Monday, June 19, 2006

The Mysterious Miscarriage of Mrs. Jose Rizal


José Rizal got this girl so pregnant in 1895 (when the photograph at left is said to have been taken) that he wanted to marry her...We know this because History preserves many letters from the 19th Century, to and from José Rizál, (who was born on this date, June 19, 1861 -- in case you only know about December 30, 1896, when the Catholic Taliban and the Philippine Republic murders him annually with a gleeful "Fuego!" and "Lupang Hinirang!").

But Rizal's vast audience of the future is lucky because as an habitual letter-writer, diarist, journalist, novelist, communicator, and poet, he generated a tremendous amount of written correspondence with family and friends, with scientific and business associates, with government officials and famous personalities, and ordinary persons of his era. Moreover, José Rizál meticulously recorded his every experience, acquaintance, observation -- all of which were rich and varied because of his travels and connections to so many people. That material is still a primary historical source on his life and times. And this small collection I've chosen perhaps gives us a glimpse of.

Here he is, after three long years of exile in dark and dreary Dapitan, introducing his intended to his stern and disapproving Mother...

14 March 1895
Mrs. Teodora Alonso


My Very Dear Mother,

The bearer of this letter is Miss Josephine Leopoldine Tauffer whom I was on the point of marrying, counting on your consent, of course. Our relations were broken on her suggestion on account of the numerous difficulties on the way. She is almost alone in the world; she has only very distant relatives.

As I am interested in her and it is very possible that she may later decide to join me and as she may be left all alone and abandoned, I beg you to give her hospitality there, treating her as a daughter, until she shall have an opportunity or occasion to come here.

I have decided to write the General to find out about my case.

Treat Miss Josephine as a a person whom I esteem and value much and whom I would not like to be unprotected and abandoned. Your most affectionate son who loves you,

About a month or so later, he writes to his sister about Josephine, and thanks her for some pickled eggs...Pickled eggs!
Mrs. Narcisa Rizal
My Dear Sister,

I read your letter yesterday and Miss B.[racken] and I thank you very much for your kindness. She above all is grateful to you and Tonino for the hospitality you offer her but for the present we have decided that she should stay here. She cannot send you anything for she has no moment of rest now and although she likes this, she cannot however dry fish or make pickles. The jar of pickled fish eggs is very good and we enjoyed eating it. Miss J.[ospehine] sends you very affectionate regards.

With nothing more, many regards to all from your brother who loves you dearly.

J. Rizal
Historically, the scandal has never died, of the 35-year old Doctor Rizal taking up with "an Irish girl of sweet eighteen, slender, a chestnut blond, with blue eyes, dressed with elegant simplicity, with an atmosphere of light gaiety,"

Rizal's descendant, Asuncion Lopez Rizal Bantug, in her recent biography, Indio Bravo, (Tahanan Books, Manila, 1997) gives some valuable background on the intended Mrs. Josephine Bracken Rizal ...
Josephine Bracken...arrived in Dapitan in February 1895 with her foster father, George Taufer, and a certain Manuela Orlac, the mistress of a friar at the Manila Cathedral. It was Orlac's friar connection that led some of Rizal's sisters to sustpet that Josephine had come to spy on their brother. Taufer and Josephine had met Rizal in Hongkong, when Taufer sought help for his failing eyesight. At the time of their visit to Dapitan Josephine was 17 years old, a petite Eurasian orphan with Irish blood, who had lived a hard life with her foster father and his various wives. She must have been attractive enough for Rizal to fall instantly in love with her, and she returned his love like many other women before her.
Despite coming in his fourth year of exile, the months that follow are among the happiest and most productive of Rizal's entire life. If one reads the compendium of One Hundred Letters of Rizal in this period of 1895, one finds him happy, busy and ambitious. He and Josephine were living happily as man and wife on his idyllic and isolated Talisay property beside the sea on the Northern Mindanao coast in what is now Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte. But, he also conducts a lively correspondence and active commerce in specimens and scientific instruments and books with various colleagues in Europe and America. He sees many patients, attracted by his knowledge, skill and humanity. He has orchards with thousands of trees, cuttings, plantings of coffee, cashews, cocoa, macopa, siniguelas, mangoes. He collects forest honey and scientific specimens, even discovering unknown plant and animal species, which today bear his name. He is running a small school for boys and plans several ambitious projects for Mindanao, including an "agricultural colony" in Sindangan Bay, and a shipbuilding facility near what is now Butuan City. He is full of optimism and is evidently planning to raise a family and make a life there. A great life there!

