Noli Me Tángere (novel)

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Noli Me Tangere
Noli Me Tangere.jpg
The original front cover of the book manuscript
AuthorJosé Rizal
GenreNovel, fiction, satire, Philippine history
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Followed byEl filibusterismo 

Noli Me Tángere (Latin for "Touch me not", with an acute accent added on the final word in accordance with Spanish orthography) is an 1887 novel by José Rizal during the colonization of the Philippines by the Spanish Empire, to describe perceived inequities of the Spanish Catholic friars and the ruling government.

Originally written in Spanish, the book is more commonly published and read in the Philippines in either Tagalog or English. Together with its sequel, El filibusterismo (Grade 10), the reading of Noli is obligatory for high school students (Grade 9) throughout the country. The two novels are widely considered the national epic of the Philippines and are adapted in many forms, such as operas, musicals, plays, and other forms of art.

The title, which originates from the Biblical passage John 20:13-17, was in Rizal's time a name used by Filipinos 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 fatherland".[citation needed] Rizal's novel aims to probe the cancers of Filipino society.[1] Early English translations of the novel used different titles like An Eagle Flight (1900) and The Social Cancer (1912), but more recent English translations use the original title.


José Rizal, a Filipino nationalist and polymath, conceived the idea of writing a novel that would expose the backwardness and lack of progress of Philippine society. According to historian Carlos Quirino, the novel bears similarities in terms of characterization and plot to the Spanish novelist Benito Pérez Galdós' "Doña Perfecta".[2] Rizal preferred that the prospective novel express the way Filipino culture was perceived to be backward, anti-progress, anti-intellectual, and not conducive to the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment. He was then a student of medicine at 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 time, among whom were Pedro, Maximino Viola 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.


Crisóstomo Ibarra, the mestizo son of the recently deceased Don Rafael Ibarra, is returning to San Diego in Laguna after seven years of study in Europe. Kapitán Tiago, a family friend, bids him to spend his first night in Manila where Tiago hosts a reunion party at his riverside home on Anloague Street. Crisóstomo obliges. At dinner he encounters old friends, Manila high society, and Padre Dámaso, San Diego's old curate at the time Ibarra left for Europe. Dámaso treats Crisóstomo with hostility, surprising the young man who always viewed the friar to be a family friend.

Crisóstomo excuses himself early and is making his way back to his hotel when Lieutenant Guevarra, another friend of his father, catches up with him. As the two of them walk to Crisóstomo's stop, and away from the socialites at the party who may possibly compromise them if they heard, Guevarra reveals to the young man the events leading up to Rafael's death and Dámaso's role in it. Crisóstomo, who has been grieving from the time he learned of his father's death, decides to forgive and not seek revenge. Guevarra nevertheless warns the young man to be careful.

The following day, Crisóstomo returns to Kapitán Tiago's home in order to meet with his childhood sweetheart, Tiago's daughter María Clara. The two flirt and reminisce in the azotea, a porch overlooking the river. María reads back to Crisóstomo his farewell letter wherein he explained to her Rafael's wish for Crisóstomo to set out, to study in order to become a more useful citizen of the country. Seeing Crisóstomo agitated at the mention of his father, however, María playfully excuses herself, promising to see him again at her family's San Diego home during the town fiesta.

Crisóstomo goes to the town cemetery upon reaching San Diego to visit his father's grave. However, he learns from the groundskeeper that the town curate had ordered that Rafael's remains be exhumed and transferred to a Chinese cemetery. Although Crisóstomo is angered by the revelation, the groundskeeper adds that on the night he dug up the corpse, it rained hard and he feared for his own soul, causing him to take pity on Rafael and instead defy the curate's orders by throwing the body into the lake. At that moment, Padre Bernardo Salví, the new curate of San Diego, walks into the cemetery. Crisóstomo's anger explodes as he shoves him into the ground and demands an accounting; Salví fearfully tells Crisóstomo that the transfer was ordered by the previous curate, Padre Dámaso, causing the latter to leave in consternation.

Crisóstomo, committed to his patriotic endeavors, is determined not to seek revenge and to put the matter behind him. As the days progress he carries out his plan to serve his country as his father wanted. He intends to use his family wealth to build a school, believing that his paisanos would benefit from a more modern education than what is offered in the schools run by the government, whose curriculum was heavily tempered by the teachings of the friars.

