Month of June in Infanta
By Rudy Arizala
The month of June in Infanta signifies many things to me especially during my youth. In the first place, it is the time for "pasukan" (school opening) when classes start. Secondly, when wedding bells ring. It seems it is the month when every eligible bachelors in Infanta get married to the young pretty ladies they met during the previous month -- May -- the month of flowers or "floresan". For in Infanta, the newly harvested stalks of palay have been sorted out and stored in the "sumbi" or store room of farm houses and the fields are allowed to fallow; plowed again for the next planting of seedlings so that by June the farmlands in Infanta are green again with young palay seedlings. Thus, after the planting, it is time for marriage and merrymaking.
Thirdly, June is the month for parades and programs at the town plaza in commemoration of the Proclamation of our Independence. When every school children participate in the civic-parade around the town and ends up at the plaza to witness a musical-literary program. We sing the national anthem, salute the flag and hear patriotic speeches.
And last but not the least, June is the month when we celebrate the birth anniversary of our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal. For he was born on 19 June 1861 in Calamba, Laguna. His parents were Francisco Mercado and Teodora Alonso Realonda. Jose was the seventh child out of 11 children of Teodora and Francisco Mercado.
Jose´s birth was not heralded by a star, or marked by natural phenomena such as earthquake or typhoon. However, if there was anything supernatural about the birth of Jose, the statue of the Virgin of Antipolo was said to have aided in his birth. It was said that when his mother was undergoing difficult labor, she made a vow to make a pilgrimage to Antipolo some 25 kilometers east of Manila, should her delivery prove successful. Barely three days since baby Jose was born, that was on 22 June 1861, he was baptized by Fr. Rufino Collantes at the Calamba parish church with Father Pedro Casanas as his godfather.
It may be asked why Jose carried the surname "Rizal" and not "Mercado" like his father, or his elder brother Paciano and his sisters.
It may be recalled that in conformity with a Decree issued by Spanish Governor General Claveria on 21 November 1849, the natives could choose the family name they liked from a list of surnames provided for that purpose. Francisco Mercado applied for the surname "Rizal" Such application was rejected by the Spanish authorities. However, despite such rejection, the Mercado family used the name "Rizal" as a second family name. Young Jose was the first to adopt the family name "Rizal" in 1972 when he went to Manila and enrolled at the Ateneo de Municipal. At that time there was good reason for adopting the family name "Rizal" instead of "Mercado" because hardly six months had elapsed since the Cavite Munity of 1872. Jose´s elder brother Paciano had contacts with Father Burgos, (the latter was executed by the Spanish authorities as a consequence of the mutiny), and the family name "Mercado" became subject to suspicion as having to do with the uprisings. Under said circumstances, it would, therefore, be prudent to use the family name "Rizal" instead of "Mercado." Years later, however, when Jose was to leave the Philippines to study in Europe, in his application for a passport, Jose used the surname "Mercado" and not "Rizal."
Jose, as a child grew up in the house of his parents in Calamba surrounded by orchard or fruit-bearing trees such as atis, santol, orange, macopa and guava trees. Such kind of environment had influence in the molding the mind, character and heart of Rizal. It is said that at the age of four, he could already recognize different kinds of bird such as the martin, walak-walak, kulyawan, and many other birds. And in the afternoon, under the shadow of the towering Mt. Makiling, the young Rizal contemplated about the birds and the beauty of nature.
Young Jose before attending a regular school was taught by her mother at home how to read and write. She also inculcated in him a sense of duty, courtesy and respect to elders. She corrected Jose´s faults, especially his obstinacy. To accomplish this, her mother used parables which young Jose, like other children of his age, loved to hear. At the end of each parable or story, her mother explaining the meaning or symbolism in the story, brought about a fundamental moral to the young Jose. It may be recalled the story of Rizal´s mother about two young moths which were attracted to the bright flame of an oil lamp. The mother moth told the baby moths not to get near the light. But one of the baby moths disobeyed the mother moth´s warning and was burned to death. The following was the reaction of young Jose to the story:
"I listened breathlessly as my mother read: the fate of the two moths fascinated me. The flame´s yellow tongue caught one of the insects and after spasmodic quivering it lay still. It seemed to me a great event. . . It died a victim of its illusions. . . At bottom I could not blame it. The light had been so beautiful."
As we contemplate the birth, life and death of Rizal, was he like the baby moth a "victim of his illusions" so that years later he had to die by musketry in Bagumbayan field? Otherwise stated, was Rizal´s desire for the freedom of his country and people an illusion?
According to a Spanish philosopher Unamuno, "Jose Rizal was the Tagalog Christ." And Ambassador and writer Leon Ma. Guerrero had this to say about our national hero Jose Rizal:
"But we reserve our highest homage and deepest love for the Christlike victim whose mission is to consummate by their tragic failure the redemption of our nation. They stand above the reproaches and recriminations of human life, and are blessed with true immortality. When, at their appointed time, they die, we feel that all of us have died with them, but also that by their death we have been saved."
These are the thoughts which occurred to my mind as I contemplate on the commemoration of the birth of Jose Rizal this month.