Novel Written by Pepe “El Filibusterismo” The Reign of Greed
El filibusterismo (lit. Spanish for “filibustering”; The Subversive or Subversion, as in the Locsín English translation, are also possible translations), also known by its English alternative title The Reign of Greed, is the second novel written by Philippine national hero José Rizal. It is the sequel to Noli me tangere and, like the first book was written in Spanish. It was first published in 1891 in Ghent.
The novel’s dark theme departs dramatically from the previous novel’s hopeful and romantic atmosphere, signifying the character Ibarra’s resort to solving his country’s issues through violent means, after his previous attempt at reforming the country’s system have made no effect and seemed impossible with the attitudes of the Spaniards towards the Filipinos. The novel, along with its predecessor, was banned in some parts of the Philippines as a result of their portrayals of the Spanish government’s abuse and corruption. These novels along with Rizal’s involvement in organizations that aim to address and reform the Spanish system and its issues led to Rizal’s exile to Dapitan and eventual execution. Both the novel and its predecessor, along with Rizal’s last poem, are now considered Rizal’s literary masterpieces.
Both of Rizal’s novels had a profound effect on Philippine society in terms of views about national identity, the Catholic faith and its influence on Filipino’s choice, and the government’s issues of corruption, abuse, and discrimination, and on a larger scale, the issues related to the effect of colonization on people’s lives and the cause for independence. These novels later on indirectly became the inspiration to start the Philippine Revolution.
Throughout the Philippines, the reading of both the novel and its predecessor is now mandatory for high school students throughout the archipelago, although it is now read using English, Filipino, and the Philippines’ regional languages.
Thirteen years after the events of Noli Me Tángere, Crisostomo Ibarra returns to the Philippines under the guise of Simoun, a wealthy bearded jewelry tycoon sporting blue-tinted glasses, and a confidant of the Captain-General. Abandoning his idealism, he becomes a cynical saboteur and agitator, seeking revenge against the Spanish Philippine system responsible for his misfortunes by plotting a revolution. Simoun insinuates himself into Manila high society and influences every decision of the Captain-General to mismanage the country’s affairs so that a revolution will break out. He cynically sides with the upper classes, encouraging them to commit abuses against the masses to encourage the latter to revolt against the oppressive Spanish colonial regime. This time, he does not attempt to fight the authorities through legal and peaceful means, but through violent revolution using the masses. His two reasons for instigating a revolution are at first, to rescue María Clara from the convent and second, to get rid of the ills and evils of Philippine society.
A now grown-up Basilio visits the grave of his mother, Sisa, in a forested land owned by the Ibarra family one evening. Near the gravesite, Simoun digs for his buried treasures. His identity is discovered by Basilio when the two happen to meet up just as the latter leaves Sisa’s grave to go home. Simoun spares Basilio’s life and tells his story of his past, then asks him to join in his planned revolution against the government, egging him on by bringing up the tragic misfortunes of the latter’s family. Basilio declines the offer as he still hopes that the country’s condition will improve.
Basilio, at this point, is a graduating medical student at the Ateneo Municipál. After the death of his mother, Sisa, and the disappearance of his younger brother, Crispín, Basilio heeded the advice of the dying boatman, Elías, and traveled to Manila to study. Basilio was adopted by Capitan Tiago after María Clara entered the convent. With the help of the Ibarra’s riches and Capitan Tiago, Basilio was able to go to Colegio de San Juan de Letrán where, at first, he is frowned upon by his peers and teachers because of his skin color and his shabby appearance but is able to win their favor after winning a fencing tournament. Capitan Tiago’s confessor, Father Irene is making Captain Tiago’s health worse by giving him opium even as Basilio tries hard to prevent Capitan Tiago from smoking it. He and other students want to establish a Spanish language academy so that they can learn to speak and write Spanish despite the opposition from the Dominican friars of the Universidad de Santo Tomás. With the help of a reluctant Father Irene as their mediator and Don Custodio’s decision, the academy is established, but this turns bad as they will serve, not as the teachers but as caretakers of the school. Dejected and defeated, they hold a mock celebration at a pancitería while a spy for the friars witnesses the proceedings. Basilio, however, did not show up during the event.
