“BIG BROTHER’S TALE”
A Tribute to Paciano Rizal
by Chris Antonette Piedad-Pugay
When we open the pages of history books in our country, it is not surprising to see texts about the martyrdom of Andres Bonifacio, the GOMBURZA, Apolinario Mabini and of course our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Why not? They are the countries’ most celebrated heroes and it is very much fitting to immortalize them by writing their lives in books read upon by several generations. It is a way of paying respect and gratitude to their many contributions and sacrifices for the benefit of the Filipino people and of our nation. It’s just unfortunate that while every possible means are being done to recognize all the heroes of our nation, the “others who fell during the night” as quoted from Elias, remained to be unsung, uncelebrated and worst, sometimes forgotten.
The Philippines is no doubt a cradle of heroes. Great men and women came from her bosom. One of them is a great general of the revolution, a patriotic man, yet not so known and more often than not only identified as Jose Rizal’s big brother—no other than Paciano.
Paciano Mercado was born on 7 March 1851 to Don Francisco Mercado and Doña Teodora Alonso. He was the second of the 11 children of the couple. As what most of us knew about him, he was the big brother of our national hero. But more to this character, there is something more that he had offered for his family and for our country.
Just like Pepe, his first teacher was Doña Teodora who taught him basic reading, writing and praying. He was eventually sent to Biñan, Laguna to learn more under the tutelage of Maestro Justiniano Aquino Cruz. Eventually his parents sent him to Manila to pursue further education. For quite a while, he studied at the College of San Jose. During his stay in Manila, he lived and worked with Father Jose Burgos, one of the three martyr priests implicated in the 1872 Cavite Mutiny. Probably, his acquaintance with Father Burgos made him very vocal on his criticisms regarding the abuses of the Spanish friars.
Due to their parents’ old age, Paciano was tasked to look after the education of his younger brother. He brought his younger brother to Biñan also to study under Maestro Justiniano. In 1872, Paciano accompanied Pepe to Manila and had him enrolled at the Ateneo Municipal. Most biographers of our national hero believed that it was Paciano who was responsible for making his brother use the surname Rizal instead of Mercado, for he wanted his brother to enjoy a hassle-free and first-rate education, that would not be possible had he used the surname Mercado. Due to his strong connection with Father Burgos, the friars and the Spanish authorities turned out to be very suspicious of Paciano. As a protective brother, he changed his brother’s surname from Mercado to Rizal to prevent the friars in knowing their affiliation. Luckily, Pepe was able to make most out of his student life in Ateneo. Paciano also made sure that all his brother’s needs were well taken cared.
In 1882, Pepe went abroad to continue his medical studies in Europe. Unfortunately, the heavy tasks fell on Paciano’s shoulders—First, to inform their parents on Pepe’s real intention in leaving the Philippines; Second, to comfort them in their unspeakable sorrow and most importantly, to carry the burden of working hard to find means to finance his brother’s expenses while studying abroad.
A Patriot in his own Right
As a young student in Manila, Paciano saw the injustices and cruelties committed by the friars of the time. He decided to collect donations from people he knew to support the cause of secularization and to help Father Burgos in his propaganda works. In his letter to his brother dated 26 May of 1882, he mentioned that he was trying his best to help the Filipino crusade for reforms by making sure that many of the people of Calamba subscribe “Diariong Tagalog.” Further, he encouraged Pepe to have his works published and sent him the needed money to put them into printing. For a while, Paciano tried to translate “Noli me Tangere” into Tagalog with Pepe’s consent and guidance, unfortunately, Paciano’s Tagalog version was lost to posterity.
The Prize of being involved
In 1888, an agrarian crisis cropped up in Calamba and the Mercado family (they assumed the surname Rizal upon the hero’s death) was prominently figured out in the said dispute. The family lost the case and was ejected from their homes and lands. The case didn’t end there; Paciano and four other Calambeños were exiled in Mindoro from September 1890 until November 1891. Just after serving a 14-month exile in Mindoro, he was again exiled in Jolo, this time taking the place of his brother-in-law, Antonio Lopez.
After the publication of the “Noli me Tangere” and the “El Filibusterismo,” being affiliated to the author seemed like carrying a heavy cross. Each member of the family also suffered persecution, Paciano was not an exemption. The worst sacrifice he had to suffer only to protect his brother took place on December of 1896 while Pepe was detained in Fort Santiago. Not known to all, Paciano was arrested and was put into merciless and severe torture in an attempt of the Spanish authorities to extract statements from him that would incriminate his brother in the raging revolution that broke out in the islands in 1896. Paciano chose not to speak and bore the horrible body pains and moral humiliation from his perpetuators out of his conviction for truth and love for his brother. Family members testified that when Paciano was returned to back to his family, he was as good as dead.
Paciano as a Revolutionary Leader
The brutal experience he encountered in the hands of Spanish authorities not to mention the ill fate that befell upon his brother, made Paciano decide to volunteer his service to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. A day after his brother’s went, he went to Cavite with his sisters to contribute to the cause of the revolution in any way they could. When the Spanish forces took Cavite back, the revolutionary government headed by gen. Aguinaldo retreated to Biak-na-Bato in Bulacan. It was during those time that Pedro Paterno volunteered himself as negotiator and succeeded in coming up with a peace pact between the Spanish government and the revolutionary government of Aguinaldo.
In compliance with the provisions of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, the Filipino leaders voluntarily went exile in Hong Kong. However, the truce was short-lived due to violations committed by both parties. In 1898, Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines and immediately called for the renewal of the revolution against Spain that was temporarily put into halt by the peace pact.
Paciano was one of the first leaders who heeded to Aguinaldo’s call. He led his valiant men in the battlefield and fought for the cause of the Motherland. The outbreak of the Filipino-American War in 1899 did not stop him from fighting. He remained loyal and fought until his capture by the Americans in 1900.
When peace was already restored, Paciano retreated and went back to farming. He devoted himself in the cultivation of his large estate in Calamba. He remained in private life and refrained from political involvement until the last years of his life, believing that he and his family had already done their shares for the country’s welfare.
More than a Big Brother
Contrary to his brother who was much photographed and fully documented, Paciano had only two known pictures available—one was a snapshot in a family gathering and another was a shot taken of his corpse . It was not that he was some sort of camera shy, but he refrained being photographed for the reason that he was a wanted man in the past and the absence of his photos would mean greater freedom for him since the authorities would have hard time recognizing him and finding his whereabouts.
After his brother’s death, Paciano could have chosen to steal the limelight and make use of his brother’s martyrdom to gain popularity and fame for himself, but just like a true-blooded gentlemen, he chose a quiet life and gave to his brother the respect he deserved. He firmly stood on the fact that their family was never patriotic for money or for anything else.
Paciano’s contributions may not be as celebrated as that of his brother’s, but Filipinos should take note of the big influence imprinted by him to our national hero. He served as a lighthouse to Pepe during tough and rough times and financially supported his brother’s fight for the country. Paciano took all the responsibilities of Pepe so that his younger brother may devote his time for the motherland’s cause. Probably, without Paciano, there could also be no Jose Rizal. Probably when Paciano was still alive, in a period of great solitude he uttered the words, “It’s not easy to be me.”