Consuelo Ortiga y Rey
Consuelo Ortiga y Peréz or Consuelo Ortiga y Rey was one of the many women in Dr. Jose Rizal’s life. She was the daughter of Don Pablo Ortiga y Rey, the then-Alcalde of Manila and president of the Consejo de Filipinas in Madrid. Her father, intimately called “El Padre Eterno” (The Eternal Father) by the Filipino expatriates, often held informal gatherings for the students in his home. The Ortiga’s residence was situated in Madrid and was also frequented by Dr. Jose Rizal and his compatriots.
Consuelo and Rizal’s love affair was further evidenced by the writings of Consuelo in her diary where she kept the record of her relationship with Rizal. Moreover, Rizal dedicated his poem ‘A La Señorita C.O. y R.’ to Consuelo. The said poem is now dubbed as one of the best poems written by Rizal.
According to Consuelo’s diary, she met Rizal on September 16, 1882 when she was introduced to two Filipinos named Rizal and Perio. However, the first lengthy conversation happened in January 18, 1883. Consuelo wrote:
- “Rizal talked with me for a long time, almost the whole night. He told me that I was very talented, that I was very diplomatic, and that he was going to see if he could extract some truth from me within two weeks; that I was mysterious and that I had a veil over my ideas …”
She also wrote: “Rizal told me that he detested amiable women because when they smiled, men imagined that they did so for something else. As he had told me the night before that I was very amiable, I understood that he meant it and I left him so that he would not make a mistake. A man should first study the ground and if he sees that the smile is for everybody he ought not to pay attention to her smiles because in distributing them so freely they lose all their meaning.”
Based on Consuelo’s writings, Rizal seemed to have some reservations which keep him from initially pursuing Consuelo. However, these reservations were finally worn down in February 26, 1883 when Consuelo wrote:
- “. . . Rizal is also in love; he has not declared this but almost, almost. He told me last night that he had a sickness that would not leave him except when traveling and that was only perchance.”
Consuelo’s tone was filled with hope and expectation. However, Eduardo de Lete, one of Consuelo’s suitors and Rizal’s compatriot as well, contended for her attention. Consuelo originally preferred Lete, but she was evidently attracted to Rizal and was worried about his intense feelings for her. She wrote:
- “He also told me and I understood why, that two brothers had killed each other because both played the same card, that is, because both loved the same woman. He said that he had taken notice of one who was very tall for him but in spite of the fact that he had done it to amuse himself, it was useless.”
- “I listened to him with pleasure because he talks well and I fear that because of that he may think that I’m giving him hope, as it is in reality, but as it happens that I like his conversation, I abandon myself to it and then when he goes away, I’m sorry; he comes and again I do the same thing.”
Because Consuelo was indeed pretty, she also had to deal with other suitors aside from Rizal and Lete. It was also during that time when the brothers Maximino and Antonio Paterno visit her regularly. Consuelo seemed to be thorned between many good men but after a series of self-contemplation, ended up preferring Rizal among these good men.
- “I find myself in a position of not knowing which side to take: Lete on one side, Rizal on the other, on another the two brothers; all attack and I have nothing with which to defend myself except my head, for I don’t see, as I go nowhere, my former admirers, though it would be the same should I see them.”
- “Then I had more suitors than now and I don’t know if for that very reason I didn’t give them altogether even ten minutes. Now, on the other hand, I think of them and my opinion is divided between Rizal and Lete. The first one tempts me by his manner of speaking and because he seems to me a serious lad, though formal ones frighten me.”
The content of Consuelo’s diary portrayed a surprising image of our national hero. A frank, romantic Dr. Jose Rizal who shamelessly expresses his feelings for such a wonderful woman. Consuelo wrote on February 24, 1883:
- “Last night as in former times I was talking with Rizal. He said that now if he would make love to a girl, he would do it “with the mouth, inasmuch as my heart is dry, as you know.”
- “This is what I vaguely recall of our conversation; but in the struggle of that soul, in the profound meaning of his words that he articulated one by one underlining them with the accents of passion that he could ill conceal, there was a moment when I seemed to hear him (presumption of my youth, perhaps!) say: “You’re the woman who has performed that miracle, I love you,” and certainly, or my heart deceives me greatly, who know if the satisfaction of being loved, of the mere fact of being so, certainly it seemed to me that he was at the point of saying it, but he refrained from doing so, not so much for the fear of being repulsed but for not being a traitor to that friend, but I can say without fear of making a mistake that there passed through his imagination all that I wrote and last night he was happy and unfortunate at the same time.”
After some time, Rizal eventually gave up his romantic intentions for Consuelo. Rizal did not want to compete with Lete, whom he treated as a brother. He was also still in love with Leonor. Consuelo, on her part, admitted to Rizal that she could not reciprocate his love, as he had wished.
- “Rizal told me the other night that they had written him telling him that his family would be glad if he would return to the Philippines in June. His manner of saying it made me understand that it was like flight … Conversing with me he said that he had not yet understood me, that he didn’t know what I think of him.”
- “As a friend,’ I said to him. ‘Would you want more?’”
- “‘It’s true that’s enough,” he replied with a slight irony.
The intimate records on Consuelo’s diary ended on May 28, 1884 when Rizal came to their house one morning to bid farewell. Until the very end, Consuelo could not help but express her admiration with Rizal’s ingenious humor and intelligence.
- “Last night many came to bid us farewell. Rizal was the first to arrive. I had on a morning cape that I had made out of the cloth that Rizal had given me as a present. I made a grand impression. I showed it to him saying: “So you see I’ve fulfilled my promise; I’m dressed like a doll.”
- “Rizal was expressive and bolder than other times, and I mean by this that he told me some things more clearly; but, as always, he used other persons and images to tell me what he wanted to say. It pleases me to have to divine his thoughts veiled with innumerable metaphors and euphemisms, a thing which is not very difficult for me to understand as I have the key.”
Discovery of the diary
The copy of the diary came from Mr. Eduardo de Lete, one of Rizal’s contemporaries who became the fiancée of Consuelo.
A La Señorita C.O. y R.
Rizal was indeed engrossed with Consuelo and apparently, Consuelo asked him some romantic verses. One of them was A La Señorita C.O. y R. (To Miss Consuelo Ortiga y Rey), a poem written by Dr. Jose Rizal on August 22, 1883 which was dedicated to Consuelo. The poem was about Rizal’s confusion on his relationship with Consuelo.
According to Lete, soon after the formalization of their engagement, she soon lost her humor. It also seems that their marriage did not push through. Lete narrates that years after her father’s death, Consuelo’s brother Rafael went to the Philippines to fill in a government post but died suddenly. Lete further recounts:
- “She was left alone and abandoned in Madrid. A romantic girl deprived of her mother at an early age, possessing an education rare in those times, she saw all her love affairs crumble and all her illusions wither.”
- “She was very unfortunate, dying alone, sad, and abandoned, a victim of tuberculosis … An excellent and illustrious friend communicated to me this news when I went to Madrid as representative of a very important news agency of London on the occasion of the marriage of King Alfonso XIII in 1906 … May she rest in peace.”
- The Diary of Consuelo Ortiga y Pérez  (Accessed 1 March 2012)
- Heartbreak marked Rizal’s love life  (Accessed 1 March 2012)
- Rizal@150 - Rizal:Haligi ng Bayan  (Accessed 1 March 2012)