There is an extensive literature in the Philippines in English, Spanish, Tagaolog and other Philippine languages. It includes novels, poetry, drama, essays and criticism. Literature is based on the oral traditions of folklore, the influence of the church and Spanish and American literature. Filipino written literature became popular in the mid-nineteenth century as the middle class became educated. The English and American literature that was taught in the schools was a factor in the kind of writing that was produced. Writing in Filipino languages became more common in the late 1930s and during the Japanese occupation. Literature is now written in both Filipino and English. Textbooks contain national and world literature. [Source: /=/]

Famous Tagalog writers include the early 17th century poet Fernando Bagonbanta. Francisco Balagtas y de la Cruz’s famous epic Florante at Laura is regarded as classic. He wrote under the name Balagtas is regarded as the “Prince of Tagalog Poets.” Written in the early 1900s Florente at Laura is a Filipino variation on the Romeo and Juliet theme.

Dr. Jose P. Rizal, a Philippine national hero, published in Germany the first Filipino novel, Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not). This literary masterpiece exposed the Spanish political, economic, and sexual abuses in the Philippines. It and his other other famous work, El Filubusterismo, are regarded as moving romantic novels and inspirations for Philippine nationalism.

Acclaimed modern Filipino writers include Nick Joaquin and Marilou Diaz-Abaya, author of Milagros. The Man Asian Literary Prize shortlisted Filipino author Eric Gamalinda for ‘Day Scholar.’

Filipino Folklore

Folk stories from the Philippines resemble folk stories from both Spain and Southeast Asia and have a character all their own. Philippines has thousands of tales; some dealing with the celestial, like the Sun and the Moon, while there are others that explain the mundane, like the origin of plants (rice, pineapple, etc.), animals (monkey, firefly) or things (rainbow). These stories are mostly used to coax obedience, good behavior and discipline; from grown-ups and children alike.

Why the Pineapple has a Thousand Eyes: As the name suggests, this is the story about the pineapple fruit and why it has so many eyes. This story instills hard-work and obedience in children. It is also a reminder to never utter words that might harm someone.

Once, there lived a girl named Pina, on a fruit plantation, with her mother. While her mother toiled night and day, little Pina would spend all her time playing with her friends. When her mother asked her to do something, she would always reply that she couldn't find the things, even if it was right in front of her eyes. One day, her mother fell ill and couldn't even get up to cook some food. So, she asked Pina to make some rice. But, Pina being her lazy self, said, "I just can't find the pot, so what am I going to make the rice in?". Her mother told her where the pot was. Then she said, "Where is the ladle, how am I going to cook without a ladle?". Again her sick mother had to tell her the exact location. Pina did the same with salt, rice and water! Enraged by Pina's behavior, her mother cursed, "May you grow a thousand eyes", and went back to sleep.

When she woke up, there was no trace of the girl. She searched and searched, and so did every single person on the plantation. After a few days, a strange fruit with thousands of little dots was seen on the plantation. When Pina's mother saw the fruit, she was immediately reminded of Pina's beautiful brown eyes and thus, the fruit with a thousand eyes was named "Pinya", meaning pineapple.

The Star Fairy: A star fairy, once strayed onto the Earth. Mesmerized by the beautiful sights, she dashed into a tree and fell down unconscious, her wings torn. A farmer found the divine creature. He took great care of her and inevitably they fell in love. The fairy and the farmer married and had a child. But every night, the fairy would look at the stars and think about her family and friends there. So, one day she decided to pay them a visit, and took off with her son. When she reached the star kingdom, the king was furious at her for straying too far, and confiscated her wings. She couldn't go back to her husband and became morose, looking down, for hours at the river near their house. The farmer too, would stand on its bank, waiting for his wife and child. One day, the king chanced upon the lovesick couple, and taking pity on them, made a bridge of seven gleaming colors for the fairy to climb down and spend a few precious moments with the farmer.

