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Chapter Summary and Analysis of El Filibusterismo


Academic year: 2021

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The Reign of Greed

(Chapter Summaries and Analysis)

Chapter 1: On Deck

The novel opens with the steamship Tabo heading up the Pasig river on its way to La Laguna one December morning. Take note of the possible parallelism between the ship and the government ruling in the Philippines during Rizal‘s time: full of hot air, tyrannical, pretentious. We meet Doña Victorina, the only lady in the European group on the upper deck (guess who have to stay below deck). She is depicted as a foul-mouthed, extravagant, heavily made-up, disdainful, and insufferable Indio who tries to pass herself off as a European through her wigs and clothes. She is accompanied by her niece, the beautiful and rich Paulita Gomez. Doña Victorina is the wife of Don Tiburcio de Espadaña, who left her after many years of marriage and who was now hiding (maybe) in Laguna.

Among the other characters introduced are: Don Custodio, an official counsellor; Ben Zayb, an exceedingly intelligent (in his own mind) writer whose pseudonym is an anagram of the surname Ybañez; Father Irene, the canon; and the jeweller Simoun who sports long, white hair and a sparse black beard and who wears a pair of huge blue-tinted sunglasses (in the 1800s? Hmmm.). Anyway, Simoun‘s great influence over His Excellency, the Capitan-General was known in Manila. Thus, people held him in high regard.

Discussing the issue of the lake and the slowness of ship travel were Ben Zayb, Padre Camorra, and Padre Salvi, a Franciscan. Simoun cuts in and offers a rather radical solution: dig a new river channel and close the Pasig even if it means destroying villages and committing people to forced and unpaid labor.

What follows is a debate between Simoun and Don Custodio on whether the indios were going to revolt or not. Padre Sibyla, a Dominican, was concerned that the people might rise up as before, but Simoun dismissed the possibility with a "what are you friars for if the people can rise

in revolt?"

After Simoun left the fuming group, Don Custodio offers his own solution: Get people to raise ducks. Since ducks feed on snails, the people will help deepen the river as they will remove or dig up the sandbars which contain the snails. Doña Victorina wasn‘t exactly fond of the idea since she considers balut (duck) eggs disgusting.

Chapter 2: Lower Deck

Below deck we find those belonging to the lower rungs of the social ladder. Unlike the airy upper deck, the conditions below deck are far from comfortable because of the heat from the boilers and the stifling stench of various nose crinkling scents. (The descriptions in the novel are much more vivid, so please read it.)


The reader‘s attention is focused on two characters: Basilio, a student of medicine and Isagani, a poet from the Ateneo. Conversing with them is the rich Capitan Basilio.

The main point of discussion is the establishment of an academy for the teaching of Spanish. While Capitan Basilio is convinced that such a school will never be set-up, Isagani expects to get the permit, courtesy of Father Irene. Father Sibyla is also against this, which is why Father Irene is on his way to Los Baños to see the Governor General.

To support the funding of the project, every student was asked to contribute fifteen centavos. Even the professors offered to help (half were Filipinos and half were Spaniards from Spain). The building itself will be one of the houses of the wealthy Makaraig.

(Note: Some people in Spain were in favor of teaching Spanish to the Filipinos. Compare them with Spaniards based in the Philippines who did not want the Filipinos to learn their language.) Isagani is in love with Paulita Gomez, but his uncle, Father Florentino is against it. Father Florentino would rather not go on deck because he might bump into Doña Victorina who might ask him about her husband, Don Tiburcio (who happens to be hiding in Father Florentino‘s house).

Coming from the upper deck, Simoun finds Basilio who then introduces Isagani to him. Isagani takes offense when Simoun talks about the poverty in Basilio‘s province. (Read their resulting argument about water and beer.)

After Simoun leaves, Basilio chastises Isagani for treating the jeweller that way. Basilio emphasizes Simoun‘s position in society be calling him the Brown Cardinal, or Black Eminence of the Governor-General. This is in reference to His Grey Eminence, a Capuchin adviser of Cardinal Richelieu, a once all-powerful Prime Minister of France.

They are interrupted when Isagani is informed by a servant that his uncle, Father Florentino needed him. Take note of the description of Fr. Florentino as well as the story of how he lost the woman he loved because he became a priest.

Additional background info: Father Florentino retired from his parish soon after the Cavite Mutiny of 1872 fearing that the revenues from his parish would attract attention. He was possibly worried by the fact that he was a Filipino priest and that in the Cavite Mutiny, three Filipino priests identified with the movement to turn the parishes over to the native clergy were charged and executed.

The legend-loving skipper of the vessel sees Fr. Florentino and asks him to go on deck lest the friars assume this Filipino priest did not want to mingle with them. Fr. Florentino then instructs Isagani not to go near the lounge because that would be tantamount to abusing the hospitality of the skipper who would surely invite Isagani.

Actually, Isagani felt it was his uncle‘s way of preventing him from speaking with Doña Victorina.

Chapter 3: Legends

Padre Florentino sees the guests laughing above deck. The friars are complaining about the increasing social awareness of the Filipinos and about the investigation on the finances of the church. Simoun arrives and is told how unfortunate he is to have missed seeing the places the


ship had passed. Simoun replies that places are worthless, unless there are legends associated with them. The Kapitan of the ship then relates the Legend of the Wide Rock, a place considered sacred by the natives of long ago; the abode of some spirits. During the time of bandits, the fear of spirits disappeared, and criminals inhabited the place.

The Kapitan also talks about the Legend of Doña Geronima. Padre Florentino is asked to give the details: Doña Geronima had a lover in Spain, who later became an archbishop in Manila. The woman goes to see him to ask that he fulfill his promise of marrying her. Instead, he sends the woman to live in a cave near the Pasig river.

Ben Zayb liked the legend. Doña Victorina grew envious because she also wanted to live in a cave. Simoun asks Padre Salvi if it wouldn‘t have been better if the woman were placed in a monastery such as Sta. Clara. Padre Salvi explained that he cannot judge the actions of an archbishop. To change the topic, he narrates the legend of St. Nicholas (San Nicolas) who rescued a Chinese from a crocodile. Legend has it that the crocodile turned to stone when the Chinese prayed to the saint.

When the group reached the lake, Ben Zayb asked the Kapitan where in the lake a certain Guevarra, Navarra or Ibarra was killed. (Refer to the Noli Me Tangere)

The Kapitan shows the spot, while Doña Victorina peers into the water, searching for any trace of the killing (thirteen years after the event occurred). Padre Sibyla adds that the father is now with the corpse of the son (in the Noli Me Tangere, the corpse of Ibarra‘s father–Don Rafael– was thrown in the lake). That‘s the cheapest burial, quips Ben Zayb. People laugh. Simoun pales and does not say anything. The Kapitan thinks Simoun is just seasick.

Some Notes

Here you will see the disappearance of the ancestral belief in spirits and superstitions, only to be replaced by modern (but even more bothersome) superstitions such as religion. Read the legends of both Doña Geronima and St. Nicholas.

Questions and Answers

1. Why did talk center on legends on the deck of the ship? This was deliberate on the part of

Simoun. He was familiar with the legends about the Pasig river and he hoped that one of the legends–that pertaining to Doña Geronima–will be mentioned. Simoun wanted to use that legend to ease his anger towards the holier-than-thou Padre Salvi, whom Simoun suspected of taking advantage of Maria Clara in the Sta. Clara Convent.

