Chapter 14: Dapitan

Rizal's Dapitan Home (Reconstructed)



Father Sanchez

Rizal's Sketch of the

Dapitan Waterworks Project

When Rizal reached Dapitan as a prisoner in July, 1892, he found it a sleepy little town, but soon it became wide awake. Together with his friend Father Sanchez he helped remake the plaza, which he jokingly said, "must rival the best in Europe". In front of the church they made a great relief map of Mindanao out of stones, earth, and grass. It still adorns the plaza. They helped the citizens place lampposts at every corner for Dapitan's first lighting system. Delighted at this new life, Commandant Carnicero wrote the Governor General if possible to send for the new plaza twenty-four iron benches and twenty-six hundred meters of wire. (01) As a doctor, Rizal spent many months draining swamps to get rid of the malaria which infested the region. He directed the construction of a water system for Dapitan. The water was brought several kilometers, following the contour of a valley, and crossing several gullies with bamboo tubes. The bottom of the conduit was lined with tiles from decaying Dapitan houses. "I want to do all I can for this town." He wrote to Father Pastells. (02)

It happened that a lottery ticket which he had purchased brought him a prize of six thousand pesos, all of which he spent in Dapitan. He sent to the United States for modern agricultural implements which he had observed as he passed through America four years before, and taught the Dapitan farmers how to use them. (03)

He bought sixteen hectares of land along the bay a few hundred meters east of the town of Dapitan, and here built himself a little house, where he spent much of each day. At this charming retreat the bay seems to be surrounded by land excepting at a narrow neck exactly in the west where the sun drops into the sea.

Rizal's sketch of fishers in a boat

He wrote to his brother-in-law Manuel Hidalgo, (04) "You can come here and have a big hacienda. . . The government is going to grant three months exemption from service, and a personal loan to all who will come to our colony. All the people of Calamba, Tanawana, Lipa, and etc. can come with their implements. We will establish a new Calamba!"

Thrilled by the dream of having his family and townsmen near him, José planted what Carnicero called "an infinity of fruit trees," including many coffee and cacao plants and "from 800 to 1000 coconuts." (05) Rizal had become a farmer! Not the kind that merely told others how to work, but one who toiled himself, hard and happily. He poured into his agriculture the intense scientific interest that his trained and brilliant mind manifested for everything he did. Father Pastells wrote that this kind of menial labor was too "common and vulgar" for a man of Rizal's high attainments, but Rizal thought that planting coffee and cacao was one way of cooperating with God. (06) He recalled the Hymn to Work he had once written for Batangas eight years before, when it was made a villa (1885).

Commandant Carnicero rendered Rizal every aid in his efforts, grew to be his ardent admirer, and took him along the coast on every official trip. Indeed, Rizal, as his custom was, began to turn this prison into a little paradise. The Jesuits, knowing that he would not become penitent under such treatment, were disgusted. The Governor General removed Carnicero. (07) Grateful to the Commandant and grieving at his loss of his friend, Rizal wrote a lovely poem in his honor which he sent him on August 26, 1893.

Little did José dream that while he was writing this poem his old sweetheart Leonor Rivera Kipping was on her deathbed. She died in Manila, August 28, 1893, at the birth of her only son. (08)

Thus the curtain fell upon a beautiful and tragic love. More than once Rizal, finding some woman in Europe falling in love with him, had moved to another city, because he would keep true to Leonor. When he heard of her death, his heart felt a great aching void. Custom had kept him and Leonor apart, but neither custom nor marriage had killed their deathless love. It had held him true like the North Star. And now Leonor was dead!

Two sculptures of Rizal inspired by the Dapitan Sojourn

The new commandant Juan Sitges arrived in Dapitan with a splurge of severity. Rizal was not allowed to live with the governor any longer, but had to live in another house. He could no longer eat with the Commandant. He must present himself personally three times a day; he must visit no ships; he must not go beyond the streets of the town; he must have no communication of any kind without permission. (09) But after awhile the new officer, like his predecessor, came under the spell of the noble and great-hearted Rizal, whom he came to trust so perfectly that he seldom even opened the mail which the exile received, and allowed him to travel about the coast of Mindanao alone. (10) Never did Rizal once forget that he was a prisoner, and he took pains to do more than he was commanded to do. "Carnicero and Sitges agreed that Rizal was irreproachable. The affability of his character, the urbanity of his manners, the courtesy of his speech, made him the accomplished gentleman, and it was very difficult not to sympathize with him. (11)

Scientific sketches of fish in the Dapitan area

Scientist that he was, Rizal found Mindanao a wonderful field for collecting specimens. He explored the coast in his canoe, seeking specimens of shells, bugs, and new varieties of plants. There are in the Dresden museum today over four hundred articles of scientific value which Rizal sent from Dapitan. For his friend Dr. Blumentritt he wrote articles on the ethnography of the Philippines and prepared a detailed map of Mindanao. "In order to be happy," he wrote Blumentritt, "I lack only my liberty, my family, and my books… But in recompense, I am very near to nature, I hear constantly the song of the sea and the murmur of the leaves, and I see the continuous waving of the palms agitated by the breezes.

