The Friars and the Filipinos
by José Rizal
NOTE: This unfinished manuscript of Rizal was not given a title. It is sometimes also entitled The Lord Gazes at the Philippine Islands or The Divine Wrath. It is quite possibly the early draft of a novel that never came to completion. Some notes in green brackets by Robert L. Yoder It can be found in an alternate English translation at the following URL:
It had been for centuries that God the Father, relegated to oblivion by the inhabitants of the earth, abandoned the affairs of the world. He left them to the control of saints and other idols in vogue that the people adored in their madness. He devoted his attention to other suns and planets bigger and more beautiful than ours, where a pure and simple cult was offered to the Eternal Creator. Whenever his omnipotent glance met our little globe, which wrapped in clouds rotated in infinite space, he turned it away with repugnance not unlike what a father does when he sees an ungrateful and wicked son. The earth, thus forsaken to the idols, was enveloped in Misery and suffering. Its face was wrapped like reptiles trapped in their lairs. The sobs of the unfortunate and the victims filled the air, perforated the clouds, and soared until they reached the throne of the Almighty.
The Eternal Father finally had pity on them, and one day, putting his eyeglasses on, he said to himself:
“Let us see and find out what is happening to those Asses of men in their orange-colored sphere!”
God looked earthward, and fate decreed that his gaze should fall precisely upon a handful of islands, many of which were mountainous, surrounded by tempestuous seas and shaken by earthquakes as though they were quivering. God saw men of different races and colors of whom though some were wearing skirts and others pants, yet had their head shaven on the crown, leaving a circle of hair around it. On the other hand, others had it reversed: shaved all around except in the middle where a lock of hair grew long like that of a woman. Occasionally, a few were capering and uttering many stupidities, imputing them to him, the Eternal Father, while others capered more and uttered more stupidities believing that they would please him. The Eternal Father thought he was suffering from hallucination so he adjusted better his eyeglasses and looked more intensely.
And he saw that a few who, though living without doing anything, yet were oppressing and enslaving the others, blinding them, insulted and mocked them. But what surprised the Eternal Father was to see all of them discontented; in fact, the oppressors were even more discontented than the oppressed.
“Hah! Strange!” he murmured, shaking his head in disgust and stroking his beard; “it seems that things go wrong in those islands. . . Hey, you! Come here!” he added in a loud voice, calling the Archangel Gabriel who was passing nearby.
Gabriel came up to him.
“Do you know the name of those green islands below dotted with queer inhabitants and whose habits are even queerer?”
Gabriel looked down.
“I certainly do,” he answered, “because I once had there a temple and a square.”
“You, little Gabriel, you had there a temple and a square!” exclaimed the amazed Eternal Father. “Do you permit yourself such luxuries?”
“Bah! They have already been taken away from me, and have been given to a friar. There everything finds its way into the hands of friars!”
“Do you say friars? What insect is that?”
“Well, . . . a friar, a friar is something difficult to explain,” answered Gabriel perplexed. “A friar – there is the quid. [Latin: “What?” -- rly] I myself do not understand it!”
“And what is the name of those small islands?” asked God, looking at the earth very intently.
“Of course, they are the Philippine Islands."
“Aha! So those are the famous Philippines, the country from which come so many . . . Well, I thought . . . but tell me, how is it that they have a name which sounds like Spanish when from what hear its people do not speak that language?"
“That is another quid, Eternal Father,” answered Gabriel who, while he was in the Philippines had become fond of the word. “The inhabitants of those islands are subjects of the Spaniards."
“Subjects, Gabriel, subjects, is that what you say? I have created men free, men are born free; all men are equal.”
“That is another quid.”
“Stop saying quids, Gabriel, and explain yourself better!”
“Caramba!” [Spanish: “Blast it! -- rly] If I were to explain to Your Divine Majesty the things that happen there below, we would not finish in seven days. . .”
“But at least explain to me how it happened that even though I created the earth for man, for him who cultivates it, and even though I created all men free and equal, the inhabitants of those islands have become subjects of the Spaniards.”
“Well . . . a certain Alexander VI [A Pope (1492 to 1503 A.D.) who was noted for his worldliness and corruption. – rly] in the name of Your Divine Majesty.”
“What? What? In my name? Caracoles!” [Spanish: Snails! -- rly] interrupted the Eternal Father unable to restrain himself. “And who is that Alexander VI?”
“Well, that is another quid,” responded Gabriel, who could not forget his bad habits, “That Alexander VI, who claimed that he was governing the world in the name of Your Divine Majesty, was a rascal. He poisoned many people, had amours with his own daughter. . .
“Jesus and Mary!” interrupted the Father making the sign of the cross, “Jesus and Mary! And that rascal governed in my name? Holy God!”
“Inasmuch as Your Divine Majesty no longer concerned yourself about the earth . . . and when the master sleeps, the servants and thieves enjoy themselves,” answered Gabriel in a light tone of reproach. “The whole world knows that Alexander was a cunning scoundrel—so much so that he was cursed and condemned by all honorable men, by all civilized Europe and America, and his name has become synonymous with immorality, murderer, poisoner, intriguer, incestuous. . . In those islands alone is he esteemed: there they have dedicated to him one whole street which was named after him!”
“Really? But is that country crazy? However, continue: you were saying that, the scoundrel, abusing my name. . .”
“Gave those islands to the Portuguese!”
“To the Portuguese? But were you not saying that those islands were subject to the Spaniards? What has become of my name and my prestige?”
“That is another . . . that is to say, I will explain: Taking advantage of Your Divine Majesty’s want of attention, Alexander VI divided the earth between the Spanish and the Portuguese . . .”
“But who authorized him to dispose of the earth which was not his?”
“Bah, bah! I see now that Your Divine Majesty knows not what for a long time has been going on earth. Well, do not think that the Popes will bother themselves with such considerations. They dispose also of heaven, of Your Divine Majesty’s kingdom, and even of Your Divine Majesty!”
“They dispose of me? They dispose of heaven? What do you say?” exclaimed God the Father, getting up.
“Uy! uy!” answered Gabriel. “And not only the Popes, who after all, put on certain airs and possess some seriousness, but even the most worthless friar, the most worthless monkey, as we used to say in Manila, pretends to send you orders and reduce you into a sort of executor of his wishes, Uy! uy! uy!
