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Chapter II: 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 relations.

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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 borne 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.

Facsimile of the baptisimal record of Domingo Lam-co.

Facsimile of the baptisimal record of Domingo Lam-co.

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.

Portrait Group.

Portrait Group.

Rizal in Luna's Home.
Rizal in 1890.
The Portrait on the Paper Money.
Rizal in 1891.
Rizal in 1892.