"I am working these days on a grammar of the Tagalog language, but a very original grammar, the only one of its kind. However, as I have no books here about languages, I am sometimes perplexed. My grammar of comparative languages by Bournouf is in Hong Kong and I do not know whether it is still in existence; so my work goes slowly." (12)

An instructional game developed by Rizal as an aid in teaching

One is struck by the modernity of Rizal in almost all of his views. (13) His educational ideas well illustrate this. Very naturally there developed a school of seventeen boys, sons for the most part of leading citizens of Dapitan. Formal classes were conducted between two and five o'clock, he sitting in a hammock, while the boys sat on a long bamboo bench. They learned arithmetic, geometry, and two languages, English and Spanish. On one day they were required to speak only English; on the next day, only Spanish. If any boy forgot and spoke the wrong language he had to wear rattan handcuffs. The best student was called "emperor" and sat at the head of the bench. The poorest sat at the foot, and had to jump, dance, and take exercises before the others. (14) "Nature study" consisted in helping Rizal collect his specimens of flowers, shells, insects, and reptiles. The Manila Jesuit Museum has a large collection of shells, snakes, and insects which Rizal's school collected and sent to the Ateneo.

The recess was spent in building fires in the garden to smoke the plants and drive away insects, or in fertilizing the soil with manure and pruning the lanzones, nanca, and other trees. For recreation the boys swam, swung on parallel bars and iron rings, and played games. The favorite game was "hagis". A piece of wood was suspended from the branch of a tree and the students threw stones at it. The student who hit the wood five times in succession obtained a prize of cartridges and was allowed to go with Rizal on hunting expeditions. (15)

Rizal sought to make the boys afraid of nothing in the world. Since they had been told that momos (ghosts) dwelt in balete trees, he required timid boys to climb a balete tree on the hill all alone at night. Their favorite rendezvous was under a talisay tree, after which his home was named, and in honor of which he wrote a poem for his boys to sing:

The Talisay tree



(Written for Rizal's Students in Dapitan)


At Dapitan, the sandy shore

And rocks aloft on mountain crest

Form thy throne, O refuge blest,

That we from childhood days have known,

In your vales that flowers adorn,

And your fruitful leafy shade,

Our thinking powers are being made,

And soul with body being grown.


We are youth not long on earth

But our souls are free from sorrow;

Calm, strong men we'll be tomorrow,

Who can guard our families' rights.

Lads are we whom naught can frighten,

Whether thunder, waves, or rain.

Swift of arm, serene of mien

In peril, shall we wage our fights.


With our games we churn the sand,

Through the caves and crags we roam,

On the rocks we make our home,

Everywhere our arms can reach.

Neither dark nor night obscure

Cause us fear, nor fierce torment

That even Satan can invent.

Life or death? We must face each!


"Talisayans," people call us;

Mighty souls in bodies small.

O'er Dapitan's district all,

No Talisay like this towers.

None can match our reservoir.

Our diving pool, the sea profound!

No rowing boat the world around

For a moment can pass ours.


We study sciences exact;

The history of our motherland:

Three languages or four command;

Bring faith and reason in accord.

Our hands can manage at one time

The sail and working spade and pen,

The mason's maul -- for virile men

Companions, and the gun and sword.


Live, live, O leafy green Talisay!

Our voices sing thy praise in chorus,

Clear star, and precious treasure for us,

Our childhood's wisdom and its balm.

In fights that wait for every man,

In sorrow and adversity,

Thy memory a charm will be,

And in the tomb, they name, they calm.



Hail, O Talisay!

Firm and untiring,

Ever aspiring,

Stately thy gait,

Things, everywhere

In sea, land or air

Shalt thou dominate.






     De Dapitan la playa arenosa

y las rocas del monte encumbrado

son tu trono, ¡oh asilo sagrado!

donde paso mi tierna niñez.

En tu valle que esmaltan las flores

y sombrea fruta! Arboleda,


     Somos niños, pues tarde nacimos,

mas el alma tenemos lozana

y hombres fuertes serémos mañana

que sabrán sus familias guardar.

Somos niños que nada intimida

ni las olas, ni el baguio,ni el trueno;

pronto el brazo y el rostro sereno

en el trance sabrémos luchar.


     Nuestros juegos la arena revuelven;

recorremos los antros, las breñas;

nuestras casas están sobre peñas,

nuestras armas alcanzan doquier.

No hay tinieblas, no hay noches oscuras

que temamos, ni fiera tormenta,

y si el mismo Luzbel se presenta,

muerto ó vivo cogido ha de ser.


     Talisaynon nos llama la gente,

alma grande en un cuerpo chiquito,

que en Dapitan y en todo el distrito,

no ha tenido Talisay su par.

Nuestro estanque no tiene rivales,

nuestro salto es abismo profundo,

y remando no hay banka en el mundo

que un momento nos pueda pasar.


