Site Meter

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Josephine Bracken: the rebel

Very little is written in Philippine history books about Josephine Bracken, the alleged widow of Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Filipinos. The few pages devoted to her usually pictures a very silent and reserved lady, a lady that briefly came and suddenly went, a lady lost into oblivion after the execution of Rizal. Not many know that Josephine joined the revolutionaries of Cavite where she cared for the sick and wounded and eventually took to the frontlines and killed a Spanish officer.

Josephine’s rendezvous with the Filipino revolutionaries happened in the afternoon of December 30, 1896, the day Rizal was executed by firing squad at the Luneta. She and Paciano and Trining (Rizal’s brother and sister) immediately proceeded to San Francisco de Malabon, Cavite and met the Supremo of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio. Trining mentioned that her brother left a poem, which he hid inside a lamp and Bonifacio borrowed it so he could translate the poem from Spanish to Tagalog, which the Supremo did (Alvarez, 72). After meeting the Supremo, Josephine, Trining and Paciano stayed in Cavite and served the revolution.

The following are various accounts of the exploits of Josephine from Filipino, British and American sources – Ricarte, Younghusband, Foreman and Wildman. The account by Wildman is in first person, i.e., Josephine herself talking, while the rest are all third person accounts. Their accounts are not exactly the same, but they all agree on the common thread regarding Josephine taking to the frontlines.

George J. Younghusband:

“Her brief married life thus abruptly ended, Madame Rizal, stirred by the hot Irish blood of her forefathers, swore that she would be avenged on the Spaniards for what she could only consider the judicial murder of her husband. Acting on this determination she, together with Jose Rizal's sister, went over to the insurgent camp and actively espoused the rebel cause. The sister apparently contented herself with such non-combatant duties as nursing the sick and wounded, but Madame Rizal, with fine intrepidity, insisted on taking her place in the firing line, armed either with a revolver or a rifle. In this lady's first engagement it is narrated that she picked off, with unerring aim, the Spanish officer who was leading the troops to the attack, and during this engagement she is said to have fired forty rounds, and to have excited the admiration of those around her by her excellent shooting. For many weeks this brave woman fought in the ranks of the insurgents, and certainly by the tenets of the Mosaic law, an eye for an eye and a life for a life, she must have amply avenged the loss of her husband. Not content with combat at long ranges, Madame Rizal is reported to have even faced the stern ordeal of hand-to-hand conflict, and to have led charges with the bowie knife as a weapon of offence against dumbfounded bodies of Spaniards. Finding that lack of arms of precision in sufficient quantities prevented the insurgents from gaining a decisive success, Madame Rizal escaped to Japan and afterwards to America to procure arms, and these have since undoubtedly, prohibition or no prohibition, been steadily flowing into the country. Prevented by her friends from again returning to the Philippines, where death as a rebel, if not as a combatant, assuredly awaited her, Madame Rizal settled down in Hong Kong, where she still lives, awaiting the development of events.” - (Younghusband, 133-134)

Edwin Wildman:

“On the 3d of January I (Josephine) left Manila on foot, and after three days and three nights traveling over the hills and through the jungle reached Imus. Every one allowed me to pass when I told them who I was, and when I arrived I met Aguinaldo and told him that I came to help him in the revolution. I took a rifle and went into the field and led a charge against the Spaniards in Zapote, killing one Spanish officer with my own rifle. It was Aguinaldo's fault that the Spanish then took Imus and drove us back. He was in a house disputing with his men when the attack was made, and quibbling over little matters of money. Then we fought at San Francisco de Malabon, and I took part in the engagements, but the Spanish drove us back thirty-two miles, and I had to swim the rivers and travel by foot. Then I was taken very ill with fever on account of passing days and nights without food and suffering the hardships of the march. As we were low in ammunition, and were unable to get word to Manila, I volunteered to undertake the journey, and arranged for a supply.

"My brother-in-law, Paciano, who was in charge of the forces, objected to my taking the risk; but my will triumphed, and I left Talisay on the 8th of April. I passed from town to town on foot, and every one welcomed and greeted me with honor when I told them I was the widow of Dr. Rizal. Several Spanish officers stopped me, but I gave them a few dollars and they let me pass. When I arrived in Manila, as I was the adopted daughter of an American, I went to the American Consul and sought his interest in our cause and his protection. He told me to report my presence to the governor general, and tell him the truth of the situation. I went directly to the governor, and he asked me if I had come for pardon. I told him that I had nothing to fear, and that I lived at Calle Azcaraga, No. 3; he could find me there at any time. Every day the governor sent for me to question me, and set spies to watch my movements. Finally the governor banished me to Hong Kong and gave me $200. My money soon disappeared. The Filipinos in Hong Kong neglected me and left me to starve, so I went into the Civil Hospital as a nurse." (Wildman, 37-38)

John Foreman:

"Then Josephine started off for the rebel camp at Imus. On her way she was often asked, "Who art thou?" but her answer, "Lo! I am thy sister, the widow of Rizal!" not only opened a passage for her, but brought low every head in silent reverence.

