El Fili Chapter 4: Kabesang Tales

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Selo, who adopted Basilio in the forest, is now quite old. His son, Cabesang Tales, is the father of Lucia. Cabesang Tales, the head of the barangay, grew rich through hard work and perseverance. He started by partnering with an investor. After saving some money, Cabesang Tales inquired about a place in the forest and, after verifying that there were no owners, planted sugarcane there. He wanted to send Juli to college in order to match the educational attainment of Basilio, her sweetheart.

After Cabesang Tales’ plot of land was developed, the friars wanted to grab it. The friars taxed Cabesang Tales and kept raising the tax rate until Cabesang Tales could not pay anymore. He brought the friars to court and asked them for proof of land ownership. No proof was presented, but the courts still ruled in favor of the friars.

When his son, Tano, was drafted into the army, Tales did not “ransom” his son. Instead, he spent the money on lawyers in hopes that he would win the land case. Besides, if Tales did not win the case, then he felt that he won’t need his son anyway.

Tales built a fence around his property and patroled it (he was armed with a rifle). No one could get near because Tales was known for his skill in marksmanship — a formidable sharpshooter. When rifles were outlawed, Tales carried a bolo. When that was banned, he then carried an axe.

Since he only carried an axe, the armed bandits kidnapped him and demanded ransom. Juli sold all her jewelry to raise funds. All, that is, except for a locket given to her by Basilio.
Not enough funds were raised, though, so Juli borrowed money from Hermana Penchang. To secure the debt, she agreed to work for the Hermana as a companion (aka: maid or slave).

Her first day of work was to commence on Christmas Day.

No wonder Juli had bad dreams on Christmas eve.

(Selo must have had worse nightmares. Imagine, here was his granddaughter, the prettiest in the barrio, and now… forced to become a maid. Basilio, on the other hand, is about to meet a hapless cochero, or horse rig driver.)

Some Notes
* Maria Clara (in the Noli Me Tangere) became a nun after she was not allowed to marry Ibarra. She gave a locket to a leper who later gave it to Basilio after he treated the leper. Basilio, in turn, offered the locket to his sweetheart, Juli (Juliana).

Questions and Answers

1. Why was it hard to be a cabeza de barangay in the past? He was in charge of collecting taxes. If someone in the barangay could not pay, the cabeza had to advance the tax.

2. Why did Cabesang Tales say that we are like the land and that we were unclothed when we were born? He meant that we should not fear death because death comes to everyone. We should also not fear poverty because we were born poor: without clothes, without anything.

3. What law upheld the friars in their bid to own the land of Cabesang Tales? Nothing but the Law of Self-Preservation (of the court scribes who feared the frailocracy). Although the Spanish laws were good, it was the implementors who did the wrong things. Hence, some Filipinos did not want to work hard lest the fruits of their labors be easily taken away by others.

4. Why did Old Man Selo refuse to speak to his son, Cabesang Tales, for quite some time? He was mad at Tales for allowing Tano (son of Tales) to be drafted into the Spanish guardia civil, instead of paying the fee which waived drafting.

5. Why did Cabesang Tales say that if he lost the court case, he will not have any need for his children? He felt that losing the case would mean he had nothing left to leave to his children. That’s why he had to do everything to win the case, in order to bequeath the land to his children.

6. To what did people liken the case of Cabesang Tales? They said it was like a pot of clay banging against a pot of iron; or like an ant that bites the heel, knowing it will just be crushed.

7. Why was Cabesang Tales kidnapped by bandits just when he no longer had any more money? It was only at that time when Cabesang Tales no longer carried a shotgun or a bolo, but was only armed with an axe (definitely no match against the guns of the bandits).

8. What did Juli do which the author, Jose Rizal, criticized? Rizal criticized Juli’s reliance on miracles. Juli placed the money she raised at the feet of the image of the Virgin Mary hoping it would double the following day. The friars had conditioned the Filipinos to just rely on miracles instead of on their own perseverance and effort.

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