     Los problemas de ciencias exactas,

de la patria la historia estudiamos,

tres y cuatro lenguajes hablamos

acordando la fe y la razón.

Nuestros brazos manejan á un tiempo

el cuchillo, la pluma, la azada,

la piqueta, el fusil y la espada,

compañero del fuerte varón.


     ¡Vive, vive, frondoso Talisay!

Nuestras voces te ensalcen á coro,

clara estrella, preciado esoro,

de la infancia doctrina y solaz.

En las luchas que aguardan al hombre,

á pesares y duelos sujeto,

tu memoria sera su amuleto,

y en la tumba tu nombre, su paz.



¡Salve, Talisay!

Firme y constante,

siempre adelante

tú marcharás.

¡Tú, victorioso,

todo elemento,

mar, tierra y viento,


It will be recalled that when Rizal left Hong Kong for Manila in 1892, only his sister Lucia had gone with him. The rest of the sisters and the father and mother remained in Hong Kong. (Narcisa and Paciano had never gone there.)

On August 26, 1893, Trinidad and José's mother left Hong Kong and proceeded to Dapitan, where they spent the next eighteen months with José. He gave his mother's eyes the final treatment needed to restore their sight, so that she was able to see the rest of her life. She returned to Manila in February, 1895.

José wrote another poem, in response to a request from his mother, who had all his life, stimulated his poetry. This poem is regarded by some of his admirers as the most profound and noble poem he ever composed. All critics agree that it is second only to "My Last Farewell". This he sent to his mother on October 22, 1895. (16)

Retreat Rock in Dapitan (Site of Rizal's "Retreat")




By the far reaching shore with its fine and yielding sand,

At the foot of a mountain attired in her garment of green,

I have planted my humble abode in this beautiful sylvan land,

Pursuing beneath the trees that quietly tranquil stand,

Repose for my burdened brain and peace to my anguish keen.


With its roof of fragile nipa, and its floor of frail bamboo,

Its beams and its columns all fashioned of unfinished lumber,

My crude little rustic cabin is not of much worth, it is true,

But all night long and all day, it hears the sea carol and coo,

And, tucked in the motherly lap of the mountain eternal, can slumber.


From out of the shadowy forest a rivulet runs strong,

Descends between the rocks to bathe it with love's charm.

To water it, through rude bamboo, a streamlet purls along,

Which in the quiet night, is melody and song,

And pours forth crystal nectar when the day is warm.


Whenever the heavens are fair the fountain gently flows,

Its unseen zither plays the whole day long to me;

But when the rains descend, the torrent angry grows,

It leaps o'er rocks and chasms, froths and boils and blows,

And roars, and frantic, dashes bellowed to the sea.


The barking of a dog, the trilling of a bird,

The harsh voice of a calaw, only reach my ear;

There are no vain insistent, neighbors to be heard,

By whom my mind is burdened or my way deterred,

But only friendly forests and the sea are near.


The sea, the sea is all; this mighty sovereign main

Bears to me atoms that were one time worlds apart;

For me, each limpid morn, it breathes its smile again,

And when in th' afternoon my ardent hopes seem vain,

I feel its sadness like an echo to my heart.


At night time it is magic. . . . Its pellucid space

Is studied o'er with myriads of gleams of light.

The firmament is clear; the wind steps up its pace,

And to the gentle breeze the breathing waves retrace

Dim histories lost in the cloak of time's deep night.


'Tis said they tell about the earth's primeval dawn,

When first its fertile bosom felt the sun's warm kiss,

And countless living creatures, surging from the spawn,

Begotten, everywhere that fecund kiss had gone,

Began to denizen each height and dark abyss.


But when the winds grow angry in some gloomy night,

And restless waves begin to heave uneasily,

Shrieks cry across the air which fill one's heart with fright,

Such choruses and piteous prayers and moans as might

Proceed from wretched beings one time drowned at sea.


Reverberations from the mountain heights rebound,

While all the trees are trembling from the first to last:

The flocks begin to moan, the thickets to resound.

Then spirits, it is said, come out upon the ground.

And summon all the dead to their forlorn repast.


The dark night hisses, hisses, confused and terrorizing;

Green and blue flames over all the water lave. . . .

But calm comes once again to rule at near sun-rising;

Soon a fearless little fishing banca dares capsizing

And starts to push its way from wave to weary wave.


And thus go by the days in my obscure retreat.

An exile from the world where I once dwelt,

I marvel that so strange a fortune I should meet;

A boulder long forsaken; -- only moss can find a seat,

To hide from all the world the emotions I have felt.


I live in fond remembrances of those whom I adore,

And now and then imagine that I hear their names repeated.

By some I am deserted, and few now live no more, --

It matters not, for I can live in those dear days of yore,

And from this Vision sweet of Long Ago shall not be cheated.


A faithful Friend, this Vision, who my honor ne'er betrays

Who always comes to cheer my soul, whene'er he sees it grieve;

Who in my sleepless nights keeps watch with me and prays,

And shares my banishment with me, and in my cabin stays,

And when all others are in doubt, he helps me to believe.


