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The original front cover of the book
|Country||Philippines (first printing in Berlin)|
|Genre||Novel, satire, Philippine history|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Followed by||El filibusterismo|
The original front cover of the book
|Country||Philippines (first printing in Berlin)|
|Genre||Novel, satire, Philippine history|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Followed by||El filibusterismo|
Noli me tangere (Latin for Touch Me Not) is a novel written by José Rizal, considered as one of the national heroes of the Philippines, during the colonization of the country by Spain to expose the inequities of the Spanish Catholic priests and the ruling government.
Originally written in Spanish, the book is more commonly published and read in the Philippines in either Filipino or English. Together with its sequel, El filibusterismo, the reading of Noli is obligatory for high school students throughout the archipelago.
The title is Latin for "Touch me not", and is taken from John 20:17 in the Bible , where a newly-risen Jesus admonishes a bewildered Mary Magdalene: "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father."
Early English translations of the novel used titles like An Eagle Flight (1900) and The Social Cancer (1912), disregarding the symbolism of the title, but the more recent translations were published using the original Latin title. It has also been noted by the Austro-Hungarian writer Ferdinand Blumentritt that “Noli me tangere” was a name used by ophthalmologists for cancer of the eyelids; that as an ophthalmologist himself Rizal was influenced by this fact is suggested in the novel's dedication, “To My Country”.
José Rizal, a Filipino nationalist and medical doctor, conceived the idea of writing a novel that would expose the ills of Philippine society after reading Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. He preferred that the prospective novel express the way Filipino culture was backward, anti-progress, anti-intellectual, and not conducive to the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment. He was then a student of medicine in the Universidad Central de Madrid.
In a reunion of Filipinos at the house of his friend Pedro A. Paterno in Madrid on 2 January 1884, Rizal proposed the writing of a novel about the Philippines written by a group of Filipinos. His proposal was unanimously approved by the Filipinos present at the party, among whom were Pedro, Maximino and Antonio Paterno, Graciano López Jaena, Evaristo Aguirre, Eduardo de Lete, Julio Llorente and Valentin Ventura. However, this project did not materialize. The people who agreed to help Rizal with the novel did not write anything. Initially, the novel was planned to cover and describe all phases of Filipino life, but almost everybody wanted to write about women. Rizal even saw his companions spend more time gambling and flirting with Spanish women. Because of this, he pulled out of the plan of co-writing with others and decided to draft the novel alone.
Having completed his studies in Europe, young Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin came back to the Philippines after a seven-year absence. In his honor, Don Santiago de los Santos, also known as "Captain Tiago", a family friend, threw a welcome home party, attended by friars and other prominent figures. One of the guests, Fray Dámaso Vardolagas, the former curate of San Diego, belittled and slandered Ibarra.
The next day, Ibarra visits his betrothed María Clara, the beautiful daughter of Captain Tiago and affluent resident of Binondo. Their long-standing love was 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 in time for the town fiesta, Lieutenant Guevara, a Civil Guard, reveals to him the incidents preceding the death of his father, Don Rafael Ibarra, a rich hacendero of the town.
According to Guevara, Don Rafael was unjustly accused of being a heretic, in addition to being a subversive — an allegation brought forth by Dámaso because of Don Rafael's non-participation in the Sacraments, such as Confession and Mass. Fr. Dámaso's animosity towards Ibarra's father is aggravated by another incident when Don Rafael helped out in a fight between a tax collector and a child, with the former's death being blamed on him, although it was not deliberate. Suddenly, all those who thought ill of him surfaced with additional complaints. He was imprisoned, and just when the matter was almost settled, he died of sickness in jail. His remains, formerly interred at the local cemetery, were removed as per Fray Dámaso's orders a few years past.
Revenge was not in Ibarra's plans, instead he carried through his father's plan of putting up a school, since he believed education would pave the way to his country's progress (all throughout the novel, the author refers to both Spain and the Philippines as two different countries but part of the same nation or family, with Spain seen as the mother and the Philippines as 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.
