Noli Me Tángere (novel)

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Noli Me Tángere
Noli Me Tangere.jpg
The original front cover of the book
AuthorJosé Rizal
CountryPhilippines (first printing in Berlin)
GenreNovel, satire, Philippine history
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Followed byEl Filibusterismo
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Noli Me Tángere
Noli Me Tangere.jpg
The original front cover of the book
AuthorJosé Rizal
CountryPhilippines (first printing in Berlin)
GenreNovel, satire, Philippine history
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Followed byEl Filibusterismo

Noli Me Tángere (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. The title, in Latin meaning Touch me not, refers to John 20:17 in the Bible (King James Version) as Mary Magdalene tried to touch the newly risen Jesus, He said "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father."[1] 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 French writer D. 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 his dedication, “To My Country”.

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.

References for the novel[edit]

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 7-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, former San Diego curate Fray Dámaso Vardolagas, belittled and slandered Ibarra.

The next day, Ibarra visits María Clara, his betrothed, 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 during which Fr. Dámaso, gate-crashing the luncheon, again insulted him. Ibarra 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 he lunged at Dámaso, prepared to stab him for his impudence. Consequently, Dámaso excommunicated Ibarra, taking this opportunity to persuade the already-hesitant Tiago to forbid his daughter from marrying Ibarra. The friar wanted María Clara to marry Linares, a Peninsular who just arrived from Spain.

With the help of the Governor-General, Ibarra's excommunication was nullified and the Archbishop decided to accept him as a member of the Church once again.

Soon, a revolt happened and the Spanish officials and friars implicated Ibarra as its mastermind. Thus, he was arrested and detained. As a result, he was disdained by those who became 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 Salvi, in exchange for the letters written by her mother 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!"[2] Unbeknownst to her, Ibarra was still alive and able to escape. It was Elías who had taken the shots.

It was Christmas Eve when Elías woke up in the forest fatally wounded. It is here where he instructed Ibarra to meet him. Instead, Elías found the altar boy Basilio cradling his already-dead mother, Sisa. The latter lost her mind when she learned that her two sons, Crispín and Basilio, were chased out of the convent by the sacristan mayor on suspicions of stealing sacred objects.

Elías, convinced he would die soon, instructs Basilio to build a funeral pyre and burn his and Sisa's bodies to ashes. He tells Basilio that, if nobody reaches the place, he was to return later and dig as he would find gold. Elías further tells Basilio to take the gold he finds and go to school. 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 to satiate his addiction. María Clara became a nun and Salví, who had lusted after her from the beginning of the novel, regularly used her to fulfill his lust. One stormy evening, a beautiful insane woman was seen at the top of the convent crying and cursing the heavens for the fate it had handed her. While the woman was never identified, it is insinuated that the said woman was María Clara.

Publication history[edit]

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. A financial aid came from a friend named Máximo Viola which helped him print his book at a fine print media in Berlin named Berliner Buchdruckerei-Aktiengesellschaft. Rizal at first, however, hesitated but Viola insisted and ended up lending Rizal PhP300 for 2,000 copies; Noli was eventually printed in Berlin, Germany. 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.[3]

On August 21, 2007, a 480-page then-latest English version of Noli Me Tángere was released to major Australian book stores. The Australian edition of the novel was published by Penguin Books Classics, to represent the publication's "commitment to publish the major literary classics of the world."[4] American writer Harold Augenbraum, who first read the 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.[4]

Reaction and legacy[edit]

This novel and its sequel, El filibusterismo (nicknamed El Fili), were banned in some parts of the Philippines because of their portrayal of corruption and abuse by the country's Spanish government and clergy. Copies of the book were smuggled in nevertheless, 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, Governor-General Emilio Terrero summoned Rizal to the Malacañan Palace and told him of the charge that Noli Me Tángere contained subversive statements. After a discussion, the Governor General was appeased but still unable to offer resistance against the pressure of 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, then later arrested for "inciting rebellion" based largely on his writings. Rizal was executed in Manila on December 30, 1896 at the age of thirty-five.

Rizal depicted nationality by emphasizing the 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: Maria 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 a revolution, even though the author actually advocated direct representation to the Spanish government and a larger role for the Philippines within Spain's political affairs. In 1956, the Congress of the Philippines passed the Republic Act 1425, more popularly known as the Rizal Law, which requires all levels of Philippine schools to teach the novel as part of their curriculum. Noli Me Tángere 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.[5]

Major characters[edit]

Crisóstomo Ibarra[edit]

Juan Crisóstomo Ibarramedia y Magsalin, commonly referred to the novel as Ibarra or Crisóstomo, is the protagonist in the story. Son of a Filipino businessman, Don Rafael Ibarra, he studied in Europe for seven years.[6] 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.[7]

María Clara[edit]

Main article: María Clara
A crayon sketch of Leonor Rivera–Kipping by Rizal.

