There are nine (9) recorded women in Rizal's life, however some historians suggest that there have been more. Below are brief accounts of Jose Rizal's romances:
SEGUNDA KATIGBAK: RIZAL'S FIRST LOVE
Jose Rizal was only a young boy of sixteen (16) when he first fell in love, and it was with Segunda Katigbak, a girl from Lipa, Batangas and two years his junior. According to Rizal, "She was rather short, with eyes that were eloquent and ardent at times and languid at others, rosy-cheeked, with an enchanting and provocative smile that revealed very beautiful teeth, and the air of a sylph; her entire self diffused a mysterious charm."
Rizal went to Trozo, Manila one day to visit his grandmother. His friend, Mariano Katigbak, accompanied him. Mariano's family were close with Rizal's grandmother, and upon arrival at Lipa, Mariano's sister Segunda was there at the old woman's house along with other guests. Rizal was drawn to hear instantly.
Some of the other guests knew that Rizal was a skilled painter and asked him to draw a portrait of Segunda. He obliged, and reluctantly worked on a pencil sketch of the girl. "From time to time, she looked at me, and I blushed."
A Blossoming Love
Rizal's sister Olympia was a close friend of Segunda and a student at La Concordia College, and Rizal went to visit her every week, during which he came to know Segunda more intimately. Their affection for each other grew deeper with every meeting, one that began with "love at first sight."
Hopeless from the Beginning
Unfortunately, Segunda was already engaged to be married to her townmate, Manuel Luz, and although Rizal had gotten hints of the lady's affection for him, he timidly decided to back away and did not propose. Years later Segunda returned to Lipa and wed her betrothed, leaving a frustrated Rizal to the mercy of his nostalgic memories. Rizal said while recording his first romance three years later, "Ended, at an early hour, my first love! My virgin heart will always mourn the reckless step it took on the flower-decked abyss. My illusions will return, yes, but indifferent, uncertain, ready for the first betrayal on the path of love."
LEONOR VALENZUELA: PRIVATE LETTERS
When Rizal was a sophomore at the University of Santo Tomas and was boarding in the house of Dona Concha Leyva in Intramuros he met Leonor "Orang" Valenzuela, his next-door neighbor and daughter of Capitan Juan and Capitana Sanday Valenzuela. She was a tall girl who carried herself with grace and elegance.
Exchanging Love Notes
Exchanging Love Notes
Rizal was always welcome at the Valenzuela home. He eventually courted Leonor by sending her love notes, which he wrote in invisible ink made from a mixture of water and table salt. He taught Leonor how to read his letters by heating them over a lamp or a candle to allow the words to surface.
Unfortunately, as with his first love, Jose failed to ask for the lady's hand in marriage.
LEONOR RIVERA: THE FIRST ENGAGEMENT
Leonor Rivera was a young lady from Camiling, and a cousin of Jose Rizal. Leonor's father had provided room and board in Casa Tomasina, Intramuros for Rizal when the youth was still starting his third year at the university. The young girl was then a student at La Concordia College where Soledad, Rizal's little sister was also studying.
A Secret Relationship
Leonor was "tender as a budding flower with kindly, wistful eyes." She and Rizal eventually became engaged. In her letters, she signed her name as "Taimis" in order to hide their intimate relationship from the girl's parents.
A Lady's Infidelity
In the autumn of 1890, however, Rizal received a letter from Leonor telling him of her coming marriage to a man whom her mother chose to be her mate -- an Englishman -- and begged for his forgiveness. This broke Rizal's heart deeply.
CONSUELO ORTIGA Y PEREZ: A SACRIFICE FOR FRIENDSHIP
|Consuelo Ortiga y Perez|
In 1882, when Rizal was a student at the Universidad Central de Madrid, he frequented the home of Don Pablo Ortiga y Rey, the former city mayor of Manila. He lived with his son Rafael and his daughter Consuelo.
Taken by Charm
Rizal, though he wasn't a handsome man, possessed a great deal of charisma and was gifted with many talents and a deeply noble character. For this reason, it is of no surprise that Consuelo, the prettier of Don Pablo's daughters, was very taken with him.
An Escape from Loneliness
Being lonely and somewhat isolated in a foreign country, Rizal found comfort in Consuelo's vivacious company. He wrote her a poem entitled A La Senorita C.O. y P. (To Miss C.O.y P.), in which he expressed his great admiration for the lady.
Rizal's romance with Consuelo did not turn into a serious affair; he decided to take a step back for two reasons: first, he was still engaged to Leonor Rivera at that time; and second, he was aware of his friend's (Eduardo de Lete) affection for the girl and he did not want to ruin their friendship over her.
O-SEI-SAN: LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
When Rizal was in Tokyo a few days after he had moved to the Azabu district in 1888, he spotted a pretty Japanese girl walking past the legion gate. He was captured by the lady's regal air and charisma and endeavored to find ways to meet her. The girl's name was Seiko Usui. She lived with her parents and often took afternoon walks by the legation. Rizal waited by the gate one afternoon and introduced himself.
An Exploration of Beauty
Rizal and O-Sei-San, as he fondly called her, met almost daily. They toured the beautiful city spots, enjoyed the scenery, and visited the picturesque shrines. Rizal was then a lonely young physician, disillusioned by his frustrated romance with Leonor Rivera and burdened by soured hopes for justice in his country. O-Sei-San provided the beautiful escape that he deeply needed, and he saw in her the qualities of his ideal woman. He was her first love.
Because of his deep affection for her, Rizal was almost tempted to settle down in Japan. Conveniently enough, he was also offered a good position at the Spanish Legation during that time. Rizal, however, had set his sights on other matters. He decided to leave Japan and forget his romance, which pained him gravely as attested by an entry in his diary. His 45-day sojourn in Japan was one of the happiest interludes in his life.
