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The Chinese Ancestry of Dr. Jose Rizal
« on: February 21, 2008, 09:19:16 PM »

Rizal's Chinese Ancestry

Clustered around the walls of Manila in the latter half of the
seventeenth century were little villages the names of which, in some
instances slightly changed, are the names of present districts. A
fashionable drive then was through the settlement of Filipinos in
Bagumbayan--the "new town" to which Lakandola's subjects had migrated
when Legaspi dispossessed them of their own "Maynila." With the
building of the moat this village disappeared, but the name remained,
and it is often used to denote the older Luneta, as well as the drive
leading to it.

Within the walls lived the Spanish rulers and the few other persons
that the fear and jealousy of the Spaniard allowed to come in. Some
were Filipinos who ministered to the needs of the Spaniards, but the
greater number were Sangleyes, or Chinese, "the mechanics in all trades
and excellent workmen," as an old Spanish chronicle says, continuing:
"It is true that the city could not be maintained or preserved without
the Sangleyes."

The Chinese conditions of these early days are worth recalling, for
influences strikingly similar to those which affected the life of Jose
Rizal in his native land were then at work. There were troubled times
in the ancient "Middle Kingdom," the earlier name of the corruption
of the Malay Tchina (China) by which we know it. The conquering
Manchus had placed their emperor on the throne so long occupied by
the native dynasty whose adherents had boastingly called themselves
"The Sons of Light." The former liberal and progressive government,
under which the people prospered, had grown corrupt and helpless,
and the country had yielded to the invaders and passed under the
terrible tyranny of the Tartars.

Yet there were true patriots among the Chinese who were neither
discouraged by these conditions nor blind to the real cause of their
misfortunes. They realized that the easy conquest of their country
and the utter disregard by their people of the bad government which
had preceded it, showed that something was wrong with themselves.

Too wise to exhaust their land by carrying on a hopeless war,
they sought rather to get a better government by deserving it,
and worked for the general enlightenment, believing that it would
offer the most effective opposition to oppression, for they knew well
that an intelligent people could not be kept enslaved. Furthermore,
they understood that, even if they were freed from foreign rule, the
change would be merely to another tyranny unless the darkness of the
whole people were dispelled. The few educated men among them would
inevitably tyrannize over the ignorant many sooner or later, and it
would be less easy to escape from the evils of such misrule, for the
opposition to it would be divided, while the strength of union would
oppose any foreign despotism. These true patriots were more concerned
about the welfare of their country than ambitious for themselves,
and they worked to prepare their countrymen for self-government by
teaching self-control and respect for the rights of others.

No public effort toward popular education can be made under a bad
government. Those opposed to Manchu rule knew of a secret society
that had long existed in spite of the laws against it, and they used
it as their model in organizing a new society to carry out their
purposes. Some of them were members of this Ke-Ming-Tong or Chinese
Freemasonry as it is called, and it was difficult for outsiders to
find out the differences between it and the new Heaven-Earth-Man
Brotherhood. The three parts to their name led the new brotherhood
later to be called the Triad Society, and they used a triangle for
their seal.

The initiates of the Triad were pledged to one another in a blood
compact to "depose the Tsing [Tartar] and restore the Ming [native
Chinese] dynasty." But really the society wanted only gradual reform
and was against any violent changes. It was at first evolutionary, but
later a section became dissatisfied and started another society. The
original brotherhood, however, kept on trying to educate its
members. It wanted them to realize that the dignity of manhood is
above that of rank or riches, and seeking to break down the barriers
of different languages and local prejudice, hoped to create an united
China efficient in its home government and respected in its foreign

 * * * * *

It was the policy of Spain to rule by keeping the different elements
among her subjects embittered against one another. Consequently the
entire Chinese population of the Philippines had several times been
almost wiped out by the Spaniards assisted by the Filipinos and
resident Japanese. Although overcrowding was mainly the cause of
the Chinese immigration, the considerations already described seem
to have influenced the better class of emigrants who incorporated
themselves with the Filipinos from 1642 on through the eighteenth
century. Apparently these emigrants left their Chinese homes to avoid
the shaven crown and long braided queue that the Manchu conquerors
were imposing as a sign of submission--a practice recalled by
the recent wholesale cutting off of queues which marked the fall
of this same Manchu dynasty upon the establishment of the present
republic. The patriot Chinese in Manila retained the ancient style,
which somewhat resembled the way Koreans arrange their hair. Those who
became Christians cut the hair short and wore European hats, otherwise
using the clothing--blue cotton for the poor, silk for the richer--and
felt-soled shoes, still considered characteristically Chinese.