CARLOS QUIRINO, in The Great Malayan (Philippine Commonwealth era prize winning biography, Tahanan Books, 1997) on Rizal's happiest Christmas:
Christmas that year was the happiest he had ever spent in Dapitan, mainly because of Josephine's presence. She was now big with child--his child, and he experienced a thrill of joy at being a prospective father. Would it be a boy or a girl? Whom would it look like? They killed a suckling pig, roasting it over live coals to a succulent brown, and made chicken broth out of a fat hen. Jose invited the neighborss to a Christmas party, and they all danced and made merry until dawn. On New Year's Eve, they repeated the celebration, enjoyoing themselves thoroughly.
LEON MA. GUERRERO writes in his 1961 biography of Rizal, The First Filipino ("Awarded First Prize in the Rizal Biography Contest held under the auspices ofthe Jose Rizal National Centennial Commission in 1961" Published in Manila, 1963), "They ould not be married; as we shall see, the Church demanded his recantation and submission before she would consent to their participation in the Sacrament of Matrimony. It was not something that Josephine, a pious believer, ould take lightly. But she had never been demanding, and she swallowed her pride and her scruples, although when they were more than she could bear she always said she would go away. "The person who lives in my house" was Rizal's authentically Tagalog and anot ungallant description of her to his mother in January 1896...
15 January 1896
Mrs. Teodora Alonso

My Very Dear Mother,

...She is good, obedient and submissive. We lack nothing except that we are not married, but, as you yourself say, better to a Love in God's grace than be married in mortal sin. We have still to have our first quarrel, and when I give her advice she does not answer back. I fyou caome and get to know her I have every hope that you will get along with her. Besides, she has nobody in this world except myself. I am her whole family...J. Rizal
Then, in this letter to his mother, he gives her some sad news, in a rather terse and mysterious manner (to me)...
12 March 1896
Mrs. Teodora Alonso

My Very Dear Mother,

Miss B. thanks you very much for your gifts and does not know how to reciprocate. She cannot go there just now because there is nobody here to look after the nephews. She bathes them, and washes and mends their clothes, so that, poor girl, she is never at rest, but she does it willingly for she has a great love for the boys, and they love her mor than they love me! ... I am afraid she has had a miscarriage; she was very seriously ill the day before yesterday.
Historian Gregorio F. Zaide describes this alleged event as follows in his biography Life, Works and Writings of a Genius (All Nation's Publishing, 1994 ed.)
In the early part of 1896 Rizal was extremely unhappy because Josephine was expecting a baby. Unfortunately, he played a prank on her, frightening her so that she prematurely gave birth to an eight month baby boy, who lived only for three hours . This lost son of Rizal was named "Franisco" in honor of Don Francisco (the hero's father) and was buried in Dapitan.
Leon Ma. Guerrero is the most sympathetic:
"Poor Josephine! Born in a barracks, farmed out as a baby, nursing two Mrs. Taufers, tormented by the third, running away and going back, saddled with a sick, blind, jealous old man, falling in love and running away (she always seemed to be running away and going back), wanting to wait and wanting to marry, gossiped about, slandered, wounded int he depths of her Irish Catholic heart by the sneers and shrugs of her lover's sisters, so eager to please with her little gifts of music books and muslim collars, so desperate to be accepted with her rice cakes and noodles and dried fish! She was not afraid to work; she had been working all her life, a corporal's daughter brought up by stepmothers, to whom cooking and washing and minding the children and feeding the chickens was the very purspose of a girl's life. She was not bored by Dapitan, whatever Rizal might think: here she had at last made some sort of home for herself, outside the pale of the law, in the shadow of the Church's reprobation, but still a home, a family, which she had never had in crowded exciting Hong Kong and Tokyo. I would be a real home and "a whole family" when the baby came, and now she had lost him.
Actually, many apocryphal and conflicting stories and histories exist about this episode regarding Rizal's son, Francisco, who "lived for only three hours." Some have it that Rizal buried it "somewhere in the gazebo" area on his Talisay property. Then, on the day he and Josephine left Dapitan, in July, 1896, he burned everything down, with a Dapitan Orchestra playing Chopin's Funeral March! Other stories even have it, that he went and buried the child "somewhere in the forest" above his Talisay home, and never told anyone where.

Yet...Jose Rizal was a man who knew where every postage stamp he bought was, where every button, cuff and collar that was lovingly sent to him was, a man who dutifully and accurately recorded the minutest details of his entire life experience...but in the case of his son, --his son!--he leaves no record of where he buried it?? Just like that, with less thought than he accorded his laundry, he disposes of his "stillborn" eight-month old baby boy?? I don't believe it for one second and have other theories about what really happened...It is simply out of character for Rizal to have done so. Perhaps there never was a miscarriage and it was all to save a boy from a life as the Son of Jose Rizal--the bastard son of Jose Rizal, heretic, apostate, excommunicant, exile!

