Jose Rizal had become the soul of the Philippine Revolution. He was martyred by firing squad at the age of 35, for allegedly instigating and leading the independence revolution which ironically he was not in favor off and did not organize. Rizal was born on June 19, 1861 in the first bahay-na-bato to be built in the sleepy agricultural town of Calamba in Laguna.
The Ancestral Home of the National Hero
The ancestral house of Jose Rizal in Calamba, Laguna was totally rebuilt in 1954 by the Philippine government, with the assistance of contributions from schoolchildren. Architect Juan Nakpil based the construction of the new house on oral tradition and remains of the original foundation unearthed. Only a single photograph showing the original structure remained.
According to tradition, it took two years for Don Francisco Mercado to build the first bahay-na-bato in Calamba. Typical style of the times, the ground floor was of lime and stone. Its upper storey was of the best hardwood of which Don Francisco personally supervised the cutting of the narra and molave logs he selected from the forest of Makiling. Its roof was of red tile.
The large house was situated near the church and town plaza. It suggests prosperity and progress befitting the hardworking Mercados who were the first in town to keep a carriage, a vast collection of books and send their children to school in Manila.
As a child, Rizal reveled in the orchard and listened to his mother’s fanciful stories on the azotea where the water well is located.
It was in the kitchen where he learned the alphabet.
In his room which he shared with his only brother Paciano that he learned his prayers.
He pored through the books in his father’s library and with a tutor he first learned Latin.
Historians of architecture, interior design and landscaping and some descendants of Rizal questioned the accuracy of the reconstructed house after the shrine was opened. For Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria, the 1954 attempt was a best effort for its time, and commendable for its sincerity and appreciation of history.
Jose was enrolling at Ateneo de Manila for secondary studies when used Rizal as his surname. That was in 1872, the same year when three Filipino priests were garroted to death for filibusterism that February. Everyone else in the family was still using the name Mercado.
Mercado had become associated with activism. His 21-year-old brother Paciano, in fact, had left tertiary studies because he was associated with Father Jose Burgos, one of the three Filipino priests who were martyred at Bagumbayan. Paciano wanted the young Jose who they fondly called Pepe to begin schooling in Manila without any prejudices against him.
The family was hardworking and intellectually awakened. Paciano became a general in the Philippine Revolution. Rizal had nine sisters, one died a toddler. Josefa and Trinindad became women members of the Katipunan and witnessed the marriage of Andres Bonifacio and Gregoria de Jesus.
Both Rizal’s parents were well-read. His mother, Doña Teodora Alonso Mercado was one of the few women during her times who had acquired formal schooling. According to tradition, the Rizals had at least 1,000 titles in their home library. Each child was taught to read around the age of three by Doña Teodora.
The Ordeals of the Rizals
Jose’s parents, during their old age, as well as his brothers-in-law, suffered exile and great persecution as a result of his acerbic writings and campaigns for reforms. By then the whole family was using the surname Rizal with pride. There were many ordeals, and the Rizal family’s ability to cope inspired other Filipinos, even if they hoped that never would have to sacrifice similarly for their convictions.
The Rizals also suffered because they protested, along with many of their neighbors, the unwarranted rental increases demanded to them by the Dominican land owners. The government also forced them out of their homes.
An Imagined Image of Rizal
There is no photograph of Rizal before he turned eleven years old, and despite technological advancement retrogression from adult photograph can not give an accurate portrait of Rizal as a little boy.
However, artist Dudley Diaz conceptualized a life-size sculpture of Pepe at age eight. The sculpture shows Pepe peering in into the horizon wondering what lies ahead. He holds a stick he throws to his pet dog Verguenza, standing by.
The birthplace museum complex is a tribute to considerate parenting. It reminds how important it is to keep the family unit strong and effective as nurturing force and partner in long life learning.
Information source: Visions of the Possible by Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria