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The women in the life of Rizal (Last part)

TOWARDS the end of 1890, Leonor sent a letter informing Rizal about the end of their engagement. This probably hurt Rizal’s ego but he lost no time in finding a replacement. He accepted the Boustards’ invitation to spend the winter at Biarritz, French Riviera. There he courted their daughter Nelly.

Rizal first met Nelly and showed interest in her in 1889 when his engagement to Leonor was on the rocks but not yet broken.

Did Rizal love Nelly? Coates claimed that Nelly “…intuitively felt she (did) not… She could not dismiss the idea that what he really sought was comfort and solace.”

Still, Nelly was ready to marry him but on two grounds: 1) Rizal must become financially stable, and 2) he must convert to Protestantism. To cut the story short, Rizal left.

A lesser known love interest is Suzanne Jacoby whom Rizal met in Brussels in the year 1890. But as to who between the two, Suzanne (the younger one or the aunt) was Rizal visiting, scholars are not sure. It is possible that Rizal was seeing both. At the same time, Rizal and his friend Jojo Alejandrino were also visiting two sisters for “amusement”.

Austin Coates in the conclusion of his biography on Rizal lauded Rizal’s loyalty and self-control with regards to women. He wrote: “In all the great lives of sacrifice… chastity has played a cryptic part, to such an extent that the conclusion is unavoidable that chastity is essential to sacrifice…

In Rizal’s life the sacrificial period began when he was very young… Only in the end at Dapitan did he relent, believing that the sacrificial cup had become full.

The two Belgian sisters with whom Alejandrino and Rizal “amused” themselves were according to Alejandrino, “palomas de baja vuela”. Ventura also relates in his memoirs that while Rizal was in Madrid, they sometimes went to amusement centers, including “houses of low flying doves.”

In the same memoir, Ventura again tells about the encounter in Vienna where Rizal was offered the services of a prostitute. Ventura adds that this was Rizal’s only “slip” during their travels together.

Another interesting entry in Rizal’s diary is about a notice from a German newspaper advertising girls in a surreptitious manner.

Last in the list is Josephine Bracken. Most authors claim that this was true love but some writers see it otherwise. Rizal and Josephine were in desperate situations: she was a teenager abused by a stepfather and he was vegetating in rustic Dapitan. Naturally they would cling to each other like a drowning person would cling to straw.

When Rizal was finally allowed to leave for Cuba, he decided to leave right away, (with hardly any thought of Josephine). He also did not seem to make any plan for Josephine’s future before his death, (and Rizal had much to contribute to her tragic end.)

In light of these facts, what can we conclude about Rizal?

What these stories tell us is that Rizal was, after all, very much human. He is not the deity that historians portray him to be. What Rizal did for the country and for our freedom eventually raised him above his weaknesses… and above us, ordinary mortals.

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