relics put on a festive air, the dust is brushed from them and on the freshly-washed glass of their cases are hung flowery garlands.

In the streets are raised at intervals fanciful bamboo arches, known as sinkában, constructed in various ways and adorned with kaluskús, the curling bunches of shavings scraped on their sides, at the sight of which alone the hearts of the children rejoice.  About the front of the church, where the procession is to pass, is a large and costly canopy upheld on bamboo posts.  Beneath this the children run and play, climbing, jumping, and tearing the new camisas in which they should shine on the principal day of the fiesta.

There on the plaza a platform has been erected, the scenery being of bamboo, nipa, and wood; there the Tondo comedians will perform wonders and compete with the gods in improbable miracles, there will sing and dance Marianito, Chananay, Balbino, Ratia, Carvajal, Yeyeng, Liceria, etc.  The Filipino enjoys the theater and is a deeply interested spectator of dramatic representations, but he listens in silence to the song, he gazes delighted at the dancing and mimicry, he never hisses or applauds.

If the show is not to his liking, he chews his buyo or withdraws without disturbing the others who perhaps find pleasure in it.  Only at times the commoner sort will howl when the actors embrace or kiss the actresses, but they never go beyond that. Formerly, dramas only were played; the local poet composed a piece in which there must necessarily be a fight every second minute, a clown, and terrifying transformations.  But since the Tondo artist have begun to fight every fifteen seconds, with two clowns, and even greater marvels than before, they have put to rout their provincial compeers.  The gobernadorcillo was very fond of this sort of thing, so, with the approval of the curate, he chose a spectacle with magic and fireworks, entitled, The Prince Villardo or the Captives Rescued from the Infamous Cave. [1]

From time to time the bells chime out merrily, those same bells that ten days ago were tolling so mournfully.  Pin-wheels and mortars rend the air, for the Filipino pyrotechnist, who learned the art from no known instructor, displays his ability by preparing fire bulls, castles of Bengal lights, paper balloons inflated with hot air, bombs, rockets, and the like.

[1] These spectacular performances, known as Moro-Moro, often continued for several days, consisting principally of noisy combats between Moros and Christians, in which the latter were, of course, invariably victorious.  Typical sketches of them may be found in Foreman’s The Philippine Islands, Chap. XXIII, and Stuntz’s The Philippines and the Far East, Chapter III.—TR.

Learn this Filipino word:

nagbukás ng dibdíb