Tag Archives: Jose Rizal

El Filibusterismo

Comparisons with the Noli are impossible not to make. Paralleled with it, El Fili has been labeled dark, serious, gloomy—and rightly so. While both highlight the injustices of Spanish rule, the first book does so alongside a colorful portrayal of Philippine high society. The sequel, on the other hand, dwells more on the community’s dark underbelly. This marked change is of course most prominent in Ibarra, whose disillusionment climaxes in his transformation into the vengeful Simoun. Whereas before he considered the government as the necessary evil, in El Fili he saw revolution and bloodshed as indispensable to the cause: “…if I have done evil it was with the objective of doing good, and the end justifies the means.” But as Padre Florentino says in the last chapter, “The glory of saving a country is not for him who has contributed to cause its ruin.”

This conversation comprises only one of many similar ones in the novel (again Stevie’s copy). Characters wage a battle of ideas throughout. Most discussions I found unremarkable and dragging (though I don’t dispute their function)—except for Isagani’s debate with Padre Fernandez. In it the student argues his convictions against a superior even as the latter heaps blame on the Filipino character. In it the student tells his teacher, “What we are, you have made us.”

This conversation propelled Isagani to favorite character status in my books. But despite his ideals he ends up foiling Simoun’s revolution because of love, only to regret it afterwards. Incidentally Isagani closely resembles Barthes’ idea of the lover: suffering from an offense by Paulita, “everything that surrounded him appeared to be under the saddest and blackest colors…” but after one smile “…it seemed to him that all the clouds, all the dark thoughts which before had besieged him, dissipated like smoke, the sky filled with light, the air with song, and flowers covered the grass by the road.”

During conversation with Maki over beer last night, he conjectured that perhaps this Isagani complex answers for the Philippines’ constant struggle with nationhood: perhaps the Filipino character is too much of a lover (a poet) to birth someone like Simoun. If nothing else I found this is a most interesting reading. Of course it may also be seen as an expedient excuse, but—if it’s at least even partly true—I think it’s not such a bad reason after all.

‘Beer is a good thing, and I heard Padre Camorra say this morning that the lack of energy noted in this country is due to the inhabitants drinking so much water.’

Spanish will never be the common language in the country; the people will never speak it because for the ideas of its mind and the sentiments of its heart there are no words in that idiom.

Resignation is not always a virtue. It is a crime when it encourages tyrannies. There are no despots when there are no slaves.

‘When I have white hair like that…and my vision goes back to my past and I see that I have worked only for myself, without doing the good that I could or should for the country that has given me everything, for the citizens who have helped me live, then, Señor, each white hair would be a thorn and instead of glorying in them, I would feel shame.’

What was going on within Isagani’s soul was indescribable: wrath, jealousy, humiliation, resentment, raged inside him. There was a moment when he wished the theater would collapse; he had violent desires to laugh uproariously; to insult his beloved; to provoke his rival; to create a scandal; but he contented himself with sitting quietly and not looking at her at all.

‘The state is more corrupt when there are too many laws.’

Education is disastrous, absolutely disastrous for the Philippines.

In the Philippines it is a known fact that patrons are needed in everything, from the time one is baptized until one dies, to obtain justice, secure a passport or exploit whatever industry.

Why independence if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow?

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Noli me Tangere

It is difficult to speak about the Noli. Like many others I studied the Filipino version in high school, and a year ago I read the English one for history class. This marks my third reading of the quintessential Philippine novel, which admittedly I would not have undertaken if not for class (not for any shortcomings on its part, but simply because I believe that no book is worth reading thrice). Having read the Soledad Lacson-Locsin translation twice (borrowed from Stevie), I have to say that while it is not bad, I still prefer the Filipino version. The latter is incomparably better, perhaps because it is closer to both the author’s original Spanish and to the reader’s Filipino sensibilities. But setting translation issues aside, the text evinces Rizal’s fresh handling of form. He structures his narrative mostly through dialogue and behind-the-scenes movement, which leads to him opening several chapters in medias res. In terms of craft, it is also fascinating to note how he arms his novel with sharp satire and biting, half-concealed irony (to the point of wit) through his characters’ words.

The Noli presents a wealth of clear character images (reinforced by years of discussion in classrooms) that remarkably do not confuse despite their number. Admittedly some are presented too clearly at the risk of stereotypization; and yet as a reader I could not help but hope with them through their difficulties, even though I knew all too well their terrible, inevitable fates. This is especially true of Sisa and her sons, whose story never fails to incite pathos in me. Rizal succeeds in making readers identify with his characters, and we could not help but feel sympathy for those embroiled in such an oppressive system of religious politics and fear-driven complicity. This is exactly what constitutes the novel’s vision. Rizal’s works are about the individual rising against an institution without room for justice, as typified in the struggles of Ibarra and the schoolteacher, amongst others. But in the first book this vision shows mostly through the words of Elias and Tasyo only, since as of its end Ibarra remains a relatively weak character. From here the anticipation of transformation propels us toward the second volume, for as we all know, while the Noli is about shaping Ibarra, El Fili concerns what happens afterwards.

If you who read this have loved, you will understand; if not, it is useless for me to tell you; the profane cannot comprehend these mysteries.

To a query of love by a glance, brilliant or veiled, the word has no answer…

Man, the creation, is contingent and not necessary, and this God should not have created him, no, if to make one happy he must condemn hundreds to eternal damnation…

The people do not complain because they have no voice; do not move because they are lethargic, and you say that they do not suffer, because you have not seen their hearts bleed.

It is not courage, it is reckless temerity, to struggle alone against the existing order… To bend down when a bullet whistles by your side is not cowardice.

…in life it is not the criminals who arouse the hatred of others, but the men who are honest.

If God could not be just he could not be God.

To keep silent is to give assent to what happened.

We give more attention to an eventual evil than to a necessary good.

Do you, Sir, also believe in the necessary evil? Do you believe that in order to do good it is necessary to do evil?

Because they did us a great good, would we be guilty if we prevented them from doing evil?

Is it more humane to accompany a criminal to the gallows, than to accompany him along the difficult path which leads from vice to virtue?

Children and old women are the representatives of curiosity on earth; the former by their eagerness to learn; the latter by their zeal to remember.

Mamamatay akong di nakikita ang bukang-liwayway ng kalayaan sa aking bayan. Kayong mga makakakita, batiin n’yo siya at pagpugayan! Huwag n’yo lamang kalilimutan ang mga nabuwal sa dilim ng gabi!