Noli Interlude: The Dominican 01

The Philippines had long been considered a friarocracy. Not a theocracy, for rarely even did the commandments laid down by God followed to the letter, but also because the Church was not a monolithic entity. The Catholic religious orders competed against each other, and under the creed of saving the souls of the heathen and the barbaric, each claimed spheres of influence in Asia. Being a missionary required plenty of courage, and tolerance for hardship, quick wit and the ability to pacify quarrelsome natives. And if that fails – then they die, hacked to pieces in some far, wet, foreign land.

But the Philippines was long pacified ground, a Christian bulwark in the heart of Asia. From here, the Roman Catholic Church under the auspices of Spain made inroads into the rest of Asia, a holy dagger to the underbellies of China and Japan.

But at the same time, unlike the Spanish colonies in America, it was too far to command. Where the sword dallied, the book bravely strode into the leaf and bush. Even the government had good cause to be wary of upsetting the friars, for in the words of the Governor-general Weyler:

“ -these people seem to forget that we have established our authority in Luzon and the Visayas by the exercise of moral influence alone, backed up by the parish priest, for as none has such intimate and friendly relations with the people as the priest, so no one knows better than he what the people think, nor is any one better able to give them wise advice, to restrain them, and influence them for good. He alone can make Spaniards of them. By his office and position he is best fitted to make things easy for our minor officials in their different charges and districts.

Remove the control of Religion, and what do you do? You remove the Spanish element, forgetful of the fact that we have to depend on a native army whose dialect we do not understand, and who, in turn, understand not ours; that we have amongst us but a very limited number of Spanish soldiers—this is really how we are situated.

The natives are naturally simple and credulous, and of little discernment; and so are prone to superstition and idolatry, and can be easily imposed upon by any quick-witted impostor who is able to relate strange and wonderful stories. To prevent them being drawn away, the light of the true religion is absolutely necessary. “

—–

Spanish had never really been the official language of the country, actual speakers comprising at most 10% of the population. Each curate ruled his parish like a little lord, once placed little could remove him. They had absorbed many civil responsibilities and authorities, being the only ones who could understand and command the indio. He acted as the intermediary between him and the world in matters both religious and secular.

In essence the indispensability of the fraile was very true, but also in the sense that the government had also given over to indolence and simply not bothered to set up a nationwide bureaucracy. Civil officers and soldiers rarely stayed in the country longer than a period of four years, the priest therefore became the solid, well-organized and dominant face of the regime for the natives.

In many barrios and parishes, the only Spanish authority that could be found was the priest. He could command the Guardia Civil, and interfere in any business conducted by the municipal tribunal. Their approval was required to even elect the gobernadorcillio of the town, without whom taxes could not be collected properly, and who had to mind the patronage they owed their position. Without sufficient shows of respect, a Filipino could not expect to advance his station.

Even so, many friars were beloved by their peoples.

It would not be well to paint all friars as evil, for as many of them indulged in the basest of urges, many more only indulged mildly, and even more earnestly believed they were working for the sake of holiness and improving the lives of their parishioners.

The lands and the numbers of the faithful was finite, however. Each order also had its own character, and thus different motives and approaches in exalting God via the labors of the Indio.

For the moment, let us speak of the Dominicans, who held most important the value of education as a tool for evangelization. They established many schools throughout the Philippines and Asia, and their only real competition in this pursuit was the Jesuits. However, with the expulsion of the Jesuits from all Spanish territories in 1768, it rested upon the Dominicans to hold the oldest continually functioning university in Asia – the Universidad de Santo Tomas in 1611, to be followed by the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 1620.

Padre Sybila, who taught in San Juan de Letran, was a testament to the Dominican taste for winning arguments and taking a holistic view of the situation. Very early, after saying his mass, he left for the convent of his order, the Yglesia y Convento de Santo Domingo de Manila, only recently reconstructed from the earthquake of 1864.

There, Hernando Sybila met with an emaciated old priest with yellowing paperlike skin, who with thick furrowed brows and sunken nearly glassy eyes regarded him under the scapular of St. Dominic.

“God restore health to Your Reverence,” he greeted.

To which the old priest replied – “Ah, it you, Hernando! They advise me to take the operation at my age! No miracle under God nor the knife do I require. No need for it now! Ah, this country! This terrible country! I have suffered much; I have made many suffer; I settle my debts. I have naught to do now but to die.

Be warned, be warned at my expense, Hernando! Why have you come?”

“I have come to report upon the assignment you have given me.”

“Ah, so what of it?”

“We have been fed fables. The young man Ibarra has far exceeded my expectations.”

“High praise from you, how do you mean so?”

So Padre Sybila recounted the last night; of Ibarra deftly turning around Padre Damaso as a fool, his suspiciously detailed knowledge of the affairs of Europe, his distressing knowledge of matters of military nature, and most of all his uncanny energy and confidence.

“I cannot see it anything but the beginning of hostilities between Ibarra and Padre Damaso. The young man is far too intelligent not to find out what has transpired sooner or later.”

The sick old priest slowly pulled in his shaking hand into a claw, unable to muster the energy to make a fist. “Such a dangerous young man. We have always known the danger of educating them in Europe, and this is good. A strong ally such a mind would make, and an even better enemy.”

“Must it be so? He is engaged to the daughter of Capitan Tiago, who is educated in the convent of our sisters. He is rich, and he should not care to make enemies, lest it cost him his fortune and happiness.”

“Capitan Tiago, such a useful man, to treat all Spanish officials and priests equally… that is, with the simpering servility of the one who does not want to lose even a bit of his fortune and happiness. Could we own that young man body and soul? No, Europe has opened his eyes. If he can be mollified, then good, but he would better serve us as an enemy,” He took a deep labored breath. ”I far prefer the honesty of attacks to the silly praises of so-called friends. The most loyal of our subjects are those who have the least in life.”

“I fear it will not be so simple. Ibarra is a young man with some ability, he can ingratiate himself with the government just as easily.”

“Take this into account – “ the old priest wheezed, “that our power lasts only as long as people believe in it. And if we are attacked, then the government will think ‘they are being attacked because their enemies see in them the obstacle to their liberation – and so, let us work with them to preserve our power’.”

“And if the government listens to them? At times the government is too liberal…”

“They will not!” The government itself was chaos, alternating between liberalism and an iron fist, and the only rational outcome was suppression. The legitimacy of the monarchy that soundly defeated the First Spanish Republic could never be allowed to come in doubt. Even Governor-generals can easily be recalled.

“And if there appears a brave man to take what we have collected, bold and fearless-”

“Then woe unto him! Woe unto them! Better to face this uprising on our terms while it is early. We have worked too long towards our own ruin. We merely delay the end, much as I await the day this gruesome illness finishes my body. We have grown complacent, deluded into feeling secure, when all out there we are ridiculed. We must awake. Else here we will fall as we had fallen in Europe.”

“But – we will still have our haciendas, our real estate – surely, they will know, with these we maintain the colleges that train their children.”

“We will lose them too, as we have lost in Europe. Think of it, the yearly drive to arbitrarily increase the fees for the use of our lands has driven away the Indio to purchase land elsewhere, land too often as good or better than ours. We are beginning to decline –that is why we have not increased our burden; already the people grumble at our feet. And without our riches, we will be unable to prod the conscience.

Let us leave the others to settle their own accounts; let us keep what remains out our prestige, and soon we shall be appearing before God. Let us wash our hands. May God have mercy on our weakness…”

“There is chaos in the government. Spain has lost her colonies in South America one by one, now she must suppress revolt in Cuba, in Basque, in every land she owns. One more in the Philippines shall break her…”

“It must be a clean break, if it must happen at all. It will heal quicker. Best it be soon, that she wakes up to her vulnerability. And then, and then, Hernando – we will be tested! It must be a swift one, for the troops she sends here will be more needed elsewhere. Let the people remember the might of Spain, and they shall not soon again forget to be grateful.”

For however well-meaning as one might find them, all Spanish priests in the Philippines were Spaniards first and religious second. The thought of revolution, of separation from Spain, was exactly the same terrible thought in their minds as the destruction of four hundred years of labor and civilization.


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Noli Interlude – The Lieutenant 01

Despite his advanced age and pure Spanish blood, Guevarra was only a Tiniente in the Guardia Civil, a fact which even the mestiza Doña Victorina felt safe to disdain. Even so, some people had to be wary, for this was a man who had the ear of the Governor-General himself. And so as the feast drew to a close he was asked to forgive Padre Damaso’s outburst.

Three in particular –

First; the priest’s outburst that it is the right of religion, and his right by extension, to cast out heretics. The government has no right to deprive him of this. This was a forgivable insult to the privileges of the ruling class, for it was the wont of priests to always complain. Excommunication was the one weapon the Church had against the instruments of state.

Second; his outburst calling the Governor-General the ‘Calamitous General’, referring to his campaign against Datu Uto in the Rio Grande in Mindanao and his combative stance against the monastic orders. This was a personal insult. His Excellency would simply shrug it off. Only old women cared for salacious gossip.

And third; his outburst that “What King? What nobody? For us there no king but the legitimate –“ was part of the rallying cry of the Carlist movement, refusing to recognize Ferdinand VII naming Isabela II as the heir instead of the nearest male heir, Don Carlos de Borbon, who felt robbed of his rights as the long-standing heir presumptive. This sparked a civil war that lasted 40 years and would continue to be the movement that carries Spanish traditionalist thinking even well into the next century.

Their movement would later be buoyed by the sweeping liberalization that nonetheless would lead Spain into losing all her colonies and ceasing to become a World Power upon the boots of the United States.

Now such talk, this was nothing short of treason.

But instead “I regret such a promise, the sherry had gone to my head as surely has it had gone to Padre Damaso,” Tiniente Guevarra replied. “I know how to keep my word when it does not stain my honor – I am not nor have ever been an informer! That is why to this day I only wear these two stars.”

Such a scrupulously honest man, and yet also powerless to stop the less orderly habits of others wearing the garb of the Guardia Civil. Thus for his face and his uniform, there would be many to think of him as only evil. Tiniente Guevarra did not make any lavish displays of devotion towards God, for he knew in his heart he avoided sinning, but then more would think this painted him less virtuous.

Tiniente Guevarra and Don Rafael Ibarra were kindred souls in this manner, who sought to harm none and did not ask much from God. God had placed them onto the Earth to struggle, but had also given each person the strength to overcome.

As the party wound down and the Tiniente prepared to leave, he was approached by Crisostomo Ibarra. “The hour grows late, sir. Would you mind I walked with you to your home?”

“As it is a weekday, I make the barracks my home. Even at my age I am still a soldier of Spain, young Ibarra. I am not so infirm as to need an escort through the streets.” His voice was only mildly chiding.

“No, no, I would never imply such of a veteran, Señor! I only mean that we could talk about our common interests while we walk.”

“And what would our common interest be, young Ibarra?”

“Justice. Justice and my father.”

Tiniente Guevarra sought Cristostomo Ibarra’s face for any signs of falsehood, and after a few moments assented.

———

They walked down the street known as the Sacristia in those times, because of the entrance to the Sacristy of Binondo Church that faced this street. In the future it would be known as Ongpin Street, for Don Roman Ongpin, the Chinese businessman that financially supported the Philippine Revolution and Aguinaldo’s army even during the American Occupation.

The night breeze through Manila was unusually cool. At that time, Manila was still called the Venice of the East, for its many canals and boats, when the word estero still meant a navigable estuary instead of a black and lifeless sewer outlet. The cobbled streets were empty of people, and only weakly lit by the orange glow of street lamps.

“I can hardly believe that you know so little about your father’s matters.”

“If I had only known, I would have abandoned everything to rush home. But in the last letter from him that I had received… he told me he was not going to write to me further for some time, for he would be very busy. He blessed me and only urged me to continue my studies… ” Ibarra’s voice hitched “He blessed me, and told me not to give any mind, that my studies would be the most important task I could do this life. It has been a year…”

“Well then, it seems he wrote that letter before he died.  Soon, it shall be a year since we buried him at his hometown.”

