Fray Botod: A Sketch
―Who is Botod?
―Look at him, there he goes, walking on the plaza, that chubby friar talking with a woman at the foot of the talisay tree. Can you see him distinctly?
―Look well toward the center of the plaza. Look over the plaza, fix your eyes on the little tower of bamboo and nipa, it is the bell tower of the town; at the foot of the ladder, also of bamboo, are several leafy trees, by the trunk of the most corpulent talisay tree, under its shade is Fr. Botod talking angrily with a woman. Do you see him now?
―Yes, yes, I see him; he is bold. How he knits his eyebrows! The lass is not bad; but it is obviously, by his manner and grin, Fr. Botod, or devils, is vexed; but, what do I see? . . . now he is raising his walking cane in a menacing gesture.
―He is intimidating the young woman, so that she will accede to his desire.
―Is this rogue of a friar going to hit the girl?
―He is capable. Come and look, a crowd of boys from the charity-school, some nude from the waist down, others from the waist up, are running toward the Reverend Father; they kiss his hand; and the ignorant rustic of a friar send them to blazes and, frightened, the boys fled.
―But, look, look at the shameless friar; he's slapping the girl terribly . . . Hum! She falls to her knees at his feet; she seems to be asking for pardon . . . she kisses his hand . . . Poor girl! He takes her along . . . Cursed friar! What a brute, how wretched! . . . But do you allow and endure such abuses against the honor of that weak creature, victim of the brute force of that cynical friar?
―We are already used to such scenes; they happen frequently.
―But what is that devil of a friar doing in this part of the world?
―He's the parish priest of this town.
―Parish priest! A friar, parish priest! I didn't know that friars are parish priests in the Philippines; I have been told so, but I never believed it.
―Well, see it and you'll be convinced.
―In my country, we have thrown them out a long time ago, and certainly by kicking them out.
―Well here they are still wagging, dominating and ruling not only spiritually, but also politically and immorally.
―There's nothing else to do but give them poisoned sausage, like stray dogs.
―The day of reckoning will come and every debt must be paid, as a saying goes; that day will come and woe to them! In the meantime, let them do all they fancy.
―This is horrible, worse than in China, a thousand times more vexing than in Warsaw.
―Away with such sad thoughts; let's go and look at the knavish friar at close hand.
―Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! How horrible. How ugly! He looks like a fur seal.
―What a comparison, my friend!
―Yes, yes, a fur seal, a fur seal with mustache.
―The witticism is amusing.
Let us describe the fur seal: I'm wrong, I mean the friar, for everybody's information.
So be it.
Fray Botod is not his proper name or his family name.
Botod means big-bellied, the people chaffed him so on account of his phenomenal abdomen.
His baptismal name (you'll be astounded) is Ano, because he was born on the feast day of Santa Ana; but he gets furious and flies into a rage when he's called Fr. Ano, preferring to be called Botod to Ano.
Fray Botod or Fray Ano is from Aragon, son of unknown parents, who was found one tempestuous night in the environs of the Ebro River, near the steps of Our Lady of the Pillar Church by a muleteer who happened to pass by, returning from his work.
The good man educated him the best way he could. He wished to teach the boy his own occupation, but at the age of fourteen, he ran away from the house of his adopted father and walking, walking, he reached Valladolid and went to the convent of the Augustinian fathers there.
Scarcely twenty-one years old, his superiors sent him to the Philippines where he arrived still a rustic.
He seemed meek; but after he had been ordained and sang his first Mass, after five years in the country, eating bananas and papayas and after his appointed as parish priest of so important a town where he is now, he has become so smart that he is now very rich.
He is very shrewd and he has more horse sense than Santillana.
That is the succinct sketch of the birth, novitiate of Fr. Botod and the first years of his stay in the Philippines.
Let us now consider his figure and exploits.
He is a big fellow, a phenomenal guy.
Short stature; bloated face forming a disk like a full moon.
Thick, prominent lips; small eyes, roguish and feline; large, reddish nose, with flaring nostrils so that he can smell at a distance like a retriever.
Hair of the color of maize; the crown, like a coconut shell with tonsure.
Depressed and wrinkled forehead, giving him a supercilious and stern look.
Abdomen: above all his abdomen attracts attention because of its huge size; it's more of a promontory than abdomen, because it ends in a point near the navel; the pelvic region and the pectoral coincide on the same perpendicular plane limiting a central curvature of the vertebral column.
Add to all this a short neck on which rests that unique physiognomy and you have the finished picture of the whole figure of Fr. Botod.
His whole figure is a faithful copy of Don Quijote's squire, of the ridiculous physiognomy of Sancho Panza.
