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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Tracing Chinese contributions in Philippine history

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Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, stands as an icon of intellectual brilliance, patriotism, and resilience. Beyond his indelible mark on the nation’s history, Rizal’s Chinese immigrant ancestral roots unveil a remarkable tale of perseverance, economic success, and cultural contributions. In particular, his Chinese immigrant ancestor, Domingo Lamco, represents a narrative of triumph over adversity that echoes the broader contributions of the Chinese community to the Philippines.

Domingo Lamco: A Beacon of Resilience

Domingo Lamco, also known by his Chinese name Cua Yi-Lam (“Ke Yi-Nan” in Mandarin), was a trailblazer in the face of oppressive Spanish colonial conditions. Born in the village of Zhangguo (“Siongque” in Hokkien) in Jinjiang County (now a city), Quanzhou City, Fujian province, Lamco navigated the tumultuous era of Spanish colonization. Segregated in the Parian ghetto along with other Chinese traders and artisans, Lamco overcame hardships and persecution.

Yong is the Chinese word for courage or valiant

Overcoming adversity, Lamco was a “rags-to-riches” entrepreneur and later moved to Laguna province to become the founder of the high-educated, esteemed Mercado family. The adoption of the Spanish surname “Mercado” was one way the immigrant hoped to escape persecution of his family members in their business and professional dealings, testament to his resilience and vision for his descendants. The Mercado family would later play a significant role in shaping the economic, cultural, and social fabric of the Philippines.

Chinese Contributions to Philippine Development

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Across many centuries of peaceful trading in the Philippines, the broader Chinese community—of which Domingo Lamco was an integral part, has always played a positive and pivotal role in the Filipino nation’s development through the generations. From pioneering economic endeavors to generous yet low-key philanthropy, the manifold contributions of Chinese immigrants and their descendants have immeasurably enriched Philippine life and society.

Qing Dynasty era junk sailboat used by traders and migrants like Dr. Jose Rizal’s ancestor, Domingo Lamcoancestor Domingo Lamco

Economic Prosperity

The resilient and diligent Chinese immigrants, like Domingo Lamco, engaged in trade and diverse professions, contributing to the economic vibrancy of the Philippine archipelago. Their entrepreneurial spirit laid the foundation for flourishing consumer markets and economic growth.

Cultural Integration

The Chinese community seamlessly integrated its rich cultural heritage with the diverse tapestry of Philippine culture, from family and social customs, Hokkien or south Fujian province language (exactly similar to Taiwanese language of Taiwan island) to foods and farming traditions. This fusion of Chinese influences into the emerging and evolving Filipino national culture is evident in various aspects of daily life.

A Philippine stamp released in 2000 honors Quanzhou City in Fujian province in China —the roots of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Image shows one of the ancient East West Pagodas of Quanzhou

Philanthropic Endeavors

Over the centuries, Filipino Chinese individuals and organizations, such as the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) with 170 Filipino Chinese chambers of commerce nationwide from Aparri to Tawi Tawi, have been at the forefront of philanthropy and diverse charities. Their financial and logistical contributions to education, healthcare, arts and culture, religious faith and social welfare showcase a commitment to Philippine nation-building.

Jose Rizal: A Testament to Chinese Influence

As a Chinese mestizo, Jose Rizal epitomized the fusion of Filipino and Chinese cultures, reflecting the shared history of the two communities. Rizal’s advocacy for socio-economic and political reforms resonated with the ideals that many Chinese mestizos and the ethnic Chinese at that time in the Philippines embraced during the colonial era.

Carlos ‘Botong’ Francisco’s 1960 painting of The Execution of Dr. Jose Rizal is part of the collection of Museo ni Jose Rizal in historic Fort Santiago in Intramuros, Manila

The legacy of Rizal and his Chinese forebear, Domingo Lamco, serves as a testament to the enduring positive impact of Chinese influence on the Philippines. This influence transcends beyond trade and economic modernization of Philippine life, encompassing rich cultural exchange, resilience in the face of adversity, and a shared commitment to nation-building.

In commemorating Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines pays homage not only to a great and inspiring national hero but also to the intricate threads of positive Chinese influence woven into the national cultural and historical fabric.

Representatives of the Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen City, China laid a flower wreath at the 18.61-meter high Rizal Monument in Zhangguo Village, in Jinjiang City, Fujian province on Dec. 30, 2021.

Domingo Lamco’s journey from a segregated ghetto trader to the founder of a distinguished “ilustrado” Filipino family underscores the resilience and contributions of the Chinese community. As the Philippines embraces its multicultural and democratic identity, the intertwined stories of Rizal and his Chinese immigrant forebear Domingo Lamco stand as a symbol of unity in cultural diversity, forging a path toward a shared and progressive Philippine future.

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