“He wrote that letter in prison, and I was *ignorant*.  Capitan Tiago has said he would speak of the details of my father’s death only on the morrow, but discreetly I have learned he died in prison. Why was he in prison? I cannot believe my father would ever commit a crime.”

The old man stroked at his graying goatee and after a while spoke “While in truth, a man such as your father is wealthy enough never to need to resort to any misdeeds, even as he was loved and respected by many, such wealth also invited the hatred and envy of many.

We Spaniards who have come to the Philippines are not as we should be. Instead of living as examples to follow, we soon find ourselves corrupted in the country. Here the dregs of the peninsula can come, made easy by the shortness  and cheapness of transport, and find themselves petty rulers. A man so willing to participate in favoritism and fraud can easily find himself wealthy and respected beyond what he could ever gain in the homeland for his own lack of useful ability.

Your father had his own rigid code of morality, and it was this that made him many enemies among the Spaniards and the natives.”

Tiniente Guevarra recounted the conversations he had with Don Rafael. The man did not go to confession, for he believed that recounting one’s sins to a priests and paying for alms and masses and having the priest bless him with forgiveness was not sufficient contrition and would not absolve anyone of sin. He would prefer to redress the hapless widows and crying orphans left by, for example, a murder. It was foolishness to try and salve sins in any way except than to pay it to the ones injured.

He sought to efface himself with good deeds and in some way to compensate the evil that was done by his own grandparents. The wealth of the Ibarras was gained in blood and unfair dealings, much like other new Spanish colonists who, freed from the censures of the peninsula and seeing that the brown-skinned peoples were powerless before them, soon gained an appetite for abuse and aggrandizement.  Indeed, it could even be said that it was the marriage to a wealthy mestiza, that it was that indio blood that tempered the blood of Ebarramendia into Ibarra, down but two generations producing a Don Rafael Ibarra who tried to live virtuously amidst the great wealth and debts owed to his family.

Such a life however also made him appear more aloof and arrogant, and lacking mutually beneficial friendships with the players in the game, upon seeing weakness how enemies suddenly bored out like worms from the woodwork!

“There was a man who was going around collecting dues from vehicles. He was a Spaniard, an ex-artillery man expelled because of his brutality and ignorance. But as a Spaniard, he too had Our Prestige to consider, and was not allowed to perform undignified manual labor. He did not know how to read or write, and to the indios a Spaniard who was not literate was a unique figure of laughter derision. They would give him papers unintentionally upside-down, and he would sign blank spaces with scrawls representing his signature, and knowing he was being made fun of did not improve his mood any whit.

At that time he was turning over and over a paper he was given at the shop, trying to make sense of it, and a troop of schoolboys passed by and laughed pointing at him. He lost his patience and chased after them, all the while the boys while fleeing shouting merrily ‘ba be bi bo bu’, for even they understood the phonetics behind letters. Blinded by anger, he threw his cane , and happened to hit and wound the head of one of them. He caught up with the boy and began kicking him into the ground and none watching had the courage to intervene.

It so happened that your father was passing by. Indignantly he took hold of the collector’s arm and began to scold him. Seeing red, the collector made as to hit your father, but with his own strength your father gave him no chance. Some say he hit the collector, some say he merely pushed him away; but what happened is that the man tottered back and fell, hitting his head upon a stone. Your father took the wounded child and took him to the courthouse. Of the fallen ex-artillery man he gave no mind, but he died soon after.”

“I see,” said Ibarra, “if it is accidental, then it cannot be murder, for murder requires intent. Yet a man has died, and I believe that my father would not consider it right that he simply be given leave for his money.” The young man looked pensive, and Gueverra wondered if his kindness would be superior even to his father, for with the slight scowl on his face the young man seemed to find his father’s actions lacking.

Would he have seen it fit to try and save both?

“Indeed, for as soon as your father was put into prison, enemies came out and rained calumnies upon him. He was accused to being a subversive and a heretic. Now, being called a heretic is bad enough in a province where the alcalde makes a show of being pious- but a subversive is worse than even killing three tax collectors who do not know how to read or write. Everyone deserted him, and they collected his papers and books and used them against him no matter how tenous the connection.

He was accused to subscribing to the Correo de Ultramar, and of newspapers in Madrid, of sending you to Swiss Germany; of having in his possession papers, letters and photograph of a priest sentenced to death-“ perhaps one of the three priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, accused of being part of the 1872 Cavite mutiny, they were executed through garrote, a slow and torturous end “and I don’t know what else. His character they even impugned for wearing the barong despite his heritage as a peninsular – even humility and frugality became a sin in their eyes!

Had your father been anyone else, he would have soon been released. But his wealth, his confidence in justice and the hatred of anything not lawful lost him his cause. At your father’s behest I approached a famed lawyer, and though he took charge brilliantly and masterfully the case, the accusations and false witnesses were without number. As he cleaned one for their contradictions, another would appear.

The accused your father of having unjustly appropriated large tracts of land, that he had rapport with the tulisanes for the protection of his crops and animals, and many demanded from him indemnification for damages and losses, that they would no longer have to pay to him the debts they owed. Such was the matter gone so embroiled that even the alcalde had to leave his post, and his replacement who was reputed to be righteous stayed only one month, and the his successor loved good horses too much.”

The Tiniente raised his gnarled hands to the air and shook it at the moon. “And yet – and yet – when it was all about to come to close and he was about to be acquitted of the false charge of being an enemy to the motherland… the suffering, the frustration, the sight of so many liars and ingrates corroded his health… and he died there, alone, with no one to tend to him.”

The old man went silent. They had walked far. They were in sight of the barracks.

“I should have been here,” said Ibarra.

“You had no way to know, and your father did not want you to know. Young Ibarra, in this you are blameless. And I must warn you, not to be unwise. For in the face of the law, no one is responsible for your father’s death… instead, they would mock you, for if truly he was an innocent man, he should have survived.

There is no one you can accuse, and to pursue each false witness would tie you up in court even more, such a greater waste of good money I cannot say exists.”

Juan Crisostomo Ibarra nodded. “I know. How I know! There is no justice in the courts, and vengeance is no justice.”

“I cannot tell you what to do. You must ask Capitan Tiago for the details, now I must see if anything has happened here in my absence. Be well, young Ibarra!” They clasped hands, and bade each other farewell.

Ibarra stood alone by the streets for a long while, long enough that a passing robber might consider him a fair mark – even more so since he was within proximity of the Guardia Civil, for in that time no greater brigand existed in those islands.


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Noli 1.4 More Calmly, Maria Clara

(source:http://www.vintersections.com/2009/08/gantimpala-theater-presents-kanser-noli.html)

It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice.
– Jose Rizal


Thusly separated, Maria Clara is given time to be introduced gaily by her proud father to the visitors, and unconsciously but swiftly to take over as the focal point of the gather. And well is it deserved! She does not have Capitan Tiago’s small eyes, but wide ones with long lashes shining with honest feeling. It proves hard not to be entranced, for even when greeting a Sangley trader she shows only interest and respectful courtesy. She brims over with curiosity at the exotic accents of his garb.

Doña Victorina fusses over her, while Padre Damaso stands beside her with a blessed smile. Padre Sybila, that pretty debater addresses her and from her smile and it appears he has drawn her into a conversation. I have already withdrawn, content merely to watch from a distance. I look past the people in the middle of the room towards the other person similarly contemplating her luminous presence. He is a young Franciscan friar, emaciated and pale.

Our eyes meet. He looks away, discomfited. Lancing across the distance, there is only my murderous intent.

This person is Padre Salvi, Padre Damaso’s replacement as curate of San Diego.

And by Rizal’s words, the person who in the end will conspire to have me killed. Who will blackmail Maria Clara with the knowledge of her true parenthood, to take the letters of love and longing as I had sent her as somehow evidence to seize and arrest me as a subversive. And in the end, to forcefully seize Maria Clara’s maidenhood, in that convent where she had thought herself safe away from the cruelty of the world. Repeatedly, he will turn Maria Clara’s blessed beauty into her life’s curse.

I close my eyes and lean back upon the windowsill. Likewise I shiver. But it would not be just to kill a man for sins he has yet to commit.

I now know that Capitan Tiago and Padre Damaso also slake their lusts through coercion. Even if less with violence, but through the fear of their position, the act loses none of its horror. In this time, there is no such thing as the protection of law for young native women. Who will they report it to? The Guardia Civil? The priests and the cabeza de barangay appoint their officers!

As if sensing my bitterness, Googol the dog approaches and barks at me.

The bodiless spirit [Googol] flashes a box in my vision, and letters fill out automatically.

No, I do not want a Death Note.

Let me verify. Yes, it remains fictional.

I could probably count in one hand the celibate priests in this land. If I were to start poisoning people for their sins, perhaps I would depopulate most of the principia responsible for national administration. Though I suppose this remains the same for politicians of any era.

————–

“Don Crisostomo, if you would allow you me to speak with you?”

I open my eyes to see the blond young travel writer from earlier. “Señor Mata. Of course.” I smile. “Did you know your name means ‘eye’ or ‘to be awake’ in Tagalog? A most auspicious sign.”

“Thank you, I have been informed so by Señor Laruja on our journey here. Señor Ibarra… I must say I have been very impressed by the depth of your knowledge. I did not expect…” here he catches himself, for to call me but a mestizo would spurn how my Spanish heritage seems to prominent “I did not expect seven years in Europe to have such an influence. Truly, you inspire me!”

“You are too kind, Señor. You have taken this journey too of your own volition, that bravery and hunger for knowledge makes us kin.”

“It does, it does, does it not?” he laughs. “I would like to ask you a question…”

“What do you wish to know?”

“Two questions, actually. Have you always been so inquisitive? How do was your education here in comparison to Europe?”

“I have deeply benefited from my education here, at the firm but careful instruction of our esteemed friars. But of course, as you understand, there was less emphasis on education in the sciences. Science is moving much faster than we can print our textbooks. A grounding in philosophy and law is a good foundation for any enterprise.”

“So how did it come to be? How did you so extensively acquire so much knowledge? What is it that makes you different?” What makes us so different?; he wants to ask. We are close to the same age; why is it that a pureblood Spaniard as he must feel envy?

“… a monomaniacal focus, I believe. A shameless curiosity and a hoarder’s instinct for trivia. Of my fellow students in Madrid, I have seen no few forego friendships and luxuries and leisurely pursuits to advance their studies. But it is my mestizo heritage” here I breach the topic he obviously wants to discuss “that allowed me to see that marks and accolades from academia were only temporary badges.

Knowledge is more than just names and figures and explainable concepts. Knowledge… true knowledge, is a recognition of *patterns*. Too often we think of each discipline as worth focus in themselves, that it takes too much effort to be good at everything… better to be a master at one than to have reliable expertise in none.

But if you think about how advances in one discipline can further assist another, the patterns will begin to lock in. In truth, it was really was submarines that captivated me. A complex machine, a confluence of disciplines, both mechanical and martial.” Here he snickers, for during our conversation at the table, I had not disguised the childlike love I had for the concept of submarines. “A fleet of them would require less metal than a battleship, yet each of them a threat to the strongest of capital ships. And to fight them, the only thing you can do is to make small torpedo-boat and submarine destroyers that have to be fast with light armament and practically no armor… for you need a great many of them to escort and screen your battleship.

Thus the mere *existence* of your submarine threatens your enemy to spend greatly on ships, draining their economy. It is a magnificent counterforce. And I thought, how could I build one? How could I own one? I cannot join the Navy, I have my responsibilities as a future landowner… as I learned more about the difficulties, I fell into despair.

But every piece of knowledge fits into something in the larger pattern. Even useless bits of knowledge can give insight to a person’s mind. It was the knowledge that we had no industry here, a mostly unskilled labor force, that prompted me to look deeper into simpler means of manufacturing and the practical knowledge of how to craft engines and simple labor-saving machines.

And I thought; there is no harm in this. Technology such as this could make money.”

With widened eyes Julian Mata looks up at me. “Truly, I have underestimated you, Señor Ibarra! You are more than an inspiration! This insight you have! Are you not any less than a genius?!”

