Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who really is Padre Damaso?

Here is an interesting excerpt from Ambeth Ocampo, ex-Benedictine monk and now head of the National Historical Commission.  He regularly writes a column at Hell's Bible, Pinoy version.

Unsurprisingly, the author is pro-RH bill.  And unsurprisingly, took pot shots at the Catholic Church.  But being the historian that he is, he puts his foot down on who really is the character that Celdran and his minions use to depict ALL pinoy priests and bishops.

Thanks to the FLORENTINO shout out of Doc Ben Vallejo.  Gave me the "inspiration.


Now we come to Padre Damaso Verdolagas, who is often said to be the “villain” of the “Noli.” Is he? Really? All right, he was rude to Ibarra. He ordered the corpse of Ibarra’s father taken out of the Christian cemetery and transferred to the Chinese cemetery. He turns out to be the father of Maria Clara. Open Wikifilipinas, which trumpets itself as the one-stop site for everything Philippine, and you will find this:

“According to Jose Rizal’s description, Padre Damaso is a Franciscan friar that acts as the curate or the official minister of the book’s fictional town, San Diego. He was described as a fat, ugly priest with an extremely large belly. He was known to be lazy, selfish, proud, cruel, judgmental, malicious-minded and has cravings for beautiful women.

“Padre Damaso was the self-righteous curate of the fictional San Diego church and town. He used his power to get what he desired. He was notorious and deceitful. His unhealthy physical appearance signified his laziness and excesses to everything that he wanted. It was he who raped Pia Alba, the wife of Don Santiago de los Santos, a local businessman.

“This made him the biological father of the conservative and pretty Maria Clara. His dirty secret was revealed. Due to this scandal, he was forcefully transferred to a different town. He was found dead during this transition without explanations.”

Such loaded anti-clerical language in a website was used by students for their research. Where did we get the idea that Pia Alba was raped? Remember, Kapitan Tiago was an opium dealer and probably had no time for his wife who found solace in her spiritual adviser. Was Damaso really evil? Or was he just being an over-protective father who didn’t approve of his daughter’s boyfriend? [Let's ask You-Know-Who!]

In the opening chapters of the “Noli,” Rizal described Padre Damaso as “a Franciscan, talks much and gesticulates more. In spite of the fact that his hair is beginning to turn gray, he seems to be preserving well his robust constitution, while his regular features, his rather disquieting glance, his wide jaws and herculean frame give him the appearance of a Roman noble in disguise and make us involuntarily recall one of those three monks of whom Heine tells in his ‘Gods in Exile,’ who at the September equinox in the Tyrol used to cross a lake at midnight and each time places in the hand of the poor boatman a silver piece, cold as ice, which left him full of terror.

“But Fray Damaso is not so mysterious as they were. He is full of merriment, and if the tone of his voice is rough like that of a man who has never had occasion to correct himself and who believes that whatever he says is holy and above improvement, still his frank, merry laugh wipes out this disagreeable impression and even obliges us to pardon his showing to the room bare feet and hairy legs that would make the fortune of a Mendieta in the Quiapo fairs.” (Derbyshire translation)

Rizal is almost fond of Damaso. Read the novel to see the real villain: the evil friar is not Damaso but his replacement Father Salvi who lusts after Maria Clara and engineers an accident that would have killed Ibarra during the laying of the cornerstone of his school. Failing in that, he instigates a rebellion and implicates Ibarra. The fat, sex-starved, corrupt friar is not Rizal’s Fray Damaso, but Graciano Lopez Jaena’s “Fray Botod.”

One can argue that the characters of Rizal’s novels have taken on a life of their own in our consciousness. Well, it’s a pity that we have a national hero who wrote a lot for a nation that does not read[And that includes an attention-hungry tour guide who claims to know much about history and his Ravenous Harlots.  Talk about being rational and being heroes, eh?]

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