Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rizal's Masterpiece NOLI ME TANGERE (Latin "Touch me not.") - a Review

In commemoration of our national hero's 120th Death Anniversary, December 30, 2016
Noli turned out to produce a far reaching consequence. It stirred up the Filipino's sense of national identity which consequently led to the Philippine Revolution which culminated in independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

Dr Abe V Rotor
Professor, Rizal Course, UST, SPU-QC
Living with Nature - School on Blog (
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, [] 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

Students both in high school and college who are taking up the subject about Dr. Jose Rizal, national hero of the Philippines may find this outline as a handy reference. This may serve as a review material for those taking the forthcoming final examination on the subject which is divided into four series.

  • Review in brief
  • Synopsis of Noli Me Tangere
  • Characters in Noli
  • Living up with Rizal.
1. Rizal got the idea of writing a novel after reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel on the abuse of black slaves in America.

2. Similarly Noli was planned to expose the abuses committed by Spanish friars and authorities on the natives, the Indios, of the Philippines.

3. He proposed the idea to his Filipino friends in Madrid in 1884 that they collaborate in writing a novel on the Philippines, but it was to no avail.

4. Ultimately Rizal decided to write the entire book himself. He was 26.

5. Rizal began writing Noli in Madrid, continued on in Paris, and finished it in Berlin.

6. The book was finished in December 1886, but Rizal was penniless and despaired of ever publishing it.

7. The novel might never have seen print if it were not for Maximo Viola. Viola lent Rizal P300 for 2,000 copies. The book came off the press on 29 March 1887, ahead of schedule.

8. Noli me tangere means in Latin "Touch me not." (John 20:13-17). The newly-risen Christ says to Mary Magdalene: "Touch me not; I am not yet ascended to my Father, but go to my brethren, and say unto them I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."

9. French writer D. Blumenstihl noted that "Noli me tangere" is a medical term used by ophthalmologists for cancer of the eyelids. This presented the idea of the book's theme - "social cancer."

10. This is an excerpt from the book's dedication (The Social Cancer). "Recorded in the history of human sufferings is a cancer of so malignant a character that the least touch irritates it and awakens in it the sharpest pains. Thus, how many times, when in the midst of modern civilizations I have wished to call thee before me, now to accompany me in memories, now to compare thee with other countries, hath thy dear image presented itself showing a social cancer like to that other!"

11. The book advocated for direct representation to the Spanish government and larger role of the Philippines inside the Spaniard political affairs.

12. But Noli turned out to produce a far reaching consequence. It stirred up the Filipino's sense of national identity which consequently led to the Philippine Revolution which culminated in independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

13. The novel was written in Spanish, the language of the educated at a time when Filipinos were segregated by diverse native languages and regional cultures.

14. The Noli has since been adapted in many art forms. A 180-minute film of the same name was produced in 1961. Two movies followed: Rizal in Dapitan (Albert Martinez), and the multi-awarded Jose Rizal, played by Cesar Montano.

 Sisa and her children Basilio and Crispin,
UP Theatre

15. Noli the Musical spearheaded by Ryan Cayabyab et al became a hit on the stage, screen, and TV (series). There are various adaptations of Noli - a comic book and several simplified versions for students and children.

16. Noli was recently published internationally by Penguin Australia and US. It has been translated in major languages that the mere mention of Noli rings a familiar tune to millions of people around the world. Textbooks designed for students were made by various publishers, and the text itself is oftentimes condensed or shortened to facilitate learning among students.

17. Noli me Tangere and its sequel, El Filibusterismo, are studied by Third Year and Fourth Year secondary school students in the Philippines as part of the curriculum. Rizal's Life and Works is required as a 3-unit subject in various courses in tertiary education.

18. In Rizal's time Noli and Fili were banned because of their portrayal of corruption and abuse by the country's Spanish government and clergy. The church and many consevative people did not favor the the reading of Noli and Fili, until a law was passed making the teaching of Rizal compulsory.

19. Copies of the two books were smuggled in nevertheless, and when Rizal returned to the Philippines after completing medical studies, he was arrested and exiled to Dapitan.

20. A character which has become a classic in the Philippines is "Maria Clara" who has become a personification of the ideal Filipino woman, loving and unwavering in her loyalty to her spouse.

21. Another classic character is the priest "Father Dámaso" which reflects, other than their blatant abuse of power, the covert fathering of illegitimate children by members of the Spanish clergy.

22.The novel created so much controversy. Rizal wrote, "My book made a lot of noise;  everywhere, I am asked about it. They wanted to anathematize me ['to excommunicate me'] because of it ... I am considered a German spy, an agent of Bismarck, they say I am a Protestant, a free mason, a sorcerer, a damned soul and evil. It is whispered that I want to draw plans, that I have a foreign passport and that I wander through the streets by night ..."
Rizal is executed by a firing squad at Bagumbayan, now Luneta Park, a re-enactment.

23. The Church exerted pressure on the State over Rizal's fate. Rizal was convicted for "inciting rebellion" based largely on his writings. Rizal was executed in Manila on December 30, 1896 at the age of thirty-five.

24. Rizal depiction of nationality by emphasizing the qualities of Filipinos: devotion of a Filipina and her influence to a man's life, the deep sense of gratitude, and the solid common sense of the Filipinos under the Spanish regime.

25. The book was instrumental in creating a unified Filipino national identity and consciousness, as many Filipinos previously identified with their respective regions to the advantage of the Spanish authorities. It lampooned, caricatured and exposed various elements in the colonial society.~ Rizal death anniversary Dec 30 2016

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

Dr Abe V Rotor
Former Professor, Rizal Course, UST, SPU-QC
Living with Nature - School on Blog (
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM, [] 8-9 evening class Monday to Friday

Having completed his studies in Europe, young Juan Crisostomo Ibarra comes back to the Philippines after a 7-year absence. In his honor, Captain Tiago throws a get-together party, which is attended by friars and other prominent figures. In an unfortunate incident, former curate Father Dámaso belittles and slanders Ibarra. But Ibarra brushes off the insult and takes no offense; he instead politely excuses himself and leaves the party because of an allegedly important task.

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
After the inauguration, Ibarra hosts a luncheon during which Father Dámaso, uninvited and gate-crashing the luncheon, again insults him. Ibarra ignores the priest's insolence, but when the latter slanders the memory of his dead father, he is no longer able to restrain himself and lunges at Father Dámaso, prepared to stab the latter for his impudence. As a consequence, Dámaso excommunicates Ibarra. Father Dámaso takes this opportunity to persuade the already-hesitant father of María Clara to forbid his daughter from marrying Ibarra. The friar wishes María Clara to marry a Peninsular named Linares who just arrived from Spain.

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.

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