Rizal Would Have Become A Cebuano Written by Lope Lindio MABUHAY Wednesday, 18 June 2008 10:07 The probability was very high that if Jose Rizal was not executed, and he survived the tumultuous years following the Philippine Revolution, he would have become a Cebuano. His descendants, if he sired children, would have started a Bisaya/ Cebuano branch of the Mercado/Rizal families in Cebu or in Mindanao. And he would have been involved in politics, one way or another. Surely, he would not miss to have an active role in the founding of the Philippines, as a newly-liberated country, and help in charting the direction and destiny of the Filipinos.
And to speculate even further, if the history of the country proceeded as it happened, right after the coming of the Americans, he would have run and got himself elected senator of the region, or an assemblyman, representing a district or a province, either in the Visayas or Mindanao. If these assumptions turned out right, it can be safely guessed that the whole Mercado family would follow Rizal, abandon Luzon for good, and resettle in Mindanao. They would engage in agriculture, prosper, and become wealthy. This was how the Rizal family became rich in Calamba.
Remember, Mindanao then, and up to the 1960s, was a land of promise and opportunity. Lands were plentiful and a whole range of business possibilities were open to newcomers, especially those with business experience. This scenario is highly plausible because the Rizal family was down on its luck at the turn of the century. Yet, this was the time when he was starting a family of his own, as a result of his union with Josephine Bracken. And as the head of his extended family, Dr. Rizal also had to find ways to rebuild their fortune, cut down as it was, by forces too powerful for anyone to control, even for a man of genius.
First, the friars dispossessed them earlier of their lease holdings in the Calamba friar land estate, or their size considerably diminished. That was why Dr. Rizal came home from abroad, to plead personally to the Spanish Governor General for the redress of his family’s grievances. He was so desperate at this time that he reportedly proposed to the governor general that his family, and other Calambenos similarly situated, be allowed to settle in North Borneo, where the British offered lands. Another blow to their already battered lives came to follow rather quickly.
Even before the Spanish government could respond to his petition, he was arrested and sent in exile to Dapitan. This was an added pressure that further dislocated their lives. Naturally, these serial adversities stressed out his family to death. They were still looking for ways to be restored to their leasehold in Calamba when their knight protector, who came to help them, was himself picked up and expelled to a remote place. I would imagine that all these happenings unnerved them adversely, curtailing or even hampering any meaningful productive endeavors.
A development that aggravated more their economic uncertainty was the ongoing negotiation for the purchase of the friar lands by the US government. When it was consummated in 1903 for US$7-million, the tenants were by law supposed to be given preference. But in the case of the extended Rizal family, the rule was either moot or probably of so little significance. They had already been previously ejected or their lease severely limited. Also, about sixty-to-seventy thousand tenants were expected to share all of the friar lands, including the ones in Calamba.
This staggering number effectively reduced the distribution to each family, making it too small for people like the Rizals, who were used to cultivating considerable tracts of land. Of course, he could practice medicine or ophthalmology in Manila. But he was to be the sole bread winner in a family of no less than fifteen, who were farmers all their lives. His would be the only regular income, since all others were dispossessed of their landholdings. And even this source was doubtful and uncertain. As a doctor, he was able to support in Hong Kong a smaller household, consisting of his mother and sister.
But this time, the fate of his extended family was forced upon him by force of political and agrarian circumstances. And, further, he had this heroic propensity of working gratis; a habit that could complicate his ability to support his own and all others into the unforeseeable future. His parents were old, his brother Paciano, and his nine sisters, and the husbands of the married ones, were either dependent or unproductive, or nearing or past 50-years old, all of whom would have to be under his protection now, at least for sometime, since they had no more Calamba leasehold.
It was very obvious that they were without stable means of support at this time; what with all the troubles they had to go through for being related to him. If they were living off their investments and savings, Dr. Rizal should have realized by then that this source would soon be exhausted. Hence, he had to plan a way to support or help them start all over again, because, after all, their misfortune was mainly due to him. The idea of going to North Borneo was, of course, out of the question now. The dawn of a new era was breaking in the Philippine horizon.
Besides, going to such a far strange land was a radical course of action, dangerously experimental, and highly upsetting to any established family. It was to be entertained only as a last resort, if all else was hopeless. I would say that going to Mindanao was the most-logical alternative. He already had extensive properties in Dapitan where he lived for four years. His family was already at home there, having visited and stayed with him for extended periods. He spoke excellent Cebuano, and even his sisters who frequently stayed with him, spoke it with little or no difficulty.
And, of course, the people in the place took his family as their own. All that he had to do to get started was to buy more lands, resume his profitable hemp business, among others, and put his relatives to work on those lands, or start them in the business, or get them started on their own. After all, this was virgin territory, where lands could be exchanged for anything, like services attending the sick, or even given away for any reason or no reason at all. But for Dr. Rizal himself, I think he would have a personal agenda entirely apart from that of his extended family.
In this part of the country at that time, and to a certain extent, in the following years until the early sixties, it was the practice of the well to do in the nearby provinces, to take up residence in the Cebu capital. I believe that he would have followed the practice himself, right after he had finished putting all the pieces in their right places in Dapitan, and making sure that his farms and businesses were humming efficiently. This he had to do because the best educational facilities and the “modern” amenities known at the time were only available in the Cebu capital.
Manila was then as far to Dapitan as Hong Kong, in terms of travel time. Besides, the Cebu capital was big enough for him to open a thriving medical practice, and close enough to Dapitan. He could still oversee his landholdings and businesses there, by remote control and occasional visits as an absentee haciendado, which was common among big landowners. After all, Dapitan and Cebu were only separated at that time by about a day or two of sailing by boat. With this arrangement, he would have the conveniences that he was always musing to have in Dapitan during his exile.
He complained, for example, to Ferdinand Blumentritt and the friar, Pablo Pastells, with whom he corresponded while in exile, of the dearth of books and the lack of cultural and intellectual life in that place. In fact, at one time, he apologized to Blumentritt, thus: “I try to write to you in various languages [English, German, French] because here I speak with no one in these tongues and I am forgetting them. ” The level of the intellectual and cultural accessibility in the
Cebu capital was such that in one of his letters, he reported from Dapitan to Blumentritt of his valuable acquisition of three books; one from Manila, two from Cebu, and one from London, namely, Ethnographic Review, Das Echo and Fliegende Blatter, and Scientific American, respectively. In the Cebu capital, Rizal would have also agreeable company. Living like Spanish grandees after returning home from Europe were his long-time friends, Julio Llorente, and Celestino Rodriguez, very-rich Cebuano students he was closely associated with in Spain, especially Mr. Llorente, whom he entrusted at one time, to keep his important personal papers.
The Mercados/Rizals in their new life, either in Cebu or in Mindanao, would then become Bisaya/Visayans. They would raise their children as Cebuanos, and routinely speak the language of the place. And given Rizal’s characteristic antipathy for big egos, he would, in all likelihood, ally himself politically, more with the staid leadership of his new province mate, and even soul mate, Sergio Osmena, rather than with the other brilliant but mercurial and melodramatic, leader, Manuel Quezon of Tayabas, when the two rivals struggled for leadership for the most part during the American regime. # # #