2. How is the Legend of Wide Rock (Malapad na Bato) similar to the history of the Philippines?

Before, Wide Rock was considered a home for spirits (good and evil), as well as a nest of superstitious beliefs. The Philippines was also like that before the Spaniards came. People believed in supernatural beings (i.e., kapre, tiyanak, tikbalang, aswang).

When Wide Rock became the hideout of thieves, people realized that there was no such thing as evil spirits because nothing bad happened to the criminals who lived at Wide Rock. Boatmen traveling on the Pasig river feared instead the bandits who would block and kill those who ventured near Wide Rock. The Philippines, through the introduction of Christianity, stopped believing in spirits and superstitions (really?). The Spaniards represent the bandits whom the people now fear, and in the story of Cabesang Tales you‘ll understand why.


Chapter 4: Kabesang Tales

Selo, who adopted Basilio in the forest, is now quite old. His son, Cabesang Tales, is the father of Lucia. Cabesang Tales, the head of the barangay, grew rich through hard work and perseverance. He started by partnering with an investor. After saving some money, Cabesang Tales inquired about a place in the forest and, after verifying that there were no owners, planted sugarcane there. He wanted to send Juli to college in order to match the educational attainment of Basilio, her sweetheart.

After Cabesang Tales‘ plot of land was developed, the friars wanted to grab it. The friars taxed Cabesang Tales and kept raising the tax rate until Cabesang Tales could not pay anymore. He brought the friars to court and asked them for proof of land ownership. No proof was presented, but the courts still ruled in favor of the friars.

When his son, Tano, was drafted into the army, Tales did not ―ransom‖ his son. Instead, he spent the money on lawyers in hopes that he would win the land case. Besides, if Tales did not win the case, then he felt that he won‘t need his son anyway.

Tales built a fence around his property and patrolled it (he was armed with a rifle). No one could get near because Tales was known for his skill in marksmanship — a formidable sharpshooter. When rifles were outlawed, Tales carried a bolo. When that was banned, he then carried an axe.

Since he only carried an axe, the armed bandits kidnapped him and demanded ransom. Juli sold all her jewelry to raise funds. All, that is, except for a locket given to her by Basilio. Not enough funds were raised, though, so Juli borrowed money from Hermana Penchang. To secure the debt, she agreed to work for the Hermana as a companion (aka: maid or slave). Her first day of work was to commence on Christmas Day.

No wonder Juli had bad dreams on Christmas eve.

(Selo must have had worse nightmares. Imagine, here was his granddaughter, the prettiest in the barrio, and now… forced to become a maid. Basilio, on the other hand, is about to meet a hapless cochero, or horse rig driver.)

Some Notes

* Maria Clara (in the Noli Me Tangere) became a nun after she was not allowed to marry Ibarra. She gave a locket to a leper who later gave it to Basilio after he treated the leper. Basilio, in turn, offered the locket to his sweetheart, Juli (Juliana).

Questions and Answers:

1. Why was it hard to be a cabeza de barangay in the past? He was in charge of collecting taxes. If someone in the barangay could not pay, the cabeza had to advance the tax.

2. Why did Cabesang Tales say that we are like the land and that we were unclothed when we were born? He meant that we should not fear death because death comes to everyone. We


3. What law upheld the friars in their bid to own the land of Cabesang Tales? Nothing but the

Law of Self-Preservation (of the court scribes who feared the frailocracy). Although the Spanish laws were good, it was the implementors who did the wrong things. Hence, some Filipinos did not want to work hard lest the fruits of their labors be easily taken away by others.

4. Why did Old Man Selo refuse to speak to his son, Cabesang Tales, for quite some time? He

was mad at Tales for allowing Tano (son of Tales) to be drafted into the Spanish guardia civil, instead of paying the fee which waived drafting.

5. Why did Cabesang Tales say that if he lost the court case, he will not have any need for his children? He felt that losing the case would mean he had nothing left to leave to his children.

That‘s why he had to do everything to win the case, in order to bequeath the land to his children.

6. To what did people liken the case of Cabesang Tales? They said it was like a pot of clay

banging against a pot of iron; or like an ant that bites the heel, knowing it will just be crushed.

7. Why was Cabesang Tales kidnapped by bandits just when he no longer had any more money? It was only at that time when Cabesang Tales no longer carried a shotgun or a bolo,

but was only armed with an axe (definitely no match against the guns of the bandits).

8. What did Juli do which the author, Jose Rizal, criticized? Rizal criticized Juli‘s reliance on

miracles. Juli placed the money she raised at the feet of the image of the Virgin Mary hoping it would double the following day. The friars had conditioned the Filipinos to just rely on miracles instead of on their own perseverance and effort.

Chapter 5: A Cochero's Christmas Eve

It was evening when the Christmas Eve (noche buena) procession commenced, when Basilio arrived in San Diego. He got delayed along the way because the cochero or rig driver (the guy who drives the karitela or horse-driven carriage) forgot his cedula (Residence Certificate). Why the delay? The Guardia Civil had to beat up the cochero first.

The image of Methusalem (Methuselah, world‘s oldest person) was paraded during the procession, followed by the three magi (wise men). The cochero asked Basilio if Bernardo Carpio was able to free his other leg from the mountains of San Mateo (nope, not in California). Following the procession were sad-faced kids holding torches. They were followed by San Jose, and then kids holding ―parol‖ or Christmas lanterns. And the end of the procession was the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The procession ended and the guardia civil noticed that there was no light in the cochero‘s carriage. The guards again beat up poor old Sinong.

Basilio decided to just walk. (Can you blame him?)

Among the houses Basilio passed, it seemed that only the house of Capitan Basilio appeared lively. Chickens were being slaughtered and Basilio espied the Capitan speaking with the parish priest, the alferes and with Simoun. Capitan Basilio agreed with Simoun that they will go to Tiani


to examine Simoun‘s jewelry. The alferez asked for a watch chain, while the parish priest asked for a — get this — pair of earrings!

Basilio found Simoun unbearable because Simoun was able to do business in the Philippines unlike other people.

Basilio is well-respected in the home of Capitan Tiago, especially by the elder household help who saw Basilio perform surgery with extreme calmness. The old man tried to give Basilio some fresh news — an old man who took care of the forest died of old age and the parish priest didn‘t want to give him burial as a poor man. Basilio was disheartened to learn that someone died because of old age; he wanted to perform autopsies on those who died of sickness.

(Sicko doctor. Made me lose my appetite…)

Then the old household help told Basilio about the kidnapping of Cabezang Tales. Basilio lost his appetite.

Some Notes

* Basilio is one of Capitan Tiago‘s trusted men.

* The assets and properties of Ibarra were taken by the government and the church and were sold to a few people. Capitan Tiago was the one who purchased the forest of Ibarra. It was that forest which was cared for by the man who died of old age.

Questions and Answers

1. Why did Sinong, the rig driver, say that there probably were no guardia civiles during the time of the saints? What a funny guy… Methusalem wouldn‘t have lived to such a ripe old age if

guardia civiles were constantly beating him up. In addition, Melchor (the dark-skinned magus) would not have been allowed to travel in between the two fair-skinned magi.

2. Why did the ignorant indios strongly believe in the legend of Bernardo Carpio? The Spaniards allowed this tale to spread. Bernardo Carpio is a mythical figure adopted from Mexican folklore (Bernardo Del Carpio?). He is chained between two mountains in San Mateo in Montalban, Rizal but is slowly freeing himself. He is said to have already freed his arms and his left leg, each struggle causing earthquakes. Indios believed that when Carpio finally frees his right leg, he will lead the Filipinos in a revolution against the Spaniards.