“Genius knows no age, nor race, nor sex, nor age” I reply. “But do not also underestimate how much genius is about a consistent work ethic with enough emotional distance. Talent alone can bring you so far, the great many prodigy is wasted and burnt out early, never to realize their true potential.”

“E-earlier, we have been discussing, if the Indio is indolent by nature or if it is our responsibility to have instructed them wrongly. I hope you will forgive, I offer no insult, but as a mestizo you have proven well to me the truth of the latter.” At my gracious nod, he continues “I must ask – what do you think? Is the Indio really indolent by nature?”

I look past him, my thoughts running together. This I did not ask [Googol]. This is my own judgment as Crisostomo Ibarra, a man of these times.

“The Indio is indolent because effort affords him not. He exerts no further because he has nothing to prove.”

“So you agree with me then.”

“First I must say that for this point I do not need to differentiate between the negrito, the indio, the mestizo, and even the insular, when I speak of the Filipino. If the Indio is lazy, then how much more would it show as lazy those who do no work by their hands but amass wealth from the work of others? If you say that administration and the burdens of rulership take their own hard effort – you are correct. This is the crux of the error, that people separate physical effort and mental effort as if both cannot be difficult on their own. You and I, there would be many who could call us indolent dreamers, but it is not that easy to follow your dreams for a newer world.

But this, I will say clearly: If the indio is indolent, then we are all indolent. Stay and you too will feel it. It is the nature of living in the Philippines. It is both the blessing and the curse of these islands.”

“That… is somewhat alarming, Don Crisostomo. What do you mean? Is there really a curse?”

“The Philippines is the Pearl of the Orient, and like a pearl as long as it is sits safe and protected within its clam it shall not glisten. Only when taken outside of the shell can it shows its beauty. So is the Indio. Take him outside, put him elsewhere, where he can be judged only by his behavior and his actions can bring shame to his people – and he shall prove himself. If he is lazy, he will attempt to be creatively lazy, instead of avoiding work he will simply attempt to do more in less time. If he is a cheat, he will cheat in your favor, should you rely on him to acquire your comestibles. If he is ungrateful, simply threaten to replace him with a Chinaman. His pride will not stand for it.”

I pace around him. “There is no better man at hand you can have than the native… in any place except the Philippines. Because here he will always laze around because only stupid fool foreigners hurry over trifles. Excelling at anything is not going to promote them beyond their social class; great wealth only attracts envy and enemies. The priests have taught well the virtues of humility and duty in the face of God. Three hundred years and seventy years have he passed in this land in this manner, just floating along. Ease off. Sleep. Eat. Be happy. The land loves him. In his home he has achieved peace and contentment beyond understanding.”

“You sound like you glorify laziness.”

“Laziness… or to be more exact, convenience… has ever been a prime motivator for human progress. What is the steam engine for if not to do the work that muscles cannot? Why do we have steamer ships if we were not so impatient? Why do we long for high office and profit in business if not to earn more for less effort?” I smile. “If it is the indio in my blood that loves the rumbling symphony of motor-engines, then so be it. I always want to do more with less effort.

So I looked up methods of irrigation, of trade and business management, and machines for the factories and ships I want to build. With more wealth or machinery, the less a person must directly spend effort to produce the desired result.

It would be so easy for an administrator to take it easy. Simply do not abuse the Indio, and he will serve you faithfully. The Philippines for the past three hundred years has been mostly safe from the ravages of war and conflicting ideologies; here a man may rest easy. The Philippines is a gracious host; she invites us all to take off our slippers and sit in peaceful contemplation of the bond between man and God in a rocking chair.”

“So, do you believe that the indio is lazy, just as everyone who comes to live in the Philippines comes to feel indolent?”

“No, I do not believe the indio is lazy by nature. I believe that the indio is smart enough to do only about enough of the work he is expected to do. To ask him to do more – the way to do this is not to beat him into obedience and fervor. No, this will only inspire resentment, and ever more to get him to apply his wits to make you lower your expectations. In this, I feel it is even more a waste of potential. Nor can you tempt a content man with the prospect of more wealth, for to have more money is to invite more troubles.

No. Instead, you must inflame his soul.”

As said Napoleon Bonaparte, and with this he cut a blaze through Europe. “I see what you mean. That does sound reasonable. I have been thinking of this, I wanted to raise this objection earlier, but you have put it to words so much the better! So how would you ‘inflame his soul’, Don Crisostomo?”

I look past him to see Maria Clara speaking with her aunt. She glances towards me, impatience leaching onto her body language.

“That is a topic we will have to discuss later. Perhaps you would be inclined to exchange letters discussing our interests?”

“Yes! Yes, certainly I would! I see now how you could have acquired such a breadth of knowledge, if you exchange many letters for many interests! It makes sense. Don Crisostomo, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. I will not forget this most valuable method you have shown me.”

“And my thanks as well, Señor Mata. It was certainly my pleasure to have come to know you.”

But quickly he leaves my mind, for the weight of hundred years is easier to bear than this stare I feel upon my form. Patience, I must have patience, all else can wait, but every moment stretches longer than a century.

Finally, I see the old woman nod. Lo, what light over yon sala breaks! Not Eimmart, but just as astronomical. Her smile – !

I would burn for that smile.

————–

I will not tell you more about what I feel about Maria Clara because I could go on forever. Our eyes met again and a yawning eternity stretched before us, a painful crevasse as we longed to touch and make sure of each other’s existence.

Our families have always been close, and we were first the best of friends. At the age of thirteen, just as she was about to blossom into womanhood, she was sent to live in a covent to undergo a strict religious education. I did not see her again, and afterwards I too went away to study in Europe. She was cloistered away in the Nunnery of Saint Catherine for seven years. Thus, our time apart spanned closer to a decade.

‘I have always expected you to be beautiful -‘ my eyes said, ‘But today you have made it clear you are the fairest to ever live.’

‘I have always expected you to be handsome -‘ her eyes seemed to say, ‘But I have always feared that you would not see me so lovely when you have traveled the world and met many beautiful women’.

“Maria Clara…”

“Crisostomo…”

“Ahem.”

Tia Isabel, Capitan Tiago’s sister and Maria Clara’s guardian coughed and directed us away from the middle of the room. We apologized profusely and tried to skip away with all the composure we could muster towards the window overlooking the inside courtyard. Tia Isabel’s squinted gaze follows us, ever alert for any impropriety.

Where has gone the easy companionship of our childhood? We have changed from friends into hopeful lovers, but now upon seeing each other it is all we can do to keep from blushing every time our eyes meet. We spoke of sweet nothings to each other, tepidly throwing compliments and accepting them in the spirit they are offered. Let us know each other once more. My friend, my love, show me how much you have changed yet remained the same.

“Crisostomo…”

“Ma-” I clamp my mouth shut. She giggles, hiding her face behind her fan.

“How have you not forgotten me? You have gone abroad in so many trips, seen so many great cities, and beautiful women! Surely, you could not have been thinking of me always.”

“Maria Clara, I could never forget. Think you that I would betray such a sacred vow? Do you remember – that night, that stormy night, when you found me weeping at my mother’s deathbed? You approached me, and laid your hand on my arm, and said, ‘you have lost your mother- I have never had one’ and wept with me. She loved you like her own daughter, as we wept together, there I swore I would love you and make you happy no matter what Heaven had in store for me. And there, through flashes of lightning, I swear I could faintly see a smile on the pale features of my mother’s corpse. Maria Clara!

Ever you have been my savior, in the desolation and loneliness of the soul in those foreign lands. I could hear your voice whispering in the valleys, and in the mists I could almost believe your touch. Maria Clara, never, never.”

Never, never, shall I allow sadness to crease your face. Not in this life. It is all I can do not to say ‘Come away with me, Maria Clara! Let us go somewhere else; to Europe, to the United States! Let us go, and let this nation earn its own freedom, I spurn this power, let us be elsewhere and be happy!’

But you would refuse me, wouldn’t you? Because such kindness you have, you would not abandon anyone if you knew you could help them. That is what I love most about you. You deserve a better fate than what Rizal bestowed upon you.

“I too have never forgotten you – even if my confessor bade me to do so, and imposed many penances. I remembered our games, and you were always so slow, and would lose our games, and I would try not to hit you so hard. You would always try to cheat more than I did, and we would end up in scuffles. We were so young! When I recalled it in the darkness of the cloister, I was almost in tears. I missed you so much, Crisostomo, I missed having you to quarrel with, I missed having you to laugh with.”

Maria Clara, oh my love, it is only now I have the word. To everyone else you were always such the proper little girl. Only to me would you show your true face,  my glorious angel.

“Do you remember that time you were so angry with me? We were still children and we had gone with your mother to bathe in the creek under the shades of think bamboo. On the banks grew many flowers and plants whose strange names you told me in Latin and Spanish, for you were even then studying in the Ateneo. But I paid you no attention, for I was occupied chasing after dragon-flies with bodies like needles and butterflies in all colors of the rainbow. I tried to catch them in my hands, or the little fish that slipped among the moss and stones by the edge of the waters.

You left me alone, and then returned with a crown of leaves and orange blossoms, and laid upon my head and called me Chloe.”

I thought at the time, it was specially apt; not just Chloe as the blooming Demeter, daughter of Rhea, but mostly in the story of Daphnis and Chloe.

“But your mother snatched away my crown and after mashing it with the stone mixed it with the tree bark which she was to use as a shampoo for our heads. And how tears came to your eyes and you said she did not understand mythology. But ‘Silly boy,’ she said. ‘See how sweet your hair will be then’, and I laughed and you were so offended you would not speak to me for the rest of the day.

On the way back to town, with the sun shining hot above our heads, I picked up some sage leaves that grew beside the path and gave you them to put under a hat so you would not get a headache. You smiled and held my hand and so we made up.”

I beam and take out my wallet, and show her a piece of paper within which were wrapped some dried, blackened aromatic leaves. “Your sage leaves,” I say. “As you have kept the memory close to your heart, so have I kept all that you have given me.”

My heart sings in exultation, for as she takes from close to her bosom a little pouch of white satin. “I have kept this close always to my heart. Do you know what it is?”

I shake my head. “It is the letter of farewell, the alibis of a deficient debtor.” She chides me for not sending her any more letters, but it was forbidden to allow the outside world to provide distractions in the convent. “I would read it to you, but not here. I will be kind enough not to air your private thoughts in public.”

I close my eyes. In another life, I would have been consumed with worry, as the contents of said letter would have struck me as a dagger unto the heart about my filial responsibilities.

‘My father wishes me to go away, in spite of all my pleadings. ‘You are a man now,’ he told me, ‘and you must think about your future and about your duties. You must learn the science of life, a thing which your fatherland cannot teach you, so that you may some day be useful to it. If you remain here in my shadow, in this environment of business affairs, you will not learn to look far ahead. The day in which you lose me you will find yourself like the plant of which our poet Baltazar tells: grown in the water, its leaves wither at the least scarcity of moisture and a moment’s heat dries it up. Don’t you understand? You are almost a young man, and yet you weep!’ 

These reproaches hurt me and I confessed that I loved you. My father reflected for a time in silence and then, placing his hand on my shoulder, said in a trembling voice, ‘Do you think that you alone know how to love, that your father does not love you, and that he will not feel the separation from you? It is only a short time since we lost your mother, and I must journey on alone toward old age, toward the very time of life when I would seek help and comfort from your youth, yet I accept my loneliness, hardly knowing whether I shall ever see you again. But you must think of other and greater things; the future lies open before you, while for me it is already passing behind; your love is just awakening, while mine is dying; fire burns in your blood, while the chill is creeping into mine. Yet you weep and cannot sacrifice the present for the future, useful as it may be alike to yourself and to your country.’ 

My father’s eyes filled with tears and I fell upon my knees at his feet, I embraced him, I begged his forgiveness, and I assured him that I was ready to set out—’

The memory of these words sends fiery lightning down my spine.

The day after tomorrow, it is the Day of the Dead, and nowhere can I light candles for my father’s soul. The horror of my father dying alone would have consumed me, the shame of all but abandoning him to my own gratification in Europe, it would have burned enough that I would cut short our sweet meeting. I watched my mother die, and for all that it pained me to see her corpse never to open eyes again, now I am alone. I would have rushed home to tend to my duties.

