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Would-be dads, real-life fathers of the nation

By LISA GUERRERO NAKPIL, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 19, 2022 5:00 am

When Robin Padilla declared that “debating with his wife” and speaking English to his children had prepared him for life in the Senate, he was only half-joking. Husbands and fathers — whose patience and fortitude we celebrate today — know too well what he’s talking about.

But what about the real-life men who helped invent our nation: Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Jacinto, and Heneral Luna? Were they indeed kept too busy smashing out incendiary novels, plotting revolution, and fighting battles to know the trials and triumphs of fatherhood?

(From left) General Antonio Luna, little Andres and his father, Juan Luna, one Christmas in Paris in 1893. Andres would be just six years old.

Or having been spared all that, were they freer to cultivate their own passions instead of becoming worried family men?

What we do know about these four heroes is a beginning: that they missed fatherhood narrowly by unhappy circumstance.

Rizal’s beloved, the Irish beauty Josephine Bracken, is said to have suffered a premature birth as a result of a practical joke gone wrong that he played on her. The child survived all of three hours, recounts the historian Gregorio Zaide, and was buried near the forest on his farm in Dapitan. He was named, as sad remembrance, after Rizal’s father, Francisco.

The funeral of Emilio Jacinto: One woman looks particularly bereft and pregnant but her identity is unknown.

Would Rizal’s vision of the Filipino as the equal of any Spaniard — unlike Bonifacio, he had still to see a future of sovereignty — have been quickened by his own tragedy? Probably not — we know from his letters to Manila that he had not yet given up his plans to live out his days on a Brunei farm. By 1896, beaten down by life in exile in the back of beyond, his own life must have been quivering in the wind, a faint flame of his former audacious self that was all but extinguished. By that time, Rizal wanted no quarrels; he famously turned down an emissary from the Katipunan who asked that he join the cause.

Jose Rizal narrowly escaped fatherhood: His son lived only a few hours.

Andres Bonifacio, too, would lose his only son by the KKK’s lakambini, Gregoria de Jesus. Andres Junior would succumb as a baby, a casualty of a string of bad luck, the kind that afflicts the urban poor: beginning with a great fire that swept Manila followed by a smallpox epidemic bred in the resulting inhuman conditions. (Bonifacio was married previously to a woman from Tondo named Monica. She would contract another pauper’s illness — leprosy — and perish, too. There is some speculation that she had children by Bonifacio and they died as well from the disease.) We can only surmise that these events, born from injustice, only served to harden Bonifacio’s resolve to make a new country; he would remain sleepless as he spent nights committing Danton’s writings on the French Revolution to memory.

Perhaps this is to say that all men have the instinct to become fathers, and — whether family, or community, or nation — that desire to protect, sacrifice and share lives in them all.

Andres Bonifacio would lose Andres Jr. to disease.

Emilio Jacinto and Antonio Luna would have offspring purportedly posthumously and, as so often happens, amid the fog of war. After surviving a counter-revolution, run-and-gun exploits in the jungles of Majayjay and Pasong Tamo, disguising himself as a prisoner of war, and making peace with his best friend’s enemies, Jacinto would be felled by another common 19th-century disease. His most famous photograph, featuring a line of desolate women at his bier, shows one particularly bereft and pregnant. She is unfortunately nameless and we shall never know who may be the rightful descendants of the finest mind of the Philippine Revolution.

Emilio Jacinto

Antonio Luna, on the other hand, made no secret of his assignations. On his last day on earth, he is believed to have made a detour to his lady love, depositing a king’s ransom in silver intended to buy more rifles for the revolution’s army before heading to his appointment with death. His enemies would have so much faith in that rumor that soldiers on horseback were supposedly sent after his assassination to retrace his steps and recover the fortune. They were, however, outwitted by the wily señorita who planted herself on the treasure box, hiding it beneath her wide skirts. That lady would soon after marry and have a son, said to be one more legacy from the general. To this day, rumors abound as to the fate of that trove and the identity of that offspring. It is said that, even until very recently, his birth documents have disappeared from the national records, thanks to a watchful patroness, the better to protect his descendant’s identities.

Antonio Luna

His brother Juan was a father of two precious children: a little girl, called Luli, whose passing is said to have driven the artist mad with grief. His son Andres would be witness to one of the century’s greatest crimes of passion. Fatherhood seems not to have dimmed his passions for independence. No doubt selected because he was the most famous Filipino in Europe, he tried but failed to press the cause of a free Philippines during the negotiations of the Treaty of Paris that would transfer the country from Spain to the United States.

Another older brother, Paciano Rizal, was also our national hero’s second father. It was he who packed off Rizal to Europe with the assurance of a monthly stipend to get him out of harm’s way.

Perhaps this is to say that all men have the instinct to become fathers, and — whether family, or community, or nation — that desire to protect, sacrifice and share lives in them all.