The town of Calamba in the 19th century was a sleepy agricultural town that lay in the shadow of the fabled Mount Makiling. It is a small town of only about 500 hectares of sloping hills on the southern shores of Laguna de Bay. It is a town which every Filipino student comes to know early in life as the birthplace of our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
Kalan ba? Kalan ba?
Calamba takes its name from a legend set at the turn of the 16th century. Two Spanish soldiers approached a local girl carrying an earthen jar. One of the soldiers asked the girl for the name of the town on they were.
Unfamiliar with the foreign language, the girl nervously answered (or threw probably answered back with a question), Kalan ba? Kalan ba?, holding up the jar that she bore.
The frightened lass hurriedly left the soldiers muttering to themselves (probably convinced that name of the town is), “Calamba…Calamba…” Today, a monument to the legend stands on the town plaza.
The Mercado House
The home of Don Francisco Mercado and Doña Teodora Alonso on Calle Real was the birthplace of their eleven children, namely: Saturnina, Paciano, Narcisa, Oilimpia, Lucia, Maria, Jose, Concepcion (who died at the age of three), Josefa, Trinidad and Soledad.
It was at this Idyllic Ancestral Home of the Mercados in Calamba that all of the Mercado children were born and grew up with normal joys and sorrows; one of them was destined for greatness.
Church of Calamba
Located beside the Mercado House is the Church dedicated to San Juan Bautista. As the family legend goes, it was in this church that a prophecy about Jose Rizal’s greatness was foretold.
On the eve of her seventh childbirth, Doña Teodora went to the church (located beside their home) for confession and communion as a tradition for women who are about to give birth.
According to the story, in the midst of her confession, a loud soulful wail came from her womb. Startled, the priest interrupted Teodora to ask if she had brought along a child. Emerging from the confessional, she was asked by an old woman why her unborn child protested so mournfully.
Embarrassed and confused, Doña Teodora, hurried home as she felt the painful pangs of labor has begun. Her labor lasted until the next day. Just before midnight, the Mercados welcomed their second son, a tiny delicate child whose head unusually large in size.
On the third day after his birth, the child received his baptism and was given the name Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda. The priest who administered the baptism, Padre Rufino Collantes noted the unusual size of the baby’s head and told Doña Teodora to “take good care of this child because someday he will be a great man” –a prophecy that was fulfilled after 35 years.
The baptismal cistern used during the time of Jose Rizal’s christening is still being used to this day.
The hill called Licheria was once a Dominican-owned cow pastureland where it has been told that the adolescent Jose Rizal was often seen riding his horse.
Today, the hill is a haven for the two sects called the Rizalista who deify Jose Rizal.
The church of the Rizalistas can be reached by following a road at the foot of a small hill, passing by several old cemeteries along the way.
Viewed from atop this hill is the old town of Calamba where the church and ancestral house of the Rizals are located.
Paligon sa Aplaya
In the olden days, traveling from Calamba to Manila and vice-versa meant taking a boat ride across the Laguna de Bay. The young Jose accompanied by his brother Paciano took the boat ride from Paligon sa Aplaya to Manila. It was during this time when Jose began using Rizal as last name while enrolling at Ateneo de Manila for his secondary education.
Today, no historical marker was place to indicate this event in Jose Rizal’s life. The Paligon sa Aplaya serves as a docking place of boats headed for Talim Island.