But it is too late, too late! Now I know my father’s bones have been exhumed months ago, and cast into the waters.

“Maria Clara, you know – that I must go to San Diego, for soon it shall be All Saint’s Day. It is up to your father to decide if your family shall spend the fiesta days there. This is a duty I cannot abandon, much as I might wish to remain here and spend time with you, and to speak with others about our common interests.”

Maria Clara cries out “Crisostomo, I will beg my father, and surely we shall meet again in a few days. I do so wish I could be there with you as you lay flowers upon your parents’ tomb.” I am an orphan now, and her heart aches for those departed who she too loved as much as her own parents. She had never known her mother, and my own she considered closer to her heart as such than Tia Isabel who raised her. Where Capitan Tiago doted on her, in my own father she saw the picture of a reticent father who carefully dispenses wisdom.

“Maria Clara, I have to ask from you a great favor-“

“Then only speak, and if it is in my power to do so…” and here her cheeks pink, “and if it is not too improper, I shall grant it, Crisostomo.”

“Ask me not how I know this, but somewhere in San Diego are two young sacristan, two young boys aged ten and seven. They are named Basilio and Crispin, the children of Sisa and Pedro. The youngest shall be accused of stealing church money. He did not, but it will not save him. To you and I, an amount of thirty-two pesos would be trifling, but it is not worth a boy’s life. So I beg you this – Maria Clara, I beg you to put these two boys under your protection. What I ask, Padre Damaso and Padre Salvi might question or defer, but from from you they will deny nothing.”

“Crisostomo?”

“Maria Clara, my dearest, weep not before the Virgin. You have within you a power you do not yet care to acknowledge. I beg you, my angel, to move forth and with an ease that might surprise you, save the lives of the innocent.”

Maria Clara’s ever-honest eyes narrow at me. I shiver. That look on her face, I love that too.


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Noli F.A.Q

1. Is this even legal?

A: Of course it is. Copyright for Rizal’s works expired way back in December 30, 1946. It is now public domain. The method is very much like Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – we now have an old established property that is owned by collective humanity, and then play around with it.

Or perhaps a similar transformative effort: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It started a fun little  mashup of a book, became a movie.

2. Light Novels? Aren’t they anime?

A: Not at all, though they are usually turned into one. This project is technically an illustrated novel, but I have chosen the ‘light novel’ bracket because the light novel has certain aesthetics and conventions different from more serious novels.

I do plan on having this novel contain illustrations instead of just old photographs, but better to focus first on completing the work before embellishing anything.

The art style does not necessarily need to look anime. Light novels are not called such for their illustrations, as might the illuminated manuscripts of old, but for their lighter, easier language.

3. Why are you asking for money before the novel is even complete?

A: Proofreading, commentary, fact-checking and suggestions on what measures Ibarra could take would also be very welcome.

But if asked, ‘Do you actually need the money?’, pride is useless, yes. Every little bit helps greatly. There are many surprising costs to writing this that needs to be defrayed, and so much information that needs to be sifted through. I would even very happily accept donations in the form of pertinent books.

Please support my efforts at https://www.patreon.com/noli_mi.

4. Hey, I saw this story somewhere else. What’s different between this version and that one?

A: The pre-reader versions outside of Patreon or this site have not yet been proofread. The fixed versions you see here also usually have up to fifty percent more content.

5. Isn’t this a bit insulting to Rizal’s memory?

A:  A lot of people have already tried to remake the Noli and the Fili. This much less serious take on the concept is well past due. I can only hope I don’t end up lynched by my old history teachers.


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Noli 1.3 A Dinner Conversation

Postmodernism was a reaction to modernism. Where modernism was about objectivity, postmodernism was about subjectivity. Where modernism sought a singular truth, postmodernism sought the multiplicity of truths.
– Miguel Syjuco

There was not much time for us to converse, for shortly the dinner bell sounded. Yet in that time I felt I had made some useful new acquaintances and promises to call upon their homes (and vice versa to my own in San Diego).

Jose Tayunco was the son of a printer; Raul Perez Urdaneta was the son of an officer in the Guardia Civil Veterana, the urban gendarmerie of Manila; Felix Romano, a painter; and specially the strange young poet Andrade who was jailed for writing in his poem ‘the son of a lion is still a lion‘, the slogan of the Spanish Republicans.

Ah, the Spanish Republic. We already know of the Carlist Wars, in which Infante Carlos of Spain sought to claim the throne of Spain after the death of his older brother King Ferdinand VII in 1833. At that time, Isabella, who had displaced him in the line of succession, was only three years old.

Isabella became head of state when the Cortes, long exasperated with the civil wars and the insolvency of the government caused by said wars, declared that rather than another regent the 13-year old Isabella was of age to rule. Spain at this time had long ceased to be a direct monarchy, but its Prime Minister and head of the Cortes was called President of the Government, and he was the one called to form the means of its rule. Isabella’s power was to appoint and dismiss the Prime Minister and thus the shape of the government as a whole.

Unfortunately, rapidly she was inundated by competing courtiers and ideological influences, and her rule was wracked with civil wars, coups, assassinations, and scandals.

Isabella had a tendency of vacillating between the liberal and the radical, appointing and sacking Prime Ministers and thus directions of government in succession, alienating moderates and those hopeful for lasting working reform, until opposition to her policies finally crossed faction lines.

She was deposed in the Glorious Revolution in 1868.  The Cortes sought a more moderate king, and thought that Amadeo of the House of Savoy could serve; he had less political baggage and was known for his liberal views.

Amadeo I, son of the King of Italy, was rapidly thrust into the plotting and instability of Spanish politics. A Carlist uprising erupted again, and in February 1973, he decided to abandon the whole thing declaring the people of Spain to be “ungovernable”, leaving the Carlists and Republicans to battle over the forlorn pieces of their nation.

The Republicans won. The First Republic, in 1873, which lasted from February 1873 to December 1874, an ambitious yet poorly structured attempt at allowing federalization.

Then they too were thrown off with the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty under Alfonso XII, Isabela II’s son. Who has just died in November 1885. And now, once more, Spain is to be ruled by an infant.

It seems the only reason Spain has not exploded yet again is because the people have finally become tired of war.  Ah pitiful Mother Spain. No, your hopes in the next more liberal republic will only show them to be a spirited yet ineffectual crop as bad as anything your old monarchy. Yet the death of this Empire has been long and torturous, I wonder if I have a right to delay you the release from your own misery. Your colonies, rather than your pride, has become the millstone about your neck.

You remain nearly bankrupt, but you send to the Philippines nearly a million pesos a year in administrative costs and get in tax retuns barely a trifle more. Cuba is a massively more important and profitable territory, yet it would pull you into the war that would end your life as a Great Power.

It is odd, to think of Spain in such terms while standing in this land which had long feared Spain as a monolithic power of guns and crosses, but España had never really been a very united kingdom.

To the Philippines, Spain is a shockingly liberal land. Eagerly I was asked about what it was like in the ‘mother country’, and well if you could look past the constant quarrels it was a place of bravery and intellectual profusion. Certainly not far behind the rest of Europe and America; hers is the gateway! She still straddles both sides of the world, and benefit from two cultural spheres!

The interests of these young men I piqued by saying that through my time in Germany I had also spent translating the works of Verne and Mark Twain into Spanish. Perhaps if time permitted, we could meet again, and not only would I share some of the books I had commissioned to be printed, I challenged them all to a simultaneous game of chess.

They looked amused at my challenge but were willing to oblige. A La Liga Filipina this was not yet, but I had more to introduce to them before we could speak more openly of challenging the status quo. In Spain, we youth had the hobby of spending our free time practicing fencing and shooting, here a suspicious past-time. Oh but a plague I would unleash upon the idle young men of these lands. A tabletop menace.

But now it is time for dinner. We sit around a long table, draped with white cloth. A large carafe of the tinola which I had not tasted for years was brought out, and servants ladled into each person’s bowls. As the works of Rizal had predicted my bowl held the choice meats while Padre Damaso somehow ended with the neck and meatless wings of the chicken. He scowls with dissatisfaction and drops his spoon noisily upon his plate.

He is angry, because he considers himself a Very Important Person, and it was the custom to offer important personages the best hospitality of the house. And long had he presumed upon the high esteem of this household.

Señor Laruja, a short man with a whisker sideburns and a large nose almost unto Cyrano asks me “How long have you been away from the homeland?” I knew him already as a man who thought that there was no creature on earth so indolent, so ungrateful, or so uncouth, as the indio, and I turn to him with all cheer. There is comfort in knowing there was no need whatsoever to make this man my ally.

“Seven years, sir.”

“Come! You must have forgotten her, then!”

“I would more fear that she sees in me a stranger, sir. These last two years, I was away in northern Germany and in Russian Poland, and thus could not receive any wire from home. It is only very recently that I learned that my father had passed.”

“How did you manage?” Doña Victorina segues in quickly, lest the turn of the topic darken the mood of the conversation. “I would think there are few speakers of Spanish there.”

“Their own language was useful to me, madam.”

“Do you also speak English?” asks Father Sybila. The Dominican had spent time in Hong Kong, and spoke the pidgin English by the natives there.

I sniffed and hung my nose in the air. “By Jove, I should say so sir!” I spoke in the most upper crust of British accents.

“Or I can talk like a Yank, if you prefer,” I say next in a drawl that was actually more Texan.

He laughs. The young Dominican who is handsome to the point of prettiness applauds by tapping at the sides of his bowl.

“Wonderful!” says Doña Victoria, impressed and not a little amused. “Is that all that languages you can speak? You were in Russian Poland, you said?”

“English was a capable bridge there, where German did not. They still speak Polish there. Of Russian, I am so-so.” It is not yet Soviet Russia, there they do not yet learn you.

“After Mother Spain, what is your favorite country?” asks the blonde young traveler, who I now know is Julio Mata, who came here to write a book on Colonial Studies.

“Germany, where I studied, of no doubt, because it has decided to set itself at the forefront of the sciences.”

Rizal did not live to see the First World War, to see Europe shattered by the fruit of the sciences it so trusted. It would shatter their faith in the idea that science and technology could solve all the ills of mankind. They would feel betrayed. The intellectuals led them straight into the killing fields.

“Certainly I have heard that about Germany,” Señor Laruja adds. “But you, as someone so well-traveled, what did you find most notable?”

“In what manner?”

“For example, with reference to the life of the people… social life, political, religious, in general its essence… its totality!”

In another life I would have said something about the ‘prosperities and misery of its people are equal to its liberties or concerns, and consequently to the sacrifices or selfishness of its ancestors’, and drawn biting rebuke from Father Damaso. That it was no worth wasting a fortune sending someone to Europe to learn of something any child knows.

In another life I would have been so affronted and unknowing how to respond that I would just leave in the middle of this dinner. Run away, rather than suffer insult. Perhaps it is within our nature to punish those who dare criticize and hurt our feelings with a personal shunning. That Ibarra, as Rizal has written him, was a very impulsive youth. And it is the way of all who men who live to wish to punch their idiotic past selves in the face. So many things we miss in our springtime and ignorance!

But right here, right now I have a hundred years of perspective. It is said that rarely one is given a chance to make a good first impression, so I shall not waste this moment.

“I should say that Germany is very open to new ideas, its people very welcoming of strangers, and in that the foundation of their prosperity.

But…” here I opened my palms helplessly “I am a young man. So of course what would fascinate me more are machines. Machines and electricity. Mechanization and industry and the unforeseen wealth it brings. Lights and photography! Engines and speed! Ah! The world is changing so fast, and it is dizzying to know how to react to all of this. The cultures that can wrestle with these changes shall reign in the coming century. “

“And you have seen much of this in Germany?”

“Of course, of course! Germany has some of the finest steel mills in the world, aiming to compete with Britain’s expertise. I tell you, I am sure, even now they are building warships that are no less strong than the finest of the Royal Navy’s new battleships.”

