The Batangueña who captivated Rizal’s young heart

Segunda Solis Katigbak, Rizal's first love and first heartbreak

Let me share to you the story of a Batangueña and why she left a mark in Philippine history.

Segunda Catigbac y Solís was born in Lipa, Batangas in the year 1863 (date unknown) to Don Norberto Catigbac y Calao (gobernadorcillo de Lipa, 1862-1863) and Doña Justa Solís y Luz. She was the second child in a family of 8— Mariano (Capitan Municipal 1896-1897), Maria Carmina, Maria Ynes (Augustinian Nun), Justa Ysabel, Norberto Jr., Mauricio, and Jose Ma. Isabelo.

With the second marriage of her father to Doña Macaria Mendoza y Latorre in 1879, Segunda had 11 other siblings—Leon (Presidente Municipal, 1916-1922), Candida, Justa, Bartolome, Emillano, Manuel Guillermo, Rufa Andrea, Maria Crisfina, Jose Primitivo, Maria Josefina, and Maria Sinforosa.

The Catigbacs (later Filipinized to Katigbak) were among the leading families and whose ancestry was among the oldest known in the town of Lipa. The family of Segunda was enormously awash in cash and very genteel for they had engaged in the flourishing coffee business during the 1880’s.  It was recorded that Lipa had an annual income of P4,000,000.00 from the coffee industry alone.

Its Calle Real was filled with high-end stores and the people’s customs and social manners were all Hispanic in many ways. With this preeminence, the Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Spain bestowed the title of Villa to Lipa in 1887. Along with the proclamation, Segunda’s father, Don Norberto, was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of Reina Isabel La Catolica, a reward given to a citizen or a foreigner in recognition for his exceptional services that benefited the Spanish kingdom and its territories.

In history books, Segunda was best remembered as Dr. Jose (Pepe) P. Rizal’s first love interest. This romantic tale happened after his graduation in Ateneo Municipal.

the young Jose Mercado-Rizal

Accompanied by a good friend and his former classmate -Mariano Solis Catigbac (my great-great grandfather), Rizal went to a party in his grandmother’s house in Trozo, Manila in 1877. It was in that event that he first met the latter’s sister, the 14-year-old Segunda.

In his Memorias de Un Estudiante de Manila, written in 1881, he vividly described the young lady during their first encounter: “Ella era una bajita de unos ojos expresivos y ardientes a veces y languidos otros, rosada, una sonrisa tan encantadora y provocativa que dejaba ver unos dientes muy hermosos; un aire de sílfide, un no sé que halagador desparramában por todo su ser.” (She was short, with expressive eyes, ardent at times, and drooping at other times, pinkish, a smile so bewitching and provocative that revealed some very beautiful teeth; with an air of sylph, I do not know what alluring something was all over her being). No era la mas bella mujer, que ví, pero no he visto otra mas encantadora y halagüeña. (She was not the most beautiful woman I had seen but I had never seen one more bewitching and alluring)

It was truly a love at first sight for the young Pepe.

To intimately be more acquainted with Segunda, Jose frequently visited the Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion de la Concordia in Paco where she and his sister, Olympia Rizal were studying.  For about seven months, he became allured with her that he showed her with much attention, writing romantic poems and even capturing her beauty in a sketch: “Habia yo hecho un retrato al lapiz de la Señorita K., que me habia copiado de un retrato de fotografia que ella me habia dado el jueves pasado.” (I made a pencil portrait of Miss K. that I copied from a photograph she gave me last Thursday)In exchange to this Segunda, gave Rizal a white rose as a symbol for his affection towards her.

Rizal was very ecstatic of Segunda and though they had brief encounters, there was already an understanding of their feelings for each other: “En verdad que durante nuestra conversacion, nuestros ojos encontraban y miradas intensisimas llena de una expresion amantemente melancholia venian de encadenar mi alma para siempre.” (It is true that during the conversations our eyes met, and the most intense glances full of a loving melancholy expression came to enslave my soul forever.)

He added: Y á decir verdad nos amabamos sin que nos hayamos declarado claramente sino solamente nos comprendiamos en nuestras miradas.”(And truth to tell we loved each other without having declared it clearly except that we understood each other through our glances).

However, Rizal knew from the very beginning that their romantic story would not turn into reality. Segunda was already engaged to her close relative whom Rizal described as a tall man with a name that he couldn’t remember.

When Rizal and Segunda parted ways, he wrote of their unhappy ending: “Esto es concluye asi! Concluyeron mis juveniles y confiados amores! Concluyeron mis primeras horas de mi primer amor. Mi virgen corazon llorará por siempre el arriesgado paso que dió en el abismo cubierto de flores. Mi illusion volverá, si, pero indiferente, incomprensible y preparandome la primera decepción en el camino del sentimiento.” (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 return, yes, but indifferent, uncertain, ready for the first betrayal on the path of grief.)

The fiancé and the man’s name was Don Manuel Luz y Metra. He was the nephew of Segunda’s maternal grandmother, Doña Patricia Luz de San Miguel. Aside from their kinship, he was more acceptable to her family since the tradition at that time was for maidens to marry men within the same social circle in the locality.

Casa de Segunda

Don Manuel, by accounts of his great grandchildren, was considered a philanthropist and one of the supporters of the Batangueño revolucionarios during the insurrection against Spain.

Segunda, who was only 16 then, married Manuel on January 12, 1879. She must have had a happy wedded life for their union produced thirteen children but only 9 lived: — Cristeta (married to Guillermo Africa Katigbak), Manuel Faustino (bachelor), Flora (married to Edilberto Mendoza), Justa Ynes (married to Dr. Isabelo Macarandang Katigbak), Arsenio (married to Amparo Luz Katigbak), Maria dela Paz (married to Pablo Malabanan Dimayuga), Valeriano (married to Rosario Dimayuga), Julio (married to Carmen Genato), and Fernando (married to Luz Cabal).

The Katigbak and the Luz families were considered patrons of the arts, literature, and music. This fondness must have been passed to some of their descendants: Edgardo Luz Katigbak(son of Justa) was one of the sculptors of the Tableau of the Cry of Pugadlawin, Arturo Rogerio Luz (son of Valeriano) became National Artist for Visual Arts in 1997, Tensie Dimayuga-Bello (granddaughter of Maria Paz ) whose paintings adorned several hotel lobbies in Manila, and Paola Ojeda  Luz (granddaughter of Valeriano), a recording artist in the 80’s who died of cancer.

It was said that Rizal never forgot Segunda. Pepe visited Lipa to seek funds from its well-known families who would support the nationalist cause. One of which whom he solicited was Don Manuel Luz. They even played Chess and when Rizal lost the game, he exclaimed: I even lost my heart as well!

Manuel and Segunda built a house that is now known as Casa de Segunda. Here, their children and grandchildren got inclined into music as it was common for them to play different musical instruments and perform like a small orchestra after dinner.

Segunda spent her last days in that home. She suffered from stroke and later passed away on June 16, 1943.

The National Historical Commission declared Casa de Segunda as a National Heritage house in 1996.


Quotations lifted from Memorias de Un Estudiante de Manila by Dr. Jose P. Rizal,  P. Jacinto

Rizal’s first romance, Segunda Katigbak (1863-1943), by Rafael Katigbak -Laygo Dolor

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