for photos of this tour, click here.
Last September 20, 2015 some of the priests, seminarians and novices of our Institute in the Philippines joined the “Chino Cristiano: A Historical Tour on the Contribution of the Sangleys in the Philippines”. Guillermo Gómez Rivera, academic director of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española of the Real Academia Española led the group along the roads and byways of Binondo, Manila, the center of Filipino Chinese culture in the Philippines and were the present Chinatown (the oldest in the world) is located. Señor Guillermo (as we fondly call him) summarized its history as follows: The commerce of the galleons that sailed to and from Manila and Mexico (Acapulco) for more than two centuries, gave birth to the Parian which is the community of Chinese Catholic Christians, Spanish-speaking and citizens of Spain upon their acceptance of the King of Spain, Felipe II, as their natural sovereign. That is why the culture of the Parian is a Sino-Hispanic mestizaje which ends up being Filipino.
The Chinese communities in the Philippines during the Spanish Rule were called parian (from the word ‘pari’ or priest since the Spanish government these places were also mission territories usually handled by Dominican priests). Binondo is not the only parian in the Philippines, but it is also found in many main cities within the islands.
We first stopped at the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, also known as the Binondo Church. The Binondo Church was built in 1596 and this century-old edifice was mercilessly bombed during the ‘liberation of Manila’ in 1945, with the bell tower surviving. It was later dedicated to San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, the first Filipino saint and protomartyr, a Chino Cristiano residing in Binondo, Manila.
Within the church, we were able to venerate the century-old Sto. Cristo de Longos (Longos is the old name for Binondo).More than 200 years ago, a deaf-mute Chinese found an figure of Holy Christ in a well in Calle Sto. Cristo and was immediately cured. The parish priest that time fitted the said image with a cross and had it installed at the main altar of a chapel specially constructed for the miraculous image. After an earthquake in 1863, the chapel was destroyed and the image was transferred to the Binondo Church. Today, one can find the well, covered under a modern structure.
We then proceeded to visit this well, but first we passed by its replica found in Tomas Pinpin Street. Residents of Binondo still venerate this image with candles and incense sticks.
Walking towards this well, we passed by the Plaza Lorenzo Ruiz. It was formerly known as Plaza Calderón de la Barca. Senor, during one of his lectures in the seminary for the monthly Hispanidad conference shared with us its story. This involved the Governor General of the Philippines, Diego Fajardo, an old man who married a young girl. This young girl would go with her carriage, crossing Puente de España (now the Jones Bridge), to go to Binondo, passing by this plaza to go to the parian and buy silk. One day, she saw a young mestizo whom she invited to the palace; for the lady liked him. Unfortunately, a story of adultery occurred. The lady, dressed as a man, would go out of the palace in order to meet the man whom she housed in Fort Santiago. Meanwhile, the Governor General was in Cavite heard the rumors, so he returned to Manila to verify the story himself. Then, he discovered the adulterous relation his wife had with a young mestizo, both of them were now hiding in that house in Fort Santiago. Fajardo sent for the soldiers to arrest the woman (the man has already jumped to the sea) but she was able to fight them. Then, the Archbishop of Manila came to plead. She surrendered, confessed her sins, and” and was executed by his husband. This event inspired Calderón de la Barca to write a play entitled ¨El médico de su honra¨
Crossing the Estero de Binondo, Señor pointed to us where the house of Capitan Tiago once stood, along the Calle Anloague (which means ‘carpenters’ since carpentry shops used to line this street) now Juan Luna St. as envisioned by Jose Rizal in his novel ‘Noli Me Tangere’ and ‘El Filibusterismo’. Filipino students may remember the sad ending of Capitan Tiago, being addicted to opium. Well, this opium den really existed in Binondo in a street named ‘Fumador’ which was later changed to hide its dirty past.
So we have entered the San Nicolas district, filled with streets named after the great cities of Spain: Madrid, Sevilla and Barcelona. The Chinos had a devotion to San Nicolas and its beginning is related with a legend described by Jose Rizal in his novel El Filibusterismo “It seems that formerly the river, as well as the lake, was infested with caymans, so huge and voracious that they attacked bankas and upset them with a slap of the tail. Our chronicles relate that one day an infidel Chinaman, who up to that time had refused to be converted, was passing in front of the church, when suddenly the devil presented himself to him in the form of a cayman and upset the banka, in order to devour him and carry him off to hell. Inspired by God, the Chinaman at that moment called upon St. Nicholas and instantly the cayman was changed into a stone.”
Later we visited the miraculous well. Looking around, Señor pointed to us the ancestral house which may have similarity to the house of Capitan Tiago and of the sidewalk made up piedras de china. Then we passed by the Jaboneros street (it used to be filled with soap factories). At the corner of Calle Barcelona, we saw the ancestral house of Don José Hilario Súnico who contributed to the Church his skills in designing and making the big church-bells of the Catholic Churches in the Philippines. It was a mansion, filled with elaborate iron works. Later, at the corner of Calle Sevilla, Señor pointed to us a preserved house, built during the glorious years under the Spanish crown.
The trip ended with a visit to Doña Teresita Tambunting de Libojo, who warmly welcomed us. Here, we saw the sculptures made by the Chinos Cristianos which are now part of her collections.
The Exclusion of Chinos Cristianos
As we have mentioned before, the Chinos Cristianos had a special role in Filipinas. What a great cultural development we had!
In one of his articles, Señor Guillermo Gómez Rivera explains the decadence of those years when the the parians shined gloriously: “Our so-called Educational system in English, by design of the then US American invaders of the 1900s (the US WASPos), teaches nothing about the Pari-an or the “Sectores de Mestizos” from Manila, Iloilo, Cebú, Vigan, Malolos, Zamboanga and other Provincial Capitals. This is due to an American “Exclusion Act” against the Chinese as a race. And since the Pari-an, or the “Sectores de Mestizos” is the Chinese enclave that was born out of the Galleon Trade between Manila and Mexico, the American and their Pinoy “historians”, due to both their Sinophobia and Hispanophobia, are silent about the Pari-an reality in the History of the Philippines since the Pari-an is the home of the CHINOS CRISTIANOS of Spanish language and culture where these dances
May this trip help us to understand how missionary activities greatly enriches a nation in its social and cultural life. The colorful Filipino life we are now trying to rediscover are one of the many products of many years of mission of Spanish priests and friars in the Philippines. We conclude with a poetry written by a Chino Cristiano, Tomas Chio Dian.
¡Corre en mis venas
|It runs in my veins
The Celestial blood!
I am celestial by being a sangley.
And I’m sangley and Ansit
For I am from China
The Ancient China of Catjai
The imperial …
Great Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom
It runs in my veins
I am celestial because I am following
Jesus made me
Christian and celestial.
And he opened to me
The Doors of Paradise.
Now, I am made immortal.
In the ancient empire
That Chinese empire
Perhaps a beautiful empire
But, it is pagan
I did not know
Jesus Christ …
Now, I’m celestial
Because I am a Christian
It runs in my veins
The most pure celestial blood
And now I’m Castilian
Castillian of the orient;
Because I posses the language
And also I have,
Her simple faith
All who are subjects
Of the great perennial China,
A beautiful pagan nation,
For this religion can
Renew and redeem …
But they should lose themselves
From the antiquated paganism
And proclaim with Castille
The news of Jesus Christ.