Chapter 39: - Page 3 of 7

Doña Consolacion

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

Naturally, Sisa did not understand such Tagalog, and this ignorance calmed the Medusa’s wrath, for one of the beautiful qualities of this lady was to try not to know Tagalog, or at least to appear not to know it. Speaking it the worst possible, she would thus give herself the air of a genuine orofea, [3] as she was accustomed to say. But she did well, for if she martyrized Tagalog, Spanish fared no better with her, either in regard to grammar or pronunciation, in spite of her husband, the chairs and the shoes, all of which had done what they could to teach her.

One of the words that had cost her more effort than the hieroglyphics cost Champollion was the name Filipinas. The story goes that on the day after her wedding, when she was talking with her husband, who was then a corporal, she had said Pilipinas. The corporal thought it his duty to correct her, so he said, slapping her on the head, Say Felipinas, woman! Don’t be stupid! Don’t you know that’s what your damned country is called, from Felipe?

The woman, dreaming through her honeymoon, wished to obey and said Felepinas. To the corporal it seemed that she was getting nearer to it, so he increased the slaps and reprimanded her thus: But, woman, can’t you pronounce Felipe? Don’t forget it; you know the king, Don Felipe—the fifth—. Say Felipe, and add to it nas, which in Latin means ‘islands of Indians,’ and you have the name of your damned country!

Consolacion, at that time a washerwoman, patted her bruises and repeated with symptoms of losing her patience, Fe-li-pe, Felipe—nas, Fe-li-pe-nas, Felipinas, so?

The corporal saw visions. How could it be Felipenas instead of Felipinas? One of two things: either it was Felipenas or it was necessary to say Felipi! So that day he very prudently dropped the subject. Leaving his wife, he went to consult the books. Here his astonishment reached a climax: he rubbed his eyes—let’s see—slowly, now! F-i-l-i-p-i-n-a-s, Filipinas! So all the well-printed books gave it—neither he nor his wife was right!

How’s this? he murmured. Can history lie? Doesn’t this book say that Alonso Saavedra gave the country that name in honor of the prince, Don Felipe? How was that name corrupted? Can it be that this Alonso Saavedra was an Indian? [4]

[3] Europea: European woman.—TR.

[4] In 1527–29 Alvaro de Saavedra led an unsuccessful expedition to take possession of the Western Isles. The name Filipina, in honor of the Prince of the Asturias, afterwards Felipe II (Philip II), was first applied to what is probably the present island of Leyte by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, who led another unsuccessful expedition thither in 1542–43, this name being later extended to the whole group.—TR.

Learn this Filipino word:

magpusà