Philippine Folk Tales included in the collection by Mable Cook Cole(1916): 1) Aponibolinayen and the Sun, Aponibolinayen, Gawigawen of Adasen, The Story of Gaygayoma who Lives up Above, The Story of Dumalawi, The Story of Kanag, The Story of the Tikgi, The Story of Sayen, The Sun and the Moon, How the Tinguian Learned to Plant; 2) Magsawi: The Tree with the Agate Beads, The Striped Blanket, The Alan and the Hunters, Man and the Alan; 3) Sogsogot: The Mistaken Gifts, The Boy who Became a Stone, The Turtle and the Lizard, The Man with the Cocoanuts, The Carabao and the Shell, The Alligator's Fruit; 4) Igorot: The Creation, The Flood Story, Lumawig on Earth, How the First Head was Taken, The Serpent Eagle, The Tattooed Men, Tilin, The Rice Bird; 5) Mindanao, How the Moon and the Stars Came to Be, The Flood Story; 6) Magbangal: How Children Became Monkeys; 7) Bulanawan and Aguio: Origin; 8) Lumabet: The Story of the Creation, In the Beginning, The Children of the Limokon, The Sun and the Moon, The Widow's Son; 9) Moro: Mythology of Mindanao, The Story of Bantugan; 10) Christianized Tribes: The Monkey and the Turtle, The Poor Fisherman and His Wife, The Presidente who had Horns, The Story of a Monkey, The White Squash, The Creation Story, The Story of Benito, The Adventures of Juan, Juan Gathers Guavas, The Sun and the Moon, The First Monkey, The Virtue of the Cocoanut, Mansumandig, Why Dogs Wag their Tails, The Hawk and the Hen, The Spider and the Fly, The Battle of the Crabs; ) [Source: Mable Cook Cole, 1916],

See Creation Stories Under History, Myths, Superstitions


The balagtasan is a debate in poetic verse. It was created during the American Colonization of the Philippines, inspired by old forms of Philippine verse debate like the karagatan, Juego de Prenda and the duplo. Its name comes from the original surname of Francisco Baltazar, Balagtas, having been created to honor his birth anniversary.

The first balagtasan was held on 6 April 1924. Three sets of poets participated using scripted defenses. The debate between José Corazón de Jesús and Florentino Collantes was particularly impressive and the organizers decided to set up another balagtasan for the two distinguished poets, this time requiring improvised defenses. This was held on 18 October 1925, at the Olympic Stadium in Manila. De Jesus won the title of the first Hari ng Balagtasan (King of Balagtasan). Since then, balagtasan became a popular pastime until after World War II. Poets in other languages of the Philippines created their own versions like the Ilocano bukanegan (named after Ilocano poet Pedro Bukaneg) and the Pampango crisotan (named after Pampango poet-dramatist Juan Crisostomo Soto).

Mark Angeles wrote on “Most of us are familiar with Francisco Balagtas because his metrical romance "Florante at Laura." Balagtas was so popular and well-respected that even Jose Rizal and Emilio Jacinto quoted him in their writings. The commemoration of his birth anniversary every April 2 has been a practice even before the early years of American occupation. [Source: Mark Angeles,, March 1, 2014 ^^]

“According to poet and literary critic Virgilio Almario, it was in the afternoon of March 28, 1924, at a meeting set in preparation for Balagtas Day, that the Balagtasan was born. Some attendees proposed an alternative for that year’s celebration, something fresh and exciting. And so Balagtasan was created, a variation of duplo, a native form of verbal joust played at funeral wakes. ^^

“The first Balagtasan was staged on April 2, 1924. Three pairs performed, but the crowd favorites were Jose Corazon de Jesus and Florentino Collantes. De Jesus, whose nom de plume was Huseng Batute, was already a popular poet even before the event. Amado V. Hernandez was also among those who participated. The bout between Huseng Batute and Collantes had a repeat on October 18, 1925, where the declamation was “freestyle”—spontaneous or free-flowing. It was where Huseng Batute earned the title Hari ng Balagtasan. Versions of the Balagtasan also sprang up in different provinces, like the Bukanegan in Ilocos (named after Ilocano epic poet Pedro Bukaneg) and Crisotan in Pampanga (named after the Pampango poet-dramatist Juan Crisostomo Soto). ^^

Flip Top

Mark Angeles wrote on “Filipino rap battle league FlipTop has acquired many fans, mostly from the youth sector. Its Youtube account already has over 1.2 million subscribers. With almost 400 uploaded videos—the most popular being the Loonie/Abra versus Shehyee/Smugglaz tag team bout in the Dos Por Dos Tournament held at the FlipTop bastion, B-Side at The Collective in Makati City, with over 17 million views—it has surpassed the leagues in the United States that sired the format. [Source: Mark Angeles,, March 1, 2014 ^^]

“The phenomenon of FlipTop has grown as the number of Internet users in the Philippines has. It is popular in every part of the country that the Internet can reach, and where there is a culture of “collectivism” such as inside a computer shop. In freestyle rap, hurling the insult back at your opponent is called a “flip”. The group FlipTop held the very first Filipino Rap Battle League in the country on February 6, 2010 at Quantum Café in Makati where rappers (also known as MCs) Fuego, Protégé, Datu, and Cameltoe battled onstage. ^^

“FlipTop is an events and artist managing organization led by Alaric Riam Yuson, more popularly known as Anygma. Anygma gave honor to our nation when the Tectonics battle rap was held at Katips Bar and Grillery in Quezon City in December 2010. Dirtbag Dan led the MCs from Grind Time Now, a US-based group that set the international standards of rap battle. All the three battles that day were won by Filipino MCs. And on that day, FlipTop gained worldwide recognition. ^^

