Sunday, June 26, 2011

Neri Genealogy: New Findings

I quote from the message exchanges I had with Dr. Antonio J. Montalvan II, PhD, regarding my question on the origins of the Neris here in Misamis:

“It was Rizal's Jesuit friend Fr. Juan Bautista Heras (later pastor of Jasaan) who was on a boat trip one day with Misamis Governor Leopoldo Roldan. While they were along the coast of Lanao, they noticed some signals, some commotion on the shore. They proceeded to alight. There they met the Rajamoda Sampurna who asked for their help. He said he was escaping Lanao because of some internal warfare there that endangered his life (appparently a rido). He said he was willing to go with them. And so they brought him to Cagayan. Perhaps the peril he was in must have been so jeopardizing to his safety that in Cagayan he decided to renounce Islam. A solemn ceremony was then prepared by the priests of Cagayan where a native ritual, the "tampuda," was performed in public. It was there that he adopted the surname Neri.

This happened in the last quarter of the 1800s, very recent indeed. I will get back to you on the exact date. I am personally aghast that many Neris claim him as their ancestor. In fact, there were already Neris present in Cagayan before the entry of the Rajamoda. My suspicion is that the reason why he chose "Neri" may have been the fact that the baptismal godfather was a Neri, in the same way Chinese converts to Catholicism do so.

This account can be found in the Jesuit Letters annotated by another Rizal friend, Fr. Pablo Pastells, since then translated by the present day historian Fr. Jose Arcilla SJ.”

Fr. Arcilla was with us at Ateneo de Cagayan during high school as a scholastic and again years later as a priest. He is now stationed at ADM University, engaged in his field of expertise which is history.

As can easily be gleaned, this account sheds some light on the beginnings of the name of Neri here in Misamis. Given that the sources are confirmed historical figures, one is inclined to believe that the data furnished are incontrovertible.

But what does it say about the claimed origins of many Neri families here? Let us see what we can deduce by examining both accounts.

First, we can say outrightly that if we take the quoted account as factual, Neris did not originate from only one source because Neri families already were in existence prior to the conversion related above which was already in the last quarter of the 1800s, meaning from 1875 to 1900. I can show historical Neri figures who were born in the first quarter of the 1800s. Juan Neri, from whose beginnings we have the families today of Wendy Ramos, Mrs. Edilth F. Pelaez, etc. was born in 1807 and died 1857. Two Neri brothers, Salvador and Lino were governadorcillos of Misamis, in 1832 and 1833 respectively, inferring therefore that these two were born in the very early 1800s while assuming further they got their government posts when they were in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Our family came from the line of Salvador Neri.

Now, on to the names Raja Sampurna and Rajamoda Sampurna. I tried to uncover though only cursorily all I could possibly learn about the names. The word raja or rajah though a title which has origins in Sanskrit is a generic name which generally means king or prince. And the word Sampurna we know to be a name of a clan, which today is still extant in the areas around Lake Lanao. Thus, Rajah Sampurna, could be the title of any or all kings or princes of the Sampurna clan at any time during its long history. But would Rajamoda Sampurna be more specific as to denote a particular person at a particular time in history? In Sanskrit, the word moda would mean joy, happiness, or rejoicing.

Now, back to the Christian Neris. Given the above we cannot now claim that all the Neris started with the christening of “a” Sampurna rajah and his family in 1779, officiated by a parish priest of Cagayan de Misamis, named Pedro de Santa Barbara. Though there appears sufficient evidence to show that indeed that named priest served the parish beginning 1775, and that such a specific christening took place (though I myself will have to be shown hard evidence to this effect.), The quoted conversion above refutes this claim successfully.

The second conversion as related by Dr. Montalvan above could nevertheless have another plausible explanation aside from the one he has advanced. In the second instance, one can surmise that Rajamoda Sampurna followed the example of a previous Muslim ancestor and assumed the same name. After all, both presumably came from the same clan. And on its own this could stand a looser plausibility test.

So, which extant Neri families came from the first or the second conversion? I suppose those who cannot show ancestors dating back to the early 1800s could form part of the second conversion. And my graph does show a couple of lines that do not yet date that far back. And these are those of Merced Neri who married a Gabor, and Genaro Neri who married Silvestra Emata.

