Nellie Boustead in Las Mujeres de Rizal

UP Diliman theater student Marc Dalacat plays Pepe while Bea Galvez plays Nellie in the twinbill Las Mujeres de Rizal: Nellie Boustead.

See Show Photos by Emily Lerio

See Rehearsal Photos by Emily Lerio

Cast Beatriz Galvez (Nellie Boustead), Mark Dalacat (Pepe/Jose Rizal), Allan Ibanez (Tonying/Antonio Luna), Dusty Suarez (Edward Boustead) and Roxanne Abuel (Adelina Boustead)

Music Oyayi Umil and Aldrich Reazo Fencing Routine Jet Panes                                         Video Effects Sinag de Jesus Lights Design Meliton Roxas

Stage Manager Alyssa Diego Assistant Director Fitz Edward Bitana
Director Joanna Lerio

Poster Design Marco Miranda Documentation Emily Lerio

Nellie is a one-act play and part of Las Mujeres de Rizal: a UP Dulaang Laboratoryo Production-Master Class Presentation in Directing with the artistic supervision of Professor Emeritus Tony Mabesa.

Based on the script by Allan Palileo, the play is a dramatic tribute to Nellie Boustead and to Jose Rizal as a lover, friend, people’s writer and martyr. It spans the time between 1891 to 1896 when Rizal visited the Boustead summer villa in the French-Spanish border Biarritz, France and ended in the prison quarters at Fort Santiago the morning when Rizal was executed at Bagumbayan and six years after when Rizal left Nellie.

The prologue tells of Nellie’s anxiety to finally touch ground in Manila, her mother’s homeland and also the land of purpose for Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. From Nellie’s first soliloquy set in the ship bound for Manila, Nellie herself has contrasting perception of the city as “corrupt and decadent” according to her mother and as a city of found love according to her father. The Lab production featured the Awit ng Manlalakbay, a translation of Rizal’s Canto de Viajero (translated Song of a Traveller by Nick Joaquin).

Scene 1 shows the arrival of Pepe and Tonying in Paris wherein Pepe is not as much as excited as Tonying. Their host Edward Boustead shows his unconditional hospitality as much as he felt honored to welcome a great novelist while Adelina on the other hand has nuances of conservatism and fears pertaining to her daughter’s probable affection to Indios. The scene also foreshadowed a letter in possession of Pepe as root of his worries and stimulus for a vacation in the villa from Madrid more than the reported dispute with Marcelo del Pilar and the raid of Spanish authorities in his family home in Calamba.

Scene 2 describes the “warmth of happiness” felt by Nellie despite the cold season as triggered by exchange of intellectual and political talk with the “Indio” visitors. This was boosted by her growing infatuation with Pepe to the dismay of a rather aggressive Tonying. The scene also shows Pepe as finishing the last chapters of his second novel with Nellie honored to be the first to read the first drafts. She requested him not to change the title for her as much as she liked it so much. Having read the stories of Simoun, Basilio, Tales, Juli, Donya Victorina, Paulita, Isagani, Pelaez, Padre Camorra, Padre Salve, Padre Irene, Padre Sybila and Padre Florentino among others, Nellie is deeply touched. She then confirms her feelings to Pepe who in turn proposes a marriage. Conflict arises as Nellie tells him to keep the relationship secret and that she only agrees to marriage once Pepe is willing to convert to Protestantism. She is willing to wait while Pepe is somehow decided not to surrender to such precondition. The scene ends with Nellie finding a letter which she read instinctively. It is a discovery of Pepe’s disclosed past. Nellie is surprised but quite composed.

Scene 3 is a “man to man” conversation between Edward and Pepe. As Edward talks about Adelina and Nellie, he pursues Pepe to let him know of his feelings to his daughter. He is happy to learn of their mutual feelings, even promising a share of his wealth to the couple though he reveals that to save their future, he will not allow the publication of his book if he should be his son-in-law. Their conversation is interrupted by the entrance of Tonying who is drank and rants about Nellie as the perfect cover-up for Pepe’s lost love in the advent of Leonor’s marriage to Kipping. Out of shame and guilt, Pepe challenged him to a duel.

Scene 4 is a mother-daughter conversation with Adelina’s strong imposition against Indio men, an impression of her self-discrimination and prejudice to a penniless physician such as Pepe.