This is the faith that I cherish, and hope one day may shine,

A day in which the Idea will conquer brutal power,

And after this lingering agony along the battle-line,

Another happier voice and lovelier than mine,

Will sing the canticles of that triumphant hour.


I see high heaven shine as pure and brilliant now

As when it taught my fond illusions at their start.

I feel the selfsame zephyr kiss my languid brow --

The same as fired my first so fervent vow,

And set the blood to boiling in my youthful heart.


I breathe perchance the breezes which have blown before,

The fields and rivers of my native town above.

Perhaps they bring to me those confidences once more,

The kisses and the heart sighs of a being I adore,

The dulcet confidences of a virgin love.


To see the same pale moon that beamed on us of yore,

My old time melancholy is reborn tonight.

A thousand memories of love awake once more --

Our plighted faith, the yard, the roof, a cove, the shore,

Our silences and sighs and blushes of delight.


Like a butterfly eagerly thirsting for color and light,

That lovelier skies and more beautiful gardens demands,

While barely a youth from my home and my love I took flight,

Without doubts, without fears, I meandered wherever I might,

And I used up the April of life abiding in alien lands.


And when, like a weary swallow, I desired again

The nest of parents and the one I loved to share,

All suddenly there roared a violent hurricane,

That broke my fragile wings and tore my home in twain; --

Our faith sold out to others, -- ruins everywhere. . . .


Hurled to this faraway rock of the motherland I adore,

With my hope for the future destroyed; without home or salvation, --

Now rosy dreams, golden dreams, come to befriend me once more;

In all my lovely existence I have but this one treasure store; --

The Hopes of a wholesome youth who was free from all affection.


You are no more, as once, crammed full of fire and cheer,

A thousand crowns inviting you to immortality,

More serious now, I find you, but your face so dear,

If paler grown and not so artlessly sincere,

Reveals instead the tested seal of its fidelity.


You offer me, O dreams, the cup of comfort in my plight:

You come to reawaken all my youthful years had planned.

I thank you, tempest, thank you, winds from heaven's height,

For having known the time to cut my aimless flight,

For having let me fall to earth within my natal land.


Here by the far-reaching shore with its fine and yielding sand,

At the foot of a mountain attired in her garment of green,

Beneath the fair trees I have found a retreat in my native land,

And in the woodland shadows fell tranquility's cool hand,

Repose for my burdened brain and peace to my anguish keen.




Mi Retiro



     Cabe anchurosa playa de fina y suave arena

y al pie de una montaña cubierta de verdor

planté mi choza humilde bajo arboleda amena,

buscando de los bosques en la quietud serena

reposo a mi cerebro, silencio a mi dolor.



     Su techo es frágil su suelo débil cana,

sus vigas y columnas maderas sin labrar;

nada vale, por cierto, mi rústica cabaña;

mas duerme en el regazo de la eterna montaña,

y la canta y la arrulla noche y día el mar.



     Un afluente arroyuelo, que de la selva umbria

desciende entre peñascos, la baña con amor,

y un chorro le regala por tosca cañería

que en la cálida noche es canto y melodía

y néctar cristalino del día en el calor.



     Si el cielo esta sereno, mansa corre la fuente,

Su cítara invisible tañendo sin cesar;

pero vienen las lluvias, e impetuoso torrente

peñas y abismos salta, ronco, espumante, hirviente,

y se arroja rugiendo frenético hacia el mar.



     Del perro los ladridos, de las aves trino

del kalao la voz ronca solas se oyen alli,

no hay hombre vanidoso ni importuno vecino

que se imponga a mi mente, ni estorbo mi camino;

solo tengo las selvas y el mar cerca de mí.



     ¡El mar, el mar es todo! su masa soberana

los átomos me trae de mundos que lejos son;

me alienta su sonrisa de límpida mañana,

y cuando por la tarde mi fe resulta vana

encuentra en sus tristezas un eco el corazón.



     ¡De noche es un arcano! ... su diáfano elemento

se cubre de millares, y millares de luz;

la brisa vaga fresca, reluce el firmamento,

las olas en suspiros cuentan al manso viento

historias que se pierden del tiempo en el capiz.



     Diz que narran del mundo la primera alborada,

del sol el primer beso que su seno encendió,

cuando miles de seres surgieron de la nada,

y el abismo poblaron y la cima encumbrada

y doquiera su beso fecundante estampó.



     Mas, cuando en noche oscura los vientos enfurecen

y las inquietas alas comienzan a agitar,

cruzan en aire gritos que el ánimo estremecen

coros, voces que rezan, lamentos que parecen

exhalar los que un tiempo se hundieron en el mar.



     Entonces repercuten los montes de la altura,

los árboles se agitan de confín a confín;

aullan los ganados, retumba la espesura,

sus espíritus dicen que van a la llanura

llamadas por los muertos a fúnebre festín.



