A wealthy young mestizo who has just returned to the Philippines after seven years of studying in Europe, Ibarra is sophisticated, highly esteemed, and very idealistic. The priests of San Diego all view him with great wariness on account of his highly liberal education and connections. His father, the equally idealistic Don Rafael, was labeled a subversive and a heretic by the corrupt priesthood and incarcerated, ultimately leading to his death. Ibarra hopes to create a school in San Diego in order to carry out his father's dreams and ideals, but he becomes entangled in conflicts with the church and is forced to flee San Diego as a result of a conspiracy led by the scheming Father Salví. In contrast to his more radical friend Elías, Ibarra generally wants to work within systems to reform the Philippines, rather than overthrow them, but he shifts towards Elías's beliefs as the novel progresses.
A woman of high social standing, she is thought to be the daughter of Capitan Tiago and goddaughter of Father Dámaso. She is actually the biological daughter of Father Dámaso, the product of a scandalous relationship between the old priest and Capitan Tiago’s wife. María Clara grew up alongside Ibarra and planned to marry him, but Father Dámaso disapproved of the union. After Ibarra is excommunicated from the church, her guardians set her up to be wed to Linares, a wealthy young man of Spanish descent, and she tries to go along with the plan to avoid hurting her father, the weak-willed Capitan Tiago. When Ibarra is put on trial for sedition, she is coerced into surrendering the letters Ibarra has sent her as evidence of his guilt. Ultimately, when she hears of Ibarra's apparent death, she refuses to marry Linares and joins a convent.
Father Dámaso is an old, power-hungry, and shamelessly corrupt Spanish priest who has lived among the native Filipinos for nearly two decades. In spite of having spent all that time among them, the years have done nothing to endear him or develop any sympathy in him for his “flock.” He is deeply racist, as well as petty and vindictive, and he thinks nothing of using his considerable influence to ruin the lives of those who have slighted him, regardless of how small the offense is. He masterminded the death of Don Rafael Ibarra, then brazenly taunted the younger Ibarra. After he publically insults Ibarra's father, Ibarra attacks him and he excommunicates Ibarra from the church. He is also the godfather (and, in fact, the biological father) of María Clara, giving him influence over her relationship with Ibarra.
A mysterious character, Elías is a man on the run from the law who resents both the Spanish colonial government and the Catholic Church, despite his strong religious convictions. He crosses paths with the more temperate Ibarra when Ibarra bravely saves him from a crocodile. Elías uncovers a plot against Ibarra's life and works closely with him throughout the second half of the novel. He and Ibarra have several long conversations regarding the ethics of politics and governance, with Elias taking a more revolutionary stance.
A younger, more cunning Spanish priest who assumes control over Father Damaso’s post as friar curate of San Diego. He is in many regards more dangerous that his precursor as he is a more gifted strategist who uses his religious role for political influence as well as personal vendettas. He frequently fights with the town's ensign for power. His most significant role in the novel comes through his plot to ruin Ibarra, who is engaged to María Clara, who he is in love with.
Captain Tiago (Don Santiago de los Santos)
Capitan Tiago is a rarity in that he is a wealthy Filipino who is native-born. He keeps close ties with high-ranking members of the Catholic Church, despite actually having no respect for religion, and shamelessly joins in others' racist insults against his own people. His primary concern is to marry off his daughter, María Clara, to an affluent man from an influential family. This is one of the main reasons that he is quick to toss aside his loyalties to Ibarra when he is labeled a subversive. His predilection for advantageous social pairings makes him quick to assent to Linares as a potential new match for his daughter.
The nameless head of the Civil Guard of the township of San Diego. A man of Spanish descent, he is in a constant bitter feud with Father Salví to gain power in the town. He imposes curfews that make it all but impossible for the citizens of San Diego to attend mass at the proper schedule. He drinks excessively and is married to Doña Consolación, who he frequently fights with.
The pugnacious wife of The Ensign, Doña Consolación is an older Filipina woman who is ashamed of her heritage and pretends to be unable to speak Tagalog, her own native language. She fights with her husband frequently and makes many of her husband's decisions for him. Despite being described as very ugly, she is proud and demands respect from others.
Don Rafael Ibarra
Crisóstomo Ibarra’s father is posthumously mentioned in the novel. A critic of the corrupt practices of the Spanish friars, he earns the ire of the vitriolic Father Dámaso, who accuses him of sedition and heresy. He dies in prison before his name can be cleared. His remains are buried in the Catholic cemetery in the town of San Diego, but Father Dámaso hires a gravedigger to disinter his body to have him buried at the Chinese cemetery because of his status as a heretic.