Scene 5 opens with Pepe cleaning his pistol as Nellie tries to stop him. Tonying enters in surrender and humble apology. At first, pride overpowers Pepe but in the end, he accepts the apology by embracing Tonying. Thought and rationality overpowers emotion. In Nellie’s final monologue, she reveals from Pepe’s letter that he cannot give in to her precondition of conversion to Protestantism. For her, Pepe failed in her assurance test as to how far can a man go in the name of love.

The Epilogue opened with Pepe’s execution as the ship finally reaches shore. She meets Tonying in a pitiful and tortured state who does not recognize her anymore and who believes Pepe is somewhere in the prison quarters. He confesses to Nellie that he is a traitor to his own friend by telling the authorities about Pepe as an insurrection leader against the Spanish government and friars much to his flagellation. Nellie comforts him with her stoic statement that the smarter Pepe plotted this all and that he “won the duel of life, leaving them miserable, leaving them to remember him, to never forget.” This sequence was not included in the Lab production.


Nellie is Helen Boustead, one of the loves of Rizal. She has a physicality of multicultural bloodline: half-Filipino and half-English with prominent jaw and nose though she proudly claims herself to be truly Filipino. She is petite but masculine. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Filipino in elegance, charm and wit. She loves sports such as fencing as well as politics such as the Enlightenment in France and the youth movement in the Philippines. She is a free-thinker given an education and rather liberal exposure in the West but she is religious like her mother. She is a traveler due only to the nature of their family’s business. At 33 years old in 1890, she is five years ahead of Pepe in age and she shows maturity in dealing with thought and emotion. She is a mirror-character of Pepe in terms of determination, love and rationality. She is either Ibarra and Simoun. She tried to put Pepe’s love to a test by inviting him to convert to Protestanism though for her, it was not really a precondition for her full acceptance.

Pepe is Rizal at age 28, a friend of Tonying and the Bousteads. He is 4’11” in height but has a strong appeal with women due to his intelligence, humility and subtle naughtiness. A man of principle, he is determined to finish his book despite the threat to his life and financial constraints. He is a traveler who pains to be away and who longs for love though he is willing to sacrifice his sexual love for the love of his motherland. He is Isagani who lost Juli. He is Ibarra who lost Maria Clara. And he is Padre Florentino in search of youth with selfless dreams.

Tonying is Antonio Luna at age 24. He is portrayed as a drunkard, aggressive and hot-headed but he soon learnt to come back to his senses by treating Pepe as a companion in struggle than a rival in love. He is also portrayed as a traitor who spoke against Pepe that led to his execution. This part of the script is quite debatable as being motivated in mere jealousy while it could also be possible though there is a scarcity of textual proof.

Adelina is the mother of Nellie at age 55. She speaks in Spanish with Filipino accent. She comes from a middle class family in Manila and is fortunate enough to have been married to a wealthy British man. She has learned to forget her past being a woman of the night. She wants to “white” that she rather chooses to distance herself from her own people and land to be not associated with an underdog status. She has strong want for her daughter to choose a wealthy man as husband rather than a poor man. She possesses such bourgeois pretensions of Dr. Victorina. Thus, she does not approve the romance of Nellie and Pepe.

Edward is the father of Nellie at age 89. He owns a multi-million dollar company accumulated from trade in Asia and Europe and from the benefits of Spanish colonization. He fell in love with a woman of Filipino descent. He is open-minded and is quite hospitable to men of talent and letters. Unlike in theory, in practice it is difficult for him to accept Pepe as a filibustero that he died soon upon learning of Pepe’s publication of his second novel just like Kapitan Tiago. His company is now known as Boustead Singapore Limited.

Historical Notes

Rizal met Edward Bousted through Antonio Luna in a University Exposition in Paris. In the account of Pablo Trillana III (The Loves of Rizal: 2000), Rizal met Nellie Boustead in Villa Eliada in 1888. He remained at the Boustead’s villa for one month and left Paris for Brussels a year after. He and Nellie parted as good friends. After Paris, he and Antonio Luna themselves parted ways. Noli Me Tangere was first published in 1886 while El Filibusterismo was first published in 1891. As the story suggested that Rizal finished the last chapters of Fili at the villa, he could have stayed there earlier than 1891.