We do not know if this myth was started by the natives or by the parish priests. All we know is that the Spaniards allowed this tale to spread and even helped propagate it. They taught the indios that bearing sufferings and hardships is good and will lead them to heavenly salvation. Stories like this dampened the desire of Filipinos to find solutions to their oppressed situation. They preferred, instead, to just wait for Bernardo Carpio.

Chapter 6: Basilio

It is almost time for Christmas Eve midnight mass when Basilio secretly makes his way to the forest previously owned by the Ibarra family. He does not want anyone to see him.

Recall that thirteen years had passed since he buried his mother, Sisa, in that same forest. Thirteen years ago, he was hunted as a fugitive along with his brother Crispin (now dead). In the Noli Me Tangere, Padre Salvi was after these two sacristans. In the El Fili, Padre Salvi still wields considerable power.


No wonder Basilio needs to keep his past a secret.

In the forest is a stream, near which is a small hill, beyond which was a space enclosed by crumbling walls. In the center of this is a balete tree, and near it is a pile of stones–Sisa‘s unmarked grave.

Basilio painfully remembers that night thirteen years ago when Sisa did not recognize him (she was out of her mind at that time). She died in the forest and a stranger (Elias) came and ordered Basilio to build a funeral pyre. When Basilio came back with the wood, he saw yet another stranger (Ibarra); the first stranger had died.

This second stranger helped Basilio place the dead stranger on the pyre and also helped Basilio bury his mother, Sisa. He also gave Basilio some money.

Basilio remembers leaving the forest for Manila, where he served in Capitan Tiago‘s home. Instead of being paid a salary, his tuition was paid for instead. Capitan Tiago took him in because the old man was depressed — that was the day Maria Clara entered the nunnery. (It was common at that time for those wishing to study to serve as household help if they didn‘t have funds for tuition. Apolinario Mabini had to do this. What about you? Count yourself fortunate.)

Imagine Basilio, in his first year of Latin, wearing bakya (wooden clogs). Students avoided the poorly-attired Basilio. Even his teachers didn‘t ask him to participate in classroom discussions. Of course he felt terrible and alone, and often cried atop his mother‘s grave.

Yet somehow Basilio passed school, through sheer memory work. It‘s amazing how he managed to motivate himself in a class size of about 400 students, only 40 of which were called to recite. Those not called by the teacher felt relieved.

(Looks like things haven‘t changed in 400 years, right? Anyway, Rizal makes a dig at education here: all you needed to do was memorize stuff and you were sure to pass.)

In Basilio‘s third year, a Dominican teacher decided to make fun of him. Basilio, however, was able to answer sensibly and the embarrassed teacher never called on Basilio again. (Basilio understood Spanish and therefore could not be turned into a class stooge.)

One of the professors got into a fight with some cadets. Basilio, in defense of the professor, participated in the duel of canes and sabers.

He survived and went on to graduate with good grades and medals. Nope, it wasn‘t purely due to his fencing skills; he was also a diligent student. Capitan Tiago convinced Basilio to transfer to the Ateneo.

The different educational system amazed Basilio. (Whether Rizal, a product of Jesuit education, is just being biased here is debatable.)

Anyway, Basilio took up medicine. While Capitan Tiago first wanted him to take up law (so that Tiago can have legal services for free), he accepted Basilio‘s choice. Tiago was interested in getting the blood of some Chinese who died of venereal disease–perhaps medical students like


Basilio could get hold of it so that Tiago can smear the metal gaffs of his fighting cocks with poisoned blood.

(Strange. Why didn‘t he simply use rat poison?)

In Basilio‘s third year at medical school, he started to cure people. This provided him with funds for savings and for elegant clothes.

Basilio healed a leper who gave him a locket in payment. Recall that that locket was given by Maria Clara when she saw the leper begging in the streets. That locket will be given by Basilio to Juliana.

(During this time, people believed that leprosy is contagious and could not be cured. Perhaps Rizal believed otherwise.)

Enough of the flashback… So Basilio is in the forest. He is in his last year of studies and will be a physician in a couple of months. He plans to retire in his hometown and to marry his sweetheart Juliana.

We see here a reversal of fortunes: the boy who used to wander the streets, dirty, unkempt and disdained by society, is now about to become a respected physician.

In fact, he had been selected to deliver the valedictory address — a message, not about himself, but about the needy students of the future.

What a way to make his first mark in the world, right?

Chapter 7: Simoun

(This is one of the more powerful chapters of Jose Rizal‘s El Filibusterismo. Take note of conversation between Basilio and Simoun. You simply have got to read the book, folks.) Basilio is about to leave his mother‘s grave when he notices someone approaching the balete tree. Remember, it is deep in the night and Filipinos attribute supernatural things to balete trees which are believed to house evil spirits and other creatures of middle earth.

The newcomer turns out to be Simoun, the jeweler. He has a spade and begins digging for the treasure buried thirteen years ago. Basilio tries to figure out whether Simoun is Elias or Ibarra. Basilio never did go for the treasure all these years because the stranger (Elias) told him that he could get the treasure only if no one else came looking for it. On the night Elias died, Crisostomo Ibarra (refer to the Noli Me Tangere) went to the forest and helped Basilio bury Sisa and cremate Elias.

Without waiting to be discovered, Basilio announces his presence and acknowledges Simoun as the person who helped Basilio bury his mother, Sisa more than a decade ago. Simoun points a revolver at Basilio.

(Kids, never startle anyone working in the wee hours of the morning, near a silent and foreboding balete tree.)


Fortunately for Basilio, Simoun does not pull the trigger even if he realizes that Basilio‘s newfound knowledge jeopardizes the plans of Simoun. He figures that Basilio will not squeal on him because Basilio is still a fugitive while Simoun, the rich jeweler, is still in favor with the government and the frailocracy.

Besides, Simoun reasons that since they are both victims of injustice, they should help one another.

Simoun reminisces and waxes poetic about that ―great and noble soul‖ who wished to die for him. He was most likely referring to Elias. Simoun narrates how he worked hard to save money so that he could come back to the Philippines to hasten the destruction of the religio-political system by inciting greed and corruption, among others.

But before Simoun succeeds in corrupting the government and thus turn the Filipinos against the powers that be, he points out how frustrated he is with Basilio‘s call for Hispanization and parity rights.

I‘m particularly pierced by Simoun‘s:

What will you be in the future? A people without character, a nation without liberty. You are asking to be Hispanized and you do not blanch with shame when it is denied you!

(Hmmm… do we Filipinos lack a culture that is uniquely ours? Or are we a confused blend of Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, American and other cultures? Then again, I guess we still have truly Filipino qualities. Take language, for example. Does anyone know what ―pitik‖ is in English? Or what other culture points to far away objects by pursing their lips? Sheesh.)

Basilio has good intentions, though. He believes that knowing Spanish can unite the people not only with the Government, but with other peoples in other islands. Take note of Simoun‘s reaction:

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.

(Take note that Rizal‘s Spanish-speaking Filipino characters–Doña Victorina and Doña Consolacion–cannot speak Spanish well.)

