4.2 Fraternal Sins

I know very well that no leaf on tree may stir save at the will of the Creator; since he asks that I die in this place, His Holy Will be done.
-last words of Fr. Mariano Gomez

But I haven’t committed any crime!
-last words of Fr. Jose Burgos


“You speak like you expect to solve everything with money, Don Crisostomo.”

“Heavens no! I expect to solve things with the things that matter, which is everything except money. But if my ways drive people to think that they must control my flow of wealth in order to control me, it will be too late for them to realize how wrong they are about the real dangers.”

“Your diatribe last night about the United States of America and its ability to claim the next century belies your words.”

“The Americans are stupidly rich, but more than that they are immensely motivated. The Ottoman Empire is old, and fat, and in its demise will birth a litter of children with more wealth than sense, who will piss away the wealth of their lands in pointless wars and ostentatious displays.”

“What wealth? Even I know there’s nothing there but sand and camels. ”

“Black gold. Oil. In some way I thank that we do not have such a convenient source of national income, for it forces us to seek wealth in diverse endeavors.”

Although… I suppose after a hundred years it does help to jump-start economic diversification, if not to make it easier to paper over social issues. Oh, I am conflicted now. It is still only 1887… we can certainly try to press our claim to Sabah. Rizal himself attempted to emigrate there with his whole clan to create a Filipino enclave under British rule. Probably not worth it due to a majority Christian nation trying to press a claim to a majority Muslim kingdom, but that’s British North Borneo’s problem.

There’s few things to pick up a loyal Spanish citizen than the knowledge you’re doing something to inconvenience some fecking Englishmen by your mere existence this morning.

“For someone who claims not to value wealth, you certainly seem to extol its virtues overmuch,” Elias interrupts my thoughts, grabs me by a sleeve, and prevents me from walking into a ditch.

“I have Keynes and Friedman in the brain, I cannot help it.” (‘Cain is a freed man?’ Elias mouths out dubiously.) I cough and gesture with my cane to the coconut trees planted alongside the road. “Wealth is access to resources, this is true, and resources are tangible proofs. But wealth is also generated by the expectation and desire for these resources. Only fiat currency is capable of wealth generation on such scales; disentangled from the precious metal standard, which only have value in so far of their rarities and shininess; a representation of people’s future wants. A potato is literally more valuable in objective terms.

“Economists are literally magicians, it is by how we all simply pretend that theirs is a science that anything in world economics is repeatable phenomena. Wealth is not that important for the revolution, but it is all-important for everything after. Ah, we have arrived.”

It is early in the morning and we are having breakfast in Don Anastasio’s house.

Old Tasio’s servant does not hesitate anymore to allow me to simply barge in. It is in fact too early in the morning, it barely even bright out. My own servants are perhaps feeling a bit insulted that I don’t dine in my own house as much, and scandalized that I am preferring to do so in a house with an unmarried woman. Is it her cooking, and her other common points, that I’m after?

Elias remarks as we cross the threshold, “You give too much in answers to simple questions. I can see now why you might prefer the company of the town’s other known breathless commentator.”

Old Tasio blurts out on seeing me “Don Crisostomo! What happened to your face?!”

Oh. Right. I touch the bandage still pressed over my broken nose. “Elias happened to my face.”

“That infamous outlaw? Where and when did you encounter him?”

“Where, my great-grandfather’s grave. When? I am still encountering him.” I point to beside me. “Don Anastasio, I am pleased to introduce to you, the man known as Elias.”

Elias bows. “Good morning, Don Anastasio. Please forgive our intrusion. I will not apologize for my fist meeting Don Crisostomo’s face. It was well-deserved, I assure you.”

“I can believe that. You have punched him in the face, so must have proven him wrong. It is about time-”

I interrupted “I only said that being proven wrong was emotionally equivalent to being punched in the face. Do you people not realize I have not actually punched anybody in the face since I have arrived? Don Anastasio, you should have left behind you a mountain of men beaten into unconsciousness!”

“Ah, how I miss those quiet days when it was I that would go into other people’s houses to become a nuisance to their sensibilities.” He sighs and rubs at the bridge of his nose. “Don Crisostomo. Why.”

“Why what?”

“Why anything.”

“Well, our friend Elias said that he has felt the Lord’s touch upon him many times, that he has lived many times before when he should not. So I said everything possible to get him to kill me, and I am still here! Obviously the hand of the Lord was upon us both! The angels have stayed his blade.”

