U is For The Letters Between Urbana and Feliza

UI thought I’d hit a wall with letter U in the A to Z Challenge, even though I do have something to write about – or had something to write about.  Then I changed my mind because some of it rankles me, so I went for the second choice (there aren’t that many U words to choose from really), but that rankled me even more.  I mean, how pleasant can writing about uprisings against the Spaniards (none of them successful) be?

So I’ll return to the first choice, and that is Urbana at Feliza, a missive written by D. Modesto De Castro in the early 19th century that exhorted how Filipinos were supposed to behave.  It was based on the world that De Castro lived in as a secular priest, which was dictated by Christian morals and values as well as European influences in conduct and ethics.


One of the things that set Urbana at Feliza apart was that it was written in Tagalog instead of Spanish, so its intended target market was quite obvious.  The narrative is presented through letters written between two sisters, Urbana and Feliza.

The letters go through all the stages of one’s life on earth – from birth, childhood, adulthood, old age and death.   In the preface, De Castro emphasizes the link between one’s love of God to that of his love of his neighbor.

“…one who loves God knows how to deal with his/her neighbor well, and anyone who does not know should strive to learn, because this knowledge springs from good action which God delights in.

…Thus this knowledge is a precious gem to a woman, honor to a gentleman, ornament to a young man, beauty and loveliness associated with good behavior that captures the heart.”

– Via Urbana at Felisa by Soledad S. Reyes, Philippinestudies.net

De Castro stressed the importance of parents teaching their children good manners, and should they lead “bad lives,” woe then unto the parents for they have been neglectful (I really would have sucked big time if I had lived in this era…), adding that he saw himself as the sower who sows the seeds in the field with his teachings.

The novella goes on to teach about how women and men were to act in just about every aspect of life, from keeping oneself clean, how to act at school, at church, at dealing with vices which for men included gambling and drunkenness.   And then there is this regarding women’s indiscretions which, compared to men’s gambling and drunkenness finds its equivalent in lust:

“In time, after numerous dalliances, her honor is shattered, her family’s reputation is tarnished while the townsfolk tattle, but the most painful is the lost of the souls of these unfortunate women, and the many people who sinned because of these women’s bad examples?  Who will God blame for these sins but the negligent parents?”

Via Urbana at Felisa by Soledad S. Reyes, Philippinestudies.net

Oy vey, now you know how trying the letter U has been so far for me.  As they say, I can’t even…

But moving on, apparently he also differentiated with the “taong-labas” or the outsider.  And this would not just include the tulisanes or robbers and bandits, but those who ate with their hands instead of using a spoon and a fork, and shared bowls of food with their family members – all actions of a native community.

Those who could not afford to throw lavish parties and use lace tablecloths, linens and silver, and even differentiate the many different kinds of writing paper belonged to the taong-labas (outsiders) and were taga-bukid (from the mountains), that group of people who refused to be subjugated by the Spanish and adapt to their colonizer’s ways.

I must have studied this in high school but I feigned not understanding how to read Tagalog.  And probably for good measure.  I would have been exorcised from Catholic school if I had read this then.

So anyway, that’s as far as I’m going with the letter U.  Maybe I should have stuck with all those uprisings against the Spanish government after all…









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