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Dr. Jose Rizal's 'The Social Cancer' and 'Reign of Greed'

Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer with a Bachelor of Science degree in Information and Communications Technology.

Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo by Dr. Jose P. Rizal

Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo by Dr. Jose P. Rizal

I am a Filipino: inheritor of a glorious past, hostage to the uncertain future. As such I must prove equal to a two-fold task—the task of meeting my responsibility to the past, and the task of performing my obligation to the future.

— I am a Filipino, Carlos P. Romulo

The Natures of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo

What pushes people to fight for freedom and battle against years of oppression? What inspires people to just let and ride the waves until the storm had passed? What decides if one truly loves it's people and country, to the point that either peaceful democratic assimilation or anarchism movements that may or may not lead to those who and what you want to be free a success? Can peace be obtained when justice has always seem to be never an option?

These two novels digs deeper into understanding the internal and external struggles of a country, divided by motivations, beliefs, and moralities. These novels are revered as two of the most prominent and prolific literary works written by a Filipino.

I remembered in high school that one of our requirements for our Filpino subject was to create a school play using two of the most world-class, historical, and enduring literary works ever written: Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. These great literary masterpieces are also often used in dramas, theatrical plays, and movies.

"Noli Me Tangere" is translated "Touch Me Not" or "The Social Cancer," while "El Filibusterismo" is translated "The Reign of Greed." Both novels were about historically driven fictional Philippines during the Spanish colonial period inspired by the writer's current living conditions, his views, and his beliefs.

Rizal had his third unfinished work or novel, the alleged sequel and final book on the first two. Known by historians as “Maka-misa,” Rizal wrote this unfinished third novel in 1892 in Hong Kong. But what's more baffling is that the title Maka-misa is not actual name of it, but only a single chapter of the said unfinished novel. He began writing it in Tagalog language but had given up and continued to try and finish it in Spanish.

If you ever find yourself reading history textbooks or learning history lessons about the Philippines, especially during the Spanish colonial period, you'll learn that the country was greatly influenced by Spain by language, culture, names, behaviors, and even societal systems. But just like every part of the history of the world, there will always be white and black patches within a collective shadowed area.

Blazing Another Fire: A Few Reasons What Lead Rizal in Writing the Novels

On February 17, 1872, three Filipino Catholic priests from the province of Cavite were executed for charges of mutiny as well as conspiring a looming need of Filipinos for freedom by overthrowing the colonial Spanish friars and Spanish rule. The unjust execution was among the lists of attempts to instill fear among the Filipinos so that they may never commit such a daring act again, especially in a colonial rule. It was referred to as the 1872 Cavite mutiny.

Recognized by their martyrdom, three Filipino priests were Fathers Mariano Gomes, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora most prominently and commonly known as the GomBurZa.

In this another tragic event, among many others throughout 333 years of Spanish colonial rule, their trial and execution were believed to be one of the initial sparks that finally ignited the flames of Filipino nationalism and patriotism: the first lights in thousands of burning candles.

Even before the horrendous injustice, there were pockets of revolutions found within the country. They are often small and weak compared to the power of those that had oppressed them, and the majority of the people were still divided into multiple facets that could either help or risk the success of these revolutions. But what really followed is a series of revolutions and outcries for independence from the Filipinos against the colonial rule, seemingly bigger and larger than they were before, with the added wave of slow yet cumulative anger against issues of over-taxation, forced labor, racial discrimination, and injustices made the colonial Spaniards.

In short, people got angry. That anger turned into deepening hatred. And the hatred fueled their desire to be free.

The Life of an Unofficial National Hero

Dedicating to the memory of the three martyr priests by writing the El Filibusterismo, José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda was a Filipino nationalist and polymath. He was also tagged as one of the national heroes in the Philippines, along with numerous named and unnamed heroes in every region of the country.