After the inauguration, Ibarra hosted a luncheon which Fr. Dámaso gate-crashed. The friar again insulted Ibarra, who ignored the priest's insolence, but when the latter slandered the memory of his dead father, he was no longer able to restrain himself and lunged at Dámaso, prepared to stab him. Consequently, Dámaso excommunicated Ibarra for assaulting a cleric, taking this opportunity to persuade the already-hesitant Tiago to forbid his daughter from marrying Ibarra. The friar instead wanted María Clara to marry Alfonso Linares de Espadaña, a Peninsular who just arrived from Spain.
A revolt happened soon after, and both Spanish colonial officials and friars implicated Ibarra as its mastermind. Thus, he was arrested and detained, later disdained by those who had become his friends.
Meanwhile, in Capitán Tiago's residence, a party was being held to announce the upcoming wedding of María Clara and Linares. Ibarra, with the help of Elías, took this opportunity to escape from prison. Before leaving, Ibarra spoke to María Clara and accused her of betraying him, thinking she gave the letter he wrote her to the jury. María Clara explained that she would never conspire against him, but that she was forced to surrender Ibarra's letter to Father Salví, in exchange for the letters written by her mother, Doña Pia, even before she, María Clara, was born.
María Clara, thinking Ibarra had been killed in the shooting incident, was greatly overcome with grief. Robbed of hope and severely disillusioned, she asked Dámaso to confine her to a nunnery. Dámaso reluctantly agreed when she threatened to take her own life, demanding, "the nunnery or death!" Unbeknownst to her, Ibarra was still alive and able to escape, as it was Elías who had taken the shots.
It was Christmas Eve when Elías woke up, fatally wounded, in the forest where he had instructed Ibarra to meet him. Instead, Elías found the altar boy Basilio cradling his already-dead mother, Sisa. The woman had lost her mind after learning that Basilio and her other son, Crispín, were chased out of the convento by the sacristan mayor on suspicions of stealing two gold pieces.
Elías, convinced he would die soon, instructs Basilio to build a funeral pyre and cremate his and Sisa's corpses. He tells Basilio that, if nobody reaches the place, he was to return later and dig as he would find gold. Elías then tells the boy to take the gold and use it to get an education. In his dying breath, he instructed Basilio to continue dreaming about freedom for his motherland with the words:
|“||I shall die without seeing the dawn break upon my homeland. You, who shall see it, salute it! Do not forget those who have fallen during the night.||”|
Elías died thereafter.
In the epilogue, it was explained that Tiago became addicted to opium and was seen to frequent the opium house in Binondo. María Clara became a nun and Salví, who had lusted after her from the beginning of the novel, regularly used her to sate his carnal desires. One stormy evening, a beautiful yet insane woman was seen on the roof of the nunnery, crying and cursing the heavens for the fate it had handed her. While the woman was never identified by name, the novel insinuates that it was María Clara.
Rizal finished the novel in December 1886. At first, according to one of Rizal's biographers, Rizal feared the novel might not be printed, and that it would remain unread. He was struggling with financial constraints at the time and thought it would be hard to pursue printing the novel.
Financial aid came from a friend named Máximo Viola; this helped him print the book at Berliner Buchdruckerei-Aktiengesellschaft in Berlin. Rizal was initially hesitant, but Viola insisted and ended up lending Rizal ₱300 for 2,000 copies. The printing was finished earlier than the estimated five months. Viola arrived in Berlin in December 1886, and by March 21, 1887, Rizal had sent a copy of the novel to his friend, Blumentritt.
