Noli Me Tangere (The Social Cancer)
by José Rizal
'Noli Me Tangere (The Social Cancer)' Summary
Crisóstomo Ibarra, the mestizo son of the recently deceased Don Rafael Ibarra, is returning to San Diego in Laguna after seven years of study in Europe. Kapitán Tiago, a family friend, bids him to spend his first night in Manila where Tiago hosts a reunion party at his riverside home on Anloague Street. Crisóstomo obliges. At dinner he encounters old friends, Manila high society, and Padre Dámaso, San Diego's old curate at the time Ibarra left for Europe. Dámaso treats Crisóstomo with hostility, surprising the young man who always viewed the friar to be a family friend.
Crisóstomo excuses himself early and is making his way back to his hotel when Lieutenant Guevarra, another friend of his father, catches up with him. As the two of them walk to Crisóstomo's stop, and away from the socialites at the party who may possibly compromise them if they heard, Guevarra reveals to the young man the events leading up to Rafael's death and Dámaso's role in it. Crisóstomo, who has been grieving from the time he learned of his father's death, decides to forgive and not seek revenge. Guevarra nevertheless warns the young man to be careful.
The following day, Crisóstomo returns to Kapitán Tiago's home in order to meet with his childhood sweetheart, Tiago's daughter María Clara. The two flirt and reminisce in the azotea, a porch overlooking the river. María reads back to Crisóstomo his farewell letter wherein he explained to her Rafael's wish for Crisóstomo to set out, to study in order to become a more useful citizen of the country. Seeing Crisóstomo agitated at the mention of his father, however, María playfully excuses herself, promising to see him again at her family's San Diego home during the town fiesta.
Crisóstomo goes to the town cemetery upon reaching San Diego to visit his father's grave. However, he learns from the groundskeeper that the town curate had ordered that Rafael's remains be exhumed and transferred to a Chinese cemetery. Although Crisóstomo is angered by the revelation, the groundskeeper adds that on the night he dug up the corpse, it rained hard and he feared for his own soul, causing him to take pity on Rafael and instead defy the curate's orders by throwing the body into the lake. At that moment, Padre Bernardo Salví, the new curate of San Diego, walks into the cemetery. Crisóstomo's anger explodes as he shoves him into the ground and demands an accounting; Salví fearfully tells Crisóstomo that the transfer was ordered by the previous curate, Padre Dámaso, causing the latter to leave in consternation.
Crisóstomo, committed to his patriotic endeavors, is determined not to seek revenge and to put the matter behind him. As the days progress he carries out his plan to serve his country as his father wanted. He intends to use his family wealth to build a school, believing that his paisanos would benefit from a more modern education than what is offered in the schools run by the government, whose curriculum was heavily tempered by the teachings of the friars.
Enjoying massive support, even from the Spanish authorities, Crisóstomo's preparations for his school advance quickly in only a few days. He receives counsel from Don Anastacio, a revered local philosopher, who refers him to a progressive schoolmaster who lamented the friars' influence on public education and wished to introduce reforms. The building was planned to begin construction with the cornerstone to be laid in a ceremony during San Diego's town fiesta.
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