In Noli Me Tangere
Father Damaso is the kura paroko or parish priest of the fictional town of San Diego, the main setting of Noli Me Tangere. The Spanish priest belongs to the Franciscan order.
In the novel, Damaso is described as an enemy of Don Rafael Ibarra, a mestizo patriarch who is the father of the novel's protagonist Crisostomo Ibarra. Damaso, who accused the elder Ibarra of being a heretic, pushed for his excommunication from the Roman Catholic church. As a result, Don Rafael was imprisoned. Later, Don Rafael died in prison. His body, which was initially buried in the local Catholic cemetery, was exhumed and set to be transferred to the Chinese cemetery upon the orders of Damaso. However, the gravediggers threw Don Rafael's body to the river.
Damaso is the biological father of Maria Clara, Crisostomo's sweetheart. He secretly impregnated Dona Pia Alba, wife of San Diego town chief Santiago de los Santos (a.k.a. Kapitan Tiyago). De los Santos stood as Maria Clara's formal father.
With his animosity with Don Rafael, Damaso became hostile to Crisostomo, as evidenced in the novel. Damaso continued to taunt Ibarra and in a party, the latter lost his cool and physically attacked the former. As a result, Crisostomo was excommunicated by the archbishop but was later pardoned by the captain general.
With the attack, Damaso persuaded Maria Clara not to marry Crisostomo. Damaso offered a Spanish man named Linares as Maria Clara's husband. The lady declined and opted to enter a convent. At the end of the novel, Damaso was transferred to another town, where he later died.
In popular culture
Damaso is popularly described with notoriety, as being the villain of Noli Me Tangere because of his persistent antogonism with Ibarra, and his negative characteristics as being fat, arrogant, and corrupt. He is perceived to be the face of Catholic conservatism, as manifested by a real-life controversy involving travel blogger Carlos Celdran, when he flashed a placard bearing the word “DAMASO” during a mass at the Manila Cathedral last 30 September 2010. Celdran denounced the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, which during that time denounced the legislation of the Reproductive Health Bill, as modern “Damasos.”
However, historian Ambeth Ocampo believes that Padre Damaso is not the real villain in Noli Me Tangere. Ocampo wrote: “The evil friar is not Damaso but his replacement (as parish priest of San Diego) Father Salvi who lusts over Maria Clara and engineers an accident that would have killed Ibarra during the laying of the cornerstone of his school. Failing in that, he instigates a rebellion and implicates Ibarra. The fat, corrupt corrupt friar is not Rizal's Fray Damaso, but Graciano Lopez Jaena's Fray Botod.”
- Noli Me Tangere 1927 English translation made by Charles Derbyshire found at Filipiniana.net
- Archbishop: No more 'Padre Damaso' today ABS-CBNNews.com
- Hermitanio, Maui. RH advocate Carlos Celdran jailed for protesting inside Church
- Ocampo, Ambeth. Damaso: Fact and fiction The Philippine Daily Inquirer