A lot of Filipinos are familiar with Jose Rizal’s life. We’ve all learned about the national hero in school and while growing up. We’ve also become familiar with the name Josephine Bracken – she was said to be Rizal’s, last love. You’re probably wondering whatever happened to her after Rizal died on December 30, 1896.
Marie Josephine Leopoldine Bracken or Josephine Bracken was an Irish woman born in Hong Kong in 1877. She was the common-law wife of Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero. After Rizal’s death, she left Manila right after three days because Rizal’s family didn’t like her. Josephine went to Cavite and joined the revolution wherein she cared for the wounded and the sick.
After her time in Cavite, she went back to Hongkong because the Spanish Government was threatening to imprison her because of her alliance with the rebels. Josephine then met a Cebuano Mestizo in Hongkong, Vicente Abad. It was said that Julio Llorente, a Cebuano and friend of Rizal during their school days in Spain, was the one who introduced Abad to Bracken.
Apparently it was also Llorente who wrote the letter of introduction to Rizal when Josephine arrived in the country, along with his adoptive father, George Taufer – because they were seeking treatment.
Julio Llorente must have referred Vicente Abad to be Josephine’s student in English. Abad was in Hong Kong for business and he was required to learn English. Josephine Bracken did become Abad’s English teacher. She was young and beautiful, Vicente instantly fell for her and after a brief courtship — they got married in Hong Kong on December 15, 1898.
The newlywed couple stayed in Hong Kong for a few months and went to Manila in May 1899. Vicente and Josephine left Manila at the end of August or September 1899 and moved to Cebu City. The Cebu port area and the districts around the city were already under American rule when they got there. While the rest of the city was still ruled by the Cebuano rebels.
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And because of the American rule, Cebuanos were influenced and exposed to the modern inventions of their time. Vicente Abad’s return to Cebu was inspired by his new business venture. He was the very first businessman who opened up a store that sold and rented out bicycles. Cebuanos got in the trend and made the bicycle a hot item – making his business flourish. Abad’s bicycle store was located in Magallanes and Burgos Streets, just a few steps from today’s Basilica del Sto. Niño and Cebu City Hall.
The couple’s residence served as their store, as well as a study center. While Vicente was taking care of the bicycle store, Josephine also made money on the side. She taught English and German to some students. An advertisement was even put up in the El Pueblo print in April 1900 – it stated: “Josephine Bracken de Abad, Profesora de Lenguas living near Plaza Rizal, is giving lessons in English and German in her residence.” Even the young Sergio Osmeña was said to have learned how to ride a bicycle from Abad’s store and learned English at the same time from Josephine Bracken.
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During her second marriage, Josephine was said to have moved on and considered her life with Rizal ‘a thing of the past’. She lived her life almost anonymously in Cebu – not much was known about it and perhaps it was a good one with her second husband, Vincent.
Josephine and Vincent Abad returned to Hong Kong in 1902, as she fell ill and searched for a cure in her native country. She had tuberculosis and at the young age of 25, she passed away on March 15, 1902. We can, however, say that Josephine lived a short and meaningful life.