Born in 1861 in the town of Calamba in Laguna province, he had nine sisters and one brother. His parents were leaseholders of a hacienda, a large landed estate, and an accompanying rice farm by the Dominicans (one member of the Spanish friars).

From an early age, José showed charismatic intellect. He's one of the most educated Filipinos to ever exist during the Spanish colonial era.

He learned the alphabet from his mother at three and could read and write at age five. His life was also one of the most documented 19th century Filipinos due to the vast and extensive records written by and about him, and these records are often found on the countries he had been to — from America to Japan, from Hong Kong and Macau to England. He had a pretty interesting dating life, too. He was once dubbed as the country's first "lover boy" for attracting women within and from different countries despite having a height of five-foot-three. There were at least nine women linked with Rizal, namely:

9 women who were linked with Rizal

9 women who were linked with Rizal

His biographers have faced difficulty in translating his writings, diaries, notes, and other written forms because of Rizal's habit of switching from one language to another because he, himself, is a polyglot knowing 22 languages. These languages are listed below:

Languages Within the Philippines:

Languages Outside of the Philippines:





























Documented studies depicted him to be a polymath with the ability to master various skills and subjects. He was an ophthalmologist, sculptor, painter, educator, farmer, historian, playwright, and journalist. He was inspired to pursue Ophthalmology because of her mother's failing eyesight and his desire of helping her.

Besides poetry and creative writing, he dabbled, with varying degrees of expertise, in architecture, cartography, economics, ethnology, anthropology, sociology, dramatics, martial arts, fencing, pistol shooting, and freemason.

As the leader of the reform movement of Filipino students in Spain, Rizal contributed essays, allegories, poems, and editorials to the Spanish newspaper La Solidaridad in Barcelona. The core of his writings centers on liberal and progressive ideas of individual rights and freedom; specifically, rights for the Filipino people. He shared the same sentiments with members of the movement: that the Philippines is battling, in Rizal's own words, "a double-faced Goliath"—corrupt friars and bad government.

He was a prolific poet, essayist, and novelist whose most famous works were his two novels, Noli Me Tángere and its sequel, El Filibusterismo. Those social commentaries during the Spanish colonization of the country formed the nucleus of literature that inspired peaceful reformists and armed revolutionaries alike.

Two Ends of the Spectrum

Indeed, the grave needs for independence were seemingly plotted on a spectrum, with achieving using force and violence or using peace and assimilation: Rizal in the Propagandists, along with other notable Ilustrados or educated Filipino class during the Spanish colonial period. On the other hand, Andres Bonifacio, along with other notable people, leads the Katipunan, a secret Philippine revolutionary society founded by anti-Spanish colonialism Filipino men and women, with most members being indoctrinated with the rules of the secret society and are made to swear in secrecy.

The Propagandists knows that the country will never be prepared for owning its independence, for another nation will gobble it up just like how the Spanish did, so most of their revolutions and actions against the Spanish colonizers were mostly written and art mediums, those that will reach out to and "wake up" most Filipinos during the era. The Katipunans know that in meeting true freedom from brutal oppression, a heart of true nationalism and patriotism to battle injustices by using weapons, bloodshed, violence, and rebellion will help attain the sweet taste of long-awaited freedom and independence.

The Propagandists prefer reforms and changes through written mediums, or the usage of propaganda, like publishing anti-colonial newspapers, pieces, novels, poems, songs, or even stories withholding the hope of change and/or assimilation. The Katipunan's primary goal is for the whole country to gain independence from Spain through revolutions, by concocting ambushes and plans to oust the oppressive regime, and incite pockets of rebellion acts against them. Both have two different perspectives and ideas to help their people but had an underlying unified desire to release the Filipino people from their shackles and chains.