The old man turned from me towards Elias, and even more plaintively asked “Mister Elias. Why?”

“… it has occurred to me that before I can save our nation from the priests, I may first need to save it from Don Crisostomo.”

“We have all had that thought at some point. Be welcome in my house at all times, young man! What I have is yours.”

“I thank you, Don Anastasio. Your trust fills me with the greatest happiness. I shall protect your home and all you hold dear with the last breath left in my humble body.”

“Yes, despite our differences, it seems we have found… as a certain someone says… a common interest. No, I had better say: a common predicament! I hesitate not to call you a brother in this.”

“I brought dried squid?” I mention as a peace offering.

-x-

 “But I must confess there is another reason that we have decided to have this discussion at your house, Don Anastasio. We have come to consult with you.”

“Oh what could it be apart from the lack of eager ears and swifter mouths?” the old man replies archly. “If you wish counsel for your works, I must first advise you – my bones are old, and I have little desire to see violence.”

“I believe that violence must in time come, for a soul long held down must at last break free, but I too must confess neither do I relish its approach,” says Elias. “If reform can stay the pains of a people clamoring for change, then I welcome this as well.”

Tasio replies: “If you, the youth, speak of revolution, then know that we have seen so many of them rise and fail before. We are not a country united, for in as much as you may find the abuses of the powerful cause the hapless to gnash his teeth in rage, many more are frightened of tyrannical force, or admire it and long to use it against their own enemies, and ape the mannerisms of their superiors.”

I respond: “The issue is Justice. When Britain conquered Manila in the year, and held the city and by default the rest of the country for two years with Spain unable to respond due to the clear superiority of the British Royal Navy, were not people astounded to see a court and justice system actually functional? For the first time ever in these isles, the officers gave no special favor for the wealthy or the influential. Theirs was a separate society, unwilling to compromise with the local culture. They gave no respect to the priests, that their claim to speak to the spiritual and moral should ever give them any extra voice to the legal.”

“They are Englishmen, after all,” Old Tasio muses with a smile. “Heretics.”

“The Church of England aside, in here we might see how we might reform the justice system. The courts must not be easily influenced, the judges should care more for evidence than oratory. They must not have a rooster in the game.

“The severity of punishment rarely a deterrence to crime. People in the grip of passion rarely think of the future, while those who deliberately seek to commit crimes believe they simply will not be caught. Specially in this society of ours, where there are too many lawyers and priests can get away with anything.”

I nod towards Elias. “I see that look in your eyes. And yet, one might say, there is one notable event where priests were punished with death.”

“Gomburza…” Elias breathed.

I nod. “And their crime was not rape, nor murder, nor larceny – but sedition.”

 Old Tasio gives out a burdened sigh. “I wish you would not speak of these things in this house. I have no spirit left in me for these things, you are young men; you will all do as you will in the end.”

“Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora, the three priests implicated in the Cavite Mutiny. And yet, for all that, they might as well have been unconnected with each other.”

“Many people believe that they died as martyrs to the cause of reform,” Elias notes. “What do you truly know of their affairs?”

“Then-Governor Izquierdo magnified the situation of mere 200 soldiers mutinying over the loss of their promised privileges (such as the exemption to the tributes and polos y servicios and the loss of their pension), and the prohibition of the founding of school of arts and trades for the Filipinos, which the general believed as a cover-up for the organization of a political club; all into an uprising against Spain. Those poor souls in 1872 expected support which did not come, mistaking fireworks in the city as the sounds of other soldiers rising in revolt.

But what makes their execution a strong cause is that the priests tagged as the masterminds of the mutiny were innocent. It was but the word of one captive that implicated them, easily given under torture and promise of clemency. History makes of them revolutionaries at a time when their greatest sin was being too popular as voices for reform. Yet they were priests; and they died; the clergy devours its own. If they even were not safe from death, then no one is. This is message conveyed to all future dissidents.”

 “Are you not afraid then, of suffering the same fate?” Old Tasio asks. “I am old enough that the thought of leaving this world no longer frightens me as much as it should, for this reason I have not protested much your bringing this talk under my roof. What pessimism I can spare I have already surrendered in the light of the sheer blinding hubris that dares display itself before my eyes.”