GERTRUDE BECKETT: A CHISELED BEAUTY
In May 1888 Rizal visited London for a short time, boarding the house of the Beckett family: Mr. & Mrs. Beckett, their two sons, and their four daughters. The eldest daughter was named Gertrude.
The Artist's Right Hand
Gertrude was a buxom young lady with blue eyes and brown hair. She fell in love with Rizal and gave him all of her attention during the family picnics and gatherings. When Rizal stayed indoors during rainy days painting and sculpting, she helped him mix his colors and prepare his clay.
Rizal enjoyed her company. Eventually their flirtatious friendship drifted towards a blossoming romance. He affectionately called her "Gettie," and in return she called him "Pettie."
Leaving for a Higher Cause
Rizal withdrew before his relationship with Gettie could become more serious, realizing that he had a greater mission to fulfill and that in order to accomplish it he could not yield to the option of marrying her. He suppressed the yearnings of his heart and decided to leave so that the lady may forget him. Before he did, however, he finished a number of sculptural works, one of which was a carving of the heads of the Beckett sisters.
SUZANNE JACOBY: A LOVE UNREQUITED
On January 28, 1890, Rizal left for Brussels, Belgium. He stayed for a considerable time, paying for room and board. His landladies had a pretty niece named Petite Suzanne Jacoby. She was taken by Rizal's charm and gallantry, and provided him good company. Rizal could have flirted with the lady, considering that his beloved Leonor was far away and he was a lonely man in a strange and foreign land, but he realized he could not deceive her.
A Broken Heart
Suzanne fell in love with Rizal, and wept when he left for Madrid in July 1890. She wrote to him in French:
"Where are you now? Do you think of me once in a while? I am reminded of our tender conversations, reading your letter, although it is cold and indifferent. Here in your letter I have something which makes up for your absence. How pleased I would be to follow you, to travel with you who are always in my thoughts.
You wish me all kinds of luck, but forget that in the absence of a beloved one a tender heart cannot feel happy.
A thousand things serve to distract your mind, my friend; but in my case, I am sad, lonely, always alone with my thoughts -- nothing, absolutely nothing relieves my sorrow. Are you coming back? That's what I want and desire most ardently -- you cannot refuse me.
I do not despair and I limit myself to murmuring against time which runs so fast when it carries us toward a separation, but goes so slowly when it's bringing us together again.
I feel very unhappy thinking that perhaps I might never see you again.
Goodbye! You know with one word you can make me very happy. Aren't you going to write to me?"
NELLIE BOUSTEAD: A FAILED PROPOSAL
In 1891, Rizal took a vacation in Biarritz in order to find reprieve from his troubles in Madrid. He was a guest of the Boustead family in their winter residence, Villa Eliada. Mr. and Mrs. Boustead had two beautiful daughters, Adelina and Nellie.
An Emotional Rebounce
After having lamented his frustrated romance with Leonor Rivera on account of the lady's engagement to another man, Rizal came to develop considerable affection for Nellie, the prettier and younger daughter of Mr. Eduardo Boustead. He found her to be intelligent, morally upright, and full of life. Rizal wrote to his closest friends about his intention to marry her.
Consent from the Lady's Past Love
Rizal's friends were delighted to hear that he had found a suitable girl whom he at last wished to settle down with. Even Antonio Luna, who had previously loved Nellie, encouraged Rizal to court her and ask for her hand in marriage. With all the encouragement from the friends he held dear, Rizal wooed Nellie (also called Nelly) who, in turn, returned his affections.
A Broken Engagement
Rizal's marriage proposal failed for two reasons: first, Nellie demanded that he give up his Catholic faith and convert to Protestantism, which was her religion. Rizal did not like this idea. Second, Nelly's mother did not approve of Rizal, as she had no desire to entrust her daughter to a man who was wanting in wealth and persecuted in his own country. In spite of the circumstances, Rizal and Nellie parted as good friends.
JOSEPHINE BRACKEN: TRUE LOVE IN EXILE
Rizal's exile in Dapitan was one of the most lonesome and sorrowful periods of his life. He missed the company of his friends and family, and the death of Leonor Rivera on August 28, 1893 left a gaping void in his heart.
Josephine Bracken arrived at the shores of Dapitan accompanying her blind adoptive father, Mr. George Taufer. No ophthalmologist in Hong Kong, their home country, could cure the man's blindness and so they sought the services of the famous Dr. Jose Rizal.
Rizal and Josephine fell in love at first sight. Their romantic interlude went on for about a month, after which they decided to marry. The priest of Dapitan, however, refused to conduct the ceremony without consent from the Bishop of Cebu.
When Mr. Taufer heard of his daughter's plan to marry he became so enraged at the thought of losing Josephine that he attempted to kill himself with a razor to his throat. Rizal prevented this tragedy by holding the man's wrists back. Josephine left with her father on the first available steamer to Manila in order to avoid more trouble. Since Mr. Taufer's blindness was venereal in nature, it was incurable.
Mr. Taufer went back to Hong Kong alone, and Josephine stayed in Manila with Rizal's family. At length, she returned to Dapitan. Since no priest would marry them, Rizal and Josephine held hands, exchanged vows, and married themselves before God.
The Loss of a Child
Rizal and Josephine lived together in Dapitan as husband and wife, and in early 1896 they were expecting a baby. Unfortunately, Josephine had to go into premature labor after Rizal played a prank and frightened her. A little boy of eight months was born, who lived for only three hours. Rizal named him Francisco in honor of his father, and buried the child in Dapitan.