Enjoying massive support, even from the Spanish authorities, Crisóstomo's preparations for his school advance quickly in only a few days. He receives counsel from Don Anastacio, a revered local philosopher, who refers him to a progressive schoolmaster who lamented the friars' influence on public education and wished to introduce reforms. The building was planned to begin construction with the cornerstone to be laid in a ceremony during San Diego's town fiesta.

One day, taking a break, Crisóstomo, María, and their friends get on a boat and go on a picnic along the shores of the Laguna de Baý, away from the town center. It is then discovered that a crocodile had been lurking on the fish pens owned by the Ibarras. Elías, the boat's pilot, jumps into the water with a bolo knife drawn. Sensing Elías is in danger, Crisóstomo jumps in as well, and they slaughter the animal together. Crisóstomo mildly scolds the pilot for his rashness, while Elías proclaims himself in Crisóstomo's debt.

On the day of the fiesta, Elías warns Crisóstomo of a plot to kill him at the cornerstone-laying. The ceremony involved the massive stone being lowered into a trench by a wooden derrick. Crisóstomo, being the principal sponsor of the project, is to lay the mortar using a trowel at the bottom of the trench. As he prepares to do so, however, the derrick fails and the stone falls into the trench, bringing the derrick down with it in a mighty crash. When the dust clears, a pale, dust-covered Crisóstomo stands stiffly by the trench, having narrowly missed the stone. In his place beneath the stone is the would-be assassin. Elías has disappeared.

The festivities continue at Crisóstomo's insistence. Later that day, he hosts a luncheon to which Padre Dámaso gatecrashes. Over the meal, the old friar berates Crisóstomo, his learning, his journeys, and the school project. The other guests hiss for discretion, but Dámaso ignores them and continues in an even louder voice, insulting the memory of Rafael in front of Crisóstomo. At the mention of his father, Crisóstomo strikes the friar unconscious and holds a dinner knife to his neck. In an impassioned speech, Crisóstomo narrates to the astonished guests everything he heard from Lieutenant Guevarra, who was an officer of the local police, about Dámaso's schemes that resulted in the death of Rafael. As Crisóstomo is about to stab Dámaso, however, María Clara stays his arm and pleads for mercy.

Crisóstomo is excommunicated from the church, but has it lifted through the intercession of the sympathetic governor general. However, upon his return to San Diego, María has turned sickly and refuses to see him. The new curate whom Crisóstomo roughly accosted at the cemetery, Padre Salví, is seen hovering around the house. Crisóstomo then meets the inoffensive Linares, a peninsular Spaniard who, unlike Crisóstomo, had been born in Spain. Tiago presents Linares as María's new suitor.

Sensing Crisóstomo's influence with the government, Elías takes Crisóstomo into confidence and one moonlit night, they secretly sail out into the lake. Elías tells him about a revolutionary group poised for an open and violent clash with the government. This group has reached out to Elías in a bid for him to join them in their imminent uprising. Elías tells Crisóstomo that he managed to delay the group's plans by offering to speak to Crisóstomo first, that Crisóstomo may use his influence to effect the reforms Elías and his group wish to see.

In their conversation, Elías narrates his family's history, how his grandfather in his youth worked as a bookkeeper in a Manila office but was accused of arson by the Spanish owner when the office burned down. He was prosecuted and upon release was shunned by the community as a dangerous lawbreaker. His wife turned to prostitution to support the family but were eventually driven into the hinterlands.

Crisóstomo sympathizes with Elías, but insists that he could do nothing, and that the only change he was capable of was through his schoolbuilding project. Rebuffed, Elías advises Crisóstomo to avoid any association with him in the future for his own safety.

Heartbroken and desperately needing to speak to María, Crisóstomo turns his focus more towards his school. One evening, though, Elías returns with more information – a rogue uprising was planned for that same night, and the instigators had used Crisóstomo's name in vain to recruit malcontents. The authorities know of the uprising and are prepared to spring a trap on the rebels.

In panic and ready to abandon his project, Crisóstomo enlists Elías in sorting out and destroying documents in his study that may implicate him. Elías obliges, but comes across a name familiar to him: Don Pedro Eibarramendia. Crisóstomo tells him that Pedro was his great-grandfather, and that they had to shorten his long family name. Elías tells him Eibarramendia was the same Spaniard who accused his grandfather of arson and was thus the author of the misfortunes of Elías and his family. Frenzied, he raises his bolo to smite Crisóstomo, but regains his senses and leaves the house very upset.