With regard to his habits:
More gluttonous than Heliogabalus; a usurer, worse than a Jewish money-lender; fond of women with sultan-like exploits.
In conclusion: He has everything he likes and he indulges excessively.
Summarizing, if the renowned Zolá would describe him, he would say about him more or less the following:
Fr. Botod is a well-fed pig who eats, drinks, sleeps and think of nothing else but to satisfy his carnal appetite in their various manifestations.
* * * * * * *
―See there, he's coming out again of the parish house accompanied by that young lady who's whining and crying bitterly.
Fr. Botod is caressing her, consoling her, but she is insensible and indifferent to everything; her moaning is subdued by fear, she obeys and follows the friar automatically.
This time they are not alone but followed by several girls, vyingly beautiful, some of them very young, others bigger, but all of them are very pretty and well-dressed.
―Now he gets into the omnibus with them; they're going for a drive and to the country for lunch.
―But who are those girls and why are they in Fr. Botod's parish house?
―They are his canding-canding.
―What are canding-canding?
―In the Castilian language the expression can mean or it is equivalent to kids, she-kids.
―If you're not going to explain it clearly, it is Greek to me. Why does the bedeviled friar have in his possession those innocent creatures and why are such angelic girls called she-kids?
―They're simply called she-kids because, as time goes on, when they reach marriageable age . . . do you hear, do you understand now? He has them in his possession because they are the daughters of poor families. Under the pretext of educating them, teaching them the Christian Doctrine, the catechism, how to read, write and other things and deceiving their unfortunate parents, he takes them willingly or by force.
―But is there no woman teacher in this town?
―Yes, there is but the old woman and Fr. Botod are hand in glove.
―This is unheard-of, horrible! But why don't they denounce to the authorities these barbarities of Bobooo or of that lascivious friar?
―Who'll accuse the Father? In the town no one will dare touch him. Woe to him who would dare!
―Is this common, general, in Philippine towns?
―I don't dare say so because since I was born, I haven't gone out of this town; but by what I have heard from others, I venture to say that it is, it is general.
―An affront! What baseness! . . . So that those beautiful rosebuds perform for that cynical friar the same role as the Oriental dancers in India?
―I don't know who are the Oriental dancers, for that reason I can't say they're the same. I'm tempted to ask you to explain to me a little of the history of India, but above all of the Oriental dancers, because I'm curious to know the sad role those poor girls play there.
―Gladly. Surely the friars here, considering their behaviour toward the Filipino people, considering their villainy, are nothing more than a rough, loathsome copy of the Brahmans or priests and the rajahs of India.
“According to legend the Oriental dancers are of heavenly origin, being descendants of the apsaras, courtesans or dancers of India's heaven.
“The poets believe that they came from the sea, while the devas, spirits of inferior regions, and the azuras, evil spirits, constantly fighting with the gods, striking the white waves of foam, trying to get the amrita or ambrosia.
“Immediately after they were born, they began dancing on the waves, and they were so beautiful and seductive that the devas and azuras, forgetting their tasks, fought each other fiercely for their possession.
“The victorious devas took them to their chief Indra who made them dancers of heaven, joining them to the gandharbas or heavenly musicians, the only ones who until then had had the privilege of entertaining the court.
“One of these goddesses, having had intercourse with a mortal, who had been seduced by her songs, gave birth to a girl who, unable to live in heaven on account of her earthly origin, was entrusted to some Brahmans who educated her inside a pagoda, and there since her early years instinctively began dancing before the statues of the gods.
“From her numerous love affairs she had seven daughters whom she taught how to dance like her in the ceremonies of the temple, and three sons who naturally became musicians.
“From them descended the devadassi or dancers and the present musicians of the pagados.
“The dancers never marry. Enlisted in the service of the gods, they cannot be in man's power; but they were allowed full and complete liberty to enter into temporary relations with men, provided they would never deny their favors to the Brahmans upon whom they depended.
“Originally they should never give themselves to men other than the Brahmans, and those who observed that law were considered virgins.
“The Brahmans were the first to prostitute their harem for profit.”
―You're right my friend. The comparison is apt: the Oriental dancers and the canding-canding have a fine though sad similarity; they performed the same functions; those for the Brahmans and rajahs and these for the Reverend Parish Priest. There is no difference at all. While those were consecrated at birth to the Indian gods like the Vestal Virgins, these here are canding-canding against the family will, pulled out of their homes through deceits, false promises and almost always by superior force.
―It's obvious you feel the blow, so much infamy pierces your heart.
―I'm not sorry for myself; I'm sorry for my people, for my vilified country. It cost the parents of these unhappy and unfortunate creatures a flood of bitter tears and mental aberration; there's no martyrdom comparable to theirs; nor anguish like theirs as they find themselves powerless to prevent the sacrifice of the innocence of their dearly beloved children.
