Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Eve in Noli Me Tangere

As Christmas day approaches I cannot help but remember one of the chapters in Noli Me Tangere. Christmas in the Philippines is always an awaited celebration and it must have been the case too during Rizal’s time. And Rizal, being a man of irony himself, chose to stamp a scene of gloom in the concluding parts of the Noli: the death of several characters amidst the joyful air of Christmas.

What I looked for specifically in the Christmas Eve Chapter (chapter 64 in the Soledad-Lacson Locsin version) were the food and customs that might still be seen at present. On the first part we can see Basilio (still recovering from his wounds) in the company of a family living up a mountain. I could not help but wonder if Rizal had in mind Mount Maquiling as the setting. What was the food the family was planning to prepare for Christmas Eve? Chicken and dried boar’s meat for the meal. For the children, firecrackers and a head for a doll. I don’t know, but I think meat will always be a staple food for Filipino festivities. As for the children’s wishes, it seems that the use of firecrackers is a deeply entrenched tradition of the Filipinos. We won’t be seeing a firecracker-free Philippines yet.

With regards to the death I mentioned, it refers to Sisa’s and Elias’. I always wonder why stories that concern blood are always moving. We see here Sisa gripped by insanity, but when she sees the bloodied forehead of Basilio, “something like a spark was kindled in her mind, and she recognized her son.” Later we see Elias uttering one of the famous lines from the novel and the open-air cremation of his body, together with Sisa’s.

Perhaps beyond the festive atmosphere of Christmas celebrations, I believe it would not be that bad to look around and extend comfort to those who are hurting.

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