Over these many years, I have on my own undertaken the unwanted task of tracing our family’s lineage, which is part and parcel of the Neri Genealogy of Mindanao.
This I did for a couple of reasons. Growing up, parents and most grown-ups were quite cavalier about blood relationships. Most everybody you met was declared as your relative, with typically nary an explanation or reason why. So I grew up confused who my true relatives were, apart from those I closely interacted with. So learning this part of the past would not only be exhilarating but satisfying in unraveling one’s confusion about relations.
Secondly, if I was confused I can only imagine how much more confused my children would be, especially because they have essentially very little contact with even very close relatives. So again, tracing lineage would be to their benefit.
With the formidable task undertaken, one has then become privy to and in possession of certain facts, not known then and especially those that run counter to what local myths have in the meantime been allowed to propagate and prosper.
Sensing that to this day some myths, unproved legends, or even untruths are allowed to be made public without challenges, the following is undertaken to dispel them and enlighten members about what we can claim with some certainty about our genealogy and heritage.
First off, and I may be touching delicate grounds here, the Neri-Chaves Genealogy is not the Neri Genealogy, the former being only a branch, a branch typical in size, of the whole tree. The whole tree as known and confirmed to this day is composed of other branches, some identified only informally while others more formally. If Neri-Chaves is one, others would be the Neri-San Jose, the Neris of Bohol, Neri-Velez which has split into smaller branches, Neri-Fernandez, and maybe even the Neris of Tagoloan. We even have the case of a Chinese national who was naturalized and took on the last name of one of his patrons who was a Neri. That branch if we can call it that produced Pedro “Oloy” Neri Roa who is known far and large for his great wealth and selfless government service.
The hyphenated names of the branches came about because in their instances a set of siblings married another set of siblings to form a truly much closer and special relationships with the offspring. This was true with the Neri-Chaves, true also with Neri-San Jose, and so forth
As to our likely beginnings, the jury is still out on this.
Our earliest claim had been that we descended from some Moslem tribe (Samporna) who came to our place in Northern Mindanao, intermarried with a local and converted to Christianity. A certain parish priest named Rev. Pedro de Santa Barbara officiated and assigned the name Neri to those so given the sacrament. And this happened in 1779 and Church record does show that during that time the parish priest was indeed one Fr. De Santa Barbara. Still we cannot point to any historical record whether written or oral confirming all this.
But of recent times, we had been reliably informed that there is historical record written as an eye-witness account by a Jesuit historian named Pablo Pastells. He narrated that sometime in July of 1879, a Datu Samporna and companions formalized their admission to the Spanish crown in Cagayan, via conversion by christening.
The two accounts are separated a 100 years apart! But we do show that in 1879, we already had Neris living in Cagayan de Oro, as ancestors of current-day descendants. One of them was Juan Neri (1807-1857) who was married to Anastacia Chaves. He started the Neri-Chaves line.
It is wise to note also that with regard to our Moslem roots, we in the same vein also have to accept our lumad or native roots, since the alleged Moslem who intermarried did so with a lumad or native since their kind were then inhabiting our place. No mention or reference is found that the Moslem married any daughter of the Spanish conquerors.
There is no known crest, coat of arms, or logo for the Neri Clan. The coat of arms one may spot in some postings was created during the 1985 gathering that I believe was for lack of a better term officially called the Neri-Chaves First Grand Reunion. It was created for that reunion and is similarly identified as that of the Neri-Chaves Clan.
One can easily glean from that reunion that the intent of the organizing group was for the entire Neri Clan to organize and for the first time, commit to writing their particular ancestors. Thus, we had entries from all the Neri branches then known, and not only from the Neri-Chaves branch. Why the name was not then change to reflect the greater scope, one can only surmise.
But through the little study I had done, we are discovering the revealing facts about the Neri Genealogy.
Interested members of the entire clan ought to continue the task of uncovering more facts of the genealogy, so that our claims to heritage and lineage can be gradually moved from the heights of legend or myth, to the solid ground of facts and historical record.