Locsin and some notes about the history of the Chinese Christians of the Philippines

Editor’s Notes: This is the first of a series of articles written by Guillermo Gomez Rivera, a long-time contributor of emanila.com. Mr Rivera is a Premio Zobel awardee, a member of the Academia Filipina and former National Language Committee Secretary, Philippine Constitutional Convention 1971-73.


An old resident of Manila’s China Town, whose name we forgot, explained to me, during a conversation I had with here in 1980 on a sidewalk of Calle Ongpin, why the name SINLOC did not sound to her as one that purely originated in China. But SIN LOC she said, on second thought, may be a name of possible Fukien origin but disfigured by Spanish, or Visayan, phonics. To her, this name is really CHIEN YUC in Chinese and it means “something that has acquired the brightness from a light or from the sun.”

Inspite of these appreciations and since China has so many languages, the name SIN LOC could be established as Fukienwa in its very Emuy or Amoy form. In Mandarin, SIN LOC could possibly be CHIEN YUC.


The next question we raised before the old Chinese teacher was: How come SIN LOC suffered an exchange in its two syllables resulting in the name LOCSIN. She then recalled the case of SUN TUA (meaning firsy grandson) which was also interchanged to TUASON.

These interchange of syllables, or metathesis, in the order of these two words is due to a Chinese custom that was in vogue during the time of Agustin Locsin. Metathesis in surname and name is resorted to by those who become “ex-Chinese” because they have abandoned China, their land of origin.

This old Chinese custom is some kind of a law that considers as ex-Chinese those who could no longer render in their land the filial homage due to their dead ancestors. Chinese culture features as one of its essences the due homage to ancestors, a factor of Chinese clannishness.

This is why those who left behind their land also abandoned the grave of their ancestors. That is the reason why those who left China were no longer Chinese. They became “deserters” so to speak. And as such they also lost the right to cary their family surname as well as the name given to them by their immediate parents.

But the “deserters” that reached the Philippines refused, on the other hand, to completely erase and cut all the traces of ties which they have with their original name and surname. Thus SINLOC, upon Christianization and Hispanization, becomes a new surname: LOCSIN.

It is also a fact that not all Chinese emigrants to the Philippines retained their original surnames or names. Many of them have adopted names and surnames that are purely Spanish since they had decided to stay in these Islands forever.


Doña Soledad (Tía Chóleng) Lácson de Locsin, an historian and a cultured lady given to literature and history, born and raised in Silay, Negros Occidental, would also tell us that “all those who retained as their surnames the name and surname of their Chinese grandfather would add the suffix “co” to them. The suffix “co” has something to do with belonging to a Gremio, or a trader”s Guild, related to the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade. An example of such names are: Tansingco, Tantiongco, Cojuangco, Sangco, Quilayco, Suansingco, Goco, Yuchengco, and so many others.

Belonging to a Gremio, or to a fraternity, of business workers and traders with relation to the mentioned Manila Galleon trade, is apparently what popularized surnames ending in “co’. We are told that such surnames are non-existent in China.


In the Parián of Cebú, according to the illustrious writer Doña Concepción Gantuanco Briones, there used to exist “Gremios de Mestizos” y “Gremios de Chinos” for trade and commercial purposes. Those interested should read her interesting book titled: “Life In Old Parian”.

According to Spanish writer and Filipinologist, Wenceslao Retana, in his work “Diccionario de Filipinismos” (Manila, 1894) the classification of “Mestizo” was applied to the Chino Cristiano and his descendants in these Islands. The classification for Spanish half-breeds was “Criollo” or “Creole”.

This is why the Parianes of Malolos and Vigan are called “Sector de Mestizos”.


There are also surnames derived from the first ten Chinese Fukien numbers. But these surnames are more frequent among Filipinos and literally unknown in the Chinese mainland.

The Chinese Fukien numbers we refer to are: it (one), di (two), sa (three), si (four), go (five), lac (six), chet (seven), pué (eight), cao (nine), chap (ten).

From one (it) come the surnames Itson or Ichon;
From two (di), Dison, or Dizon;
From three (si), Sison;
From four (sa), Sason, Sazon or Siason;
From five (go), Goson or Guzon;
From six (lac), Lacson;
From seven (chit), Chéson, Quéson, Quiézon, Quízon or Quíson;
From eight (pue) Puson, Puéson, Puzon or Puézon;
From nine (cao) Cason or Caoson;
And from ten (chap), Quiapson, Capson, Chason, Chapson, Jopson, Quiápson or Quiánson.

The surname “Suntua” also means first son or grandson and it begot the prominent surname of Tuáson (legitimate) or Tuázon (illegitimate). A changed from “S” to “Z” would change the status of a surname holder.


As it is obvious, all these surnames belong to Chinos Cristianos, or Chinese Mestizos residents of the “Sectores de Mestizos”, “Pariancillos” or “Parianes” that used to be found in the rich districts of the different cities of the Philippines such as Manila, Malolos, Vigan, Iloilo, Cebú as well as in almost all the provincial capitals of these islands.

The word ‘parian’, just as it is pronounced and spelled, means a “Chinese Mission” for the Spanish missionaries. It is the place where the Spanish friars would go to teach cathechisim to the children of the local Chinese traders. This is according to the famous Ylongo judge known as “el Juez Pío Sian” from Molo, Iloilo. The root of this word is ‘padre’ which upon indigenization in both Visayan and Tagalog becomes “pari” to which the ending “an”, which denotes place, is added.

The Spanish missionaries known as ‘padres’ in Las Islas Filipinas used to frequent the place which was the “Sector de Mestizos”, meaning the neighborhood of Chinese Mestizos, to Christianize them or serve them in their practice of Catholicism.


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