Tuesday, August 16, 2005

V. At the Plaza Binondo (4)

Word about the impossible race, fueled by both Ser Pietrado’s celebrity and Rosang Taba’s absurd temerity, spread throughout the districts of Ciudad, and the extraordinary crowd that gathered to watch divided into two camps alongside the Plaza Binondo, one of the oldest sites in the city.

On the side of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang, rich velvets, silks and fine brocade created a sea of color, punctuated by gaily hued parasols and glittering jewelry. The entire Cortes was present, resplendent in their hastily constructed pavilions that shimmered in the afternoon sun. The Mother Church, foreign envoys and diplomats, visiting artists, guildlords and the highest members of the Guardia Civil added to their numbers.

Across from them, the Katao of Hinirang stood shoulder-to-shoulder – uniformed tradesmen, laborers and servants, forming an expanse of white, blue and red camisa, brown salakots and lilac bellos. Hawkers moved among them, offering bibingka, turon and cassava cakes, as the crowd’s collective heart beat in fervent anticipation of the incredible event.

When Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal arrived, dressed in turquoise doublet and breeches, the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang burst into a thunderous applause. Ser Pietrado gave a blinding smile and an ill-repressed moan escaped the lips of many young women who dreamed of sharing his bed.

When Rosang Taba made her appearance, dressed in cloth and colors of her father’s mountain tribe that magnificently displayed her unabashed health, the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang began to laugh. But the spontaneous cheer of the Katao of Hinirang robbed their laughter of its cruel power and shook the very foundations of the Plaza.

The Guvernador-Henerale approached the two contestants, accompanied by the most exquisite woman of Ciudad.

“Rosa,” he spoke as the crowd strained to listen. “I assume the Plaza Binondo is the start of your race course. You will now tell us both the middle and the end.”

“Opo, Ser,” said Rosang Taba replied. She raised a huge arm and pointed eastwards. “Ser Peitrado and I must go through the length of the Street of Lost Hope and return here.”

A gasp escaped the side of the Katao of Hinirang, and Rosang Taba’s father began to laugh, and was almost immediately followed by another, and another and soon all the crowd on that side was laughing with tears in their eyes.

All of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang did not know what to make of it. The Guvernador-Henerale raised his hand for silence.

“Ser Pietrado, do you understand the course?” he asked the handsome young commander.

“Of course, Your Excellency,” Ser Pietrado bowed. “That street over there. No doubt it loops back to this Plaza.”

Rosang Taba nodded.

“Very well. Proceed to the mouth of the street. You may then take your fifteen paces, Rosa,” the Guvernador-Henerale instructed them. “At my signal, the race will begin.”

“You are a foolish woman,” Ser Pietrado told her as they moved towards the mouth of the Street of Lost Hope, “And have chosen an appropriately named street for our course.”

“Opo, Ser.”

When they reached the street, Rosang Taba counted fifteen steps from its beginning and Ser Jaime Alonzo Pietrado ei Villareal, the pride of the Ispaniola-in-Hinirang, realized that he would lose.

____
(4) Gabriel Ternate Mayor, ed., Lu Viajes ei L’Anécdotas (Gremio Traductores, 1801)

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