Later, much later, Josephine would write to Jose Rizal...(her 'typos' and grammar are preserved...)
17 August 1896, Manila
Dr. J. Rizal
My Darling Love

I received your most kind and welcomed letter dated the 10th Wednesday. I am very much surprised not hearing anything about if you have received the three Tyrines of Foie gras: well! perhaps you have not received any other letters that I have written to you. I went to the Governor General today but unfortunately he is laid up with a severe cold, but his adecam told me to go back in three days to receive an answer from him.

Dear I would like very much to go with your dear famaily, but; you know what I have written to you, I would like to go alone, so I can speak to you better for in your famaily's presence we can [not] be very free to each other.

I know my dear it breakes my heart to go and bid you good bye! but! dear what can I do; than to suffer until the Good God brings you back to me again. Your sister Choling came to visit me yesterday and she wants to give me her daughter Maria Luisa to me she says she had great confidence in me, well I told her for my part I am quite willing and satisfied but I have to comunicate with your first if you are willing, I have so many pupils about fifteen three dollars each and I am also studying Piano 4 $ a month in Dna. Maria's house one of my pupil, Dear I have to do something like that because I am always sorry thinking of your. Oh! dear how I miss you. I will always be good and faithful to you, and also do good to my companions so that the good God will bring youback to me. I will try all my best to be good to your family especially to your dear old Parents "the hands that we cannot cut lift it up and kiss it or adore the hand that gives the blow." How it made the tears flew in my eyes when I read those few lines of you. Say darling say it makes me think of our dear old hut in Dapitan and the many sweet [h]ours we have passed there.

Love I will love you ever, love I will leave thee never, ever to me precious to thee never to part heart bound to heart or never to say good bye.

So my darling receive many warm Affection and love.

From You ever faithfull and true till death,

P.S. The boys are very well I am giving my home pupils their lesson every night from 7 until 9 o'clock.
Jose Rizal's final farewell to her--did it come before or after the above?
Adiós, dulce extranjera, mi amiga, mi alegría,
Adiós, queridos seres, morir es descansar.
I think it must be taken as something of great significance that Jose Rizal's last written words on earth are to this "sweet stranger, his friend, his joy." Just as the first words that Christ utters to Mary Magdalene after Resurrection was: "Noli Me Tangere!"

Then there's this... El Filibusterismo: Sic Itur Ad Astra (MP3)

MANUEL L. QUEZON III writes about a different purported son of Rizal: ADOLF RIZAL!

Adrian Cristobal of the Manila Bulletin tackles the same topic today, but MLQ3 produces the more interesting read.


Anonymous said...

Happy Birth anniversary to our country's hero!

Belated happy father's day to all daddies !

Unknown said...

Terrine de Foie Gras (not tyrinne)!

Good bloke Rizal was - he knew what savoir vivre was - good food, good wine, good women...


Unknown said...

I think by "extranjera",Rizal meant "foreigner" not really "stranger".... the Spanish and the French word for "foreigner" is similar so I reckon that's what he meant.

Deany Bocobo said...

Mi Ultimo Adios has been translated into 35 languages, one report has it. But I've noticed many of the English translations don't follow the rhyming pattern of the original spanish, nor the meter. Most of the one I've seen do translate extranjera "correctly" as "foreigner". But I think "sweet foreigner" is unpoetic sounding, while "sweet stranger" has the alliterative qualities of "dulce extranjera". thanks

Unknown said...

Btw, Dean,

You wanna make Max Soliven happy? Liken him to Rizal....


Danny Boy, FCD said...

I don't like Zaide's book on Rizal. Aside from the apocryphal material, there's too much editorializing; and even pseudoscience.

Deany Bocobo said...

Heathen Dan,
A Warm Welcome to Philippine Commentary !
I never actually read very much of Mr. Zaide before, but as it happens, his entire collection of books (from when he was a child, judging by what is there!), papers, and other works are preserved now at the Ortigas Museum in Pasig City, and open to the public. Great place to go for a lot of these materials that aren't even available online.

Also for this post, he transmits the impression that this was a live birth but that the child expired for some reason. Of course, he could be wrong, but there is the matter of that pencil sketch, which I am still going to publish...

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

Jose Rizal was the hero my youth and still is my hero today. I have read his biographies about a thousand times and his "Noli" and "Fili" countless times. He is a man that comes to a nation only once and is continually blessed by his short life that he gave for his Motherland.

If only those in government today can approximate even half of what he was, this country could truly be great.

Unknown said...

Re live birth

That's what I thought too Dean, that the child did not live more than a few hours but it was born alive.

Noli Me Tangere was translated in French too and published by one of the most respectable publishing houses (they publish most of the classics) in France, Editions Gallimard.