―Bravo, bravo, friend! I haven't finished yet the story of the Oriental dancers. I'll continue . . . but what's happening? I hear cries, whistles, clamor, commotion. . . .
―Can it be a fire? No, no, let's go, let's look at it.
They turned around and went to the street where the shouting came.
―Look! . . . various students are hissing at Fr. Botod and his companions.
―Well done; dignity is beginning to raise an outcry and take revenge for so many ignominies. You'll see, you'll see where dignity will land!
―In jail or exile. Poor students! They're from the University of Manila and the Seminary who are home for vacation. They have been carried away by their impressions, their youthful genialities, not knowing what they're doing, they have acted without reflection.
―I applaud them, they're tenacious lads; they must begin sometime; their protest will attract attention.
―It's not yet time, my friend, the time has not yet come; if you don't think so, wait and you'll see.
They could hear these or similar phrases:
“Have you ever seen such effrontery? What cynicism! Scandalously riding in an omnibus through the busiest streets of the town with his pupils and concubines; one must be impudent to do that! Go ahead, you rogue, rascal, knave, shameless go ahead! You fool around!”
Taken aback, Fr. Botod composed himself afterwards and with his twitching hands threatened the students who were reviling him exclaiming:
―You'll pay me for this someday! You'll pay me someday!
―Get down the omnibus, coward, pig, indecent; come down, come down and let's fight, friar . . .
The riot continued swelling. Fr. Botod, fearing that they might smash him, drew back toward his convent.
That afternoon his pleasure was marred. The big belied friar suffered symptoms of cerebral congestion. The unexpected demonstration of four or five students made him angry.
He did not sleep the whole night. His mouth was frothing.
At four o'clock in the morning he ordered his luxurious carriage to be readied: a carriage with silver decorations and harness pulled by a pair of superb sorrel-colored horses.
As soon as it was ready, he left for the provincial capital.
He reported to the provincial governor the demonstration, the scandal of which he was the victim, omitting to report the truth about the incident.
Scarcely had two days passed when a couple of Guardia Civil headed by a lieutenant arrested and handcuffed the six students, leaders of the demonstration, who were accused of sedition and of attempting upon the integrity of the mother country.
The grief-stricken families of the unfortunate youths hastened to the convent to plead for mercy with the Father.
Fr. Botod gave a cruel answer to their pleas, saying:
—I've already told you, Capitana Ipay, Capitán Imuy, Cabezang Baruy, tenientela Munang, Fiscal Orong, Capitana Bibay not to send your sons to Manila to study or to the Seminary, for they learn nothing or finish any course of study; they learn only mischiefs and nonsense. They well deserved this punishment, so that they would learn how to respect the Father, the representative of God on earth. You, Indios, are worthless; you're like carabaos; flogging is what you deserve.
After this very stupid little sermon, full of improper words as well as insults, he sent to blazes the dejected parents of the boys.
The students, after the filing of administrative charges against them, without any consideration were banished.
—You see now, my friend, how dignity, point of honor, and justice have gone to jail and then ostracism. In this country, immorality, shamelessness, scandal and injustice are more in vogue than justice.
—You're right, my friend; I give up. I'm going to continue my story about the Oriental dancers some other time. Now I want you to tell me the notorious misdeeds of Fr. Botod so that I can expose them in the press in Europe and America I want the whole world to know them and execrate them.
—They'll not believe them.
—I want them for my information.
—So be it; here they are:
How the Father gambles and amuses himself:
—Tell Principala Mindang, Cabesang Incoy, Tia Bilay, Minay, Pitay, Capitán Insoy, Capitana Tinang and others to come quickly to the convent. The burro [card game] table is ready. Tell them to come after supper for we are going to put on a good hand at night.
These prominent citizens of the town, gathered around the dining table of the convent, began playing burro, concluding with either monte [a gambling card game] or roulette.
Meanwhile the canding-canding in separate and distant rooms played among themselves blind hen, wheel or skipping rope.
When Fr. Botod is winning, he is in good humor. He jests with the capitanas and principalas; and at his expense he eats with them suman, bibingka, poto, and tikoy. While playing, he chews kamanchiles, betel nut and other Philippine tidbits; but when he loses, when he is unlucky, he is in bad humor and becomes insupportable: he stamps his foot, gets furious and snorts worse than a ragamuffin.
In order not to displease the Reverend Father, his fellow players yielded to him, made themselves lose purposely, in the same way that Ferdinand VII's courtiers prepared the caroms for him.
Late at night his fellow friars, parish priests of nearby towns, would join him, bringing along big sacks of money.
