Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere Summary and Analysis of Chapters 9-12


Father Dámaso runs into María Clara and Isabel as they’re about to leave for the convent to get María Clara’s things, intending to meet in private with Captain Tiago. Meanwhile, Father Sibyla meets with an elderly, dying priest, telling him about the disagreement between Father Dámaso and Crisóstomo Ibarra and Ibarra’s plans to marry María Clara. Father Sibyla feels that the church has little to worry about from Ibarra, since he is wealthy and will be happy with María Clara, making him reluctant to risk putting his happiness in danger, but the elder priest says that it’s just as well if Ibarra does create an open conflict with the church, since that can expose where the church is weak and allow them to weed out these weaknesses.

Rizal retells a legend surrounding the village. An old Spaniard appeared and traded goods in exchange for some land, then disappeared. Eventually, the villagers found him hanging from a tree in the forest. He had been creepy while alive, but his suicide disturbed the villagers even more, so they rid themselves of the goods he gave them. Nonetheless, shepherds and wanderers told stories of seeing lights or hearing laments, while a young man who vowed to spend a night under the tree where the man died, died himself of a fever he contracted the next day. A few months later, a young man appearing to be a mestizo arrived and claimed to be the dead man’s son, earning a reputation for being hard-working but cruel and violent. This man was the father of Rafael Ibarra, Crisóstomo’s father.

Rizal states that despite their wealth and prominence, neither Rafael Ibarra nor Captain Tiago run the village: the former was modest and didn’t want to make himself a target, while the latter was secretly ridiculed. The mayor has little real authority, and even God himself rarely appears in the residents’ minds—saints are more important. Instead, the balance of power in the village is constantly shifting. Father Bernardo Salví is one of the people in contention to be the de-facto leader of the village; he is a quiet, pensive, and diligent man who is well-liked. The ensign tries to limit Father Salví’s authority by setting a curfew that limits townspeople’s ability to attend church, but in return, Father Salví lets his goat run on the ensign’s property. Furthermore, the ensign’s power is limited as well, since his wife, Doña Consolación, often exerts control over him.

Two men are digging in a graveyard, and one complains that they’re digging into a recent gravesite. The other counters that they’re doing so on orders from a priest.


Father Sibyla’s conversation with the old priest indicates that many people have been anticipating Ibarra’s return, though Ibarra himself doesn’t seem to understand this reality. While Ibarra has generally been associated with the government in its conflict against the church so far, the church members also believe he could be useful, complicating his role in the tensions.

The story about Ibarra’s family’s past illustrates how deeply his family history is intertwined with that of San Diego. Just as Ibarra is a polarizing figure in his area, his family history indicates both glory and dishonor—his great-grandfather’s suicide is seen as dishonorable, but Don Rafael’s success and the respect he receives from his workers tell a different story.

Rizal’s discussion of the authority figures of San Diego illustrates the complex power dynamics at play in the Philippines. The figures one would expect to have the most authority are often figureheads or otherwise less powerful than they appear, and the ensign and Father Salví are constantly at odds as they each try to assert themselves as the ultimate authority, even though their domains should be separate in theory. In the midst of these struggles for power, the community itself suffers because the leaders are too preoccupied to serve it.

The scene with the gravediggers again illustrates the power of the clergy in San Diego, since their orders can even justify digging up a corpse. It also demonstrates that the orders of the clergy can be contrary to what one might expect the church to stand for, since even the sacred burial ground can be desecrated.