El Fili Chapter 7: Simoun

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(This is one of the more powerful chapters of Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. Take note of conversation between Basilio and Simoun. You simply have got to read the book, folks.)

Basilio is about to leave his mother’s grave when he notices someone approaching the balete tree. Remember, it is deep in the night and Filipinos attribute supernatural things to balete trees which are believed to house evil spirits and other creatures of middle earth.

The newcomer turns out to be Simoun, the jeweler. He has a spade and begins digging for the treasure buried thirteen years ago. Basilio tries to figure out whether Simoun is Elias or Ibarra.

Basilio never did go for the treasure all these years because the stranger (Elias) told him that he could get the treasure only if no one else came looking for it. On the night Elias died, Crisostomo Ibarra (refer to the Noli Me Tangere) went to the forest and helped Basilio bury Sisa and cremate Elias.

Without waiting to be discovered, Basilio announces his presence and acknowledges Simoun as the person who helped Basilio bury his mother, Sisa more than a decade ago. Simoun points a revolver at Basilio.

(Kids, never startle anyone working in the wee hours of the morning, near a silent and foreboding balete tree.)

Fortunately for Basilio, Simoun does not pull the trigger even if he realizes that Basilio’s newfound knowledge jeopardizes the plans of Simoun. He figures that Basilio will not squeal on him because Basilio is still a fugitive while Simoun, the rich jeweler, is still in favor with the government and the frailocracy.

Besides, Simoun reasons that since they are both victims of injustice, they should help one another.

Simoun reminisces and waxes poetic about that “great and noble soul” who wished to die for him. He was most likely referring to Elias. Simoun narrates how he worked hard to save money so that he could come back to the Philippines to hasten the destruction of the religio-political system by inciting greed and corruption, among others.

But before Simoun succeeds in corrupting the government and thus turn the Filipinos against the powers that be, he points out how frustrated he is with Basilio’s call for Hispanization and parity rights.

I’m particularly pierced by Simoun’s:

What will you be in the future? A people without character, a nation without liberty. You are asking to be Hispanized and you do not blanch with shame when it is denied you!

(Hmmm… do we Filipinos lack a culture that is uniquely ours? Or are we a confused blend of Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, American and other cultures? Then again, I guess we still have truly Filipino qualities. Take language, for example. Does anyone know what “pitik” is in English? Or what other culture points to far away objects by pursing their lips? Sheesh.)

Basilio has good intentions, though. He believes that knowing Spanish can unite the people not only with the Government, but with other peoples in other islands. Take note of Simoun’s reaction:

Spanish will never be the common language in the country; the people will never speak it because for the ideas of its mind and the sentiments of its heart there are no words in that idiom.

(Take note that Rizal’s Spanish-speaking Filipino characters–Doña Victorina and Doña Consolacion–cannot speak Spanish well.)

Simoun allows Basilio to live hoping this message can be spread to other students pushing for Hispanization. What follows is a discussion between Science (or medicine) and Politics (or the aspiration to be an independent nation). Recall that Basilio studied to become a doctor and feels that he is powerless to do anything about the political situation.

Simoun fails to convince Basilio to change his mind so he instead tries to provoke Basilio by asking about Sisa and Crispin (the dead younger brother). Basilio explains there is no way he can obtain justice. Besides, even if Simoun were to provide support, revenge cannot bring back Basilio’s mom and brother.

Before dawn, Simoun sends Basilio away but invites him to go to Simoun’s house in Escolta in case Basilio changes his mind and decides to seek help in avenging his mom’s and brother’s deaths.

The chapter closes with Simoun asking the spirits of Don Rafael (his father) and Elias to have patience. Simoun explains that while his means differ from that of Elias, the results will come faster. There is some foreboding that Simoun will die in his attempt to help the Philippines gain independence — note that line about him personally bringing news of freedom to the spirits of his dad and friend.

(Elias was also for independence of the nation, but he did not support violent methods. Simoun is Machiavellian in the sense that he believes that the end justifies the means. Remember that Simoun uses his wealth to corrupt those in government and to tempt them to harm the Filipinos. Simoun hopes that this will anger the Filipinos enough to make them rise up in revolt against the Government. It is a tactic Elias would never have approved of.)

Soon, it will be Christmas.


1. The dark forest symbolizes the many secrets kept by Simoun from the public.

2. Basilio symbolizes the Filipino youth, whom Rizal (through Simoun) advises to be more nationalistic (i.e., love your own language, fight for your country’s freedom)

Lessons Learned:

1. People who are so different will cling to their own beliefs. Simoun wants a bloody revolution, while Basilio prefers to search for knowledge because this will lead to the attainment of justice.

2. Knowledge is better than politics/nationalism. (Basilio)

3. The above point can be attained only in an environment where there is neither oppressor nor oppressed. To achieve such an environment, only has to change the present system even if it requires a bloody revolution. (Simoun)

4. One’s painful past (Basilio’s) can be set aside by some people. Others (Simoun), however, will never rest until they have their revenge.

5. If you cannot stop a corrupt government, then support it and help it spread its corrupt ways until the oppressed people rise up in revolt. (Simoun’s strategy)

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