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The Chinese Ancestry of Jose Rizal

Craig started the lineage from Lam-co, a Chinese immigrant from the Chinchew district in the Fokien Province in China. Chinchew was where the Jesuits and later the Dominicans had their missions...

In my recent book “Like the Mimosa,” I included my column on our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, which I wrote eight years ago. The column is titled “ Jose Rizal—a Man of Ironies” and can be found on p. 151 of that book. My main theme was that despite his small physical stature, his mind, his aspirations, his accomplishments and his patriotism are all of gigantic measure.

I also mentioned that his father, Francisco Mercado was a Chinese mestizo. So today I would like to elaborate on this. History books have hinted at this aspect of Rizal’s make-up but only recently have we seen more details.

In June of 2004, Austin Craig published his e-book “Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot” and gave a long-winded account of Rizal’s Chinese Ancestry (Chapters 2 and 3). Craig was an Assistant Professor of Oriental History at the University of the Philippines and he did the research through the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.

Craig started the lineage from Lam-co, a Chinese immigrant from the Chinchew district in the Fokien Province in China. Chinchew was where the Jesuits and later the Dominicans had their missions and Lam-co was perhaps aware of Christianity before coming to the Catholic Philippines. It was a literary center with half a million candid and friendly people especially to foreigners. The district now is better known for the port of Amoy.

Lam-co was above ordinary standing as evidenced by his leadership among those who settled with him in Binan. He was baptized in the Parian (Chinese Catholic) church of San Gabriel on a Sunday in June of 1697 at the age of thirty-five and he took the name of Domingo in honor of the day. Thirty some years later he married Inez de la Rosa, an educated daughter of a Chinchew family in the same church in Biñan. Inez was half his age. Among their offsprings was a son Francisco Mercado, named after a family friend Friar Francisco Marquez and Mercado to denote a merchant, thus saving the son from prejudice against Chinese surnames yet retaining a link to the Chinese merchant. This name would appear later in the lineage.

Francisco Mercado turned out to be a well-to-do rancher with a large herd of carabaos. On May 26, 1771, he married Bernarda Monicha, a Chinese mestiza from San Pedro. In 1783 he was the alcalde (chief officer) of Binan. Their eldest son Juan married Cirila Alejandra, daughter of Domingo Lam-co’s, Chinese godson, Siong-co. Juan Mercado followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming alcalde of Binan in 1808, 1813 and 1823.

Gobernadorcillo Mercado (or Capitan Juan as he was called) and Cirila had a huge family. Among the younger sons was Francisco Rizal Mercado who turned out to be Jose Rizal’s father. Francisco was only eight years old when his father Juan died, but his mother and older sister Potenciana took care of him. After their mother passed away, Potenciana and Francisco moved to nearby Calamba.

A year after Potenciana died in 1847, Francisco Mercado married Teodora Alonzo who resided in Calamba with her mother although a native of Manila. The lineage of Teodora Alonzo is harder to traced, although her father, Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo (1790-1854) is said to look very much like a Chinese.

Three generations of Alonzos were municipal captains of Biñan and at various times head of the mestizos’ organization of the Santa Cruz district in Manila. The name of Alonzo was also changed to Realonda in 1850 with an allusion to royal blood or possibly a mistake in writing.

Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda was born in Kalamba, Laguna on June 19, 1861 to Francisco Engracio Rizal Mercado y Alejandro and his wife Teodora Morales Alonzo Realonda y Quintos. He was the seventh child. Like most Filipinos, Rizal’s ethnicity comes from many streams, not the least of which is the Chinese ancestry even though attempts are often made to hide this through a name change.

Rizal was baptized when he was three days old by a Filipino priest, Fr. Rufino Collantes. A translation of his birth and baptism reads as follows: “I, the undersigned parish priest of the town of Calamba, certify that from the investigation made with proper authority, for replacing the parish books which were burned September 28, 1862, to be found in Docket No. 1 of Baptisms, page 49, it appears by the sworn testimony of competent witness that JOSE RIZAL MERCADO is the legitimate son, and lawful wedlock, of Don Francisco Rizal Mercado and Dona Teodora Realonda, having been baptized in this parish on the 22nd day of June in the year 1861, by the parish priest, Rev. Rufino Collantes, Rev. Pedro Casanas being his godfather.” —Witness my signature. (signed) LEONCIO LOPEZ.

(Reprinted from COUNTERPOINT with permission from the author.)

© Eusebio L. Koh

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