El Filibusterismo

El Filibusterismo

Jose Rizal

The memory of the lamp occupied his thoughts. In less than two hours a great catastrophe would take place and when he thought about it, it seemed as if men who passed by him were headless. What’s this lamp Basilio been referring to and what does he meant by “a great catastrophe?”



I’ve had El Filibusterismo for a long time, but it took me a while to finish it. The past few days has been terrible—I’ll spare you of the details; and so, I really have to find away to read this English translation of Harold Augenbraum and to just tell you whether this second book of Jose Rizal is worth reading or not. Despite the front cover that I really didn’t like, as it didn’t have that premium feeling compared to the back, I may have judged this novel too early.

This time, it hits me. I haven’t read El Filibusterismo; how the plot in this Satire novel goes exactly was a blur to me. See, in the first book, Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, son of a very wealthy man Don Rafael Ibarra, is the protagonist. Now, an infamous jeweler Simoun who also goes by the names: Dark Cardinal, His Black Eminence and The Grey Eminence, is the introduced protagonist. What’s interesting about this new character is that he is the complete opposite of Ibarra. The latter is righteous, loving, and compassionate; the former is greedy and filled with hatred. Now, Ibarra, as Simoun, is back to get his revenge fueled by obsession, death, and the passion for his country and his people against tyranny and the imperfect Spanish government.

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In the first few pages, I got to be instantly whisked away into the nineteenth century. The three or four pages of the chapter 1 titled “On Deck”, I could see the characters moving and interacting in that setting during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.

At first, I thought I would be overwhelmed again by the intellect of Jose Rizal in describing the setting, but the clever command of the language vividly painted the background. Also, the names are vital in the creation of the settings which in my opinion this novel did a good job in convincing me that they lived in that time period.

In terms of the characters, I noticed that writer exuded amazing detail in the older Basilio. Started from nothing, the little lad of Sisa, the mad woman in the first novel, became a medical student in El Filibusterismo. His occupation as a medical student is clear to me from the beginning. See, when Basilio gets into a predicament, Sister Penchang, the old religious woman, said that if Basilio sees something dirty in the holy water, he wouldn’t bless himself with it and he always talks about bugs and diseases. It’s just impressive when the characters affect one another in some ways. Overall, the characters, though, felt two-dimensional in my opinion.

Now, let’s have a look at the conflicts with the main characters. Although Simoun exudes the characteristics of being greedy and cruel, he still has a tender feeling for the love of his life Maria Clara who is locked up in a convent in Santa Clara. In chapter 23 titled A Corpse, there was supposed to a major event led by His Black Eminence which led into a failure—when Basilio revealed to him what have become of her in the convent.

I almost overlooked the importance of a dialogue in a narrative. I noticed the pros and the cons. There were numerous times that I’ve gotten confused on who’s talking and I have to re-read the paragraph all over again. Also, there were instances that the main characters speak in monologue. This is expected for a classic novel, yet a reader that has a short attention span might get a little bored—not good for the young readers. Nevertheless, there enough dialogue to keep me interested—but that monologue in the forest is just epic!

See, El Filibusterismo is a beautiful narrative filled with vengeance, obsession and hatred. Simoun, Basilio, and Telesforo, also a.k.a. Cabesang Tales turned into subversion ensued by the unjust and imperfect government.

So, what is the verdict? This novel stirred the emotions in me, and I felt compassionate on the characters. The misfortunes and denouement of Juli, Cabesang Tales’ daughter and Basilio’s fiancé, shocked me for a moment—of course it’s more tragedy for Basilio. The writer’s intellect may somehow overwhelming, as he really is well-versed, but if you like a novel jam-packed with tragedy, conspiracy, and humanity–maybe a little bit of romance, you should include this to your reading list.

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