Noli 0.1 The Premise

In 1887, Dr. Jose Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere, the first of two books which would mark him an enemy of Spanish colonial rule.

noli01Its main protagonist is Crisostomo Ibarra, an idealistic youth freshly returned from his studies in Spain and hoping to marry his childhood sweetheart, Maria Clara.

Yet it is not to be.

Theirs is a tragedy worse than Romeo and Juliet, though neither slay themselves out of grief. Instead, Crisostomo is left broken by the injustice and pettiness of the rule of friarocracy in Spanish Colonial Philippines, while Maria Clara would curse her own beauty. She attempts to escape an unwanted forced marriage into a convent, but she would find herself even more helpless against the priest who lusted for her body.

In Rizal’s second book, El Filibusterismo, Ibarra returns as the mysterious Simoun, a man who instead of seeking reform tempts the people in power into indulging in even more abuses to more speedily arouse the anger of the people, that they might rise up in revolt during the time of Spain’s weakness.

All the while, he tries to rescue Maria Clara. But it is too late. She has already broken.

And soon later so too would Simoun finally meet his end.

They would both die far apart, alone and unloved.

It is mandatory in the Philippine school system for students to study Rizal’s work and biography as a critical component of their country’s search for sovereignty. Many a high school student had read through the book and made to act out scenes of this historically important work.

That work gives no justice to any of the characters contained within. There is no happy ending, no payoff to any of their struggles. It is a depressing work, and it is that ring of truth in the text that woke up the people about the injustices they too suffered- they knew that they were not alone, and that these abuses cannot stand.

noli02But then, suddenly, upon the eve of his arrival – he gains a revelation.

He is granted knowledge of what is in store for him, according to Rizal. He gains the proper context for the writings, and how it would lead into the world of the future. The social mores and cultural cues of the new millennium is woven into his personality, so that he may look beyond the box of his era for a solution.

Yet even this is not enough.

So, to his understanding, an Angel of the Lord descends upon him, carrying a cup flowing with the essence of human knowledge – all of humanity’s discoveries, its hopes, its fears, its lusts and its joys, and pours it into his mind. Knowledge is power.

And to keep this knowledge from driving him mad, he is provided an interface – a familiar one, easy to use. It allows him to comprehend a number so vast it approaches infinity, one followed by a hundred zeroes, the one called [Googol].

And then, the moment leaves, and he is left with only one certainty.

His is the dream of a nation, one that wishes to break through into tomorrow.

The understanding now etched into his soul must be put to good use, or it is wasted. It is not enough that he saves himself from the pitfalls that lie ahead; he must raise up his country to a brighter, less bloody future.

Juan Crisostomo Ibarra is a man with a mission. That happy ending long denied him, long denied all those who had studied the works of Rizal, those two books that captured the long suffering lament of a nation – it is there, it can be reached, but it is not guaranteed.

Even with this ‘cheat’, he must work for it. History can be changed. Maybe for the better.

For Maria Clara.


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Noli Me TOC

Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo are important cultural works that exposed to the populace the abuses and the injustices of their Spanish colonial masters. The execution of their author, Jose Rizal, sparked the Philippine Revolution.

Unfortunately, this happened at about the same time as the Spanish-American War,  and the war ended in 1898 Treaty of Paris in which Spain also sold the Philippines to the USA for the sum of twenty million dollars. The revolutionary government were soon after crushed by the overwhelming military might of the United States and turned into a territory until their independence after World War II.

While the Philippines stands as the USA’s greatest successes in nation-building, their early occupation left almost one-fifth of the population dead from combat and disease.

Rizal was executed by the Spanish long before knowing what might happen to his country. The world created within The Noli and the El Fili are therefore stuck frozen in time, forever caught in that moment before a Revolution.

Now let’s see what happens in this world if we give it the Light Novel treatment and jam the entirety of the Internet into their protagonist’s skull. Can Crisostomo Ibarra change his nation and keep his loved ones safe, or will he make things worse by his unfortunate tendency to sound like a supervillain?

This is the web novel version. Research and details may be flawed, incomplete, or just plain wrong. The purpose of this version is to explore the idea to its possible ends, before being edited and rewritten for print.

This version will always be free to read, but not to redistribute or rehost. Translations may be allowed. You may contact the author at bhepin@gmail.com.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Table of Contents

0.0 Preamble
0.1 The Premise

1.1 Once More, Old Manila
1.2 In the House of Capitan Tiago
1.3 A Dinner Conversation
1.4 More Calmly, Maria Clara
Interlude – The Lieutenant 01
Interlude – The Dominican 01
Interlude – The Governor-General 01
Interlude – The Maiden 01

2.1 Hometown
2.2 A Noisome Grave
2.3 Ibarra in Town
2.4 An Unexpected Case
Interlude – The Brothers 01
Interlude – The Philosopher 01
2.5 An End, and a Beginning

3.1 On the Day of the Dead
3.2 Let Us Look Busy
3.3 In the House of Pilosopo Tasio
3.4 A Town Meeting
3.5 More Cautiously, Maria Clara
Interlude – The Brothers 02
Interlude – The Maiden 02

4.1 Finding Elias
Interlude – The Chosen 01
4.2 Fraternal Sins
Interlude – The Franciscan 01
4.3 The Presentation
Interlude – The Chosen 02

5.1 Laying the Foundations
5.2 Tanks in the Yard
5.3 Assembly
5.4 Submarine
5.5 Mass Media
Interlude – The Widow 01
Interlude – The Lieutenant 02

6.1 The Oligarchs
6.2 In Chinatown
Interlude – The Manager 01
Interlude – The Young Hawks 01
6.3 A Conspiracy of Jesuits
6.4 Literally Highway Robbery
6.5 In the House of Ibarra
Interlude – The Applicant 01

7.1 Industrialization
7.2 Even Art Has Its Purpose
7.3 First Edition
7.4 More Avidly, Maria Clara
Interlude – The Traveler 01
Interlude – The Translator 02
Interlude – The Chosen 03

8.1 A Taste of War
8.2 The Moro Kings
8.3 An Army Marches
Interlude – The Translator 03
8.4 ( — )
8.5 ( — )

9.1 ( — )
9.2 ( — )
9.3 ( — )
9.4 ( — )
Interlude – The New Yorker
Interlude – The Tokyo Man

Noli 0.0 Preamble

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
― L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between

My Beloved Child,

If you had the power to go back in time, would you?

