Do you know about Jose Rizal?
He is the Philippines’ national hero and is the father of the Philippine revolution against Spain, which occupied the country for 333 years. Rizal fought for Philippine independence and national self-determination.
He was highly intelligent; a renaissance man who was both a polyglot and a politician.
He was highly skilled in the sciences as well as the arts.
He is also somewhat popular in Japan. Recently, he has even been featured as the main character in a Japanese manga.
Rizal’s life involved quite a bit of international travel, stemming from his pursuits of further formal education and innate desire to observe and interact with the world’s cultures and people. He was known to have had several love interests throughout his life, one of which was the daughter of a noble samurai family. Her name was Seiko Usui, or “O-Sei-san”, as Jose affectionately referred to her.
According to records, during his sojourn in Japan, Jose fell deeply head-over-heels with the local woman. O-Sei was Jose’s interpreter and guide around Japan. She also taught him Japanese characters and painting. They began courting and soon became boyfriend and girlfriend. He confessed his love to her in a letter and even expressed his willingness to marry her.
Rizal was impressed by the country of Japan and wished that he could stay there longer, possibly even permanently with O-Sei, but because of the nature of his lifestyle and the trajectory of his life, he could not.
It could be argued that Rizal couldn’t follow his heart because of his patriotic duty to his home country of the Philippines, which was currently embroiled in its struggle for independence against Spain. He was to become the main intellectual anchor in that resistance.
After Rizal left, O-Sei married an English man named Alfred Charlton. They had a daughter named Yuriko who eventually gained a playmate in Yoshi after O-Sei’s older brother died, and they decided to adopt her. Long after Rizal had gone, Yoshi reported that O-Sei endearingly collected the Filipino stamps and souvenirs bearing Rizal’s image.
The real life story plays somewhat like a romantic tragedy. A tragedy not in a sense that some people died or were killed akin to a Shakespearean tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless because it was a love that was never fulfilled, never took its full course, “a could have been”. Their love was a sakura – a magnificent, swift but intense love.
If you were in Jose Rizal’s place, would you have chosen to be with the love of your life or to continue your patriotic duty to your home country?
Would you sacrifice your true love for patriotic duty, or abandon the national cause for true love?