The uprising follows through, and many of the rebels are either captured or killed. They point to Crisóstomo as instructed and Crisóstomo is arrested. The following morning, the instigators are found dead. It is revealed that Padre Salví ordered the senior sexton to kill them in order to prevent the chance of them confessing that he actually took part in the plot to frame Crisóstomo. Elías, meanwhile, sneaks back into the Ibarra mansion during the night and sorts through documents and valuables, then burns down the house.

Some time later, Kapitán Tiago hosts a dinner at his riverside house in Manila to celebrate María Clara's engagement with Linares. Present at the party were Padre Dámaso, Padre Salví, Lieutenant Guevarra, and other family friends. They were discussing the events that happened in San Diego and Crisóstomo's fate.

Salví, who lusted after María Clara all along, says that he has requested to be transferred to the Convent of the Poor Clares in Manila under the pretense of recent events in San Diego being too great for him to bear. A despondent Guevarra outlines how the court came to condemn Crisóstomo. In a signed letter, he wrote to a certain woman before leaving for Europe, Crisóstomo spoke about his father, an alleged rebel who died in prison. Somehow this letter fell into the hands of an enemy, and Crisóstomo's handwriting was imitated to create the bogus orders used to recruit the malcontents to the San Diego uprising. Guevarra remarks that the penmanship on the orders was similar to Crisóstomo's penmanship seven years before, but not at the present day. And Crisóstomo only had to deny that the signature on the original letter was his, and the charge of sedition founded on those bogus letters would fail. But upon seeing the letter, which was the farewell letter he wrote to María Clara, Crisóstomo apparently lost the will to fight the charges and owned the letter as his.

Guevarra then approaches María, who had been listening to his explanation. Privately but sorrowfully, he congratulates her for her common sense in yielding Crisóstomo's farewell letter. Now, the old officer tells her, she can live a life of peace. María is devastated.

Later that evening Crisóstomo, having escaped from prison with the help of Elías, climbs up the azotea and confronts María in secret. María, distraught, does not deny giving up his farewell letter, but explains she did so only because Salví found Dámaso's old letters in the San Diego parsonage, letters from María's mother who was then pregnant with María. It turns out that Dámaso was María's biological father. Salví promised not to divulge Dámaso's letters to the public in exchange for Crisóstomo's farewell letter. Crisóstomo forgives her, María swears her undying love, and they part with a kiss.

Crisóstomo and Elías escape on Elías's boat. They slip unnoticed through the Estero de Binondo and into the Pasig River. Elías tells Crisóstomo that his treasures and documents are buried in the middle of a forested land owned by the Ibarras in San Diego. Wishing to make restitution, Crisóstomo offers Elías the chance to escape with him to a foreign country, where they will live as brothers. Elías declines, stating that his fate is with the country he wishes to see reformed and liberated.

Crisóstomo then tells him of his own desire for revenge and revolution, to lengths that even Elías was unwilling to go. Elías tries to reason with him, but sentries catch up with them at the mouth of the Pasig River and pursue them across Laguna de Bay. Elías orders Crisóstomo to lie down and to meet with him in a few days at the mausoleum of Crisóstomo's grandfather in San Diego, as he jumps into the water in an effort to distract the pursuers. Elías is shot several times.

The following day, news of the chase were in the newspapers. It is reported that Crisóstomo, the fugitive, had been killed by sentries in pursuit. At the news, María remorsefully demands of Dámaso that her wedding with Linares be called off and that she be entered into the cloister, or the grave.

Seeing her resolution, Dámaso admits that the true reason that he ruined the Ibarra family and her relationship with Crisóstomo was because he was a mere mestizo and Dámaso wanted María to be as happy as she could be, and that was possible only if she were to marry a full-blooded peninsular Spaniard. María would not hear of it and repeated her ultimatum, the cloister or the grave. Knowing fully why Salví had earlier requested to be assigned as chaplain in the Convent of the Poor Clares, Dámaso pleads with María to reconsider, but to no avail. Weeping, Dámaso consents, knowing the horrible fate that awaits his daughter within the convent but finding it more tolerable than her suicide.

A few nights later in the forest of the Ibarras, a boy pursues his mother through the darkness. The woman went insane with the constant beating of her husband and the loss of her other son, an altar boy, in the hands of Padre Salví. Basilio, the boy, catches up with Sisa, his mother, inside the Ibarra mausoleum in the middle of the forest, but the strain had already been too great for Sisa. She dies in Basilio's embrace.

Basilio weeps for his mother, but then looks up to see Elías staring at them. Elías was dying himself, having lost a lot of blood and having had no food or nourishment for several days as he made his way to the mausoleum. He instructs Basilio to burn their bodies and if no one comes, to dig inside the mausoleum. He will find treasure, which he is to use for his own education.

