El Fili Chapter 2: Below Deck

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Below deck we find those belonging to the lower rungs of the social ladder. Unlike the airy upper deck, the conditions below deck are far from comfortable because of the heat from the boilers and the stifling stench of various nose crinkling scents. (The descriptions in the novel are much more vivid, so please read it.)

The reader’s attention is focused on two characters: Basilio, a student of medicine and Isagani, a poet from the Ateneo. Conversing with them is the rich Capitan Basilio.

The main point of discussion is the establishment of an academy for the teaching of Spanish.

While Capitan Basilio is convinced that such a school will never be set-up, Isagani expects to get the permit, courtesy of Father Irene. Father Sibyla is also against this, which is why Father Irene is on his way to Los Baños to see the Governor General.

To support the funding of the project, every student was asked to contribute fifteen centavos. Even the professors offered to help (half were Filipinos and half were Spaniards from Spain). The building itself will be one of the houses of the wealthy Makaraig.

(Note: Some people in Spain were in favor of teaching Spanish to the Filipinos. Compare them with Spaniards based in the Philippines who did not want the Filipinos to learn their language.)

Isagani is in love with Paulita Gomez, but his uncle, Father Florentino is against it. Father Florentino would rather not go on deck because he might bump into Doña Victorina who might ask him about her husband, Don Tiburcio (who happens to be hiding in Father Florentino’s house).

Coming from the upper deck, Simoun finds Basilio who then introduces Isagani to him. Isagani takes offense when Simoun talks about the poverty in Basilio’s province. (Read their resulting argument about water and beer.)

After Simoun leaves, Basilio chastises Isagani for treating the jeweller that way. Basilio emphasizes Simoun’s position in society be calling him the Brown Cardinal, or Black Eminence of the Governor-General. This is in reference to His Grey Eminence, a Capuchin adviser of Cardinal Richelieu, a once all-powerful Prime Minister of France.

They are interrupted when Isagani is informed by a servant that his uncle, Father Florentino needed him. Take note of the description of Fr. Florentino as well as the story of how he lost the woman he loved because he became a priest.

Additional background info: Father Florentino retired from his parish soon after the Cavite Mutiny of 1872 fearing that the revenues from his parish would attract attention. He was possibly worried by the fact that he was a Filipino priest and that in the Cavite Mutiny, three Filipino priests identified with the movement to turn the parishes over to the native clergy were charged and executed.

The legend-loving skipper of the vessel sees Fr. Florentino and asks him to go on deck lest the friars assume this Filipino priest did not want to mingle with them. Fr. Florentino then instructs Isagani not to go near the lounge because that would be tantamount to abusing the hospitality of the skipper who would surely invite Isagani.

Actually, Isagani felt it was his uncle’s way of preventing him from speaking with Doña Victorina.

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