Monte or roulette begins.
How they cheat each other! Botod never spares the tolls.
Gambling is the daily amusement of the Reverent Friars in Philippine towns, except on Sundays when everyone goes to the cockpit with his fighting cock.
Monte and fighting cocks are Fr. Botod's intimate friends.
* * * * * * *
How the Father performs his duties as parish priest:
Tilin! Tilin! Tilin! The bell at the convent door rings violently.
—Open, boy, he may be a player.
The boy leads to the gaming room an old man who is panting, apparently due to a long walk.
—Good evening, sir.
—What do you want?
—Go, boy, call Fr. Marcelino, the coadjutor.
—He's not in, sir.
—Why isn't he in?
—Fr. Marcelino, sir, is busy with another confession.
—Then, wait for him.
—I can't wait, sir.
—Why can't you wait, rogue, savage?
—Because the patient, sir, is agonizing; he's dying.
—Well, let him die and go to Hell; I don't care to hear confessions.
—Sir, have pity, pity, sir.
—Gracious, go and read the Act of Contrition to the patient and from here I give him absolution.
—Move on, nag, don't bother me anymore; I'm losing, damned jack! Hey, brute, go away. Boy, open the door to this old man.
You see here a good sample of Fr. Botod's religious beliefs. Letting a Christian patient who is asking for the comfort of religion die without confession, because of the jack of clubs.
After he has died:
—Sir, that man has died.
—Well, and so what?
—The family, sir, would like three priests to fetch the remains from the house, that there should be an encounter, and Requiem Mass with the body lying in state.
—Has the family of the deceased plenty of money?
—Fair, sir, the family wants three priests.
—I'll do it; there can't be three priests.
—The widow, sir, wants Fr. Marcelino to be the officiating priest.
—No, I don't like it; these things are my concern; the coadjutor has nothing to do with it.
—But, sir ....
—Not at all, not at all, not at all.
—Well, sir, how much, sir?
—One hundred-fifty pesos, second class funeral, with old silver cape.
—Three priests, sir?
—It can't be three; I alone am worth three.
—Fr. Marcelino, sir, charges only fifty pesos for three priests and first class funeral.
—You and the coadjutor go to blazes; you're absurd; Fr. Marcelino is good for nothing.
—Pardon me, sir.
—All right, bring the money; if you don't bring the money first, your dead will not be buried; do you understand?
—All right, sir, I'll consult with the family.
—What consultations, what excuses! Enough said, bring the one hundred-fifty pesos; if you don't, the corpse will rot in your house; and you and your whole family will all go to jail.
—Sir (in repentant tone), have pity, sir, the deceased didn't leave much money sir.
—All right, borrow money from the relatives.
—They don't want to lend any.
—Well! Well! Sell the ricefield of the deceased and there'll be money; look for a money-lender, rake; if not, I don't bury your dead.
—All right, sir.
He kisses the hand of the priest and the poor man leaves.
Three hours later, the coadjutor, informed of the demands of the parish priest and the insults hurled against him, quarreled with him scandalously. After getting drunk with liquor and tuba, which he does every day, Fr. Marcelino went straight to the convent.
The coadjutors of the Filipino secular clergy wallowed in vice in the same degree as the friars themselves. The bad example spreads. The Indio priests follow the example of their superiors, the friars; they have bad habits like those of the friars, if not worse.
They said that Fr. Marcelino, very drunk, looked for Fr. Botod, ready to face him, to slap the fat-cheeked father right on his big abdomen.
Fr. Botod, as soon as he descried the coadjutor staggering on the plaza, guessing what he was up to, ordered the boy to close the door of the parish house with the express order not to allow the coadjutor to come in.
Fr. Marcelino, greatly irritated by this order, shouted outrageously close to the convent to the great scandal of the passerby.
—Come down, come down, Botod, if you're brave; shameless friar, filthy fellow, stingy, infamous, wicked, come, come, come and I'm going to break your neck, friar blockhead, coward, you haven't a shred of shame ....
The mouth of Fr. Marcelino, smelling of alcohol and tuba, was throwing out such insults and many more.
In the face of all these diatribes Fr. Botod kept silent; but scarcely three days have passed, the coadjutor was summoned by the bishop and confined in the Seminary.
The funeral was pompous, but the family of the deceased got into debt.
How Fr. Botod entertains and celebrates the feast of the town's patron saint:
In the following manner:
—Listen, boy, tell the gobernadorcillo to prepare fodder for the horses of the priests who're coming for the fiesta.
—Sir, is Your Reverence calling?
