José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda, the greatest hero of the Philippines, was born in Calamba, on the southwest shore of the picturesque Laguna of Bay in Luzon, June 19, 1861. He was the seventh child among the eleven children of Francisco Mercado Rizal and Teodora Alonso Realonda, both were exemplarily educated, industrious, loving, affectionate, devoutly religious although strict, hospitable and civic-spirited.
There were eleven children, out of eleven two were boys and nine were girls.
Rizal’s great grandfather began in the Philippines with a Chinaman named Lam Co who came from the Amoy district to Manila possibly because of the political trouble, which followed the conquest of his country, by the Manchu invaders. It was in 1697 that this ancestor whose Christian name was Domingo was baptized in the Parian Church of San Gabriel.
He was a merchant, then decided to stay in these islands then became a farmer to avoid the bitter treatment of the Chinese people which existed in Manila. He was then married to the daughter of a countryman, who was known to be a dealer in rice moved into Laguna province to become a tenant of the Dominican landlords at Biñan.
Lam Co’s son was Francisco Mercado y Chinco, his name was derived from the Chinese custom meaning Sangley or “traveling trader” while for the Spanish it was Mercado which means “trader”. Lam Co decided to stop traveling and live his life here but not to cease being traders.
His wife, Teodora Alonso y Quintus, was nine years his junior and a woman not only of exceptional ability but also with an education unusual for that time in its modernism and liberality.
She was of Ilocano-Tagalog-Chinese Spanish descent, possibly having even a little Japanese blood, belonged to a clan of gifted men, and her family counted lawyers, priests, government officials, and merchants among its members. They boasted of one representative of the Philippines in the Spanish Cortes, and it is said to have been a youthful ambition of Dr. Rizal to fill some day the same position.
In 1850, Governor Narciso Claveria ordered the Filipino families to choose new surnames from a list of Spanish family names, A new family name was adopted by authority of the royal decree of the preceding year that sought to remedy the confusion resulting from many unrelated Filipinos having the same and a still greater number having no last names at all.
Francisco Rizal soon found that in spite of his legal authority for it the new name was making confusion in business affairs begun under the old name, so he compromised after a few years, on "Rizal Mercado". His mother-in-law, who lived in the neighborhood, at the same time, adopted the name "Rialonda" and her children followed her example. So it was when José Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda was baptized, the record showed his parents as Francisco Mercado Rizal Mercado and Teodora Alonso Realonda, another spelling of Rialonda.
St. Protasio, the child’s patron, very properly was a martyr, and that a Filipino priest baptized and a secular archbishop confirmed him seem also fitting.