“At present, FlipTop has thriving divisions in the NCR, CALABARZON, Central Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao, where battle events are held at least once a year. FlipTop has gained traction not just in social networking sites like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. Independent inter-barangay and inter-collegiate tournaments—among students and out of school youth—have sprung up. FlipTop has even become a subject in classes on popular culture and a topic of theses. The celebration of Linggo ng Wika has never been the same, after universities and secondary schools in different parts of the country included FlipTop in their roster of competitions related to the celebration of our native language. ^^

FlipTop: Modern-day Balagtasan?

Mark Angeles wrote on “Some academics have called Fliptop the modern Balagtasan—to the dismay of some battle rappers. Literary critic Bienvenido Lumbera had observed that even Marcelo del Pilar used the duplo and turned it against the colonizers. It is easy for someone who doesn’t have any knowledge of hip hop and alternative rap to pick up FlipTop as the modern-day Balagtasan, mainly because of the two elements present: verbal jousts and the seeming rhyme and meter when the rappers, emcees or MCs drop their bars or verses. [Source: Mark Angeles,, March 1, 2014 ^^]

“Some Filipino MCs assume the title of being a “makata”—not just a “mambeberso” who writes poetry, but someone approaching the rank of poet laureate. A “makata” knows his rules when it comes to rhyme and meter—at least, the basics of Filipino poetry like the first rank tugmaang karaniwan (general rhyme), rhyme schemes, and caesura. In Filipino poetry, words that end with the same vowel do not necessarily rhyme. Glottal stress matters. ^^

“There are liberal rules set in hip hop rap called internal and off-beat rhymes. There is a style called multisyllabic rhyme which Eminem employs. In our country, it is popularly known as “multi” and a lot of MCs are already skilled with it. The verse lines are called “bars", adapted from "music bar" or the musical duration. For a typical hip hop beat (4/4 time signature), a bar ranges from the first kick drum up to the second snare drum. ^^

“Though battle rap is a verbal joust, it is far from being the modern Balagtasan. As Almario had noted, Balagtasan poets are “expected to entertain their audience with bits of humor, with witticisms, with the spice of sarcasm, and moreover, with theatrics like actors in dramatic presentations.” Prominent FlipTop rapper BLKD (pronounced Balakid) said in an interview that “though both feature the nuances of poetry, there is a distinction between their sensitivities. They belong to different historical and cultural channels, and we have to recognize those attributes.” ^^

“The below-the-belt insults that imply drug use and having sexual relations with the opponent’s mother is a long shot from Balagtasan, or even its progenitor, the duplo. Yet there is a native form of Filipino poetry that closely resembles this attribute: a theatrical form of poetry in the Visayas region called bikal, a verbal game where the opponents (a male and a female, but sometimes pairs of two males versus two females) hurl insults at each other that lasts for an hour or two. It was a traditional game of mudslinging. ^^

“A Jesuit missionary named Francisco Ignacio Alcina, who was sent to Cebu, Leyte, and Samar was the first to have recorded this poetic form among the early locals of Samar and Leyte. BLKD thinks that FlipTop has a significant role in Filipino culture. “Many FlipTop followers watch to be entertained. FlipTop shows them that one can take pleasure in poetry, one can take pleasure in playing with words,” he said. He also noted that battle rap is an art form—that while insulting and poking fun at the opponent is part of the battle, "the audience is aware that the entertainment they gain from it comes from the skill of the emcee of choosing words, weaving lines, and rhyming them." At the very least, he said, "it influences the youth to study language, music, and stage performance." Surpassing the fame of Balagtasan, FlipTop is breeding more frontliners and followers, acquiring an esteemed spot in our country’s oral literature and as a performance art. “ ^^

Manila less than Thrilled at Dan Brown's Inferno

In 2013, Kate Hodal wrote in The Guardian, “He is better known for infuriating reviewers with his clunky pseudo-science and cheesy religious symbolism in thrillers that have sold all over the world. Now Dan Brown has also incurred the wrath of Manila for calling the capital the "gates of hell" in his latest book, Inferno. Based loosely on Dante's Inferno, the novel once again features Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon – the protagonist from best-sellers The Da Vinci Code and The Lost Symbol – as it follows Sienna, his balding female companion, to the sprawling city of 13 million. There she is overcome by the city's destitution, filth and child prostitution – and is later raped in one of its many slums. Depicting Manila as a city of "six-hour traffic jams, suffocating pollution [and] horrifying sex trade", Sienna tells readers she has "run through the gates of hell". [Source: Kate Hodal, The Guardian, May 24, 2013 /^/]

