Campus Romance: Rizal's ladies in La Concordia (I)

© 2013 by Jensen DG. Mañebog

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IT IS AS IF ONLY when I moved to San Juan and was assigned to do a project in Paco, Manila that many places mentioned in the subject Rizal, which I’ve been teaching for many years aside from Philosophy and Social Science subjects, really make sense to me.

The reason is obvious. Rizal did not make history in the city now called after former president Manuel Quezon, if ever the national hero had even gone to that place where I used to reside. Most of Jose Rizal’s historically significant time in Luzon, he spent in Manila areas.

Almost everyday on my way to Paco, I trail the old and long Pedro Gil Road along which I get to see the historical La Concordia College. The emphasis is on the term “historical”, for indeed this institution founded in 1868 really is, as it is the alma mater of Jose’s sister Olimpia, of his youngest sister Soledad, of his “first” love, and of his so called “true” love.

Rizal was 16 years old then when one Sunday he paid visit to his maternal grandmother in Trozo, Manila and there met, among others, Segunda Katigbak, a two-year-younger-than-him student of La Concordia, with “eloquent eyes, rosy cheeks, and smile that reveals very beautiful teeth”. Rizal wasn’t sure whether or not she was a model of Colgate or Close-up but he knew very well that this Batangueña from Lipa had caused his blood pressure to rise even without eating R. Lapid’s chicharon. If Mariano, Segunda’s brother and Rizal’s classmate who was also in the house, could only read what was in the mind of Rizal in that very occasion, he would have uttered, “Ala-eh walang bastusan ng kapatid ah, sister ko ya-an eh, gusto mo bagang mabalisong?” But Mariano did not see it coming, nor did Jose and Segunda, for what happened between the two was “a love at first sight”, and they just found themselves following Ariel Rivera’s song “Getting to know each other” more intimately, as Jose’s visits to his sister Olimpia… or rather to his love interest Segunda in La Concordia College became more frequent.

How could Rizal forget that incident when he was urged by other acquaintances and conformed to make a pencil sketch of Segunda? “From time to time”, he recollected later, “she looked at me, and I blushed.” (Had anyone teased him for blushing, Rizal could have saved his face by saying, “Mag Likas Papaya na rin kasi kayo…para pumula rin ang pisngi nyo.) When Segunda one day gave him a white artificial rose she had made herself at school, he gave her in exchange that pencil sketch he had drawn of her.

But Rizal was clueless. How could he be so naïve? He should have known earlier the song “Paper Roses.” The artificial flower was perhaps Segunda’s way of sending the message that their love was hopeless from the very start, for the rumor that she had been engaged to be married to a fellow-townsman, Manuel Luz, even before she met Pepe, was all along true. Rizal’s discovery of the real score later, I suppose, was his major reason, being a man of delicadeza, why he did not propose to her, more than his being an alleged torpedo of Eraserheads.

It was also at La Concordia College where the young lovers talked to each other for the last time. It was a romantic day on December in 1877 when the confused Rizal came to see the ever-hopeful Segunda. It was mainly to say goodbye because he would spend his New Year vacation in his hometown starting the following day. She replied by saying she was also going home to Lipa one day later. She maintained silence after her short response, giving Rizal enough opportunity to say that sweetest tri-syllabic pronouncement which a lover wants to hear from a beloved. To her surprise, Rizal indeed uttered a three-syllable statement—he said, “Well, good-bye” (which is just equivalent to today’s text message “Ah ok” plus a smiley “Ü”). “Anyway—I’ll see you when you pass Calamba on your way to Lipa”, he nevertheless promised.

Rizal went home to Calamba. The following day, he woke up determined to fulfill his promise to Segunda and see her for the last time. The streamer carrying Segunda anchored in Biñan. Jose saddled his white horse to wait at the road. Segunda was in a carromata as she smiled and waved her handkerchief to him. He wanted to follow, but at the last minute he turned his horse around and rode home, and that marked the end of everything between them…

Segunda returned to Laguna and in due time married Manuel Luz. Too late a telenovela was the chinovela MeteorGardenwhich could have taught Segunda that she could marry someone else though she had been engaged to Manuel. And Rizal, on his part, should have imitated Baste (Mark Herras) of the telenovela I Love New York in stealing Natalie (Jennilyn Mercado) from her supposed groom. Indeed, if only we could re-write their story and send it to Magpakailanman of Mel Changco kapusong totoo…(to be continued) (© 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:

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TAGS: Jose Rizal, Leonor Rivera, Segunda Katigbak, Rizal's Girlfriend, History, Philippine Studies, Filipino Heroes

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