El Filibusterismo and Jose Rizal as “Science Fictionist”

Miguel Paolo P. Reyes


Jose Rizal’s El Filibusterismo famously depicts the diff iculties faced by adherents of scientif ic thought in the Philippines during the late nineteenth century. It also contains descriptions of various implements that were uncommon for the time, from a “time bomb” within a lamp to a “specter summoner” that apparently projects hologram-like images—the products of reasonable extrapolations from the known science of the age. These features are common among the forerunners of the modern Anglo-American genre of science fiction, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to a number of works by Edgar Allan Poe. It is far from the objective of this paper to push for Rizal’s canonization as the Father of Filipino Science Fiction, however. Instead, this paper seeks to surface the particular ways Rizal chose to depict the conflicts between knowledge borne of materialist investigation and knowledge from the earthly emissaries of the divine. It argues that in El Filibusterismo, these conflicts are somewhat helpful but at the same time dismissible as irrelevant in the context of a campaign against injustice—helpful in intimidating enemy oppressors, irrelevant among advocates of the downtrodden. In this way, Rizal’s novel implicitly contemplates a way to craft “science fiction” that strays from the imperialistic “science conquers” formula predominant in the West.

Keywords: Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo, science fiction, Philippines

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ISSN: 2012-0788