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The Noli is Rizal’s expose of corrupt friars who have made the Catholic religion an instrument for enriching and perpetuating themselves in power by seeking to mire ignorant Filipinos in fanaticism and superstition. According to Rizal, instead of teaching Filipinos true Catholicism, they control the government by opposing all progress and persecuting members of the ilustrado unless they make themselves their servile flatterers. Rizal does not, however, spare his fellow countrymen.
The superstitious and hypocritical fanaticism of many who consider themselves religious people; the ignorance, corruption, and brutality of the Filipino civil guards; the passion for gambling unchecked by the thought of duty and responsibility; the servility of the wealthy Filipino towards friars and government officials; the ridiculous efforts of Filipinos to dissociate themselves from their fellowmen or to lord it over them–all these are ridiculed and disclosed.
Nevertheless, Rizal clearly implies that many of these failings are traceable to the misguided policy of the government and the questionable practices of the friars.
Rizal nevertheless balances the national portrait by highlighting the virtues and good qualities of his unspoiled countryman: the modesty and devotion of the Filipina, the unstinting hospitality of the Filipino family, the devotion of parents to their children and children to their parents, the deep sense of gratitude, and the solid common sense of the untutored peasant.
The Noli is, therefore, not merely an attack on the Spanish colonial regime; it is a charter for nationalism. It calls on the Filipino to recover his self-confidence, to appreciate his own worth, to return to the heritage of his ancestors, and to assert himself as the equal of the Spaniard.
It insists on the need of education, of dedication to the country, and of absorbing aspects of foreign cultures that would enhance the native traditions. Noli Me Tangere was Rizal’s first novel.
He was 26 at its publication. This book was historically significant and was instrumental in the establishing of the Filipino’s sense of national identity. The book indirectly influenced a revolution although the author, Jose Rizal, advocated non-violent means and only direct representation to the Spanish government. The novel was written in Spanish, the language of the educated at a time when Filipinos were markedly segregated by diverse native languages and regional cultures.
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