“Sus Maria! Sus Maria! Is it possible?” exclaimed the Father, touching his venerable head. “O tempora! O mores!” [“Alas for the times and the manners” -- rly]. . . But continue, continue. You were saying that he divided the earth between the Spaniards and the Portuguese. . .”
“The islands which Your Divine Majesty sees went to the Portugal.”
“And Spain bought them?”
“No, sir. On the contrary! A Portuguese [an oblique reference to Magellan -- rly] who had friends in those parts, acquired them for the Spaniards. . .”
“A Portuguese? Did he then betray his country? I don’t understand you.”
“Yes, Father, he did betray his country, but he excused himself by saying that his king had refused to raise his pay.”
“And for that he betrayed his king and his country? What did they do to him after that?”
“They erected him a monument in the Philippines and named streets after him the same as they did with the other.”
“Another! Is it that they honor them all – the scoundrels?”
“The Archangel Gabriel shrugged his wings and murmured: “Remember that I no longer have my church there.”
“But what did Portugal do then?” asked the Eternal Father whose interest was aroused by the mess.
“She complained, and Charles, king of the Spaniards, heeded her reasons and for a big sum of money which at that time he needed, renounced in favor of Portugal whatever rights Spain might have had in those islands.”
“And did Portugal take them over?”
“No, Father; Charles sent other expeditions to seize them but they failed, until at last his son subdued them by means of treaties – partly by astuteness, partly by war, and partly by good promises.”
“And do Charles and his son now have monuments in the Philippines?”
“Not yet, but eventually they will have them,” answered Gabriel.
“And what did Alexander do when he saw that his orders were not being obeyed? Did he protest or try to put things in order?”
“Oh, no! He had already died, poisoned in turn. But he was not a man to take his own orders seriously.”
“And what do the people say when they see my sacred name associated with such deals?”
“What can they say, Eternal Father, except that either you do not exist or that if you do exist, you have forsaken them!”
The old God covered his face, and with pain in his countenance, he asked:
“Let us see, Gabriel: since you have been to those islands and it seems that you know them well, what do you think must be done in order to remedy their ills?”
“Does the Eternal Father ask my opinion?”
“Yes, my son, because their voices have reached me and I want to put an end to their great misery.”
“Well, I would seize all those islands…” and Gabriel made a significant gesture as if he were pulverizing something with his fingers.
“Thus, Eternal Father, thus! And I would make new islands with new inhabitants. Thus, thus!”
“Come, come,” God the Father said in a paternal tone. “I see that you are young and unaccustomed seeing deviltries. Perhaps you still resent their having deprived you of your temple and your plaza in order to give them to a – how do you call it?”
“That’s it: friar! What a queer name! I do not remember having created such a thing! But do not be vindictive, emulate me. Consider how they call me the God of Vengeance, I who am all mercy! I have given them everything and yet I do not have even a single temple there. I have made everybody free, and they misuse my name in order to destroy my work. And, in spite of all this, not only do I not avenge myself, but also want to make them happy.”
“Good, good,” answered Gabriel. “If Your Divine Majesty refuse to follow my opinion then ask the opinion of others who enjoy much fame in the Philippines. There presently is St. Andrew who is passing by, he is the patron saint of Manila, whose feast day is celebrated every year with great pomp and show including flags, processions, drums, judges, masked constables, raw-boned horses, and other quaint objects.”
And the archangel after bowing reverently, left.
“Hey, you, Andrew, what do you know about the Philippines?” asked God the Father of an old man who as passing by with a cross, shaped as an X.
The old apostle was frightened when he heard his name called, and dropped the cross upon hearing the name “Philippines.”
“Come, what would you advise me in order to put Manila in order?” continued the Father in a sweet voice, noticing that St. Andrew became speechless.
Saint Andrew grimaced when he heard the words “order” and “Manila,” and commended himself to all the saints.
“Come now, speak! What would you advise?”
“I, sir, I? Nothing, nothing!” The apostle was able to mumble at last. “I have nothing to do with that country, and I do not want to have any dealings with that people. I am a peaceful saint and I talk little. Moreover, I do not understand anything about paperwork. I wish they would leave me in peace – enough trouble have they already given me.”
“But are you not the patron saint of Manila?”
“No, no . . . yes . . . no, Father. . . yes, Father . . . I mean, yes, yes. . . but no. . . no. . . no.”
“But, man, explain yourself.”
Saint Andrew scratched his head, fanned himself with the end of his cape, because he felt the same distress as when he was to be crucified. After exerting effort, he was finally able to say:
“Look, Your Divine Majesty, I am innocent! This is the story. Years after the Spaniards had taken possession of these islands, many Chinese came who also wanted to possess the islands. So they fought and killed one another there; I did not take part in anything, and how could I? The victors, however, in order to show the rightfulness of their possession and to justify themselves, decided to involve me by attributing to my intervention their victory. God save me! They said that the battle was fought on the day of my saint as if I had anything everything that happens on that day. But the funniest part of it is that it was not my saint’s day. Because the Spaniards had made their voyage by following the sun, they erred in the date of the calendar. There, Your Divine Majesty can see how innocent I am of that imputation.”
“And to whom does the date of the battle correspond?”
“How should I know, Eternal Father?” answered St. Andrew trying to leave. “It seems to correspond to one Pocola or to one Evasion. The calendar mentions many names. Make them responsible.”
They looked for the saints alluded to, but the little angels did not know them. The Eternal Father without losing his patience asked:
“But, let us see, what religion is followed in the Philippines?”
The blessed looked at one another, the angels like children who do not know their lesson asked one another with their eyes, finally, one more mischievous and daring than the others, a real enfant terrible [= a brat - rly], answered:
“The Christian religion!”
“Who said that it is my religion which predominates in those islands?” asked a manly clear and sonorous voice, “Who dares slander it?”
A tall man with serious and ascetic physiognomy, with genteel gait and majestic movements, went forward in the midst the blessed, having his eyes fixed on the daring angel. In heaven his name was Jesus. He was one of the greatest founders of religions. Trembling with fear and perplexed, the talkative angel hid himself behind his companions who pulled out his tongue and told him:
“Aba!” you deserve it!”