 “I am not afraid for the simple reason that sedition is a crime, and as such as a future criminal I either do not believe that I will be caught or will be able to escape or mitigate the consequences of my actions. I shall fight for my accomplices greater than I would care for my own fate; fear not, for you shall have the exit strategy that I may not use for myself.

“Elias, I do not place much faith in a people’s court, for more they shall be prone to emotion – all who care called will be presumed guilty already, as we have seen in the Terror of Revolutionary France. The presumption of innocence and the right to a lawyer by all persons, with a prosecution that is driven by evidence and not political expedience, is the foundation of democracy that protects the people. But this requires a strong central government and men who are strong against corruption. And a strong central government requires a strong foundation.”

“Thus we return to your idea that we do require wealth before you will allow us to revolt.” Elias scoffs.

“Where do you think to take the money for such a noble enterprise?” asks Old Tasio.

“The priests have them, thousands of pesos they bedeck themselves and their domiciles, thousands of pesos in festivals and donations and masses they demand, woe be to the immortal souls of the poor who cannot pay! They shall be consigned to hell for their impiety, but in its fear they have already made their everyday lives a little bit of a hell.”

Old Tasio shakes his head. “I object to this.”

“For what reason, Don Anastasio? Do you think that the people will suddenly become impious or disorderly without the fear of the priests and their impunity of action hanging over them?”

“No, I object because such a wealth as you wish to seize only looks vast through the years of veneration. Take them all at once, and people will fear to give again; you cannot kill the bull twice. I understand Don Crisostomo’s view in this. What you seek is taxation.”

“But people, as a rule, are loath to pay taxes.” I turn to Elias and say “A revolution to succeed must involve all of the country, otherwise it is an arrogance forcing us to conquer our own brothers, declaring their direction of their lives for them. Elias, I understand your grievances, but is what the people ask for freedom, or is it justice?”

 “Without freedom, there can be no justice. The powerless and the powerful must be judged as the same under God! The more you ask us to delay, the more poor folk die under the lash; they are hauled off in the polos y servicios to work as little more than slaves, for though the law says they should be paid for the labor in public works, they are barely even fed! Women are taken by whoever fancies them, the rich grow richer while the poor suffer forevermore!

“To wait is only to your benefit, Don Crisostomo! Justice will not wait, sir!”

“If that is all you want, then you might as well wear a black mask in the night and wreak your dark vengeance!” I blink. “Wait. That… huh.

“Now that I think about it, while it would not work for me, that might work for you…

“I mean, we are both orphans. And for wealth as a superpower, I can handle that for you just fine…”

“Señor Ibarra…”

 “Leave him be, Elias. He will come out of this fugue on his own. He does this sometimes.”

“Some sort of… dark knight. No, not even that. We are after all a Spanish colony…. ”

-x-

After some time, Old Tasio asks “Have you come to your senses, Don Crisostomo?”

“Don Anastasio, I would like to posit a notion so basic to my beliefs that you might find nonsensical or heretical. That a nation has a soul.”

“It appears you have not.”

“Hear me out! And not in the sense of the collective lives of its people, or its culture, or its lands and history – but in something more, in the crossing of all of these, something inextricably and evidently its own. Existent and separate. Often times dormant, but sometimes can fill its people with a powerful resolve. Invisible yet tangible all through recorded history. It is a spirit born of mankind, but nonetheless divine – for the breath of life that God placed in us is one we can share with our works.

“Our lives, our loves, our passions! In time these will end. But as our loins beget children, our actions and longings beget history. Cultures shape other cultures, thought begets thought – and in the crossing of these forces, the dream becomes real.

“Elias, we have not finished our discussion from last night. Don Anastasio, to you I also ask; for this is a question that must first be resolved before any hope of reform or revolution can succeed.

“Are we a nation? Does this Philippines have a soul?

Elias stares at me with that dark penetrating gaze of his. The pains of his past and the cries of the present cannot be wiped clean by any amount of pretty words. His fingers drum upon the table. His purpose remains sure, but he has admitted last night that he has no clear answer.

Old Tasio leans back askance. “What a bizarre question!” he answers after a few moments in deep thought. “I could even say farcical, for to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can be argued endlessly. You have not even defined just how it is that a nation is born. How and when does a nation acquire its soul after its formation, what are the rituals of its affirmation; or is it simply a matter of recognition by other nations, a gift to be granted rather than achieved? Or does the existence of this soul presage its birth, the driving force to say ‘the time is right’? What more for nations departed and slain? The human soul is eternal, nations demonstrably not.”

