Jewels of the Pauper

Jewels of the Pauper by Horacio de la Costa, S.J.

There is a thought that comes to me sometimes as I sit by my window in the evening, listening to the young men’s guitars, and watching the shadows deepen on the long hills, the hills of my native land. You know, we are a remarkably poor people; poor not only in material goods, but even in the riches of the spirit. I doubt we can claim to possess a truly national literature. No Shakespeare, no Cervantes has yet been born among us to touch with immortality that which is in our landscape, in our customs, in our story, that which is most original, most ourselves. If we must give currency to our thoughts, we are focused to mint them in the coinage of a foreign tongue; for we do not even have a common language. But poor as we are, we yet have something. This pauper among the nations of the earth hides two jewels in her rages. One of them is our music. We are sundered one from another by eighty-seven dialects; we are one people when we sing. The kundimans of Bulacan awaken an answering chord of lutes of Leyte. Somewhere in the rugged north, a peasant woman croons her child to sleep; and the Visayan listening remembers the crane fields of his childhood, and his mother singing the selfmade song. We are again one people when we pray. This is our other treasure; our Faith. It gives somehow, to our little uneventful days, a kind of splendor; as though they had been touched by a king. And did you ever notice how they are always mingling, our religion and our music? All the basic rite of human life – the harvest and the seedtime, the wedding, birth and death – are among us drenched with the fragrance and the coolness of music. These are the bonds that bind us together; these are the souls that make us one. And as long as there remains in these islands one mother to sing Nena’s lullaby, one boat to put out to sea with the immemorial rowing song, one priest to stand at the altar and offer God to God, the nation may be conquered, trampled upon, enslaved, but it cannot perish. Like the sun that dies every evening it will rise again from the dead.

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