Chapter 38: - Page 2 of 4

The Procession

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

The procession was headed by the silver candelabra borne by three begloved sacristans, behind whom came the school children in charge of their teacher, then boys with paper lanterns of varied shapes and colors placed on the ends of bamboo poles of greater or less length and decorated according to the caprice of each boy, since this illumination was furnished by the children of the barrios, who gladly performed this service, imposed by the matanda sa nayon, [2] each one designing and fashioning his own lantern, adorning it as his fancy prompted and his finances permitted with a greater or less number of frills and little streamers, and lighting it with a piece of candle if he had a friend or relative who was a sacristan, or if he could buy one of the small red tapers such as the Chinese burn before their altars.

In the midst of the crowd came and went alguazils, guardians of justice to take care that the lines were not broken and the people did not crowd together. For this purpose they availed themselves of their rods, with blows from which, administered opportunely and with sufficient force, they endeavored to add to the glory and brilliance of the procession—all for the edification of souls and the splendor of religious show. At the same time that the alguazils were thus distributing free their sanctifying blows, other persons, to console the recipients, distributed candles and tapers of different sizes, also free.

Señor Alcalde, said Ibarra in a low voice, do they administer those blows as a punishment for sin or simply because they like to do so?

You’re right, Señor Ibarra, answered the Captain-General, overhearing the question. This barbarous sight is a wonder to all who come here from other countries. It ought to be forbidden.

Without any apparent reason, the first saint that appeared was St. John the Baptist. On looking at him it might have been said that the fame of Our Savior’s cousin did not amount to much among the people, for while it is true that he had the feet and legs of a maiden and the face of an anchorite, yet he was placed on an old wooden andas, and was hidden by a crowd of children who, armed with candles and unlighted lanterns, were engaging in mock fights.

Unfortunate saint! muttered the Sage Tasio, who was watching the procession from the street, it avails you nothing to have been the forerunner of the Good Tidings or that Jesus bowed before you! Your great faith and your austerity avail you nothing, nor the fact that you died for the truth and your convictions, all of which men forget when they consider nothing more than their own merits. It avails more to preach badly in the churches than to be the eloquent voice crying in the desert, this is what the Philippines teaches you! If you had eaten turkey instead of locusts and had worn garments of silk rather than hides, if you had joined a Corporation—

[2] The old man of the village, patriarch.—TR.

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