"Amidst mourning and triumph she was conducted to the presence of the rebel commander-in-chief, Emilio Aguinaldo who received her with the respect due to the sorrowing relict of their departed hero. But the formal tributes of condolence were followed by great rejoicing in the camp. She was the only free white woman within the rebel lines. They lauded her as though an angelic being had fallen from the skies; they sang her praises as if she were modern Joan of Arc sent by heaven to lead the way to victory over the banner of Castile. But she chose, for the time being, to follow a more womanly vocation, and, having been escorted to San Francisco de Malabon, she took up residence in the convent to tend the wounded for about three weeks.

"Then, when the battle of Perez Dasmarinas was raging, our heroine sallied forth on horseback with a Mauser rifle over her shoulder, and - as she stated with pride to a friend of mine who interviewed her - she had the satisfaction of shooting dead one Spanish officer, and then retreated to her convent refuge. Again, she was present at the battle of Silan, where her heroic example of courage infused new life into her brother rebels. The carnage on both sides was fearful, but in the end the rebels fell back, and there, from a spot amidst mangled corpses, rivulets of blood, and groans of death, Josephine witnessed many a scene of Spanish barbarity - the butchery of old inoffensive men and women, children caught up by the feet and dashed against the walls, and the bayonet-charge on the host of fugitive innocents.

"The rebels having been beaten everywhere when Lachambre took the field, Josephine had to follow in their retreat, and after Imus and Silan were taken, she, with the rest, had to flee to another province, tramping through 23 villages on the way. She was about to play another role, being on the point of going to Manila to organize a convoy of arms and munitions, when she heard that certain Spaniards were plotting against her life. So she sought an interview with the Gov. General, who asked her if she had been in the rebel camp in Imus. She replied fearlessly in the affirmative, and, relying on the security from violence afforded by her sex and foreign nationality, there passed between her and the Gov. General quite an amusing and piquant colloquy.

"’What did you go to Imus for?’ inquired the General. ‘What did you go there for?’ rejoined Josephine. ‘To fight,’ said the General. ‘So did I,’ answered Josephine. ‘Will you leave Manila?’ asked the General. ‘Why should I?’ queried Josephine. ‘Well,’ said the General, ‘the priests will not leave you alone if you stay here, and they will bring false evidence against you. I have no power to overrule theirs.’

"’Then what is the use of the Gov. General?’ pursued our heroine; but the General dismissed the discussion, which was becoming embarrassing, and resumed it a few days later by calling upon her emphatically to quit the colony. At this second interview the General fumed and raged, and our heroine too stamped her little foot, and, woman-like, avowed "she did not care for him; she was not afraid of him.

"It was temerity born of inexperience, for one word of command from the General could have sent her the way many others have gone, to an unrevealed fate. Thus matters waxed hot between her defiance and his forbearance, until visions of torture - thumb-screws and bastinado - passed so vividly before her eyes that she yielded, as individual force must, to the collective power which rules supreme, and reluctantly consented to leave the fair Philippine shores in May, 1897, in the s.s. Yuensang, for a safer resting-place on the British soil of Hongkong." (Foreman, 536-538)

Artemio "Vibora" Ricarte:

“The widow of Dr. Rizal, Josephine, who hailed from Hongkong, showed solidarity with the aspirations of the people, for which her husband, full of love, strength and joy, had laid down his life. Josephine gave everything she can and served the revolution in the midst of hardships and want. At her request, she lived in the plantation house at Teheros (San Francisco de Malabon) which was converted into a hospital for the rebels, and night and day she took care of the wounded. She also took time to drum up the morale of the soldiers who were visiting their wounded comrades. When the Spaniards took San Francisco de Malabon, Josephine asked to be transferred to Naik, thence to the mountains of Maragondon; and from here to Laguna de Bay in the company of some native folk and G. Paciano Rizal, they cross mountain passes, oftentimes without any shoes, sometimes laden on a carabao hand-led by Paciano. Upon arrival at Bay she was received by a Katipunero, Venancio Cueto, who arranged for her journey to Manila. From Manila she secured a passage to Hongkong where she died in 1902.” (Translated from Tagalog in Ricarte, 37-38)


Lahing Pinoy said...

Ano ba ito? Tanggalin mo nga ang mga sinulat na walang silbi sa magaling mong blog po. Salamat po Ginoong Macapili.

Macario A. Capili said...

Inalis ko na po. Salamat.

TheClockworks said...

Laking tuwa ko nang mahanap ko ang blog mo. May mga sinulat ka ba tungkol kay Antonio Luna?