About Biñan

Experience Biñan

What’s New

Contact Us

School of Rizal Site and Museum


Both José Protacio “Pepe” Rizal’s parents were well-acquainted with Biñan. As a matter of fact, his ancestors were change makers in the town. His mother, Doña Teodora Alonso who belonged to the most affluent and influential clan of Alonso de Alberto, spent her maiden years in the town until she married Don Francisco Engracio Mercado in 1848 and then moved to Calamba.

Pepe’s long paternal lineage starts from Fujian in Southern China, the region where most of the Chinese merchants in the Philippines, specifically the Cantonese, came from. Pepe’s great great grandfather, Domingo Lamco, migrated to Manila in 1690. Seven years after, he was baptized and assumed the first name “Domingo”. Later on, he married a Chinese mestiza, Ines de la Rosa. Domingo’s acquaintance with Spanish friars Fr. Francisco Marquez and Fr. Juan Caballero led him to settle in the Hacienda San Isidro Labrador in Biñan where they lived with other Chinese immigrants. Domingo was believed to be a contributor to the construction of the irrigation system in his residential area, now Barangay Tubigan. In 1731, Domingo adopted the surname Mercado, meaning merchant, as Chinese immigrants dominated the commerce in the town. After several generations of agricultural business and local politics, the fourth generation bore the prosperous tenant-farmer Don Francisco Engracio Mercado, Pepe’s father, who later moved to Calamba.

One Sunday, Don Francisco Engracio sent Pepe to the prosperous Biñan to pursue further studies in Latin, knowing that Biñan could teach his beloved son more than the education he could have in the hushed Calamba. Embarrassed to show his conflicted heart, the eight-year-old Pepe held back his tears as he parted from his weeping parents and sisters. He kissed his parents’ hands goodbye as he and Paciano Rizal, his brother who accompanied him in the hour-and-a-half-long journey, drove off in a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage).

Paciano introduced Pepe to Maestro Justiniano Aquino Cruz, whom Pepe thought had been Paciano’s teacher as well. Pepe described his maestro as a tall, thin and long-necked man whose nose was sharp and posture quite hunched. He thought of his maestro as exceptionally good in Spanish and in Latin, but he was not very fond of the maestro’s ways. Pepe was a pilosopo, a smart aleck—perhaps because he was in fact an exceptionally brilliant boy, a genius, or he was simply raised by an educated and cultured mother—that he would often get punished. He could not even forget the first blow of the maestro’s ferule on his hand, which pain he did not wish to elaborate on. Not to mention the many other times he got caned even though he was a star student. Although he understood its supposedly noble purpose, he resented the corporal punishment.

He was formally schooled at Maestro Justiniano’s house, about thirty meters away from the house of his paternal aunt, Tomasa Alejandro Mercado, whom he was staying with. The maestro’s house was simple and small, but it had plenty of green spaces around. Similar to a bahay na bato, its foundation was made of rock and its walls were made of wood in its natural brown color. But its roof was covered with pawid (palm leaves), like a bahay kubo (nipa hut). Its windows were wide and open—perfect for the tropical setting.

Pepe was also not very fond of his maestro’s son, Pedro. He was not exactly the nicest boy in class, in fact, he was a bully. One time while the maestro was taking his siesta (afternoon nap), Jose and Pedro got into a brawl. Pedro, who was clearly bigger than the frail little boy with an abnormally big head from Calamba, was confident that he would beat Pepe. To the surprise of everyone and to the shock of Pedro, Pepe won the fight. Later, Pepe got into another fight—in an arm wrestling this time—with another classmate, Andres Salandanan. Pepe’s weak arm was not lucky that afternoon—he lost the battle. Regardless, his win over Pedro became his invisible badge—a pride—that his small stature could not be used to tell how strong he could be.

Biñan, to Pepe, was a vast and wealthy place, but not a happy one for him. His life in Biñan was rather simple: wake up at 4 in the early morning to attend a service in the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace (now the Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje Parish Church); sit in Maestro Justiniano’s class from 8 to 10 in the morning; go home during his break, during which he would sometimes be asked to deliver food to his aunt Tomasa’s children which he hated (but more than anything he hated being accused of stealing the food); then go back to class from 2 to 5 in the afternoon. He would play with his neighbors and cousins for a while, after which he would prepare for his class the next day or would paint to kill time.

He was not fond of the food either. In Calamba, he could spoil on suman, a banana leaf-wrapped rice cake, tsokolate (hot chocolate), and old-style kesong puti (white cheese). In his aunt Tomasa’s house, he nourished on rice and two pieces of tuyo (dried sardines) for breakfast; and on rice and ayungin, a freshwater fish abundant in Laguna de Baý, for supper.

He had a happy childhood in Calamba, in the arms of his strict but loving mother. It was tranquil compared to the busy Biñan, which he was not accustomed to. Their house was the first bahay na bato in his hometown, signifying that he lived a very comfortable life. But Biñan turned him into a stranger to his own home—something that was needed and which he missed, turning him into who he had become. He was never the same Pepe after setting his foot in the busy town. Historian Peter Uckung strongly resonates with Nick Joaquin’s inkling that Biñan inspired Pepe to design the San Diego as how it was written in his epic novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

Tuesday-Sunday 9:00am-4:00pm

Related Articles

Historic Alberto Mansion

Historic Alberto Mansion

The heavy roof of the mansion of the illustrious Alberto clan is made with tisa (brick tiles) which was banned in the 1880s so it is believed to...

Sentrong Pangkultura ng Biñan

Sentrong Pangkultura ng Biñan

Constructed by the Dominican friars, Casa Hacienda was essentially a silo for their crops as well as for its people’s taxes. This two-storey,...