“Through blood and fire a nation is born,” says Elias. “Always has this been, you must sacrifice in order to bring together a people; without the pains of birth, a nation will find itself weak of character.”

“Before Spain, we were a collection of fragments borne of individual tribes and petty kingdoms. We are Tagologs, Ilocanos, Visayas, people of different provinces and different tongues first before all. Spain’s dominance, there a rose the cry of regions and factions opposing Spanish rule, and pirates and foreign invaders attempting to seize dominion, but ultimate all of them failed. What sort of soul could be born from that?

“If our Philippines has a soul, then it is as a daughter of Spain!” exclaims Old Tasio.

“I agree,” and I lean forward to speak “Yet there are ways of peaceably gaining nationhood. Take Canada, for example. They exercise great latitude in their own affairs while officially owing fealty to the British Crown. One might imagine in time, that for ease of taxation and infrastructure, the Empire quietly lets them go to be their own nations to pay for their own works and armies that could still be volunteered to serve their parent.

“If the English had ever really decided to take control of the Philippines in 1762-1764 rather than sit pretty over their command of the countryside only within range of Fort Santiago’s guns, if the direct military aid promised by the British to Diego Silang had ever materialized, how would a new hundred years shape her character?”

“Yes, and though we may have felt betrayed and unvalued, to be cast off from Mother Spain would not create a new soul, if one were to imagine it. Are we a nation? This can be answered. We are not, we are a colony of Spain. Does this nation have a soul? Only you the youth who believe so can answer that!”

“I believe it,” Elias breathes out. We turn to look at him; and slumps to rest his elbows on the table, bringing his hands together to lace his fingers in an arch under his nose. “Don Crisostomo knows too many things, he is the greatest danger to the success of the revolution. The things he knows can harm so many of the innocent and the unwitting; if he were an evil man, the power he could amass would be more than considerable.”

“Yet you let him live, so it seems you do not think so,” Old Tasio replies. “But why do you entertain his fantasy of a nation-soul? He is perhaps knowledgeable, and in ways that are trustworthy, but Don Crisostomo,” here he turns to me briefly “forgive my callous and yet frankly cautionary words,” and back to Elias “is demonstrably also sometimes a lunatic. Were it not so that I realize how even the failure of his plan would help him more, I could think he wants to get shot at Bagumbayan.”

Bagumbayan being, of course, that section of Luneta Park where executions are carried out. There the three priests Gomburza died of garotte, and where Rizal himself would die by firing squad.

“Excuse me, honored sage! For I am also filthy, filthy rich,” I huff. “The word for this is eccentric.”

Old Tasio raises his hands. “Demonstrably.”

Elias glances at me. I shrug.

“Don Crisostomo did not convince me with words. He threatened, he postured, and when that did not suffice he used sheer naked force.”

Uh, Elias, could you phrase that a little better?

“In those dark woods I have been made to confront how a person’s choices might affect far more than just those around him, causing pain that through generations. His great-grandfather has caused mine a great injustice, but could I not in my callousness become an abuser to an orphaned child in return? It is easy to call for revolution when you are not the one who will die from it; I hold no such fear, but as a leader of men it will be my decision to make fathers die and families wither on the vine.

“Don Crisostomo is insistent on this point; I must lead! In truth, he is not the first. Already the leadership of a band has been offered to me after is founder goes off to fight and die satisfied for his vengeance. What next? Happy are those who die; those who come after them bear the burden of creating the nation. I have been given a glimpse of how he sees the world. We are a web of choices, and I no longer have the luxury of treating my own decisions as insignificant beyond the reach of my arms.”

I say “If you fight, people will suffer.”

He says “Suffering must end.”

I say “The ends cannot justify the means, we cannot be the evil we claim to fight. A revolution that never stops fighting becomes in the end merely bandits and thieves, the enemy of the people.”

“We must fight for the people’s benefit, not our own. Every death has meaning only if it saves the people from further misery,” he concludes. “Don Crisostomo, what must a revolution have for it to succeed? Is it wealth? Do you ask us to delay in order to amass arms and support?”

“No, the revolution is unavoidable. What you simply need is time, the right time to prevent Spain from landing twenty thousand troops and artillery to suppress yet another revolt; to prevent again using the Pampangans against the Batangueño, the Tagalogs against the Bisaya, or to ignore the Moro as a Filipino.