Simoun allows Basilio to live hoping this message can be spread to other students pushing for Hispanization. What follows is a discussion between Science (or medicine) and Politics (or the aspiration to be an independent nation). Recall that Basilio studied to become a doctor and feels that he is powerless to do anything about the political situation.

Simoun fails to convince Basilio to change his mind so he instead tries to provoke Basilio by asking about Sisa and Crispin (the dead younger brother). Basilio explains there is no way he can obtain justice. Besides, even if Simoun were to provide support, revenge cannot bring back Basilio‘s mom and brother.


Before dawn, Simoun sends Basilio away but invites him to go to Simoun‘s house in Escolta in case Basilio changes his mind and decides to seek help in avenging his mom‘s and brother‘s deaths.

The chapter closes with Simoun asking the spirits of Don Rafael (his father) and Elias to have patience. Simoun explains that while his means differ from that of Elias, the results will come faster. There is some foreboding that Simoun will die in his attempt to help the Philippines gain independence — note that line about him personally bringing news of freedom to the spirits of his dad and friend.

(Elias was also for independence of the nation, but he did not support violent methods. Simoun is Machiavellian in the sense that he believes that the end justifies the means. Remember that Simoun uses his wealth to corrupt those in government and to tempt them to harm the Filipinos. Simoun hopes that this will anger the Filipinos enough to make them rise up in revolt against the Government. It is a tactic Elias would never have approved of.)

Soon, it will be Christmas. Symbolisms

1. The dark forest symbolizes the many secrets kept by Simoun from the public.

2. Basilio symbolizes the Filipino youth, whom Rizal (through Simoun) advises to be more nationalistic (i.e., love your own language, fight for your country‘s freedom)

Lessons Learned:

1. People who are so different will cling to their own beliefs. Simoun wants a bloody revolution, while Basilio prefers to search for knowledge because this will lead to the attainment of justice. 2. Knowledge is better than politics/nationalism. (Basilio)

3. The above point can be attained only in an environment where there is neither oppressor nor oppressed. To achieve such an environment, only has to change the present system even if it requires a bloody revolution. (Simoun)

4. One‘s painful past (Basilio‘s) can be set aside by some people. Others (Simoun), however, will never rest until they have their revenge.

5. If you cannot stop a corrupt government, then support it and help it spread its corrupt ways until the oppressed people rise up in revolt. (Simoun‘s strategy)

Chapter 8: Merry Christmas

The miracle that Juli expected did not happen — there was no money at the foot of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. All that remained there were Juli‘s prayers.

As a result, Juli resigned herself to serving as Hermana Penchang‘s maid.

Apparently, Juli‘s mindset shows how the friars controlled the Philippine population. The friars convinced the people that being a good Catholic means:

 religiously praying and putting complete and total faith on saints (or their icons)  learning to just accept and bear whatever hardships fate hands to them


Hmmm… there are many things that make me feel like a modern-day Juli. Blame it on readings about Zen (all life is suffering), those positive thinking gurus (everything that happens is really for the best), and other non-Catholic sources. I wonder, should Juli have done something else? Or do her actions pave the way for something better in the future?

Afterall, if Judas did not betray Christ, would He have been crucified? What do you think?

Remember, this was Christmas Day. Old Man Selo (Tandang Selo) didn‘t have any gifts to give to anyone. His granddaughter was going to become a maid and she didn‘t even greet him ―Merry Christmas‖ (probably out of respect since she knew Selo had nothing, not even a centavo).

It seems that during Rizal‘s time, people greet and expect you to hand them a Christmas gift. Today in the Philippines, there are still people who cheerfully greet you ―Merry Christmas, Ma‘am‖ and then pause, and then give you ―the expectant look.‖

Some Philippine government offices forbid their employees from greeting anyone ―Merry Christmas‖ lest it be misconstrued (or rightly construed! hehehe…) as a request for money. But getting back to the story, either Juli completely forgot to greet her grandpa, or (more likely) she was just being tactful, or she was preoccupied with the thought of becoming a maid. If you recall, Juli is considered among the prettiest women in the barrio — her delicate hands imply that she is not used to hard, manual labor.

Selo‘s woes don‘t end there. His son, Cabesang Tales, is still missing. With all these misfortunes, it‘s no wonder that Selo discovers he can no longer speak. Probably a mild stroke? Women passing by the house notice that Selo is mute. Of course the bad news quickly spreads through the chismis or gossip network.

What a Christmas, right? Rizal understands a key point of Philippine entertainment: Suffering sells. (In the next chapter, you‘ll meet a bunch of Pilates; no, not of the calibean type.)

Please read the actual chapter, ok? You might enjoy the fact the Rizal‘s other observations about Christmas in the Philippines still ring true today:

* Uncomfortable, jam-packed churches * Children kissing a long train of relatives

* Instant kiddie performances (sing this, dance, declaim) * Money meant for kids actually goes to the parents

…and if you nod and recall a few unflattering moments in your childhood Christmas past, remember that you‘ll become a parent someday. Hehehe. It‘s payback time. (Just kidding)

Chapter 9: Pilates

The town is abuzz with talk about the misfortunes of Selo and his family, and already a number of people are claiming they are not to blame.


(Just like Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the matter concerning Christ‘s crucifixion.) Now take note of the following key points…

[To recap: Cabesang Tales' land was being unjustly taken away, so he decided to patrol his property. Although he was armed, eventually his weapons were confiscated. Since he was no longer armed, some bandits kidnapped him. To raise money for ransom, Juli decided to become the maid of Hermana Penchang in exchange for a loan.]

Anyway, on to the Pilates of the chapter…

The alferez or lieutenant of the guardia civil said he was merely following orders when he confiscated the weapons of Cabesang Tales. It was not his fault if Tales was subsequently kidnapped.

The person grabbing Tales‘ land said that if Tales remained at home (and not patrolled the land), he would not have been kidnapped.

And what about Hermana Penchang, Juli‘s new master/mistress? She does not feel responsible either for Juli‘s circumstances. Instead, she blames Old Man Selo because he does not know how to pray (and neither did he teach Juli how to pray properly).

Hence, Hermana Penchang took it upon herself to teach Juli; she also asked Juli to read the book Tandang Basiong Macunat, a late 1800s Tagalog narrative about how Indios should trust only in the friars and shun learning (because it leads to sin).

It‘s funny to read how Hermana Penchang appears scandalized when Juli does not pause at the ―proper‖ words in the Hail Mary, or when Juli stresses the wrong syllable in some Latin prayers (i.e., Juli says menTIbus instead of MENtibus).

Anyway, Cabesang Tales does show up in his house. He discovers that his dad no longer speaks, that his land is being taken away, that he is being evicted from his home, and that Juli is now a lowly maid.


Can you blame him for just sitting down beside his dad and not saying anything the entire day? (The next chapter talks about wealth and misery.)

Chapter 10: Wealth and Misery

Simoun visits the house of Cabesang Tales (located between the towns of San Diego and Tiani). Tales is impoverished, but Simoun brings food and other necessities, along with cases of jewelry. (Simoun did this because he wanted to get to know Tales better.)

So, what did Simoun do next..?

Simoun shows off his revolver or pistol to Tales. Soon, the jewelry buyers arrive: Capitan Basilio (father of Sinang), Capitana Tika (mom of Sinang), Sinang (and her husband and child), and Hermana Penchang (who wants to buy a diamond ring for the Blessed Virgin at Antipolo). It‘s


some kind of status symbol for them ~ they can say that they bought jewelry from the adviser of the Capitan Heneral. Ah, the travails of ―branded‖ fashion…

Simoun opens the two pieces of luggage filled with jewelries of different types, shapes and histories.

