El Filibusterismo

Damaso: fact and fiction – is he a really a villain?

In his Philippine Daily Inquirer column, popular historian Ambeth R. Ocampo sounds a cautionary note regarding the (mis)uses of Rizal’s novels:

Today students read a “simplified” “Noli” and “Fili” in high school such that when they get to college, they are too lazy to read the novel in full. This explains why our stereo-type images of Damaso and Sisa are so different from what Rizal actually wrote. Sisa, for example, is a staple in noon-time game shows. She is dressed in tattered clothes, her hair disheveled, her eyes livid as she wails, “Basiliooo! Crispiiiin!” She laughs and cries alternately. We owe this caricature to Fides Cuyugan-Asensio who played Sisa in the opera version of the “Noli.” Open your books and you will see that Sisa is unhinged, something is wrong with her, but she is quiet, she is not raving mad.

Now we come to Padre Damaso Verdolagas, who is often said to be the “villain” of the “Noli.” Is he? Really?