     Silva, silva la noche, confusa, aterradora;

verdes, azules llamas en el mar vense arder;

mas la calma renace con la próxima aurora

y pronto una atrevida barquilla pescadora

las fatigadas alas comienza á recorrer…



     Asi pasan los días en mi oscuro retiro,

desterrado del mundo donde tiempo viví,

de mi rara fortuna la providencia admiro:

quijarro abandonado que al musgo solo aspiro

para ocultar a todos el mundo que tengo en mí!



     Vivo con los recuerdos de los que yo he amado

y oigo de vez en cuando sus nombres pronunciar:

unos estan ya muertos, otros me han abandonado;

¿mas que importa? ... Yo vivo pensando en lo pasado

y lo pasado nadie me puede arrebatar.



     El es mi fiel amigo que nunca me desdora

que siempre alienta el alma cuando triste la ve,

que en mis noches de insomnio conmigo vela y ora

conmigo, y en mi destierro y en mi cabaña mora,

y cuando todos dudan solo él me infunde fe.



     Y la tengo, y yo espero que ha de brillar un día

en que venza la idea a la fuerza brutal,

que después de la lucha y la lenta agonía,

otra voz mas sonora y mas feliz que la mía

sabrá cantar entonces el cántico triunfal.



     Veo brillar el cielo tan puro y refulgente

como cuando forjaba mi primera ilusión,

el mismo soplo siento besar mi mustia frente,

el mismo que encendía mi entusiasmo ferviente

y hacía hervir la sangre del joven corazón.



     Yo respiro la brisa que acaso haya pasado

por los campos y ríos de mi pueblo natal;

acaso me devuelva lo que antes le he confiado

los besos y suspiros de un ser idolatrado,

las dulces confidencias de un amor virginal!



     Al ver la misma luna, cual antes argentada,

la antigua melancolía siento en mi renacer;

despiertan mil recuerdos de amor y fe jurada ...

un patio, una azotea, la playa, una enramada,

silencios y suspiros, rubores de placer ...



     Mariposa sedienta de la luz y de colores,

sonando en otros cielos y en más vasto pensil,

dejé, jóven apenas, mi patria y mis amores,

y errante por doquiera sin dudas, sin temores,

gasté en tierras extrañas de mi vida de abril.



     Y despues, cuando quise, golondrina causada,

al nido de mis padres y de mi amor volver,

rugió fiera de pronto violenta turbonada:

vense rotas mis alas, desecha la morada,

la fe vendida a otros y ruinas por doquier.



     Lanzado a una peña de la patria que adora,

el porvenir destruído, sin hogar, sin salud,

de toda mi existencia el único tesoro,

creencias de una sana, sincera juventud.



     Ya no sóis como antes, llenas de fuego y vida

brindando mil coronas a la inmortalidad;

algo serias os hallo; mas nuestra faz querida

si ya es tan sincera, si esta descolorida

en cambio lleva el sello de la fidelidad.



     Me ofrecéis, oh ilusiones! la copa del consuelo,

y mis jovenes años a despertar venís:

gracias a ti, tormenta; gracias, vientos del cielo,

que a buena hora supísteis cortar mi incierto vuelo,

para abatirme al suelo de mi natal país.



     Cabe anchurosa playa de fina y suave arena

y al pie de una montaña cubierta de verdor,

hallé en mi patria asilo bajo arboleda amena,

y en sus umbrosos bosques, tranquilidad serena,

reposo a mi cerebro, silencio a mi dolor.


Typical ophthalmology instruments of the era

NOTE: The painting on the right is by Romeo Enriquez

In return for the specimens which he kept sending to Europe, Rizal had gradually accumulated surgical instruments, especially for the eye. (17) He cared for the sick of Dapitan without ever accepting a fee. People began to come to him from a distance, and these he charged according to their financial circumstances. One Englishman of wealth had cataracts removed from his eyes, and paid 500.00. This money Rizal used for lamps for the Dapitan streets. He had a hospital opposite the house where he dwelt. The adoring people of Dapitan saluted him with more reverence than they showed the Commandant. (18)

A Brief History of Ophthalmology

One patient was a blind American engineer named Taufer, who for years had resided in Hong Kong. He reached Dapitan in February, 1895. His disease proved to be venereal and incurable. With him came two young women, his adopted daughter Miss Josephine Leopoldine Bracken, of Irish descent, and Miss Manuela Orlac, a Filipina who was on intimate terms with a canon in the Manila Cathedral. (19)

Josephine (20) was eighteen, "slender, a chestnut blond, with blue eyes, dressed with elegant simplicity, with an atmosphere of light roguishness, like a girl accustomed to the company of men." (21) Rizal found this fun-loving girl extremely attractive in his melancholy and intolerably lonely state of mind. He had just written his mother: "I have no zest for anything. I have so many enemies." (22) Josephine seemed to be sent from heaven at the moment when he needed her most. She was not highly educated, but she was quick, witty, and eager to hear all Rizal had to say. Every time they met, she seemed more in love with the great doctor. Within a month they were engaged to be married, and asked Father Obach, the Dapitan priest, to marry them. He asked that he would have to gain permission from the Bishop of Cebu.