“Elias, the success of the revolution is inevitable! But even when we win, tell me, with all the resources we have available, what is there to prevent us from being conquered by a foreign nation again?”

“Our valor, the defeat of the European power will make others think twice.” Here Elias paused. “This is what I would like to say, but… as much as I believe you think in too grand scales that you miss the real reason why our people wish to revolt, I cannot fault that you wish only the best for our country. What is your solution, then?”

”Our ancestors fought with valor too, and they died. Because they were men with swords and shields against guns and cannons. Even if we throw off Spain, she is the weakest of the Great Powers. It means little.

We must first become united, to galvanized as a people from shore to shore, from island to island, that Spain must either come to understand that she must treat us as equals – as citizens of Spain with all rights, or we will leave her to wither on the vine! To do this, it is important that the people know that they are not alone – that their suffering is shared by other citizens, no longer merely Kapampangan or Cebuano, or Tsino and Indio, Insulares and mestizo, that all who are born and live on these islands are Filipino!

“In short, I ask that you give me at least five years. Three years to open the eyes of our people, two more years to see the wave of opinion and how the nations around us would be willing to recognize the existence of our nation.”

I reach into the satchel I had brought with me and lay down before them two books. It is a simple black book with gold-embossed title. RIZAL. “1888, 1889, 1900, one book every year. This is my solution. Against guns and cannon, paper is stronger still.”

And even stronger are pictures and motion pictures; I did not add. Soon enough it will be all made clear.

-x-

A little while later, teacher Navidad has come. “Don Crisostomo, what happened to your face!” he exclaims upon ascending the stairs leading up to the sala.

“Elias happened to my face,” I blandly answer him. “By the way, might I introduce you to my friend Simoun?”

“Simoun?” Elias echoes with a frown, as he looks up from the novel. Old Tasio is nodding, completely engrossed with the text, as if having a conversation with its characters.

“Simoun,” I repeat. “I trust Mister Navidad, but he is somewhat of an excitable sort.” I turn back to the teacher and smile. “Let us leave these two to their reading. Come, oh gallant instructor! Let us go forth and work our magic upon town!”

-x-

-x-

That was yesterday.

Let me ask you this, what sort of fool sets off a fireworks display at five-thirty in morning? Filipinos do. And it is not even in celebration or to wake people up for the morning mass. The fireworks are set off in the approach of the early morning procession.[*] Screw all those infidels who want to sleep in.

People march around town singing hymns behind a statue of the Virgin Mary, for it is the eleventh of December and it is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Peace. It is celebrated by the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. Between this day and tomorrow, the feast day of San Diego celebrated by the Third Order of Laymen of the Franciscans, there is somewhat of a competition in piety.

It is still dark outside. Yesterday several raised platforms were set up around town in the path of the procession. The fireworks were to be set off from these platforms – how convenient then, that someone had decided to place field cameras on the platforms as well, that a picture might be taken at the same time the fireworks illuminate the crowd.

And it is such a crowd, for though they were required to wake up at around four in the morning, it seems half the town is here. They will be obliged to do this again later tonight for the nine o’clock mass to conclude the Holy Mother’s Feast Day. The more uncomfortable it is, the greater piety, and because it is too dark to see the finery you wear, the greater pious rewards – no one might claim you are here simply to fulfill your rote duty, to be seen and respected. This is also why the crowd seems to be mainly women.

Pop. Pop. Go the fireworks. Click, I push the shutter up for half a second, click, back the shutter goes. A photographer must have the proper timing, for too much exposure of the dry plate would give a blurry image. From beneath the black mantle covering my head, shoulders, and the back of the camera, I pull out the sealed box containing the dry photographic plate, and insert another. I take another exposure, this time in the dimmer light only of the lamps around the platform and the paper lanterns of the townsfolk.

And then it is only time to pull back the lens and the bellows of the Anthony Fairy Camera into the box and direct a servant to bring it to my house. Beside me, Teacher Navidad yawns. We must now race ahead of the procession into the next platform.

The solution I have found to the bulkiness of this era’s cameras is simply to have multiple cameras pre-positioned to take photos of the events of the fiesta. I did not need to fear someone stealing away my cameras, for the other young scions of the town had volunteered the manpower of their servants to stand guard overnight in exchange for future goodwill. Unlike our fathers, we have not yet taken the time to turn small insults into lifelong enmities.

