Lord, I never wanted to be separated from You.

Jose Rizal chose Faith over Love

If Jose Rizal, the National Hero of the Philippines, is still alive as I write this blog, he would have been 150 years old on June 19, 2011. As a hero, his life would ever remain controversial even after his death. He died for his country, the Philippines; and I want to believe that he remained a Roman Catholic until his last breath. 

Some historians report that Rizal retracted his anti-Catholic ideologies before his execution. There are doubts in the authenticity of this report but many would argue that there were eleven eyewitnesses present when he wrote his retraction, signed a Catholic prayer book, and recited Catholic prayers; and the multitude who witnessed him kiss the crucifix before his execution on December 30, 1896 at age 35. 

It is also interesting to note that at one point of Rizal’s life, he chose faith over love. The story goes that the news of the marriage of Rizal's great love, Leonor Rivera, to an Englishman Henry Kipping brought him to anguish. Having lost Leonor, he entertained the thought of opening his heart once again. While a guest of the Boustead family at their residence in the city of Biarritz (France), he met a daughter of the host, Nellie Boustead, who eventually became deeply infatuated with him.  

Rizal’s European experience was complete with night outs with friends and wearing costumes for elegant balls. The photo below was taken at the Pardo de Tavera Residence in Paris in 1889. It features Rizal wearing a turban. But in an era when smiling at photo shoots was not yet a convention, Rizal seemed to be mysteriously communicating a naughty smile or should I say, a smirk to someone as if trying to hide a flirtatious glance that was caught on camera. We may pose a reasonable conjecture that he and the girl at the middle of the photo, Nellie Boustead, might already had a romantic understanding by the time this photo was shot. 

[Jose Rizal (wearing a turban), Paz Pardo de Tavera (wife of Antonio Luna), Mother of Nellie (seated), Nellie Boustead (middle), Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo, Sister of Nellie.]

Nellie Boustead
Antonio Luna, future General of the Philippine Revolution, was an ordinary bachelor like Rizal at this time. He also fell in love with Nellie. Luna and Rizal even had a duel but eventually everything was patched up when Luna apologized to Rizal and let go of Nellie for his friend. 

Eventually, Antonio's brother Juan Luna got married to Paz Pardo de Tavera (the girl standing next to Rizal at the photo). Later, Antonio murdered his wife and mother-in-law that brought about the confusion of whether it is intentional or accidental. But this is another story.

Going back, Rizal and Nellie's love affair almost ended in marriage. Faith stood along the way as Rizal refused to be converted to the Protestant faith as Nellie demanded. Furthermore, Nellie’s mother did not like a physician without enough paying clientele to be a son-in-law. The lovers, however, parted as good friends when Rizal left Europe and was exiled to Dapitan. 

This is not a story of having "the right love at the wrong time" but rather standing with "the firm faith over the right love". This proves  how Rizal values his faith. Faith makes all things possible.... love makes all things easy...even to the point of letting go.

Happy Sesquicentennial Birth Anniversary to our National Hero and a brother in faith, Jose Rizal. 


Ricardo Roque Pascual, Jose Rizal Beyond the Grave, Manila: P. Ayuda & Co., 1962. 

In Excelsis: The Mission of Jose P. Rizal, Humanist and Philippine National Hero by Felice Prudenta Sta. Maria (Makati City: Studio Five Designs, Inc., 1996), p. 73.


  1. Hi Father! A correction: Yes, Antonio Luna, the chemist, was "Karibal" to Ka Pepe; it was Juan Luna, the painter and Antonio's brother, who married Paz Pardo de Tavera whom he murdered together with his mother-in-law.

  2. Thank you jjcornelius . I stand corrected


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