Monday, January 23, 2012

When there was a Chinese question, not a Chinese new year ...

There was a time in our nation's history that the Filipino had no great love to greet the Chinaman in his town or city with "kung hei fat choi" during the Chinese new year in January or February.  He expressed as much disdain for the Sangleyes following the example of his Spanish colonial masters.

Baptismal record of a Sangley unbeliever from Ymen in China who was baptized as Pedro Siatoycho in Vigan, Ilocos on 09 Feb 1795 at the age of 42, more or less.  He was brought to the provincial capital by Chinese Christians.  (Source:  Microfilms of the Vigan church's baptismal records at the Family History Center of the Philippines Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.) 

The Chinese were not allowed to celebrate their new year with the traditional revelry as they would with their families in their villages in mainland China.  Many of these imported laborers would take leave from their jobs early enough so that they can reach their native land in time for the traditional new year festivities.

In the early years of the American regime, the immigration division of the Philippines customs service would be deluged with applications for return certificates from the Chinese workers who intend to come back to work.  The rule of the customs-house was for applications to be filed 30 days before the departure date. 

Baptismal record of Victorio Posadas, a mestizo Sangley, on 27 Dec 1857. (Source:  Baptismal book of the San Sebastian Church, San Narciso, Zambales).

It is interesting to read today the testimony of Carlos Palanca (Chan Quiensien, Cheuy Long) before the Philippine Commission in July 1899 "in aid of legislation" with regard to the "Chinese question" of that time.  The hearing was conducted by Col. Charles Denby as chair, Professor Dean Worcester, and John MacArthur as secretary.  Below are excerpts from Palanca's testimony --

"Q [Denby]. Please give us your name, residence, and occupation.
"A [Palanca]. Carlos Palanca; residence, Manila; occupation, merchant.
"Q. How long have you lived here?
"A. Forty-three years. I came here and commenced in the draper business, piece goods. At present I am in the sugar and rice business. I do every kind of business. I am a contractor also.
"Q. Do you do any work for the Government, for the United States?
"A. I do a lot of work for the United States.
"Q. What do you do?
"A. Get the coolie laborers out to the lines, building barracks.
"Q. What else?
"A. I am also a ticket broker.
"Q. Have you anything to do with carabaos? Do you furnish transportation of any kind?
"A. When the Americans came here I furnished the carabaos on the transportation lines. In September, October, and November I furnished all the carabaos and transportation.
"Q. Was that work done for the Government of the United States? What other work did you do?
"A. I used to give a lot of information to the American Government, and assisted in getting houses in the commencement for the troops, furnishing my own godowns out at San Miguel for the quartering of the troops, too.
"Q. How many Chinamen have you got under you?
"A. Over 40,000 men at a time.
"Q. Are you the captain now?
"A. I am not captain now, as there is a consul now. I was acting consul four months also.
"Q. When you say 40,000 men, do you mean that to cover all the Chinese who are in the Philippine Islands?
"A. Yes.
"Q. How many are there in Manila?
"A. Twenty-two or twenty-three thousand Chinese in Manila.
"Q. How many of them come here every year?
"A. Formerly in the Spanish time the Chinese that came here amounted to between ten and twelve thousand, and those returning to China between seven and eight thousand a year.
"Q. Do the seven or eight thousand go for good--go to stay?
"A. They don't go for good; they generally return here. They go to China in the sixth moon and in the eleventh moon of the Chinese year they return to China. They come back again to Manila in the Chinese eighth moon of the third after spending the feast of the seventh moon of the Chinese new year. (Highlighting ours.)

