In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birthday of national hero Jose Rizal, I’ve started reading Ambeth Ocampo’s Makamisa, a book about Rizal’s third (unfinished novel). Just in time, my boss told me on Friday that  the original manuscripts of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo would be on display at the National Library for the anniversary, so I blocked off my Saturday and headed over to the exhibit.

On the third floor of the National Library, there is a room devoted to an exhibit on Rizal, showcasing, among other things:

Paintings — that’s Rizal flanked by ladyloves Josephine Bracken and Leonor Rivera

illustration: The Baptism of Two Brothers

illustration: farting guy


photographs — this one of Rizal’s mother, Teodora Alonso


literary works — a translation of William Tell: “Guillermo Tell”


The famous “Monkey and the Tortoise”

Thumbelina: “Si Gahinlalaki”

And then there were these (bookaholic warning: serious book porn up ahead):

first edition of Noli Me Tangere

first edition El Filibusterismo

and this:

the “recovered” manuscript of Makamisa (and my copy of Sir Ambeth’s book,
but more about that in another post…)

and finally, the crowning pieces of the exhibit:

the manuscript of Noli Me Tangere

the manuscript of El Fili

The exhibit was quite gauche and unsophisticated to the point of cringeworthiness (I’m sorry, there was a  serious overkill on banig and abaca, the lighting was so dim because of the light-sensitive artifacts but you had to squint to see properly, and the labeling was just horrendous) — the National Library really needs [the resources] to invest in professional curation, seamless display cases that can be viewed from every angle, and lighting that’s both non-UV and illuminating, among other things– but I forgot about all that when I got to see the manuscripts (newly restored by a German team — I guess that’s where the budget went, but I should think the national hero deserves a spectacular showcase, too, on such an auspicious event…) up close. These natural treasures evoke a feeling of reverence, knowing that these were the very same pages Rizal poured his thoughts into, and I’m glad I took the time to see them.


That’s me, posing with the facsimiles of the Noli and Fili manuscripts, which I am tempted to buy from the National Historical Institute booth at the Manila International Book Fair but I still can’t justify the purchase to myself (I have, however, achieved my goal of procuring the Lacson-Locsin hardcovers, which I adore).

An aside, I brought along my copy of Makamisa, because I was in the middle of reading it, and because I wanted to take a photo of it beside the original manuscript, in the event it was included in the exhibit. I had no idea that I was not supposed to take the book inside the library — no signage, no warning from the baggage counter attendant that had seen me taking the book with me after we’d deposited our bags, and the guard on the third floor did not inspect our belongings when we entered (I had it with me in plain sight, and mind you, he swept us inside even though we were not given  library visitor ids) and then he attempted to confiscate it when I went out! He had to confirm with the staff that I was not taking a national treasure out of the library, which was perfectly understandable, but if security is a concern (and of course it is, at the National Library), they really should have better security measures in place.

If you want to see the original Noli and Fili manuscripts, they will be on exhibit until today, June 20, 8am to 5 pm at the third floor of the National Library. After today, the exhibit will still be on view until the end of the month, but the manuscripts will be replaced with facsimiles.