As Basilio leaves to fetch the wood, Elías sinks to the ground and says that he will die without seeing the dawn of freedom for his people and that those who see it must welcome it and not forget them that died in the darkness.

In the epilogue, Padre Dámaso is transferred to occupy a curacy in a remote town. Distraught, he is found dead a day later. Kapitán Tiago fell into depression and became addicted to opium and is forgotten by the town. Padre Salví, meanwhile, awaits his consecration as a bishop. He is also the head priest of the convent where María Clara resides. Nothing is heard of María Clara; however, on a September night, during a typhoon, two patrolmen reported seeing a specter (implied to be María Clara) on the roof of the Convent of the Poor Clares moaning and weeping in despair.

The next day, a representative of the authorities visited the convent to investigate the previous night's events and asked to inspect all the nuns. One of the nuns had a wet and torn gown and with tears told the representative of "tales of horror" and begged for "protection against the outrages of hypocrisy" (which gives the implication that Padre Salví regularly rapes her when he is present). The abbess, however, said that she was nothing more than a madwoman. The General also attempted to investigate the nun's case, but by then the abbess prohibited visits to the convent. Nothing more was said again about María Clara.

Publication history[edit]

Rizal finished the novel in February 1887. 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.[3]

The book was banned by Spanish authorities in the Philippines, although copies were smuggled into the country. The first Philippine edition (and the second published edition) was finally printed in 1899 in Manila by Chofre y Compania in Escolta.

Cover page of the first Philippine edition published in 1899.

Recent English editions[edit]

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."[4] 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.[4]

Reaction and legacy[edit]

This novel and its sequel, El filibusterismo (nicknamed El fili), were banned by Spanish authorities in the Philippines because of their allegations 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.

Influence on Filipino nationalism[edit]

Rizal depicted nationality by emphasizing 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 Filipino 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.[5]

The book indirectly influenced the Philippine Revolution of independence from the Spanish Empire, 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 (now Grade 9, due to the new K-12 curriculum) students, while its sequel El filibusterismo is being taught for fourth-year secondary school (now Grade 10) students. The novels are incorporated to their study and survey of Philippine literature.[6] Both of Rizal's novels were initially banned from 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.[7]

Major characters[edit]

Crisóstomo Ibarra[edit]

Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin, commonly referred to in 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.[8][9] Ibarra is also María Clara's fiancé.

María Clara[edit]

A crayon sketch of Leonor Rivera-Kipping by Rizal. Rivera, who was Rizal's longtime love interest, is the commonly accepted basis for the María Clara character.

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.[10] She was raised by Kapitán Tiago de los Santos, and his cousin, Isabel. In the later parts of the novel, she was revealed to be an illegitimate daughter of Father Dámaso, the former curate of the town, and Doña Pía Alba, Kapitán Tiago's wife, who had died giving birth to María Clara.[11]

At the novel's end, a heartbroken yet resolved María Clara entered the Real Monasterio de Santa Clara (a Poor Clare nunnery) after learning the truth of her parentage and mistakenly believing that her lover, Crisóstomo, had been killed. In the epilogue, Rizal stated that it is unknown whether María Clara is still living within the walls of the convent or is already dead.[12]

Kapitán Tiago[edit]

Don Santiago de los Santos, known by his nickname Tiago and political title Kapitán Tiago, is said to be the richest man in the region of Binondo and possessed real properties in Pampanga and Laguna de Baý. 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. Kapitán 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.[10]

Padre Dámaso[edit]

Dámaso Verdolagas, better known as 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.[13] An enemy of Crisóstomo's father, Don Rafael Ibarra, Dámaso is revealed to be María Clara's biological father.[11] Later, he and María Clara had bitter arguments on whether she would marry Alfonso Linares de Espadaña (which he preferred) or enter the nunnery (her desperate alternative).[14] At the end of the novel, he is again reassigned to a distant town and later found dead in his bed.[12]


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.[15]

The 50th chapter of the novel explores the past of Elías and history of his family. About sixty years before the events of Noli Me Tángere, Elías's grandfather, simply titled Ingkong, in his youth worked as a bookkeeper in a Manila office. One night the office burned down, and Don Pedro Eibarramendia, the Spaniard owner, accused him of arson. Ingkong was prosecuted and upon release was shunned by the community as a dangerous lawbreaker. His wife, called Impong, turned to prostitution to support themselves but eventually they were driven into the hinterlands. There Impong bore her first son, Balat.