Keeping track of the Chinese population of Zambales in the fiscal years 1885-86 and 1886-87.  (Source:  Microfilm of statistical data at the Family History Center, Philippine Temple of the LDS.)
"Q. How many Chinese come here every year?
"A. Between ten and twelve thousand men come here every year.
"Q. What is the regulation about their coming? What was the regulation under the Spanish rule?
"A. They were at liberty to come. There was a year once, one time, when 15,000 Chinese came. In 1863 15,000 men came here.
"Q. Did they have to pay anything to get in?
"A. In 1863, when I came here, there were only about 20,000 Chinese. In that year 15,000 more came over.
"Q. What do the Chinese do after they come here--what labor?
"A. It is not easy to mention all that they do. However, when they get here, they go to their trade or they go to these timber yards, or are employed by these other merchants, or they are employed for the provinces in order to go and carry sugar and hemp, and in any kind of work generally.
"Q. Are they industrious, good workmen?
"A. They are industrious; they are good workmen.
"Q. If there were no Chinese here, couldn't the Filipinos do the work that the Chinese do?
"A. Formerly, in the Spaniards' time, about seventy or eighty years ago, there were no Chinese here, and so the Filipinos couldn't do anything; they had no vegetables, they had no proper workmen, they couldn't do anything, and Simon de Anda, the governor, asked somebody to go to China and get the Chinese to come here and do the gardening work in these islands. The governor sent Mantayou de Pico to go to Canton, and he got a great many Chinese. (Highlighting ours.)
"Q. What do you think would be the probabilities of their coming, as to the numbers that would come under the American flag
"A. At present in the Philippine Islands there are many possibilities of mines--silver mines, copper mines--and there are no men to work them.
Q. I ask, what do you think of the probability of their coming in great numbers?
A. Then the Philippines would be wealthy.
"Q. How many hundred thousand do you think would come here from China?
"A. I can not say how many hundred thousand will come, only that Chinese can not live along with the Filipinos, because the Filipinos will kill them.
"Q. Why do the Filipinos object to the Chinese?
"A. The Filipinos have a lot of vices, cockfighting, gambling, etc., and the Chinese have come here to work and get their living in order to provide for their families in China and to lay by something for themselves.
"Q. And is that the reason the Filipinos hate them?
"A. Yes; the Filipino does not like the Chinaman because he goes in poor clothing, wears one coat that costs him 20 cents, and trousers that cost 20 cents. As the Chinese are so miserly and do not spend their money they are hated by the Filipinos, because the Filipinos no doubt dress in nice clothes and wear shoes and all sorts of things, and don't care for work.
"Q. How can the Filipino work if the Chinese do all the work?
"A. There would be work for 500,000 men-­­­-there would be much more work for them--because there is a lot of land for agriculture and there are no men to do the work.
"Q. Do you think there would be plenty of work for all?
"A. Any amount of work. There will be several hundred thousand tons of timber to be worked up.
"Q. Can you tell us anything about the mines?
"A. In Ilocos there are copper mines. There are gold mines in Camarines; also in Cagayan. ... There are coal mines in Cebu.... There are copper mines in Ilocos....Tin in Bulacan. There are some iron mines at Angat.... In Nueva Ecija there are gold mines, too. There are other mines which have not been prospected.
"Q. Well, these mines that you mention; have they been worked?
"A. Only the copper mines have been worked; but they do the mining work there as long as there are any men to do it.
"Q. Do the Chinese work in any of these mines?
"A. Formerly when the Spaniards hired the Chinese they worked in the mines. The copper mines at Ilocos were worked by Don Tomas Castro. The coal mine at Cebu is worked by Don Rafael Reyes.
"Q. Do these people employ Chinese?
"A. Yes; they employ Chinese. They have no machinery; they simply work with their hands and pickaxes. 
"Q. Do you think that we could get Chinese to come over and go into the mining business?
"A. With the employment of machinery you are bound to be successful, and if you would employ Chinese they are bound to come, too.
"Q. Can't the Filipinos work in these mines?
"A. The few Filipinos that work, and get a certain amount of money to-day, won't work to-morrow; they will stop work when they have got a little money.
"Q. Do you think there could be a limit put on the number of Chinese that would come here?
"A. I don't think that a limit should be put.
"Q. You think all should be allowed to come that want to come?
"A. I think they should be allowed to come at present. The situation is not settled. As soon as everything is settled and everything is quiet and in working order, there will be any amount of work required. At present Smith, Bell & Co. wanted to engage some Chinese to go down to some of the out ports, and they had to pay $30 to each man.
"Q [Denby]. The Chinese that come here are generally uneducated, aren't they?
"A. Yes; the well educated do not come here; it is only those that have very little to begin with who come here to be clerks. When I came here I was only 14 years of age. I had no education what ever, and on arriving here I had to learn any kind of trade that was handy. I know all about the affairs of all the people in the Philippines.
"Q. You have made a good deal of money, haven't you?
"A. Yes; I made a lot of money, but I spent a lot of money, too. (Highlighting ours.)

The Chinese have truly come and settled. We ride his planes, shop at his malls, keep a savings account in his banks, eat at a Chinese restaurant, and watch every now and then a Mother Lily movie.  Our writers in English and Pilipino dream of receiving an award given out annually in memory of Carlos Palanca.

More than a century after Palanca's testimony before the Philippine Commission, the Filipino is an overseas worker in mainland China, among other destinations.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

  • Philippines Custom Service. (1908). Chinese and immigration circulars (annotated), constructions and decisions, December, 1901, to December, 1907. 1(1-197):103 . Manila: Bureau of Printing.  Retrieved from

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