Posted by the pensive poet
In high school we studied Jose Rizal’s two novels: Noli Me Tangere during the junior year and El Filibusterismo during the senior year. By this time I had ‘graduated’ from reading children’s books, having been initiated to Stephen King’s books in the summer before my junior year. For many of my classmates, reading these novels–albeit chapter by chapter, was a tedious chore. Something to be suffered.
There were times when reading some of the chapters was difficult for me as well. Even then, the Tagalog translation was old-fashioned. Some of the idiomatic expressions required either further reading or explanation. Especially with ‘Noli’.
When I got to ‘El Fili’ I realized that compared to the previous book it was an easier read. It was pretty straightforward, in terms of plot. It’s a revenge story that ponders on the necessity of seeking revenge–does this make sense. ‘El Fili’ shed the satirical tone of ‘Noli’, so the social commentaries being made here were less subtle than the ones in ‘Noli’. While reading it, I could see an action thriller film playing inside my head.
If ‘El Fili’ was the middle book of a trilogy, I can only imagine how the story of the final novel will move from the death of Ibarra. What would happen to Basilio and Isagani? Would someone discover Ibarra’s treasures? What kind of revolution will take place, knowing Rizal’s aversion to violence? Intriguing questions, surely. They were not mentioned in ‘Makamisa’, Rizal’s unfinished manuscript. Too bad Rizal died before he could complete another (even un-related) novel. I digress.
But why am I bringing up these books, which are believed to have inspired the Philippine revolution against Spain? The recurring themes of both books are greed and oppression. How one fosters the other. Its harmful effects that permeate all levels and sectors of society. The English translation of ‘Noli’ is called ‘The Social Cancer’ and ‘Fili’ is titled ‘Reign of Greed’.
Ring any bells yet?
The unfolding PDAF scam is a clear example that the themes explored by Rizal in his novels still rings through today, more than a hundred years later. This time, however, the perpetrators of this greedy and oppressive scheme are also Filipinos–no less than our elected legislators who connive with unscrupulous individuals to carry out a systematic and institutionalized robbery of our nation’s coffers.
Such a shame.