“While the book has raced to the top of the UK book charts – selling nearly 230,000 copies within its first week – it has been panned by British reviewers, who have called it "barmy" and "dreadful". "I used to think that Dan Brown was merely bad. Now, after reading the latest version of the apocalyptic thriller he rewrites every few years, I suspect he might be mad as well," wrote Peter Conrad in the Observer. "Hogwarts Academy, compared with Brown's brain, is a clean, well-lighted, supremely lucid place."/^/

“Dismissive reviews and the book's fictional nature haven't stopped Filipino officials from smarting at Brown's description of their capital city. In an open letter to the author, Metro Manila's chairman Francis Tolentino described the city's great "disappoint[ment] by your inaccurate portrayal of our beloved metropolis" and said: "We are displeased [by] how you have used Manila as a venue and source of a character's breakdown and trauma, much more her disillusionment in humanity." /^/

“Tolentino then offered his own writerly take on the city, calling Manila "an entry to heaven" and a "centre of Filipino spirit, faith and hope", which some commentators on social media have deemed laughable and out of touch. "MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino is either blind or perhaps never leaves his guarded mansion without his chauffered limo with its tinted windows," commented one reader on the PhilStar website, describing Brown's depiction of the city as "near perfect". "If he is incapable of recognising the city and its citizens he is hired to improve and develop, he is clearly incapable of this position." /^/

“Manila may be a city where extreme wealth and poverty regularly rub shoulders -- roughly 43 percent of its 13 million inhabitants live in shanties – but Filipino officials do not appreciate having their city publicly panned. In 1999 President Joseph Estrada famously banned from the country Hollywood starlet Claire Danes – whose film Brokedown Palace was shot in Manila – after she described the city as smelly, weird and full of rats. Estrada has since promised to clean up the capital after being elected mayor of Manila in last week's elections.” /^/


Jose Rizal, a young doctor-writer, is regarded as the father of the Philippines. He criticized the Spanish government in the Philippines in two novels and drummed up nationalist sentiments, but called for peaceful reform under colonial rule. In one of his novels Rizal referred to the Philippines as the "Pearl of the Orient Seas." Rizal was arrested and executed on December 30, 1896 by Spanish officials when he was just 30. He was later recognized by some historians as Asia's first nationalists. His contemporaries include Gandhi and Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Gandhi was reportedly influenced by him.

Rizal was a scholar and scientist, as well as a physician and and writer, and most outstanding member of the Propagandist movement. Born in 1861 into a prosperous Chinese mestizo family in Laguna Province, he displayed great intelligence at an early age. He began learning to read and write at age two and grew up to speak more than 20 languages, including Latin, Greek, German, French, and Chinese. His last words were in Latin: "Consummatum est!" ("It is done!")

After several years of medical study at the University of Santo Tomás, he went to Spain in 1882 to finish his studies at the University of Madrid. During the decade that followed, Rizal's career spanned two worlds: Among small communities of Filipino students in Madrid and other European cities, he became a leader and eloquent spokesman, and in the wider world of European science and scholarship--particularly in Germany--he formed close relationships with prominent natural and social scientists. The new discipline of anthropology was of special interest to him; he was committed to refuting the friars' stereotypes of Filipino racial inferiority with scientific arguments. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Jose Rizal’s greatest impact on the development of a Filipino national consciousness was his publication of two novels–“Noli Me Tangere” (“Touch Me Not”) in 1886 and “El Filibusterismo” (“The “Reign of Greed”) in 1891. Rizal drew on his personal experiences and depicted the conditions of Spanish rule in the islands, particularly the abuses of the friars. Although the friars had Rizal's books banned, they were smuggled into the Philippines and rapidly gained a wide readership. *

Rizal’s Austrian friend, Professor Ferdinand Blumentritt, rector of the Imperial Atheneum of Leitmeritz, said "Rizal was the greatest product of the Philippines and his coming to the world was like the appearance of a rare comet, whose rare brilliance appears only every other century." Another friend, the German Dr. Adolf B. Meyer, director of the Dresden Museum admired Rizal’s all around knowledge and ability. He remarked "Rizal’s many-sidedness was stupendous." Our own Dr. Camilo Osias pointed to him as the "versatile genius."