Padre Damaso scoffs. “This is not fitting conversation for the dinner table.” The Franciscan jerked his head towards Doña Victorina.

“Why not?” the woman replies. “Machines do not interest me, but this is fresh news of Europe. Do go on, young man.”

“You were but a student there, how can you know this much?” asked the young blonde traveler.

I smile. The world pauses. And it resumes. “Alfred Krupp was introduced to the Bessemer process of mass-producing steel by his London agent and friend, Alfred Longsdon, somewhere around eighteen fifty-nine or eighteen-sixty. After a lengthy period of trial and error, this steel was developed to such quality that the royal factory of Woolwich in England acquired steel from Krupp to manufacture guns that conformed to British naval standards. Also, Krupp was one of the first manufacturers to design practical breechloading guns for army use.”

Faintly surprised murmurs ripple through the table. None seem to care to challenge the veracity of the facts I have so bravely stated. Only an acquaintance to an insider should know this much.

“It is interesting, to be sure, but what else have you learned? Surely that was not why you were sent to study in Germany?” said Father Sybila.

“German ships, hmf. They are not colonial powers, the German Navy is as foolish a thought as a flying turtle,” says Laruja.

I shrug noncommittally. “I will not speak of their naval practices, of which I have no true knowledge, merely that in steelworks, the Germans are among the world’s best. Only the Americans can consistently do better.”

Half the table look aggrieved, the other half appear more excited. “Americans. Too long have they insulted Mother Spain with impunity,” Señor Laruja speaks, wiggling his jaw and whiskers. “One day they shall be put in their place.”

“W-what do you know of the Americans?” Don de Espadaña squeaks out. Doña Victorina’s henpecked husband was a pure-blooded Spaniard who came to the Philippines as a Customs employee. A broken leg left him lamed and dismissed from his post, but even having nothing else to do as a peninsular it was beneath his honor to perform manual labor. It was forbidden! It was suggested that he go off and pretend to be a doctor in the barrios. He is now a quack doctor that charges exorbitant rates in the city.

As shy and harmless as he might look, how many in the provinces had his utter lack of medical knowledge harmed? Now he is trapped in a marriage with his wealthy mestiza wife. A trophy husband, as far as that may go.

“It has been but two decades since they shot themselves in the heart over the issue of slavery, which we have never set forth as an institution. They are… unfairly blessed. Estados Unidos is vast nation, larger than all of Europe (if we set aside the icy reaches of the Finns and the Rus), with incalculable amounts of untapped resources. They are protected by two unbreakable shields – the distance of the Pacific to their West, and the distance of the Atlantic to their East. Ton by ton they attempt to craft a Navy equal or superior to even that of the British – and I fear they will succeed, because with their wealth they will build themselves a seemingly endless wall of steel and guns.”

I blink and pause the world again.

“In 1875, Britain accounted for forty-seven percent of world production of pig iron and almost forty percent of steel. Forty percent of British output was exported to the U.S., which was rapidly building its rail and industrial infrastructure. But even as convenient as the iron and coal reserves, the United States is an entire continent. These rails, now built, will allow them to massively increase their production. In 1870, Britain production was eight point seven million tons of pig iron and the US one and point seven million. Germany produced one point five-or-six million.

Right now? The United States produces eight million tons of pig iron. Britain’s steel production has plateaued and will soon be surpassed. They cannot meaningfully increase their resource much further. From here on it is quality, not quantity, that will decide, unless the Americans so churlishly decide to do both.”

Father Sibyla quirks his lips. “Point? What an odd way of speaking. One point two million, instead of one and two million. Odd. But I like it. It sounds very definitive. Do you also say… point three, instead of one-third?”

“I regretfully admit that I have that habit, yes.”

“Extravagant lies! How could you even know this?” Padre Damaso interjects. “There is no reason on Earth, no reason at all!”

“I have spoken to people about our common interests,” I reply, “and I welcome anyone to try and prove my figures false. It should be easy enough to verify, if you write a letter to the newspapers or libraries in America. They care overmuch for statistics there.”

“Would you happened to know how much iron Spain produces?” surprisingly it is the Teniente that challenges me.

“Last year exports through Bilbao totaled three point one million tons,” I respond without a moment’s hesitation.

Silence greets the absolute confidence with which I speak these words.

After a while he says, “You are a spy.”

“I would certainly not be a competent one if I admit to it so easily. No, I am just well-informed. Very well-informed.” I sigh and dip my spoon into my bowl of chicken tinola and swirl it about. “And here I will have to start all over again. In the seven years I have been away, now I know almost nothing about my native land and its people. Many are the discoveries I wished to discuss with my father, ah! Impossible now. Impossible now.”

Padre Damaso looks at me much more warily now. I smile back. He looks away.

I lean forward as if to whisper but keep my voice of a normal tone. It is hard to disguise my enthusiasm. “But let it not be said that Spain lags behind advancement. Pray, have you heard of Isaac Peral and his submarine?”

—————-

There is a danger here. What if my knowledge, born in the future, is wrong?

What if the world and the individuals are different? What of the butterfly theory?

What is the mechanism, that we may leverage it?

Mine is the sum total of human knowledge. All human knowledge. Even present knowledge. There is a world-soul, and [Googol] – the interface, not the dog – speaks to it, and to me. And I fear it may consume me.

To you who stands there beyond the gulf of a hundred years, what would you do? We are linked souls, you and I, woven together by this Jungian artifact. But I am not you and you are not me – we are echoes of each other. I am not here to maximize advantages and uplift this world to the level of comfort you expect. I have not lived in your century, though I have the memory of the utter ease by which you move day by day. No king of ages past has ever lived with in such great luxury as you!

To you who stand there at the end of time, the benefit of hindsight is immense. But I ask you to imagine as I feel who stand here at the crux of history. God has given us free will. Yet we scream to the Almighty – Lord! Tell us what to do. Lord! Grant me strength. Lord! Grant me luck in all my endeavors! I surrender myself to you, oh Lord, or to your anointed, that I may have the peace and surety of not having to bear the consequences of my own decisions.

The priests say, do not seek to learn too much, for it will take you away from God. It will encourage skepticism and materialism, and what does it merit to gain the whole world but lose your own soul? I say, too much knowledge can indeed be a frightening object. It is not just there are things man is not meant to know, but that man is a finite existence. The terror of free will and the consequence of mortality is that you cannot try everything.

Too many valid choices only lead into paralysis. The future, I can shape, but in what manner? These lives I can influence, but who is strong enough to carry their fate? Ideas blaze between my ears, one after the other, flickering like fireflies.

For example, with his two novels, Rizal became a martyr to shape the birth of a nation. Yet I know a woman, with seven books, to become the first billionaire through writing alone. At this moment, as a thief of culture, I might be able to write with sufficient factual detail to convince enough people to the point of international hysteria that a Wizarding World exists. The amount of knowledge that I can grasp is outright magical.

Upon the altar of knowledge I need only offer myself. You tempt me. I am the one who stands before the hundred, a hundred branching roads out into infinity, and enough of you whisper – the best revenge is to live well. It is better to laugh and confound your enemies, and take ruthless advantage of their ignorance.

I am Crisostomo Ibarra. I must be true only to myself. Or this will all be for nothing.

—————-

Piano music floats over the living room, and the revelers have been thinned out from those who only invited themselves to be fed. I sit at Capitan Tiago’s grand piano, rather than let it stand there as an unused decoration. I have been granted not just memory, but muscle memory, otherwise most of my time I should spend flailing about in hilarious ineptitude attempting to put theoretical knowledge into practice.

Unlike Rizal, before my sea-change, I was a horrible artist.

The night has deepened, and now those who remain are those who look to be seen and wish for more careful conversation with their peers. Their lips are loosened by wine, enough space has been cleared, and with hangers-on done with dinner only the important people remained.

It was not for these dinner guests that I stayed. It was not for the sake of forging connections that I held my tongue from the insults and the truths behind these smiling vipers’ facades.

Even the fate of the nation remains to me an abstract thing, for I knew that I only had to move very little to see Spain’s authority over these lands come tumbling down, tumbling down. I am Crisostomo Ibarra and I must remain true to myself or this will all have been for nothing.

I speak of the only being on this Earth that can sway me from my goals.

I can feel the web of emotions snap, and the music stops, and all attention is drawn to the stairway.

She appears rising like Athena from the foam before of this throng of Filipinos, Chinese, Spaniards, old women, young men, daughters, and etc., at her approach they open out like the waves. She is garbed in the white, semi-translucent laced gown that is the paean to all femininity, and upon her svelte neck is a string of pearls and diamonds that reflected all colors of the rainbow. She is fair – too fair; her eyes usually downcast and demure reveal a pureness of soul, and a guileless intellect. It is the night, but the sun has risen. The Pearl of the Orient, her most precious treasure, stands before me.

“Maria Clara…” I whisper.

“Crisostomo…” She looks stunned. Her lips part in longing and questions unspoken.

“Maria Clara.” I smile. Never, Maria Clara. Never have I forgotten. I am ever yours.

“Cristomo.” She smiles back.

“Maria Clara!” My heart sings out as I take one step forward.

“Crisostomo…!” She shyly hides her face behind her fan.

“Maria Cla-“

I feel a hand slap upon my shoulders. “And that will be enough of that.” I turn to see Capitan Tiago on the verge of laughter. The other guests have less self-control. Doña Victorina’s scowl is epic in scope. And only in this will I forgive Padre Damaso’s enmity.

“Capitan Tiago…” I huff. Her father’s approval is the only one that matters, as long as Maria Clara does not know this shameful secret.

“Ibarra,” he warns.

I raise both arms in surrender and laugh lightly.

———–

I am Crisostomo Ibarra and to the Angelic Hosts and through centuries I do so declare – I am a man in love with Maria Clara! In this life, this I swear, I defy the fate Rizal dictated for my beloved – in this life, she shall be safe. She shall be happy. She shall not be harmed the envy and intrigues of the scorpions and worms that surround her.

She shall not die, alone and unloved, one more pure soul destroyed by the hand of colonial oppression. I would break the world before seeing you hurt again!

Maria Clara, my dearest, my light! Only grant me your love, and soon I shall be invincible.


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Noli 1.2 In the House of Capitan Tiago

He may not enter anywhere at the first, unless there be some one of the household who bid him to come, though afterwards he can come as he please.

– Bram Stoker “Dracula”

My home is not in Manila, but the first thing I must do is to present myself to Capitan Tiago, my father’s dearest friend. It would be the most terrible of insults not to do so. His house stands overlooking one of the waterways passing through the city, alongside Anloage Street in Binondo, close to Manila’s Chinatown. At this time it is Manila’s financial and elite residential district, far more so even than the functions inside Intramuros.

His house stands overlooking one of the waterways passing through the city, alongside Anloage Street in Binondo, close to Manila’s Chinatown. At this time it is Manila’s financial and elite residential district, far more so even than the functions inside Intramuros.

Stone houses of this time leave an impression of each being their own castles, but Capitan Tiago’s house was known far and wide for being open to all things except business and new things and new notions.

“Crisostomo! As God is my witness, you have grown! Tall and strong, hah! So much like your father!” Capitan Tiago meets me by the door and embraces me, quickly and firmly, and slaps at my shoulders. “You have been away far too long, how much your heart aches for the comforts of home!”

He shouts for the servants to hurry up. “Sit, Crisostomo. I will handle everything. And – what is this? Is this a present?”

“Sadly, no, Don Santiago. This is Doggol, my traveling companion, though I believe he would be just as overjoyed to meet a certain person.”

Capitan Tiago curls his lips up good-naturedly, knowing who I meant. “I can see your ploy, Crisostomo.” All Doggol needed was aviator glasses, for he is the best wingman.

Doggol is running around my feet, and looks up at me with wide inquisitive wet eyes. He asks: Should I trust this fat man?

Who is he? Capitan Tiago was born Don Santiago De Los Santos, a short round-faced man with thinning hair cur short in the back but long and combed over in front. He looks to be in his mid-thirties despite being closer to fifty. His eyes are small, but not slanting, and would be handsome were it not for the faint asymmetry of his face, caused by incessant chewing of betel nut and tobacco.