How much more good can you do, with the power of hindsight? How many lives might you save, how much wealth can you effortlessly accumulate? What you consider now merely mundane would allow you to stand among the geniuses and history-makers of the past.

What you consider now merely mundane would allow you to stand among the geniuses and history-makers of the past.

All you would have to do is to give up the conveniences you modern humans take for granted.

Have you heard of the story of the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court? Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote it as a parody of this tendency of the modern to think of the past as dirty and ignorant.

For it is the way of all modern civilizations to consider themselves superior to all that had gone before. From Romans to the Renaissance, from the confidence of the Victorian British Empire to the crackling tensions of the Civil Rights Movement in America, out and out to the turn of the millennium – the newest generation always considers itself the most enlightened, the most tolerant, the most powerful, never considering that their own children would deem them the barbarians.

The benefit of hindsight makes it obvious the sins of the past. It is a popular genre, a wistful dream, to take our knowledge and mold the past into something better. To play crosstime engineer, to be an island in the sea of time, enlightening the past in a ring of fire.

But it is odd. The further and further one goes into the future, the less and less relevant one person’s knowledge becomes. You may imagine that a cloud hangs upon the Earth, a world within a world, a virtual world, where percolates all the knowledge of humanity, it’s hope and its dreams, its lusts and its spite. It is a paradigm no one could have predicted, an unconscious world-mind, as great as the discovery of fire or gunpowder or the steam engine.

Steeped in luxury, bombarded with all sorts of amusements and conversation, wealth in the billions and billions trading hands in the fractions of a second, so shining is modern civilization. And much much more fragile too than everything than had gone before.

Let us be honest here. No J Random High Schooler (or a college graduate, or even most people with doctorates) is ever really going to pull off a “Connecticut Yankee” in a parallel world. There is too much to remember. Even the Hang This in Your Time Travel Machine poster is of limited usefulness.

It is a tools to make the tools problem.

For example, pasteurization. Heat milk to below the boiling point with what thermometer are you using to measure heat so that it does not begin to affect the taste? Vaccination? With what steel needles and glass plungers in an iron age society? Annoyed with the inability to work well after dark? Run electricity through a tungsten wire what does tungsten even look like? A carbon arc lamp might be easier to make but how do I make batteries to store electricity for mobile light and firestarting?

Toilet paper? Turning paper into wood pulp involves heavy machinery and/or chemicals. What chemicals? Grow potatoes to alleviate food shortages? Potatoes are over there in the New World, what do I even have a ship through the Atlantic?

The cosmopolitan man, in any era, possesses an approximate knowledge of many things.

For in-depth knowledge of anything outside of individual special skillsets, there came to be a generation that sees fit to offload thinking skills to the Web. For whatever question? Just [Googol] it. It makes sense, for in the distant future of 2015 there is far too much to know, and even more being discovered, or commented upon, or created in every second.

There are few things as foolish as trying to do things with incomplete information.

It is very well for such a modern person to think that being brought into the past would have them hailed as a genius, but living in the past also means losing all conveniences they might take for granted. An adventure is always more pleasant to read about than to feel the hardships firsthand.

Modern knowledge is nice, but it is ultimately near useless. Perhaps a gunsmith or metalworker or an engineer who builds steam engines for a hobby, a doctor has skills that would still be useful even without access to pharmaceuticals. Perhaps someone from twenty, thirty years ago, before the Internet’s electronic soul awakened. But your average well-connected office worker?

Knowing how to work Word and Excel? How to drive? How to cook? These will not shake the world. Mathematics, biology, physics – all great things to know, but in practice? It would be a bewildering time, trying to readjust to a pre-electronic paradigm.

Hence a modern person by any definition, and unlike the wish fulfillment the stories provide, might prefer to act cautiously and try to avoid attention. The past is a foreign country, they are far more savage in getting rid of their competition there. There is no weakness in this, it is only human to avoid pain.

Even with all the knowledge in your brain, all humans still have only one life to lose.

Do not you depend on the man of tomorrow, because he is as mortal and fallible and fearful as you are!

So, the message is given to humankind: if you want to save yourselves, do it yourselves! This is the only time you have left. Yours is the grace and the burden of Free Will!

But still…

The glory of free will is its uncertainty after each decision, the same is its terror. No person, no matter how powerful or influential has the ability to get more out of life than what his mortality allows. Many cling to omens and the advice of soothsayers in the hopes of avoiding the pain of wasted effort.

But it is rarely a mercy to know too much about your fate.

And so we are given: a young man named Crisostomo Ibarra y Igsalin. The year is 1887. He is on a ship approaching Manila Bay.

And he is ‘freaking the frock out’.

M.A. McEiling
1899(?)

NOLI ME TANK IN A MALL

aka [Googol] of the Revolution!

 

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