Jose Rizal, the Writer

Jose Rizal’s greatest impact on the development of a Filipino national consciousness was his publication of two novels–“Noli Me Tangere” (“Touch Me Not”) in 1886 and “El Filibusterismo” (“The “Reign of Greed”) in 1891. Rizal drew on his personal experiences and depicted the conditions of Spanish rule in the islands, particularly the abuses of the friars. Although the friars had Rizal's books banned, they were smuggled into the Philippines and rapidly gained a wide readership. [Source: Library of Congress]

In March 1887, his daring book,“Noli Me Tangere,” a satirical novel exposing the arrogance and despotism of the Spanish clergy, was published in Berlin; in 1890 he reprinted in Paris, Morga’s Successos De Las Islas Filipinas with his annotations to prove that the Filipinos had a civilization worthy to be proud of even long before the Spaniards set foot on Philippine soil; on September 18, 1891, “El Filibusterismo”, his second novel and a sequel to the “Noli” and more revolutionary and tragic than the latter, was printed in Ghent. [Source: Teofilo H. Montemayor, Jose Rizal University ^^]

Because of his fearless exposures of the injustices committed by the civil and clerical officials, Rizal provoked the animosity of those in power. This led himself, his relatives and countrymen into trouble with the Spanish officials of the country. As a consequence, he and those who had contacts with him, were shadowed; the authorities were not only finding faults but even fabricating charges to pin him down. Thus, he was imprisoned in Fort Santiago from July 6, 1892 to July 15, 1892 on a charge that anti-friar pamphlets were found in the luggage of his sister Lucia who arrive with him from Hong Kong. While a political exile in Dapitan, he engaged in agriculture, fishing and business; he maintained and operated a hospital; he conducted classes- taught his pupils the English and Spanish languages, the arts. ^^

“Noli Me Tangere”

“Noli Me Tangere” is a satirical novel exposing the arrogance and despotism of the Spanish clergy.John Louie Ramos wrote in International Writers And Literature: “In the patriotic novel Noli Me Tangere, Jose Rizal shaped the minds and opened the eyes of his fellow Filipinos to the abuse they suffered at the hands of tyrannical Spanish authorities. He proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. He symbolically painted a portrait quite similar to the conditions of the Philippines during that time. [Source: John Louie Ramos, International Writers And Literature, May 21, 2010 >>>]

“Rizal introduces the character of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, the only son of the late Haciendero Don Rafael Ibarra. Ibarra was near perfect, he's handsome, intelligent, rich and famous. Upon his return in the Philippines, a celebration was held. A local newspaper even took note of his arrival. A picture of him at the front page bearing the words, "Imitate him" - it was a nonetheless an arrival fit for a king. Ibarra was full of hopes and desires of a better nation, he was full of new ideas which he learned from his travel in Europe. He felt that with his wealth, power and connections to the illustrious figures of society, he can make a difference. >>>

“Ibarra has a bright future, he has a beautiful girlfriend named Maria Clara, the daughter of Don Santiago. Maria Clara was a symbolic representation of the ideal Filipina woman, full of grace and royalty. Somehow, Maria Clara's beauty was that of a pure and innocent child. Ibarra could have just settled down but he wasn't the type of person that would enjoy while others are suffering. He ultimately planned on building a school. With the advice of the Philosopher Tacio and the help of prominent local figures including Don Custodio, Ibarra's school was completed. However, during the inauguration of the school an assassination plot against Ibarra was revealed. Fortunately, he was saved by a mysterious man named Elias. >>>

“More revelations were unveiled. From the untimely death of his father, to the real identity of Maria Clara.On the other hand, Elias approached Ibarra. Elias happens to be the courier of the rebel soldiers. The rebels want government reforms through a violent revolution. However, Ibarra does not bear the same idealism. Later, an uprising was orchestrated by Father Salvi, a Spanish friar who secretly admired Maria Clara. The plot was to make it appear that Ibarra was the mastermind of the revolt. >>>

“Ibarra was arrested but escaped with the help of Elias. A shooting occurred at the Pasig river with Elias being hit by bullets. The civil guards thought that they have killed Ibarra but the latter survived. With the vast wealth and gems he has, Ibarra swore to take revenge to all those who destroyed his life. He swore to free the country even if that will result into loss of lives. Ibarra went overseas but he vowed to come back to claim what rightfully belongs to him.” >>>

Writing “Noli Me Tangere” and Getting It Published

Spain, to Rizal, was a venue for realizing his dreams. He finished his studies in Madrid and this to him was the realization of the bigger part of his ambition. His vision broadened while he was in Spain to the point of awakening in him an understanding of human nature, sparking in him the realization that his people needed him. It must have been this sentiment that prompted him to pursue, during the re-organizational meeting of the Circulo-Hispano-Filipino, to be one of its activities, the publication of a book to which all the members would contribute papers on the various aspects and conditions of Philippines life. [Source: Jose Rizal University ><]