A young boy studying to be a church caretaker, Crispín and his brother Basilio work ceaselessly to send support money to their beleaguered mother, Sisa. Crispín is blamed for stealing money from the church coffers by the head sexton and is kept a virtual prisoner until the debt is paid. On the night that he and his brother were to visit their mother, the head sexton keeps them until the curfew, effectively barring the brothers from travelling. The head sexton beats him and he is never seen again afterward, presumably dying at the hands of the cruel head sexton, though another church official claims he escaped.
Basilio is Crispín's older brother. Like his younger brother, he works as a sexton. Basilio makes a desperate run for their home the night Crispín is dragged away and attempts to locate his younger brother the day after, but his search efforts are fruitless. The following day, the Civil Guard comes looking for him and his brother. Fearing for his life, he runs to the forest where he goes into hiding, living with kind family until Christmas Eve. When he finally locates Sisa, he learns that she has gone mad from grief and is thus unable to identify him as her son. He follows her to the forest, where she regains her wits temporarily and then dies from the shock.
Doctor Tiburcio de Espadaña
A fraud and a hustler, the Spaniard who calls himself Doctor Tiburcio de Espadaña was actually a customs officer who was dismissed from his post shortly after arriving in the Philippines. Despite having no medical experience, he travels the countryside posing as a doctor, charging extortionate fees for his so-called services after his wife encourages him to pretend to be a doctor. His patients eventually catch wind of his schemes and he is forced to relocate to another area where he is all but unknown. He finds his way to San Diego, where he resumes his fake medical practice.
La Doctora Victorina de los Reyes de Espadaña
A brazen and determined Filipina social climber, Doña Victorina is the spouse of the counterfeit doctor, Tiburcio de Espadaña. She is well past her prime and relies on garish make-up to carry on a façade of youth. She eagerly tries to marry off her nephew to María Clara, likely as a means to further advance her social status.
A morally upright man of Spanish descent who holds both Crisóstomo Ibarra and the late Don Rafael in high esteem, he is also the lieutenant of the Civil Guard. He is one of the few who openly support the Ibarras and is vocal about his dislike of Father Dámaso’s control. He informs Crisóstomo Ibarra of the fate of his father and how Father Damaso was involved in his death.
Dr. de Espadaña’s nephew, a respectable young Spanish man. Like his uncle, he has forged credentials and hopes to climb through the social ranks.
A teacher that Don Rafael housed, thus allowing him to suitably attend to the task of instructing students; he informs Crisóstomo Ibarra of the sorry state of education of San Diego since the passing of his father. The friars closely watch the material being taught in the school, forbidding him from teaching Spanish. The schoolmaster is grateful to the Ibarra family, but he is not hopeful that he’ll make headway in getting any lasting educational reforms to happen.
Don Filipo (Filipo Lino)
Don Filipo Lino is a representative of the younger, less religiously shackled generation of movers and shakers in San Diego, and he also serves as the vice mayor of the town. He despises the idea of spending lavish amounts of money on the numerous feast days that mark the religious calendar, seeing it as both wasteful and burdensome to the citizens. His words, however, fall on deaf ears as he is only deputy mayor, and the mayor himself is a dedicated follower of the Catholic church and the de facto mouthpiece of the friars.
Nothing more than a marionette of the Catholic priesthood, the unnamed mayor of San Diego is very conservative and bows down to the religious officials of the town.
The Yellow Man
An assassin tasked to kill the younger Ibarra, his plot to murder the young man is thwarted by the cunning Elias. He is given this moniker for his permanently sallow, jaundiced complexion.
The long-suffering mother of sextons-in-training Crispin and Basilio, she goes mad upon the loss of her sons. Impoverished and married to a violent drunkard, she is allied only with her sons. She wanders the town, clothes tattered and hair disheveled, calling out for her sons. When she actually does meet Basilio, she cannot recognize him.
A priest serving in the Binondo district in the city of Manila, Father Sibyla serves as a foil to the otherwise largely corrupt Father Dámaso and the perverse Father Salví as he is rational and calm. Father Sibyla is an adept and shrewd orator who takes obvious delight in antagonizing the pompous Father Dámaso at Ibarra’s return party.
A cousin of Capitan Tiago who raised Maria Clara as her own child after her mother’s untimely death.
Old Tasio (Don Anastasio)
An old man who previously studied philosophy and is believed to be crazy by most of the community. He respects Ibarra and gives him valuable advice, and also helped Ibarra's father before him.
Noli Me Tangere Questions and Answers
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