Yet, among the soldiers there was one who looked with disapproving eyes upon so much wanton cruelty, as he marched along silently with his brows knit in disgust. At length, seeing that the guard, not satisfied with the branch, was kicking the prisoners that fell, he could no longer restrain himself but cried out impatiently, “Here, Mautang, let them alone!”
Mautang turned toward him in surprise. “What’s it to you, Carolino?” he asked.
“To me, nothing, but it hurts me,” replied Carolino. “They’re men like ourselves.”
“It’s plain that you’re new to the business!” retorted Mautang with a compassionate smile. “How did you treat the prisoners in the war?”
“With more consideration, surely!” answered Carolino.
Mautang remained silent for a moment and then, apparently having discovered the reason, calmly rejoined, “Ah, it’s because they are enemies and fight us, while these—these are our own countrymen.”
Then drawing nearer to Carolino he whispered, “How stupid you are! They’re treated so in order that they may attempt to resist or to escape, and then—bang!”
Carolino made no reply.
Luma na iyan! (that’s just old)
Though the time is late 19th century, it could be about the PNP or AFP today. Doesn’t what Mautang says to his fellow Filipino Guardia Civil sound like “Nanlaban” (link)? Except time does crawl a bit in old novels, something we media junkies are no longer are used to – so I fast forward:
“Shoot, Carolino! What are you aiming at?” called the corporal.
At that instant a man appeared upon a rock, making signs with his rifle.
“Shoot him!” ordered the corporal with a foul oath.
Three guards obeyed the order, but the man continued standing there, calling out at the top of his voice something unintelligible.
Carolino paused, thinking that he recognized something familiar about that figure, which stood out plainly in the sunlight. But the corporal threatened to tie him up if he did not fire, so Carolino took aim and the report of his rifle was heard. The man on the rock spun around and disappeared with a cry that left Carolino horror-stricken.
Another bit of fast forward to the horrible end:
The soldiers turned to see Carolino frightfully pale, his mouth hanging open, with a look in which glimmered the last spark of reason, for Carolino, who was no other than Tano, Cabesang Tales’ son, and who had just returned from the Carolines, recognized in the dying man his grandfather, Tandang Selo. No longer able to speak, the old man’s dying eyes uttered a whole poem of grief—and then a corpse, he still continued to point to something behind the rock.
Ang corny naman! (how mushily sentimental)
The wannabe tough guy, what should I care response from a many a middle class Filipino from the Marcos era or today’s coming dictatorship could be, oh come on, it could hardly happen that any person accidentally shoots his grandfather, much less to me. I don’t know any addicts or NPAs! Instead of having the compassion and humanity to realize that it is just good fortune that keeps one safe in a country where repression is the norm. The following section of the Fili could also be from the times of Martial Law in the Philippines, especially in difficult places like Samar or Mindanao:
Matanglawin was the terror of Luzon. His band had appeared in one province where it was least expected as make a descent upon another that was preparing to resist it. It burned a sugar-mill in Batangas and destroyed the crops, on the following day it murdered the Justice of the Peace of Tiani, and on the next took possession of the town of Cavite, carrying off the arms from the town hall. The central provinces, from Tayabas to Pangasinan, suffered from his depredations, and his bloody name extended from Albay in the south to Kagayan in the north. The towns, disarmed through mistrust on the part of a weak government, fell easy prey into his hands—at his approach the fields were abandoned by the farmers, the herds were scattered, while a trail of blood and fire marked his passage. Matanglawin laughed at the severe measures ordered by the government against the tulisanes, since from them only the people in the outlying villages suffered, being captured and maltreated if they resisted the band, and if they made peace with it being flogged and deported by the government, provided they completed the journey and did not meet with a fatal accident on the way. Thanks to these terrible alternatives many of the country folk decided to enlist under his command.
As a result of this reign of terror, trade among the towns, already languishing, died out completely. The rich dared not travel, and the poor feared to be arrested by the Civil Guard, which, being under obligation to pursue the tulisanes, often seized the first person encountered and subjected him to unspeakable tortures. In its impotence, the government put on a show of energy toward the persons whom it suspected, in order that by force of cruelty the people should not realize its weakness—the fear that prompted such measures.
President Duterte has offered Lumads 20 thousand pesos each per killed NPAs (link) – a bounty that is the same as the alleged bounty for police who kill drug suspects. Lumads whose schools he had threatened to bomb just a year ago (link) for allegedly teaching against the government.
Bounties like that can create innocent victims. In the extreme, they can create the likes of former Cabesang Tales, the barangay captain turned into the bandit Matanglawin by debt and abuse. That his son is forced to go to the Carolines as a soldier before that happens is part of the whole tragedy.
Those Westernized heroes did nothing!
Many Filipinos derided the likes of Rizal and the Propaganda, seeing the likes of Matanglawin and Bonifacio, as well as other fighters before and after them, as the real saviors of the Philippines. Just Westernized konyos, jerks who went on junket to Europe on their parent’s money and did nothing. Wrote stupid, long-winded, sentimentally mushy novels nobody today understands anyway and without any damned relevance to the life of real Filipinos. “Social relevance” was a word one leftist teacher liked to use very often. What I fear is that prejudice and bad reading got the better of them.
Of course the Noli and the Fili are translated horribly badly in their Tagalog versions. I helped myself through high school with the English translations. Well, I am by definition a konyo, aren’t I? But a proper translation – and annotations to make certain historical references better understood, would alienate less students – and teachers! Because I wonder how much our own teachers got the references to certain aspects of European history, or the 19th century Philippines teaching Rizal. This made Rizal – just like Heneral Luna BEFORE the movie made him so real – seem foreign.
