El Filibusterismo: The Death of Maria Clara De Los Santos

A drawing of Maria Clara by Vicente Manansala. National Museum of Fine Arts.

As a Jose Rizal fan, it might sound blasphemous but I don't enjoy reading El Filibusterismo as compared to Noli Me Tangere. I find Rizal's writing a little hurried and the narrative complex in this book. As a sequel to Noli Me Tangere, it does tie up the loose ends that were left unanswered at the end of the book. 

I always get emotional whenever I read El Fili. Maybe it was all because of the "revolutionary" talk that happens throughout the story. The scenes in El Fili are graver and forthright. There seems to be a sense of darkness that surrounds every page. 

The Deal

There is this particular chapter in El Fili where Simoun, the intrigue-laden protagonist, visits the infirmed Capitan Tiago. The old man is being taken care of by Basilio, the young orphan sacristan in Noli Me Tangere who is now a medical student. Captain Santiago de los Santos is the father of Maria Clara, the sweetheart of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, the protagonist in Noli. 

Basilio is the only one who knows the real identity of the chameleon-like Simoun. The man with no country is no other than the idealistic and unfortunate Crisostomo Ibarra who had to fake his own death and live in exile for years. He transformed into the corrupt and unscrupulous jeweler, Simoun, whose main goal was to seek out revenge on all those who destroyed his past. 

Simoun/Ibarra wants to enlist Basilio's help in his imminent revolution. He wanted the young man to lead the charge to the Santa Clara Nunnery and free his beloved Maria Clara. Simoun's apparent motive in inciting a rebellion is not to liberate the masses but to create a distraction for his real purpose. 

"Yes, Maria Clara," confirmed Simoun, and for, the first time his voice took on a sad and human accent. "I want to rescue her, I have wanted to live only to rescue her, I have returned...I make a revolution because only a revolution can open for me the gates of the nunneries."

As Basilio tells the worldly Simoun that Maria Clara died earlier in evening, the older man did not believe him. Simoun accused Basilio of being a coward and came up with the lie to avoid helping him. But Basilio asked Simoun if he didn't hear the 
convent bells that tolled for her, hours earlier. 

Capitan Tiago upon hearing about the death of his daughter took a huge dose of opium to dull his senses. When Maria Clara entered the convent, he lost interest in his business affairs. 

Simoun in his despair unabashedly showed his broken heart to Basilio. His grief was beyond measure. He confessed that everything that he has done, the man that he has become was part of a master plan to be with Maria Clara again. 

"Dead," he whispered as to a shade. "Dead and I did not see her again, dead without knowing i lived for her, dead in pain..."

This scene which is often overlooked shows the most human emotional side of Simoun. For readers, there is still a glimpse of the idealistic Ibarra in that unashamed outburst. 

A Remembrance of Things Past

Chapter 61 of Noli Me Tangere, tells the tale of the last time that Ibarra and Maria Clara were together. 

The lovesick young man visited his paramour upon escaping from prison with the help of Elias. Ibarra wanted to confront the young woman about her betrayal and impending marriage to Linares. 

"By my dead mother's coffin, I swore to make you happy, no matter what happened to me. You could break your own pledge; she was not your mother. But I am her son, and I hold her memory sacred, and I have braved a thousand perils to come here and keep mine. By the grace of God, I can speak to you in person. Maria, we shall never see each other again. You are still young, but perhaps someday your conscience may trouble you. I have come to say, before we part, that I forgive you. And now, be happy, farewell. " 

Upon Maria Clara's confession to Ibarra, the sweethearts reconciled. The young lady's parting words to Ibarra were the following: 

"The future is dark. Our fate is hidden. I do not know what I am going to do. But I love only once, and I shall never belong to anyone without love..." 

Lovers' Goodbye. Painting by Leonardo Tayao Cruz. National Museum of Fine Arts.

The Memory of Star-Crossed Lovers

After Simoun's frantic exit, Basilio was left alone with his thoughts and memories: 

"Forgetting his studies, his eyes looking out vaguely into space, he pondered on the fate of these two human beings, one of them a rich and cultured young man, free, master of his destiny, with a brilliant future before him, and she, beautiful as a dream, pure, full of faith and innocence, cradled in love and smiles, destined for a happy life in her family's affection and the world's esteem; yet, of these two, so full of love, illusion and hope, one had been driven by a fatal destiny to wander through the world carried along relentlessly in a whirlwind of blood and tears, sowing evil instead of doing good, crushing virtue and fomenting vice, while she perished in the mysterious depths of the cloister where she had sought peace and had perhaps found suffering, where she had entered pure and without stain and died a broken flower."

Author's Note: 
In Guerrero's version of El Fili, Chapter 23 is named "The Deal". But, in Charles Derbyshire's English version, he directly translated Rizal's "Un Cadaver" --- "A Corpse". I think the different chapter titles also showed what was the translator's focus.


I used the 2015 translated editions by Leon Ma. Guerrero III of the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Guerrero was a diplomat, writer, and lawyer. His sister was Carmen Guerrero Nakpil.

More Readings About El Filibusterismo


Unknown said…
Thank you for this! :)
iamapr said…
Jusko ang sakit sa puso.
Be Happy said…
Maria Clara at Ibarra is also a GMA Pinoy Teleserye.
Unknown said…
Di man sila tinadhana dto sa lupa for sure sa langit sila n magkasama..
Anonymous said…
Felt sad for Maria Clara, she just became the result of this society.
Unknown said…
nakakalungkot naman ang storyang ito, never ko pang nabasa ang mga libro ni rizal sa kahit anong version.. ang sakit isipin kawawa naman si Maria Clara sa storyang ito. haist.