The reasons for the brutal treatment of the unhappy exiles and the
causes of the frequent accusation against them that they were intending
rebellion may be found in the fear that had been inspired by the
Chinese pirates, and the apprehension that the Chinese traders and
workmen would take away from the Filipinos their means of gaining a
livelihood. At times unjust suspicions drove some of the less patient
to take up arms in self-defense. Then many entirely innocent persons
would be massacred, while those who had not bought protection from
some powerful Spaniard would have their property pillaged by mobs that
protested excessive devotion to Spain and found their patriotism so
profitable that they were always eager to stir up trouble.

One of the last native Chinese emperors, not wishing that any of
his subjects should live outside his dominions, informed the Spanish
authorities that he considered the emigrants evil persons unworthy
of his interest. His Manchu successors had still more reason to be
careless of the fate of the Manila Chinese. They were consequently ill
treated with impunity, while the Japanese were "treated very cordially,
as they are a race that demand good treatment, and it is advisable
to do so for the friendly relations between the Islands and Japan,"
to quote the ancient history once more.

Pagan or Christian, a Chinaman's life in Manila then was not an
enviable one, though the Christians were slightly more secure. The
Chinese quarter was at first inside the city, but before long it became
a considerable district of several streets along Arroceros near the
present Botanical Garden. Thus the Chinese were under the guns of the
Bastion San Gabriel, which also commanded two other Chinese settlements
across the river in Tondo--Minondoc, or Binondo, and Baybay. They had
their own headmen, their own magistrates and their own prison, and no
outsiders were permitted among them. The Dominican Friars, who also
had a number of missionary stations in China, maintained a church and
a hospital for these Manila Chinese and established a settlement where
those who became Christians might live with their families. Writers
of that day suggest that sometimes conversions were prompted by the
desire to get married--which until 1898 could not be done outside the
Church--or to help the convert's business or to secure the protection
of an influential Spanish godfather, rather than by any changed belief.

Certainly two of these reasons did not influence the conversion of
Doctor Rizal's paternal ancestor, Lam-co (that is, "Lam, Esq."),
for this Chinese had a Chinese godfather and was not married till
many years later.

He was a native of the Chinchew district, where the Jesuits first, and
later the Dominicans, had had missions, and he perhaps knew something
of Christianity before leaving China. One of his church records
indicates his home more definitely, for it specifies Siongque, near
the great city, an agricultural community, and in China cultivation
of the soil is considered the most honorable employment. Curiously
enough, without conversion, the people of that region even to-day
consider themselves akin to the Christians. They believe in one god
and have characteristics distinguishing them from the Pagan Chinese,
possibly derived from some remote Mohammedan ancestors.

Lam-co's prestige among his own people, as shown by his leadership of
those who later settled with him in Binan, as well as the fact that
even after his residence in the country he was called to Manila to
act as godfather, suggests that he was above the ordinary standing,
and certainly not of the coolie class. This is bogne out by his
marrying the daughter of an educated Chinese, an alliance that was
not likely to have been made unless he was a person of some education,
and education is the Chinese test of social degree.

He was baptized in the Parian church of San Gabriel on a Sunday in June
of 1697. Lam-co's age was given in the record as thirty-five years,
and the names of his parents were given as Siang-co and Zun-nio. The
second syllables of these names are titles of a little more respect
than the ordinary "Mr." and "Mrs.," something like the Spanish Don
and Dona, but possibly the Dominican priest who kept the register
was not so careful in his use of Chinese words as a Chinese would
have been. Following the custom of the other converts on the same
occasion, Lam-co took the name Domingo, the Spanish for Sunday, in
honor of the day. The record of this baptism is still to be seen in
the records of the Parian church of San Gabriel, which are preserved
with the Binondo records, in Manila.

