El Fili Chapter 8: Merry Christmas

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The miracle that Juli expected did not happen — there was no money at the foot of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All that remained there were Juli’s prayers.

As a result, Juli resigned herself to serving as Hermana Penchang’s maid.

Apparently, Juli’s mindset shows how the friars controlled the Philippine population. The friars convinced the people that being a good Catholic means:

  • religiously praying and putting complete and total faith on saints (or their icons)
  • learning to just accept and bear whatever hardships fate hands to them

Hmmm… there are many things that make me feel like a modern-day Juli. Blame it on readings about Zen (all life is suffering), those positive thinking gurus (everything that happens is really for the best), and other non-Catholic sources. I wonder, should Juli have done something else? Or do her actions pave the way for something better in the future?

Afterall, if Judas did not betray Christ, would He have been crucified?

What do you think?

Remember, this was Christmas Day. Old Man Selo (Tandang Selo) didn’t have any gifts to give to anyone. His granddaughter was going to become a maid and she didn’t even greet him “Merry Christmas” (probably out of respect since she knew Selo had nothing, not even a centavo).

It seems that during Rizal’s time, people greet and expect you to hand them a Christmas gift. Today in the Philippines, there are still people who cheerfully greet you “Merry Christmas, Ma’am” and then pause, and then give you “the expectant look.”

Some Philippine government offices forbid their employees from greeting anyone “Merry Christmas” lest it be misconstrued (or rightly construed! hehehe…) as a request for money.

But getting back to the story, either Juli completely forgot to greet her grandpa, or (more likely) she was just being tactful, or she was preoccupied with the thought of becoming a maid. If you recall, Juli is considered among the prettiest women in the barrio — her delicate hands imply that she is not used to hard, manual labor.

Selo’s woes don’t end there. His son, Cabesang Tales, is still missing. With all these misfortunes, it’s no wonder that Selo discovers he can no longer speak. Probably a mild stroke?

Women passing by the house notice that Selo is mute. Of course the bad news quickly spreads through the chismis or gossip network.

What a Christmas, right? Rizal understands a key point of Philippine entertainment: Suffering sells. (In the next chapter, you’ll meet a bunch of Pilates; no, not of the calibean type.)

Please read the actual chapter, ok? You might enjoy the fact the Rizal’s other observations about Christmas in the Philippines still ring true today:

* Uncomfortable, jam-packed churches
* Children kissing a long train of relatives
* Instant kiddie performances (sing this, dance, declaim)
* Money meant for kids actually goes to the parents

…and if you nod and recall a few unflattering moments in your childhood Christmas past, remember that you’ll become a parent someday. Hehehe. It’s payback time. (Just kidding)

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