Juan Crisostomo Ibarra
The Hero of the novel. Ibarra is a Spanish mestizonote who has been studying in Europe for the last seven years. He returns to the Philippines to visit his late father's funeral. A certified Wide-Eyed Idealist... until secrets are revealed and things promptly go to hell.
- Author Avatar: Of Jose Rizal. Modern illustrations and novel descriptions tend to depict Ibarra with similar features to Rizal (or at least, his most prominent portraits). His life bears several similarities to Rizal's own; including being born and raised in the province of Laguna, returning to the country after studying abroad in Europe, and losing his beauteous childhood love. In addition, the novel was intended to raise awareness of the societal condition at the time, so Rizal's views are reflected in its protagonist.
- Big Damn Heroes: Ibarra, during a fishing trip in the lake, saved the boatman from being devoured by a crocodile.
- Child of Two Worlds: Being the son of a Creole father and native mother makes him this. His father counts too with Don Rafael's father being a pure-blooded Spaniard.
- Did Not Get the Girl: While he and Maria Clara truly loved each other, him becoming ostracized by his own country because they thought he is the one who caused the uprising caused him and Maria Clara to separate.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Maria Clara and Ibarra are not betrothed at first, but after their parents saw how much they love each other, they decided to arrange a marriage between them.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain: A lot of bad things happen to him in this very novel that it serves as his breaking point. By the time of El Fili, he's a full-blown Villain Protagonist.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: At the luncheon when Damaso insults his father, Ibarra snaps and holds a knife to his throat. This marks the novel's shift in tone.
- Rebel Leader: Is falsely implicated as the instigator and main brains behind the uprising stirred by Lucas and Padre Salvi.
- Sharp-Dressed Man: He is mostly depicted wearing an 19th century suit to illustrate his cultured personality and educated status.
Padre Damaso Verdolagas, OFM
A rude Spanish friar, former parish priest of San Diego, and family friend of the Ibarras. Key word being was, since Damaso hated the Ibarra patriarch, Don Rafael Ibarra — Crisostomo Ibarra's father, and was not afraid to hide it. This hatred extends to Crisostomo, whom Damaso despises for studying abroad and thus being enlightened enough to understand the Spanish oppression.
- Dirty Old Man: He's a friar who rapes Pia Alba who is Maria Clara's mother (making Damaso the biological father).
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He genuinely loves Maria Clara as if she were his own daughter. She really is. He's noticeably more affectionate towards her than any other character in the novel.
- Evil Is Hammy: He's a rapist and Live Action Adaptations usually portray him as extremely over the top.
- Jerkass: Big time. He's a petty and vindictive man who goes out of his way to antagonize the son of the man he hates for no reason other than his relation to him.
- Last Disrespects: Insults the late Don Rafael at any given moment, despite the man being dead for a year. And let's not forget the time he had his grave dug up and his corpse thrown in a river.
- Pet the Dog: His only redeeming quality is his genuine fatherly love and fondness towards his godchild Maria Clara. She's his biological daughter.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: It is revealed that he is Maria Clara's biological father, having raped her mother, Pia Alba, when she and her husband, Santiago de los Santos were trying to conceive a child for years.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Thinks not even the Spanish government is allowed to interfere with his decisions.
Padre Bernardino Salvi, OFM
Padre Damaso's successor as the parish priest of San Diego, Ibarra's hometown. Unlike the loud and boisterous Damaso, Salvi is quiet and sickly... but that doesn't mean he's any better than the former. Padre Salvi is often the one who makes decisions for the town of San Diego, something which irks actual town officials. He is bitter enemies with the Alferez* though they pretend as though they were not in public.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: His meeker and sicklier disposition is a cover for his nastier true nature.
- Dirty Old Man: Lusts after Maria Clara.
- Fat and Skinny: Of the novel's two most prominent priests, Salvi is sickly and skinny to Padre Damaso's Fat Bastard.
- Manipulative Bastard: Pretends to be on Ibarra's side despite characters witnessing his more unsavory actions.
Maria Clara de los Santos
Ibarra's childhood friend and fiancee. A sweet and caring young lady, Maria Clara is the only daughter of Kapitan Tiago and Pia Alba.
- Child by Rape: She is actually the biological daughter of Father Damaso, who raped her mother, Pia Alba, when she and her husband, Santiago de los Santos, were trying to conceive a child for years.