George Taufer Josephine Bracken

But when the blind Taufer heard of the proposed marriage he went into a fearful rage and was prevented from cutting his own throat only when Rizal grabbed and held both his wrists. He and his wife had taken Josephine when her Irish mother died in childbirth, and after Mrs. Taufer died he had depended upon her help during his blind years. The thought of losing the only help he had drove him temporarily insane. To avoid a tragedy, Josephine went off to Manila with Taufer by the first boat, and José told the priest not to write his letter to Cebu about a marriage.

Rizal wrote a letter to his mother in Manila in introducing Josephine:

"Dapitan, March 14, 1895

"My dearest mother,

"The bearer of this letter is Miss Josephine Leopoldine Taufer, with whom I was on the point of being married, of course with your consent. Our relations were broken at her suggestion because many difficulties came in the way. She is practically an orphan; her father is very far away.

"As I am interested in her, and as it is likely that she will decide to come back with me later, and as she may be left all alone and abandoned, I ask you there to treat her as hospitably as your own child, until she has a better opportunity to come here. Treat Miss Josephine as a person whom I esteem and appreciate greatly, and whom I should not wish to see in danger or abandoned.

Your son who loves you,

José Rizal


A Carving of Josephine Bracken

Josephine did not go on to Hong Kong with her adopted father, but remained in Manila. When she told the mother of Rizal that the Dapitan priest had to get permission of the Cebu Bishop and might require some sort of retraction from Rizal (23) the mother insisted that her son must never compromise himself in the eyes of the Filipinos who looked upon him as their leader. (24) Since Spanish law, she said, provided for civil marriage, and since the Philippines had no means of securing civil marriage, they would do right in marrying one another by holding hands before witnesses, for a common law marriage was also recognized in Spain. So Josephine returned to Dapitan, and the two lived together as man and wife. (25) The priests of Dapitan were scandalized. (26)

Besides, Josephine made this man altogether too happy for one who was to be brought to penitence through suffering. On January 15, 1896, José wrote to his sister Trinidad:

"We have passed the holidays happily; we are almost always happy now. We killed a lechon (roast pig) and a chicken. We invited our neighbors; we had a dance; we laughed until daybreak. Dec. 31 we did not sleep until the New Year arrived. . . Miss Josephine is better than her reputation, and with me here she is correcting her faults. She is submissive and obedient, and more than that, she has a good heart. All we lack is a priest, which is to say we lack nothing. We have had no quarrels and we always laugh happily. The public will say it is a scandal -- doubtless it is; it is very scandalous to live better than many married people do. We work and we are content."

A little eight-month baby was born to Josephine but lived only three hours.

Ever since his banishment Rizal had been working to arrange for his relatives and the Calamba victims of dispossession to come to Dapitan and take up estates. His letter to Trinidad says:

"I have bought a piece of land with hemp on it. It is on a river which reminds me of the Calamba River, with fresh crystalline water; it is wide, and has a strong current. The site of the land, about a half hour from the sea, is poetical and picturesque. . . If you and our parents come, I am going to build a big house in which we can all live. There is but one trouble -- whom will you girls marry? If you could only bring some husbands with you!" (27)

All his other plans for a colony had at first seemed to prosper, and had then, at the last moment, melted away. Despujol had encouraged him to develop a New Calamba, but when the Governor General visited Dapitan, he refused to carry out his promise, and told Rizal he was trying to be a king. (28) Governor General Blanco, who had followed Despujol, first promised a colony in Sindagan Bay, and then -- was it pressure of some type that spoiled it? The Governor General promised Rizal that he might transfer to the Ilocos country in northern Luzon -- but why did that fall through? Rizal became discouraged and disgusted at the endless obstacles which seemed to block his efforts, like a hand in the dark. [Note: Rizal's previous plans included leaving the Philippines and establishing a place of refuge in Borneo for his family and citizens of Calamba. See chapter 12 and the charges Spain brought against Rizal in the next chapter.-- RLY]

Andres Bonifacio

If Spain desired peace in the Philippines, the worst thing she could have done was to have sent Rizal into exile at Dapitan. (29) He had been promoting the Liga Filipina, which sought cooperation with Spain. Then, during a visit to the Governor General, he was arrested, taken to Fort Santiago, not permitted to speak with a soul, spirited to a warship at midnight, the captain holding sealed orders to be opened at sea as to where the prisoner was to be taken. "The news spread over Manila with great rapidity, and that very day Andres Bonifacio founded the Kataastaasang Kagalanggalan Katipunan nang manga Anak ng Bayan (Highest Honorable Association of the Sons of the Country), the object of which was separation from Spain by peaceful means. (30) Thus was born the famous Katipunan which later became the mother of the Philippine Revolution. The constitution of the Liga Filipina and the Katipunan are somewhat similar, but the aims of the members are far different. Spain had silenced the one man who would have sought untiringly for a peaceful solution. Rizal's voice was silenced, but his captivity spoke! It cried to the entire Archipelago that cooperation was hopeless, that only separation was possible.

