I was reading my friends newest post about Casa Alberto of Binan and I found myself laughing like crazy. I should stop teasing him about his traveling. He has written better articles and gets more readership – and I could not be happier because it serves our advocacy. I know that there’s not a lot of us at this point, hopefully, more and more people would write about the beautiful past of our ancestors, the culture that is closest to us today – the maligned and misunderstood Filipino Hispanico culture and history.
I just want to talk about the Alberto’s of Biñan (thanks to Pepe’s article!) and why I’m fascinated by them. Unlike all the other Rizal kin, they’re not really fond of their association with the hero. In fact when Ambeth Ocampo pressed Don Zoilo to clear some questions he was shown the door. Perhaps the animosity comes from the case that had Rizal’s mother incarcerated. The case was based on the accusation of the wife of Don Jose that Rizal’s mom tried to poison them. It was a strange relationship these people had – considering their close link. The imprisonment also gives us an idea how influential the Albertos were. I wonder how the half brother felt.
When we interviewed Gerardo, I felt his pride in his family’s accomplishments. This pride is what made him go somewhere else for help, He’s not about to beg Biñan’s clueless and disinterested politicians to fix his Daddy’s house again and again – that would be debasing the memory of his ancestors who helped build the old town.
He also shared some insights on how his family acquired the massive lot where his ancestors built the now soon to be transferred casa. According to him, the Spaniards gave them the land – and the money! I remember the strategy the Spaniards employed when they first arrived in the islands, since they lack numbers – they used the Principalia. They retained the status of the local lords, making it possible that these prehispanic families would prosper under their watch. Ensuring their loyalty under the Spanish crown and that of the people. We were taught in school that the tribal families where dissolved when the Spaniards came but in all indication those who accepted the Spanish crown were handsomely rewarded – these folks never went away.
I’m probably being pessimistic about Casa Alberto, with Gerry bent on transferring the house – there is probably little to be gained from continued protest. The fact is that Biñense politicos forgot to look after their historical treasures. In the future they have to bring their children to Bagac to see something that belongs to their town. The recent protest was a bold move but I would’ve appreciated if they’ve at least pointed out the role of the Alberto’s in Biñan’s history – who can blame an Alberto today for feeling bad, their family’s contributions are overlooked, overshadowed by Rizal. Their family was the most civic minded in the town’s well-known history, they helped build the infrastructure of Biñan in the 1800’s. An old man told me that the Alberto’s were out of town politics by the beginning of 1900’s, they concentrated in running what’s left of their business after the wars. By mid 1950’s most of the Alberto children would migrate to the US. Now, when you ask people what’s that grand house in front of the municipio you’ll get “bahay ng nanay ni Rizal” or “bahay ni Rizal” – and we wonder why the Alberto house is leaving town? ☻