María Clara de los Santos y Alba, commonly referred to as María Clara, is Ibarra's fiancée. She was raised by Capitán Tiago, San Diego's cabeza de barangay and is the most beautiful and widely celebrated girl in San Diego.[8] In the later parts of the novel, María Clara's identity was revealed as an illegitimate daughter of Father Dámaso, former parish curate of the town, and Doña Pía Alba, wife of Capitán Tiago.[9] In the end she entered local convent for nuns Beaterio de Santa Clara. In the epilogue dealing with the fate of the characters, Rizal stated that it is unknown if María Clara is still living within the walls of the convent or she is already dead.[10]

Kapitán Tiago[edit]

Don Santiago de los Santos, known by his nickname Tiago and political title Capitán Tiago is a Filipino businessman and the cabeza de barangay or head of barangay of the town of San Diego. He is also the known father of María Clara.[8]

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, friend of the Spanish government and was considered as a Spanish by colonialists. Capitán Tiago never attended school, so he became a domestic helper of a Dominican friar who taught him informal education. He married Pía Alba from Santa Cruz.[8]

Padre Dámaso[edit]

Main article: Father Dámaso

Dámaso Verdolagas, or Padre Dámaso is a Franciscan friar and the former parish curate of San Diego. He is best known as a notorious character who speaks with harsh words and has been a cruel priest during his stay in the town.[11] He is revealed to be the real father of María Clara and an enemy of Crisóstomo's father, Rafael Ibarra.[9] Later, he and María Clara had bitter arguments whether she would marry Alfonso Linares or go to a convent.[12] At the end of the novel, he is again reassigned to a distant town and is found dead one day.[10]


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.[13] He wants to revolutionize the country and to be freed from Spanish oppression.[14]

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 into misfortune for Elías' family. His father was refused to be married by her mother because his father's past and family lineage was discovered by his mother's family. 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 or 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.[15]

Pilosopo Tacio[edit]

Filosofo Tacio, known by his Tagalized language 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[16] hoping "that the future generations may be able to decipher it" and realized the abuse and oppression done by the conquerors.[17]

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[edit]

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.[11] The novel narrates Doña Victorina's younger days: she had lots of admirers, but she did not choose any of them because nobody was a Spaniard. Later on, she met and married Don Tiburcio de Espadaña, an official of the customs bureau who is about ten years her junior.[18] 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 practices illegal medicine. Tiburcio's usage of the title Dr. consequently makes Victorina assume the title Dra. (doctora, female doctor).[18] Apparently, she uses the whole name Doña Victorina de los Reyes de de Espadaña, with double de to emphasize her marriage surname.[18] She seems to feel that this awkward titling makes her more "sophisticated."

Sisa, Crispín, and Basilio[edit]

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.

Other characters[edit]

There are a number of secondary and minor characters in Noli Me Tángere. Items indicated inside the parenthesis are the standard Filipinization of the Spanish names in the novel.

Non-recurring characters[edit]

These characters were as mentioned in the novel, appeared once, mentioned many times or have no major contribution to the storyline.


Noli Me Tángere has been translated to some languages at the start of the 20th century.


The Noli has been adapted for literature, theater, television, and film.

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John 20 (King James Version)". Bible Gateway. Retrieved on 2012-10-02.
  2. ^ "Father Dámaso Explains". 2009-10-27. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 
  3. ^ "Noli Me Tángere". Jose Rizal University. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  4. ^ a b Ubalde, Mark J. (2007-08-22). "Rizal's Noli hits major Aussie book shelves". GMA News. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  6. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "II: Crisostomo Ibarra". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  7. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XIX: A Schoolmaster's Difficulties". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "VI: Capitan Tiago". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "LXII: Padre Damaso Explains". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "Epilogue". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "I: A Social Gathering". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  12. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "LX: Maria Clara Weds". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  13. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XXII: Fishing". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  14. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XXIV: In the Wood". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  15. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "L: Elias". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  16. ^ In Chapter 25, Filosofo Tacio insisted to Ibarra that he cannot understand hieroglyphs or Coptic. Instead, he writes using an invented form of alphabet that is based on Tagalog language. Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XXV: In the House of the Sage". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  17. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XXV: In the House of the Sage". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 15 July 2010. 
  18. ^ a b c Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XLVII: The Espadañas". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010. 
  19. ^ "Au Pays des Moines". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  20. ^ "Friars and Filipinos". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  21. ^ "Noli Me Tangere/Huag Acong Salangin Nino Man: Pascual Poblete Filipino translation by Rizal, Jose". Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  22. ^ "Noli Me Tangere/The Social Cancer: Charles Derbyshire English translation by Rizal, Jose". Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  23. ^ "Noli me Tangere: Filippijnsche roman". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  24. ^ "Noli me tangere : a complete English translation of Noli me tangere from the Spanish of Dr. Jose Rizal / by Camilo Osias". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  25. ^ "The lost Eden (Noli me tangere) A completely new translation for the contemporary reader by Leon Ma. Guerrero. Foreword by James A. Michener". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  26. ^ "Noli Me Tangere". Google Books. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  27. ^ "Noli Me Tangere". Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  28. ^ "Noli Me Tangere". Google Books. Retrieved 17 October 2010. 
  29. ^ "Critic After Dark: Ambitious failures (part 2)". Noel Vera. Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  30. ^ "PELIKULA, ATBP.: PRE-WAR FILIPINO MOVIES". Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  31. ^ "VIEWS FROM THE PAMPANG: *196. EDDIE DEL MAR, Kapampangan 'Rizal' of the Silver Screen". Retrieved 2010-11-03. 
  32. ^ "Noli me Tangere (1961)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  33. ^ "Sisa (1999)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  34. ^ "At Last After 118 yrs.. A sequel to Jose Rizal's classic". Roger Olivares. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  35. ^ "Experience Theater. Experience PETA.". Philippine Educational Theater Association. Retrieved 2011-02-12. [dead link]
  36. ^ "Restaurante Pia Y Damaso". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-07-09. 

External links[edit]