It is a fine December morning. The steamship Tabo is sailing on the Pasig River to Laguna. Passengers on the upper deck talk about the lake and the long journey. Some important characters in the novel are introduced: Simoun the jeweler; Doña Victorina; the friars Salvi, Irene, Camorra, and Sibyla, Don Custodio, and Ben Zayb.
Points of Note:
The upper deck of the steamship is for the elite. Most of the people in this part of the vessel are Spaniards.
Rizal's first novel, the Noli Me Tangere, ended in the month of December; its sequel, the El Filibusterismo, begins in the same month. However, this is a December thirteen years later.
Don Custodio is adviser to those working in the national government; Ben Zayb (anagram for Ybañez) is a journalist.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Question: How is the steamship Tabo likened to the government?
1. The manner the ship is divided into two sections -- the upper and the lower deck -- is similar to how the government treats the people: rich and poor, Spaniards and Indios -- without equality and fair treatment.
2. The slow pace of ship travel is likened to the country's slow progress despite 300 years of Spanish rule.
3. Whitewashed walls that cover rust and dirt symbolize the pretense behind ugly methods and social unrest in the country.
4. The circular design of the steamer entails that the government is going in circles, without a sensible goal or purpose.
5. The use of modern machinery to power the steamboat is indicative of the union of the Church and state during that time.