The True Valentine of Rizal
by Rodolfo A. Arizala
14 February 2015
On 14 February 2015, is Valentines Day. It is relevant to ask: “How many Valentines had our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal?”
Aside from Leonor Rivera and Suzanne, Jose Rizal had other Valentines. It may be recalled that Rizal according to one of his biographers had hardly settled in Madrid when he met and fell in love with Consuelo Ortega, the daughter of Pablo Ortega who had been mayor of Manila during Governor de la Torre’s time and has became host to Filipinos in Madrid. And during Rizal’s second trip to Europe, he met in Yokohama a Japanese girl, named Osei-K’yo San and they became in love with each other. When Rizal arrived in London he stayed with the Beckett family. Rizal fell in love with one of the Beckett girls named “Tottie” (Gertrude). Then when Rizal visited Paris, he met Nellie Boustead. Rizal and Antonio Luna fell in love with Nellie Boustead. She eventually became Rizal’s sweetheart. Rizal and Luna almost went to a duel due to the derogatory remarks uttered by Luna against Nellie. And when Rizal returned to the Philippines and was exiled to Dapitan, he fell in love with an Irish girl named Josephine Bracken who accompanied her foster father Mr. Taufer to the clinic of Rizal in Dapitan for eye surgery.
Prior to meeting Josephine Bracken and the other women in his life, Rizal first love was Segunda Katigbak. Then he fell in love with Leonor Rivera. Apart from Leonor Rivera, there was another girl also named Leonor (Valenzuela) whom Rizal called “Orang”. It appears Rizal was attracted (or he attracted?) even married women. It was mentioned that while Rizal was on his way back to the Philippines on a train to Marseilles, he met an American couple. A banker whose wife according to Rizal had blue eyes and “ a smile as chaste as a Christian virgin’”. When they parted, the romantic dialogue between the two went like this:
“We shall hardly see each other again?” Rizal asked.
“Who knows? I shall certainly hope so,” the American woman replied.
“I am in the hands of fate,” Rizal retorted.
“ Really,? I believe it,”she said, and waved to him as the train pulled out.
Rizal lost probably, another prospective American Valentine.
Be that as it may, prior to his martyrdom in Bagumbayan field on 30 December 1896, his last Valentine was an Irish girl named Josephine. They lived for one year in Dapitan as husband and wife but without the benefit of marriage. Despite the absence of marriage ceremony, according to Josephine in her diary, those moments were the happiest in her life.
One may ask: “What happened to Rizal’s earlier Valentine, Leonor Rivera his sweetheart for eleven years? According to one of his biographers Leon Ma. Guerrero, one day Rizal received a letter from Leonor informing him that she was marrying an Englishman, Henry Kipping, an engineer of the railway project in Luzon.
Such news received by Rizal while he was in Europe affected him so much that he wrote his Austrian friend Ferdinand Blumentritt: “Well, so the first sledge-hammer blow in the railway (construction) falls on me.”
To assuage Rizal’s disappointment, his friend Blumentritt wrote back with the comforting words: “ I am sorry with all my heart that you have lost your sweetheart. But if she could bear to give up Rizal, then she was not spiritually worthy of him; she is like a child that throws away a diamond to pick up a pebble. . “
Biographer Leon Ma. Guerrero has different view from Ferdinand Blumentritt on the matter. He said in his book,”Rizal, The First Filipino”:
“Yet history has been less than kind to poor Leonor. Faithful for eleven years, with not a glimpse of her lover on his only homecoming! Rizal was very much the lordly Victorian male to expect her to wait patiently and faithfully at home until his own good time while he roamed the world of Consuelos, Gertrudes, Suzannes and Japanese cherry-blossoms, writing novels and preaching ideas that brought tumbling down about their ears all that safe comfortable world of steady incomes, assured prospects and humdrum pleasures that women dream of. Leonor had never thrown away diamond; she had barely touched it, a precious, cold slippery thing, much too highly priced for a little provincial.”
Rizal lost his Valentine Leonor. However, as stated above, Rizal before his death, while exiled in Dapitan, found his last Valentine in the person of an Irish girl, Josephine Bracken. What happened to Josephine after Rizal’s demise is another story.
Looking beyond Rizal’s alleged romantic adventures with a number of women foreign and locals, methinks there is more truth to what historian and writer Ms. Gemma Cruz Araneta wrote in her book: “Rizal’s True Love” (Cruz Publishing, Makati City, Philippines, 2014, p. 202): “the one Jose Rizal loved deeply and passionately was Fiilipinas.”
The same is true could be said with respect to another hero of our nation and the First Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Aguinaldo Government, Apolinario Mabini who dedicated all his life and times to Filipinas. There were no known women written connected with Mabini and he remained a bachelor up to the time of his death. Like Rizal, Mabini’s “True Love” was also Filipinas. Therefore, their respective Valentines was their beloved country.
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