The Sweet Stranger
Josephine Bracken was five-foot-one and looked like a real European girl. She had been described as having a rather heavy face, a mouth that tilted downward and a pair of deep blue eyes.(Guerrero 1979)
Called by Dr. Jose Rizal as his “dulce extranjera,” Josephine Bracken lived a short and largely sad life. Bracken was the daughter of Irish parents, James Bracken and Elizabeth MacBride. Her father was a corporal in the British Army. Her siblings consisting of one brother and three sisters were born in different places where her father was stationed. Josephine was born in Hong Kong in 1876 where her mother died. Her father was unable to support his children and was forced to give Josephine up for adoption.
Josephine lived with the family of George Taufer, a former machinist from New York. Around 1893, Mr. Taufer started to have trouble with his eyes. Many doctors were consulted but his condition only got worse. Around that time Filipinos living in Hong Kong already knew him. A Filipino resident, Julio Llorente said that Jose Rizal was an eye specialist and could cure his eyes. On February 5, 1895, Taufer, Josephine and a lady companion from Macau named Francesca Spencer arrived in Manila looking for Rizal. At that time Josephine was 18 years old. The attraction between Rizal, the lonely exile, and the young woman blossomed into a relationship. It was not a smooth one because Rizal’s sisters who were in Dapitan to make life more comfortable for their brother suspected Josephine to be a spy of the Spaniards. Nevertheless, Rizal loved Josephine and affectionately called her Josefina. Being a mason, Rizal and Josephine could not get married. Josephine bore him a stillborn child, a son who would have been named Peter by Josephine or Francisco, by Rizal’s sisters, in honor of their father. Rizal the grieving father, buried his son near the gazebo of his estate where he worked as a doctor. Just before he...
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