El Fili Chapter 27: The Friar and the Filipino

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“Vox populi, vox Dei”

Padre Fernandez asked a a capista (“bright poor student leader who did not pay tuition, board and lodging, but served the priests during mass and in the refectory”) to summon Isagani.

Padre Fernandez was heard the speech that Isagani delivered, and asked Isagani if he was present at the dinner. He was impressed that Isagani could speak face to face with those he criticized, unlike most students who would just complain from afar.

He revealed that Isagani was his favorite student, and that Isagani may freely speak about anything in his class.

(By the way, you really ought to read the exchange between Isagani and the friar Padre Fernandez, to gain an appreciation of Isagani’s independent way of thinking.)

Key Points

  • Katedratiko – Friar-professor, or someone who teaches at the university.
  • Isagani is in his freshman year at UST. He came from the Ateneo.
  • Philippine population at that time: 8 million.
  • The Dominicans were the religious order that had the right to teach in the Philippines at that time (UST and San Juan de Letran).

What did Isagani mean when he said that the friars did nothing except ration out old ideas?

He meant that the friars would give out so few ideas at a time, and that these ideas were outdated. Apparently, Isagani got in touch with people who had traveled to Europe, and that’s how he got to know about more modern ideas.

What did Rizal observe about the Dominicans having the sole right to teach the Filipinos?

Rizal likened the situation to a government that auctions off to the highest bidder the right to teach. This is similar to businesspeople who bid to get the right to feed those who are in jail. In other words, it’s something highly commercialized, but not really that effective.

What does Vox populi, vox Dei mean?

It means that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Sounds like democracy, right?

Why, according to Isagani, did not a single student dare to speak out against the friars face-to-face?

Simple – the students were scared that they will be persecuted by those in power.

What did Isagani say the students wanted from the friars?

The students wanted the friars to treat them well, and to give the students every opportunity to learn. As in, really learn.

How did Isagani liken the religious orders to business people who fed prisoners?

The business folks would give very little food to the prisoners (it helps keep their costs down). Likewise, the friars would give very little knowledge to the students. In both cases, those in power simply wanted to increase their profits.

What did Isagani tell Padre Fernandez about the sculptor and the poor quality of his materials (clay)?

They were debating about whether or not Filipinos should be taught by the friars (sculptors) even if Filipinos (clay) were not really serious about studying. The debate turned into a series of “it’s the fault of the clay” – “no, it’s the fault of the sculptor” argument.

From the Lacson-Locsin translation:

Still more stupid is he then, because, knowing that it is bad, he does not reject the material and continues wasting time…and he is not only stupid, he cheats and steals, because knowing the uselessness of his work he cotinues it in order to receive compensation…and he is not only stupid and a thief, but also a villain because he prevents another sculptor from exercising his skill to see if he might produce something worthwhile! The lamentable jealousy of incompetence!

Whoa… Isagani released quite a mouthful, don’t you think? That shows how quick his mind is. Padre Fernandez was not able to get a word in during that flurry of sentences.

What did Padre Fernandez mean by quien manda, manda, y cartachara al canon?

Quien manda, manda – “Orders are orders”
Cartachara al canon – “Load the cannons with bullets/shells”

Padre Fernandez was, in effect, saying: “Hey, don’t blame us for our teaching style. We’re just following the orders of the government.”

What did Padre Fernandez say was the source of the bad habits of the Filipinos?

It’s in the genes. It’s natural for Filipinos to be lazy, according to P. Fernandez.

Obviously, that sweeping generalization about Filipinos being lazy is not true because here you are, studying hard to get higher grades in your Filipino class.:-)

What did Padre Fernandez say was the equivalent of suicide (for friars)?

Allowing anyone to teach is the equivalent of friar-suicide, because the friars would then lose their monopoly on “education.”

What did Isagani say?

He said that it is not suicide. It is merely a way of keeping the friars from getting run over by the movement of students who are clamoring for freedom in how they get their education.

What did P. Fernandez say the Filipinos should study?

Farming. The friar hopes that withholding education from the Filipinos will give those who are educated more power over those who just labor and toil in the fields.

Padre Fernandez thinks that Isagani gained his ideas from the Jesuits in Ateneo. The Jesuits, however, deny that it came from them. So, where did Isagani get his thoughts?

According to Rizal, Isagani got those from his own genius, which is a gift from God.

(Rizal is inserting into this story his experience with the Jesuits who disowned him after Rizal wrote the Noli. Padre Faura told Rizal to never set foot again in the college. Anyway, it’s good to see that some modern Atenistas are proud that Rizal is from the Ateneo.)

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