Empire in Asia

A New Global History

The Chinese in the Philippines: Vol. 2 1770-1878

Book Title

The Chinese in the Philippines: Vol. 2 1770-1878. Manila: Solidaridad Publishing House, 1966

Author

Felix Jr, Alfonso. (ed.)

Synopsis

This book is the second volume in the two part series on the Chinese in the Philippines, containing documents and studies relating to the role of the Chinese in the history of that nation. Emphasizing the many links between Filipinos and Chinese, it attempts to read the history of the Chinese in the Philippines as a narrative of both assimilation and also difference (distinctive cultural attributes).

Continuing where the previous book leaves off, the study examines the dominant trends that the contributors find essential to understanding this community in the discourse of the nation and critically- as it is a work from a conservation society, the role of this work is to remember or serve as a platform for remembering.

Both emphasizing the general and the specific, the book is able to cover in detail, for instance, laws and regulations applicable to the Chinese, whilst also making larger observations about phenomena such as inter-marriage (acknowledging the importance of the Chinese Mestizo in Filipino history).

Even though the book admits the limited size of the Chinese community, being smaller than that of certain countries in Southeast Asia, the impact of their influence and presence certainly merits a study. Thus, the impetus of the work is both to understand this community historically and also aim to find common ground with the descendants of their immigrant ancestry.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

The book covers the period 1770-1898 (one could observe the terminus as the advent of the War of Philippine Independence). Combining analyses with comprehensive documentation, the work consults a broad array of sources to present facets of the Chinese in the Philippines over the years. Whilst giving a token chapter to the “Chinese Point of View” in the appendix, the volume covers a great deal of ground with studying families, laws, economics and even opium addiction. Thus the volume is worth considering- being not solely contributed to by academics in the field, it opens up avenues for discussion about collective heritage and national identity.

The volume provides an interesting insight to the type of work that was being done at the point of time and can serve as a reference point for individuals interested in the representation(s) of minorities in Southeast Asia, particularly in the ‘maritime’ or ‘island’ Southeast Asian states. It also is able to give light on nation building and the effects of ethnic relations on the scripting of a national past.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

By examining the role of the Chinese, the volume generally takes the approach of attempting to reconstruct the events which had impacted sentiment toward this community. The idea of sentiment or attitude is a ubiquitous one in the work- it surveys how the Chinese were acting whilst also being perceived in different ways by both the Filipinos and Spanish.
This book, a compilation of different aspects of the role of the Chinese, does not provide a clear central thesis- the book can be understood as a broader project to put aside discrimination. The study of the past is thus supposed to aid a vision of reconciliation in the present. By explaining practices such as opium addiction as misunderstood if characterized as unique to the Chinese, the volume attempts to give a broad insight to attitudes about the cultural attributes of the community, and their implications.

This book is significant as it can be read as a study of attitudes towards the Chinese in the Philippines, and through use of records and documents to aid its perspectives, allows us to reflect on the role of migrant and minority communities in the historical narrative of a nation.


Annotated by Sandeep Singh