Chinchew, the capital of the district from which he came, was a
literary center and a town famed in Chinese history for its loyalty;
it was probably the great port Zeitung which so strongly impressed
the Venetian traveler Marco Polo, the first European to see China.

The city was said by later writers to be large and beautiful and to
contain half a million inhabitants, "candid, open and friendly people,
especially friendly and polite to foreigners." It was situated forty
miles from the sea, in the province of Fokien, the rocky coast of which
has been described as resembling Scotland, and its sturdy inhabitants
seem to have borne some resemblance to the Scotch in their love of
liberty. The district now is better known by its present port of Amoy.

Altogether, in wealth, culture and comfort, Lam-co's home city far
surpassed the Manila of that day, which was, however, patterned after
it. The walls of Manila, its paved streets, stone bridges, and large
houses with spacious courts are admitted by Spanish writers to be due
to the industry and skill of Chinese workmen. They were but slightly
changed from their Chinese models, differing mainly in ornamentation,
so that to a Chinese the city by the Pasig, to which he gave the name
of "the city of horses," did not seem strange, but reminded him rather
of his own country.

Famine in his native district, or the plague which followed it,
may have been the cause of Lam-co's leaving home, but it was more
probably political troubles which transferred to the Philippines
that intelligent and industrious stock whose descendants have proved
such loyal and creditable sons of their adopted country. Chinese had
come to the Islands centuries before the Spaniards arrived and they
are still coming, but no other period has brought such a remarkable
contribution to the strong race which the mixture of many peoples
has built up in the Philippines. Few are the Filipinos notable in
recent history who cannot trace descent from a Chinese baptized in
San Gabriel church during the century following 1642; until recently
many have felt ashamed of these really creditable ancestors.

Soon after Lam-co came to Manila he made the acquaintance of two
well-known Dominicans and thus made friendships that changed his career
and materially affected the fortunes of his descendants. These powerful
friends were the learned Friar Francisco Marquez, author of a Chinese
grammar, and Friar Juan Caballero, a former missionary in China,
who, because of his own work and because his brother held high office
there, was influential in the business affairs of the Order. Through
them Lam-co settled in Binan, on the Dominican estate named after
"St. Isidore the Laborer." There, near where the Pasig river flows
out of the Laguna de Bay, Lam-co's descendants were to be tenants
until another government, not yet born, and a system unknown in his
day, should end a long series of inevitable and vexatious disputes by
buying the estate and selling it again, on terms practicable for them,
to those who worked the land.

The Filipinos were at law over boundaries and were claiming the
property that had been early and cheaply acquired by the Order as
endowment for its university and other charities. The Friars of
the Parian quarter thought to take those of their parishioners in
whom they had most confidence out of harm's way, and by the same act
secure more satisfactory tenants, for prejudice was then threatening
another indiscriminate massacre. So they settled many industrious
Chinese converts upon these farms, and flattered themselves that
their tenant troubles were ended, for these foreigners could have no
possible claim to the land. The Chinese were equally pleased to have
safer homes and an occupation which in China placed them in a social
position superior to that of a tradesman.

Domingo Lam-co was influential in building up Tubigan barrio, one
of the richest parts of the great estate. In name and appearance
it recalled the fertile plains that surrounded his native Chinchew,
"the city of springs." His neighbors were mainly Chinchew men, and
what is of more importance to this narrative, the wife whom he married
just before removing to the farm was of a good Chinchew family. She
was Inez de la Rosa and but half Domingo's age; they were married
in the Parian church by the same priest who over thirty years before
had baptized her husband.

Her father was Agustin Chinco, also of Chinchew, a rice merchant,
who had been baptized five years earlier than Lam-co. His baptismal
record suggests that he was an educated man, as already indicated,
for the name of his town proved a puzzle till a present-day Dominican
missionary from Amoy explained that it appeared to be the combined
names for Chinchew in both the common and literary Chinese, in each
case with the syllable denoting the town left off. Apparently when
questioned from what town he came, Chinco was careful not to repeat
the word town, but gave its name only in the literary language,
and when that was not understood, he would repeat it in the local
dialect. The priest, not understanding the significance of either in
that form, wrote down the two together as a single word. Knowledge
of the literary Chinese, or Mandarin, as it is generally called,
marked the educated man, and, as we have already pointed out,
education in China meant social position. To such minute deductions
is it necessary to resort when records are scarce, and to be of value
the explanation must be in harmony with the conditions of the period;
subsequent research has verified the foregoing conclusions.

