Looking for the Ñor

In Tanauan, Batangas, beside Apolinario Mabini’s house there is a Philippine-American War Museum, which was opened on the sesquicentennial of the “Brains of the Revolution.” His “fellow traveler,” Gen. Paciano Rizal, appears in the roster of Filipino Revolutionary fighters who defended the First Philippine Republic against the American invaders. Ñor Paciano, which was how his younger siblings fondly called him, would have turned 167 tomorrow, the 9th of March.

There are delightful stories about the Ñor from the family grapevine, which historians probably consider apocryphal for lack of hard documentary evidence, but we enjoy sharing them with our friends, and academics who teach the Rizal course. As a child, my Guerrero grandma, imperishable admirer of Jose Rizal, told me about two Spanish priests who returned to Laguna after the Americans had crushed the First Philippine Republic and established their colonial rule. The car of the Spaniards broke down in front of a lakeside chalet in Los Baños,so they instructed the driver to knock at the gate and ask the owner for assistance. When they learned that it was the house of Ñor Paciano, the Spanish priests who happened to be Dominicans hurriedly told their chauffer to drive on and look elsewhere; they were sure that Paciano Rizal would never help them because of what they did to his family, and to the whole town of Calamba, during those terrible land disputes. Since these were bedtime stories my grandmother gave neither specific dates nor context; it was the moral of these stories that mattered. It was only much later when I began reading history that I learned about how the Rizals and their neighbors lost their homes and livelihood, that Paciano and his brothers-in law were exiled to the Visayas, to Jolo and Basilan, and how family members were spied upon and persecuted since then. I read their names in one of the chapters of El Filibusterismo and imagined how shocking that must have been to 19th century readers who knew them, and to other victims of the soberanía monacal.

There is another story that had something to do with Don Pedro Paterno, an ilustrado from Quiapo, the self-styled Maguinoo who was in Europe at the same time as the Ñor’s younger brother Jose. The flamboyant Paterno was an unexpected guest at the Los Baños chalet. Deeply impressed by this well-dressed aristocratic-looking man, the man servant ceremoniously ushered Paterno into the living room and offered him refreshments without first informing his amo, Ñor Paciano.

He was about to serve the “welcome drink” when the master called him aside. Why all the fuss? Is it because the man was shod and well dressed? Would he have been as solicitous if the unexpected guest were a barefoot farmer? The servant quickly came to his senses and disappeared into the kitchen. Paterno came to ask the Ñor to join the Federalista Party, which he had co-founded with other eminent pro-Americans; they advocated US statehood, not independence. Paciano Rizal politely but very firmly refused.

None of the above was included in the Philippine-American War Museum in Tanauan, Batangas. The caption of the Ñor’s blurred portrait was rather sketchy: Paciano Rizal, 1851 – 1930; born in Calamba, Laguna, rank, Brigadier-General; part of General Pio del Pilar and Gen. Miguel Malvar ‘s forces in the south of Manila; led the attack against the Americans in San Pedro Macati, February 1899; with Gen. Juan Cailles, headed the forces in Laguna; contracted malaria in the Sierra Madre; captured and surrendered in Los Baños in 1900; swore allegiance to the USA under the condition he would not face the American flag, but his only flag, that of the Philippines.

His grandson, Francisco Lopez, once told me that when Ñor Paciano was captured by the Americans, only one of his soldiers was standing by him, the rest were either dead or wounded. Gen. Paciano Rizal returned to farming and established a mutual-benefit association for the tillers of the soil in order to jumpstart agricultural development. That was, after all, one of the lofty objectives of his younger brother’s La Liga Filipina.

Like a tireless diligent mole, I am still burrowing through archives looking for shreds of information that I can piece together about the mysterious secretive Ñor.