Nothing to support Ocampo’s conclusions on Luna’s crime of passion
I would like to respond to the recent column by Prof. Ambeth Ocampo (“Juan Luna’s crime of passion,” Opinion, 10/16/20) in which he recalls a conversation he had with the late Mita Pardo de Tavera about Juan Luna who murdered his wife, Maria “Paz” Pardo de Tavera, and his mother-in-law, Doña Juliana Gorricho, in 1892. The two victims were respectively Mita’s great-aunt and great-grandmother. Mita, Ocampo says, insisted that Paz did not have an extramarital affair.
It is impossible for Mita to have known for sure. She had not yet been born. I think it is fair to say that she was voicing her family’s staunch belief in the respectability and innocence of their two murdered late-19th-century relatives.
Yet, Ocampo treats her as a witness to the tragedy. He concludes his piece with the startling statements: “Contrary to what Mita Pardo de Tavera told me, Mrs. Luna did have an affair with Dussaq. On that day, Luna followed her to the apartment of Mr. Fremy; she was smuggled out, hidden in a carriage, through a back exit.”
Ocampo is convinced Paz did have an affair. On what evidence does his certainty rest?
In his column, the author cites a report published in the New York Herald, dated Sept. 25, 1892. The reader learns that Juan Luna had accused his wife of infidelity and had suspected a certain 45-year-old French physician named Monsieur Dussaq, who is quoted by the newspaper. Dussaq stated that he met a visibly upset Luna; he strongly denied any impropriety between himself and Luna’s wife; and he demanded proof from his accuser. Also quoted was a man named Monsieur Fremy, a friend of Dussaq, who said that he had been told by Luna’s brothers-in-law (Trinidad and Felix Pardo de Tavera) that Luna, on questioning his wife, obtained an admission from her that she and Dussaq had met in his apartment, although Fremy was plainly puzzled by her inability to accurately recall the apartment’s exact location.
There is nothing here to support Ocampo’s conclusions. His own description of Luna’s wife exiting surreptitiously (and thus imputing guilt), is at best an embellishment. In other sources, which Ocampo has doubtless read, it is revealed that witnesses saw a “woman wearing a black dress,” that she avoided the front entrance of the building, where Luna was pacing back and forth, and stepped quite normally into a carriage waiting in the back courtyard.
The fact is, we shall never know whether Luna’s wife committed adultery. The historical records yield no conclusive proof.
This we know with certitude: Juan Luna terrified his domestic household with his violent rages. He beat his wife and, in the months leading up to her murder, the beatings had increased in frequency and viciousness. Paz was desperately unhappy and her mother feared for her daughter’s life. After extracting a confession from his wife at gunpoint, Luna shot her and his mother-in-law at point-blank range on the morning of Sept. 22, 1892.
Ocampo is not wrong in characterizing Luna’s homicides as a “crime of passion.” This is borne out in the sources. What is also evident is how lawyers on both sides presented the racist notion that Luna’s violence could be attributed to the “semi-barbaric peoples of the Tropics.”
DR. RACHEL A.G. REYES
Author, “Love, Passion and Patriotism: Sexuality and the Philippine Propaganda Movement”
Co-editor, “Sexual Diversity in Asia”
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