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EL Filibusterismo: In Brief


El Filibusterismo is the second novel written by Jose Rizal and it is the sequel to the 1887 “Noli Me Tangere.” Also known as El Fili in Filipino, the novel was published in 1891 in Ghent, Belgium. It was shipped to the Philippines via Hong Kong and many of the copies were confiscated before reaching the Philippine shore. ‘El Filibusterismo’ was thereafter serialized in El Nuevo Regimen in Madrid and translated into Filipino, other Philippine dialects, English, German, Japanese and French.

The Plot Summary

Set thirteen years after Crisostomo Ibarra, the main character in ‘Noli Me Tangere,’ left the Philippines, a mysterious jeweler named Simoun returns to the Philippines on board the steamer Tabo. The all powerful Simoun with his beard and his blue tinted eyeglasses is a friend of the Spanish government, being an advisor to the Governor General of the Philippines. On the outside, he is a good friend of Spain, but in his heart, he is planning revenge in opposition to the Spanish atrocities in the Philippines. This is for the reason that Simoun, who in reality is Crisostomo Ibarra, is fueled by revenge and his fixation to instigate a revolution against Spain and to rescue his beloved Maria Clara from the convent.

As the story progresses, Simoun meets characters which he will manipulate to achieve his end. His true identity is eventually discovered by Basilio while he visits his mother’s grave. Basilio is now a medical student under the patronage of Capitan Tiago. Simoun shows mercy to Basilio by sparing his life and by asking the latter to join his planned revolution. Basilio refuses the offer despite Simoun’s taunts about his family’s misfortunes.

The jeweler also manipulates the band of bandits headed by Kabesang Tales, who also suffers misfortunes under the friars. Simoun also manipulates the Chinese Quiroga into smuggling firearms and weapons using his store as a front. Meanwhile, Basilio supports the establishment of a Spanish language school to help the students read and learn the language to the great opposition of the Dominican friars. Simoun is now gearing up for the revolution which he immediately calls to a halt, upon learning of the death of Maria Clara earlier that day.

The rejected students which fought for the establishment of a Spanish academy hold a mock celebration in a panciteria (noodle cafe) where a friar spy witnesses the event. Several of the students and Basilio are imprisoned notwithstanding the latter’s absence during the celebration. Conversely, Juli, Basilio’s girlfriend commits suicide after Padre Camorra tries to rape her. Basilio is left in prison while many of the students are released. Basilio is subsequently released with Simoun’s help, and after learning of Juli’s suicide he joins Simoun’s revolution.

Simoun eventually tells Basilio of his plan to exterminate the highest officials of the Philippines who will be attending the wedding of Paulita Gomez and Juanito Pelaez. The explosive is masqueraded as a beautiful kerosene lamp. Once out of fuel, it will be lighted again and will eventually explode. During the wedding, Simoun gives the newlyweds the lamp and leaves the reception early leaving a note. The note is later found out to be signed in the name of Crisostomo Ibarra.

With a change of heart, Basilio informs his friend Isagani about the plan. Isagani, being a former boyfriend of Paulita Gomez steals the lamp and throws it into the river. He also escapes by diving into the river while being pursued by the Guardia Civil. The note is left behind and it is confirmed by Padre Salvi that it was truly written by Ibarra.

Simoun’s real identity is discovered later on and he is pursued by the Guardia Civil. Being fatally wounded, he seeks refuge in the house of Padre Florentino, Isagani uncle. Simoun reveals his identity to the priest and has a discussion about the failure of the revolution. Simoun eventually dies and Padre Florentino throws his treasures into the Pacific Ocean with the hope that the treasure will surface once the nation truly deserves its independence.

El Filibusterismo shows the maturity of Jose Rizal as a writer. The novel, with its tale of revenge runs off from Noli Me Tangere’s central theme of love and martyrdom. El Filibusterismo, although more than a hundred years old still finds application in a society where tyrants and corruption reign.