Driven to depression, Ingkong hangs himself deep in the forest. Impong was sickly for lack of nourishment in the forest and was not strong enough to cut down his corpse and bury him, and Balat was then still very young. The stench led to their discovery, and Impong was accused of killing her husband. She and her son fled to another province where she bore another son. Balat grew up to be a bandit.

Eventually Balat's legend grew, but so did the efforts to capture him, and when he finally fell he was cut limb by limb and his head was deposited in front of Impong's house. Seeing the head of her son, Impong died of shock. Impong's younger son, knowing their deaths would somehow be imputed upon him, fled to the province of Tayabas where he met and fell in love with a rich young heiress.

They have an affair and the lady got pregnant. But before they could marry, his records were dug up. Then the father, who disapproved of him from the start, had him imprisoned. The lady gave birth to Elías and his twin sister but died while the two were still children. Nonetheless, the twins were well cared for, with Elías even going to Ateneo and his sister going to La Concordia, but as they wanted to become farmers they eventually returned to Tayabas.

He and his sister grew up not knowing about their father, being told that their father had long died. Elías grew up to be a young abusive brat who took particular joy in berating an elderly servant who, nevertheless, always submitted to his whims. His sister was more refined and eventually was betrothed to a fine young man. But before they could marry, Elías ran afoul with a distant relative. The relative struck back by telling him about his true parentage. The verbal scuffle mounted to the point where records were dug up, and Elías and his sister, as well as a good part of town, learned the truth. The elderly servant whom Elías frequently abused was their father.

The scandal caused the engagement of Elías' sister to break off. Depressed, the girl disappeared one day and was eventually found dead along the shore of the lake. Elías himself lost face before his relatives and wandered from province to province. Like his uncle Balat, he became a fugitive and his legend grew, but by degrees he became the gentler, more reserved, and more noble character first introduced in the novel.

Pilósopong Tasyo[edit]

Filósofo Tasio (Tagalog: Pilósopong Tasyo) was enrolled in a philosophy course and was a talented student, but his mother was a rich but superstitious matron. Like many Filipino Catholics under the sway of the friars, she believed that too much learning condemned souls to hell. She then made Tasyo choose between leaving college or becoming a priest. Since he was in love, he left college and married.[16]

Tasyo lost his wife and mother within a year. Seeking consolation and in order to free himself from the cockpit and the dangers of idleness, he took up his studies once more. But he became so addicted to his studies and the purchase of books that he entirely neglected his fortune and gradually ruined himself. Persons of culture called him Don Anastacio, or Pilósopong Tasyo, while the great crowd of the ignorant knew him as Tasio el Loco on account of his peculiar ideas and his eccentric manner of dealing with others.[16]

Seeking for reforms from the government, he expresses his ideals in paper written in a cryptographic alphabet similar from hieroglyphs and Coptic figures[17] hoping "that the future generations may be able to decipher it."[18]

Doña Victorina[edit]

Doña Victorina de los Reyes de de Espadaña, commonly known as Doña Victorina, is an ambitious Filipina who classifies herself as a Spaniard and mimics Spanish ladies by putting on heavy make-up.[13] The novel narrates Doña Victorina's younger days: she had many 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.[19] 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).[19] Apparently, she uses the whole name Doña Victorina de los Reyes de de Espadaña, with double de to emphasize her marriage surname.[19] 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:

  • Narcisa, or Sisa, is the deranged mother of Basilio and Crispín. Described as beautiful and young, she loves her children very much but cannot protect them from beatings by her husband, Pedro.
  • Crispín is Sisa's seven-year-old son. An altar boy, he was unjustly accused of stealing money from the church. After failing to force Crispín to return the money he allegedly stole, Father Salví and the head sacristan killed him. It is not directly stated that he was killed, but a dream of Basilio's suggests that Crispín died during his encounter with Padre Salví and his minion.
  • Basilio is Sisa's 10-year-old son. An acolyte tasked with ringing the church's bells for the Angelus, he faced the dread of losing his younger brother and the descent of his mother into insanity. At the end of the novel, a dying Elías requested Basilio to cremate him and Sisa in the woods in exchange for a chest of gold located nearby. He later played a major role in the sequel, El filibusterismo.

Due to their tragic but endearing story, these characters are often parodied in modern Filipino popular culture.