“What religion therefore is practiced in the Philippines?” repeated the Eternal Father, looking at everybody. “Do those islands have no religion then?”
Jesus became more severe and austere than ever before, so, although many looked at him, they did not dare speak. At length, a much older man, of Mongolian type, with beard and mustache like bristles and with slant eyes, after ceremoniously bowing many times, answered in an insinuating and tranquil accent:
“The just Jesus has told the truth. His religion is not followed in the Philippines and I can even dare say that his doctrine is totally unknown there. But let his unworthy disciple Kungtse [or K'ung Fu-tzu that is Confucius -- rly] observed that while it is true that his divine laws do not predominate there, on the other hand, his name is abused, and in his name are committed there crimes and unheard of iniquities. I know it because my country and the Philippines are neighbors, and many idolaters in my country become Christians in the Philippines for purposes more or less reprehensible, more or less dishonest.”
Kungtse’s words carry great weight in celestial circles hence without irritation, Christ answered,
“I agree with Kungtse. However, I cannot be made responsible for the abuses committed in my name by a few hypocrites, a race of serpents, vipers, and whitened sepulchers. If the name of the Father is abused, what will they not do of mine? My doctrine is written and although it is deformed, it is there still shining and protesting. My name is abused because men forget me, because they do not remember that I preached love and charity, and that I cannot countenance any form of tyranny or any oppression. I taught them how to reason, analyze, and investigate. Why do they close their eyes? Is it my fault that there are blind and stupid people on earth? To what ridiculousness they want to reduce me when, forgetting my doctrine, unmindful of the moral basis of my work, and the spirit of my preaching, they now crawl worshipping me by parts and organs. I abhor that race of hypocrites and I would have protested long ago had I not known that my mother was somehow mixed up in the mess.”
“Forgive me, my son,” replied a good lady with a sweet face and merciful look. “They have abused my name even more than they did yours, and if I did not complain, it was because I did not want to cause you any unpleasantness. Look, there they make my love, my feelings, and me the object of traffic. They use my name to get the last penny of the poor, to corrupt married women, defile virgins, and submerge entire families in ignorance and misery. Now they paint me black, now brown, and now white. I who have always lived out of my work and have never begged alms from anybody, have now to go from town to town, from house to house, begging in order to satiate with gold those who lie in pleasure and abundance. They make me the cloak for filthy things and illicit amours, a vendor of rosaries, scapularies and church belts, and if they clothe me well at times it is for the purpose of making more money, the same that they do to circus dancers. They are not contented with all that; they also attribute to me needs and weaknesses, they consider me as vindictive, greedy, and hard-hearted; they sometimes paint me as if I were in enmity, in contradiction, in rivalry with myself. They make me take a bath, dance, and dress me up with funny habits and commit all sorts of heresy and deviltry with me. Now that you are aware of everything, I beseech you, my dear son, to take me out of those islands as I can no longer bear it. You may leave there the saints to deal with them. There you have Augustine, Dominic, Ignatius. . .”
“With a great deal of faith and will perhaps I could do something,” rejoined Ignatius of Loyola smiling pleasantly. “My sons are well disciplined and obey my rules; but your sons, my dear Dominic, notwithstanding my complacency to them, try to block everything I undertake, to put me out. . . If you could intervene. . .”
“Who, I to intervene?” answered Dominic; “Never! First they make me jump with my scapulary and my star of false stones. They are capable of everything when they are threatened with the loss of their business. Let the Nuncio or St. Peter straighten them.”
“Who speaks about me?” inquired one with a hoarse voice like that of an old porter.
It was St. Peter who walked forward, with his bald pate and his ink-stained hands.
“We were saying,” replied St. Dominic, “that you should be the one to straighten the things in the Philippines inasmuch as you have a Pope. . .”
“Please do not mention to me the Pope as a favor, interrupted St. Peter. “See how stained with ink are my hands for noting down indulgences. My head has become so big as a drum! To put order in the Philippines, nothing less! And if they hang me? How can I, to put in order a country where my sons serve as servants and assistants while yours suck it. You yourselves put order in it or let them alone to put order among themselves!”
After saying this, he left because he heard a knock on the door.
“That’s it, let them alone to put order among themselves!”
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Every country has the lot it deserves.”
“Tyrants live because they are allowed to live by those whom they tyrannize.”
“Let him who tolerates everything suffer.”
These and many other things the saints said in their fear to go to the Philippines. When the Eternal Father noticed that all of them tried to escape the danger, he was perplexed.
“But let us see, let us find out first, what’s going on in the Philippines. Who among you know? Nobody? Caramba! [Blast it! -- rly] Are there no Filipinos here?”
“Yes, Eternal Father, there are many,” answered St. John, the record keeper of Heaven, “but they are very queer and very. . .”
“That does not matter. Ask them to come here. We will get some information from them. I got everything out of nothing.”
“Filipinos, Filipinos, come. And those who were in the Philippines, come!” the angels announced everywhere in Heaven.
An unusual excitement was noted among the groups of inhabitants in Heaven. Many of the Filipinos pretended to be asleep; others tried to hide, because they thought that they were going to be searched or compelled to show their residence certificates, or forced to work without any pay as they were accustomed to do on earth. Upon seeing the Filipinos act the way they did, the little angels winked at one another at the same time pointing at them with their fingers; the virgins repressed their smiles and covered their faces with fans in order to interchange certain expressions; the old women put on their eyeglasses to see better; and the archangels, cherubim, and seraphim who were always mindful of their dignity, lightly elbowed one another and pretended to cough.
In no time at all, a long file marched, the end of which was lost in the distance. The line took shape and swelled at every step. At the head marched the most distinguished, the oldest, those who had a sour face, and the air of Good Friday at three o’clock in the afternoon. The young, those whose appearance was modern and had affable manners, were left behind those in front refused to mix with them.
St. John, the Evangelist, introduced the first, enumerating his merits and qualities. He was born in Spain with a rigid mustache and a mien fiercer still. He died of dysentery in the Philippines.
“His Excellency, Don Policarpio Rodriguez Mendéz de la Villaencia, great Philippinologist, and erudite, according to himself, on the country. He has gone to all the islands, knows thoroughly the Indio, and is informed why, wherefore, and in what way the Philippine archipelago does not progress!”
