El Fili Chaper 16: Travails of a Chinaman

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The main theme of this chapter is use and be used.

(Reminds me what my barkada said when she saw this person who only approached her for favors: “Use your friend in a sentence.”)

Now let’s meet one of the key characters of the El Fili…

In this chapter, we meet Quiroga, a Chinese businessman who wants to open a Chinese consulate in the Philippines and head it as consul.

Although he knows a number of people despise him and talk behind his back, he still invites them to a dinner party above his bazaar in Escolta. Unlike Kapitan Tiago (dinner, Noli Me Tangere), Quiroga smiles at his guests while secretly despising them deep inside.

Hmmm… I wonder why Rizal depicts the Chinese this way? He even mentions that Quiroga keeps his indio of a wife locked in a room much like Chinese women. You can probably guess what’s the main point of keeping a wife, right?

Among those who hate Quiroga’s guts are the columnist G. Gonzales (alias PITILI) who’s mad at the incoming Chinese; a thin, brown-skinned guest who did not receive money from Quiroga; and someone who was against Quiroga’s jueteng operations… because he was losing in the jueteng game.

So why do these adversaries get together for dinner? Like I said earlier: Use and be used.

Dinner ends, and Simoun arrives.

Businessmen complain about the poor economic environment and hint that Simoun should ask the Kapitan Heneral to do something about it.

Don Timoteo Pelaez complains about corruption in customs (adwana).

Quiroga wanted to get into the good graces of a woman because she had a government official wrapped around her finger. So he offers her three pieces of jewelry to choose from. Unfortunately, she chooses ALL three. So now, Quiroga owes the jeweller Simoun P9,000 which was a princely sum back then.

(I wonder if Rizal rode some time machine and viewed the Philippines of today…)

Why do you suppose Simoun “lent” those three pieces of jewelry to Quiroga? Yep, use and be used. Now Quiroga owes Simoun.

Instead of asking for the entire sum, Simoun just asks for P7,000. He also asks Quiroga to send money-borrowing soldiers and government officials to him. He further instructs Quiroga to send those owing Quiroga money to Simoun instead.

And lastly, Simoun asks Quiroga to store some rifles in Quiroga’s warehouse.

All that for a 22.2% discount off the P9,000 price tag. Otherwise, Quiroga will have to pay Simoun the entire amount right away. To sweeten the deal, Simoun promises that Quiroga will be allowed to bring in contraband items through customs.

How can Quiroga refuse, right? Yep, use and be used.

Don Custodio talks about a commission sent to India to study the Shoe Program for soldiers. No shoes for indio soldiers. Spanish soldiers may wear shoes.

(I wonder if Rizal, like Simoun, was trying to stoke the feelings of his countrymen with this.)

Ben Zayb and P. Camorra talk about magnetism and magic. Juanito Pelaez speaks about the talking head in the fair/carnival of Mr. Leeds.

Simoun suggests that they all see the talking head of the famous Sphinx to settle once and for all if it truly is the work of the devil, or just a trick with mirrors.

Twelve people leave the house of Quiroga to see the show of Mr. Leeds in the Quiapo fair.

(Simoun is such a master manipulator. He really knows how to set people up. Maybe he should’ve been a Reality TV Host?)

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