  • Salomé is Elías' sweetheart. She lived in a little house by the lake, and though Elías would like to marry her, he tells her that it would do her or their children no good to be related to a fugitive like himself. In the original publication of Noli Me Tángere, the chapter that explores the identity of Elías and Salomé was omitted, classifying her as a totally non-existent character. This chapter, entitled Elías y Salomé, was probably the 25th chapter of the novel. However, recent editions and translations of Noli include this chapter either on the appendix or as Chapter X (Ex).

Other characters[edit]

There are several secondary and minor characters in Noli Me Tángere. Names indicated in parentheses are the standard Filipinisation of Spanish names in the novel.

  • Padre Hernándo de la Sibyla – a Dominican friar. He is described as short and fair-skinned. He is instructed by an old priest in his order to watch Crisóstomo Ibarra.
  • Padre Bernardo Salví – the successor of Padre Dámaso as the Franciscan curate of San Diego who secretly lusts after María Clara. He is described to be very thin and sickly. It is also hinted that his surname, "Salví", is the shorter form of "salvación" ("salvation"), or that "Salví" is short for "salvaje" ("savage", "wild"), hinting at the fact that he is willing to kill an innocent child, Crispín, whom he accused of stealing money worth two onzas.
  • El Alférez (Alperes) – the unnamed chief of the local Guardia Civil and husband of Doña Consolación. He is the sworn enemy of the priests in the town's power struggle.
  • Doña Consolación – wife of the Alférez, nicknamed as la musa de los guardias civiles ("the muse of the Civil Guard") or la Alféreza. She was a former laundrywoman who passes herself as a peninsular, and is best remembered for her abusive treatment of Sisa.
  • Don Tiburcio de Espadaña – A Spanish quack doctor who is weak and submissive to his pretentious wife, Doña Victorina.
  • Teniente Guevarra – a close friend of Don Rafael Ibarra. He reveals to Crisóstomo how Don Rafael Ibarra's death came about.
  • Alfonso Linares – A distant nephew of Tiburcio de Espadaña who would later become the fiancé of María Clara. Although he presented himself as a practitioner of law, it was later revealed that he is, like Don Tiburcio, a fraud. He later died from medications Don Tiburcio had given him.
  • Tíya Isabel – Kapitán Tiago's cousin, who helped raise María Clara and served as a surrogate mother figure.
  • Governor-General (Gobernador-Heneral) – Unnamed in the novel, he is the most powerful colonial official in the Philippines. He harbors great disdain for the friars and corrupt officials, and sympathizes with Ibarra.
  • Don Filipo Lino – vice-mayor of the town of San Diego, leader of the liberals.
  • Padre Manuel Martín – he is the linguist curate of a nearby town who delivers the sermon during San Diego's fiesta.
  • Don Rafael Ibarra – the deceased father of Crisóstomo Ibarra. Though he was the richest man in San Diego, he was also the most virtuous and generous.
  • Doña Pía Alba – wife of Kapitán Tiago and mother of María Clara; she died giving birth to her daughter. Kapitán Tiago was officially the child's father, but in reality, Alba was raped by Padre Dámaso.
  • Don Pedro Eibarramendia – Crisóstomo Ibarra's Basque great-grandfather who falsely accused Elías's grandfather and ruined his family. The surname was later shortened to Ibarra; hence, Elías did not realize the relationship at first.
  • Albino – a seminarian who follows Crisóstomo Ibarra in a picnic with María Clara's friends.
  • Don Saturnino Eibarramendia – the father of Don Rafael and grandfather of Crisóstomo who is said to have founded the town of San Diego when it was still a vast forest.


Many English and Tagalog translations have been made of Noli Me Tángere, 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.



Other languages[edit]

  • Au Pays des Moines (In the Land of Monks) (1899, French) by Henri Lucas and Ramon Sempau. Available freely via Project Gutenberg.[29]
  • Noli me Tángere: Filippijnsche roman (Noli Me Tángere: Filipino Novel) (1912, Dutch) by Abraham Anthony Fokker, published by Soerabaijasch Handelsblad. Available freely via Project Gutenberg.[30]
  • Jangan Sentuh Aku (Noli me Tángere) (1975, Indonesian) Translation by Tjetje Jusuf. Published by PT. DUNIA PUSTAKA JAYA, Jakarta.
  • N'y touchez pas! (Don't touch it!) (1980, French) Translation by Jovita Ventura Castro, Collection UNESCO, Connaissance de l'Orient, Gallimard, Paris.
  • Noli me tángere (1987, German) by Annemarie del Cueto-Mörth. Published by Insel Verlag.
  • Noli me tángere (2003, Italian) by Vasco Caini. Published by Debatte editore, Livorno, Italy, ISBN 88-86705-26-3.


