Chapter 38:

The Procession

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

At nightfall, when all the lanterns in the windows had been lighted, for the fourth time the procession started amid the ringing of bells and the usual explosions of bombs. The Captain-General, who had gone out on foot in company with his two aides, Capitan Tiago, the alcalde, the alferez, and Ibarra, preceded by civil-guards and officials who opened the way and cleared the street, was invited to review the procession from the house of the gobernadorcillo, in front of which a platform had been erected where a loa [1] would be recited in honor of the Blessed Patron.

Ibarra would gladly have renounced the pleasure of hearing this poetical composition, preferring to watch the procession from Capitan Tiago’s house, where Maria Clara had remained with some of her friends, but his Excellency wished to hear the loa, so he had no recourse but to console himself with the prospect of seeing her at the theater.

[1] A metrical discourse for a special occasion or in honor of some distinguished personage. Padre Zuñiga (Estadismo, Chap. III) thus describes one heard by him in Lipa, Batangas, in 1800, on the occasion of General Alava’s visit to that place: He who is to recite the loa is seen in the center of the stage dressed as a Spanish cavalier, reclining in a chair as if asleep, while behind the scenes musicians sing a lugubrious chant in the vernacular. The sleeper awakes and shows by signs that he thinks he has heard, or dreamed of hearing, some voice. He again disposes himself to sleep, and the chant is repeated in the same lugubrious tone. Again he awakes, rises, and shows that he has heard a voice. This scene is repeated several times, until at length he is persuaded that the voice is announcing the arrival of the hero who is to be eulogized. He then commences to recite his loa, carrying himself like a clown in a circus, while he sings the praises of the person in whose honor the fiesta has been arranged. This loa, which was in rhetorical verse in a diffuse style suited to the Asiatic taste, set forth the general’s naval expeditions and the honors he had received from the King, concluding with thanks and acknowledgment of the favor that he had conferred in passing through their town and visiting such poor wretches as they. There were not lacking in it the wanderings of Ulysses, the journeys of Aristotle, the unfortunate death of Pliny, and other passages from ancient history, which they delight in introducing into their stories. All these passages are usually filled with fables touching upon the marvelous, such as the following, which merit special notice: of Aristotle it was said that being unable to learn the depth of the sea he threw himself into its waves and was drowned, and of Pliny that he leaped into Vesuvius to investigate the fire within the volcano. In the same way other historical accounts are confused. I believe that these loas were introduced by the priests in former times, although the fables with which they abound would seem to offer an objection to this opinion, as nothing is ever told in them that can be found in the writings of any European author; still they appear to me to have been suited to the less critical taste of past centuries. The verses are written by the natives, among whom there are many poets, this art being less difficult in Tagalog than in any other language.TR.


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