Josephine Bracken

Seldom do we find a reference to Josephine Bracken as Mrs. Rizal. Perhaps we could not think of her as the widow of José Rizal because they neither had a church nor a civil wedding. But they llved as closely and as happily as a married couple. After the execution of Rizal, Josephine joined the revolutionaries. Artemio "Vibora" Ricarte wrote that Josephine asked to live and work at the house in San Francisco de Malabon that was used as the hospital for the sick and the wounded Katipuneros. When the Spanish captured that house, Josephine left for Naic, Cavite from which she proceeded to Laguna, crossing the mountains with other women of the Katipunan and Paciano Rizal. Often, Josephine had to walk barefoot and sometimes, she had the comfort of riding on a carabao with the help of Paciano. When they reached the town of Bae, they were received by the katipunero Venancio Cueto, who helped her get transportation for Manila from where she took a boat to HongKong.

John Foreman gave this account of Josephine —

"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 relic 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 withiin 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 Dasmariñas 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 Silang, 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 Silang 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 Philppine shores in May, 1897, in the S.E. Yuensang, for a safer resting place on the British soil of Hongkong."

 

Photos of Josephine



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