“Very good!” exclaimed God the Father, opening his arms. “Come now, speak, enlighten us, and inspire us!”
The whole celestial kingdom became silent. Even the mischievous little angels and the indiscreet virgins stopped winking and smiling.
Don Policarpo, etc., coughed twice or thrice boastfully, looked right and left, and with great contempt spat with such force that his saliva landed exactly in the middle of the crown of St. Dominic. Without bothering to apologize he coughed once more and in a hoarse voice began to speak:
“Look here, know that I very well know the country. I had an experience that. . . well, all those who are present would like to have except His Divine Majesty who. . . you understand what I mean. So nobody can come here and tell fibs to me because I call bread, bread and wine, wine. I am that way for I like to speak clearly and straight to the point. I said; that’s that.”
Again he spat forcefully and this time the saliva hit precisely the ear of the good St. Francis. The little angels and the virgins exerted effort to suppress their laughter.
“But why, and how, and the wherefore. . .”
“Look here, remember that I am well acquainted with the country and I have such an experience. . .”
“Shut up, good man, shut up!” interrupted a man standing behind him. “You do not know what you are talking about. Here we are not in Manila but in the court of Heaven.”
The man who thus spoke was a handsome fellow with very refined manners.
“Come,” said the Father, addressing the second speaker, “it seems that you know the Philippines better. Do enlighten us.”
The man alluded to stroked his mustache, looked at everybody with a calm smile, and remembering the choir of virgins, he stood erect and said in a sweet and sonorous voice:
“Sacred Divine Majesty, the modesty which has characterized me always in all the public gatherings in which I had the fortune of witnessing, sometimes as their chairman, from the popular meetings held in the streets of the stately sessions of the parliament of my country. . .”
“To the point, man, to the point,” interrupted Don Policarpo.
“Man, don’t be rude! Let me speak!”
“Shut up! Man!”
“You are jealous!”
A heated exchange of words followed and the two were about to fight had it not been for the intervention of St. Michael, the chief of public order in Heaven, who pacified them. The Eternal Father commanded them to leave. The little angels and the virgins tried to suppress their laughter.
The next was an old woman laden with scapularies, candles, novenas, church belts, and other trifles.
“This is Doña Antonia, a native of the Philippines,” announced St. John. “She squandered her whole fortune buying these pretty trifles, and spent eighty years muttering prayers!”
“Away with you!” ordered the Eternal Father. “What can she know about the Philippines?”
“This next one is,” continued St. John, “the head of a barangay [local administrative unit of a certain number of families -- rly] who died in prison for debts.”
“And what does he know about the country?” asked the Eternal.
“The parish priest, sir, the list of taxpayers, sir; the parish priest, sir, the list of taxpayers, poll, the parish priests,” uttered the poor fellow.
“Away with him!” cried the Eternal, sighing.
“This one is a lawyer who held high positions in the country because he served the friars well.”
“Let us see; let the lawyer talk!”
The lawyer, who was chubby and big-bellied, began to waver, shifting his posture by resting on one foot and then on the other. Above all, he coughed and coughed but was unable to utter a word. He finally ended up by belching. The virgins and the little angels could no longer contain themselves and burst into a loud laughter.
“Silence!” ordered the Eternal. “Come, speak. Here you are among friends and you should have confidence.”
When the man heard these affectionate words, he began to weep. So, he was asked to leave. The Eternal Father kept stroking his beard.
“The one who follows has the reputation of being the smartest man in his days. He was always in power; he has been a judge; governor, director, etc.”
“Good! Good! Tell us something about the Philippines, as I am eager to be enlightened.”
“Ah, does Your Divine Majesty want to be enlightened? In that case you should go to the friars, consult the friars, lay hold of the friars, flatter the friars, befriend the friars, and uphold the friars. . .”
“In that case, let him return to the friars,” ordered His Divine Majesty who became angry.
St. Michael seized him by the shoulder, gave him a kick somewhere in his body, and there, he flung back to earth. Upon falling on earth he was converted into a pot of clay and landed in the infirmary of a convent.
“How come that such beings have entered my kingdom without having been purified first? What has Peter been doing?” said the Eternal in the meantime and showing signs of great impatience.
St. John presented an old man who stepped forward with much pageantry.
“This is one of the fattest birds from the Philippines,” said John; “he was a friar all his life. . .”
“Aha, so this is a friar!” exclaimed the Eternal Father, curiously looking at the ridiculous old man. “Let us see how the friar explains himself. Come now, speak.”
“Well, sir, here where you see me,” said the funny looking old man, “I am a wonder: I have made the country prosper by trying to get from it all the money it had. I have flooded it with pastoral letters that were never read. I have sung Te Deum in the belief that the earthquakes were all over and the earthquakes returned. I granted indulgences to stupid books in order to make them more respectable, and the public redoubled its laughter. I built cruisers with the people’s money, in order to use them in defending the country against infidels, but the infidels got the cruisers and nobody saw the money afterward. In short, I have made the Philippines happy; I have made it laugh and laugh and laugh, and it may still be laughing right now. . .”
“Do you mean then, that the misery that I see does not really exist?”
“No, indeed, sir. There is no misery there! How can there be, since when I died I left to each of my heirs eight thousand pesos, and be informed that I had many heirs: two or three in every town where I had stayed. Misery? Come now, none sir. Your Divine can inquire from all these friars; do you see how fat and plump they are? Why, they have just arrived from the country. Your Divine Majesty can see now that there is an abundance of everything in that country!”
“Out, begone from my presence!” shouted the Eternal on seeing such impudence and stupidity. “Begone lest my anger should burst and I send you back to earth transformed into filthy animals.”
The Filipinos left in confusion. Some were greatly disappointed because among them there were some who could have said something discreet and sensible about the things of the Philippines. However, as they were at the tail of the line, nobody suspected their existence.
After reflecting a few moments, the Eternal said in a severe tone to Jesus:
“Inasmuch as in your name odious injustices are committed on earth, it is necessary that you go down, study the evil, and inform me of what happens so that it may be remedied. . .”
“Again among the Pharisees?” asked Jesus turning pale.