—Notify Aunt Imay (Gerónima), capitana Biay (María) the head waiting-maid of the Virgin, Aunt Mamay (Romana), Chief Brother Orong and Chief Sister Tayang (Clara) to send to the convent plenty of ham, mangoes, bananas, eight roast piglets, assorted cheese, canned food of all kinds, because the Father has many guests.
—I'm going to run, sir.
—Listen, don't forget to tell Capitán Bociong (Tiburcio) to send me a Macao cook.
Thus he entertains his guests splendidly at the expense of his parishioners.
* * * * * * *
How he does business:
All for himself and nothing for the others.
He is a usurer.
Here's how he operates:
“A” goes to him at the convent.
—I've land, sir, but I can't sow.
—I've no money, sir.
—And what do you want?
—Borrow money, sir.
—How much money do you need?
—Three hundred pesos, sir.
—That's much money.
—It's little, sir; the land has a sowing capacity of fifty cavanes of palay.
—All right; under what conditions do you want to borrow the money?
—Borrow three hundred pesos and return to you, sir, six hundred pesos when I harvest and sell the grain, sir.
—It doesn't suit me; if you wish, I give you the amount you ask on condition that you sell me the palay at harvest time at two reales fuertes a cavan. Do you understand?
—A big loss, sir.
—If you accept, there's the money; if you don't, get out and don't bother me.
The poor man (thinking and sad) replied:
—All right, I accept, sir, because I've no alternative, sir.
Botod goes to his chest, counts the money, hands it to the man, saying:
—Be careful with your pledges! Don't fail me, for this is the money of the Virgin; I try to invest it in order to build a beautiful church worthy of the Queen of Heavens, the Mother of our Saviour.
Thank you, Father.
Botod even in money matters and usurious business invokes religion and the Virgin.
When harvest time comes, Fr. Botod's barn and warehouses are full of grain and sugar. He strikes while the iron is hot, making huge profits. A cavan of rice that cost him five reales he sells for twenty-five reales.
A four hundred per cent profit. Vile tricks of the Virgin!
If by chance that borrower could not get anything from his cultivated land because of some freaks of the weather, the interests on the borrowed capital increase in prodigious progression. The following year the interest is raised to six times compound interest.
An atrocity, a huge mass that crushes.
All for the Virgin!
It is not the Virgin who eats it but the one who invented it;
* * * * * * *
How he plays politics:
He is more clever than Cánovas; he has more gall than Sagasta.
Notwithstanding, he is a dolt, like his King and Lord, Charles Policeman.
—Hey, boy, boy!
—You call, sir?
—Yes, go to the Tribunal, look for the Directorcillo and tell him to come.
—He's here, sir.
—Let him come in.
A little man of about forty-five years, wearing eyeglasses and carrying a bundle of papers under the arm, enters timidly the office of the friar.
He is the Directorcillo who will report official matters to his Reverence.
—Good morning, Father.
—Good morning,—Botod replies dryly. —Are you bringing with you the official correspondence? Hand them to me.
The Directorcillo gives him the file. Botod reads them and says:
—This official letter of the Governor ordering the repair of the streets should not be answered. I still need the laborers to repair the kitchen of the convent.
—Sir, the Governor will fine the Capitán (Gobernadorcillo).
—Let him do it; he has money to pay.
—Don't carry out this order of the Judge to apprehend the bandit Cabugao. He's under my protection and Cabugao is not a bandit.
—The Judge will get angry, Father. —Let him get angry. Tell him he couldn't be caught.
—Cabugao, sir, is in your kitchen, Father.
Don't answer me; keep your mouth shut and obey me, carry out my orders and in that way you serve God and the Virgin.
God and the Virgin are always on his lips even in his notoriously unjust and nefarious acts.
* * * * * * *
How he lies and boasts:
“Rustic Indios, we're all rich in Spain; there, in that land of the Virgin, no one is poor; all of us are swimming in gold.”
—Heavens! How this friar fibs! —exclaims a pious listener.
“We have come to this barbarous land to win souls for Heaven to be loved by our Great Father Saint Augustine.”
—Gracious, Manola! —exclaims a Spaniard who happened to hear that nonsense of Fr. Botod.
The sermon continues:
“We have come to civilize you, rustics, Indios, carabaos, rogues. You're ail slaves of Spain, of ours, of our Great Father Saint Augustine; do you understand? Amen.”
It was the first time in fifteen years that he had been parish priest that he spoke from the pulpit and he uttered only great lies.
Between a Spaniard and the Father:
—Fr. Botod, why don't you educate or enlighten and give good schools to your town?
—It isn't suitable, my countryman.
—Your mission is to teach the people under your spiritual administration.
—Reasons of high politics forbid us. When the Indio becomes educated, learns to speak Spanish, we're lost.
