Rizal on ‘walang forever’
One of these days I must visit Casa de Segunda in Lipa, Batangas, the home of Segunda Katigbak, who would have remained an obscure or forgotten 19th-century Filipino woman if not for her being Jose Rizalís first love. Rummaging through my files the past three nights, I came across the draft of the first part of a Rizal biography I hope to complete someday. It is in interview form: I ask questions, and Rizalís replies are drawn from the 25 volumes of writing he left behind. I will bring this to Lipa.
ARO: You met Segunda Katigbak through her brother Mariano, right? It began in the summer of 1877, an affair that spanned April to December, while you were then living in a boarding house on Solana street in Intramuros. What do you remember of your first meeting with Segunda? You met in the house of your grandmother in Trozo, right?
JR: She was about 14 years old, fresh, pleasant, simpatica, who received my friend Mariano with much familiarity, from which I had deduced that she might be his sister. I already had heard [she] was going to marry a relative whose name I didnít remember. In fact, we found there a tall man, dressed nicely, who seemed to be her fiancÈ. She was short, with expressive eyes, ardent at times, and drooping at other times, pinkish (rosada), with a smile so enchanting and provocative that revealed some very beautiful teeth; with an air of a sylph, I donít know what alluring something was all over her being. She was not the most beautiful woman I had seen, but I had never seen one more enchanting and alluring. They told me to sketch her portrait, but I excused myself because really I didnít know. Finally they compelled me and I drew a grotesque picture (un mamaracho). I played chess and, whether due to the lady with her fiancÈ or I was distracted seeing her or I was flattered or I didnít know, the fact was I lost! Now and then she looked at me and I blushed. At last they talked about novels and other things about literature, and then I took part in the conversation to advantage.
ARO: You devote a whole chapter in your student diary to your courtship of Segunda. You even recorded bits of conversation. Can you share the one when you visited her at the Colegio de la
Concordia where your sister Olimpia was also a boarder?
JR: I donít remember how our conversation began, but I remember that she asked me what flowers I liked best. I told her that I liked all, but that I preferred the white and the black ones. She told me that she liked the white and pink ones, and she became pensive; but later she added: ìYes, I also like the black ones.î I kept quiet. ìDo you have a sweetheart (novia)?î She asked me after a moment of silence. ìNo,î I replied, ìI never thought of having one because I know well that no one would pay attention to me, least of all the pretty ones.î ìHow is that possible? You deceive yourself! Do you want me to find one for you?î ìThanks, Miss,î I told her, ìbut I donít want to bother you.î
I remembered at that moment that she would marry her uncle the following December, and then I asked her: ìWonít you retire to your town in December?î ìNo,î she answered me dryly. ìThey say that in your town a very big feast will be celebrated in which you will take an important part, and it is possible that this will not push through without your attendance.î ìNo,î she replied and she smiled. ìMy parents want me to return home but I should not like to do so, for I wish to stay in college five years more.î Little by little I was imbibing the sweetest poison of love as the conversation continued. Her glances were terrible for their sweetness and expressiveness. Her voice was so sonorous that a certain fascination accompanied all her movements. From time to time a languid ray penetrated my heart, and I felt something that was unknown to me until then. And why did the years pass so rapidly that I didnít have time to enjoy them?
Finally when the clock struck seven, we took our leave of our respective sisters and then she said: ìHave you any order to give me?î ìMiss, I never had the custom of ordering women,î I replied, ìI expect them to command me.î We went down the wide staircase of the college and went home. I donít remember how I spent the night then. The time that passed afterward was so painful that the beautiful and sweet were erased from my mind, leaving only black shadows mixed with the tints of tediousness.
Why write a biography when Rizal practically wrote it himself, scattered over 25 volumes?
Comments are welcome at [email protected]
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.