Thursday, July 21, 2011

Virtual Ethnography 101: A Look Back on Jose Rizal's Family Genealogy

As part of the weekly exercises of my graduate students in Anthropology 225: Philippine Society and Culture, I wanted my students to explore places and write ethnography using the method of participation-observation.

In celebration of the sesquicentennial (150th) birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine's national hero, I asked my graduate students to visit museums that exhibit memorabilia for our dear renaissance Filipino man Jose Rizal, attend local and international academic symposium on The First World-Class Filipino Jose Rizal, travel to his ancestral house in Laguna, or pay respect to one of Asia's great intellectuals enshrined at Luneta Park, and so on...

I am posting in my blog with the writer's consent selected ethnography penned creatively by my students to contribute to the emerging sub-discipline of anthropology called 'Virtual Ethnography'.

Basically, virtually ethnography is also referred to as Webnography. We cannot deny the fact that with increasing use of technology and the Internet, there is now a demand for online spaces on various ethnographic accounts.

Ethnography by Candice Joyce Aragon

Our national hero, Jose Rizal (nickname Pepe), celebrated his 150th birth anniversary with various programs and exhibits all over the country and even overseas. Although we might proudly say that we know him so well, his life and works are still being much reviewed and commemorated.

Last weekend I passed through the place where he was executed - the Rizal Park or Luneta. Efforts have been made there to display his monument and other memorabilia for the public to meaningfully remember him and be able to trace back his life as a student up to his last valiant days. It was for this reason that the Department of Tourism launched the “Rizal Passport” program so tourists could visit the places where our hero left his indelible marks as well as for them to better appreciate Rizal. Tourists should have their “Rizal Passport” stamped in every designated spot within the park and within Intramuros as well. Much to my desire to try this new activity, time did not permit me to. Instead I went to Fort Santiago.

Aside from the Rizal Park, Fort Santiago in Intramuros is also a much visited place. Here, people are given a rare opportunity to see how our hero was held prisoner. I went there to see what has been improved since I last visited the place a few years ago. Inside Fort Santiago, everything looked the same. I chanced upon a Rizaliana Furniture Exhibit in the Baluarte de Sta. Barbara. I read the description and it said that the Rizals owned elegant wooden pieces of furniture which reflected how well-off they were. Dining set, four-poled bed, study table, side tables – these were turned over to the government by the great grand children of Pepe’s sisters. Some of them were taken from their house in Calamba while others were from Hongkong, where the family was exiled.

I also saw this framed family genealogy of our hero hanging on the wall. My knowledge about his family was refreshed by remembering that his forefathers were Chinese immigrants. My fellow visitors were, at the same time, fascinated by this fact. Adjacent to the baluarte and dungeon is the Fort Santiago museum which showcases Jose P. Rizal’s sculptures, family pictures, dentistry apparatus, fencing swords, copy of his novels, the lamp that had been used to send his last letters to his family, a few of his winter clothes, his Mi Ultimo Adios poem in different translations, family tree, and most of all, his holding cell. My attention got stuck at Pepe’s displayed family genealogy again and remembered that Bahay Tsinoy also has this type of exhibit. From here, I thought of researching and exploring other facets of our hero’s life.

Jose Rizal’s genealogy, based on the display, can be traced back to the last name Cua. His paternal ancestor Sian-co Cua, was married to a certain Zun-nio, from mainland China. Their son, baptized as Domingo Lam-co, was an immigrant and known for his leadership skills. He settled in Binan and married Ines Dela Rosa, daughter of a Chinese rice dealer in Manila. They had a son they named Francisco Mercado. Francisco was married to Bernarda Monicha, an orphan Chinese mestiza. They had two children, Juan and Clemente. At the young age of 22, Juan took a Chinese mestiza wife by the name Cirila Alejandro, and they were blessed with thirteen children. The youngest in the family was Pepe’s father, Francisco, named after his grandfather. He was known for his agricultural skills. Meanwhile, Pepe’s maternal grandparents were said to have a prominent resemblance of a Chinese – Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo, the municipal captain of Binan who was married to Brigida de Quintos, a well-educated woman. She bore a child they named Teodora Alonzo. The surname Alonzo was later changed to Realonda. Francisco Mercado married Teodora Alonzo, a native of Manila. They had 11 children, Pepe was the 7th child.

This goes to show that Jose Rizal was not only a product of mixed descent but most importantly, of skillful and intellectual lineage which greatly accounted for his intelligence, cognitive abilities, and aesthetic talents. With his numerous sacrifices and accomplishments not just to himself but to our country, Rizal is the best epitome of what a Filipino is and should become.


Austin Craig. “Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot.” Kessinger Publishing (2004). 18-24, 38-43

Maria Stella Sibal Valdez, et al. “Doctor Jose Rizal and the Writing of His Story.” Rex Book Store, Inc (2008). 54-55

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