Flag of the Revolution (The middle symbol is the letter "K" in the ancient Philippine alphabet script)

The Liga Filipina died in 1893. Then Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, and others reorganized the Katipunan and pushed it with great energy. Vicente Molina became Treasurer of the Supreme Council. Centers sprang up, not only in Manila but throughout Luzon and the Visayas. Headquarters were changed constantly for fear of spies. Every district had a secret name, as did every member of the Katipunan. How they conjured with the "sacred name of Rizal" is seen by some of the names given to the districts. Binondo was renamed "Dapitan"; Santa Cruz was renamed Laong-Laan, one of Rizal's secret names, and another district became Dimas Alang, also one of his secret names. "Rizal" was the password of the third degree. (31) Under these circumstances it was inevitable that his name should reach the police, time after time, though he had nothing to do with what was happening.

Spies tried hard to implicate Rizal. Pablo Mercado arrived in Dapitan, (32) professing to be a relative of Rizal, asking for his photograph and trying to secure his endorsement of the revolution. Rizal at once reported him to Commandant Sitges. Mercado was captured, and he told the Governor that Recollect Fathers of Cagayan, Misamis, had sent him to try to catch Rizal in treason. After that incident José was more careful than ever never to mention anything of a political nature in his letters.

It was a dreadful dilemma for Rizal. Though he opposed the revolution, yet he would say not one word openly against his countrymen. He saw no recourse other than to leave the country before the storm broke, if that were possible. So on February 1, 1894, he asked Governor General Blanco for permission to leave the Islands, "saying he was not against Spain but only against the friars." (33)

Emilio Aguinaldo

Meanwhile the storm was gathering fast in Manila. In 1894 Emilio Aguinaldo became a member of the Katipunan. In 1896 the Katipuneros, now strong and increasingly daring, marched on the streets of Mandaluyong during a fiesta, carrying bolos and guns like an army. Government spies found a bolo-manufacturing establishment and arrested some of the workers as insurgents. Father Augustine Fernandez, of the Guadalupe Convents, sent the Governor General word that "bloodshed was an effective remedy, and if two or three of the agitators disappeared, it would stop the others." (34)

Dr. Pio Valenzuela

That same May, 1896, Andres Bonifacio sent young Doctor Pio Valenzuela to Dapitan. To escape detection he brought a blind man with him. At midnight he told Rizal their plan. They would kidnap him on one of his expeditions, and save him in spite of his promise not to escape! Then he could return at the head of the revolution, and all the Philippines would fall in behind him. Already, Valenzuela told him, he had been made Vice President of the Katipunan. When Rizal heard that his name had been used by the revolution which he opposed, he lost his temper and denounced the plan in such bad humor that Valenzuela, although he had planned to stay a month, took the boat on which he had arrived and returned to Manila. (35)

The friars did everything in their power to poison the minds of the Filipinos against Rizal. For example, when Domingo Tamaron of Dipolog wanted to go to Dapitan and have his blind eyes cured, the Dipolog priest told him that Rizal had a devil and refused to let him go. Domingo then brought the priest 3,000. Permission was granted. José cured Tamaron's blindness. When Domingo returned to Dipolog a procession met him on the street, took him to the church, went to the altar, and sang the Te Deum. (36)

Josephine Bracken

José's father in Manila had become suspicious of Josephine, and presently all the Rizal family was convinced that she had been sent to spy upon José, because she had gone to Dapitan the first time with a lady friend of a canon of the Cathedral, and because while in Manila she had visited the Cathedral herself so frequently. At last the old gentleman could stand it no longer, and he sent Maria to Dapitan to tell José that he must eat nothing Josephine prepared for food until she ate it first. There is no written evidence that Josephine was being used by anyone in this manner, and the suspicion may have been due to the feverish imaginings which that period of secret intrigues begot in every mind.

Rizal found more and more reason to suspect Josephine, and finally decided to send her back to Hong Kong, without telling her, however, of his suspicions. He gave her a considerable amount of money.

As she was leaving, he dashed off an impromptu stanza and gave it to her as a parting remembrance:

Josefina, Josefina

Que en estas playas has venido

Buscando un hogar, un nido.

Como errante golondrina

Si tu suerte te encamina

Shanghai, China, ó Japon,

No te olvides que en estas playas

Late por tí un corazon.


Josephine, oh Josephine,

Who here to these far shores hast come

To find thyself a nest, a home,

Like swallows lost, that we have seen;

If now by fortune's turn you fly

To Japan, China, or Shanghai,

Still on these shores, do not forget,

A heart is beating for you yet.

