Written by Lope Lindio
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 Calambeños 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...