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

  • 1915: Noli Me Tángere, a silent film adaptation by Edward M. Gross.[31]
  • 1930: Noli Me Tángere, another silent film adaptation, directed by José Nepomuceno under Malayan Movies.[32]
  • 1951: National Artist for Cinema Gerardo de León directed a motion picture titled Sisa, starring Anita Linda in the role of the titular character.
  • 1957: Noli Me Tangere, an opera in Filipino (Tagalog) composed by National Artist for Music Felipe Padilla de Leon with libretto by National Artist for Visual Arts Guillermo Tolentino.
  • 1961: Noli Me Tángere, a faithful film adaptation of the novel, was directed by Gerardo de León for Bayanihan-Arriva Productions, featuring Eduardo del Mar in the role of Crisóstomo Ibarra. Released for the birth centenary of José Rizal, the motion picture was awarded the Best Picture in the 10th FAMAS Awards.
  • 1979: Kanser (Noli Me Tangere), play in Filipino (Tagalog) written by Jomar Fleras. World premiere in 1979 at Cultural Center of the Philippines by theater group Bulwagang Gantimpala.[33] It has been staged annually by Gantimpala Theater (the group's new name) since 1989.[34] In 2015, it was adapted into a sung-through musical by Gantimpala Theater with music composed by Joed Balsamo.[35]
  • 1993: Noli Me Tángere, a 13-episode miniseries by Eddie S. Romero which premiered on ABC on July 6.[36] This adaptation features Joel Torre in the role of Crisóstomo Ibarra, Chin Chin Gutierrez as María Clara, Tetchie Agbayani as Sisa, and Daniel Fernando as Elias.[37] It was released on VHS and Betamax in August 1995.[38]
  • 1995: Noli Me Tángere, a Filipino (Tagalog) musical adaptation of the novel staged by theater company Tanghalang Pilipino with libretto (book and lyrics) by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera and music by Ryan Cayabyab. It premiered in 1995 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, directed by Nonon Padilla. It went on to tour Japan. It starred John Arcilla and Audie Gemora alternating as Crisóstomo Ibarra, Monique Wilson as María Clara, and Regine Velasquez as Sisa. Bernardo Bernardo and Bodjie Pascua alternated as Padre Dámaso, and Nanette Inventor and Sheila Francisco as Dona Victorina. It was restaged in 2005, directed by Paul Morales, and in 2011, directed by Audie Gemora. In 2014, it was staged in Los Angeles, directed by Olga Natividad.[39]
  • Several excerpts from Noli Me Tángere were dramatized in the 1998 film José Rizal, with Joel Torre as Crisóstomo Ibarra and Monique Wilson as María Clara.
  • 1998: Sisa, a remake of the 1951 film of the same name. Written and directed by Mario O'Hara.[40]
  • 2005: Noli Me Tángere 2, a modern literary adaptation of the novel written by Roger Olivares.[41]
  • 2008–2009: Noli at Fili: Dekada 2000, a stage adaptation of Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo by the Philippine Educational Theater Association, set in the present day, in the fictional town of Maypajo in the province of San Lorenzo. Written by Nicanor G. Tiongson and directed by Soxie Topacio.[41][42]
  • The 2019 movie "Damaso", a musical film based on the novel.

In popular culture[edit]

