The modern adaptation of Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo discusses topics that still resonate with global Filipino audiences today.
The story of Jose Rizal’s seminal works Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo have been told and retold many times over the past century, being adapted for literature, theater, film, and television. The novels offer Rizal’s searing commentary on the country’s lack of progress and anti-intellectual background at the time of the Spanish colonial rule. Now more than ever, the national hero’s work and its message resonate in a world that is putting greater value on local culture, education, and the advancement of the country, particularly in the age of technology and information.
One recent iteration of the novel is the television show Maria Clara at Ibarra, which has garnered acclaim for instilling nationalism in a new generation. It is a reimagining of the story of Noli Me Tángere’s protagonists: childhood sweethearts Crisóstomo Ibarra, a Europe-educated mestizo falsely accused of instigating a revolution after he uncovers the truth about his father’s death having to do with politics and the church; and Maria Clara, daughter of family friend Kapitán Tiago, whose true identity and circumstances led her to betray her love and, believing Ibarra’s demise, chooses a tragic fate for herself. The series, created by GMA senior vice president Anette Gozon-Valdes and television writers R.J. Nuevas and Suzette Doctolero, originally aired on local Philippine TV from October 2022 to February 2023. The show is now accessible to a larger audience, as it made its debut on Netflix on April 14. The giant streaming platform released the show’s official trailer four days ahead of its premiere.
Maria Clara at Ibarra gives a fantasy spin to the story, with a main character set in the present time questioning the relevance of the novels in today’s world. She finds herself transported into the world of Rizal’s novels through a dream, getting to know more about Maria Clara, Crisóstomo Ibarra, and the other characters in 19th-century San Diego and discovering how their stories have shaped and continue to shape the way we operate as a society. During its original run, the show garnered praise for delving into topics like injustice and inequality, women’s role in society, and the importance of education in progress.
Over the years, historical fiction has been instrumental in forming audiences’ perception of the past. It has augmented school education by making Philippine history easier to understand. Carefully researched and well executed, shows like Maria Clara at Ibarra make the past more relatable, allowing audiences to reconnect with the country’s culture and values while encouraging viewers to apply the lessons from past events to the present time.
Maria Clara at Ibarra is not the only iteration of Rizal’s work that will be showcased this year. In June, Tanghalang Una Obra will be staging the pop-classical musical Ibarra by Jomar Fleras, an updated version of the award-winning musical Kanser, starring Piolo Pascual.