“Noli Me Tangere” – The First Filipino Content That Went Viral Even Before Social Media

Prior to the internet and its many forms of social media, the “Noli Me Tangere” was the very first content that went viral among the Filipino community even if the fact is known that one can get in trouble when authorities caught your home with a copy.

Read a short summary of the book Noli Me Tangere from “Maikling buod ng Noli Me Tangere” to have a quick look at its content, to know what triggered the Filipino people to unite as one in revolution.

The Controversial “Noli Me Tangere” by Jose P. Rizal

The Noli Me Tangere which translates to Touch Me Not is a very controversial book written by the infamous Jose Rizal of the Philippines. Anyone caught in possession of the book in the 1890s was in trouble with the law and eventually arrested. The writer (who happens to be Philippine’s national hero) got in trouble and was placed on death row while detained in Fort Santiago, Manila. History reports that Jose Rizal had a copy hidden in his luggage from Dapitan. Other reports mentioned that he was caught in Barcelona Spain en route to Cuba as a military doctor. He was then deported to Manila and detained at Fort Santiago.

The publication inspired reformists and revolutionists (at that time called the KKK led by Andres Bonifacio), it also influenced the majority of the community to go against a common foe.

Leon Gallery’s resident historian, Lisa Guerrero-Nakpil said “It’s (Noli Me Tangere) the most significant publication in Philippines History in terms of the Philippine revolution,” She added “You need to envision that in that era, there was clearly no social media as we all know at this present day. Today, any minor concern is discussed by everyone, yet in those days no one discussed the violations [of the church], as well as the adversity experienced [by a lot of Filipinos], mainly because of fear of being caught and killed. Or that their houses could burn down at any time. Their possessions could well be lost or taken away.” It was so courageous for Rizal for getting the books written and published. However, he subsequently became an inspiration for a whole era to fight for the freedom of the country.

How “Noli Me Tangere” went viral

There were an estimated 2,000 copies (first editions) that circulated. Only a few were secretly brought to the Philippines. Carlos P. Romulo, Philippines General, diplomat, and journalist, in his writings, stated the significance of the book, Noli Me Tangere, to his father and to his hometown in Camiling, Tarlac.

“The townsfolk were able to take hold of the first edition of the book, and a copy was passed from person to person within the province.” Camiling Tarlac, at that time, had at least a population of ten thousand, and the publication was read each night by different households. Each household read it to the end, Nakpil says.

The book had been passed from one household to another. That after reading every page, they realized that the abuse and suffering weren’t theirs alone to shoulder, that other fellow Filipinos have suffered in the hands of colonialism.

People memorized it or would scribble the words down on a separate paper. There was no technology in those days but people found ways to spread content and pass what’s in the book. When Andres Bonifacio summoned his countrymen in revolution, Camiling was among the first towns to volunteer because they were inspired by the context of the book.

Just like any of the revolutions in the world, in particular those that have productively overturned strong organizations (regardless at work or in the federal government), it took only a seed to breed an initiative to make a change, and for everyone else to learn that their illicit doings were known.