by Ma. Cielito G. Reyno

      Rizal’s paternal lineage can be traced back to the village of Sionque in Chin-Chew (or Chang-chow) district in Fujian, southern China, near the prosperous and ancient trading port of Zaiton.  Among his earliest identifiable ancestors were Siang-co and Zun-nio who gave birth to a son who later acquired the name Lam-co, which in English means, “Lam, Esquire”.  Lam-co migrated to the Philippines sometime during the late 1600s.

     In 1697, at the age of 35, Lam-co was baptized at the San Gabriel Church in the predominantly Chinese community of Binondo.  He adopted “Domingo” his baptismal day, as his first name.  He married a Chinese mestiza said to be half his age named Ines de la Rosa, who belonged to an entrepreneurial family in Binondo.  Ines was the daughter of Agustin Chin-co and Jacinta Rafaela, a Chinese mestiza resident of the Parian.

     With the rigid social stratification prevailing at that time, it was evident that Lam-co did not come from the ranks of coolies, the class of migrant menial workers from China.  Through his association with two Spanish friars, Fr. Francisco Marquez, authority on Chinese grammar, and Fr. Juan Caballero, he was invited to settle in the Dominican estate of San Isidro Labrador in Biñan, Laguna.  Lam-co was said to have been instrumental in the building of the irrigation works known as Tubigan, which made the area where it was situated the richest part of the estate.  He and his family lived in the estate along with fellow immigrants from Chin-chew, China.

      Lam-co and Ines de la Rosa had a son born in 1731.  They named him Francisco Mercado, believed as a gesture of gratitude to another friar of the same name, and also after a Spanish mestizo friar renowned for his botanical studies.  The surname “Mercado”, which means “market” in Spanish, was quite appropriate, too, since many ethnic Chinese were merchants, and many having adopted the same surname.

      In 1771, Francisco Mercado married Bernarda Monica, a native of the nearby hacienda of San Pedro Tunasan, then, like Biñan, was populated by many Chinese migrants, or Chinese mestizos.  They had two sons named Juan and Clemente.  For a short period, he settled his family at the hacienda of San Juan Bautista in Calamba.  However, hostility towards the Chinese immigrants as well as natives of Chinese descent- a backlash from the British invasion of Manila in 1762, during which the local Chinese supported the British against the Spaniards- forced Francisco Mercado to return his family to Biñan.

      Francisco Mercado owned the largest herd of carabaos in Biñan.  He was active in local politics.  He was elected as the town’s capitan del pueblo around 1783.  Popular and good-natured, he often stood as godfather during baptisms and weddings, as Biñan’s church records revealed.  He died in 1801.

      His son, Juan Mercado married Cirila Alejandra, a daughter of one of Domingo Lam-co’s godsons, and who hailed from Tubigan.  The couple had 13 children.  They lived in large house made of stone in the center of Biñan.  (One of his children, Francisco Engracio, born in Biñan sometime in April 1818 was the father of Jose Rizal).

      Like his father, Juan Mercado also served as the town’s capitan del pueblo in 1808, 1813, and 1823.  On many occasions, “Capitan Juan”, as his town mates referred to him, was the hermano mayor in religious and social affairs.  Like his wife, he was benevolent and hardworking.  His status earned him the privilege of electing the Philippine representative to the Spanish parliament in 1812.

       He died when his son, Francisco Engracio, was only eight years old.

     With his sisters and brothers, Francisco Engracio helped his widowed mother in managing the family’s business.  He married Teodora Alonso Realonda de Quintos, a daughter of one of Manila’s most distinguished families in 1848.

      Sometime after 1849, in compliance with Governor Claveria’s decree ordering Filipinos to adopt Spanish surnames (to facilitate documentation, for, many Filipino families shared the same family name such as “De La Cruz”, etc.)– Francisco Engracio Mercado added added “Rizal” to the family surname, from the Spanish word “ricial”, which connotes a green field or pasture.

      Francisco moved his family to Calamba, where he farmed lands leased from the Dominican friars, growing sugar cane, rice and indigo.  He also started a mixed orchard engaged in trade, raised poultry, in all of which he was assisted by his wife Teodora.  In time, Franciso’s family became one of the wealthiest in Calamba.