Chapter 42: - Page 6 of 11

The Espadañas

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

But when obliged to wander from land to land in search not so much of fortune as of some simple means of livelihood for the remainder of his days; when, deluded by the stories of his countrymen from overseas, he had set out for the Philippines, realism gave, place to an arrogant mestiza or a beautiful Indian with big black eyes, gowned in silks and transparent draperies, loaded down with gold and diamonds, offering him her love, her carriages, her all. When he reached Manila he thought for a time that his dream was to be realized, for the young women whom he saw driving on the Luneta and the Malecon in silver-mounted carriages had gazed at him with some curiosity. Then after his position was gone, the mestiza and the Indian disappeared and with great effort he forced before himself the image of a widow, of course an agreeable widow! So when he saw his dream take shape in part he became sad, but with a certain touch of native philosophy said to himself, Those were all dreams and in this world one does not live on dreams! Thus he dispelled his doubts: she used rice-powder, but after their marriage he would break her of the habit; her face had many wrinkles, but his coat was torn and patched; she was a pretentious old woman, domineering and mannish, but hunger was more terrible, more domineering and pretentious still, and anyway, he had been blessed with a mild disposition for that very end, and love softens the character. She spoke Spanish badly, but he himself did not talk it well, as he had been told when notified of his dismissal. Moreover, what did it matter to him if she was an ugly and ridiculous old woman? He was lame, toothless, and bald! Don Tiburcio preferred to take charge of her rather than to become a public charge from hunger. When some friends joked with him about it, he answered, Give me bread and call me a fool.

Don Tiburcio was one of those men who are popularly spoken of as unwilling to harm a fly. Modest, incapable of harboring an unkind thought, in bygone days he would have been made a missionary. His stay in the country had not given him the conviction of grand superiority, of great valor, and of elevated importance that the greater part of his countrymen acquire in a few weeks. His heart had never been capable of entertaining hate nor had he been able to find a single filibuster; he saw only unhappy wretches whom he must despoil if he did not wish to be more unhappy than they were. When he was threatened with prosecution for passing himself off as a physician he was not resentful nor did he complain. Recognizing the justness of the charge against him, he merely answered, But it’s necessary to live!

So they married, or rather, bagged each other, and went to Santa Ann to spend their honeymoon. But on their wedding-night Doña Victorina was attacked by a horrible indigestion and Don Tiburcio thanked God and showed himself solicitous and attentive. A few days afterward, however, he looked into a mirror and smiled a sad smile as he gazed at his naked gums, for he had aged ten years at least.

Learn this Filipino word:

waláng ulo