Mis sueños cuando apenas muchacho adolescente,
Mis sueños cuando joven ya lleno de vigor,
Fueron el verte un día, joya del mar de oriente,
Secos los negros ojos, alta la tersa frente,
Sin ceño, sin arrugas, sin manchas de rubor.
My dreams, when life first opened to me,
My dreams, when the hopes of youth beat high,
Were to see thy lov’d face, O gem of the Orient sea,
From gloom and grief, from care and sorrow free
No blush on thy brow, no tear in thine eye. (Derbyshire)
Rizal now presents us with a flashback to the beginning of his love affair with the Patria. The Derbyshire translation however, removes some important contextual information. “My dreams when I was an adolescent boy/My dreams as a vigorous youth” writes Rizal in Spanish. Why does he specifically mention adolescence? It is a nod towards a man who, probably more than any other, sparked Rizal’s nationalism, the martyred Fr. Burgos who was executed when Rizal was almost 11 and, therefore, approaching adolescence.
Burgos was a friend of Rizal’s elder brother, Paciano, who infact was living with the priest in 1872, the year of his execution. It is to Burgos that Rizal refers in Noli Me Tangere as Ibarra passes the killing field of Bagumbayan: “He thought on the man who had opened the eyes of his intelligence and made him understand what was good and what was just”.
In a letter to Mariano Ponce in 1889, Rizal traced the emergence of nationalism to the deaths of Burgos and explains “At the sight of those injustices and cruelties, though still a child, my imagination awoke, and I swore that I would dedicate myself to avenge one day so many victims…”
Adolescence, the limbo between childhood and adulthood, is the time of sexual awakening and the attitudes and relationships of this period often become the templates for those of the rest of our lives. It was the moment of Rizal’s first crush, on a 14 year old colegiala called Segunda Katigbak at the still-extant Concordia College. His description of that relationship is revealing.
They were obviously attracted to each other yet, in the Guerro translation of his Memorias he writes: “I adopted a course of silence, determined that until I should see greater proofs of sympathy between us, I would not subject myself to her yoke, or tell her that I love her.” Later, in words of heartbreak he says: “Ended at an early hour, my first love!… My illusions will return, yes, but indifferent, uncertain, ready for the first betrayal on the path of love”
From then on Rizal shows a reluctance to dive into the pool of love wholeheartedly and his fear of betrayal survived into his last relationship, with Josephine Bracken.
Of Segunda, Rizal says “I realized that she was the woman who satisfied completely the yearning of my heart, and I told myself that I had lost her”.
It is legitimate to wonder whether the imagery of the redeemed, honorable Partia with dark eyes and head held high is an echo of Segunda Katigbak, Rizal’s first love.
In this verse Rizal tells us when and by whom his love for the Patria was ignited, when he began to dream of Patria with her dark eyes dry and her head held high and proud, without sorrow or shame. Here we have Rizal’s personification of the Patria as a sorrowing, shamed woman to be redeemed.
Yet where does Patria’s shame come from? She has not, by her actions, shamed herself. The answer may have its inspiration close to Rizal’s own home: His mother was illegitimate at a time when social mores held illegitimacy itself to be a cause of shame, a background shared by his heroine, Maria Clara. Rizal adored his mother yet, like Patria, she was tainted by the circumstances of her birth, just as the Patria is tainted by the morally illicit complicity between Filipinos and Spaniards. The Patria’s shame can only be redeemed by Filipinos themselves.