May 24, 2013

A HIDDEN WORSHIP: Fourth Annotation, Crocodiles of El Fili

In my previous annotation, I left a question hanging regarding Fr. Salví's legend of the Chinaman, St. Nicholas, and the giant crocodile: What are the implications of turning the devil itself into stone? Tilde made much headway into this question in the mother of crocodiles, a take that includes an overview of things-thus-far in this exchange as well as a lizard's eye view of the electoral results. In [1].

Tilde used the image of Sobek, an Egyptian god who, along with the expected might and ferocity, possesses also the attributes of a creator god and a collector of things lost or abandoned upon the Nile.

Since Sobek's visage guides this annotation, I now aim to temper the view of the croc. We remember how Fr. Salví thought it a menace of the highest order, saw it as the devil incarnate. In his story, at least two religions converge upon the Pasig river: Fr. Salví's catholicism and the Chinaman's unspecified heathen faith. In his encounter with evil, the Chinaman was "inspired by God" to call on St. Nicholas. In [2].

Perhaps we have two incursions: a foreign man upon the local river, and in the mind of this man, a foreign god. There is symmetry if we assume that catholicism is native to the river, God's voice and the Devil's reptile thus come as opposite (but complementary) functions of the same conversion process: positive and negative reinforcement.

However, what if there are three cultures at play here? The Chinese and the Spanish are both players but the silenced native is merely terrain, perhaps a prize. Another possibility: what if the crocodile is the unconverted native, the wild and disobedient? Maybe we are dealing with a muted native divinity, one re-purposed by the dominant power as an emblem of terror.

Maybe the crocodile is not pure fable, perhaps we are looking at banditry here, the fearsome who prey upon river folk, who likely keep a keen eye on lightly guarded merchants and priests. Or these feared are the river folk themselves, Fr. Salví's story thus an assertion of power in order to submerge a great insecurity: what if they rise from the water to take what belongs to them?

If so, then Fr. Salví's  crocodile is a demonization of the native. If so, then it is the effective inverse of Old Selo's crocodile ("Make believe you lost the thirty pesos gambling, or that you dropped them in the river and a crocodile swallowed them." In [3]) where the animal is a naturalization of the foreign evil.

[1] Open Season | crocs across, beyond pages | Grounds for Sport | Word Magicks | the mother of crocodiles
[2] José Rizal. El Filibusterismo. Trans. by Leon Maria Guerrero. Quezon City: Guerrero Pub., 1996: 21-22.
[3] Rizal: 25-26.

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