National hero na. Loverboy pa. This is how the museum guide at the Rizal Shrine in Fort Santiago described Dr. Jose Rizal while pointing at the portraits of women that were romantically linked to our national hero. Of the nine identified, three were Filipinas: Segunda Katigbak, Leonor Valenzuela, and Leonor Rivera.
Historians mention Segunda Katigbak as Rizal’s first love interest. Too bad for the young Rizal, the 14-year old maiden from Lipa Batangas was engaged to marry Manuel Luz, who also hailed from one of the prominent families in Lipa Batangas. Still existing on Calle Rizal in Lipa is the Luz-Katigbak Ancestral House also known as Casa de Segunda.
This bahay-na-bato was built in the 1880’s. It was time when Lipa was envied by other towns in the country for its wealth. This unparalleled prosperity came to this Batangas town when coffee producing countries in Europe and the Americas were infested and Lipa became the world’s sole supplier of coffee bean.
In 1887, the Reina Regente Maria Cristina granted the title of Villa to Lipa. At that same time, Segunda’s father, former gobernadorcillo Don Norberto Catigbac y Calao (the surnames later Filipinized to Katigbak and Kalaw) was awarded with the Grand Cross of the Order of Reina Isabel La Catolica as recognition for his outstanding services that benefited the Spanish crown.
Like in most towns in the country, Lipa was burned to the ground during World War II. Fortunately, the Luz-Katigbak Ancestral house was spared from the bombings. The house has been restored as a vacation house and was recently turned into a private museum.
Most of the things we learned about the house and its original owners came from Lilet Malabanan, granddaughter of Segunda Katigbak. Being such a gracious host, she proudly showed us around the house of her Lola Unday (Segunda) and Lolo Uwel (Manuel).
The ground floor or silong was usually used as storage for the produce and it also where the caruaje was parked. When they opened the house as a museum, reading materials were placed in the lower floor for the visitors.
On the left wing of the ground floor is the dining room with a unique bastonero or hat rack.
Climbing up the main staircase leads to the spacious living room. In one corner is a piano and an old violin. Mrs. Malabanan narrated that the children and grandchildren of Manuel and Segunda got inclined into music. They performed like a small orchestra usually after dinner.
Mrs. Malabanan explained that most of the current furniture was recently acquired to match the look and feel of the house. But there are a few furniture that is part of the original house like the marble chess table. It is said that Don Manuel Luz defeated Rizal in a game of chess in this same table.
The second floor is surrounded by huge windows with original capiz sliding-panels. Below the windows are ventanillas that were opened to allow cross-ventilation.
Passing the mesa altar, we were led to the bedrooms. Segunda’s bedroom has a four-poster bed with intricate carvings and a huge aparador.
Our tour of the house ended at the courtyard. Mrs. Malabanan shared that her Lola Unday loved this house. She narrated that while some family members migrated to Manila, her Lola Unday chose to stay in this house until her last days.
-Valentine’s Day 2012