- In-Series Nickname: She is called "Clarita" by Victorina de los Reyes de de Espadaña.
- Named After Somebody Famous: Explained in-universe; she was named after two of the three patron saints of Obando in Bulacan Province (the Virgin Mary under the title of "Our Lady of the Fishnets" and Saint Clare), upon whose intercession she was believed to be conceived.
- Nice Gal: Extends her kindness to a leper in one of the chapters.
- Proper Lady: Trope Codifier for the Philippines, where the standard for the Proper Lady is actually named Maria Clara after her. She's a beautiful, demure, and genteel woman who is nevertheless rather frail.
- Shrinking Violet: She fainted and became bedridden after she learned that Crisostomo was excommunicated after trying to murder Padre Damaso in a fit of rage.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: While Tiago isn't ugly, he has indio (native) features. The text explicitly describes Maria Clara as the very picture of Eurasian beauty and notes that she doesn't resemble him at all. It's because she's not his daughter — she's the Spanish Damaso's, accounting for her mixed features.
Don Santiago "Capitan Tiago" de los Santos
A wealthy businessman, Don Rafael's good friend, and Ibarra's future father-in-law. His kind heart is overridden by the fact that he's too weak-willed to fight back against the Spanish, to whom he is loyal.
- The Captain: Called as such, as he was once the gobernadorcillo* of the town of San Diego.
- Extreme Doormat: While he's indeed filthy rich, most people do not respect him because of his utter loyalty to the Spanish friars and officials. Enough that his In-Series Nickname (according to supplementary chapters) is Sacristan Tiago.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: His wife Pia, Maria Clara's mother, invoked every religious ritual in the Philippines in order to pray to have a child, but to no avail. Subverted when, against all odds, she gets pregnant with Maria Clara. Double subverted when it turns out Tiago is actually infertile, and Maria Clara is Damaso's Child by Rape.
- Author Avatar: Rizal uses him to represent his opinions about the revolution.
- Rated M for Manly: The guy is a total badass and went out in a Dying Moment of Awesome. Rizal even takes the time to describe his features as manly.
A loving mother of two boys, Basilio and Crispin. She tries to make ends meet by sewing and selling homegrown vegetables, but her husband's gambling habits and her children's workplace obstruct her goals and dreams.
- Break the Cutie: Was said to be very beautiful and young-looking. Then her husband turns out to be a drunk gambler and her children are accused of stealing from the church collection.
- Does Not Like Shoes: She is often depicted barefoot. Mostly during her Sanity Slippage when she loses her mind.
- Good Is Dumb: Her introductory chapter describes her as weak in character, with more heart than intellect.
- Love Martyr: Loves her husband Pedro despite him being a drunk gambler who spends his time betting and generally not giving a damn about his family. She tries to justify it by saying she does it to keep the family from falling apart. It doesn't work.
- Outliving One's Offspring: Her son Crispin's death triggers something in her and she loses her mind.
A ten-year old sacristan at the parish of San Diego, he is the oldest of Sisa's two children, making him Crispin's elder brother. He tries to make ends meet by working as a sacristan at church alongside his brother. Unfortunately, church work is most probably the least rewarding job at the time, and he and Crispin end up being accused of stealing from the church collection. One night, they are confronted by the sacristan mayor and the parish priest...
- Chekhov's Gunman: Introduced as an innocent sacristan boy, becomes a major character in the sequel.
- Parental Abandonment: Sisa dies and nothing is heard of Pedro after the first couple of chapters.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Despite being only ten years old, he formulates an optimistic (yet somewhat grounded) plan to bring his mother, brother and himself into a less meagre life. Her understands the injustices against the poor and against his people, and knows that his father is a piece of shit.
A seven-year old sacristan at the parish of San Diego, he is the youngest of Sisa's two children, making him Basilio's younger brother. He tries to make ends meet by working as a sacristan at church alongside his brother. Unfortunately, church work is most probably the least rewarding job at the time, and he and Basilio (mostly Crispin, though) end up being accused of stealing from the church collection. One night, they are confronted by the sacristan mayor and the parish priest.
- Kill the Cutie: Poor little boy gets struck by Padre Salvi's cane after trying to escape... and he dies because of it.