Notes on the history of Chinese Christians of the Philippines

Editor’s Notes: This is the second 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.

7. Union of Church and State

During Spanish times in these islands, the State and its Government system was united with the Catholic Church by virtue of Hispanic tradition and the Royal Patronage (Patronato Real). In other words, the union of Church and State was the norm as it is up to now in the case of Muslim countries where the Koran is even the country’s basic law or Constitution. In the United Kingdom of England, Scotland and Wales there is also union of Church, Anglican or Episcopalian, with the State, although it is not the Christian bible that serves them as their basic law.

Thus, the union of Church and State, prohibited today by both the Constitutions of the U.S.A. and the Philippines, was the reality in these islands since the founding of the Filipino State in June 24, 1571 with Manila as the Capital City by Miguel López de Legaspi in representation of the Crown of Spain and its King.

With this politico-legal backdrop, those Chinese who decided to stay in the Philippines, fell under Spanish sovereignty and voluntarily Christianized themselves in order to become devout Catholics as well as loyal Spanish citizens or subjects.

8. Spanish Citizens

The Spanish Democratic Constitution of 1812 included as Spanish citizens all the Chino Cristiano residents of the Philippines along with all the indigenous (Indio) or native Filipinos. This explains why the Chinese traders and their respective families adopted Spanish as their maternal language since Spanish was naturally the Official Language of both the Government, Education and Society in general. Even the 1898 República Filipina under Aguinaldo, a Chinese Mestizo himself, adopted Spanish as its main Official Language together with Tagalog. This explains why enlightened Filipinos, the Ilustrados, who were also rich businessmen and agriculturists spoke Spanish even if they were of Chinese descent.

It simply is a fact that the Chinos Cristianos became Spanish citizens upon desiring to stay in the Philippines and contribute to the development of what is Filipino.

9. The precedent example is the case of Tuason

There is the previous example of the first José María Tuáson (originally Sun Tua Co). Tuáson even married a Spanish Peninsular woman of noble linage. And Tuáson himself was awarded the title fijodalgo of a Spanish nobleman as evidenced by the coat of arms that this surname exhibits among many of the Tuáson descendants. Thus, Tuáson, from Chinese, became an authentic Spanish surname that in time, also became, Filipino. It is in this same manner that all the other surnames of Chinese origin, particularly those ending in “co” as well as those derived from the first ten Fukien numbers, also became Spanish, and later, Filipino surnames in these Islands.

10. Tools of Christianization and Hispanization

The convertion into Catholicism and into Spanish subjects of the Chinese emigrants to these Islands also explains the existence, as tools for that purpose, the publication since 1593 of the Doctrina Cristiana by Juan de Vera Ken Yong in Chinese language and characters with its accompanying Spanish and Tagalog translations. Aside from this Doctrina Cristiana written in Chinese by a Spanish Dominican friar, Fray Blancas de San José. There is also that other book called Shilu in Chinese, or “La Apologia de la Doctrina Cristiana” that explained what Catholic doctrine really meant. These tools explain, in the long run, why the First Filipino Saint is a Chinese Mestizo in San Lorenzo de Manila and a Chinese Mestiza is the founder of a Religious Order called “Reverendas o Religiosas de la Virgen María”.

11. Deliberate omission of truth

These historical data that we point out is not popularly known among Filipinos nor among the local Chinese because the so-called education system imposed here by American colonialism in English, and even Tagalog, has deliberately omitted these facts in the current teaching of local history. Philippine History as taught in present-day schools have one single cliché which says that the Americans are our good Liberators and the Spanish our usual oppressors. And the role of the Chinos Cristianos in the development of what is Filipino is likewise deliberately omitted with the Chinese derided as mere alien intruders.

In summary, it is enough to know that when the Philippines used to be part of the Spanish national territory, first as a Capitanía General and later as a Provincia de Ultramar (oversea Spanish province), all the native indigenous along with all the Chinos Cristianos were made Spanish citizens or subjects.

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