As poor people in the outskirts of the village sleep or think of their loved ones—for whom they must sacrifice their money to save from purgatory, since “heaven is expensive” and the church won’t “save beloved souls for free”—Crispín and Basilio’s mother, Sisa, waits in the darkness for her boys. She is an impoverished and luckless woman married to a gambling addict who abuses her. On this night, though, she has prepared a decadent feast for her sons. Unfortunately, her husband appears and eats the majority of the food before leaving again, telling her to save for him any money the boys bring home. The night wears on and Sisa sobs, worried about her sons. She prays for a moment and then an apparition of Crispín comes to life near the fireplace. Just then, Basilio’s voice shakes her from this vision. “Mother, open up!” he says, banging on the door.
Sisa is one of the most tragic characters in Noli Me Tangere. Not only does she miss her sons—who are living away from her as mere children—but she is also poor and further disempowered by her abusive husband, who only shows up to deplete her of whatever she may have, as he does by eating the majority of the dinner intended for Basilio and Crispín. In terms of power, Sisa is at the bottom wrung of San Diego’s socioeconomic ladder. To make matters worse, her only allies are her sons, who rarely see her. This means that she’s not only isolated from San Diego’s power structures, but from her own sons, too.