Synopsis of NOLI ME TANGERE- By Dr Jose Rizal
In more than a century since its appearance, José Rizal's Noli Me Tangere has become widely known as the great novel of the Philippines. A passionate love story set against the ugly political backdrop of repression, torture, and murder, "The Noli," as it is called in the Philippines, was the first major artistic manifestation of Asian resistance to European colonialism, and Rizal became a guiding conscience—and martyr—for the revolution that would subsequently rise up in the Spanish province. - Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal, Harold Augenbraum (Translator) Penguin Books
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The day after the humbling party, Ibarra goes to see María Clara, his love interest, a beautiful daughter of Captain Tiago and an affluent resident of Binondo, Manila. Their long-standing love is clearly manifested in this meeting, and María Clara cannot help but reread the letters her sweetheart had written her before he went to Europe. Before Ibarra left for San Diego, Lieutenant Guevara, a guardia civil, reveals to him the incidents preceding the death of his father, Don Rafael Ibarra, a rich hacendero of the town.
Noli me tangere (Touch me not), biblical source of Rizal's novel, one of the world's greatest novels is ranked with War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Le Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, among others. Noli me tangere, meaning "don't touch me" or "don't tread on me", is the Latin version of words spoken, according to John 20:17, by Jesus to Mary Magdalene when she recognized him after his resurrection.
According to the Lieutenant, Don Rafael was unjustly accused of being a heretic, in addition to being a filibuster—an allegation brought forth by Father Dámaso because of Don Rafael's non-participation in the Sacraments, such as Confession and Mass. Father Dámaso's animosity against Ibarra's father is aggravated by another incident when Don Rafael helped out on a fight between a tax collector and a student fighting, and the former's death was blamed on him, although it was not deliberate. Suddenly, all of those who thought ill of him surfaced with additional complaints. He was imprisoned, and just when the matter was almost settled, he got sick and died in jail. Still not content with what he had done, Father Dámaso arranged for Don Rafael's corpse to be dug up and transferred from the Catholic cemetery to the Chinese cemetery, because he thought it inappropriate to allow a heretic such as Don Rafael a Catholic burial ground. Unfortunately, it was raining and because of the bothersome weight of the cadaver, the men in charge of the burial decided to throw the corpse into the lake.
Revenge was not in Ibarra's plans; instead he carries through his father's plan of putting up a school, since he believes that education would pave the way to his country's progress (all over the novel the author refers to both Spain and the Philippines as two different countries which form part of a same nation or family, being Spain the mother and the Philippines the daughter). During the inauguration of the school, Ibarra would have been killed in a sabotage had Elías—a mysterious man who had warned Ibarra earlier of a plot to assassinate him—not saved him. Instead the hired killer met an unfortunate incident and died. The sequence of events proved to be too traumatic for María Clara who got seriously ill but was luckily cured by the medicine Ibarra sent her
With the help of the Captain-General, Ibarra's excommunication is nullified and the Archbishop decides to accept him as a member of the Church once again. But, as fate would have it, some incident of which Ibarra had known nothing about is blamed on him, and he is wrongly arrested and imprisoned. But the accusation against him is overruled because during the litigation that followed, nobody could testify that he was indeed involved. Unfortunately, his letter to María Clara somehow gets into the hands of the jury and is manipulated such that it then becomes evidence against him.
Meanwhile, in Captain Tiago's residence, a party is being held to announce the upcoming wedding of María Clara and Linares. Ibarra, with the help of Elías, takes this opportunity and escapes from prison. But before leaving, Ibarra talks to María Clara and accuses her of betraying him, thinking that she gave the letter he wrote her to the jury. María Clara explains to Ibarra that she will never conspire against him but that she was forced to surrender Ibarra's letter to her in exchange for the letters written by her mother even before she, María Clara, was born. The letters were from her mother, Pía Alba, to Father Dámaso alluding to their unborn child; and that she, María Clara, is therefore not the daughter of Captain Tiago, but of Father Dámaso.
Afterwards, Ibarra and Elías board a boat and flee the place. Elías instructs Ibarra to lie down and the former covers the latter with grass to conceal the latter's presence. As luck would have it, they are spotted by their enemies. Elías thinks he could outsmart them and jumps into the water. The guards rain shots on the person in the water, all the while not knowing that they are aiming at the wrong man.
María Clara, thinking that Ibarra has been killed in the shooting incident, is greatly overcome with grief. Robbed of hope and severely disillusioned, she asks Father Dámaso to confine her into a nunnery. Father Dámaso reluctantly agrees when María Clara threatens to take her own life. demanding, "the nunnery or death!" taken the shots. It is Christmas Eve when Ibarra wakes up in the forest, gravely wounded and barely alive. It is in this forest that Ibarra finds Basilio and his lifeless mother, Sisa.
References: Light from the Old Arch, AVRotor; and Wikipedia
Musical versions of Noli on stage and screen.