Everyday History
Teodora Alonso
Daily History Women in Philippine History

Teodora Alonso, Rizal’s mom, was born: Nov. 9, 1827

On this day in 1827, Teodora Alonso Realonda y Quintos, the second child of Lorenzo Alonso and Brijida de Quintos from Biñan, Laguna, was born in Santa Cruz, Manila.

Alonso came from an upper-class principalia family. As such, her parents could afford to send her to the Colegio de Santa Rosa, one of the most respected and expensive school for girls in Manila, for her studies. She was studious and diligent young woman who loved to read and learned to speak Spanish better than her peers.

On June 28, 1848, at the age of 20, Alonso married Francisco Mercado, a native of Biñan, Laguna. Her marriage to Francisco Mercado bore her 11 children, including Filipino nationalist, physician and novelist Dr. Jose Rizal.

She was an entrepreneurial and hard-working mother who opened a flour and sugar mill at her house in Calamba, Laguna and taught her children basic literacy skills and catechism. She was Rizal’s first teacher before he was sent to Biñan for elementary education.

Persecution and imprisonment

In 1872, when her son was just 11 years old, Teodora Alonso was imprisoned for two and half years for allegedly attempting to poison her sister-in-law.

The incident stemmed from her half-brother’s discovery upon returning from Europe. Her half-brother’s wife had left the family home and abandoned the children. The two eventually reunited upon Alonso’s intervention. But a few days later, the wife plotted with a member of the Guardia Civil. She accused her husband and Alonso of trying to poison her.

After lawyers Francisco de Marcaida and Manuel Masigan appealed her case, the Supreme Court eventually acquitted her of the charges. Rizal wrote about her mother’s ordeal in prison and his grief over her imprisonment in the 1879 essay The Injustice Done My Mother.

Alonso was supportive of her son’s studies abroad and he would often write to her during his studies in Europe. At home, the Rizals faced persecution from the Dominican friars and Spanish authorities because of Rizal’s anti-friar novels and writings.

In 1891, Spanish authorities arrested Alonso again for refusing to use her Spanish surname. They forced her to walk 50 kilometers from Santa Cruz to Calamba, Laguna despite being 64 years old and suffering from cataracts in her left eye.

Life in Hong Kong

In the same year, the Dominican friars evicted the Rizal family from their Calamba home, Alonso and three of her daughters temporarily lived with Rizal at his residence in No. 2 Rednaxela Terrace in Hong Kong where he worked as an ophthalmologist. He successfully removed the cataracts from her mother’s eye in his clinic at No. 5 D. Aguilar Street. The rest of Rizal’s family joined them in Hong Kong the next year.

During Rizal’s exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga from 1892 to 1896, Spanish authorities allowed Alonso and her daughters to return from exile in Hong Kong and settled in Binondo. There, in 1895, she met Rizal’s girlfriend Josephine Bracken who introduced herself to the family and discussed their plans to marry. Rizal could not obtain a permission from the Bishop of Cebu to marry Bracken, and so Alonso suggested that they undergo a civil wedding.

Teodora Alonso outlived her son who the Spanish authorities executed on Dec. 30, 1896 on charges of treason. She died on Aug. 16, 1911 at the age of 83 in Binondo, Manila.

References
  • Craig, Austin. Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal: Philippine Patriot. Manila: Philippine Education Company. 1913
  • Romero, Ma. Corona et. al. Rizal and the Development of National Consciousness, Second Ed. Quezon City: Katha Publishing Corp. 2006.
  • Uckung, Peter Jaynul. “Teodora Alonso’s trail of tears.” National Historical Commission of the Philippines. September 4, 2012.
  • Reyno, Ma. Cieltio. “Rizal and the Lessons His Mother Taught Him.” National Historical Commission of the Philippines. September 18, 2012
  • Silva, John. “Rizal’s Last Haven.” The Philippine STAR. June 20, 2004
Trivia Question

What was the name of Alonso’s half-brother, who in 1872 was jailed along with her after being falsely accused in the attempted poisoning of her sister-in-law?

Yesterday’s answer: Catbalogan

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