"My proposal on the book," he wrote on January 2, 1884, "was unanimously approved. But afterwards difficulties and objections were raised which seemed to me rather odd, and a number of gentlemen stood up and refused to discuss the matter any further. In view of this I decided not to press it any longer, feeling that it was impossible to count on general support…" "Fortunately," writes one of Rizal’s biographers, the anthology, if we may call it that, was never written. Instead, the next year, Pedro Paterno published his Ninay, a novel sub-titled Costumbres filipinas (Philippines Customs), thus partly fulfilling the original purpose of Rizal’s plan. He himself (Rizal), as we have seen, had ‘put aside his pen’ in deference to the wishes of his parents. ><

But the idea of writing a novel himself must have grown on him. It would be no poem to forgotten after a year, no essay in a review of scant circulation, no speech that passed in the night, but a long and serious work on which he might labor, exercising his mind and hand, without troubling his mother’s sleep. He would call it “Noli Me Tangere”; the Latin echo of the Spoliarium is not without significance. He seems to have told no one in his family about his grand design; it is not mentioned in his correspondence until the book is well-nigh completed. But the other expatriates knew what he was doing; later, when Pastells was blaming the Noli on the influence of German Protestants, he would call his compatriots to witness that he had written half of the novel in Madrid a fourth part in Paris, and only the remainder in Germany. ><

"From the first," writes Leon Ma. Guerrero, Rizal was haunted by the fear that his novel would never find its way into print, that it would remain unread. He had little enough money for his own needs, let alone the cost of the Noli’s publication… Characteristically, Rizal would not hear of asking his friends for help. He did not want to compromise them. Viola insisted on lending him the money (P300 for 2,000 copies); Rizal at first demurred… Finally Rizal gave in and the novel went to press. The proofs were delivered daily, and one day the messenger, according to Viola, took it upon himself to warn the author that if he ever returned to the Philippines he would lose his head. Rizal was too enthralled by seeing his work in print to do more than smile. ><

The printing apparently took considerably less time than the original estimate of five months for Viola did not arrive in Berlin until December and by the 21st March 1887, Rizal was already sending Blumentritt a copy of "my first book." Rizal, himself, describing the nature of the “Noli Me Tangere” to his friend Blumentritt, wrote, "The Novel is the first impartial and bold account of the life of the tagalogs. The Filipinos will find in it the history of the last ten years…" ><

Criticism of “Noli Me Tangere” and Its Defenders

Criticism and attacks against the Noli and its author came from all quarters. An anonymous letter signed "A Friar" and sent to Rizal, dated February 15, 1888, says in part: "How ungrateful you are… If you, or for that matter all your men, think you have a grievance, then challenge us and we shall pick up the gauntlet, for we are not cowards like you, which is not to say that a hidden hand will not put an end to your life." A special committee of the faculty of the University of Santo Tomas, at the request of the Archbishop Pedro Payo, found and condemned the novel as heretical, impious, and scandalous in its religious aspect, and unpatriotic, subversive of public order and harmful to the Spanish government and its administration of theses islands in its political aspect. [Source: Jose Rizal University ><]

On December 28, 1887, Fray Salvador Font, the cura of Tondo and chairman of the Permanent Commission of Censorship composed of laymen and ordered that the circulation of this pernicious book" be absolutely prohibited. Not content, Font caused the circulation of copies of the prohibition, an act which brought an effect contrary to what he desired. Instead of what he expected, the negative publicity awakened more the curiosity of the people who managed to get copies of the book. Assisting Father Font in his aim to discredit the Noli was an Augustinian friar by the name of Jose Rodriguez. In a pamphlet entitled Caiingat Cayo (Beware). Fr. Rodriguez warned the people that in reading the book they "commit mortal sin," considering that it was full of heresy. ><

As far as Madrid, there was furor over the Noli, as evidenced by an article which bitterly criticized the novel published in a Madrid newspaper in January, 1890, and written by one Vicente Barrantes. In like manner, a member of the Senate in the Spanish Cortes assailed the novel as "anti-Catholic, Protestant, socialistic." It is well to note that not detractors alone visibly reacted to the effects of the Noli. For if there were bitter critics, another group composed of staunch defenders found every reason to justify its publication and circulation to the greatest number of Filipinos. For instance, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, cleverly writing under an assumed name Dolores Manapat, successfully circulated a publication that negated the effect of Father Rodriguez’ Caiingat Cayo, Del Pilar’s piece was entitled Caiigat Cayo (Be Slippery as an Eel). Deceiving similar in format to Rodriguez’ Caiingat Cayo, the people were readily "misled" into getting not a copy o Rodriguez’ piece but Del Pillar’s. ><

The “Noli Me Tangere” found another staunch defender in the person of a Catholic theologian of the Manila Cathedral, in Father Vicente Garcia. Under the pen-name Justo Desiderio Magalang. Father Garcia wrote a very scholarly defense of the Noli, claiming among other things that Rizal cannot be an ignorant man, being the product of Spanish officials and corrupt friars; he himself who had warned the people of committing mortal sin if they read the novel had therefore committed such sin for he has read the novel. ><