It is the face of a man supremely satisfied with his life.

He is close to the priests because of his devotions and vast contributions of money during ecclesiastical events, the sumptuous commissions he gives to decorate their churches, and always inviting the parish curate to every formal dinner. He does this for two reasons, the first for his daughter Maria Clara being born after six long childless years of his marriage, for though her mother died in childbirth it was well her weeping over effigies saints had finally born fruit and it was not well that mere death should release such a vow.

The other reason for his devout reputation is his vexed competition with a certain Doña Patrocino, a widow whose grand gifts to the churches always upstaged his. Whereas he looked young for his years, the old woman was like steel wire, clinging to the mortal coil with the humorless tenacity of a sovereign. Her partisans were supremely confident that she would be canonized after her death, leaving even Capitan Tiago to venerate her at the altars, an idea the good Captain was willing to concede as long as she died soon.

For this reason sometimes he is called ‘Sacristan Tiago’; a rich man too much a servant of the friars.

He is close to the government because he supported every tax increase they called for, fed the inmates of Bilibid Prison, and was an agile participant in the leases and bids for various positions and employment that the government saw fit to give to private enterprise. For this, he was able to gain the post of Gobernadorcillo – the highest post a native-born Filipino could aspire to in these lands.

He had the power not only to collect taxes, order the construction of public works, appoint lieutenants and lesser judges and arresting officers, serve as captain of the port for a coastal town, but also to judge civil cases up to two taels of gold or forty pesos.

It was for this reason that he is called ‘Captain Tiago’.

A human should not trust him. But you are a dog, Doggol. Go forth then and be pampered. His larder is full, and his servants often maltreated. Go be cute, and while they may grumble about Capitan Tiago’s sudden orders to rush about and cook and clean for a completely unexpected party, and sooth some of their resentment.

——

Doggol follows at Capitan Tiago’s heels, and the man seems inordinately pleased at having a European, even if but a dog, worshipfully trailing behind him like a courtier to his king.

The servants are drawn to the curious sight, but less charitable. ‘What is this dog?’ they whisper to themselves, ‘Almost all head, legs so tiny as to be almost useless, and all the rest fluffy fur – it is unnatural! This is what dogs are in Europe? A dog like this lives and expects to be fed from the work of others, how much like the white man!’

Then Doggol sits by the kitchen watching the insides with eerie focused interest, and like a little master of the house, he goes from servant to servant, staring at them. He starts rubbing his sides at their bare legs, asking for attention. Dog, you are acting like a cat. Why.

“Don Santiago, I have returned from Spain as swiftly as I was able, specially in this time that I make offerings and prayers on All Souls Day. But it has been a year already since my father has died, and I hold no knowledge of how it happened.”

“Now is not the time for such talk. This is a happy day, I will speak to you about such unpleasant matters later.”

And so I am left alone.

This is Capitan Tiago’s home, and I certainly do not feel welcome nor very comfortable here.

For in these times, what was called a Filipino was only those wealthy or a mestizo with Spanish blood, and above them were the insulares; pure blooded Spaniards born in the colonies, and the highest authority came from peninsulares, those who were born in Spain and sent to office overseeing her colonies. All the rest were but Indios, the natives, or Sangley, the useful but never fully accepted Chinese immigrants.

Capitan Tiago is considered perhaps the second or third wealthiest person in the whole country. His vast wealth comes from his properties of farmland in Pampanga and Laguna, in Binondo and environs collecting rent from businesses in its busiest streets, and in partnership with a Chinaman running a monopoly on the opium trade. He is pitiless master over his workers, but ever a friend to those with wealth and power.

He is as happy a man could ever be in these Isles.

I know what it would take to crush him, divest him of all his properties, and reduce him to a shallow opium-addled wreck. He had done little to save my father from his imprisonment, for though he was my father’s good friend he was also the friend of Padre Damaso – who was his departed wife’s confessor, and upon whose advice their union had finally born fruit.

He had chosen his side, and yet I find little heat in my heart. For I love Maria Clara, his daughter. If there is a reason I should hate Rizal more than crafting me to suffer indignities was that I was ever made to leave her with the smallest of hurts.

He doted on her as if she were his life, and that fatherly love I cannot fault. I even understand why in another time he might feel retracting the marriage promise would be better for his daughter’s future.

Even as he laughs and with a wide grin presents me to his guests, presuming upon a friendship he’d allowed to die. Even as he moves through life thinking he was completely blameless for anything, nonchalantly trampling on people simply because their skins were browner than his, because their wealth are less than his, because pretty young women had no power to resist.

Because, Capitan Tiago, she is not your daughter.

Padre Damaso had suggested to dance in the fertility rites in Obando, and there had lain with his wife, and in truth it was Padre Damaso who was Maria Clara’s father.

And not even that will save *him* from my vengeance.

—————-

Capitan Tiago has decided to host a dinner in honor of my arrival. Though the invitations were sent out only in the afternoon, by the evening’s turn it had already run around the districts of Manila, and guests both invited and uninvited had congregated upon his home upon Arlegue Street in Binondo.

Let us first get one thing out of the way. In another life, I would have ineptly attempted to treat this gathering as I would have the affairs in Europe. That is, the hope it inclines towards the not thoroughly boring. Even the matron of this house escaped this fête using the earliest possible excuse.

Men and women are separated as if they were still children at a school dance, too afraid to mingle. The highlight of such a gathering would be the foreigners, but even they looked only bored with the lack of usual amusements they would have found in other parties in other countries. They paced around the room as if still trapped on an ocean liner, or lions in a cage.

“The host must not show himself early, for it is the visitors that should be eager to see his face. The poor folk greet each visitor and attend to all their needs straight from the door, that is the way of a supplicant, Crisostomo!” Capitan Tiago instructs me as we wait in the next room over. “This is how people like us make others into beggars craving for our presence.”

Most of the people out there are simply there for free food, and for that they endure some hours of uncomfortable furniture and tedious talk trying to impress their peers. It was not the custom in the Philippines to ask for invitation cards, and even in the future any gathering was open to any person a relative or honored guest might decide to bring along; and if all else fails, simply blend in a pretend to be old friends.

Silently I send:

[Googol] make a note: Among the first movies I would make should be titled “The Uninvited”, a comedy about someone who inserts himself into the gather for free food, and pretending to be an old friend or relative of always someone on the opposite side of the room. He is eventually caught in the contradiction of excuses as other guests attempt to introduce him to each other.

He is thrown out, but as he is passing by a smaller gathering, a tattered-dressed old man says “You look unhappy, friend. Come, drink with us.”

He looks towards the house he just left, kicks off the dust from his shoes, and much happier he turns to the old man and smiles warmly. Briefly change the view to the party in which the rich people are seated at the table, eating silently and nervously. Wipe to a scene of common people around a table happily drinking and laughing, the man from before raising some bits of barbecued meat on a stick.

Silent film, runtime about five minutes.’

The dog barks. Good boy.

Prior my presentation, I already knew that a certain group of five people would have the only interesting conversation in this place; the only conversation Rizal decided to write. Two priests, two civilians, one military man.

In which Padre Damaso in outrage declared that the government had no right to interfere with a priest’s right to declare a heretic’s remains not to be buried with the church, to exhume it and place it elsewhere. He had ordered beaten his assistant who had allowed the burial while he was away.

And for the Tiniente de Guevarra, through his long service in the Guardia Civil he was known to the Governor-General, and having known the deceased as an upright man undeserving of this ignominy protested and spoke of this to the patron. The Governor-General required Padre Damaso to be relieved of his post as the curate of San Diego. It was unseemly for a nobleman, a son of Spain no matter his state, to be disrespected so.

Said deceased being my father, Don Rafael Ibarra. It is the gross betrayal of a long friendship. He had ordered my father’s remains to be dug up, and thence thrown into the lake!

This, I will never forgive.

In Spain, dueling was allowed. Here in the Philippines, it is not quite illegal, but those who die in a duel are forbidden a Christian burial. So strongly do we Filipinos feel about this, that Francisco Dagohoy begun the longest insurrection in this country simply because the priests refused his brother a proper burial. It lasted eighty years.

“I have the honor of presenting to you Don Crisostomo Ibarra, the son of my deceased friend! The gentleman has recently arrived from Europe and I want you to meet him.”

As I was introduced and received their names in return, in another life I would have vainly attempted to greet Padre Damaso with cheer as I would a family friend, only be confused as he rebuffed my honest gesture.

“It is my pleasure to meet you.” I nod with respect to each person. And “Padre Damaso, the parish priest of my town! I am very much surprised and pleased to see you here.”

“What do you mean by that?” he asks me with a tight tone.

You have levied false charges and bore false witness against my father. You cast him into prison, where he died in ignominious silence while I, his son, was dallying in Europe believing as was the wont of youth in the infallibility and immortality of their fathers.

“That you are here and not in San Diego, what else could I mean?” I reply with all the innocence I could muster. “What a coincidence that you would be at Manila the day I arrived.”

You dug up his bones and cast them aside like a dog’s leavings, simply because he insulted you by being a practical man who cared more for the least of us than the petty trappings of power.

An uncomfortable silence descends upon us, with Capitan Tiago giving me a puzzled look. My happy smile grows wider.

My name is Crisostomo Ibarra. You killed my father. You will die.

“A fool,” Padre Damaso spits. “I see that you only have grown up to be an even greater fool than your father.” He turns his back on me as if shrugging aside a dirtied cloak.

My name is Crisostomo Ibarra. You killed my father. You will die.

The Teniente looks at me up and down and stares into my eyes. His eyes are a pale, clouded blue, mine an Oriental brown. I incline my head slightly and thin my lips as if to say ‘I know.’ His eyes widen and mists up.

“You truly are Don Rafael Ibarra’s son. I knew your father, he was truly one of the Philippines’ most worthy and honorable.”

“Sir, I am deeply moved by the eulogy you have given my father. It wipes away all my doubts concerning his fate. Please, may we one day speak of interests that concern us both?”

“You are ever welcome in my home, young Ibarra! Call upon me for any need.” With that said, he too turns to leave.

My name is Crisostomo Ibarra. This rotten society killed my father. It will die.

——————-

Having been left to my own devices, I still decided to go off to introduce myself to the ladies. “Allow me to bypass the rules of strict etiquette. I have been out of the country of these past seven years, and on my return I cannot help but to greet her most precious adornment- her women.”

They offer no reply, some titter behind their fans held up to cover their mouths. Now I have the knowledge that it would have been scandalous of them to offer any reply, so I merely wink and leave; gasps and tittering follow in my wake.

Truly scandalous.

Must not wiggle eyebrows. Swabe.

Doggol barks and shamelessly dives into their throng. The old women of the group scowl as the young women let out happy sounds painful to their ears. This is better, I think; rather than just one young man notable for his looks or wealth, I would be better remembered as that young man with the cute dog from Europe.

The favored breed of Queen Victoria, Pembroke Welsh Corgis are working dogs though. They were bred to herd sheep, ducks, cattle, even horses, and small children.

With much more lightened spirits I approach this gathering’s assembly of young men. Their group opens out in a semi-circle as I draw near, and I beam at them as if we were already the closest of friends.

They are dressed well in the fashion of the time, in white shirt and pants covered with a short black jacket, or black pants and an untucked white camisa de chino covered by the semi-transparent barong Tagalog over it. These are the young Illustrados, and they gaze at me with not a little bit of caution as much as they search for the new and foreign.

 “Gentlemen, if you will allow me this impoliteness. In Germany, there exists a custom that if there is no one to introduce a stranger to the gathering,  he gives his own name and introduces himself, and for the others to do the same. I do this not to introduce foreign customs, for ours is beautiful, but because I am compelled to do so in order to meet the spirited young men who shall shape our nation.

So I greet you, as I am Juan Crisostomo Ibarra y Igsalin, good evening my fellow countrymen!

Do let us speak, and find common interests.”

Though much has changed within me, the amount of knowledge I have gained has only allowed me to understand that I am in many ways an introvert. It is Simoun who through loneliness and spite had carefully figured out the levers by which to move hearts and minds. Greed, mainly. Jealousy, and fear.