Tales looks at the riches and feels that Simoun is using those to make Tales feel more miserable about his situation. To think all this was happening on the eve of Tales‘ eviction. All it would take was but one tiny diamond to ransom Juli from her employer and to sustain Tales‘ old father, Selo, till the end of his days. Tales feels insulted, to say the least.

(Folks, please read the description of the jewelry. Note also the “speech” Simoun made in not-so-good Tagalog. He must’ve looked really weird with his blue-tinted glasses and fiery speech about how a handful of his jewels can “drown in tears all the inhabitants of the Philippines!” Geez. Weirdo.)

Some of the jewelry mentioned: * Necklace of Cleopatra

* Rings found in the ruins of Carthage

* Some treasures brought back by Hannibal after the Battle of Cannae * Ring of Sulla

* Earrings found in the villa of Annius Mucius Papilinus in Pompeii

* Sapphire from Ceylon, emeralds from Peru, ruby, turquoises from Persia, diamonds (black, rosy, green)

* Ring of the Princess of Lamballe

* Pendants to a lady-in-waiting of Marie Antoinette * Oriental mother-of-pearl

* Others from the Golconda mines

None of the buyers were interested in the old, historical jewels, so Simoun brought out the modern ones. No appreciation for antiquity, it seems. How can you blame the buyers? There weren‘t even enough museums at that time.

(This is probably Rizal‘s way of showing the lack of ―culture‖ prevalent in Philippine society at that time. Hmmm… at that time? Heh.)

Simoun also wanted to buy something, so he asked Cabesang Tales if he had any jewelry for sale. Sinang reminds Tales about the locket given to Juli (recall that this locket was given by Maria Clara to a leper, who gave it to Basilio, who then gifted it to his sweetheart Juli… Whew!). Simoun immediately offered Five Hundred Pesos (afterall, that was the locket of his love, Maria Clara, who had since become a nun). He alternatively offered any other jewel.

Hermana Penchang reminds Tales that Juli chose to become a maid/slave over selling that locket, so Tales decides to consult first with Juli.

Tales goes out to meet his daughter, but along the way sees the friar and the new tenant of Tales‘ land. Those insensitive two laugh at Tales when they see him. Tales felt as if some guy took his wife to a private room and laughed at him before entering the room.


The following day, Tales is missing. And so is Simoun‘s revolver!

In the holster, Simoun finds a note from Tales (aka Telesforo Juan de Dios). Tales apologized for taking the revolver and explained he needed it because he was joining the bandits. Aside from the note, Tales also left–as payment–the locket Simoun wanted.

Simoun muses that he has finally found the man he‘s been looking for: a man of action, a man of integrity, a man who can keep his end of the bargain.

(When Tales swore that his land will be taken away over his dead body, his act of gun-stealing shows that Tales doesn‘t simply make threats; he keeps promises.)

Simoun orders his servants to proceed to Los Baños via the lake. He, on the other hand, decides to travel on land (along with his precious gems) because he hopes to meet the bandits so that he can invite them to his cause (revolution).

Simoun is delighted to discover that the guardia civil have arrested Old Man Selo. He realizes that this will anger Tales even more.

It turns out that Tales murdered three people the previous evening: the friar, the new tenant, and his wife. It was a gruesome murder: their mouths were filled with soil, the wife‘s neck was slashed, and the other two had been shot in the head.Beside the wife‘s corpse was a note with Tales‘ name finger-traced in blood.

The chapter ends with a sarcastic assurance to the citizens of Calamba that they will not be blamed for the crime committed by Tales. Rizal was hinting that these citizens were NOT the equivalent of Tales… for they had suffered more than Tales.

But these citizens are like Tales in the sense that they still have not obtained justice. There is also some reference to Mariano Herbosa, husband of Rizal‘s sister Lucia. Mariano‘s eldest daughter was Delfina Herbosa de Natividad (1879 to 1900) who, at the age of 7, helped sew the first Philippine flag!

(Mariano died from cholera, but was not buried in the town cemetery because he did not receive the Last Sacraments. Yeah, right. How convenient that Rizal‘s brod-in-law, because of some timing issue, had to be buried out of town [on the hillock Lichiria].)

Chapter 11: Los Baños

The Capitan Heneral tried to hunt in Bosoboso. The accompanying band probably scared off the prey. The local government officials wanted to suck up to the Capitan Heneral considered getting someone to dress up as a deer.

After the unsuccessful hunt, the Capitan Heneral returns to Los Baños. It was the 31st of December.


The Dominicans dominated the schools. They were in fierce competition with the Jesuits. Padre Sibyla is a rector at UST. The Dominicans are against the plans to build a school. The youth are relying on Padre Irene to support their plan.

Why wasn’t the Capitan Heneral able to shoot any deer or birds in the forest? He had a band that played loud music wherever he went.

What social ill did Rizal describe using the Capitan Heneral? Officials wanted to ingratiate

themselves to those in power. Take note of the musical band plus the plan to dress someone up as a deer for er…hunting purposes.

Why was Padre Camorra angry with the card game of the two priests and the Capitan Heneral?

He was not aware that the two priests were deliberately losing the game to make the Capitan Heneral happy, so that they may obtain the ruling they want regarding the school.

Why did Simoun order his servant to transport his gems/jewels via banca on the lake, while he carried the even more expensive treasures with him as he traveled on land? He planned to

meet the rebels, and intended to give some of his treasures to the leader of the bandits or tulisans, as proof that he trusts them. He was even willing to travel by himself.

What Philippine institution was Rizal making fun of, in hopes that he wounds or stirs the social conscience of the Filipinos? Sabong or cockfighting. The size of the arena, money spent on bets rather than on education or tuition, cages of cocks are sometimes nicer than the homes of the sabungeros.

What did Rizal refer to as “contradicting desires” in Chapter 11? Filipinos want to learn Spanish

(but this will enslave them even more)… while the Spaniards don‘t want to grant the wish of the Filipinos.

Why was Padre Fernandez, a Dominican, in favor of the youth’s plan to put up a school? He was unlike most Dominicans, and had met a number of bright students at the University.

Meanwhile, get ready to meet Placido Penitente…

Chapter 12: Placido Penitente

The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) during the Spanish period was in Intramuros, near the College of San Juan de Letran. During the American period, UST transferred to España in Manila. Practically all the schools then were in Intramuros — Letran and Ateneo.

Christmas Break was over, and the students were returning to their schools and dreading their Physics class.

So you might be wondering…

Why did Placido wish to stop his schooling? After four years of school, he was not known nor noticed by his teachers. He was disillusioned because he was bright and wished to learn. In his town, he was admired for his intellect.


Why did Pelaez hint that Padre Camorra has his way with women in Tiani? The friars

threatened the women, and told them that their brothers/parents would be jailed or banished if they did not yield to the desires of the friars.

Why would Juli eventually fall into the hands of Padre Camorra? Pelaez was well-aware of what

Padre Camorra was capable of doing.

What did Rizal say about the youth of that time? Most of them learn nothing because (a) They

didn‘t bring books, (b) The classes were too big (too many students), (c) Teachers held the students in low-esteem, and (d) There were too many ―No Class‖ days.

Chapter 13: Physics Class

What can we say about Padre Millon? Take note of the following characteristics…

 Finished Philosophy and Theology, dabbles in metaphysics (theory), teaches Chemistry and Physics.