On August 21, 2007, a 480-page English-language version of Noli me tangere was released to major Australian book stores. An Australian edition of the novel was published by Penguin Classics (an imprint by Penguin Books) to represent the company's "commitment to publish the major literary classics of the world." American writer Harold Augenbraum, who first read Noli in 1992, translated the novel. A writer well-acquainted with translating other Hispanophone literary works, Augenbraum proposed to translate the novel after being asked for his next assignment in the publishing company. Intrigued by the novel and knowing more about it, Penguin nixed their plan of adapting existing English versions and instead translated it on their own.
This novel and its sequel, El filibusterismo (nicknamed El fili), were banned in Spanish Philippines because of their portrayal of corruption and abuse by the colonial government and the Catholic Church. Copies of the book were nevertheless smuggled in and hidden, and when Rizal returned to the Philippines after completing medical studies, he quickly ran afoul of the local government. A few days after his arrival, Rizal was summoned to Malacañan Palace by Governor-General Emilio Terrero, who told him of the charge that Noli me tangere contained subversive elements. After a discussion, Terrero was appeased but still unable to offer resistance to pressure from the Church against the book. The persecution can be discerned from Rizal's letter to Leitmeritz:
|“||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 freemason, 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 was exiled to Dapitan in Mindanao, then later arrested for "inciting rebellion" based largely on his writings. Rizal was executed by firing squad at the Luneta outside Manila's walls on December 30, 1896 at the age of thirty-five, at the park that now bears his name.
Rizal depicted nationality by emphasising the positive qualities of Filipinos: the devotion of a Filipina and her influence on a man's life, the deep sense of gratitude, and the solid common sense of the Filipinos under the Spanish regime.
The work was instrumental in creating a unified Filipino national identity and consciousness, as many natives previously identified with their respective regions. It lampooned, caricatured and exposed various elements in colonial society. Two characters in particular have become classics in Filipino culture: María Clara, who has become a personification of the ideal Filipina woman, loving and unwavering in her loyalty to her spouse; and the priest Father Dámaso, who reflects the covert fathering of illegitimate children by members of the Spanish clergy.
The book indirectly influenced the Philippine Revolution of independence from Spain, even though Rizal actually advocated direct representation to the Spanish government and an overall larger role for the Philippines within Spain's political affairs. In 1956, Congress passed Republic Act 1425, more popularly known as the Rizal Law, which requires all levels in Philippine schools to teach the novel as part of their curriculum. Noli me tangere is being taught to third year secondary school students, while its sequel El filibusterismo is being taught for fourth year secondary school students. The novels are incorporated to their study and survey of Philippine literature. Both of Rizal's novels were initially banned from strict Catholic educational institutions given its negative portrayal of the Church, but this taboo has been largely superseded as religious schools conformed to the Rizal Law.
Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin, commonly referred to the novel as Ibarra or Crisóstomo, is the novel's protagonist. The mestizo (mixed-race) son of Filipino businessman Don Rafael Ibarra, he studied in Europe for seven years. Ibarra is also María Clara's fiancé.
Several sources claim that Ibarra is also Rizal's reflection: both studied in Europe and both persons believe in the same ideas. Upon his return, Ibarra requested the local government of San Diego to construct a public school to promote education in the town.
María Clara de los Santos y Alba, commonly referred to as María Clara, is Ibarra's fiancée and the most beautiful and widely celebrated girl in San Diego. She was raised by Capitán Tiago de los Santos, San Diego's cabeza de barangay (town head), and his cousin, Isabel. In the later parts of the novel, she was revealed to be an illegitimate daughter of Father Dámaso, the comer curate of the town, and Doña Pía Alba, Capitán Tiago's wife, who had died giving birth to María Clara.
At the novel's end, a heartbroken yet resolved María Clara entered the Beaterio de Santa Clara (a nunnery) after learning the truth of her parentage and mistakenly believing her lover Crisóstomo to have been killed. In the epilogue, Rizal stated that it is unknown if María Clara is still living within the walls of the convent or she is already dead.
