Empire in Asia

A New Global History

The Chinese in the Philippines: Vol. 1 1570-1770

Book Title

The Chinese in the Philippines: Vol. 1 1570-1770. Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House, 1966

Author

Felix Jr, Alfonso (ed.)

Synopsis

This is the first volume in a 2 part study about a racial and ethnic category, the Chinese in the Philippines. By openly considering them as an economic force, as well as an ‘alien’ population, the volume considers the role of the Chinese in the historical development of the Philippines. It does this by considering the relationships between Filipinos and Chinese, and the ways in which the Chinese assimilated or instead, refused to assimilate into the community.

Primarily written as a history of a nation through a study of community and minority ethnic population, the book is a contribution as a history written from the perspective of preserving a national identity. Engaging topics such as the problem of discrimination between the Chinese and the Filipinos, the records of massacre of the Chinese, and also the important role the Chinese played in the wealth of the nation; the book assesses attitudes, both colonial and indigenous, towards the migrant community.

Considering the contemporary situation that affected writers at the time, whilst reflecting on the historical development that caused phenomena such as discrimination towards the Chinese, the volume contextualizes this ethnic community in the history of the Philippines.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

The work is structured in two volumes; this volume covers themes from (although not limited to) 1570-1770. Introducing a general historical context of the nation,  this book subsequently covers topics such as the Chinese in Manila, the Chinese Ghetto or “El Parian de los Sangleyes”, as well as eyewitness accounts of the early years of the Chinese in the Philippines. Whilst focusing on the majority of contacts that occurred in the “Christianized” portion of the Philippines, the historical interaction between Chinese and the people of Sulu is also examined.

The book goes beyond trade in its analysis, including chapters on the Chinese family. By including discussion by academics, priests and a Chinese scholar, the volume is a broad introduction written from different perspectives and thus giving a considerable scope to the understanding of this topic historically.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

As with any other broad volume with a range of authors, the book presents different facets of the Chinese community and their relevance to the history of the Philippines, giving the narrative space for breadth. Opening with the consideration of the “problem” of the integration of the Chinese in the Philippines, alongside recorded evidence of persecution, the volume argues for the integration of the Chinese community into the larger “national” community. Whilst considering themes such as discrimination and loyalty, the volume takes up a situation of problematic relations: the language of the first chapter happens to be problematic in itself (it considers possibilities of massacres, using a gestapo to watch the Chinese, then attempts to logically refute such solutions). The chapters provide different accounts of interaction between the Chinese, Spanish and Filipinos and the topics provide a good background to the understanding of the history of the Philippines.

Written in a time where the new nation states in Southeast Asia were finding their own distinct voice, one could read the effort as an attempt at understanding the diversity and also integrating ethnicity in the archipelago. The volume can itself be read as a source for scholars who want to know how history was written, and to what end, in post-independence Philippines.


Annotated by Sandeep Singh