 Haphazardly skims through books on Chemistry and Physics. He does not believe in the things he reads about science, and handles the course as if it were about Philosophy.

 He is contemptuous of both subject matter and students.

 He asks questions but does not like to be asked. He takes pleasure in the failings of his students, and gets peeved when they are able to answer correctly.

 He forces students to blindly memorize lessons which he does not even explain well.

 He curses at students.

 He probably reminds us of one or more teachers we‘ve encountered in the past. Looks like there really is such a thing as reincarnation, eh?

Why does Padre Millon use broken Spanish in class? That‘s his way of disrespecting his students whom he considers ignorant.

How can one tell that the students won‘t learn much just by looking at the Physics classroom? There are no pictures, equipment or lecture notes on the blackboard. The few equipment available are locked up, never to be handled. The only thing written on the board is ―VIVA‖(written on the first day of school and has not been erased nor written over since). Please note that it is now January. And finally, the teaching method is purely lecture, which is suited to a class in Philosophy, not Physics.

What can we say about the points Rizal raised regarding ―teaching‖? Rizal‘s principles of teaching still apply today:

 Class sizes should be small.

 Teachers should not humiliate students.

 A teacher should be technically competent about the subject matter being taught, and he/she should teach with love.

 Too many vacation breaks can ruin the momentum of a student, and can make them seek non-academic forms of recreation.

 No one should watch Cartoon Network, Myx, MTV, Darna or Pinoy Big Brother. (Just kidding!)

What can we say about Placido, based on his behavior in this chapter? He is like a typical

Filipino — a pacifist who prefers to suffer in silence. Will sacrifice and keep quiet just to avoid trouble, but when pushed too far, is capable of getting openly angry and taking action.


For now, let‘s move on over to the students‘ lodging house…

Chapter 14: A Student's Lodging House

The students want to learn Spanish in their first year of college so that they can easily learn their lessons. Isagani is the epitome of the idealistic and honorable Filipino youth. He would rather get the support of others (i.e., Señor Pasta) through legitimate means (i.e., face to face talk) rather than by appealing to their baser nature (i.e., by using women).

What can we say, on the other hand, about Pelaez?

Pelaez is opportunistic, Machiavellian, and easily switches sides when the going gets rough. He voices his support for his fellow students, but when threatened with the possibility of being called a subversive, he wavers.

Macaraig is rich and nationalistic. He allows students to live in his lodging house for free. Pecson is ever the skeptical pessimist. He always thinks things through.

Sandoval is a Spaniard who supports the Filipinos. This is Rizal‘s way of showing that in an academic setting, political and racial barriers can come crashing down.

In this chapter, Rizal gives us a glimpse of life in a school dormitory. Clearly, things have not really changed in more than a hundred years. Afterall, students will be students. Oh, there are a few differences…

Rizal did not mention anything about dormers bringing their Significant Others into their rooms. He also did not show professors and students living in the same lodging house. Then again, that was probably the culture at that time.

One of the students is about to have a debate with Señor Pasta…

Chapter 15: Señor Pasta

Señor Pasta is a lawyer who also works as a consultant for the friars. He thinks only of himself, and is willing to be nationalistic only after everyone else becomes patriotic first.

Now let‘s tackle this lawyers views and opinion…

He calls the Philippines a ―Land of Proposals‖ because all you have are plans and no action. Does that sound familiar to you? :-)

Since he earns money from the friars, he hesitates to accede to the students‘ wish that he help advise and convince Don Custodio to support the Spanish school.

He advises Isagani to just study well, earn a decent living, get married, and avoid getting into trouble. You know, lead a ―safe‖ life. Since Isagani is quite idealistic, he prefers to live a life worth living. I wonder if Isagani will change if ever Rizal wrote a sequel to the El Fili.


Anyway, please read the ―debate‖ between Señor Pasta and Isagani. Classic example of idealism versus becoming practical.

I wonder when Isagani will come to grips with reality…

Chaper 16: Travails of a Chinaman

The main theme of this chapter is use and be used.

(Reminds me what my barkada said when she saw this person who only approached her for favors: ―Use your friend in a sentence.‖)

Now let‘s meet one of the key characters of the El Fili…

In this chapter, we meet Quiroga, a Chinese businessman who wants to open a Chinese consulate in the Philippines and head it as consul.

Although he knows a number of people despise him and talk behind his back, he still invites them to a dinner party above his bazaar in Escolta. Unlike Kapitan Tiago (dinner, Noli Me Tangere), Quiroga smiles at his guests while secretly despising them deep inside.

Hmmm… I wonder why Rizal depicts the Chinese this way? He even mentions that Quiroga keeps his indio of a wife locked in a room much like Chinese women. You can probably guess what‘s the main point of keeping a wife, right?

Among those who hate Quiroga‘s guts are the columnist G. Gonzales (alias PITILI) who‘s mad at the incoming Chinese; a thin, brown-skinned guest who did not receive money from Quiroga; and someone who was against Quiroga‘s jueteng operations… because he was losing in the jueteng game.

So why do these adversaries get together for dinner? Like I said earlier: Use and be used. Dinner ends, and Simoun arrives.

Businessmen complain about the poor economic environment and hint that Simoun should ask the Kapitan Heneral to do something about it.

Don Timoteo Pelaez complains about corruption in customs (adwana).

Quiroga wanted to get into the good graces of a woman because she had a government official wrapped around her finger. So he offers her three pieces of jewelry to choose from. Unfortunately, she chooses ALL three. So now, Quiroga owes the jeweller Simoun P9,000 which was a princely sum back then.

(I wonder if Rizal rode some time machine and viewed the Philippines of today…)

Why do you suppose Simoun ―lent‖ those three pieces of jewelry to Quiroga? Yep, use and be used. Now Quiroga owes Simoun.

Instead of asking for the entire sum, Simoun just asks for P7,000. He also asks Quiroga to send money-borrowing soldiers and government officials to him. He further instructs Quiroga to send those owing Quiroga money to Simoun instead.


And lastly, Simoun asks Quiroga to store some rifles in Quiroga‘s warehouse.

All that for a 22.2% discount off the P9,000 price tag. Otherwise, Quiroga will have to pay Simoun the entire amount right away. To sweeten the deal, Simoun promises that Quiroga will be allowed to bring in contraband items through customs.

How can Quiroga refuse, right? Yep, use and be used.

Don Custodio talks about a commission sent to India to study the Shoe Program for soldiers. No shoes for indio soldiers. Spanish soldiers may wear shoes.

(I wonder if Rizal, like Simoun, was trying to stoke the feelings of his countrymen with this.) Ben Zayb and P. Camorra talk about magnetism and magic. Juanito Pelaez speaks about the talking head in the fair/carnival of Mr. Leeds.

Simoun suggests that they all see the talking head of the famous Sphinx to settle once and for all if it truly is the work of the devil, or just a trick with mirrors.

Twelve people leave the house of Quiroga to see the show of Mr. Leeds in the Quiapo fair. (Simoun is such a master manipulator. He really knows how to set people up. Maybe he should‘ve been a Reality TV Host?)

Chapter 17: The Quiapo Fair

It is the month of January, and twelve people leave the house of Quiroga. They make their way through the Quiapo fair, towards the tent of Mr. Leeds.

