Noli Me Tangere/Introduction

The first half of Noli me Tangere was written in Madrid, Spain from 1884-1885 while Dr. José P. Rizal was studying for medicine.

While in Germany, Rizal wrote the second half of Noli me Tangere from time-to-time starting February 21, 1887. After he read the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, he had an inspiration to write his own novel with the same topic–to expose Spanish colonial abuse in print. Beecher Stowe's novel describes black slavery abuse done by white men. Rizal suggested to his fellow Filipino friends in Europe, through writing, to have a meeting and plan for writing a novel similar to that of Beecher Stowe's. (At this moment, Rizal planned not to write the novel himself, but through collective efforts done by other Filipinos who shared ideals with him.) In 1884, Rizal and his friends including the Paterno brothers–Pedro, Maximo, and Antonio; Graciano López-Jaena, Evaristo Aguirre, Eduardo de Lete, Melecio Figueroa, Valentín Ventura and Julio Llorento; decided to meet at the Paternos' house in Madrid. Each of them agreed to write a unified novel. Suddenly, when the writing began, most of them wanted to change the topic from Spanish abuse to somehow related to women. Rizal walked-out of the hall and decided to write the novel himself.

Title and printing


The title of Noli Me Tangere is not Spanish nor Tagalog, but Latin. Rizal, in his letter to his friend and Czech scientist Ferdinand Blumentritt, admitted that he obtained the title from the Bible. Rizal took the passage in John 20:17 where Jesus said to Mary Magdalene "don't touch Me!" when she recognizes him after his resurrection. The passage, when translated into Latin, is equivalent to Noli me tangere.

At the time when the novel is ready for printing, he ran out of funds. He contacted his friend, Maximo Viola, who agreed to lend him money for publishing. According to accounts, Rizal is about to throw Noli manuscripts into the fireplace when he received Viola's telegram agreeing for lending him.

Viola gave him an amount equal to three hundred pesos as preliminary payment for the first 2,000 copies of Noli Me Tangere. In 1887, the first edition of Noli was published in Berlin, Germany. To express his gratitude, he gave the original manuscript plus the plume he used to Viola. Rizal also signed the first print and gave it to Viola with dedication.



In another letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt, Rizal described what he expects when the novel will be in circulation. Finally, he pointed out his primary objective:

  • to defend Filipino people from foreign accusations of foolishness and lack of knowledge;
  • to show how the Filipino people lives during Spanish colonial period and the cries and woes of his countrymen against abusive officials;
  • to discuss what religion and belief can really do to everyday lives; and
  • to expose the cruelties, graft, and corruption of the false government at honestly show the wrongdoings of Filipinos that led to further failure.

Social impact


Noli Me Tangere is considered to be romantic but is more socio-historical because of its nature. Most of the issues discussed in Noli can still be seen today.

After publication, Noli me Tangere was considered to be one of the instruments that initiated Filipino nationalism leading to the 1896 Philippine Revolution. The novel did not only awaken sleeping Filipino awareness, but also established the grounds for aspiring to independence. Noli me Tangere was originally written in Spanish, so the likelihood that Spanish authorities would read it first was very high;which is what Rizal wanted to happen. Copies of books were redirected to churches, many were destroyed, many anti-Noli writers came into the picture. Catholic leaders in the Philippines at the time regarded the book as heretical, while Spanish colonial authorities declared it as subversive and against the government. Underground copies were distributed, so Rizal decided to increase the price, the demand was so high.

The impact also included the expulsion of Rizal's clan in Calamba, Laguna. Extradition cases were filed against him. This led to his decision to write the sequel of Noli Me Tangere, the El filibusterismo. Unlike El Fili or Fili, as they called it, Noli Me Tangere was more delicate and did not invoke rebellion. as El Fili does. So to ensure revolutionary ideas and patriotic reaction, Rizal redefined his careful concepts in Noli to aggression in El Fili.