C is for the Chinese Settlers in Manila

So here we are – going on strong with Blogging from A to Z April challenge.  I’m organizing my research into 1890’s Philippines (when they were still under Spanish rule) and though I’ve been doing it now for the last ten years or so, it’s all just random notes on notepads and computer folders here and there – and never in one place.

So if you’ve stumbled upon this blog and wondering to yourself, what the heck…?  Well, it’s back in time for my challenge and for the letter C, I’m writing about the Chinese settlers who made their home in the Philippines, and their impact, or at least a glimpse of it because much of this stuff is too much to write in a blog post, to Manila.

CLong before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in 1521, the Chinese had already established trade between both China and Philippines.  Augustin Craig, who wrote  A Thousand Years of the Philippine History Before the coming of the Spaniards (Manila, 1914) states that according to Tome Pires, writing in 1512 – 1515, gold mining was a principal industry of the Filipinos long before the coming of Ferdinand Magellan (Magallanes to the rest of the world), and that Filipinos “exported gold to China.”

When the Spaniards colonized the archipelago and established Manila – and its walled city called Intramuros – as its capital, they segregated the ethnic Chinese population outside the walls of the city, called Parian.   It also happened to be within shooting range of the city’s canons, should an uprising occur – to which there were four such uprisings by ethnic unconverted Chinese residents.

Impressed by the craftsmanship and work of a group of Chinese merchants and artisans, Spanish Governor Luis Pérez Dasmariñas gave them the area of Binondo in 1594.  He also gave them tax-free and self-governing privileges for perpetuity.  When the Dominicans established their parish in Binondo in 1596, they converted many of the residents to Catholicism, and soon, it became a place where converted Chinese immigrants, their Filipino wives and their mixed-race children, could live in peace.

“Economic life … during the Spanish times depended largely on Chinese labor and industry.  The Chinese were merchants, agriculturists, masons, bankers, painters, shoemakers, metalworkers, and laborers….The country could not exist without Chinese services.”

– via The Philippines: A Unique Nation by Sonia M. Zaide with Gregorio F. Zaide’s History of the Republic of the Philippines

Binondo soon became the main center for business and finance in Manila for ethnic Chinese, Chinese mestizos (mixed-race) and Spanish Filipinos.  They also built esteros (canals) around Binondo which entered the Pasig River, serving as routes for cascos and boats to travel from one part of the area to another and was essential for trade and commerce.

One of the well-known streets in Binondo is called Escolta, known as “Broadway of Manila” during the American Occupation.  Running parallel to the Pasig River, during the Spanish period, it was known as calle del la Escolta and is considered one of the oldest streets in Manila.  Interestingly, the origin of its name came from the brief British occupation of Manila.

The name “Escolta,” which means escort, convoy, guard, was given during the British occupation of Manila (1762-1764), because the British Commander-in-chief would ride down the street daily with his escort.

– Via The Rise of Modern Manila, ArtInSite Magazine





Blogging A to Z Challenge