Chapter 26: - Page 3 of 6

The Eve of the Fiesta

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Now distant strains of music are heard and the small boys rush headlong toward the outskirts of the town to meet the bands of music, five of which have been engaged, as well as three orchestras.  The band of Pagsanhan belonging to the escribano must not be lacking nor that of San Pedro de Tunasan, at that time famous because it was directed by the maestro Austria, the vagabond Corporal Mariano who, according to report, carried fame and harmony in the tip of his baton.  Musicians praise his funeral march, El Sauce,[2] and deplore his lack of musical education, since with his genius he might have brought glory to his country.  The bands enter the town playing lively airs, followed by ragged or half-naked urchins, one in the camisa of his brother, another in his father’s pantaloons.  As soon as the band ceases, the boys know the piece by heart, they hum and whistle it with rare skill, they pronounce their judgment upon it.

Meanwhile, there are arriving in conveyances of all kinds relatives, friends, strangers, the gamblers with their best game-cocks and their bags of gold, ready to risk their fortune on the green cloth or within the arena of the cockpit.

The alferez has fifty pesos for each night, murmurs a small, chubby individual into the ears of the latest arrivals.  Capitan Tiago’s coming and will set up a bank; Capitan Joaquin’s bringing eighteen thousand. There’ll be liam-pó: Carlos the Chinaman will set it up with ten thousand. Big stakes are coming from Tanawan, Lipa, and Batangas, as well as from Santa Cruz. [3]  It’s going to be on a big scale, yes, sir, on a grand scale! But have some chocolate! This year Capitan Tiago won’t break us as he did last, since he’s paid for only three thanksgiving masses and I’ve got a cacao mutyâ. And how’s your family?

Well, thank you, the visitors respond, and Padre Damaso?

Padre Damaso will preach in the morning and sit in with us at night.

Good enough! Then there’s no danger.

Sure, we’re sure! Carlos the Chinaman will loosen up also.  Here the chubby individual works his fingers as though counting out pieces of money.

Outside the town the hill-folk, the kasamá, are putting on their best clothes to carry to the houses of their landlords well-fattened chickens, wild pigs, deer, and birds.  Some load firewood on the heavy carts, others fruits, ferns, and orchids, the rarest that grow in the forests, others bring broad-leafed caladiums and flame-colored tikas-tikas blossoms to decorate the doors of the houses.

[2]The Willow.

[3] The capital of Laguna Province, not to be confused with the Santa Cruz mentioned before, which is a populous and important district in the city of Manila. Tanawan, Lipa, and Batangas are towns in Batangas Province, the latter being its capital.—TR.

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