Suzanne Jacoby: Jose Rizal's Fling
© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog
When Jose Rizal left her place, her dream was to follow him and to travel with the Filipino lover boy who was always in her thoughts.
Suzanne Jacoby was a Belgian lady whom Rizal met when he was 29. To somewhat economize in his living expenses, he left the expensive city of Paris and went to Belgium in January 1890. Along with his friend Jose Albert, Rizal arrived in Brussels on February 2 and stayed in the boarding house managed by two Jacoby sisters, Suzanne and Marie (some references say “Catherina and Suzanna”). It was said that Rizal had a transitory romance with the petite niece of his landladies, Suzanne.
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In Rizal’s 6-month stay in the boarding house, Suzanne, also called ‘Petite,’ got to know and was attracted to the skillful and enigmatic Filipino doctor. Jose might have had a somewhat romantic intimacy with Petite—a relationship which was probably comparable to today’s ‘mutual understanding’ (like what Rizal possibly had with Gertrude Beckett). Presumably, Petite and Jose (who was at one time called ‘Pettie” by Beckett) had together enjoyed the merriments of Belgium’s summertime festival of 1890 with its multicolored costumes, animated floats, and lively crowds.
But the relationship was most likely not that serious as Rizal did not mention her in his letters to his intimate friends. Informing Antonio Luna of his life in Brussels, Rizal just talked about going to the clinic, working and studying, reading and writing, and practicing at the ‘Sala de Armas’ and gymnasium. Historically, his affair with Suzanne could not possibly blossom as Rizal, that time, was busy writing the ‘Fili’, contributing for La Solidaridad, and worrying for his family as regards the worsening Calamba agrarian trouble.
Suzanne shed tears when Rizal left Belgium toward the beginning of August, 1890. He was said to have made Suzanne’s sculpture which he unexplainably gave to his friend Valentin Ventura. Leaving Brussels, Rizal left the young Suzanne a box of chocolates. Two months later, she wrote him a letter, saying: “After your departure, I did not take the chocolate. The box is still intact as on the day of your parting. Don’t delay too long writing us because I wear out the soles of my shoes for running to the mailbox to see if there is a letter from you. There will never be any home in which you are so loved as in that in Brussels, so, you little bad boy, hurry up and come back…”
In her another letter, she was mentioning of Rizal’s letter to her, suggesting that the Filipino in Madrid probably replied to her at least once. From her letter though, we can glean that the affection was (already) one-sided:
“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?
To her surprise, Rizal returned to Brussels by the middle of April 1891 and stayed again in the Jacoby’s boarding house. Rizal’s return however was not specifically for Suzanne for the hero just busied himself revising and finalizing the manuscript of El Fili for publication. On July 5, 1891, Rizal bade goodbye to Brussels and Suzanne, never to come back again in Belgium and in her arms.
Lately, a certain Belgian named Pros Slachmuylders claimed that Rizal had romance with his landladies’ niece named Suzanna Thill, not with Suzanne Jacoby. Thill was said to be 16 years old when Rizal was in Belgium in 1890. One hundred and seventeen (117) years after Rizal left Belgium, Slachmuylders’ group unveiled in 2007 a historical marker which commemorates Rizal’s stay in Brussels. (© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog)
Jensen DG. Mañebog, the contributor, is a book author and professorial lecturer in the graduate school of a state university in Metro Manila. His unique e-books on Rizal (available online) comprehensively tackle, among others, the respective life of Rizal’s parents, siblings, co-heroes, and girlfriends. (e-mail: email@example.com)
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