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Simoun, for his part, keeps in close contact with the bandit group of Kabesang Tales, a former cabeza de barangay who suffered misfortunes at the hands of the friars. Once a farmer owning a prosperous sugarcane plantation, Tales was forced to give everything he had owned to the greedy, unscrupulous Spanish friars and the Church. His son, Tano, who became a Civil Guard, was captured by bandits; his daughter Julî had to work as a maid under Hermana Penchang to get enough ransom money for Tano’s freedom; and his father, Tandang Selo, became mute. Before joining the bandits, Tales took Simoun’s revolver while Simoun was staying at his house for the night. As payment, Tales leaves a locket that once belonged to María Clara. To further strengthen the revolution, Simoun has Quiroga, a Chinese businessman hoping for a consul position in the Philippines, smuggle weaponry to the country, using the latter’s bazaar as a front. Simoun plans to attack during a stage play with all of his enemies in attendance. On the afternoon of the day the attack is supposed to happen, Basilio informs Simoun of María Clara’s death in the convent during the morning hours of the day. A heartbroken Simoun abruptly aborts his plan in order to mourn her death.
A few years after the mock celebration by the students, the people are agitated when disturbing posters are found displayed around the city. The students present at a pancitería (noodle shop) are arrested on charges of agitation and disturbing the peace. Basilio, although not present at the mock celebration, is also arrested. Capitan Tiago dies after learning of the incident. But before he dies he signs a will; unknown to him, it was forged by Father Irene. Tiago’s will originally stated that Basilio should inherit all his property; but due to this forgery his property is given in parts, one to Santa Clara, one for the archbishop, one for the Pope, and one for the religious orders, leaving nothing for Basilio to inherit. Basilio is left in prison as the other students are released. A high official tries to intervene for the release of Basilio but the Captain-General, bearing grudges against the high official, coerces him to tender his resignation. Julî, Basilio’s sweetheart and the daughter of Kabesang Tales, tries to ask Father Camorra’s help upon the advice of Hermana Bali.[who?] The two travel to the convent, but during a rendezvous, Camorra tries to rape Julî, due to his long-hidden desires for young women. Hermana Bali tries to intervene to stop Camorra’s immoral act but is outmatched by the friar. Julî, finding herself trapped and being cornered by the friar, jumps from the convent’s window to her death. Simoun arranges for Basilio’s release and manages to get him out of confinement.
After Basilio is released, Simoun tells him about Julî’s ordeal with Camorra and her suicide. Basilio decides to join Simoun’s revolution. Simoun then tells Basilio his plan at the wedding of Paulita Gómez and Juanito Pelaez, Basilio’s hunch-backed classmate. He plans to conceal an explosive charge of nitroglycerin inside a pomegranate-styled kerosene lamp that Simoun will give to the newlyweds as a gift during the wedding reception. The reception is to take place at the former home of the late Capitan Tiago, which is now filled with explosives planted by Simoun. According to Simoun, the lamp will stay lighted for only twenty minutes before it flickers; if someone attempts to turn the wick, it will explode and kill everyone—important members of civil society and the Church hierarchy—inside the house. Basilio has a change of heart and attempts to warn Isagani, his friend and the former sweetheart of Paulita. Simoun leaves the reception early as planned and leaves a note behind.
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Initially thinking that it is simply a bad joke, Father Salví recognizes the handwriting and confirms that it is indeed Ibarra’s. As people begin to panic, the lamp flickers. Father Irene tries to turn the wick up when Isagani, due to his undying love for Paulita, bursts in the room and throws the lamp into the river, sabotaging Simoun’s plans. He escapes by diving into the river as guards chase after him. He later regrets his impulsive action: The explosion and revolution could have fulfilled his ideals for Filipino society; he had contradicted his own belief that he loved his nation more than he loved Paulita.
Simoun, now unmasked as the perpetrator of the attempted arson and failed revolution, becomes a fugitive. Wounded and exhausted after being shot by the pursuing Guardia Civil, he seeks shelter at the home of Father Florentino, Isagani’s uncle, and comes under the care of doctor Tiburcio de Espadaña, Doña Victorina’s husband, who was also hiding at the house. Simoun takes poison in order not to be captured alive. Before he dies, he reveals his real identity to Florentino while they exchange thoughts about the failure of his revolution and why God forsook him, when all he wanted was to avenge the people important to him that were wronged, such as Elías, María Clara, and his father Don Rafael. Florentino opines that God did not forsake him and that his plans were not for the greater good but for personal gain. Simoun, finally accepting Florentino’s explanation, squeezes his hand and dies. Florentino then takes Simoun’s remaining jewels and throws them into the Pacific Ocean with the corals hoping that they would not be used by the greedy, and that when the time came they would be used for the greater good.