But as I am still Crisostomo Ibarra, let me be honest instead.

Ah, Rizal. You only spoke of them as more or less insignificant, but their names I will remember instead. For unlike you who died before seeing his nation free, with these youths I will build a country.


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Noli 1.1 Once More, Old Manila

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“The first interesting thing about angels, Mr. Lipwig, is that sometimes, very rarely, at a point in a man’s career where he has made such a foul and tangled mess of his life that death appears to be the only sensible option, an angel appears to him, or,  should say, unto him, and offers him a chance to go back to the moment when it all went wrong, and this time do it right.”

– Lord Vetinari, “Going Postal”, by Terry Pratchett

To cut a long story short, that just happened.

So, we return to Manila in 1887.

Cast back to that moment a young man steps off the boarding ramp and winces as his foot takes his first step onto Philippine soil; lightning shooting up from the balls of his feet, up his spine, to set his brain afire in a riot of explosions to rival the celebrations of New Year’s Day.

He staggers, and a helpful other passenger holds him steady. “Easy there, friend,” the man says. “After so much time at sea, it might take some time to get your land legs back.”

Blinking, the Filipino switches between looking up at the man and to his family behind him. He smiles hesitantly. “Thank you, sir. I am fine. If you are here on vacation with your family, I hope Manila does not disappoint. The greatest charms of this nation are in the countryside, wonders timeless and natural, not man-made, but then – ah! The countryside is still not yet safe.”

He takes a step further, turns and doffs his hat to bow. “Welcome to the Philippines, señor and señora. I pray you do not mind its rustic nature, for it is a nation caught between old and the new, and when it finally decides – it shall change its character, suddenly and explosively. Welcome to the Philippines, you have picked a great time to visit. Change has come to this shores, after a time as short as five years, you might not recognize it anymore at all.”

He chuckles, in a way that the family finds discomfiting, and moves on. The dog on a leash by his side barks at the family as if to say ‘Goodbye! Take care!’ and jogs as fast as its little legs can go to match its master’s purposeful stride.

In brief, that young man is myself.

And this is Manila. My Manila.

Look about you! Compared to the cities of Europe, it certainly seems squat, wooden, dusty, and provincial. It is a time capsule, through three hundred years changing only little but little. Berlin was an artful place, it shall shine forever in my heart.

But the Pearl of the Orient contains its own virtue, a traveler returning from abroad might find comfort in the constancy of one’s own hometown. Hers is a practical home, one often ravaged by wind and fire and earthquakes; her architectural style is mandated by law.

Bit by bit one might see improvements – the long suspension bridge crossing the Pasig River, the first of such in Asia. The horse-drawn tramvia, standing public transport cabs rolling on small rails for the urbane and economical, the far predecessor of public light rail transit. Imported electric lights light up Puente de Espana, the Bridge of Spain crossing the Pasig River, still dimly lit this dawn.

The misty haze of the cold early morning makes it all seem like a dream; welcome, welcome, lost child!; she seems to open her arms no matter how long you have strayed.

But even the cities of present day Europe would pale behind my strange memories of the future that is Metro Manila. One of the world’s largest metropolises.

In the horizon, what I see now as forests and farmland and little collections of straw-roofed villages would be cities in themselves. There in my dreams awaits a place with more people in it than many European nations even in its century, a place almost completely paved over with concrete. A stone trap of alternately of choking heat and flooded streets. A jigsaw collection of streets and lights, beating in tune with the pulse of global commerce.

This Manila is almost quiet by comparison, even with its busy docks, even with the grating cacophony of moving carts. There are no neon lights, there is not the ambient and forgettable music drifting from stereo speakers both on and off the road. She does not blaze with light to outshine the heavens. Here single-stack steamers huddle against the piers like ducklings, while larger ocean-going vessels preside over them like stately white geese. Small sampans carrying cargo and passengers sidle against the shores of the Pasig River; still not yet raised with dikes to protect against seasonal flooding.

This city is a gridwork of streets, orderly as a chessboard, and more forthright than the priesthood that commanded these islands for the past three and three-quarter centuries.

At night this city, all of it, sleeps.

This place here where the Chinese are still considered menial servants, instead of the richest people in the country, save those who (like Rizal’s own ancestors) intermarried with the mestizos and took new names. Japanese settlers too once made their residence in the Paco area and assimilated into the community. If Manila has Chinatown, far south in Davao there I might find a Little Tokyo. Ironically, most immigrated here for trade and for freedom from religious persecution. My Philippines, with your not even seven million people, while Japan has almost thirty million – they come here to you in this time as migrant laborers! The Christians expulsed by your Shoguns and your Emperors, we welcome you!

More multicultural than what might have been expected, this Pearl of the Orient that is protected by its shell of relative obscurity from the turmoil of Europe and East Asia.

I cannot get off the ship fast enough. For last night, as the ship approached Manila Bay, all were disturbed by someone screaming as if being murdered. How humiliating.

What happened last night? It was as if I shattered under the sound of a hundred million voices shouting, and put back together by someone who did not quite understand humanity. Still they linger there, at the back of my skull. All humans are their own unique souls, but I feel like my insides have been turned into filaments that only look solid due to being so compacted. One good tug might have it all unravel.

As such, as I step onto these shores, let me begin again.

What has changed, from my fate in the life before – or, perhaps more accurately, in a parallel timeline without intervention?

Look there, the walled city of Intramuros – surrounded by a moat whose small entrances are still protected by drawbridges and steel-barred gates. Can you imagine, you hypothetical persons of the twenty-first century from whom I derive this awareness, the notion of a castle town after three hundred years of cannon warfare? It was already obsolete even at the time the Spanish first arrived on these isles.

It is quaint. Even by the standards of this era, it is very quaint. And yet, I also remember fondly that I found these walls full of grandeur. It is not about safety. It is about being separate. Inside is a slice of Spain on the opposite face of the world. And outside, all the unpleasant details of managing a colony for the Empire.

This place, somehow so nostalgic and unreal.

See it with these eyes of mine, somehow adrift in time.

I have here in my head, the full text of the work that describes my life – my ignorance, my failures, my fall, my hate, and my death – and these two novels that had its author executed for sedition. Strange, I do not feel fictional. Cogito ergo sum. I think, I feel, I smell the stink of horse droppings in the street.

This is reality.

And yet…

Perhaps the best way to describe it is that I am simultaneously Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, a man born to his parents and raised in the town of San Diego along the shore of Laguna de Bay, and a synthesis with this aggregate of memories and views of a person born and raised in the turn of the millennium. Thus why my words on the outside might be steeped in the courtesy and formality drilled into me from childhood, here in the privacy of my thoughts there is only chaos and hemorrhaging verbiage.

The city changes but slowly, but in a night everything about me has changed. And the most important change of all… is that I did not arrive alone.

Knowledge can be turned into power, wealth can be power, but only power is power, and no person no matter how might can escape the limitations of having only two hands and a finite lifespan. This is why we human beings are social creatures; in that together we create great works.

A nation is composed of helping hands.

Now I am riding in a calesa. I am leaning as if on the verge of sleep, watching the world through eye slits, my fingers laced meditatively on my lap. It is far too public to freak out the way I really need to freak out.

Where do these words come from? I do not know. Where do these words go? I do not know.

But where I sit so tired and listless, my companion sits up and stares excitedly at each passing new thing. So strange! So exciting! Everything is amazing! And I cannot help but to chuckle and feel more at peace.

It is as if a veil has passed from my eyes. Everything I see before me glows in a new context. Where others of this time period, my generation, can see the humdrum reality of their poor land – a colonial possession of a colonial power whose glory had already long dwindled – I can see only possibility. Grand possibilities. Terrible possibilities.

For it is the turn of the century, and the song in the wind is –war-.

———

I suppose, as far as things go, my situation is not so bad. If I were in the United States, suddenly graced with this unfathomable ability, it would truly be the easiest of easy modes. Unless perhaps I were a black man, but even so the giant of industry it will become cannot be stopped. Through steel and blood and Prohibition and Europe aflame shall the United States grant all manner of wealth to the brave.

Were I a person chosen in Europe, that would be difficult indeed. Though it is full of opportunity, ever is Europe a battleground of ideas and ideals.

Is the Great War inevitable? I believe it is. Technology is advancing far faster than the mores of society, and Europe considers war its past-time. If I were heartless, I could prosper, then in two decades everything explodes. There would be greater thrill in shaping history, if that were one’s heart’s desire. I could befriend Freud and watch him slowly wither as his faith in science and the rationality of man is stripped away, a psychologist eventually suffering his own psychotic break.

That I am Crisostomo Ibarra, I feel, despite the rage in the injustice my father has suffered, is somewhat of a middle road. In ten years, the Americans will defeat Spain and purchase the Philippines, and then they will, directly and indirectly, kill one-fifth of all Filipinos in existence. The Philippine-American War, a war little studied in history, wherein both sides were barbarians.

Clack clack, caritelas pass each other by on two lanes. It is a slow meditative noise. We pass around Intramuros along and over the Pasig River, upon whose sinuous flow still floated green lillies and waters still blue rather than blackened by sewage. Here and there are carts pulled by carabaos, the dutiful black buffalo of Asia. I behold the walkers on the street and strikes me how so characteristic it is for the common Filipino male that all of them wear white shirts. The mestizo wear dark suits of more European cut. Both contrast strongly the relative brown-ness of their skin.

But in a decade or so, we would all be just ‘Asian injuns’. Just ‘niggers’, each and every one.

I am a young man yet, and yesterday only had vague goals about what to do with my life. Last night, I was screaming enough to disturb the other passengers. Now, enough freaking out, it is time to accept the task before me. Today, I have a goal.

The names might be different – I might not encounter an Aguinaldo, a Mabini, a Bonifacio or a Luna, but with Spain’s general weakness a Revolution is inevitable. There might not even be Roosevelt as President or an Einstein or Stalin born. I have not really paid much attention to politics in my studies in Berlin. The names might be diffent, but their roles will remain.

I do not want to be Jose Rizal, a national hero via martyrdom. I want to live! I want to see my life’s work complete! It is written that Emilio Aguinaldo, faded into history, actually only died in 1964. I am a young man, unmarried, reasonably wealthy, and with dead parents. The man written down as Crisostomo Ibarra will become Simoun in El Filibusterismo, a mystery man driven by a vendetta. But why wait?

I raise my hand and pat my companion’s head. He grins happily. I swipe at the air. Visible only to me, a white box appears.

The knowledge of the modern man is of little value, because the mind of the modern man is still finite. He is an ant upon the shoulders of giants who themselves stand on elephants, and perhaps upon a great turtle swimming through space. Those who dare to work through incomplete information merely lever the expertise of those around him, which is pro forma for capitalists I suppose.

And with that word – a rush of concepts erupt in my mind, like a string of pearls crashing into each other, encapsulating the thrill and danger of genius. Capital – technology – confidence – a smug grin – responsibility – a war machine – technology is mean to better mankind! – never again to make weapons – a better world from a broken man – you want to steal my tech, you think I’m afraid of you – come at me! – come at me – I am but a man!

I speak in my mind, and by the grace of God, letter by letter these words appear in the box:

“How to become Tony Stark-“

No, that will not work. I blink, and the box clears. The Philippines right now is far too technologically backward. I would need to first build the tools to build the tools to build the industry. Ten years will not be enough.

The mind of a man, no matter how much of a genius, is finite. Therefore, I have been blessed by the accumulated knowledge of all mankind, approximating one hundred and twenty years ahead. Why? Why me? Why not? Who are we to question what mission God has set before us?

Let me save those I can save; leave the questions of how to change history for the better for the later.

My companion barks with enthusiasm. This is Doggol the Dog, the much more useful adjunct to [Googol, the aggregate of human knowledge]. He is also a Welsh Corgi. He is a good boy.

He places his fluffy paws on my arm and again my mind explodes with possibilities – the encapsulation of the capitalist creed. To begin from nothing – to search for one’s fortunes in the world – with grit and perseverance – with thrift and sense – never to falter – never to quit – never to cheat another of their fair wage – be sharper than the sharpies – tougher than the toughies – I’ll make my money square!

