Translator’s Introduction - Page 5 of 31

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

There is much in the career of Spain that calls to mind the dazzling beauty of her dark-glancing daughters, with its early bloom, its startling—almost morbid—brilliance, and its premature decay.  Rapid and brilliant was her rise, gradual and inglorious her steady decline, from the bright morning when the banners of Castile and Aragon were flung triumphantly from the battlements of the Alhambra, to the short summer, not so long gone, when at Cavite and Santiago with swift, decisive havoc the last ragged remnants of the once world-dominating power were blown into space and time, to hover disembodied there, a lesson and a warning to future generations.  Whatever her final place in the records of mankind, whether as the pioneer of modern civilization or the buccaneer of the nations or, as would seem most likely, a goodly mixture of both, she has at least—with the exception only of her great mother, Rome—furnished the most instructive lessons in political pathology yet recorded, and the advice to students of world progress to familiarize themselves with her history is even more apt today than when it first issued from the encyclopedic mind of Macaulay nearly a century ago.  Hardly had she reached the zenith of her power when the disintegration began, and one by one her brilliant conquests dropped away, to leave her alone in her faded splendor, with naught but her vaunting pride left, another Niobe of nations.  In the countries more in contact with the trend of civilization and more susceptible to revolutionary influences from the mother country this separation came from within, while in the remoter parts the archaic and outgrown system dragged along until a stronger force from without destroyed it.

Nowhere was the crystallization of form and principle more pronounced than in religious life, which fastened upon the mother country a deadening weight that hampered all progress, and in the colonies, notably in the Philippines, virtually converted her government into a hagiarchy that had its face toward the past and either could not or would not move with the current of the times.  So, when the shot heard round the world, the declaration of humanity’s right to be and to become, in its all-encircling sweep, reached the lands controlled by her it was coldly received and blindly rejected by the governing powers, and there was left only the slower, subtler, but none the less sure, process of working its way among the people to burst in time in rebellion and the destruction of the conservative forces that would repress it.

In the opening years of the nineteenth century the friar orders in the Philippines had reached the apogee of their power and usefulness.  Their influence was everywhere felt and acknowledged, while the country still prospered under the effects of the vigorous and progressive administrations of Anda and Vargas in the preceding century.  Native levies had fought loyally under Spanish leadership against Dutch and British invaders, or in suppressing local revolts among their own people, which were always due to some specific grievance, never directed definitely against the Spanish sovereignty.  The Philippines were shut off from contact with any country but Spain, and even this communication was restricted and carefully guarded.  There was an elaborate central government which, however, hardly touched the life of the native peoples, who were guided and governed by the parish priests, each town being in a way an independent entity.

Learn this Filipino word:

daanán