—Because they'll rebel against us and endanger the integrity of the motherland.
—I don't believe it; it is you who will lose your property and other “bargains”, but as to Spain. . .
—What? Aren't we Spain herself? Well, well, well! well!
The interest of the friars is the interest of Spain; it cannot be changed.
* * * * * * *
How he takes his siesta:
It is the custom in the Philippines to sleep and rest at midday.
It is the vice of easy life.
Fr. Botod never misses a siesta.
Fr. Botod's siesta is all an ineffable drowsiness in the midst of the caresses of his canding-canding.
It was at these siestas that the she-kids, like the Oriental dancers, the devadassi of India, perform their delicate functions around the sacred person of the Filipino Brahman.
Even at the risk of being censured as immodest and a disciple of Zolá, I wish to describe here the mysteries of Fr. Botod's bedroom.
Let us break into his room that is full of allegorical prints more or less obscene. Here, a copy of Resurrección Hidalgo's Las vírgenes cristianas expuestas al populacho, over there, a passage from the Old Testament: Susana entre sus ancianos seductores; hither, another biblical passage showing the scene of the Incest committed by Absalom on the wives of his father David on the roof garden of the palace; over there, The Wife of Putifar half-nude pursuing Joseph.
On the consoles and tables are somewhat crude sculptures, nude angels among Igorot idols representing procreation; scattered among Breviario and Vademecum, Liturgía y Moral de Lárraga are pornographic booklets.
In the middle of that richly furnished room stands a precious bedstead of Kamagong exquisitely carved with Greco-Roman and Chinese designs in high relief.
The bed is adorned with a rich border of jusi and silk and a canopy of delicate pink gauze whose ends are trimmed with lace, coquettishly gathered, and tassels.
The bed with its decorations and the room with its pictures present an exciting, provocative scene.
The spectacle begins:
—Look at him there through the transparent mosquito net: the obese Fr. Botod in his undergarments, stretched on his back on such a magnificent and soft bed, resting his huge head on a rich pillow, his feet on another pillow, and on both sides long pillows.
On a night table with marble top are a whip with four straps and a scratcher within reach of his hand.
The whip is to lash the she-kids if they are rebellious or stubborn.
The scratcher is to deaden the itching that constantly tortures the heavy body of His Reverence.
—Note: he breathes with difficulty and sonorously. Today he has eaten excessively and he is digesting deliciously.
It is well known that his gluttonous stomach has a force of two hundred thousand horse power. His huge abdomen undulates like a placid lake; its undulations are perfectly marked.
But this is not the best.
—Look and marvel:
—The she-kids now begin to perform their duties. Their functions are varied.
—Look: Quicay (Francisca) fans him; Paula is tickling the sole of his feet; Loleng (Dolores) is rubbing his head; Titang (Enriqueta) is removing his lice, whether or not he has any; Manay (Romana) is tickling his ears with a little feather; Arang (Clara) is pulling his fingers, gently pinching the palm of his hand, arms and armpit. Ansay (Venancia) pulls out with a grain of palay the fine hairs of his face; and finally, the beautiful and most gracious Biay (María) strokes and restrokes with a very fine silky brush his curled up abdomen.
—Now, now, the Father, tired of lying on his back, stretches out face downward.
Minsay (Clemencia) takes the scratcher and begins applying it on His Reverence's adipose back, full of rash and gravelly granules.
Calay (Pascuala), the charming pubescent Calay in a merry and melancholy voice, slips to the ears of the drowsy Botod stories of fairies, enchantments and witchcraft.
In the midst of these delights produced through various ways, Botod sank into sweet and placid giddiness, dreaming of earthly joys.
—Such are the functions of the she-kids around Fr. Botod, besides other things that I know which I do not tell.
Finally a loud snorting of His Reverence, followed by noisy breathing with rhythmic snores, a sign that the Father is asleep.
Then the complicated chores of the girls stop and on tiptoes slowly leave the room.
Hardly are the poor girls out of sight when a secret door opens through a mysterious spring.
Two big middle-aged women of uncouth beauty enter. They sit on chairs near His Reverence's bed, silently, mutely watching the sleeping Father and awaiting his orders upon awakening.
They are the official concubines of the Father.
—Here you see sketched in large strokes the intimate life of Fr. Botod. Other mysterious pleasures of his bedroom I leave to the imagination of the curious reader.
* * * * * * *
—Thank you, thank you, my friend, for your exquisite attention. Now it is my turn to reciprocate the favor by resuming my interrupted account of the dancers of Triquimale.
After what has been seen and observed, it is fitting to describe the scenes in the life of those unfortunate creatures which I'm going to do with great pleasure.