Sure, there are now those like Ambeth Ocampo who have written Rizal without the Overcoat (link) which is I guess the right thing to do in the Philippines. I also wear an overcoat at this time of year in Munich, where the temperatures have been consistently around zero. Rizal, although he wrote in Spanish, had a strong instinctive feel for the suffering of his own people, a lot of empathy. For sure, there were those like Bonifacio who come closer to the original native warrior ideal idolized by both leftist and rightists in the Philippines. But it is so wrong to see him as merely self-aggrandizing!
Just shut up!
Because this is the main accusation leveled at many intellectuals and writers in the Philippines – don’t talk too much, either join the rest of us in the fields, factories and the fight, or just shut up! Talk is useless, only action counts. Even if it is knee-jerk action which is not thought out at all.
Thinking of a certain complexity is seen as mere grandstanding. The dearth of real thinking in the Philippines makes it impossible for many to see the difference between pilosopo (sophist) and philosopher (real thinker). Or between valid and fake arguments, making political debate HARD. Except for a few talents like Pinoy Ako Blog who manage to bridge the chasm between logic and common sense in the Philippines. Yes, logic is often seen as a tool for showing intellectual superiority, not as a useful tool to make more of our observations and experience. Why, why?
Padre Millon not only used the depreciative tu with the students, like a good friar, but he also addressed them in the slang of the markets, a practise that he had acquired from the professor of canonical law: whether that reverend gentleman wished to humble the students or the sacred decrees of the councils is a question not yet settled, in spite of the great attention that has been given to it.
This question, instead of offending the class, amused them, and many laughed—it was a daily occurrence. But the sleeper did not laugh; he arose with a bound, rubbed his eyes, and, as though a steam-engine were turning the phonograph, began to recite.
“The name of mirror is applied to all polished surfaces intended to produce by the reflection of light the images of the objects placed before said surfaces. From the substances that form these surfaces, they are divided into metallic mirrors and glass mirrors—”
“Stop, stop, stop!” interrupted the professor. “Heavens, what a rattle! We are at the point where the mirrors are divided into metallic and glass, eh? Now if I should present to you a block of wood, a piece of kamagong for instance, well polished and varnished, or a slab of black marble well burnished, or a square of jet, which would reflect the images of objects placed before them, how would you classify those mirrors?”
Whether he did not know what to answer or did not understand the question, the student tried to get out of the difficulty by demonstrating that he knew the lesson, so he rushed on like a torrent.
“The first are composed of brass or an alloy of different metals and the second of a sheet of glass, with its two sides well polished, one of which has an amalgam of tin adhering to it.”
“Tut, tut, tut! That’s not it! I say to you ‘Dominus vobiscum,’ and you answer me with ‘Requiescat in pace!’ ”..
It continues, and ends with the usually over-obedient Penitente standing up:
“Enough, Padre, enough! Your Reverence can put all the marks against me that you wish, but you haven’t the right to insult me. Your Reverence may stay with the class, I can’t stand any more.” Without further farewell, he stalked away.
Proud and sensitive
The professor could have prompted his student to think for himself, possibly by lessening his fear of the academe, but he proceeds to humiliate the student from Batangas named Placido Penitente to the extent that he stammers. I have looked up the two types of mirrors (self-reflecting, called metal mirrors in some old books, or those with glass and something behind to make the glass reflect) and it takes a little bit of thinking to get behind the classification. Absence of fear helps in thinking, but Filipinos are often “proud and sensitive” – a description by a female American colonial educator! There was a situation in Latin class, Grade 11 or 12 in Germany, where the teacher was similarly sarcastic, I was still totally sensitive just a few years away from the Philippines, and I went silent. But he was by no means the asshole that Rizal describes in his novel – a Dominican at the UST!
The American lady (no source I quote from memory) wrote that excessive Filipino ambition came from a culture “proud and arrogant” (American) encountering a “proud and sensitive” (Filipino) culture. Well, Spanish culture is arrogant as well. And Joe America mentions face and power as currency, even in the area of knowledge (link): in blog debates between commenters, you seldom see flexibility or concession. It signifies weakness. Disagreements are two bricks whacking at one another. Solution is not the goal. Preservation of face, and power, are the goals… Filipinos deny the value of “trial and error” as scientific method in daily life. They instead waste energy defending, covering, ducking, running, attacking, undermining, dodging and digging at others. Somehow, the Spanish friar is internalized, many still are the same kind of jerks arguing.
The depth with which Rizal describes the humiliation of the UST student is an indication that he may have experienced it himself or seen others treated the same way. The education system of the Philippines may be more modern now, but in parts still has been and is – reactionary and unfair. Otherwise, the anti-intellectualism of (San Bedan) Duterte and (UST graduate) Mocha Uson would not strike a chord among so many people. The Spanish friars of today may have, to some, been Manilans who mocked the Visayan accents of their students, or the bad English of a poor student. This entire labelling of Rizal and his fellow propagandists as elitists who refused to get their hands dirty is nonsense. Rizal wanted to use his intellect as a tool to better his country, and wanted his people to learn in order to advance. Other Asian countries took his cue. Rizal is known by many.
But Filipinos today seem to WANT to be dumb. Or who wants Filipinos to think they are stupid? Too stupid to research Benham Rise, for example (link)? Or too stupid to discipline themselves (link), and therefore needing dictatorship? Freedom begins inside. Freedom begins in the heart and in the mind. This is probably a message Rizal only partly was able to convey, as he died young and his novels are still read wrongly. Who fears a free people? Those who shot Rizal back in 1896.
The Spaniards are now gone. So is it the “putangina” EU – or ICC? Or same skin, same people?
Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 10 February 2018