Leonor Rivera: Jose Rizal's True Love

ON TOP OF BEING DUBBED as Jose Rizal’s “childhood sweetheart,” “betrothed,” and “lover by correspondence,” she was widely considered as the hero’s “true love”.
Leonor Rivera (April 11, 1867 – August 28, 1893) of Camiling, Tarlac was the daughter of Antonio Rivera and Silvestra Bauzon. Leonor’s father—who was one of the few persons who conspired in Jose’s ‘secret’ departure to Spain—is a cousin of the hero’s father, Francisco Mercado.
Subjectively considered as a pretty lady, Leonor is commonly described as having wavy soft hair, high forehead, wistful almond eyes, small and pensive mouth, and charming dimples. She was said to be intelligent and talented, as she could play the harp and the piano—skills which matched her fascinating singing voice.

The author's e-book on Jose Rizal's love life
Leonor was a “tender as a budding flower” colegiala at the La Concordia College when she became romantically involved, though secretly, with her distant relative Rizal.
Though both Leonor Rivera and Segunda Katigbak (Rizal’s first love) studied in the same school, they probably had not met and known each other (much less pulled each other’s hair) as the Tarlaqueña was four years younger than the Batangueña. Rizal was just a young high school student in Ateneo when he was ‘dating’ Segunda. When he boarded at his Uncle Antonio’s boarding house in Intramuros and became the boyfriend of the landlord’s daughter, Rizal was already a second-year medical student then at the UST.
Secret as the romance was to Leonor’s parents, she used pen names in her letters to Jose. She hid from the signatures ‘La Cuestion del Oriente’ and ‘Taimis/Tamis’. Records aren’t clear on what Jose used in return. (Some students jokingly guess that he used pseudonyms like ‘Pinsan’, or ‘Kuya Pepe’, or ‘Ang inyong boarder’. The funniest suggestion so far is: “Ang pamangkin ng iyong ama, a.k.a The Calamba boy.”)
In one of Indios’ street brawls against young Spaniards in Escolta, Rizal was wounded on the head. Bleeding and filthy, he was brought home by friends to his boarding house. With tender love and care, Leonor nursed him. His wound was gently washed and carefully dressed, though the band-aid used was unnamed.
All Leonor ever wanted was to be on Jose’s side each time, to look for him, and take care of him. But this became far from possible when Jose left for Spain in May 1882 without giving her a notice, fearing that she—being young and not that cautious yet—could not keep a secret.
The ‘farewell poem’ he left for her had not washed away the sorrow she felt when she learned of her boyfriend’s departure. Seriously affected by Rizal’s departure, Leonor had become often unwell because of insomnia.
While busy studying and fighting for a cause abroad, Rizal nonetheless took time to write to his sweetheart. Numerous multi-lingual (Filipino, English, Spanish, and French) love letters were exchanged between the lovers. Rizal was puzzled though as time came when Leonor became silent.

To probe into why Leonor was not answering his letters was one of the reasons Rizal went home in August 1887, notwithstanding the dangers he could face in such a decision. When he returned though, Leonor was no longer in Manila for her family had transferred to Dagupan, Pangasinanwhere her parents had a clothing merchandise business. The couple wanted to see each other but both were prohibited by their respective parents. Don Francisco Mercado believed that the meeting would put the Rivera family in danger for the author of the Noli at the time was already branded by the Spaniards as a ‘filibustero’ (subversive) ... continue reading

Read the SEQUEL: Leonor Rivera: Why Rizal did not end up marrying her

© 2013-present 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--for free) comprehensively tackle, among others, the respective life of Rizal’s parents, siblings, co-heroes,
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TAGS: Jose Rizal, Leonor Rivera, Rizal's Girlfriend, History, Philippine Studies, Filipino Heroes; Leonor Rivera: Jose Rizal's True Love

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