“Yes, again among them! Had you left in writing your laws and your words, had you expressed yourself exactly and clearly, your historians would not have distorted you, nor corrupted your doctrine by misinterpreting it, nor abused your authority! How many disputes, how many discussions, how many wars and persecutions would you have saved humanity and with what rapidity would it have progressed!”
Jesus, heaving a sigh, bowed his head.
“But fear not,” continued more sweetly the Eternal Father. “This time you will not drink the bitter chalice, because, being more prudent with the memory of the past, you will try to pass unnoticed, and avoid as much as possible coming into contact with the Pharisees and Scribes. There will be no need for you to be born of a virgin mother, which will be difficult to happen there because, according to what they say, it is a sin to deny one’s debt to one’s consort. Neither will it be necessary to behead fourteen thousand children. On the contrary it is imperative that you arrive there already a full-grown man, because if you are born there and educated there; you will grow up ignorant, you will become stupid, and it will cost me much effort to bring you back to reason. Avoid as much as possible discussion with the doctors about their laws because it is certain that they will not let you go alive and they will call you a filibuster [= renegade outlaw – rly]. God save you from driving out of the temple vendors and traffickers for they will file charges against y9ou and will persecute you and, above all, beware of calling serpents and a race of vipers the thousands of Pharisees that you will find there. Go, go down then for the love of humanity, for the prestige of your name, and in order that men may not be harmed by the passion you suffered for them. Be patient, be prudent, and be observant.”
And turning to St. Peter who had come forward, the Eternal said:
“And you, why did you allow to enter into my kingdom so many imbeciles and heartless people who should have been purified and cleaned first? For not guarding the gates well, you will return to the earth.”
St. Peter cried in pain and fell on his knees.
“But, Lord, I was very busy noting down indulgencies!” he protested clasping his hands.
“You will return to earth and will accompany Jesus in his travel,” the Eternal continued unyielding. “You permitted yourself to have successors on earth who pretended to be vicars of Jesus. It is just therefore that you accompany Him because all the abuses are being committed there in your names!”
Both could do nothing but to obey. After receiving the paternal blessing, they sadly went away.
“Lord,” said St. Peter weeping to Jesus, “this time we shall not escape. You do not have any idea of how things are settled in the Philippines; I do because I have received some news. Pilate at least washed his hands; but there, there, they soil them. When the Jews crucified you, they did not persecute either your mother or your relatives, not even your disciples; but, Master, in the Philippines – uy in the Philippines. . .! In Judea even when the cross was already on your shoulders, the women still showed you sympathy, but in the Philippines, even if you have not yet been accused, the women will already deny you in order to avoid suspicion. Alas! Poor me! Alas!
“Courage, Peter, have courage! We are to blame! You left the keys down below and I made a pun with your name on founding my church, and the rascals took advantage of it. This will teach me not to make calembours [French: puns -- rly] when dealing with serious matters.”
The nearer they approached the earth, the sadder and more pensive Jesus became. His manly face was covered with pain, and one would think that night was descending upon his features. He found the land for which he had to shed his blood in order to preach love to it, with the same vices as before, perhaps even worse: there was weeping, sorrow, and desperation, on the one side; and egoistic laughter and gay blasphemies on the other, and everywhere there was miserable and discontented humanity exhausted with unquenchable passions. Like before, the poor were still the victims of the rich and the weak, a prey to the strong. There were laws for the disinherited and the duties for the needy. But for the rich and for the powerful there were only rights and privileges. Over this sea of misery and tears, he saw, like rare small islands, some smiling and calm faces sadly looking about them. But the surrounding waves roared furiously, casting on them their bitter foam, though condemning, slandering, and insulting them, and amidst the howling Jesus heard his name uttered.
“Horrible!” exclaimed Jesus, covering his face, “horrible!” So much futile suffering, so much fruitless agony. . . It would have been better had I let humanity redeem itself by developing its natural forces and the luminous spark with which the Eternal has endowed it! If man was able to wrest so many profound secrets from the dark bosom of nature and formulate their divine laws, why could he not discover also and unravel the moral seed planted by God in his conscience and in his heart? Was it perhaps easier to analyze the properties of metal hidden in the bowels of the earth that the demands of conscience which speaks to us every hour? Of what use was my martyrdom if so many thorns were going to sprout among so few fruits? What has become of my work, passion, and death? Have I suffered for this purpose in order that my name may sanction injustice, suffocate conscience, and becloud the intellect?”
St. Peter was able to follow his Master only with great difficulty.
“Lord,” he said, “we are getting closer – but what happened to you, Lord, that your forehead is covered with blood? You weep and your tears are blood. One would say that you are again in Gethsemane. . .”
Jesus sadly shook his head.
“Would to God that I did feel nothing more than the pangs of death,” he responded, “I would prefer a thousand deaths, a thousand Gethsemanes to the pains that now overwhelm me. When one dies for the sake of love or for his belief that with his death he will do well, death is a pleasure. But when behind death, behind suffering, comes disappointment. . . Oh, why can I not reduce myself now to nothing completely, annihilate myself, and efface my conscience, so that I may not see the disastrous effect of my work. . . I came to earth as light and men have used me to cover it with darkness. I came to comfort the poor, and my religion has nothing but favors and complacencies for the rich. I came to destroy superstition and in my name superstition flourishes and rules as a supreme sovereign. I came to redeem nations and in my name provinces, kingdoms, and continents, are subjected and whole races have been reduced to slavery or have disappeared. I came to preach love, and in my name, for useless distinctions, for subtleties invented by the idle, men have pitted themselves against others and have covered the earth with death and devastation, sanctifying the crime with the prestige of the divinity. It is a horrible ridicule, a monstrous equivocation, and a stupendous blasphemy!”
And Jesus wept bitterly and disconsolately.
“Yes,” he continued, “it is just, it is my duty to redeem humanity again from the abyss into which it has fallen. Even if I were to suffer a thousand deaths more cruel than the one I suffered, I should not cower. . . Begone fear! Away fright! This time it will not be love alone, but love, duty, and justice which will impel me to the sacrifice!”
“What? Lord? Do you intend to let them crucify you once more?” asked St. Peter trembling.
