FINDING JOSE RIZAL IN CEBU
Cecilia Manguerra Brainard
First published in Zee Lifestyle, June 2009
It was my friend, Marily Orosa, publisher of the award-winning coffee table book, Rizal, who mentioned that she visited Cebu to do research for her book. She raved over the rare Rizal artifacts she had found in Cebu. I had no idea that Cebu had Jose Rizal artifacts; I had always thought that belongings and documents of Rizal were in Luzon where this Philippine National hero came from. It wasn’t until a year ago when I visited Rizal Museum at the University of Southern Philippines and realized, after talking to Dr. Odette Jereza, Vice President of the University of Southern Philippines, that Rizal Museum was where Marily had found the Rizal artifiacts.
I thought the Rizal artifacts may have ended up in USP’s Rizal Museum because of Josephine Bracken, the 18-year old Irish lass whom Rizal fell in love with in Hong Kong. She was the step-daughter/companion of George Taufer who had cataracts and had sought Rizal’s medical assistance. It turned out that Rizal and Josephine Bracken fell in love with each other. Bracken left Taufer and lived with Rizal in Dapitan. They had wanted to get married by there were complications because Rizal was a Mason. They got married only shortly before Rizal was shot. As his widow, she joined the revolutionary movement, but after the revolution, the American colonial government hired her as a public school teacher in Cebu. Cebu historians will talk about where Bracken had lived while she was in Cebu – somewhere in One of her students was reportedly Sergio Osmeña who later became President of the Philippines. Bracken also taught in Manila, but when it became politically dangerous for her, she fled to Hong Kong. It was there where she met her Cebuano husband, Vicente Abad who worked for Tabacalera, and with whom she had a daughter named Dolores. It was this Abad connection that made me certain the Rizal collection came via the Abad family.
I proved wrong. The collection in Rizal Musuem had belonged to one of Rizal’s younger sisters, Trinidad, who gave the collection to her niece, the daughter of another sister of Rizal, Lucia. The niece, Concepcion Herbosa married Escolastico Duterte who was the former Vice President of the University of Southern Philippines.
The lights in Rizal Museum have to be dim, and the temperature has to be just right, in order to protect the artifacts from disintegrating further. One huge room displays these artifacts. Some treasures in Rizal Hall are: Jose Rizal’s personal clothing, from overcoats, pants, summer clothes, undershirts, to socks that have been meticulously darned. The 1899 and 1900 copies of the novels, Noli Me Tangere ad El Filibusterismo are there with the original receipt from Chofre Printing company. There are genealogy charts and numerous pictures of Rizal’s family members, his home in Dapitan, his prison cell, the place where he was baptized, and more. There is a report card of Trinidad Rizal; a complete set of 1908 Jose Rizal Memorabilia postcards; a 1906 handkerchief with prints of the song, “Canto Patriotico de Maria Clara.”
Photographs of the women Rizal reportedly loved (Segunda Katigback, Leonar Rivera, Gertrude Becket, O Sei San, Suzanne Jacoby, Nelly Bousted, and of course Josephine Bracken His medical books are displayed there. Some of Rizal’s art works, including a carving of Josephine Bracken, crayon sketch of another Rizal-love, Leonor River, and other art pieces are there. A very important treasure in the Hall is the original KKK Kataastaasan Kagalanggalangan Katipunan) flag, which Marily Orosa featured in another coffee table book, The Tragedy of the Revolution.
There are original love letters of Josephine Bracken and Jose Rizal. And there is a letter from Josephine Bracken to Rizal’s sister Josephine Rizal, where one can see Bracken’s evenly spaced handwriting. It is dated May 1894 and references her Hong Kong address. This was clearly written after Rizal and Bracken had met in Hong Kong, but before Bracken accompanied her stepfather George Taufer from Hong Kong to Dapitan to seek Rizal’s medical attention for his eyes.
I fell in love with the drawings by Rizal of Josephine Bracken. One shows Bracken in the nude, reclining on a divan, with two angels near her, one hovering from the top, and one standing and seemingly staring at her stomach. I wondered if this drawing was made after Bracken’s miscarriage in Dapitan, and if the angels had something to do with the child they had lost.
The drawings made me think of Josephine Bracken, the shortness of her life, its turbulence: Her mother died soon after giving birth to her; her military father abandoned her in the care of George Taufer; she lived with Rizal, a man, who was on the hit-list of the Spaniards; when Rizal died, she bounced around, from Cebu, to Manila, to Hong Kong. Perhaps she had a few good years with Vicente Abad, but by the time she was 26, she was dead from tuberculosis.
Those interested in the life of Jose Rizal will discover much in Rizal Musuem, which is in the University of Southern Philippines in Lahug. It seems to be a secret museum that Cebuanos hardly know, except perhaps for students. But I know for a fact that serious Rizaliana researchers always make a stop there to view and study the numerous Rizal artifacts kept there.
And what a treasure Cebu has with these artifacts!
Life in Parian Now
Cebu's 1730 Jesuit House
The Secret Hall of Angels
A Story of Hope
Finding Jose Rizal in Cebu
Lola Remedios and her Sayas
Lunch with F. Sionil Jose
Pre-Colonial Gold in Cebu
tags: Cebu, Manila, Philippines, history, literature, Jose Rizal, F. Sionil Jose, Cecilia Brainard, lifestyle,