Letter To His Parents from San FranciscoSan Francisco, CaliforniaS.S. Belgic, 29 April 1888My dear Parents, Here we are in sight of America since yesterday without being able to disembark, placed inquarantine on account of the 642 Chinese that we have on board coming from Hong Kong wherethey say smallpox prevails. But the true reason is that, as America is against Chineseimmigration and now they are campaigning for the elections, the government, in order to get thevote of the people, must appear to be strict with the Chinese, and we suffer. On board there is notone sick person. On the 13th of this month I left Yokohama, leaving behind Japan, for me a very pleasantcountry, despite the proposals of the Spanish charge daffaires who offered me a post in thelegation even at a salary of 100 pesos monthly. Under other circumstances I would have acceptedit; but at this moment it would be madness. Our trip, which lasted 15 days and hours and duringwhich we had two Thursdays, because we traveled in the direction opposite the sun, was quitegood, at least for me who never had such a long one without being seasick. The food was badand tiresome. Through the kindness of the Spanish minister, or charge daffaires, youll receivetwo sets for tea and coffee of the best made in Japan that I ordered expressly for the family. Thetea service is of faience according to the style of ancient Kyoto and the coffee set is of porcelain.To the connoisseurs they are the best. According to the charge daffaires, they will reach you freeof charge through the government. Also Im sending along two doors, very beautiful and veryrare, as a gift to my brother Senor Paciano so he can make an elegant furniture with them. Thecharge daffaires himself will get in touch with my brother and will write him a letter. I hope mybrother will become his friend, for he will be useful to him when he would like to export hisarticles to Japan. Dont forget to answer him. At the entreaties of the same gentleman I stayed at the legation with him and the othermembers in order to prove to the rest that I fear neither vigilance nor observation nor have I anymisgiving of any kind. As I have the firm conviction that I act uprightly and that Im in the handsof God who has always guided me and helped me, I have feared nothing, and I succeeded tomake myself the friend of those gentlemen. These, however, made a sad prediction for me; theytold me that in the Philippines I would be forced to become a filibustero 1. Ill not advise anyone to make this trip to America, for here they are crazy about quarantine,they have severe customs inspection, imposing on any thing duties upon duties that areenormous, enormous. Before I left Japan, I sent you 10 combs to be distributed among my sisters. I supposelikewise that you must have received the vaccine as well as the picture of my poor little sisterOlimpia. Write me at London, 12 Billiter Street. Give me news about the family and the question of thehacienda (estate) that I wish to pursue vigorously.
With nothing more, I wish you to keep in good health until we meet again, which I hope willbe soon. I kiss affectionately your hand. Jose RizalThe World in a TrainFrancisco Icasiano One Sunday I entrained for Baliwag, a town in Bulacan which can wellafford to hold two fiestas a year without a qualm. I took the train partly because I am prejudiced in favor of the governmentownedrailroad, partly because I am allowed comparative comfort in a coach, and finallybecause trains sometimes leave and arrive according to schedule. In the coach I found a little world, a section of the abstraction called humanitywhom we are supposed to love and live for. I had previously arranged to divide theidle hour or so between cultivating my neglected Christianity and smoothing out therough edges of my nature with the aid of grateful sights without – the rolling wheels,the flying huts and trees and light-green palay seedlings and carabaos along the way. Inertia, I suppose, and the sort of reality we moderns know make falling in lovewith my immediate neighbors often a matter of severe strain and effort to me. Let me give a sketchy picture of the little world whose company Mang Kikoshared in moments which soon passed away affecting most of us. First, there came to my notice three husky individuals who dusted their seatsfuriously with their handkerchiefs without regard to hygiene or the brotherhood of men. Itgave me no little annoyance that on such a quiet morning the unpleasant aspects inother peoples ways should claim my attention. Then there was a harmless-looking middle-aged man in green camisa de chinowith rolled sleeves who must have entered asleep. When I noticed him he was alreadysnugglyentrenched in a corner seat, with his slippered feet comfortably planted on the
opposite seat, all the while his head danced and dangled with the motion of the train. Icould not, for the love of me, imagine how he would look if he were awake. A child of six in the next seat must have shared with me in speculating about thedreams of this sleeping man in green. Was he dreaming of the Second World War orthe price of eggs? Had he any worries about the permanent dominion status or the finaloutcome of the struggles of the masses, or was it merely the arrangement of the scaleson a fighting roasters legs that brought that frown on his face? But the party that most engaged my attention was a family of eight composed ofa short but efficient father, four very young children, mother, grandmother, and anotherwoman who must have been the efficient fathers sister. They distributed themselves onfour benches – you know the kind of seats facing each other so that half the passengerstravel backward. The more I looked at the short but young and efficient father theshorter his parts looked to me. His movements were fast and short, too. He removed hiscoat, folded it carefully and slung it on the back of his seat. Then he pulled out hiswallet from the hip pocket and counted his money while his wife and the rest of hisgroup watched the ritual without a word. Then the short, young, and efficient father stood up and pulled out twobanana leaf bundles from a bamboo basket and spread out both bundles on onebench and log luncheon was ready at ten oclock. With the efficient father leadingthe charge, the children (except the baby in his grandmothers arms) began to digaway with little encouragement and aid from the elders. In a short while theskirmish was over, the enemy – shrimps, omelet, rice and tomato sauce – wererouted out, save for a few shrimps and some rice left for the grandmother tohandle in her own style later. Then came the water-fetching ritual. The father, with a glass in hand, led themarch to the train faucet, followed by three children whose faces still showed themarks of a hard-fought-battle. In passing between me and a person, then engagedin a casual conversation with me, the short but efficient father made a courteousgesture which is still good to see in these democratic days; he bent from the hipsand, dropping both hands, made an opening in the air between my collocutor andme – a gesture which in unspoiled places means "Excuse Me."
