When I was ordained priest on December 2007, many people would ask “Kanino kaya s’yang anak?” (Whose son might he be?). On myprimera misa cantada(first sung mass), I met many distant relatives whom I never knew before. They say that many generations ago, the paternal side of my family, migrated from Guagua, Pampanga to Bulacan, my home province. Furthermore, they say that I am the only priest and religious from both sides of the family. And from then on, many have begun to trace my roots.
That’s why, I am not surprised to know that until now, the roots of our national hero, Jose Rizal, matter for many Filipinos especially historians. It must’ve been an honor if one can trace his roots and find out that Rizal is a distant relative! But would it be a disgrace to know that his family is not that perfect?
JOSE RIZAL'S ROOT
Jose Rizal himself described his maternal grandfather, Don Lorenzo Alberto Alonso, in a letter to his friend Ferdinand Blumentritt. He said that he was a deputy for the Philippines in the [Spanish] Cortes (Court), and that he was educated in Europe and spoke German, English, Spanish and French. He was honored as a Knight of the Order of Isabel la Catolica. And he generously aided the Dominican mission in Indo-China.
According to researches, he was married to a 12 y/o girl from Vigan named Paula Florentino but they never had a child. Ten years after, Brigida Querubin came into picture in Lorenzo's life. He was not married to Brigida making all her children with Lorenzo illegitimate.
Lorenzo and Brigida had 5 children, namely: Narcisa, Gregorio, Teodora (Jose Rizal's mother), Manuel and the youngest, Jose, to whom Jose Rizal was named after (and whose blood relation to the other siblings is in question).
The Rizals of Calamba are related to the Albertos of Biñan. Biographers agree that there is a blood relationship between the two families. However, they disagree on the exact nature of the relationship. Jose Alberto was argued to be either a brother or a half-brother of Teodora Alonso.
THE HOUSE IN BIÑAN
The wealthy maternal grandparents of Jose Rizal, Lorenzo and Brigida, had a mansion in Biñan. The two-storey ancestral home was built in the 1800's with a floor area of approximately 600 square meters.
As a pre-novice in Calamba City in 1999, I have been to Biñan for countless times. I might have passed by the “Alberto Ancestral House” without even knowing its importance in history. The photo on the left shows Biñan in the 1950's. The Alberto House with the enclosed courtyard can be seen in the lower right, in front of the plaza (town square), at the very heart of thepoblacion(town center).
The children of Lorenzo and Brigida grew up in thisbahay na bato(stone house) which the descendants of Jose Alberto refuted. They say that Teodora Alonso did not stay in that house since Jose Alberto was just his half-brother. They did so in order to justify that the house has no connection with Jose Rizal.
When Jose Rizal studied in Biñan at age 9, he did not even stay in thisbahay na batobut in his aunt's. This shows that there might had been a tension with the family of Rizal and his uncle Jose Alberto.
Below is a documentary on this issue:
THEORIES ON THE INCIDENCES THAT HAPPENED INSIDE THE ALBERTO ANCESTRAL HOUSE
The following theories are based on the "i-Witness" documentary entitled "Ang Lihim ng Pamilya ni Rizal" (The Secret of Rizal's Family) which was aired in the Philippines on 31 January 2011 over GMA-7. The documentary was well-researched and balanced. It is, however, thought provoking and leaves the mystery unresolved.
Theory 1: Teodora Formoso's unfaithfulness
Jose Alberto was married to Teodora Formoso. It is said that she had been unfaithful to Jose especially when he was out of the country. She had an affair with an officer of the civil guards. Upon knowing what had happened, Jose Alberto imprisoned Teodora Formoso inside their mansion.
Teodora Alonso came to the aid of her hurting brother, thebunso(youngest) in the family, even against the will of her husband, Francisco Mercado.
Theory 2: Teodora Alonso attempted to poison Teodora Formoso
One time, Teodora Alonso with her eldest, Saturnina, brought snacks for Teodora Formoso. Immediately, Teodora Formoso put the food on the floor and called her dog to eat it. The dog died instantly and she accused her sister-in-law of attempted murder. She suffered two years in jail as a consequence. A descendant of Teodora Alonso believed that this was a frame up. For what reason? Let's see the third theory.
Theory 3: Jose Alberto had an affair with Saturnina
It is believed that Jose Alonso had a child with her niece Saturnina. Soledad, the youngest child of Teodora Alonso and Francisco Mercado might had not been really their daughter but the daughter of Saturnina and Jose Alberto.
It was evident that Soledad was the prettiest according to eyewitnesses and different from the other siblings. It is important to note that Jose Alberto was a mestizo; and that Teodora and Saturnina once left their house and returned after some time with a baby that Teodora claimed her own. Would this be a reason for Teodora Formoso to frame up Jose Rizal's mother?
Theory 4: Jose Alberto is an illegitimate child but assumed to be legitimate
A theory has been presented by a cultural heritage advocate in the documentary above about the legitimacy of Jose Alberto. Prof. Santa Maria theorized that the children of Lorenzo and Brigida might had talked about the succession of the family's wealth after the death of their father, Lorenzo. Jose Alberto might have had stood as the legal heir, though he is their true blood brother, and as a consequence disowned his mother Brigida for the sake of the family. If this theory is plausible, then it would appear that Teodora Alonso, her other siblings and her own family were illegitimate (as claimed by the descendants of Jose Alberto).
Furthermore, Jose Rizal's writings in the Rizal section of the Ateneo de Manila University Library stated that Teodora Alonso and Jose Alberto really came from one set of parents.
Every family has its secrets, even the Rizals of Calamba, who are among the most important families in Philippine history. In the year when he died, 1896, Jose Rizal made his family tree. Interestingly, he left out the branches that leads to his mother Teodora Alonso. Was he trying to hide something? Or are we just over-rationalizing a simple unfinished work?
The Alberto Ancestral House has been a mute witness to these mysteries. Jose Rizal's family might have a story of unfaithfulness, betrayal, children out of wedlock, incest, conspiracy, family quarrels, and attempted murder. Certainly, these have been shocking stories in the late 19th century and even today. But only the persons involved knew what really happened aside from the Almighty God. Unfortunately, they have all departed from our world.
Did Teodora Alonso try to poison her sister-in-law? Or did the latter frame up the former because of personal issue? Did Rizal’s sister, Saturnina, have an affair with her uncle? Was Jose Alberto really a half-brother of Teodora Alonso or not? Many speculations and opinions may arise but the truth is kept locked in the past.
A descendant of the Alonso clan said in an interview above, "You don't have to come from a perfect family to become a hero." Come to think of it, does it matter if Jose Rizal’s family had a troublesome past? Will that make him less of a hero? I personally don’t think so. He was loved and protected by a family who inspired and influenced him. These theories, true or not, cannot reduce Jose Rizal from hero to zero.
The house now has been transferred to Bagac, Bataan.
i-Witness, GMA Channel 7 News and Public Affairs
"Secrets locked in Alberto house about Rizal’s mother" by Ambeth Ocampo,Philippine Daily Inquirer, 06/13/2010