The chapter describes the lewd behavior of Padre Camorra, who ogles the young lasses. He gets more excited when he sees the beautiful Paulita Gomez, escorted by the overly jealous Isagani and Doña Victorina.

But there‘s more…

The slightly tipsy group visits various stalls in the fair, and they make fun of each other by saying that such-and-such sculpture looks like so-and-so.

Padre Camorra and Ben Zayb talk about a display called ―The Philippine Press‖, but they think the word ―press‖ refers to the flat iron held by a disheveled old woman.

They see a picture of someone who looks like Simoun, and that‘s when they notice that he is no longer with the group.

What facet of the Philippines did Rizal feature in this chapter? Rizal focused on sculptors of figurines or images.

What does ―La Prenza Filipina‖ (‖The Philippine Press‖) represent? It represents the state of journalism in the Philippines:

* Old / Old-fashioned

* Blind in one eye / lack of truth in reporting * Dirty


Even the journalist Ben Zayb did not understand that it was actually an attack on Philippine journalists.

Please take note of the image called ―Abaca Country‖: The Filipinos in the Philippines, a land of abaca, are tied by foreigners using abaca, a natural resource of the country.

Who do you think made that image? Was it an artist in the Quiapo fair, or was it something Rizal created in his own mind, and expressed as a political statement ―hidden‖ in the novel?

Anyway, Simoun is missing because he‘s preparing for the next chapter, when the group gets drawn into the mysterious tent of Mr. Leeds.

Chapter 18: Deceptions

Mr. Leeds meets the group of twelve, and allows them to inspect the tent and equipment used to display the Sphinx. He makes fun of the skeptical Ben Zayb, because Ben Zayb was unable to find the hidden mirrors. Mr. Leeds brings the ashes to life by shouting ―Deremof!‖, which is probably an anagram of the word…


(Rizal is so Pinoy if he indeed made use of this form of wordplay.) Imuthis, the Sphinx, comes to life and narrates his lifestory. His life is similar to that of Ibarra:  Both studied abroad.

 Both got into trouble with the religious orders.

 Both had a foe who was a priest, who was in love with their girlfriend.  Both had a girlfriend who was the daughter of a priest.

 Both ―died‖ in a lake.

 Both their girlfriends were raped in a temple/convent by their enemy priest.  Both returned to their country to seek revenge/justice.

 Both returned under a different identity: Imuthis became ―The Sphinx‖ while Ibarra became ―Simoun‖.

Padre Salvi quickly saw the parallelism. He felt alluded to when the sphinx called him a murderer. Perhaps it was Simoun‘s voice?

What does Cambyses in the story of the Sphinx symbolize? It represents their failed government. To cover this fact up, both governments went after them. How was the Sphinx set-up? Simoun is a good friend of Mr. Leeds. In the previous chapter, you‘ll note that Simoun was nowhere to be found in the Quiapo fair. He probably slipped away early enough to set-up the tent, so that he can give Padre Salvi the scare of his life. Imagine, an old enemy of 13 years ago has come to life.

How was the image of the Sphinx produced? The mirrors were hidden in the legs of the table which supported the Sphinx. Perhaps Rizal was already thinking of holograms way back then? Where did Mr. Leeds go after the show? He went straight to Hong Kong, just in case Padre Salvi decided to do something to Mr. Leeds.


Something tells me things are going to heat up around here…

Chapter 19: The Fuse

If the revolution is the bomb, then the fuse that will get things started is the rescue of Maria Clara. Here you will see that Simoun‘s primary objective is revenge and the rescue of Maria Clara. The country and the revolution are only secondary interests of Simoun.

This chapter also features the student Placido Penitente. He is the son of Cabesang Andang, an ignorant mother who sent her son to school just so that she can proudly tell others that she has a schooled son.

Now on to the chapter questions…

Why did Placido lose the chance to ever study again? There was only one university at that time: the University of Santo Tomas. Since he got sent away from UST, where else will he go? Why was the former professor exiled? He wanted to teach well, and thus became the target of the church and government which wanted to keep the indios ignorant.

Why did the arthritic Spaniard join forces with Simoun? He wanted to seek revenge on the frailes who sent him to jail so that they could have his beautiful wife.

Why was the revolution timetable advanced? Simoun found out that Maria Clara was dying. All the preparation and planning went down the drain because Simoun became emotional. How emotional? Here‘s a clue: Simoun likened Maria Clara to the phoenix.

The phoenix is one of a kind, just as Maria Clara is the only woman for Simoun. Told you he was getting emotional. No wonder the revolution went to heck.

Why did Simoun imagine seeing the angry faces of Don Rafael and Elias? Those two were not in favor of Simoun‘s methods. Don Rafael always went for doing what‘s good for the country; Simoun purposely helped corrupt the very government he was trying to overthrow.

Elias was for revolution, but only if the motivation behind it involved nationalism and justice; Simoun‘s motivation was revenge, dark and syrupy.

Also, Simoun was feverish. He was probably hallucinating.

What accounts for Placido‘s sudden change of heart, after his mom spoke with him the following day? He was aware of the coming revolution, and he wanted to quickly send his mother back to the province. That‘s why he acted as if he readily agreed with what she said; otherwise, there‘ll just be a long discussion and that will keep his mom in the city longer.

Now let‘s go meet Don Custodio…


This chapter describes the enigma that is Don Custodio. Imagine, the highly intellectual Don Custodio decided to get advice from G. Pasta (who just confused him with convoluted and contradicting words) and from the Pepay (who just shook her booty and asked for money). I mean, why did he even bother asking those two, right?

Now on to the other notes plus a handy mindmap of this chapter…

Don Custodio was nicknamed ―Buena Tinta‖ by Ben Zayb, because Don Custodio was believed to be an expert when it comes to writing papers. Actually, that was just his reputation, because in reality Don Custodio is not really that competent.

So, how‘d he get such a glowing reputation?

1. He‘s a Spaniard who‘s close to the powers that be. 2. He was able to impress Ben Zayb, the weak-minded but highly influential journalist. (Not that we‘re implying that today‘s influential journalists are Ben Zayb-like…)

3. He married a rich mestiza.

4. He‘s very industrious, especially when it comes to engaging others in debate.

Why did Don Custodio have a difficult time deciding on the students‘ proposal regarding the school? He was torn between giving the students a chance, and pleasing the Dominicans of UST. How can you serve two masters, right?

What are examples of Don Custodio‘s mental innovation or quirkiness, depending on one‘s point of view? (I mean, aside from his plan to raise ducks in order to deepen the Pasig River, if you remember Chapter 1)

1. To avoid accidents, the horse-drawn carriages should have three wheels. 2. Fumigate everything with disinfectants; even the paper used by telegrams. 3. So that the government can save on prison costs, just reform the prisoners.

How does Don Custodio treat the indios? He acts like a father who unwittingly holds his children (the indios) back; who, without quite realizing it, prevents his children from progressing.

Why is he against praising the indios? They might become overconfident, boastful, and rebellious. And that will create problems for the government and the frailes.

What kind of a person is Don Custodio? He is a dangerously deceptive person, because what he does is different from what he holds in his mind.

What is Don Custodio‘s final decision regarding the school? This will be revealed in the next chapter, although given your knowledge of his character, you can already guess what that decision will be.

Chapter 21: Manila Characters

The Who‘s Who of Manila gathered that evening in the Teatro de Variedades to watch Les Cloches de Corneville (translated as ―The Bells of Corneville‖, where the bells refer to the shape of the female dancers‘ loose skirts). Rizal introduces the Spanish character Camarroncocido, so


named because his complexion resembles that of steamed shrimp. He is an example of a Spaniard who does not value his nationality.