  • A series of streets in the Sampaloc area of Manila are named after characters from the novel (Ibarra, Sisa and Basilio streets, to name a few).
  • A street in Makati city is named 'Ibarra Street,' located between Matanzas and Guernica streets.
  • A restaurant serving Filipino cuisine at Greenbelt in Makati is called Restaurante Pia y Dámaso,[43] after María Clara's biological parents.
  • A restaurant chain called Crisóstomo features dishes from Filipino history and culture such as "Atcharra ni Ibarra". Its sister restaurant is called Elías.
  • The character of Padre Damaso was used to describe Catholic priests, as Carlos Celdran did during a Mass.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jose, Ricardo (1998). KASAYSAYAN The Story of The Filipino People (Reform and Revolution). Philippines: Asia Publishing Company Limited. p. 83. ISBN 962-258-230-3.
  2. ^ Quirino, Carlos (1940). The Great Malayan: The Biography of Rizal. Philippine Education Company, 1958. p. 75. Retrieved 2021-04-11.
  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.
  5. ^ Sons of Fray Damaso by Gemma Cruz Araneta, Manila Bulletin, 10.06.2020,
  6. ^ Republic Act 1425: An Act to Include in the Curricula of All Public and Private Schools, Colleges and Universities Course on the Life, Works, and Writings of Jose Rizal, Particularly His Novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Authorizing the Printing and Distribution Thereof, and for Other Purposes.
  7. ^ Why Did the Catholic Church Staunchly Oppose the Rizal Law? by Mario Alvaro Limos, Esquire Magazine, 29.9.2020,
  8. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "II: Crisostomo Ibarra". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  9. ^ Sempau, R. (1902). "II: Crisóstomo Ibarra". Noli me Tangere: Novela Tagala. Barcelona, Spain: Casa Editorial Maucci. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "VI: Capitan Tiago". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  11. ^ a b Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "LXII: Padre Damaso Explains". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  12. ^ a b Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "Epilogue". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  13. ^ a b Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "I: A Social Gathering". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  14. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "LX: Maria Clara Weds". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  15. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XXII: Fishing". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  16. ^ a b Sempau, R. (1902). "XIV: Tasio el loco ó el filósofo". Noli me Tangere: Novela Tagala. Barcelona, Spain: Casa Editorial Maucci. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  17. ^ In Chapter 25, Filósofo Tasio insisted to Ibarra that he cannot understand hieroglyphs or Coptic. Instead, he writes using an invented form of alphabet that is based on the Tagalog language. Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XXV: In the House of the Sage". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  18. ^ Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XXV: In the House of the Sage". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  19. ^ a b c Derbyshire, Charles (1912). "XLVII: The Espadañas". The Social Cancer. New York: World Book Company. Retrieved 14 July 2010.
  20. ^ Friars and Filipinos. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  21. ^ The Social Cancer: A Complete English Version of Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal - Free Ebook. 2004-10-01. Retrieved 2016-12-02.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ 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. Indiana University Press. 1961. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  24. ^ Rizal, José; Lacson-Locsin, María Soledad (1997). Noli Me Tangere. ISBN 9780824819170. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  25. ^ Rizal, José (2006). Noli Me Tangere. ISBN 9780143039693. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  26. ^ "Noli Me Tángere: A Shortened Version in Modern English with an Introduction and Notes by Nicholas Tamblyn". Retrieved 5 December 2016.
  27. ^ "Noli Me Tangere/Huag Acong Salangin Nino Man: Pascual Poblete Filipino translation by Rizal, Jose". Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  28. ^ "Noli Me Tangere". Archived from the original on September 7, 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  29. ^ Au Pays des Moines. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  30. ^ Noli me Tangere: Filippijnsche roman. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
  31. ^ "Critic After Dark: Ambitious failures (part 2)". Noel Vera. Retrieved 2010-11-03.
  32. ^ Vail Kabristante, George (September 25, 2008). "Jose Nepomuceno: The Father of R.P. Movies". from Jingle Extra Hot Movie Entertainment Magazine, no. 13, May 4, 1981. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  33. ^ gibbs cadiz (August 22, 2012). "GIBBS CADIZ: Gantimpala Theater's Kanser (Noli Me Tangere) returns". Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  34. ^ "Words of Walter: Gantimpala Theater Foundation is looking for a new home". October 25, 2014. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  35. ^ "After 35 years, 'Kanser'–Gantimpala's 'Noli' adaptation–now a musical".
  36. ^ Manila Standard (June 13, 1993). "PETA-CCP 'Noli Me Tangere' premieres on Channel 5". Manila Standard. Kamahalan Publishing Corp. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  37. ^ Philippine Studies Newsletter, Volumes 18-25. University of Hawaii at Manoa. 1990. p. 18. Retrieved May 3, 2020.
  38. ^ "CCP's 'Noli Me Tangere' on video". Manila Standard. Kamahalan Publishing Corp. August 15, 1995. p. 23. Retrieved November 30, 2020.
  39. ^ "Noli me Tangere musical". Ang, Walter. "Cayabyab-Lumbera’s ‘Noli’ musical to debut in Los Angeles by Walter Ang. Retrieved 2014-08-17.
  40. ^ "Sisa (1999)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2009-11-13.
  41. ^ a b "At Last After 118 yrs.. A sequel to Jose Rizal's classic". Roger Olivares. Archived from the original on 2010-01-12. Retrieved 2009-11-13.
  42. ^ "Experience Theater. Experience PETA". Philippine Educational Theater Association. Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-12.
  43. ^ "Restaurante Pia Y Damaso". Facebook. Retrieved 2014-07-09.

External links[edit]