Consequently, realizing how much the Noli had awakened his countrymen, to the point of defending his novel, Rizal said: "Now I die content. Fittingly, Rizal found it a timely and effective gesture to dedicate his novel to the country of his people whose experiences and sufferings he wrote about, sufferings which he brought to light in an effort to awaken his countrymen to the truths that had long remained unspoken, although not totally unheard of. ><

El Filibusterismo

“El Filibusterismo”, Jose Rizal’s second novel and a sequel to the “Noli” is more revolutionary and tragic than “Noli.” John Louie Ramos wrote in International Writers And Literature: “In Noli Me Tangere, Rizal described the full extent of slavery and abuse suffered by the native Indios at the hands of Spanish authorities. Hence in this second book, Rizal pictured a society at the brink of revolution. The Indios have started to adapt liberal ideas and guerrilla factions have started to revolt against the government. The advent of the novel starts 13 years after the events in the Noli Me Tangere, Juan Crisostomo Ibarra orchestrated a plot of evil means but heroic desires. [Source: John Louie Ramos, International Writers And Literature, May 21, 2010 /=/]

“During his travels in Europe, Ibarra changed his name to Simoun. He becomes a renowned jeweler thus his wealth grew further. He started to make new connections with the illustrious societal personalities in Spain. With his influence, he helped a military colonel to rise the ladder and be promoted as captain general of the colonial territory, the Philippines. For Simoun, it was all planned. Upon his return in the Philippines, he was dubbed as his black eminence. People saw him as an influential figure whom his majesty consults whenever decisions are to be made. After all, his majesty, the captain general owed so much to Simoun. /=/

“Simoun wants to take revenge and bring back the love of Maria Clara who now resides at the convent. The jeweler was famed for his wealth and power. Hence, no one thought that the opportunists and fearsome Simoun was the same idealistic Ibarra of the past. Simoun started to look for followers. He found his allies with the oppressed and enslaved. He form an alliance with Kabesang Tales' group, an outlaw whose land was grabbed by the friar's corporation. He then, looks for more men. He searched the villages looking for strong willed men who have a gripe on the government. /=/

Simoun, using the influence he has on the captain general, ordered stricter and more abusive government policies - a move that will make the people angrier. This was the plot of Simoun, to use the people's hatred against the government to his advantage. Simoun also ordered attacks that will backfire and weaken the government's military forces. However, the revolution scheduled at the night of a musical play in Manila didn't come into fruition. Months, later another plan was made. At the grand wedding of Juanita Pelaez, the son of a successful businessman and the beautiful Paulita Gomez, Simoun insisted to take charge in the decorating. /=/

“Simoun knew that the feast would be attended by friars, government officials and prominent figures - the same people who wrecked havoc to his life. Beneath the beautiful decorations and lighting were sacks of gun powder. The whole house was filled with explosives. Simoun formed his own army of the oppressed and enslaved and with the help of government soldiers and outlaws whom he commissioned, they will start a bloody revolution. The mission, to kill all Spanish authorities and to take control of the country. At the wedding, Simoun puts a beautiful lamp at the center of the table carved with gold linings and other kind of gems and jewelries. Simoun left as soon as delivering his gift, the lamp. /=/

“It was a festive celebration but unknown to the guests, the lamp is a time bomb that will explode once lifted. It will result into a huge explosion that will be a signal to Simoun's troops to simultaneously attack Manila. Just before the lamp explodes, a piece of mysterious paper bearing the message "You will die tonight" was being passed. It was signed by Juan Crisostomo Ibarra. Father Salvi confirmed that it was the real signature of Ibarra, a long-forgotten filibuster. The guests at the wedding were all frightened. Slowly, the lamp's light started to diminish and soon one will lift it and will cause a huge explosion. /=/

“However, a Isagani, a student and friend of the newly-weds knew the plot and because of his undying love to Paulita threw the lamp before it explodes. After the wedding, the plot was unraveled and a shoot-to-kill order for Simoun was commissioned. Hence, Simoun, the sly fox that he is, makes sure that he won't get caught alive. He drank a poison and as it effects started to take toll on his body, he was able to confess his plans and real name to a Filipino priests.” /=/