Jesus absorbed in his meditation, did not answer. They were already approaching the Philippines, and they could see the high mountains crowning the island that rose from the surrounding sparking waters, which appeared phosphorescent under the light of the stars. From the distance they saw the red crater of a volcano like a bloodstain on the unfortunate land. Toward the East the first light of dawn began to brighten.
Disturbed by the turn taken by his Master’s resolutions, St. Peter had reason to be afraid to enter the Philippines. So he availed himself of an opportunity while they were passing near an island that did not belong to the group, and told Jesus:
“Master, it would be very convenient that we first stop on this island in order to prepare ourselves and decide upon so dangerous a trip. It is necessary to know beforehand the conditions obtaining in that hog sty, and in the same way that you fasted for forty days and forty nights before you contended with the Jews, let us stay here three months because with the Filipinos, every precaution would be little.”
St. Peter relied on diverting his Master or at least to delay their entry into the Philippines. Absorbed in meditation, Jesus allowed St. Peter to lead him. Taking advantage of the occasion, St. Peter brought his Master toward an island and they landed in a solitary place not very far from the town. It was down and the houses could already be distinguished: white, square, with many windows like pigeon-houses erected one above the other like steps on the slope of the mountain which, in itself, formed an island.
As it was necessary for them to shed their celestial vestments for the journey they were going to make, Jesus managed to transform his cape into a dark suit of the right cut without necessarily following the rules of fashion. He took off his beard and his long hair and, in order to have a notable Filipino appearance, he stooped slightly like a man in the habit of obedience and submission. On seeing him so disfigured, the very infallibility of the Pope would be put in danger and would take him for a Filipino of a good family, who was traveling for pleasure.
For his part, St. Peter, who had heard in heaven that the Chinese were the ones having the best time in the Philippines thought it wise to disguise himself as a Chinaman. He asked the Master that he be so transformed, but he was unfortunate because, due to his baldness, he had only a few hairs left, with which to make a queue, so that he looked like a panot (hairless) Chinaman. He left a few hairs for his mustache and made his cape into a loose pair of pants and his tunic into a Chinese shirt. He looked so queer that Jesus needed all his seriousness in order not to burst into loud laughter.
They entered the city that already began to move. The houses awoke and laborers, boatmen, the majority of them Chinese, realized that they were in a Chinese port called Victoria [= Hong Kong; the name of Hong Kong’s harbor -- rly] because it was governed by the English Queen’s subjects.
“We landed in the wrong place,” said St. Peter, “We are in a country of Chinese; moreover, it is ruled by Protestants.”
To himself he added: “We avoided the rain and we fell into the sea.” Very sad and apprehensive about his lot, the good St. Peter walked with distrust, cursing within himself the idea he had of descending on that island. In the Philippines, a country of Christians, he was at least known, and no matter how bad it might be it would still be worth more than a good one that was yet to be known.
Jesus, who was looking everywhere as if he were trying to find something, noticed some big houses that looked alike and were built in the same manner. He thought that these might be hospitals or public buildings for charitable purposes. But St. Peter, whose opinion of the English and the Chinese was negative, said they might be barracks, because it seemed impossible that such unbelievers could do any other thing. To resolve the doubt, they approached a young man, apparently a half-breed, and asked him.
“Those are owned by the Dominican fathers,” answered the youth.
“Owned by the Dominican fathers!” repeated St. Peter amazed. “Master, these houses belong to the sons of Dominic.”
“Astonished, they both gazed on the many houses and wondered at their magnificence.
“And Dominic made us believe that his sons took vows of poverty!” remarked St. Peter.
“Do not be surprised, Peter,” answered Jesus. “If I remember right, they have a mission in China. Perhaps so great is the labor that thousands of missionaries must live here for their work of conversion.”
They resumed their walk and saw another long row of houses that were not so big although sufficiently well constructed.”
“These must really be barracks,” said St. Peter to himself, and asked a man if they were barracks.
“They belong to the Dominican fathers,” responded the man.
“Hah!” exclaimed St. Peter. “And those houses which I see yonder, painted white and red?”
“Those, too, belong to the fathers. All, all belong to the fathers,” answered the man gesticulating and pointing out several streets, “The fathers own many houses on this street, numerous houses on that street, on the other street, and farther away.”
“Aha, ah! So there are many Dominicans here?”
“No, only two.”
“Only two? And who live in those houses?”
“Chinese? Christians, no doubt?”
“How is that? Chinese infidels live in houses built by Dominican Catholics?
“Yes, the Chinese pay well. The fathers amass much money and have millions in the banks and in stocks. . .”
“And how have they become very rich? Do they work much, and do they till the fields? Do they devote themselves to some industry?”
“And where did they get the money with which to build so many houses?”
“From the Philippines. The Indios give them plenty of money.”
“So the Indios of the Philippines must be very rich?”
“No, they are very poor. They live in miserable houses.”
“Poor! I don’t understand it. And the Dominicans build houses for Chinese infidels with money from the Philippines whereas in the Philippines the Christians live in miserable huts?”
St. Peter approached his Master to tell him his doubts, but he found Jesus occupied in deep meditation.
Jesus could see from where he stood, the court of a big building far away. On it there were many men wearing the same kind of clothing, busy with raising from, and returning to, the ground a few balls that seemed quite heavy. There was one who seemed to supervise the work.
“That’s the prison,” answered an Englishman whom Jesus asked, “there go all the convicts, thieves, forgers, the violent, and murderers. What you see is one of the labors to which they are condemned. There are other labors that are picking oakum [hemp fiber from used ropes. After treated with tar, it is used for caulking. -- rly], making mats, turning some crank, etc.”
“And are all those unfortunates infidels?”
“No. There are among them Christians and men of all nationalities. There are also Englishmen, because here we do not make any distinction between criminals. There, we have men who held high positions in our colony.”
“And what about your prestige?” asked St. Peter, “don’t you know how to care for your prestige as the Spanish do in the Philippines?
“Our prestige is not in our faces but in our morality,” replied the Englishman who did not even deign to look at St. Peter dressed as a Chinaman.
St. Peter agreed that in spite of everything, the Englishman might be right in regarding moral prestige more valuable than the prestige of race; but he said the English were very arrogant and exceedingly proud of their system, and that the Catholics in the Philippines should know that better, first because they were Catholics, and secondly because there he enjoyed enough fame.