Don Santiago de los Santos, known by his nickname Tiago and political title Capitán Tiago is a Filipino businessman and the cabeza de barangay (barangay head) of the town of San Diego. He is also known as the father of María Clara.
In the novel, it is said that Kapitán Tiago is the richest man in the region of Binondo and he possessed real properties in Pampanga and Laguna de Bay. He is also said to be a good Catholic, a friend of the Spanish government and thus was considered a Spaniard by the colonial elite. Capitán Tiago never attended school, so he became the domestic helper of a Dominican friar who gave him an informal education. He later married Pía Alba from Santa Cruz.
Dámaso Verdolagas, or Padre Dámaso is a Franciscan friar and the former parish curate of San Diego. He is notorious for speaking with harsh words, highhandedness, and his cruelty during his ministry in the town. An enemy of Crisóstomo's father, Don Rafael Ibarra, Dámaso is revealed to be María Clara's biological father. Later, he and María Clara had bitter arguments whether she would marry Alfonso Linares de Espadaña (which he preferred) or to enter the nunnery (her desperate alternative). At the end of the novel, he is again reassigned to a distant town and later found dead in his bed.
Elías is Ibarra's mysterious friend and ally. Elías made his first appearance as a pilot during a picnic of Ibarra and María Clara and her friends. He wants to revolutionize the country and to be freed from Spanish oppression.
The 50th chapter of the novel explores the past of Elías and history of his family. In the past, Ibarra's great-grandfather condemned Elías' grandfather of burning a warehouse which led to misfortune for Elías' family. His father was refused the hand of his mother as her family had discovered his past and lineage. In the long run, Elías and his twin sister were raised by their maternal grandfather. When they were teenagers, their distant relatives called them hijos de bastardo (illegitimate children). One day, his sister disappeared which led him to search for her. His search led him into different places, and finally, he became a fugitive and subversive.
Filosofo Tacio, known by his Tagalized name Pilosopo Tasyo, is another major character in the story. Seeking for reforms from the government, he expresses his ideals in paper written in a cryptographic alphabet similar from hieroglyphs and Coptic figures hoping "that the future generations may be able to decipher it" and realized the abuse and oppression done by the conquerors.
His full name is only known as Don Anastasio. The educated inhabitants of San Diego labeled him as Filosofo Tacio (Tacio the Sage) while others called him as Tacio el Loco (Tacio the Insane) due to his exceptional talent for reasoning.
Doña Victorina de los Reyes de Espadaña, commonly known as Doña Victorina, is an ambitious Filipina who classifies herself as a Spanish and mimics Spanish ladies by putting on heavy make-up. The novel narrates Doña Victorina's younger days: she had lots of admirers, but she spurned them all because none of them were Spaniards. Later on, she met and married Don Tiburcio de Espadaña, an official of the customs bureau ten years her junior. However, their marriage is childless.
Her husband assumes the title of medical "doctor" even though he never attended medical school; using fake documents and certificates, Tiburcio illegally practices medicine. Tiburcio's usage of the title Dr. consequently makes Victorina assume the title Dra. (doctora, female doctor). Apparently, she uses the whole name Doña Victorina de los Reyes de de Espadaña, with double de to emphasize her marriage surname. She seems to feel that this awkward titling makes her more "sophisticated."
Sisa, Crispín, and Basilio represent a Filipino family persecuted by the Spanish authorities:
Due to their tragic but endearing story, these characters are often parodied in modern Filipino popular culture.
There are a number of secondary and minor characters in Noli me tangere. Items indicated inside the parenthesis are the standard Filipinization of the Spanish names in the novel.
These characters were as mentioned in the novel, appeared once, mentioned many times or have no major contribution to the storyline.
Many English and Tagalog translations have been made of Noli me tangere, as well as a few other languages. The copyrights of the original text have expired, and the copyrights of some translators have also expired, so certain translations are in the public domain and have been put online by Project Gutenberg.
The Noli has been adapted for literature, theater, television, and film.
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