—I repeat that the miserable role of the canding-canding and that of the Oriental dancers among those priests of different religions are similar, although what happens here is a sad parody of that in India.
—I have no doubt that the friars have the crazy idea of converting these Islands into a place of iniquity. By their deeds and acts I can see that they wish to be Brahmans rather than ministers of Christ.
—Going back to the Oriental dancers, say, my friend, what I've seen in a reserved place in the palace of a rajah was a scene very similar to what you've just described.
—Let me tell you the means to which one must resort to be able to see a spectacle as original as that.
—It's necessary to live there for a long time, to familiarize oneself with the customs and language of the country in order not to be considered a stranger. Then you may be able to persuade some rich Indian or rajah to introduce you to the dancers in his house and allow them to perform before your astonished eyes as they create a palpitating atmosphere of passion and frenetic rapture.
—Another way is to bribe the Brahmans of a pagoda located far from the city or village and perhaps one night you would be admitted into the interior of the temple. There had been such instances.
—The true dancer is not allowed to dance in public. Having to excite the senses that later she satisfies, she needs darkness and mystery; it's necessary that she gets excited gradually, that her waist tremble on her hips, that her breast palpitate, that all her muscles shake, that her body bend under the physical excitement of a frenetic ecstacy.
—Another girl dances half-bent with her hair hanging loose on her bare back, dragging herself on the mat covering the floor of the hall, twisting her body like a lascivious cat, darting to the spectators, her big black eyes loaded with lightning and fire, and she knows how to make them appear moist with languor and desire. Now she raises her eyes toward Heaven like an inspired Virgin, assuming, splendid postures of invocation and daring. Now she is a delirious mad woman who swoons under the influence of unknown pleasures like the maids of Louvain or the inspired maids of the Cemetery of San Medardo.
—Then follow the most seductive, most delicate, most provocative bendings of the body, lingering on those that best show the curve of the hips, the flexibility of the figure and of the movements and the gorgeousness of the whole performance.
—Once at midday when all noises cease, when the siesta begins, when everything is parched and tilts on account of the burning sun of India, which wastes away the body and weakens the mind, the verandah is covered with vetiver curtains which are sprinkled with water now and then by an athletic man, nude until the waist.
—We are stretched on mats in the middle of a hall of white marble, surrounded by other rooms with terraces in front that shut off the light from us, except that filtering through two or three layers of tapestry. The punkah was kept vigorously in motion over our heads by men who are relieved every hour.
—I had accepted the invitation for lunch by the Rajah of Samnogur and we had just left the dining room to breathe freely in a cooler room. Many servants entered the room bringing for each of us a large Chinese cup of punch made of rum, ginger, and tea with long hollow bamboo so that we could sip the drink without getting up. The servants withdrew silently.
—At our feet sat little boys who tended the fire of our incense burner whose fragrant fumes put us in a delightful drowsiness.
—It is necessary to have lived in the Orient to understand fully the delicious enjoyments one experiences in those surroundings, in the midst of utter oblivion of oneself and the whole world.
—We did not talk, abandoning ourselves to poetic or material dreaming according to our beliefs and affiliations. Suddenly, at a signal from the rajah, there rose up, as if by magic, a curtain made of silk with silver thread and there appeared four dazzling dancers, graceful, youthful, and beautiful, reanimating at once our drowsy eyes.
—Imagine that huge hall, a mixture of arabesque and Indian architecture, never penetrated by sun rays. Everywhere was a mysterious and discreet light and ten paces away from us were ten girls of scarcely fifteen years, beautiful like those of the Himalayan races, lascivious by temperament, whose gestures and poses have been taught them since childhood by a teacher skilled in the art of stirring up these senses. Four girls with deep-set black eyes, long moist eyelashes, loose hair, bare breast and the rest of the body covered only with silk gauze adorned with gold, quietly animating that darkness and silence.
He should have said that they were four fantastic apparitions, four houris of the paradise of India who had come down to earth to reveal to man the lost secret of the purest form and the most exquisite beauty.
—They began dancing ....
—Take the most gracious poses consecrated by art and by the paintings of the masters; imagine forthwith the raptures of bacchantes intoxicated by libations and mysterious perfumes; picture to yourself finally, those girls dragging themselves at your feet, flexible and caressing, their eyes moist, wandering with languor, their breasts throbbing with feverish excitement, the limbs trembling by the effect of hashish, as if it were the beginning of a nervous crisis, and you will have a vague idea of the strange and fascinating spectacle that we witnessed.
—Those girls were excited to the point of delirium by a preparation consisting of extracts of ginger, Spanish fly and hemp; and such was the skill of those who administered this preparation that it produced no immediate bad effects; but indeed after prolonged use, its harmful effects became noticeable.