The servants are all invited to my house after standing guard for a sumptuous breakfast, of course. My own employees actually seem a mite annoyed that I haven’t been taking advantage of this pseudo-feudal authority I have, it looks to them as if I do not trust them or something. So, the more work I have them do the happier they are, which is a truly strange paradox considering how much Filipinos love to avoid work in this era.

As we walk briskly, I say “I am surprised you would be so willing to assist me this far, this early in the morning, Mister Juliano. As you have mentioned, you do not work for me. I am not paying you for anything.”

“It is all in the instruction of Don Anastasio. You need someone with you at all times.”

Ah. I nod. And of course, the teacher holds the sage in the highest regards. It is almost like that old chinese saying ‘a teacher for a day, a father for a lifetime’. “You both are exaggerating. My whims are not that dangerous, nor am I so constantly imprudent.”

Navidad shakes his head sadly. “No, it is because… Don Anastasio says, that you have no friends. You need someone you can trust, not someone you can pay off.”

I wince. “That hurts me,” I respond sardonically. “Mostly because it is true.” I am a stranger even to myself. My country no longer knows me. I fear rejection from all corners; Maria Clara had already rejected me once. I sigh. “May I call you a friend, then?”

The teacher chuckles lightly. “It would be an honor, Don Crisostomo, even though I fear you will lead me to Bagumbayan. Your enthusiasm is contagious, sir. I wonder how it is that you can perceive the world with so much delight in the midst of its pains and unfairness? So much so that it makes us want to see the world the same way you do! I too wish to see this tomorrow you speak of so brightly.”

I grin widely. “Break through, good man, break through! It is not something we can realize without effort.”

To have friends, be a friend, that is how the saying goes. I remain somewhat of an introvert, being all this cheery and active is exhausting. But the truth of that saying is actually – to have a friend, be genuine. You could have supporters if you keep telling them only what they want to hear, but they will turn on you when you fail to live up to the idea of you they have in their head. To have a friend, all you have to do is to articulate it – to say it – and make it real.

Will you be my friend?

Actions don’t speak louder than words, in this instance. Humans need to know for sure before we can trust it. It is saddest to me that the world of politics and high society is full of doublespeak and claims of friendship that mean nothing.

We walk along the dirt road, beside the masses humble in their devotions. As we pass them I belt out the cant “Aaaave! Aaaaave! Aaaave Maaariiia! Saaalve! Saalve! Salve, Regina!” Hail Mary, Hail Mary! Save us, Our Queen!

The world is full of misery, we cry out for salvation and mercy. But if we can stay strong, and just endure through these two decades, it will be worth it.

The world is cruel! The world is amazing! There is greatness waiting for you! Humility is rewarded, charity shall bear fruit! You walk in darkness now, but the dawn comes, and even then there is truth remaining in the shadows. The dark is not something to fear. Those who dare step out into the unknown shall walk with the saints. Carry your faith into the next century, my people. It is a more powerful thing than you might think!

I hum:

Huwag kang mangamba, (Don’t be afraid)
Mangalig ka, (Keep your faith)
Darating din ang umaga- (Come soon will the morn)

I do not want to walk past this road, into the falseness of the world of the so-called the powerful. The greatest of monsters are those who shine brightest in the light. Save us, Oh Maria!

“Don Crisostomo!”

I turn to the shout, to see a young woman gaily waving her fan at me, only to be sharply shushed by her elderly aunt. It is Sinang, Maria Clara’s friend. I doff my hat and bow at her. I point off towards Capitan Tiago’s house. She nods back. Yes, Maria Clara waits.

“Cheerful girl!” I comment to Navidad as we pass the procession towards the next platform in front of the church. “Would that our women be symbolized more like her; unafraid to be seen as silly, opinionated, adaptable!”

“I thought you were enamored with Maria Clara?” the teacher responds.

“Maria Clara is my one and only! But as much as I want to protect her and hold her true, the sampaguita, the jasmine flower, comes in purple too. Pure and chaste white fits our values for our national flower, but a purple sampaguita is just more active. I want a daughter that is unafraid and will be able to fight men in their arena of the mind.”

Maria Clara’s grace, and my intellect, and pampered by her Aunt Sinang’s lack of shame; let us raise the perfect politician!

Wait. Is that not just Miriam Defensor-Santiago?

“So you have thought even so far, Señor Ibarra.” Navidad murmurs. “Always about the nation. Always thinking on a higher level…”

That is terrifying!


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