Heritage

7 of the Greatest Love Stories in Philippine History

These couples dared to love in times of political turmoil, war, and violence.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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JOSE RIZAL AND LEONOR RIVERA


Of all of Jose Rizal’s women, Leonor Rivera was perhaps his truest and greatest love. Rivera, a native of Camiling in Tarlac, belonged to a landed family. As near-cousins, they first met during Rivera’s 13th birthday party. The two kept in contact through letters even as Rizal traveled around the world. After Rizal was named a filibustero, Rivera’s parents and Rizal’s father barred them from meeting. Thus, Rivera went on to marry an Englishman named Henry Charles Kipping and died on Aug. 28, 1893, after giving birth to their second child. Before her untimely death, she requested to be buried with the love letters Rizal had sent her.

FLAVIANO YENGKO


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Flaviano Yengko is often remembered as one of the youngest generals during the Philippine Revolution and the "Hero of Salitran." Originally, however, the unsung hero didn’t want to fight in the Revolution. At the time, Yengko had been finishing his law course and was courting a young Caviteña who reciprocated his feelings. The young lady’s father, however, preferred another suitor who had already fought in battles. According to Ambeth Ocampo, to deter his daughter from choosing Yengko, the father would then say, “[He] does not know anything but to dress himself like a woman and is incapable of picking up a gun and fighting like a man for our cause.” These very words soon reached the ears of Yengko who took action and joined Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army. He accomplished his duties and fought in a number of battles before his valor was noticed by Aguinaldo himself. He rose through the ranks and was soon a brigadier general. During the Battle of Salitiran, he was fatally wounded and brought to the hospital where he was nursed by his sweetheart. Sadly, he succumbed to his wounds and died on March 3, 1897, at the age of 23.

DON MARIANO LEDESMA LACSON AND MARIA BRAGA


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The Ruins, one of Talisay’s most famous tourist spots, was built as a symbol of love. Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, a baron of a 440-hectare plantation, had been instantly smitten upon meeting Maria Braga during one of his travels. He asked for her hand in marriage, and brought her to Talisay to start a family. Tragedy struck while they were expecting their 11th child as Braga slipped in the bathroom and died. To immortalize the love of his life, Lacson built a mansion in front of his ancestral home. The mansion was inspired by Braga, from the engraved letter M on the entrance to the marble-like concrete similar to Braga’s alabaster skin. Sadly, the mansion was burned for three days to keep the Japanese from using it as their headquarters during the war.

KING NORODOM I AND JOSEFA ROXAS


In 1872, Cambodia's King Norodom I made a two-week state visit to Manila. He was given the typical pleasantries: a 21-gun salute and a dinner hosted by the governor-general. His itinerary also included a tour around the country in modern-day Tagaytay and Pampanga. During his visit, the king fell in love with a certain Josefa Roxas y Manio, a member of the prominent Roxas clan. Ambeth Ocampo writes that the king tried to win over the Bulakeña by offering a gold jewel as big as a mangosteen. He then proposed to Roxas, but she declined, using religion and her duty to her aging parents as an excuse. With this, the king made his way back to Cambodia alone, but left the priceless piece of jewelry with Roxas.

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MANUEL QUEZÓN AND AURORA ARAGÓN


Growing up, Manuel Quezon was a dandy—well-dressed, suave, and a ladies man. This all changed when he started to notice his cousin Aurora Aragon. The two engaged in an intense yet playful courtship. Once, Quezon personally fetched zarzuela singer Atang de la Rama on horseback to serenade Aragon. On another occasion, Quezon decided to put Aragon’s love to the test. He paid her a visit while wearing orange blossoms around his neck. When she noticed and asked why, Quezon replied that he’d just been married. Aragon immediately burst into tears, realizing how much she loved Quezon. The two decided to fast track their engagement and soon they eloped in Hong Kong. The marriage lasted until Quezon's death in 1944. Five years later, Aragon was assassinated by a group of armed men while on her way to open the Quezon Memorial Hospital. The two are buried close to each other at the Quezon Memorial Shrine.

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ELPIDIO QUIRINO AND ALICIA SYQUIA


The story goes: One night at a party in Vigan, the lights momentarily went out. When they came back on, onlookers found 16-year-old Alicia Syquia in the secure embrace of 31-year-old Elpidio Quirino. In those times, the two had to marry to avoid scandal. As dowry for the marriage, Syquia’s father offered the family home, known today as the Syquia Mansion Museum. Unlike other couples, Quirino and Syquia only wrote letters to each other after they were married (Quirino worked as a congressman in Manila while Syquia remained in Vigan). The love letters of the two are displayed in the Syquia Mansion Museum. In them, Quirino signed “Your faithful and loving husband, who embraces you and kisses you.” Sadly, Syquia and three of her children were killed when caught in a crossfire during the liberation of Manila. Proving his undying love, Quirino personally dug a grave in Paco Cemetery and carried them there—never speaking about the ordeal again.

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SALVADOR ARANETA AND VICTORIA LÓPEZ

Aristocratic couple Salvador Araneta and Victoria López de Araneta’s love story is particularly poignant as it withstood war and destruction. In 1933, the Aranetas built their home in Mandaluyong, then a far-flung area. The stately European-style home was named the Victoneta and had 33 rooms, a private chapel, and luxurious interiors. When war broke out, the Japanese confiscated the grand house while the Aranetas retreated to Malabon. To keep their family afloat, the couple sold their belongings including luxuries such as clothes, shoes, bed linens, and curtains. Toward the end of the war, the Victoneta was bombed and the couple never looked back. They instead focused on business and established numerous companies (some remain the biggest today). Later in life, the Aranetas faced another challenge: Martial Law. Since they were already in San Francisco visiting their daughter, the two decided to stay put and manage their businesses from there. The couple passed away in the ‘80s, within a couple of years of each other.

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Paolo Chua
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