Back to the first conversion. As I had previously intimated I have plotted out ancestors of Neri families that go all the way to 21 years before the 1779 christening. But I yet have to hear any heirs of these families provide any oral or documentary evidence that point to their ancestors’ part in the christening – whether those ancestors were participants in the christening or their parents were .

These questions and doubts will have to remain standing, until such time that they can be refuted or verified and confirmed.

UPDATE: from Dr. Montalvan:

I now have the data. The year was July 1879. This is the background: The Spanish Jesuit historian Pablo Pastells, who was once assigned to Jasaan, related that on July 1879, Spanish governor Leopoldo Roldan of Misamis was travelling along the Panguil Bay with the Spanish Jesuit and Rizal friend Juan Bautista Heras who visited the missions in northern Mindanao. Passing along the Agus River in the vicinity of Iligan, they saw the Spanish flag being waved on shore. Disembarking, the two met the Datu Sampurna and his companions who presented themselves that they were at war with their people. Days later, the Datu was in Cagayan to formalize his admission to the Spanish crown.

That is my own summary from the Cartas de Mindanao of Pastells. By the way, I have forgotten that the translation I used is that of Peter Schreurs ("Mission to Mindanao," Claretian Publications 1998). The Arcilla translation is another work.

Now let me quote verbatim from the Schreurs translation:

"During the public ceremony, they were assembled under a beautiful kiosk, where a picture of His Majesty Alfonso XII was placed under a richly-adorned canopy. Before the authorities and a bog crowd of people, they cut a fathom length of rattan in one stroke, threw an egg on the ground, and extinguished a burning candle in one blow, by which manifestations they wished to indicate how they deserved to be treated if they were to break their promises. Then the act was signed by both parties, and some cannons were discharged, after which Moros and Christians marched through the streets of Cagayan.

By the way "rajamoda" or the variant "radiamoda" means "heir presumptive." Somewhat akin to a crown prince."


  1. For a second I thought I was reading one of Ed Abbey's posts. Interesting stuff. Muslim law says that to convert out of Islam means a fatwah of death must be levied, right? Pretty brave fellow.

  2. Phil, it's our family genealogy which is laden with many unproved lore. So we are trying to sift them out with the discovery of some facts. We are still far from unraveling all of them. And you are right, that Muslim was pretty brave given the strictures of Islam on denouncing the faith.

  3. Dino Nable11:32 PM

    Good job! Thank you for the information. That evidence would also mean the need for discarding/re-designing of the Neri crest designed in that first Neri Reunion that centrally included Samporna.

  4. Hi Gaw
    The problem is tracing the bloodlines, that I agree and the difficulty of offering evidence. Perhaps DNA tracing will be factual?
    I agree that not all with a family name Neri are from the Sampurna bloodline. The probable source of how you acquired the family name may be: one, the Cagayan parish priest may have recommended the family name Neri, in honor of San Felipe Neri who in 1523 started his spiritual quest under the guidance of Augustinian friars. A possible connection why we have St Augustine as our patron for CdO? The second, is sponsorship and taking on the family name of the sponsor. Of course, the third, the Sampurna-Neri bloodline. Another is taking on the family name of Neri copied from the book of Spanish names created after the decree of Gov Gen Narciso Claveria in 1849. I have found Neri clans in Pangasinan and Bicol which are not related to the Neri's of CdO.
    Ed Neri
    descendant of Salvador Neri/Ramon C Neri line.

  5. Ed, good points raised. Phil, who comments here often, had also suggested DNA testing earlier to make sure of our lineage. This could work of us since we tend to keep things of the older generations, like in our case we have the bones of Dominga Neri interred among the rest. She would be at least 4 generations removed from us. But the costs and process are the issues.

    BTW, I have upgraded the old chart by making a new one, with lots more of names and more organized. I still need to have it copied for distribution.

  6. Hello Sir/ Madam,

    I am jef Calomarde from cebu city. My father's mother is Dionesia Neri, who hails from Tagoluan, cdo. My father tells me that my grand mother comes from the Sampurna clan who came to cebu and married my grand father Pedro D. Calomarde Sr.. I am delighted that there are Neri's who are discovering the mystery of our father ancestor. Hope to hear more from the concerned Neris. KEEP UP THE GREAT INTEREST.


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