Agustin Chinco had also a Chinese godfather and his parents were
Chin-co and Zun-nio. He was married to Jacinta Rafaela, a Chinese
mestiza of the Parian, as soon after his baptism as the banns could
be published. She apparently was the daughter of a Christian Chinese
and a Chinese mestiza; there were too many of the name Jacinta in that
day to identify which of the several Jacintas she was and so enable us
to determine the names of her parents. The Rafaela part of her name
was probably added after she was grown up, in honor of the patron of
the Parian settlement, San Rafael, just as Domingo, at his marriage,
added Antonio in honor of the Chinese. How difficult guides names
then were may be seen from this list of the six children of Agustin
Chinco and Jacinta Rafaela: Magdalena Vergara, Josepha, Cristoval de
la Trinidad, Juan Batista, Francisco Hong-Sun and Inez de la Rosa.

The father-in-law and the son-in-law, Agustin and Domingo, seem to
have been old friends, and apparently of the same class. Lam-co must
have seen his future wife, the youngest in Chinco's numerous family,
grow up from babyhood, and probably was attracted by the idea that
she would make a good housekeeper like her thrifty mother, rather
than by any romantic feelings, for sentiment entered very little into
matrimony in those days when the parents made the matches. Possibly,
however, their married life was just as happy, for divorces then were
not even thought of, and as this couple prospered they apparently
worked well together in a financial way.

The next recorded event in the life of Domingo Lam-co and his wife
occurred in 1741 when, after years of apparently happy existence in
Binan, came a great grief in the loss of their baby daughter, Josepha
Didnio, probably named for her aunt. She had lived only five days,
but payments to the priest for a funeral such as was not given to
many grown persons who died that year in Binan show how keenly the
parents felt the loss of their little girl. They had at the time but
one other child, a boy of ten, Francisco Mercado, whose Christian
name was given partly because he had an uncle of the same name,
and partly as a tribute of gratitude to the friendly Friar scholar
in Manila. His new surname suggests that the family possessed the
commendable trait of taking pride in its ancestry.

Among the Chinese the significance of a name counts for much and it
is always safe to seek a reason for the choice of a name. The Lam-co
family were not given to the practice of taking the names of their
god-parents. Mercado recalls both an honest Spanish encomendero
of the region, also named Francisco, and a worthy mestizo Friar,
now remembered for his botanical studies, but it is not likely that
these influenced Domingo Lam-co in choosing this name for his son. He
gave his boy a name which in the careless Castilian of the country was
but a Spanish translation of the Chinese name by which his ancestors
had been called. Sangley, Mercado and Merchant mean much the same;
Francisco therefore set out in life with a surname that would free
him from the prejudice that followed those with Chinese names,
and yet would remind him of his Chinese ancestry. This was wisdom,
for seldom are men who are ashamed of their ancestry any credit to it.

The family history has to be gleaned from partially preserved parochial
registers of births, marriages and deaths, incomplete court records,
the scanty papers of the estates, a few land transfers, and some stray
writings that accidentally have been preserved with the latter. The
next event in Domingo's life which is revealed by them is a visit
to Manila where in the old Parian church he acted as sponsor,
or godfather, at the baptism of a countryman, and a new convert,
Siong-co, whose granddaughter was, we shall see, to marry a grandson
of Lam-co's, the couple becoming Rizal's grandparents.

Francisco was a grown man when his mother died and was buried with
the elaborate ceremonies which her husband's wealth permitted. There
was a coffin, a niche in which to put it, chanting of the service and
special prayers. All these involved extra cost, and the items noted in
the margin of her funeral record make a total which in those days was
a considerable sum. Domingo outlived Mrs. Lam-co by but a few years,
and he also had, for the time, an expensive funeral.

Produced by Jeroen Hellingman and Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders


A Study of the Growth of Free Ideas in the Trans-Pacific American





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