Because of these two ideologies, activism, nationalism, and patriotism gradually emerged as new forms of fighting against what a group of people, especially in young people and students, think is the collective best for the general good. This is usually a fight against something they believe is morally and ethically wrong. Though the outcome depends on whether the voices of these people are heard, along with rooting ambiguity of locating its moral standpoint, it is made sure that the voices of the masses must be heard. It is made sure that statements are made and they are heard. It made sure that in every offense, it gives even the tiniest chance for the masses to finally be free and independent. It made sure that liberty from hundreds of years of oppression is obtained. Because they know that if the masses remain quite, or divided, the people above them will abuse their power. And these abuse of power comes with a cost, severely damaging the morale and the people of the oppressed.

By 1896, due to Bonifacio's aggressive and strategic leadership, the rebellion by the Katipunan proved to be a nationwide uprising against the colonial regime. By this time, Rizal had earlier volunteered his services as a doctor in Cuba and was given leave to serve in Cuba to minister to victims of yellow fever.

Rizal was arrested en route to Cuba via Spain and was imprisoned in Barcelona on October 6, 1896. He was sent back the same day to Manila to stand trial as he was implicated in the revolution through his association with members of the Katipunan. During the entire passage, he was unchained, no Spaniard laid a hand on him, and had many opportunities to escape but refused to do so.

Rizal was tried before a court-martial for rebellion, sedition, and conspiracy, and was convicted on all three charges and sentenced to death. Before his execution, Rizal wrote a proclamation denouncing the revolution. The roots of these convictions stem from the two novels he recently published and distributed among the Filipino people, which were somehow used as evidences for a propaganda against the colonial Spanish friars and the Spanish government.

"Treat our aged parents as you would wish to be treated...Love them greatly in memory of me... Bury me in the ground. Place a stone and a cross over it. My name, the date of my birth and of my death. Nothing more. If later you wish to surround my grave with a fence, you can do it. No anniversaries."

— Jose Rizal, December 30, 1986, in his last letters to his family.

The Fall Gave Rise to the People

Rizal was a reformist during his early years which means he wanted compromise between the Filipinos and the Spanish Government. However, after depriving the country of reforms, Rizal became radical which is one of the core characteristics of activists.

Rizal stuffed unknown papers in his pockets and shoes on the eve of his execution.

He did this because he presumed that his corpse would be turned over to his family after his execution. But his body was dumped by Spanish officials in an unmarked grave in Paco cemetery. The papers have since deteriorated and the contents of which were never identified.

He was executed by firing squad on the the first light of December 30, 1986 saying his last words, those of Jesus Christ: "consummatum est", – it is finished.

The story of Noli and Fili gives off a societal message that the citizens should be the leaders of its governing body, and not the other way around. That strength lies in numbers of people who want to change something that is inappropriate, or give voices to those who suffer injustices. They are novels mirroring the life of each person whilst delivering a story that each separate team in society has its own perspective. It is a commentary of belief for rights, justice, and freedom, and the need to attain it — no matter what the cost.

With two novels created to mimic the writer's intention of gaining independence for its people, not by a continuous cycle of hatred and violence, but by love, empathy, compassion, and peace.


  1. Frank Laubach, Rizal: Man and Martyr (Manila: Community Publishers, 1936).
  2. http://nhcp.gov.ph/the-two-faces-of-the-1872-cavite-mutiny/
  3. Austin Coates, Rizal: Philippine Nationalist and Martyr (London: Oxford University Press, 1968) ISBN 0-19-581519-X
  4. "The life and works of Jose Rizal". www.joserizal.com. Retrieved September 3, 2013.
  5. Craig, Austin (1914). Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot. Yonker-on-Hudson World Book Company.
  6. Fadul Jose(ed.) (2008). Morrisville, North Carolina: Lulu Press. ISBN 978-1-4303-1142-3
  7. Valdez, Maria Stella S. (2007). Doctor Jose Rizal and the Writing of His Story. Rex Bookstore, Inc. ISBN 978-971-23-4868-6.
  8. "José Rizal > Quotes". goodreads. Retrieved March 26, 2015.
  9. "Nationalista Party History". Archived from the original on 27 June 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2007.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Darius Razzle Paciente