Here‘s additional info about Camarroncocido…

Although Camarroncocido (note the double R) is of royal lineage, he ended up working as a contractual in the Philippines, putting up posters of the upcoming shows of the Teatro.

This is in contrast with another Spaniard, Don Custodio, an ordinary Spanish citizen who took advantage of his nationality in gaining wealth and power in the Philippines.

What did Rizal criticize about Camarroncocido‘s behavior? Rizal criticized Camarroncocido‘s apathetic nature. He does not care about current or upcoming events (which he himself witnessed) that do not directly concern him, even if those events have an impact on the country or may potentially harm other people.

How is Manila society divided? The religious group was against the showing of Les Cloches, while those who wanted to watch the show were divided into:

- Those curious about why the show was being banned, and

- Those who wanted to watch so they can know why the show should be banned.

Similar to today, when people start censoring shows they only end up whetting the appetite of the viewers.

Who did Camarroncocido notice milling about in the darkness near the theater? He noticed the followers of Simoun. They told the soldiers that the Capitan Heneral was going to instigate some kind of civil disturbance so that he‘ll be able to prolong his hold on power and keep himself from being shipped back to Spain.

They did this so that the soldiers will not repel the forces of Kabesang Tales, because the soldiers will think Tales is just following the orders of the Capitan Heneral.

In addition, the soldiers will end up fighting the religious orders who attempt to counter the attack of Kabesang Tales, because the soldiers will mistakenly believe that the frailes are trying to ruin the plan of the Capitan Heneral.

How did Tadeo manage to enter the theater? Since Basilio wanted to study, he did not join Macaraig. That‘s one unused theater ticket which Isagani gave to Tadeo.

Chapter 22: The Performance

Rizal details what happens inside the theater (Teatro Variedades). The term ―Filipino Time‖ has been used to denigrate Filipinos who are late. Although it was attributed to our forebears, tardiness (as featured in this chapter summary) was the fault of the Spanish Kapitan Heneral. The performance could not begin unless this guest of honor was in the theater.


Filipinos are not late. Filipinos are farmers who wake up at the crack of dawn. And if there‘s a show at 7pm, you can expect Pinoys to line up and mill about the entrance at least an hour before. That‘s why the term ―Filipino time‖ is a misnomer.

This chapter also brings up love and jealousy, and foreshadows the failure of Simoun‘s plans. We find Isagani, who is extremely distracted after seeing his love, Paulita, in the company of his rival. Although he is a major supporter of the proposal for a school, he does not participate in the discussion. It is his great love for Paulita which will foil the Simoun in the later chapters. The characters of Tadeo and Juanito Pelaez are used to showcase certain personality traits: that of someone who can only criticize things in a theater, and that of a know-it-all who uses a tiny bit of knowledge (e.g., French) to impress Paulita and Dona Victorina.

Ben Zayb is also caricatured as a mindless critic. He knows nothing about the arts, yet he pretends to be competent enough to comment on the performance.

One of the performers, Serpolette (aka ―Lily), is shown interacting with Padre Irene. Apparently the fraile has a history with Lily, perhaps when he was still in Europe. He even had to explain to Lily that he was a holy man now, which probably means he was not dressed up as a fraile? Why was Pepay smiling even though she relayed the bad news to Macaraig? She did not understand what Don Custodio‘s message meant (denial of the proposal for the school).

Who owned the empty balcony seat? Simoun. A woman came in late, and was wondering about that empty space in the high area at the back of the theater.

Why was Sandoval displeased with the performance? He couldn‘t understand French. He also felt bad because he thought Juanita could understand it. If only he knew the truth…

Why did Pecson throw a smelly sock to Sandoval? It was a challenge. Sandoval (a Spaniard) earlier promised that if the proposal for the school was blocked, then he would still support and even push through with the project. Apparently, Sandoval hasn‘t fulfilled his promise, hence the kachichas attack.

Why were the students unhappy about the ―revised‖ proposal? The school will be run by the Dominicans at the University of Sto. Tomas, while all the costs will be shouldered by the students. In other words, there will be NO change in the way things are taught in the university. By the way, why wasn‘t Basilio in the theater?

Chapter 23: The Corpse

This chapter explains why Simoun did not watch the show at the theater, and also depicts a crucial development that changes Simoun's life forever…

He was out attending to business. At seven in the evening, Simoun had left and returned to his home twice, accompanied by various people. Macaraig had seen Simoun a few minutes before 8:00pm near the Sta. Clara convent. Camarroncocido had seen Simoun speaking with students near the theater just before 9:00pm.


Basilio did not watch the show either. He was at studying at home. Simoun visits Basilio and they talk about Kapitan Tiyago. They continue discussing when Simoun realizes it's almost 10:00pm. He berates Basilio for not reading the materials Simoun gave him, and accuses Basilio of not loving his country.

Simoun warns Basilio that within one hour's time (11pm?), the revolution will begin and there will no longer be any classes the following day. There will be no university, only killing in the streets. Simoun asks Basilio to choose: Death or a Future.

Basilio asks Simoun what he has to do, and when Simoun reveals the plan to rescue Maria Clara, Basilio reveals the unfortunate news that Maria Clara had already died.

Simoun freaks out. When he found out that Maria Clara was dead, it was as if he were also dead.

He runs out of the house. Simoun forgets to give the signal for the revolution to begin.

(What did the Green Goblin say when it comes to fighting Spiderman? First, attack his heart.) Why did Basilio still take care of the terminally ill Kapitan Tiyago, a patient who was giving Basilio such a hard time? Believe it or not, Basilio is an upright person who believes in doing what is honorable.

Why did Simoun liken Kapitan Tiyago to the Philippine government? Just as the poisonous opium has already spread throughout the body of the dying Kapitan Tiyago, so has the poison of corruption spread through the ―dying‖ Philippines.

Why does Simoun need Basilio? Aside from Simoun and Kapitan Tiyago, Basilio is the only one who can recognize Maria Clara, whom they have to rescue from the nunnery at Saint Claire. Simoun can't do it, because he has to command the groups during the revolution.

What can be said about Simoun's revolution? It's not really for the good of the Philippines; rather, it is for the benefit of Simoun. He is doing it out of revenge, and also as a way of allowing him to get Maria Clara out of the Sta. Clara convent.

Why did Kapitan Tiyago cry in front of and ask forgiveness from the portrait of Maria Clara after he found out that she had died? He was sorry for allowing her to be put into the convent. He was aware of the hardships that she would suffer, but he gave in to the orders of the frailes. Why did the poison quickly spread through the body of Kapitan Tiyago? When Basilio was not around, Padre Irene would give Kapitan Tiyago a lot of opium. This is similar to Simoun harming the Philippines by engaging in evil deeds.

Padre Irene wanted Kapitan Tiyago to die quickly, so that he can inherit all of the old man's property. Simoun wanted the Philippines to ―die‖ so that he can mount a revolution, backed by the Filipinos who have had enough of the government's corruption and oppression.

Who are the four groups of people involved in Simoun's revolution?

Group 1: The soldiers who were convinced by Simoun that the Kapitan Heneral ordered the attack on the convents of the frailes. This is to help the Kapitan Heneral hang on to power even if he was being sent back to Spain.


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