That so little is known about Paciano Alonso Mercado was by his own design. Recognizing his younger brother Jose’s genius, he pushed him to center stage of the heroic events of their time. Paciano kept to the sidelines as he was under constant watch by the Cuerpo de Vigilancia, the Spanish secret service. It was his idea for Jose to adopt the surname Rizal to dissociate him while in school from their family’s perilous anti-friar notoriety. Later Paciano linked up Jose with the Propaganda Movement and the Katipunan. Jose in turn admired Kuya Paciano’s patriotism. He once described him as “the noblest of all Filipinos” (“Rizal’s True Love,” by Gemma Cruz Araneta, 2014). After Rizal’s martyrdom Paciano joined the Revolutionary Army against Spain and then America, until his capture in 1900.
Paciano was tasked by their aging parents with the education of Jose, ten years his junior. From their Calamba hometown, he first took him to Maestro Justiniano Aquino Cruz in Biñan, under whom he too had trained. He later enrolled him in the Ateneo Municipal. He bankrolled Jose’s medical education in Spain, sending him 50 pesos (later 30 pesos) a month for expenses. Paciano had to explain to their distraught parents the other purpose of Jose’s travel in 1882, to lobby with Spanish authorities for political rights of Filipinos (“Paciano Rizal, 1851-1930,” Filipinas Heritage Library). He kept him updated on events in the homeland. Soon after Rizal’s departure Paciano gave his friend Marcelo del Pilar for publication and translation Rizal’s poem, “El Amor Patrio.”
Doubtless Paciano shared with Jose his own experiences. After studying at the Colegio de San Jose, Paciano had worked under Father Jose Burgos, the ardent Filipino advocate of secularization from the Spanish clergy. He witnessed Burgos’ 1872 public execution on false charges of inciting the Cavite Mutiny. Ties to the priest and vocal criticism got Paciano into trouble with the Spanish “frailocracy”. In a letter to Jose on May 26, 1882 Paciano mentioned his crusade for reforms by helping to publish and circulate in Laguna the “Diariong Tagalog” (“Big Brother’s Tale, A Tribute to Paciano Rizal,” Chris Antonette Piedad-Pugay, 2012). Twice, for land disputes with the friars Paciano would be exiled, to Mindoro and to Jolo. He always returned with a vengeance. Paciano also helped print Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.” At one time Rizal had a Filipino in Hong Kong smuggle copies of the novels to Manila. Posing as a cochero the man delivered the books to Paciano in Binondo, where he witnessed the brothers meet (“The I Stories,” compiled by Augusto V. de Viana, 2006).
Soon it was Rizal’s turn to be surveilled, exiled to Dapitan, and imprisoned in Fort Santiago. Their sisters and brothers-in-law were tailed and interrogated by Spanish authorities. Paciano was arrested and severely tortured for days, but he refused to sign a statement that would implicate his brother to the Revolution that was raging in Luzon. He was returned home unconscious. Rizal was sentenced to death allegedly for aiding the Katipunan. In early December 1896 Spanish spies blamed Paciano for the rumors spreading in Manila that Katipuneros would spring Jose from the carcel. In truth Paciano was dissuading them from such plan. After Rizal’s execution on December 30, 1896, Paciano gave Andres Bonifacio a copy of his last work, “Mi Ultimo Adios.” Reprints probably spurred the false report by a spy ten days later that Rizal was spotted alive and resurrected in Pandacan, Manila; in San Juan del Monte; and in Las Piñas. Paciano and his sisters meanwhile, went to Cavite personally to contribute money, materiel, and efforts to the Revolution.
Paciano was made a general in Laguna, where his unit fought until the Pact of Biak-na-Bato. Soon afterwards he rejoined Aguinaldo’s forces against Spain, and then the Americans. After capture and imprisonment in 1900 he retired to farming in Calamba. Curiously there are only two photographs, both faded, of this little-known hero: one with the family, the other on his death.
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“Concert for Marawi: Tabang para sa Katawhan,” 21 June 2017, 6 p.m., GT-Toyota Asian Cultural Center Auditorium, UP Diliman, QC.
Hosted by the Asian Center, the University’s 60-year-old unit for Asian and Philippine graduate studies, for the benefit of civilians killed, wounded, and rendered homeless by the fighting. The relief drive will feature volunteer musical artists from the UP community: Asian Center, Institute of Islamic Studies, College of Music, College of Arts and Letters, College of Mass Communication, Muslim Students, among others.
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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).
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