—It is impossible to bear with impunity the sight of such excesses.
—These emotions repeated excessively, are bound to lead to a brutalized old age, common among rich Orientals whose lives are wholly dedicated to physical pleasures.
—But there is still more.
—For these priestesses of love the dance should end in the complete exhaustion of their strength. If they withstand the first raptures and swooning, they afterward begin to rotate with incredible speed until, exhausted and seized with vertigo, they collapse half-nude on the floor.3
—I've finished. Now you know, my friend, that there are also in the pagodas of the Vedas canding-canding with more exquisite and superior education, with a more subtle knowledge of the secret art of love than those here.
—It's admirable, a wonderful coincidence that there were also paintings and views in our convents similar to those you've just told me about.
—I would like to see them.
—It's impossible; the sanctuary of the can-can, of the mata la culebra is not open to the profane.
—Well, patience, I'm satisfied with what I've seen.
—Ah! I forgot one precious detail of Fr. Botod's bedroom: do you know how the room of that Spanish Brahman smells?
—I didn't notice it, having lost my sense of smell on account of this persistent cold.
—Well, that beautiful room smells of ginger, cadlum and garlic.
—I understand; those spices are the favorite of the priests of Venus; their smell is the most pleasant incense to this goddess of love.
* * * * * * *
How a friar punishes:
Because an Indio failed to work in his estate for three days, he deprived him of his wages and administered fifty strokes on the bare buttocks of the unfortunate laborer.
—Hey, man, why haven't you reported for work for three days?
—My wife was sick, sir.
—The bench and the whip. Ala, ala! Get down flat.
—Sir, sir, my wife was sick.
—That's a lie. Ala, get down!
The poor devil gets down face downward on the bench, Fr. Botod himself removing his trousers and shorts, so that his buttocks were exposed and tying his feet and head to the bench.
—And you, sacristan, get the whip and give him fifty lashes. I remind you that the whip has three lashes, so that not fifty strokes but one hundred fifty were applied.
—Enough sir, enough sir; aráy! aráy! aráy! How painful sir, enough sir! enough!
—Keep quiet, brute, beast! Boy, bring red pepper and vinegar.
Over the bruised parts caused by the lashes on the buttocks of the unfortunate fellow, the inhuman friar pours the vinegar and rub on them the hot pepper, thus causing the unlucky fellow to see stars in the sky.
—Pity, pity, sir! Enough, enough, Father! Aráy! Aráy! Aráy!
The hapless fellow rolled about in pain, struggling in vain to untie himself.
After this inhuman treatment, the sacristan resumed the lashing until completing the sentence of fifty.
Terrible moments! The man gets excited; he turns over impetuously, his whole body is in nervous spasm, screams, ayes, moans are dying out in his throat. Because, when the strength is exhausted, unconsciousness and fainting follow.
The sight of that man whose buttocks are all sore inspires compassion and pity.
He is raving and blood is oozing from his wounds.
The friar was amused by his cruelty, laughing like a fool.
A dismal image of the past Inquisition! Fr. Botod is worse than a hyena.
* * * * * * *
Days later, as we strolled in the environs of the town through thousands of coconut, mango and mabolo trees that border extensive fields of sugarcane, we saw seated on a milestone the svelte young woman who at the beginning of this sketch we spied talking obstinately with Fr. Botod.
Now withered, crumpled, with anguish all over her face, her countenance was an epic poem of sorrow.
Like the Samaritan woman of the Bible, there was beside her feet a pitcher of water and a packet of cooked rice with a small salted and dried fish lay on her knees.
Her food was untouched; her spirit was in the grip of an intense sadness; her eyes fastened on the sky seemed to be asking for vengeance and justice.
Our imprudent indiscretion drew her out of her ecstatic tribulation.
—Beautiful young woman!—exclaimed my friend.
As if awakened from deep slumber, confused, irresolute, stupified, her eyes opened wide looking at us with amazement.
Immediately she tried to run away, but we stopped her. I said to her gently:
—Young woman, don't be afraid of us, we're not going to hurt you; tell us only what Fr. Botod did to you the other day?
—Ay, sir, sir, don't ask me, I'm very unfortunate; he did me something that I'm ashamed to tell you, but Manuel will avenge me.
My friend, unable to restrain himself, furious, exclaimed:
—Wretched friar! ! !
Upon hearing this, the young woman became very excited.
She disengaged herself from our grasp; aghast, hair disheveled, tears flowing out of her eyes, her hands stretched upward to the sky, she ran, ran terrified, shouting: The friar, the friar, the friar! Help, help, help! Botod, Botod, Botod, Botod, Botod! ! !
She was insane. Damned friar! Damned.