Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dr. José Rizal's Descendants: Filipino Family Levels of Consanguinity

Dr. Penélope V. Flores, University professor, Author. Rizal Blogger
ON this Father's Day Week-end let me offer a toast to Dr. José Rizal's descendants who, together with the whole Filipino nation, and the Filipino diaspora communities all over the world, are celebrating the 150th Birthday anniversary of their famous ancestor.

(See for my reunion of the Rizal/Viola friendship over the years).

Contemporary Rizal descendants call Rizal Lolo José. But we do know Rizal never had a son who would provide a direct Jose Rizal line who could call him Lolo Much that the descendants could claim is a consanguinity line through Rizal's many married sisters: Saturnina Hidalgo, Narcisa Lopez, Olympia Ubaldo, Lucia Herbosa, Maria Cruz, and Soledad Quintero.

Rizal's only brother Paciano never used Rizal as part of his name. He was never legally married. However, Paciano Mercado had a child by his common law-wife. This offspring and his children's children do have a claim to a dircct Mercado Rizal line of descent. Josefa and Trinidad never married and therefore signed themselves Mercado.

While growing up as a youth and since none of Rizal's siblings were surnamed Rizal, he once entertained the ludicrous notion that he was an illegitimate child. In mirth, he wrote of this funny incident in one of his letters to Ferdinand Blumentritt. The explanation offered is that when José enrolled as a student at the Ateneo de Manila, Paciano demed it wise for him to enroll under the name Rizal, which after all was officially assigned to them during the 1846-1848 Surname Decree issued by then Govenor General Claveria.

Paciano Mercado was closely associated with Father José Burgos, one of the priests executed for complications in the Cavity Mutiny of 1872. Thus, free of the cloud of suspicion associated with Paciano Rizal, the nomenclature José Rizal carried a clean slate: no involvement with the political turmoil of the Indios, not even a trace nor of a remote possibility of being a filibustero. Little did they dream. Little did they know.

As a point of curiosity, I had been searching with futility for an article or publication of when and under what circumstances the Mercado sisters signed their surnames as Narcisa Rizal (letter of 27, Nov. 1883), Maria Rizal (27 November, 1883), Josefa Rizal (27 Nov. 1883), Olympia Rizal (27, Nov. 1883) Trinidad Rizal (27 Nov. 1883). In my volume copy, on pages 136- 139, I put a question mark beside each signature. Other letters were not consistent. Sometimes, these letters from the sisters were signed Mercado, sometimes Rizal.

Furthermore, on page 99, Letters Between Rizal and Family Members: 1876-1896 published by the National Historical Institute (1993), Paciano signed his letter "Paciano Rizal". HUH ??? Everytime I look at it, my jaw drops down to the floor in disbelief. I scratch my head in pure surprise. How did this happen? We need to look closely at the actual letters to verify this. The National Historical Society should publish correct translation copies of the original correspondence to remove such onomastic (naming patterns) questions and doubts about the Mercado-Rizal family name use.

Going back to the line of descent, the beauty of tracing family lines in the Philippines is that blood lines of consanguinity can be accounted for bilaterally (meaning lines of descent are made through the father as well as the mother sides). However, today, if you look at the register of appellidos, out of a total population of 84 + million Filipinos, no one has the certified legal and true baptismal surname of RIZAL. The patronym started and ended with Dr José Rizal.

But notwithstanding this fact, we had been enriched, empowered, and have developed much stronger family ties because of this consanguinity pattern of the Rizal family relationships. We continue to be awed and impressed by the collective achievements of the Rizal descendants who had grown in number geometrically.

Kudos to my Rizal family friends: Patti Laurel, Mari and Victoria Vergara, Tom, Christine and Caya Consunji and Gemma Cruz Araneta. My next objective is to trace more and smoke out the other Rizal relatives.

And so, "Happy Lolo José Day" on this special confluence of Father's Day and Dr. José Rizal's 150th birthday on June 19, 2011.