Dramatic Metaphors and Point of Attack

The play is a realistic play of dilemmas: between past or present; between exploration and isolation; between surrender or perseverance; between wealth or principle; between religion or conservatism; and between life of oppression or freedom.

From the point of view of a traveler alienated from his land and by his love, Nellie’s first monologue (prologue) is filled with mixed feelings of anxiety, expectation, joy and fear. Meanwhile from an exile’s point of view, the Prologue speaks of Pepe’s pain and want of love as written in his poem Canto del Viajero annonated by Palileo in his script. He was in a crossroad of claiming his love Leonor and his family in Calamba or set aside his love in gathering strength. The execution of the priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora which he witnessed as a child had a strong impact on him on aspiring for change while the imprisonment of his own brothers and sisters all the more motivated him to not give up. The Prologue had the same impression in Chapters 1 and 2 (Sa Kubyerta and Sa Ibabang Kubyerta) of El Filibusterismo set in a ship designed with division of the elite circle from the lower class and the Indios.

Nellie is portrayed as a woman version of Rizal: one who experiences blasts in life but remains rational especially when it comes to love. The scenes have resemblance in select chapters of the novel El Fili. The style of dialogue remains the same as in the original text except for some simplified or shortened dialogues.

The bare stage with only a unit set piece of chest box is inspired by the Shakespearean stage. Music and digital scoring is a fusion of classic and modern in live accompaniment of acoustic guitar and flute. Color included solitary night, bright daylight, romantic red ambiance and “dawn of new day”.

Excerpts from Nellie’s monologues

“This is it! I finally did the unthinkable. I did the one thing that Mama did not want me to do: to come here. All my life, I never disobeyed her. I never thought I could. When I was young, whenever I did not follow her orders, I would get a beating— always because according to her that was how she was raised here and then she would tell us horrible stories about Manila and how she survived. She said, Manila is not the best place to be born into. It’s a hellhole filled with ignorant Indios, irreverent priests, a decaying government and a city whose stenches linger in your nostrils the way the dead and the dying do. She said, “Oye! Nellie Boustead! Nunca! You hear me? Nunca!  You are never to go to Filipinas, eh! All the people there are smelly. Mga dugyut! Mga dukha! Mga Indio!” I never really believed her. Papa said he fell in love with Manila. Here, he met the most beautiful woman he saw wading in the river. Strange, now I am here. I wonder what she would say if she would find out I left the comfort of my home because of… Pepe.”

“February 1890. It was one of the most memorable times I had in Biarritz as I met them: Antonio Luna and Jose Rizal. Their group was the talk of people wherever they went, from the streets to the bars to the academies: the Indios Bravos, young, progressive intellectuals from the native islands of Mama. I wonder why Papa invited them and loved them so much. Maybe Papa was curious but amused as to why they, at their age would seem to taste freedom like it was the first time or maybe it reminded him of how he met Mama but I really did not understood why Papa took great risks. It was freezing winter at that time but the days were filled with warmth, revelry and happiness perhaps because my family became a solace from all that is bleak. I learned much from them. During the day, we would walk by the shore when the weather permitted and just talk forever about science, arts, politics… At night, we would talk about John Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Schiller, Goethe, equalidad, fraternidad, libertad, viva la revolucion!”

“And thus it came to pass. It was my last memory of Pepe and Tonying. They went on separate ways not in heavy hearts but in mended friendship. A couple of weeks later, my Pepe left for Madrid with my heart in his. I was willing to wait, I told my parents it was necessary to wait until he could have decided to be a… Protestant. It’s his last letter… too stupid to tell me he could not. It was just actually a test. Of how much he was willing to sacrifice, to what length and depth Pepe would go for the love I offer him. I offered him fidelity Papa but neither you nor any authority can stop him from publishing his novel. I know he loves me Mama but… he had a rather courageous heart and he was in love with a nobler woman, the Motherland. Our home.”

About Joanna Lerio

cultural journalist, multidisciplinary artist, educator, traveller, dreamer, yogini, vegetarian, advocate
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1 Response to Nellie Boustead in Las Mujeres de Rizal

  1. Pingback: Sino si Nellie Boustead sa buhay ni Rizal? | ISLANG MALAYA


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