They continued their walk and their observations, and St. Peter observed to his great surprise that although they were in a country of infidels, yet they could walk with safety: there were no vehicles to trample the pedestrians; the Englishmen did not maltreat the Chinese; the police did not rob the poor or vex them; and if a person, however wealthy and important, abused an outcast, he was taken to court where he was immediately tried without much paper work, without making the complainant spend money, without constraining him to come and go from one office to another, waste his time only to find out later that besides having been mauled, he has become also the victim of administrative red tape. So St. Peter, who recovered from his distrust, was reconciled with the regime in the island, and he thought of living there for good for it was better than going to the Philippines. For this reason, he craftily proposed to Jesus, our Lord:
“Master, would it not be better if we rent a house here so that you can spend forty days of fasting?”
“For what should I fast?” responded Christ, who guessed Peter’s intention. “I need all the strength of my body and spirit. It is necessary that my whole being be in perfect equilibrium in order to cope with the difficulties of my mission. . . Why should I fast? My body which was conceived without the shadow of sin, is not an enemy of my spirit that I should weaken it.”
St. Peter understood the logic of the reply.
“Nevertheless, Master,” he replied, “it is not unnecessary that we tarry here in order to study the conditions of the country we are going to visit. We can ask lodging from the Dominicans who have very many houses, because as I see the fields are not habitable.”
Jesus assented to St. Peter’s proposition. After asking for the residence of the Dominicans, they went to it.
“A beautiful building! Exclaimed St. Peter when he saw the convent or palace that served the two friars as an office and a residence “I am sure, Master, that they will give us free hospitality here and treat us like brothers.”
Unfortunately for them, they arrived at a very inconvenient time. The friar procurator had just lost a court case that very day to a Filipino. It was about a petty question of salary that the friar had refused to pay. The friar relying on the wealth of his order, had thought that he could get away with it. The case had reached the courts of the city to the great scandal of everyone. But the English judges were not intimidated and did justice. The great friar was compelled to pay what he legally and lawfully owed.
It was not wonder that on that day he was in a bad humor. When the servant announced the visit and its object, the friar, believing that they were Filipinos, turned him away rudely from the office saying that the place was not intended for beggars and that if they did not have the money to pay for a house they should stay in the street.
St. Peter could not recover from his earlier admiration. Decidedly, everything was turning out to be the very opposite of what he expected. He had negative thoughts of the city, but found it to be safe. He thought the friars would be hospitable but found them to be violent and avaricious. In contrast to Peter Jesus became sadder and more pensive.
They both went to a hotel where they lodged. They knew that they would live among the living of the towns and cities instead of spending their days in a desert or in solitude. Thus, while they were waiting for a ship to sail for the Philippines, they applied themselves to the study of the customs on earth and walked daily along the streets, taking down notes of interesting things. It happened that rumors spread in Hong Kong that a certain mysterious stranger, possibly a Rajah’s son who was traveling incognito. He was, they said, staying in town studying and taking notes with the intention of going later to the Philippines to study those same notes. The news greatly intrigued the numerous inhabitants of Hong Kong who had relations with the archipelago, especially the religious corporations that had many properties there. They intended to maintain and preserve, cost what it may, their prestige that had been doubted and in so many ways damaged.
So it happened that one morning, while Jesus was meditating in his hotel room, a visitor visited him. His manners were very courteous, his words were gentle, and he uttered compliments at every turn.
“Pardon me,” said the stranger, “for presenting myself in this manner and possibly for disturbing you, but I have heard that you intend to go to the Philippines on a pleasure trip. . . perhaps to study the country, possibly with a commission from the government, maybe to write a book. . .”
And the stranger smiled. Jesus, however, shook his head in an ambiguous way so that the stranger could not make out anything concerning the object that the traveler intended to pursue.
“And we know the country,” the stranger continued, “and we have there numerous friends and adherents… we—“
. . . document damaged at this point . . .
“I have begun bad,” said St. Peter
Inasmuch as the Dominicans owned the majority of the houses for rent, they presumed that it would be futile to look for a dwelling house, and they decided to board a ship for the Philippines. They went to the beach and learned there that a steamer would sail in a few days. The captain, however, asked them for their passports.
“Why do I need a passport?” said Jesus. “I am a Filipino, and in order to return to the Philippines should I provide myself with a passport? When does one need permission to enter his own house?”
The captain replied that such was the government’s requirement and there was no remedy for the travelers but to secure their passports. It cost Jesus three pesos and fifty centavos. St. Peter, for being a Chinaman, had to pay sixteen pesos. St. Peter got very angry.
“Master, the world was not like this during our days!” There was more freedom, more fraternity among nations. Have you not said that we all were children of your Father?”
“That’s right, Peter, I did say so several times and would that I had never said it. It is repeated by some people today in order to exclude others in a better way.”
“The trip starts badly, Master; it starts badly!” murmured St. Peter as he boarded the steamship.
It was a beautiful morning when they entered Manila Bay.
St. Peter, who was piteously seasick during the voyage, exceedingly happy at the thought that at last he was going to leave the steamer. The China Sea was unlike anything he had ever experienced in Galilee. His Master did not deign to perform a miracle to calm the waves. Therefore, when St. Peter saw the city at a distance, he became garrulous, and, with a rooster in his arm, he molested everybody with questions.
“What building is that which we see on the left, having two turrets which seem to be ramparts of a feudal castle or the asylum of bandits in Samaria?”
“That is the church of St. Dominic!” answered a sailor.
St. Peter almost dropped the rooster.
“Church! St. Dominic!” repeated St. Peter astonished. “Dominic dons himself with the airs of a feudal lord here while we in heaven believed him to be very. . . There must be without doubt considerable wealth hidden inside.”
“Considerable? Oh, no, Man!” the sailor answered, “they are not downright stupid to leave their money in the church. They keep their wealth elsewhere.”
“But how did they amass so much wealth?” asked St. Peter. “Do they work much? Do they till the fields? Do they devote themselves to industries? They must be dead tired of working because to be wealthy. . . If my memory does not fail me, Dominic told me that his sons take vows of poverty.”
The sailor, who did not understand him, did not answer.
“And that round, big cupola which we see more towards the right, what is it?”
