Thursday, May 6, 2010

Teodora M. Alonso on Stamps

Teodora M. Alonso , the mother of Dr. Jose Rizal was a highly educated woman for her time and was Rizal's first teacher. She shared her son's suffering as an enemy of Spain. She lived to see the day her son was executed by firing squad in Bagumbayan field now known as Luneta.

Teodora was the second child of Lorenzo Alonso and Brijida de Quintos. Lorenzo was a capitan-municipal of Biñan, Laguna, a representative in the Spanish Cortes, a Knight of the Order of Isabela the Catholic and a surveyor by profession. Brijida de Quintos was an educated housewife who attended to her family's needs. In accordance to the decree issued by Governor-General Narciso Claveria in 1849, their family adopted the surname "Realonda." Coming from an able family, Teodora had her formal education at the Colegio de Santa Rosa in Manila. Just like her mother, she was well-educated and highly cultured, and had knowledge in literature and mathematics.

When Teodora turned 20 years old, she married Francisco Mercado who was a native of Biñan, Laguna. The two resided in Calamba where they engaged in agriculture. They achieved prosperity because of their industry, not to mention Teodora's efficiency at managing both the farm and the family's finances. She even set up her own textile business, a sugar and flour mill, and a small store at the ground floor of their house.

Teodora and Francisco had eleven children: Saturnina, Paciano, Narcisa, Olympia, Lucia, Maria, Jose, Concepcion, Josefa, Trinidad and Soledad. It was said that she suffered the most when she gave birth to Jose. All their children were sent to respected colleges in Manila, but Jose was the only child sent to Europe. He was inspired to take up medicine - specifically ophthalmology - in order to treat Teodora's failing eyesight.

As the mother of a perceived enemy of the Spanish authorities, Teodora was often made a target. She was imprisoned for two and a half years on trumped-up charges of poisoning her brother's wife, but was finally acquitted and released after being defended by two of Manila's most famous lawyers. She was made to walk fifty kilometers to Sta. Cruz, Laguna, for failing to use her "Hispanicized" surname, Realonda de Rizal, instead of Alonzo. Her family was ejected from their lands in Calamba as a result of a land conflict between Dominicans and the Filipino tenants. The family moved to Manila, but the Spanish persecution still followed.

Teodora joined Rizal in Hong Kong in 1891 and kept a house in Dapitan where her son was in exile. She returned to Manila to visit her husband and made an appeal to the governor-general, but this was in vain.

After Rizal was declared the national hero of the Philippines, the legislature offered her a lifetime pension as a token of gratitude. She politely refused, saying, "My family has never been patriotic for the money. If the government has plenty of funds and does not know what to do with them, it's better to reduce the taxes."

She died in Manila on 16 August 1911.

The stamp above was issued on November 8, 1974.