Chapter 26: - Page 4 of 6

The Eve of the Fiesta

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

But the place where the greatest activity reigns, where it is converted into a tumult, is there on a little plot of raised ground, a few steps from Ibarra’s house.  Pulleys screech and yells are heard amid the metallic sound of iron striking upon stone, hammers upon nails, of axes chopping out posts.  A crowd of laborers is digging in the earth to open a wide, deep trench, while others place in line the stones taken from the town quarries.  Carts are unloaded, piles of sand are heaped up, windlasses and derricks are set in place.

Hey, you there! Hurry up! cries a little old man with lively and intelligent features, who has for a cane a copper-bound rule around which is wound the cord of a plumb-bob.  This is the foreman of the work, Ñor Juan, architect, mason, carpenter, painter, locksmith, stonecutter, and, on occasions, sculptor.  It must be finished right now! Tomorrow there’ll be no work and the day after tomorrow is the ceremony.  Hurry!

Cut that hole so that this cylinder will fit it exactly, he says to some masons who are shaping a large square block of stone. Within that our names will be preserved.

He repeats to every newcomer who approaches the place what he has already said a thousand times: You know what we’re going to build? Well, it’s a schoolhouse, a model of its kind, like those in Germany, and even better.  A great architect has drawn the plans, and I—I am bossing the job! Yes, sir, look at it, it’s going to be a palace with two wings, one for the boys and the other for the girls.  Here in the middle a big garden with three fountains, there on the sides shaded walks with little plots for the children to sow and cultivate plants in during their recess-time, that they may improve the hours and not waste them.  Look how deep the foundations are, three meters and seventy-five centimeters! This building is going to have storerooms, cellars, and for those who are not diligent students dungeons near the playgrounds so that the culprits may hear how the studious children are enjoying themselves.  Do you see that big space? That will be a lawn for running and exercising in the open air.  The little girls will have a garden with benches, swings, walks where they can jump the rope, fountains, bird-cages, and so on.  It’s going to be magnificent!

Then Ñor Juan would rub his hands together as he thought of the fame that he was going to acquire.  Strangers would come to see it and would ask, Who was the great artisan that built this? and all would answer, Don’t you know? Can it be that you’ve never heard of Ñor Juan? Undoubtedly you’ve come from a great distance! With these thoughts he moved from one part to the other, examining and reexamining everything.

It seems to me that there’s too much timber for one derrick, he remarked to a yellowish man who was overseeing some laborers.  I should have enough with three large beams for the tripod and three more for the braces.

Never mind! answered the yellowish man, smiling in a peculiar way.  The more apparatus we use in the work, so much the greater effect we’ll get.  The whole thing will look better and of more importance, so they’ll say, ‘How hard they’ve worked!’ You’ll see, you’ll see what a derrick I’ll put up! Then I’ll decorate it with banners, and garlands of leaves and flowers.  You’ll say afterwards that you were right in hiring me as one of your laborers, and Señor Ibarra couldn’t ask for more! As he said this the man laughed and smiled.  Ñor Juan also smiled, but shook his head.

Learn this Filipino word:

bukáng-bibíg