In one of the stations where the train stopped, a bent old woman in blackboarded the train. As it moved away, the old woman went about the coach,begging holding every prospective Samaritan by the arm, and stretching forth hergnarled hand in the familiar fashion so distasteful to me at that time. There issomething in begging which destroys some fiber in most men. "Every time youdrop a penny into a beggars palm you help degrade a man and make it more difficult for him to rise with dignity. . ." There was something in his beggars eye which seemed to demand. "Now doyour duty." And I did. Willy-nilly I dropped a coin and thereby filled my life withrepulsion. Is this Christianity? "Blessed are the poor . . ." But with what speed didthat bent old woman cross the platform into the next coach! While thus engaged in unwholesome thought, I felt myself jerked as the trainmade a curve to the right. The toddler of the family of eight lost his balance andcaught the short but efficient father off-guard. In an instant all his efficiency wasemployed in collecting the shrieking toddler from under his seat. The child had, inno time, developed two elongated bumps on the head, upon which was applied amoist piece of cloth. There were no reproaches, no words spoken. The disciplinein the family was remarkable, or was it because they considered the head as aminor anatomical appendage and was therefore nor worth the fuss? Occasionally, when the childs crying rose above the din of the locomotive andthe clinkety-clank of the wheels on the rails, the father would jog about a bit withoutblushing, look at the bumps on his childs head, shake his own, and move his lipssaying, "Tsk, Tsk. And nothing more. Fairly tired of assuming the minor responsibilities of my neighbors in this littleworld in motion, I looked into the distant horizon where the blue Cordilleras merged intothe blue of the sky. There I rested my thoughts upon the billowing silver and greyof the clouds, lightly remarking upon their being a trial to us, although they may notknow it. We each would mind our own business and suffer in silence for the littlestmistakes of others; laughing at their ways if we happened to be in a position to suspendour emotion and view the whole scene as a god would; or, we could weep for other
men if we are the mood to shed copious tears over the whole tragic aspect of a worldthrown out of joint. It is strange how human sympathy operates. We assume an attitude of completeindifference to utter strangers whom we have seen but not met. We claim that they arethe hardest to fall in love with in the normal exercise of Christian charity. Then a littlechild falls from a seat, or a beggar stretches forth a gnarled hand, or three husky mendust their seats; and we are, despite our pretensions, affected. Why not? If even asleeping man who does nothing touches our life!Siesta(An Excerpt)Leopoldo R. SerranoWhen I was a boy, one of the rules at home that I did not like at all was to be made to lie in the barefloor of our sala after lunch. I usually lay side by side with two other children in the family. We wereforced to sleep by my mother. She watched us as she darned old dresses, read an awit, or hummed acradle song in Tagalog.She always reminded us that sleeping at noon enables children to grow fast like the grass in our yard. Inthis way, in most Filipino homes many years ago, the children were made to understand what the siestawas. Very often I had to pretend to be asleep by closing my eyes.Once while my mother was away, I tried to sneak out of the house during the siesta hour. I had not gonefar when I felt something hit me hard on the back. Looking behind, I saw my father. He was annoyedbecause I had disturbed his siesta. I picked up a pillow at my feet, gave it to him, and went back to ourmat. The two other children were fast asleep. The sight of the whip, symbol of parental authority,hanging on one of the post, gave me no other choice but to lie down.During my childhood, whenever we had house guests, my mother never failed to put mats and pillowson the floor of our living room after the noonday meal. Then she would invite our guest to have theirsiesta. Hospitality and good taste demanded that this be not overlooked.The custom of having a siesta was introduced in our country by the Spaniards. Indeed, during theSpanish times, the Philippines was the land of the fiesta, the novena, and the siesta.Many foreigners have noted this custom among our people. Some believed that even the guards at thegates of Intramuros had their siesta. It was a commonly known fact that every afternoon the gates of
the city were closed for fear of a surprise attack.The ayuntamiento of Manila or the commander of the regiment in Intramuros did well in ordering theclosing of the gates during the siesta hour. Once, the Chinese living in Parian, just a short way from theWalled City, timed the beginning of one of their revolts by attacking at two o’clock in the afternoon.They were sure that the dons, including the guards and sentinels, were having their siesta. They felt thatthey would be more successful if the attack came at siesta time.Even today visits to Filipino homes are not usually made between one o’clock and two o’clock in theafternoon. It is presumed that the people in the house are having their siesta. It is not polite to havethem awakened from their noonday nap to accommodate visitors. There is a well-known saying believedby many of our people: “You may joke with a drunkard but not one who has been disturbed during hissiesta.”Our custom of having a siesta has not been greatly affected by American influence. We have not learnedthe Yankee’s bustle and eagerness or endurance for continuous work throughout the day.But if only for its health-giving effects, we should be grateful to the Spaniards for the siesta, especiallyduring the hot weather, for the siesta serves to restore the energy lost while working and a hot climate.