It was unwise to give Josephine this verse if José expected her to stay away. For Josephine found that she could not live without him. The "spy," if she were ever such, had fallen madly and hopelessly in love with the father of her baby. Instead of going to Hong Kong, she went to the home of Narcisa, showed her the verse, and pled with her to go along back to Dapitan. Narcisa consented to send her daughter Angelica. But when they were saying farewell at the boat Josephine hung upon Narcisa's neck, urging her to go, and offering to pay her way. So strong was Narcisa's yearning to see her brother that she went off without any extra clothes. She bought all she needed in Cebu with the money José had given Josephine to go to Hong Kong!

Rizal, vexed by Josephine's return, told her he had lost faith in her loyalty. She went into an Irish rage and wept for three days. At length José, who had loved her devotedly in spite of his suspicions, became convinced of her passionate devotion for him and took her back. (37)

A few weeks later a letter came saying that Rizal was to go to Cuba, and Josephine and Narcisa prepared to go back toward Manila with him by the first boat.

All the people of Dapitan, old and young, formed a funeral procession and walked weeping to the shore, saying as they went: "We will never see our Doctor Rizal again." Seven of his loyal students went with him to Manila. The other boys wept because they were too poor to go.

When the boat reached Cebu, José remained in the cabin. A huge crowd soon gathered at the dock. The captain began to collect two pesos apiece for permission to see the famous man. Narcisa ran to the cabin and said, "Come out quickly, for the Captain is collecting money from the crowd to see you."

So he came on deck and greeted the crowd in his gracious manner. One cross-eyed man put a bag of money on the table and asked Dr. Rizal to make his eyes straight.

"Are you married?" asked Rizal.


"Then what's the use? You can't go courting other girls any longer."

"But my wife wants them made straight."

"Oh, then I will do it."

He got his instruments and performed the operation on the ship.

When Narcisa opened the bag of money she found fifty pesos in silver. (38)


(01) Wenceslao E. Retana. Vida y Escritos del Dr. José Rizal. (Madrid: Liberia General de Victoriano Suarez, 1907), p. 276.

(02) Ibid., p. 294.

(03) Ibid., p. 316.

(04) Saturnina's husband: January 9, 1893. Epistolario Rizalino, 5 vols. Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1930-1938, vol. 4, Don Teodoro M. Kalaw, ed. (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1930-1938) p. 87.

(05) Retana, op. cit., p. 275.

(06) Ibid., p. 275.

(07) Ibid., p. 311.

(08) Carlos Rivera Kipping, Leonor's only child, is now a member of the Provincial Board in Tarlac, and a brother-in-law of Carlos P. Romulo, a famous Manila publisher.

(09) Retena, op cit., p. 313.

(10) Ibid., p. 317.

(11) Ibid..

(12) Ibid., p. 297.

(13) Dia Filipino, July-December, 1919.

(14) Austin Craig, Rizal's Life and Minor Writings. Manila: Philippine Education Co., Inc. 1927, p. 159.

(15) Dia Filipino, op. cit.

(16) Retana, op. cit., p. 335.

(17) Ibid, p. 317.

(18) Ibid, p. 318.

(19) Ibid, p. 339.

(20) Born in Hong Kong, Oct. 3, 1876. Her mother died in childbirth.

(21) Retana, op. cit., p. 339.

(22) Ibid, p. 336.

(23) Austin Craig, op. cit., p. 167.

(24) Russell, Charles E. and Eugilio B. Rodriguez. The Hero of the Philippines. (New York: Century Company, 1923), p. 270.

(25) Ibid.

(26) Retana, op. cit. p. 340.

(27) Epistolario Rizalino 5 vols. Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1930-1938, v. 4 (Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1930-1938). The page is not given.

(28) Austin Craig, op. cit., p. 173.

(29) Despujol later saw his mistake and said that those who desired Rizal's destruction had deceived him. The pardoning of Rizal's relatives was an attempt at atonement for his mistake. See Teodoro M. Kalaw. The Philippine Revolution. Manila: Manila Book Company, 1925. p. 6.

(30) Manuel Artigas y Cuerva. Andres Bonifacio y el Katipunan. Manila: La Vanguardia, 1911, p. 13.

(31) Ibid., p. 29.

(32) Retena, op. cit., p. 320. November 6, 1893.

(33) Ibid., p. 322.

(34) Artigas, op. cit., p. 41, 46.

(35) Testimony of Pio Valenzuela before the Military Court, Sept. 6, 1896 -- published by Manuel C. Artigas in Andres Bonifacio, op. cit. p. 41.

(36) Statement of Maria and Narcisa Rizal in the National Library.

(37) Josephine proved her loyalty many times thereafter. She was crushed when a few months later Rizal was executed, and joined the revolutionary forces in Cavite. In 1898, she married Vicente Abad and taught in the Liceo de Manila and public schools in Iloilo and Cebu. She died in 1908. Many people now living were students in her English classes. Her daughter, Mrs. Dolores Abad Bracken Mina, had a lock of Josephine's chestnut brown hair, and one of her original photographs.

(38) From Narcisa's account in the Philippine National Library.

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The Life and of Dr. José Rizal
Dr. Robert L. Yoder