“How to become Scrooge McDuck-“

No, I do not want to be hated, a miser who cares only for his money bit. The wealth I gather is just a means to the end.

Wealth, power, influence. How? I have access to an agrarian economy and people that respected my father for his scrupulously honest dealings. People who are still very religious and would likely turn me in were I to attempt vengeance against the priests and the Guardia Civil and this rotten, rotten court system we have. It would take an eye-opening moment of great injustice to rise up in revolt; not for my sake, but to redress their own.

The revolution is inevitable, except in the hearts of its people. I have arrived at the hotel. Fonda de Lala, its name. Founded in 1810 by the American firm Russell and Sturgis, it was later sold to an Indian mestizo named Lala Ary, and from whose name the present establishment is derived: the Fonda Francesca de Lala Ary at No.37 Barraca Street.

An idea coalesces.

Human beings need a dream as much as they need food to eat or air to breathe – it’s a world of laughter and a world of tears – a world of hope and a world of fears – there so much we share – it’s time we’re aware!

“How to become Walt Disney.”


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Noli 0.1 The Premise

In 1887, Dr. Jose Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere, the first of two books which would mark him an enemy of Spanish colonial rule.

noli01Its main protagonist is Crisostomo Ibarra, an idealistic youth freshly returned from his studies in Spain and hoping to marry his childhood sweetheart, Maria Clara.

Yet it is not to be.

Theirs is a tragedy worse than Romeo and Juliet, though neither slay themselves out of grief. Instead, Crisostomo is left broken by the injustice and pettiness of the rule of friarocracy in Spanish Colonial Philippines, while Maria Clara would curse her own beauty. She attempts to escape an unwanted forced marriage into a convent, but she would find herself even more helpless against the priest who lusted for her body.

In Rizal’s second book, El Filibusterismo, Ibarra returns as the mysterious Simoun, a man who instead of seeking reform tempts the people in power into indulging in even more abuses to more speedily arouse the anger of the people, that they might rise up in revolt during the time of Spain’s weakness.

All the while, he tries to rescue Maria Clara. But it is too late. She has already broken.

And soon later so too would Simoun finally meet his end.

They would both die far apart, alone and unloved.

It is mandatory in the Philippine school system for students to study Rizal’s work and biography as a critical component of their country’s search for sovereignty. Many a high school student had read through the book and made to act out scenes of this historically important work.

That work gives no justice to any of the characters contained within. There is no happy ending, no payoff to any of their struggles. It is a depressing work, and it is that ring of truth in the text that woke up the people about the injustices they too suffered- they knew that they were not alone, and that these abuses cannot stand.

noli02But then, suddenly, upon the eve of his arrival – he gains a revelation.

He is granted knowledge of what is in store for him, according to Rizal. He gains the proper context for the writings, and how it would lead into the world of the future. The social mores and cultural cues of the new millennium is woven into his personality, so that he may look beyond the box of his era for a solution.

Yet even this is not enough.

So, to his understanding, an Angel of the Lord descends upon him, carrying a cup flowing with the essence of human knowledge – all of humanity’s discoveries, its hopes, its fears, its lusts and its joys, and pours it into his mind. Knowledge is power.

And to keep this knowledge from driving him mad, he is provided an interface – a familiar one, easy to use. It allows him to comprehend a number so vast it approaches infinity, one followed by a hundred zeroes, the one called [Googol].

And then, the moment leaves, and he is left with only one certainty.

His is the dream of a nation, one that wishes to break through into tomorrow.

The understanding now etched into his soul must be put to good use, or it is wasted. It is not enough that he saves himself from the pitfalls that lie ahead; he must raise up his country to a brighter, less bloody future.

Juan Crisostomo Ibarra is a man with a mission. That happy ending long denied him, long denied all those who had studied the works of Rizal, those two books that captured the long suffering lament of a nation – it is there, it can be reached, but it is not guaranteed.

Even with this ‘cheat’, he must work for it. History can be changed. Maybe for the better.

For Maria Clara.


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Noli Me TOC

Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo are important cultural works that exposed to the populace the abuses and the injustices of their Spanish colonial masters. The execution of their author, Jose Rizal, sparked the Philippine Revolution.

Unfortunately, this happened at about the same time as the Spanish-American War,  and the war ended in 1898 Treaty of Paris in which Spain also sold the Philippines to the USA for the sum of twenty million dollars. The revolutionary government were soon after crushed by the overwhelming military might of the United States and turned into a territory until their independence after World War II.

While the Philippines stands as the USA’s greatest successes in nation-building, their early occupation left almost one-fifth of the population dead from combat and disease.

Rizal was executed by the Spanish long before knowing what might happen to his country. The world created within The Noli and the El Fili are therefore stuck frozen in time, forever caught in that moment before a Revolution.

Now let’s see what happens in this world if we give it the Light Novel treatment and jam the entirety of the Internet into their protagonist’s skull. Can Crisostomo Ibarra change his nation and keep his loved ones safe, or will he make things worse by his unfortunate tendency to sound like a supervillain?

This is the web novel version. Research and details may be flawed, incomplete, or just plain wrong. The purpose of this version is to explore the idea to its possible ends, before being edited and rewritten for print.

This version will always be free to read, but not to redistribute or rehost. Translations may be allowed. You may contact the author at bhepin@gmail.com.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

0.0 Preamble
0.1 The Premise

1.1 Once More, Old Manila
1.2 In the House of Capitan Tiago
1.3 A Dinner Conversation
1.4 More Calmly, Maria Clara
Interlude – The Lieutenant 01
Interlude – The Dominican 01
Interlude – The Governor-General 01
Interlude – The Maiden 01

2.1 Hometown
2.2 A Noisome Grave
2.3 Ibarra in Town
2.4 An Unexpected Case
Interlude – The Brothers 01
Interlude – The Philosopher 01
2.5 An End, and a Beginning

3.1 On the Day of the Dead
3.2 Let Us Look Busy
3.3 In the House of Pilosopo Tasio
3.4 A Town Meeting
3.5 More Cautiously, Maria Clara
Interlude – The Brothers 02
Interlude – The Maiden 02

4.1 Finding Elias
Interlude – The Chosen 01
4.2 Fraternal Sins
Interlude – The Franciscan 01
4.3 The Presentation
Interlude – The Chosen 02

5.1 Laying the Foundations
5.2 Tanks in the Yard
5.3 Assembly
5.4 Submarine
5.5 Mass Media
Interlude – The Widow 01
Interlude – The Lieutenant 02

6.1 The Oligarchs
6.2 In Chinatown
Interlude – The Manager 01
Interlude – The Young Hawks 01
6.3 A Conspiracy of Jesuits
6.4 Literally Highway Robbery
6.5 In the House of Ibarra
Interlude – The Applicant 01

7.1 Industrialization
7.2 Even Art Has Its Purpose
7.3 First Edition
7.4 More Avidly, Maria Clara
Interlude – The Traveler 01
Interlude – The Translator 02
Interlude – The Chosen 03

8.1 A Taste of War
8.2 The Moro Kings
8.3 An Army Marches
Interlude – The Translator 03
8.4 ( — )
8.5 ( — )

9.1 ( — )
9.2 ( — )
9.3 ( — )
9.4 ( — )
Interlude – The New Yorker
Interlude – The Tokyo Man

Noli 0.0 Preamble

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
― L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

My Beloved Child,

If you had the power to go back in time, would you?

How much more good can you do, with the power of hindsight? How many lives might you save, how much wealth can you effortlessly accumulate? What you consider now merely mundane would allow you to stand among the geniuses and history-makers of the past.

What you consider now merely mundane would allow you to stand among the geniuses and history-makers of the past.

All you would have to do is to give up the conveniences you modern humans take for granted.

Have you heard of the story of the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court? Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote it as a parody of this tendency of the modern to think of the past as dirty and ignorant.

For it is the way of all modern civilizations to consider themselves superior to all that had gone before. From Romans to the Renaissance, from the confidence of the Victorian British Empire to the crackling tensions of the Civil Rights Movement in America, out and out to the turn of the millennium – the newest generation always considers itself the most enlightened, the most tolerant, the most powerful, never considering that their own children would deem them the barbarians.

The benefit of hindsight makes it obvious the sins of the past. It is a popular genre, a wistful dream, to take our knowledge and mold the past into something better. To play crosstime engineer, to be an island in the sea of time, enlightening the past in a ring of fire.

But it is odd. The further and further one goes into the future, the less and less relevant one person’s knowledge becomes. You may imagine that a cloud hangs upon the Earth, a world within a world, a virtual world, where percolates all the knowledge of humanity, it’s hope and its dreams, its lusts and its spite. It is a paradigm no one could have predicted, an unconscious world-mind, as great as the discovery of fire or gunpowder or the steam engine.

Steeped in luxury, bombarded with all sorts of amusements and conversation, wealth in the billions and billions trading hands in the fractions of a second, so shining is modern civilization. And much much more fragile too than everything than had gone before.

Let us be honest here. No J Random High Schooler (or a college graduate, or even most people with doctorates) is ever really going to pull off a “Connecticut Yankee” in a parallel world. There is too much to remember. Even the Hang This in Your Time Travel Machine poster is of limited usefulness.

It is a tools to make the tools problem.

For example, pasteurization. Heat milk to below the boiling point with what thermometer are you using to measure heat so that it does not begin to affect the taste? Vaccination? With what steel needles and glass plungers in an iron age society? Annoyed with the inability to work well after dark? Run electricity through a tungsten wire what does tungsten even look like? A carbon arc lamp might be easier to make but how do I make batteries to store electricity for mobile light and firestarting?

Toilet paper? Turning paper into wood pulp involves heavy machinery and/or chemicals. What chemicals? Grow potatoes to alleviate food shortages? Potatoes are over there in the New World, what do I even have a ship through the Atlantic?

The cosmopolitan man, in any era, possesses an approximate knowledge of many things.

For in-depth knowledge of anything outside of individual special skillsets, there came to be a generation that sees fit to offload thinking skills to the Web. For whatever question? Just [Googol] it. It makes sense, for in the distant future of 2015 there is far too much to know, and even more being discovered, or commented upon, or created in every second.

There are few things as foolish as trying to do things with incomplete information.

It is very well for such a modern person to think that being brought into the past would have them hailed as a genius, but living in the past also means losing all conveniences they might take for granted. An adventure is always more pleasant to read about than to feel the hardships firsthand.

Modern knowledge is nice, but it is ultimately near useless. Perhaps a gunsmith or metalworker or an engineer who builds steam engines for a hobby, a doctor has skills that would still be useful even without access to pharmaceuticals. Perhaps someone from twenty, thirty years ago, before the Internet’s electronic soul awakened. But your average well-connected office worker?

Knowing how to work Word and Excel? How to drive? How to cook? These will not shake the world. Mathematics, biology, physics – all great things to know, but in practice? It would be a bewildering time, trying to readjust to a pre-electronic paradigm.

Hence a modern person by any definition, and unlike the wish fulfillment the stories provide, might prefer to act cautiously and try to avoid attention. The past is a foreign country, they are far more savage in getting rid of their competition there. There is no weakness in this, it is only human to avoid pain.

Even with all the knowledge in your brain, all humans still have only one life to lose.

Do not you depend on the man of tomorrow, because he is as mortal and fallible and fearful as you are!

So, the message is given to humankind: if you want to save yourselves, do it yourselves! This is the only time you have left. Yours is the grace and the burden of Free Will!

But still…

The glory of free will is its uncertainty after each decision, the same is its terror. No person, no matter how powerful or influential has the ability to get more out of life than what his mortality allows. Many cling to omens and the advice of soothsayers in the hopes of avoiding the pain of wasted effort.

But it is rarely a mercy to know too much about your fate.

And so we are given: a young man named Crisostomo Ibarra y Igsalin. The year is 1887. He is on a ship approaching Manila Bay.

And he is ‘freaking the frock out’.

M.A. McEiling
1899(?)

NOLI ME TANK IN A MALL

aka [Googol] of the Revolution!

 

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