“That is the Cathedral of St. Peter.”
“What?” exclaimed St. Peter, dropping the rooster. “What name did you say?”
“My cathedral, mine, something mine! And I did not even know it! None of the little rogues who came from the earth told me nothing, absolutely nothing, about it. Nevertheless I am glad; I am glad!”
Eager to leave the ship and forgetting his own cautions against the Philippines, Peter got ready to jump overboard. But a sailor reminded him that they must wait first for the inspection prescribed by regulations and for the permission of the authorities to enter and disembark.
“But I have my permit,” responded St. Peter. “Ay! I have a passport that cost me sixteen pesos!”
“That is good for nothing!”
“Why is it good for nothing? When we arrived at Victoria [= Hong Kong, -- rly], the colony of Victoria, we did not need either permission or passports and that, in spite of its being a country of Chinese and infidels.”
“Precisely for that reason, and this is a country of Catholics.”
“That is precisely the reason, the Catholics call everybody brother!”
“Ah!” St. Peter exclaimed, and, without understanding it, agreed.
After two hours of waiting, because the man who was to make the inspection was pleasantly chatting with his friends, the launch from the captain arrived and notified them that they would be placed under quarantine at the lazaret [a public hospital for the poor who have contagious diseases. – rly] in Mariveles.
“What? We have to be in quarantine?” protested St. Peter with indignation.
“Yes, because we came from a dirty port.”
“But did you not tell me during the voyage that many streets of Victoria [Hong Kong - rly] were cleaner than those of Manila?”
“That is not the question,” replied the sailor, “the reason is that there is cholera in Victoria.
“Ah, but did you not tell me also that there was cholera in Manila, that your wife died of it and that the priests refused her burial because she died without confession? Why then do they delay our entry?”
“Because regulations must e complied with. Here they are strict with regulations, do you understand?”
“Ah!” St. Peter exclaimed again without understanding better than the firs time. “Tell me, are we going to stay forty days in Mariveles?”
“No, man, only three days.”
“Only three days? Why then do they call it a quarantine?”
“Because a quarantine means one, two, or three days.”
“Ah! But. . . then what’s my passport good for? I am going to demand the return of the sixteen pesos I paid. I am going to protest.”
“Ha! The Chinese do not protest," and amid sighs, he implored his Master to transform him into any other inhabitant on earth.
“Yes, Peter, but what about your passport? You know that the Eternal Father ordered us to shun every dispute here with the authorities.”
St. Peter cursed the moment he thought of transforming himself into a Chinaman. At the end of three days in the lazaret [a public hospital for the poor who have contagious diseases. – rly] of Mariveles, they were advised that they could enter Manila. All their fruits, however, were already rotten and their business ruined.
“Bah!” said he to himself, “we will sell the silk handkerchiefs.”
But the corporal on guard would not allow him to go down without searching first his suitcase; and when he saw the handkerchiefs, he nicely took two of them. St. Peter let him do it in order to gain his good graces and so that he would give the permit without which, St. Peter was informed, he could not disembark.
Jesus was pensive and very much absorbed in his thoughts while St. Peter was grunting and murmuring his protest against all that red tape.
“You will see when I arrive at my cathedral and I am recognized there!” he said to himself.
A carabineer who saw him suspected that he was carrying contraband goods so he was searched from head to foot. St. Peter protested with all his energy and had he still his sword he certainly would have cut of the carabineer’s ear.
“Caught! Caught!” joyously shouted the carbineer when he discovered a purse containing Mexican pesos, “caught!”
And he pulled St. Peter by the arm.
“But they are mine; they are mine!” exclaimed St. Peter.
“Precisely!” answered the carabineer.
St. Peter thought he had gone nuts; the country was really incomprehensible. Jesus, seeing Peter in danger and remembering the Eternal Father’s recommendation, wanted to get even with Peter who denied him in Jerusalem by denying him now in turn, but his good and noble heart won and so he followed both of them.
The carabineer brought St. Peter to a small neighboring barracks. Here were a Spanish officer and several carabineers.
They confiscated all the pesos he had and took down his statement. Jesus, on seeing that they were going to prosecute his disciple, tried to intervene.
In the tone he spoke eighteen centuries ago when the Pharisees asked him whether they should pay tribute to Caesar, Jesus told the European officer:
“Show me a peso of yours!”
The officer who had never read the Bible, did not suspect the trick that was prepared on him. Without knowing what the indio intended to do, he took a Mexican peso from his pockets, which peso was exactly the same as the pesos St. Peter had.
“Is this money yours and do you spend it in this country?”
“Of course; it is a part of my salary. The government pays with such coins!”
“Well, then, if these pesos are free in the country and are used even by the government why do you confiscate the pesos that this Chinaman brought? And if you prosecute him, why don’t you prosecute your own government also?”
Stupefied, the officer did not know for a time what to answer.
“Because we do not want Mexican pesos here,” he rejoined angrily at last.
“Then why don’t you throw into the river the pesos you have?”
“No, with what we have, there’s enough.”
“Have you taken vows of poverty?”
“Aba!” what vow of poverty are you talking about?” replied the carbineer. “We should now be rich had we taken a vow of poverty!”
The officer thought that Jesus was making fun of him and finding no reason to object to his questions, he was enraged and called him a reformer and anti-Spaniard. As a result, he ordered two soldiers to search him minutely.
The searched all his pockets and found the notebook of observations jotted down by Jesus that he intended to present to the Eternal Father. After the officer read the observations regarding the quarantine, his face brightened with a wicked smile.
“Ha! Ha! I already suspected that you were a filibuster [= renegade outlaw – rly],” he shouted at Jesus. “Ah, rascal! Ah, filibuster! You attack institutions, you take the liberty of making observations, and dare find censurable and ridiculous what we do. You criticize quarantines. To jail with him and the file right now is to be charged against him.”
When St. Peter saw that tings were taking a bad aspect, he began to slip out little by little, taking advantage of the confusion; and when he herd the officer call his Master a filibuster, he returned to his old habits – he left the barracks and ran away as fast as he could. Unfortunately, it was mid-day and there was no rooster to crow. He had a hazy idea of the word filibuster, which he had heard from somebody in Heaven, and remembering nothing and thinking of his own danger, he abandoned his Master.