Translator’s Introduction - Page 31 of 31

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

A moment later there he lay, on his right side, his life-blood spurting over the Luneta curb, eyes wide open, fixedly staring at that Heaven where the priests had taught all those centuries agone that Justice abides.  The troops filed past the body, for the most part silently, while desultory cries of Viva España! from among the patriotic Filipino volunteers were summarily hushed by a Spanish artillery-officer’s stern rebuke: Silence, you rabble! To drown out the fitful cheers and the audible murmurs, the bands struck up Spanish national airs.  Stranger death-dirge no man and system ever had.  Carnival revelers now dance about the scene and Filipino schoolboys play baseball over that same spot.

A few days later another execution was held on that spot, of members of the Liga, some of them characters that would have richly deserved shooting at any place or time, according to existing standards, but notable among them there knelt, torture-crazed, as to his orisons, Francisco Roxas, millionaire capitalist, who may be regarded as the social and economic head of the Filipino people, as Rizal was fitted to be their intellectual leader.  Shades of Anda and Vargas! Out there at Balintawak—rather fitly, the home of the snake-demon,—not three hours’ march from this same spot, on the very edge of the city, Andres Bonifacio and his literally sansculottic gangs of cutthroats were, almost with impunity, soiling the fair name of Freedom with murder and mutilation, rape and rapine, awakening the worst passions of an excitable, impulsive people, destroying that essential respect for law and order, which to restore would take a holocaust of fire and blood, with a generation of severe training.  Unquestionably did Rizal demonstrate himself to be a seer and prophet when he applied to such a system the story of Babylon and the fateful handwriting on the wall!

But forces had been loosed that would not be so suppressed, the time had gone by when such wild methods of repression would serve.  The destruction of the native leaders, culminating in the executions of Rizal and Roxas, produced a counter-effect by rousing the Tagalogs, good and bad alike, to desperate fury, and the aftermath was frightful.  The better classes were driven to take part in the rebellion, and Cavite especially became a veritable slaughter-pen, as the contest settled down into a hideous struggle for mutual extermination.  Dark Andres went his wild way to perish by the violence he had himself invoked, a prey to the rising ambition of a young leader of considerable culture and ability, a schoolmaster named Emilio Aguinaldo.  His Katipunan hovered fitfully around Manila, for a time even drawing to itself in their desperation some of the better elements of the population, only to find itself sold out and deserted by its leaders, dying away for a time; but later, under changed conditions, it reappeared in strange metamorphosis as the rallying-center for the largest number of Filipinos who have ever gathered together for a common purpose, and then finally went down before those thin grim lines in khaki with sharp and sharpest shot clearing away the wreck of the old, blazing the way for the new: the broadening sweep of Democracy announcing, in rifle-volleys death-winged, under her Star Banner, to the tune of Yankee-doodle-do, that she is born, and, whirlwind-like, will envelop the whole world!

MANILA, December 1, 1909

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