The Novel: In Brief

The story of El Filibusterismo begins on board the clumsy, roundish shaped steamer Tabo, so appropriately named. This steamer is sailing upstream the Pasig from Manila to Laguna de Bay. Among the passengers are Simoun, the rich jeweler; Doña Victorina, the ridiculously pro-Spanish native woman who is going to Laguna in search of her henpecked husband, Tiburcio de Espadaña, who has deserted her; Paulita Gomez, her beautiful niece; Ben-Zayb (anagram of Ibañez), a Spanish journalist who writes silly articles about the Filipinos; Padre Sibyla, vice-rector of the University of Santo Tomas; Padre Camorra, the parish priest of the town of Tiani; Don Custodio, a pro-spanish Filipino holding a position in the government; Padre Salvi, thin Franciscan friar and former cura of San Diego; Padre Irene, a kind friar who was a friend of the Filipino students; Padre Florentino, a retired scholarly and patriotic Filipino priest; Isagani, a poet-nephew of Padre Florentino and a lover of Paulita; and Basilio, son of Sisa and promising medical student, whose medical education is financed by his patron, Capitan Tiago.

Simoun, a man of wealth and mystery, is a very close friend and confidante of the Spanish governor general. Because of his great influence in Malacañang, he was called the “Brown Cardinal” or the “Black Eminence”. By using his wealth and political influence, he encourages corruption in the government, promotes the oppression of the masses, and hastens the moral degradation of the country so that the people may become desperate and fight. He smuggles arms into the country with the help of a rich Chinese merchant, Quiroga, who wants very much to be Chinese consul of Manila. His first attempt to begin the armed uprising did not materialize because at the last hour he hears the sad news that Maria Clara died in the nunnery. In his agonizing moment of bereavement, he did not give the signal for the outbreak of hostilities.

After a long time of illness brought about by the bitter loss of Maria Clara, Simoun perfects his plan to overthrow the government. On the occasion of the wedding of Paulita Gomez and Juanito Pelaez, he gives a wedding gift to them a beautiful lamp. Only he and his confidential associates, Basilio (Sisa’s son who joined his revolutionary cause), know that when the wick of his lamp burns lower the nitroglycerine, hidden in its secret compartment, will explode, destroying the house where the wedding feast is going to be held killing all the guests, including the governor general, the friars, and the government officials. Simultaneously, all the government buildings in Manila will be blown by Simoun’s followers.

As the wedding feast begins, the poet Isagani, who has been rejected by Paulita because of his liberal ideas, is standing outside the house, watching sorrowfully the merriment inside. Basilio, his friend, warns him to go away because the lightened lamp will soon explode.

Upon hearing the horrible secret of the lamp, Isagani realizes that his beloved Paulita was in grave danger. To save her life, he rushes into the house, seizes the lightened lamp, and hurls it into the river, where it explodes.

The revolutionary plot was thus discovered. Simoun was cornered by the soldiers, but he escaped. Mortally wounded, and carrying his treasure chest, he sought refuge in the home of Padre Florentino by the sea.

The Spanish authorities, however, learns of his presence in the house of Padre Florentino. Lieutenant Perez of the Guardia Civil informs the priest by letter that he would come at eight o’clock that night to arrest Simoun.

Simoun eluded arrest by taking poison. As he is dying, he confesses to Padre Florentino, revealing his true identity, his dastardly plan to use his wealth to avenge himself, and his sinister aim to destroy his friends and enemies.

The confession of the dying Simoun is long and painful. It is already night when Padre Florentino, wiping the sweat from his wrinkled brow, rises and begins to meditate. He consoles the dying man saying: “God will forgive you Señor Simoun. He knows that we are fallible. He has seen that you have suffered, and in ordaining that the chastisement for your faults should come as death from the very ones you have instigated to crime, we can see His infinite mercy. He has frustrated your plans one by one, the best conceived, first by the death of Maria Clara, then by a lack of preparation, then in some mysterious way. Let us bow to His will and render Him thanks!”

Watching Simoun die peacefully with a clear conscience and at peace with God. Padre Florentino falls upon his knees and prays for the dead jeweler. He takes the treasure chest and throws it into the sea; as the waves close over the sinking chest.