Writing El Filibusterismo and Getting It Printed

To prove his point and refute the accusations of prejudiced Spanish writers against his race, Rizal annotated the book, Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas, written by the Spaniard Antonio Morga. The book was an unbiased presentation of 16th century Filipino culture. Rizal through his annotation showed that Filipinos had developed culture even before the coming of the Spaniards. While annotating Morga’s book, he began writing the sequel to the Noli, the “El Filibusterismo”. He completed the Fili in July 1891 while he was in Brussels, Belgium. As in the printing of the Noli, Rizal could not published the sequel for the lack of finances. Fortunately, Valentin Ventura gave him financial assistance and the Fili came out of the printing press on September 1891. The “El Filibusterismo” indicated Spanish colonial policies and attacked the Filipino collaborators of such system. The novel pictured a society on the brink of a revolution. [Source: Jose Rizal University ><]

The word "filibustero" wrote Rizal to his friend, Ferdinand Blumentritt, is very little known in the Philippines. The masses do not know it yet. Jose Alejandro, one of the new Filipinos who had been quite intimate with Rizal, said, "in writing the Noli Rizal signed his own death warrant." Subsequent events, after the fate of the Noli was sealed by the Spanish authorities, prompted Rizal to write the continuation of his first novel. He confessed, however, that regretted very much having killed Elias instead of Ibarra, reasoning that when he published the Noli his health was very much broken, and was very unsure of being able to write the continuation and speak of a revolution. ><

Explaining to Marcelo H. del Pilar his inability to contribute articles to the La Solidaridad, Rizal said that he was haunted by certain sad presentiments, and that he had been dreaming almost every night of dead relatives and friends a few days before his 29th birthday, that is why he wanted to finish the second part of the Noli at all costs. Consequently, as expected of a determined character, Rizal apparently went in writing, for to his friend, Blumentritt, he wrote on March 29, 1891: "I have finished my book. Ah! I’ve not written it with any idea of vengeance against my enemies, but only for the good of those who suffer and for the rights of Tagalog humanity, although brown and not good-looking." ><

To a Filipino friend in Hong Kong, Jose Basa, Rizal likewise eagerly announced the completion of his second novel. Having moved to Ghent to have the book published at cheaper cost, Rizal once more wrote his friend, Basa, in Hongkong on July 9, 1891: "I am not sailing at once, because I am now printing the second part of the Noli here, as you may see from the enclosed pages. I prefer to publish it in some other way before leaving Europe, for it seemed to me a pity not to do so. For the past three months I have not received a single centavo, so I have pawned all that I have in order to publish this book. I will continue publishing it as long as I can; and when there is nothing to pawn I will stop and return to be at your side." ><

Inevitably, Rizal’s next letter to Basa contained the tragic news of the suspension of the printing of the sequel to his first novel due to lack of funds, forcing him to stop and leave the book half-way. "It is a pity," he wrote Basa, "because it seems to me that this second part is more important than the first, and if I do not finish it here, it will never be finished." Fortunately, Rizal was not to remain in despair for long. A compatriot, Valentin Ventura, learned of Rizal’s predicament. He offered him financial assistance. Even then Rizal’s was forced to shorten the novel quite drastically, leaving only thirty-eight chapters compared to the sixty-four chapters of the first novel.

Rizal moved to Ghent, and writes Jose Alejandro. The sequel to Rizal’s Noli came off the press by the middle of September, 1891.On the 18th he sent Basa two copies, and Valentin Ventura the original manuscript and an autographed printed copy. Inspired by what the word filibustero connoted in relation to the circumstances obtaining in his time, and his spirits dampened by the tragic execution of the three martyred priests, Rizal aptly titled the second part of the “Noli Me Tangere”, “El Filibusterismo”. In veneration of the three priests, he dedicated the book to them.

"To the memory of the priests, Don Mariano Gomez (85 years old), Don Jose Burgos (30 years old), and Don Jacinto Zamora (35 years old). Executed in the Bagumbayan Field on the 28th of February, 1872." "The church, by refusing to degrade you, has placed in doubt the crime that has been imputed to you; the Government, by surrounding your trials with mystery and shadows causes the belief that there was some error, committed in fatal moments; and all the Philippines, by worshipping your memory and calling you martyrs, in no sense recognizes your culpability. In so far, therefore, as your complicity in the Cavite Mutiny is not clearly proved, as you may or may not have been patriots, and as you may or may not cherished sentiments for justice and for liberty, I have the right to dedicate my work to you as victims of the evil which I undertake to combat. And while we await expectantly upon Spain some day to restore your good name and cease to be answerable for your death, let these pages serve as a tardy wreath of dried leaves over one who without clear proofs attacks your memory stains his hands in your blood." Rizal’s memory seemed to have failed him, though, for Father Gomez was then 73 not 85, Father Burgos 35 not 30 Father Zamora 37 not 35; and the date of execution 17th not 28th. The FOREWORD of the Fili was addressed to his beloved countrymen, thus: "TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE AND THEIR GOVERNMENT"

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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