Monday, 12 September 2011

Queridas ni Jose Rizal: Love and Sex in Philippine History

Whoever said history is boring? 

It is NOT--  especially if your teacher is the great Rizal historian, Mr. Ambeth Ocampo. I attended an interesting seminar of his at Ayala Museum last Saturday, September 11, 2011 entitled "Queridas ni Jose Rizal: Love and Sex in Philippine History." So, what's it all about? Precisely what the title says; about his queridas. 

Now, you may be thinking of querida as a bad thing. After all, in Filipino culture, querida is usually attributed to qualities of being a 'kabit' or 'mistress.' This is not true though because that is not the authentic description of the Spanish word 'querida.' It simply means lover or beloved so more or less, the seminar explored the women whom Rizal had a relationship with and other chismis about him. 

Let's start with the juicy chismis. Supposedly, there are two rumors that are quite widespread about him even though I have not personally heard of it prior to the seminar. The first rumor is that Jose Rizal is the father of Hitler. When Mr. Ambeth Ocampo first mentioned that, my face was literally like this: (=|). I mean, seriously? The rumor started because of the character "Maria Clara" in the novel Noli Me Tangere. Some people have speculated that he named this character this way as acknowledgment of Hitler's mother whose name is Clara. Sounds unreliable and totally cuckoo right? That's what I thought at first also, but you know, it's not entirely impossible since Rizal DID travel a lot back then so he might have encountered Hitler's mother along the way. But, Mr. Ocampo explained that this malicious rumor could not have been true since he traced Rizal's itinerary back in the time of Clara's conception of Hitler. At that time, Rizal was somewhere in London while Hitler's mother, Clara, was working at a hotel in Austria. 

The second rumor is even more disturbing-- they say that Jose Rizal is Jack the Ripper. If I was left speechless with the first rumor, my expression for this one is this: (0.0). Again, I was left screaming (well, in my mind anyway) SERIOUSLY???  The rumor started because Rizal was somewhere in London at that time. To those who do not know who Jack the Ripper is, he is a notorious killer of prostitutes around the White Chapel area using a scalpel. Thus, their suspects at that time were doctors and people who had knowledge of medical procedures, which is both applicable to Dr. Jose Rizal. Therefore, this rumor's not entirely baseless. To strengthen this rumor, they found Dr. Jose Rizal's notebook as a medical student and inside, there were illustrations of women whose breasts are cut off-- something that the sadistic Jack the Ripper could have and would have done to his victims. I can't remember what he said to disprove the rumor that Jose Rizal is Jack the Ripper, but I remember two funny anecdotes from this discussion. First, one of his students said that people have not seen the most obvious clue that Jose Rizal is Jack the Ripper. The student said that we just have to look at Jose Rizal's initials. JR for Jack the Ripper! HAHA! That was a very witty student. Another funny anecdote is that aside from the illustration of the woman-whose-breasts-are-cut-off-and-sewn-together-again in Rizal's notebook, he also drew a LOT of penises. 0_0 Rizal, why do you have a fixation on the phallus?!
So, moving on to the main discussion, Rizal had around 12 or 13 confirmed queridas whereas we were only taught that he had around 6 during History classes. Surprising isn't it? Well, it seems that the history being taught to us is not so accurate since a lot of details which could smear the reputation of our national hero has been expunged. It's sad that our history is being edited, but I guess, I see the authorities' POV also since our hero should be reputable and all that jazz. Because of this, I'm glad that I was able to attend this seminar so that I could learn of some slivers of truth!

So, what were my most important learnings from the queridas of Jose Rizal? First, he's a real heart breaker. He promised Segunda Katigbak that he would bring her to Calamba (which could be an indirect marriage proposal), but he turned around at the last second, leaving Segunda to her fate as the future bride of her uncle. Second, he was not married to Leonora Rivera because they are cousins, which is incest. Third, he spent nights with prostitutes.  Yes, Rizal is a man who sometimes gives in to temptations. In fact, some of his queridas could have been prostitutes like my next point. Fourth, O- Sei- san, his Japanese girlfriend,could possibly not have belonged to a 'reputable' Samurai family. In short, she could also have been a prostitute since no lady from a 'reputable' family would be walking around in a park, picking up strange men (Ocampo, 2011). Fifth, Josephine Bracken could have been molested by her stepfather. Her stepfather could have been going blind because of Syphilis and not of cataract. They may not have had sexual contact so "Peter," the stillborn son of Josephin Bracken, could possibly not have been Jose Rizal's son. So there. These are my most important learnings. The other women, I don't remember anymore other than "Orang," "Neli" and the "Butterfly Lady." They were not serious relationships anyway. 

So, other than these facts, I also learned other more surprising stories. One of these is that  Juan Luna killed his wife and mother-in-law. Our history says that it's an accident, a crime passionel, (french term for crimes of passion, which was accepted by the judge as a valid reason to say that a person is not guilty of killing a lover) but police reports back in that time show that it could have been intentional. What happened anyway? Juan and his wife had a violent fight. The wife and mother-in-law locked themselves inside a bathroom to avoid the enraged Juan Luna. Reportedly, Juan Luna "shot the door knob to open the door and accidentally hit his wife AND mother- in- law." This is where the strangeness comes in. Why were both dead when he only fired once? Also, if he 'accidentally' shot his wife and mother-in-law, it should have hit them at the back or somewhere else, but nooo~ The bullets hit them at the back of the head. Is this an accident or not? You decide. Our history's distorted anyway. Another interesting fact I learned from this seminar is that Jose Rizal's sister wiped 12 handkerchiefs in Jose Rizal's blood puddle after his execution and these 12 are missing save for one whose descendant's yaya washed it off. ARGH HER! She just ruined the DNA of Jose Rizal! 

SEE! This seminar's so awesome! The rumors are not dismissed so easily even though they're strange! Anyway, I'm sorry if my thoughts are not so organized. It's like I have 'flight of ideas,' but I'm assuring you that I DO NOT HAVE that psychotic symptom. It's just that I found the seminar so awesome that I can't stop gushing about it! Anyway, I hope to attend another of his seminar this coming November 19, which explores the reason why Jose Rizal did not settle down and get married. Mr. Ambeth Ocampo left a clue: Jose Rizal may be in love with his mother and might be having some problems with his Oedipal complex conflict. Interesting, right? =D 


  1. Do you happen to know or remember what Jose Rizal's medical notebook was officially called?

  2. Hi! thank you for posting your blog it is really helpful! I would also want to inquire more about Rizal's romances, to get to the point i would like to specifically ask who was Rizal's first kiss? who devirginized him? and possibly did he cheated during his 11 year relationship with Segunda Katigbak??