Teodora Alonzo was the mother of Jose Rizal, the greatest hero of our country. Rizal owed his early education, his character training, and love for truth and liberty to his talented and industrious mother. Teodora Alonzo was well fitted to be the mother of a hero.
Teodora Alonzo came from a well-to-do and educated family. Her parents were Captain Lorenzo Alberto Alonzo and Brigida de Quintos. Teodora, like the rest of her sisters and brothers, was born in Manila. They grew up in a pleasant, orderly home where industry and kind acts were the rule.
When Teodora was a little girl, the Alonzo family moved to Calamba, Laguna. Her mother taught her the alphabet and how to read from the cartilla and the caton. Then Teodora entered the Santa Rosa College, a school in Manila for girls. At this school, the girls studied Spanish, religion, and ways of keeping the home.
Teodora was very talented. While still a student, she wrote poems and translated Spanish stories into Tagalog.
Teodora was to make use of her talents in later life. She married Francisco Mercado of Calamba. They had eleven children. One of them was Jose – the future hero. When the children were older, the family’s name was changed to Rizal.
Dona Teodora devoted her life to the education of her children. She taught them how to read. She taught them their prayers, and good manners. She told them stories which had good lessons.
The most interested listener was her son Jose. One of her stories that Jose never grew tired of hearing was the story of the foolish moth and the bright lamp. The little moth was attracted by the light and flew around the lamp. Its mother told the little moth not to go near the light. The little moth did not listen to its mother. It went close to the light and was burned to death.
Jose never forgot this story. When he was a grownup man, he wrote; “The story showed me things I had not known before. Moths were no longer insignificant insects. Moths talked, they knew how to advise, just like my mother.”
Mother of a Hero
Dona Teodora helped her husband manage their farm. She worked hard and saved in order to be able to send her children to school in Manila and in other countries. She soon realized how bright Jose was.
She taught him how to write poems. To his mother, Jose showed the poems and the stories he wrote. When he was five years old, he wrote a play that pleased the Capitan del Pueblo, or mayor of the town. For his play, little Jose was given a prize of two pesos. He went to school in Binang, Laguna. Later he studied in Ateneo de Manila and the University of Santo Tomas.
Dona Teodora continued to save money so that Rizal could go to Europe to continue his studies.
Dona Teodora’s Sufferings
While Rizal was away, Dona Teodora was accused of a crime she did not do. She was sent to prison. While in prison her eyes contracted a disease. She almost became blind. Later on Rizal, who had now become a doctor, cured her eyes. He operated on her eyes and helped her to see again.
During this time Rizal wrote Noli Me Tangere, his famous book attacking unjust Spanish officials. Because of this book, the officials considered him an enemy of Spain. All his relatives were suspected of being against the Spaniards. His mother was often in danger of being thrown into prison again. So were his sisters and brothers.
Her friends advised Dona Teodora to go away and hide from the Spaniards. She refused to go away. “I will stay here,” she said bravely. “I will not run away because I have not done anything wrong. I believe in justice.”
Like his mother, Rizal did not run away when he was accused of being an enemy of the government. He was arrested, but his enemies gave him a false trial. He was sentenced to death, and on December 30, 1896, he was shot on Luneta, in Manila.
Dona Teodora lived through that awful day, and for many years afterwards. She had the comfort of seeing her son recognized as a great hero. The Philippine government offered her a life pension, but she refused it.She said, “No, I cannot accept the money. I do not want to be paid for what Rizal did for his country.”
When Dona Teodora died at the age of 85, the government had her remains lay in state for several days at the Marble Hall, the principal government building then. Many people attended her funeral as their last act of respect to the mother of the greatest Filipino hero.