Philippine prehistory, dating to the ice age, shows us that land bridges connected the Philippines to the rest of Asia. Tribes from Southern China reached the islands, bringing with them cultural practices that we can still see today. Relations between the Chinese and the Filipinos predate Magellan’s arrival by many centuries. Barter trade from north to south of the Philippine islands saw the exchange of silk, porcelain, farm implements, ornaments with tortoise shells, swallow nests, mother of pearl, and other products.
When the Spaniards settled in the islands, more Chinese came and served as the backbone of the Spanish colonial economy. Because of their growing numbers, the Spaniards both needed and feared them, which led to the persecution and harassments including large-scale massacres. The Chinese, or Sangley as the Spaniards called them, were separated into quarters called the Parian where they lived, worked, and made better lives for themselves as laborers, merchants, and artisans.
Spanish colonial culture is intimately linked with the spread of Christianity. The Sangleys contributed largely in the building of churches, carving religious icons often decorating them with Chinese motifs, printing religious books and catechisms. The first three books in the Philippines were printed by Keng Yong of Binondo in 1593. Many Chinese in the Philippines also practiced religious syncretism, the unique product of Catholic and Buddhist intermarriage. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was born in Binondo to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. He was canonized in October 1987 in Rome. Mother Ignacia del Ispiritu Santo was also a Chinese mestiza.
Emergence of the Chinese community
At the end of the 19th century, life became even more difficult because of Spanish harassment and distrust. Hence, the Chinese started to form institutions for self-protection – school, hospital, cemetery, business groups. Pioneer businesses like China Bank, Destilleria Limtuaco, Yutivo, Ma Mon Luk started to appear.
In defense of freedom
At the turn of the century, the Chinese mestizos, who absorbed Western liberal ideas in their studies here and abroad, led the reform and revolutionary movements. The three martyred priests, Gomburza, the Trece Martires of Cavite, Emilio Aguinaldo, Pedro Paterno, our national hero, Jose Rizal, were of Chinese descent. Unique among them was Jose Ignacio Paua, the only pure-blooded Chinese in the revolutionary army who fought both Spaniards and the Americans.
|Life in the 1800s
Commonly called the Bahay na Bato, the typical mestizo house – which often include a sari-sari store and tool shed on the ground floor, and the family residence on the upper floor – synthesizes the lifestyles and cultural influences of the Chinese mestizos. The Chinese influence can be seen not only in the architecture of the houses but also in the contents. The Ah Tay bed crafted by a renowned Chinese artisan, Eduardo Ah Tay, was a status symbol for the 19th century mestizo elite. Kitchen utensils and food processing techniques, then and now, are often called by their Chinese names.
National leaders of Chinese descent
Only their names, and sometimes only their ancestry, are clues to the two worlds and the two cultures, which their families had straddled. The contemporary Tsinoys bearing the twin virtues of their heritage continue to enrich history and make a strong impact on all aspects of Philippine life.
Gallery of rare prints and photographs
The rare prints and photographs are mostly those of Binondo, the center of commerce during the later part of the Spanish colonial rule up to the American regime.
During the darkest hours of the Japanese occupation, the Chinese formed guerilla units and fought side by side with their Filipino counterparts to gain freedom. From their ranks was a harvest of heroes.
These Chinese ceramics, dating from the 10th to the 17th centuries, unearthed in the Philippines, stand testament to the intensive and extensive maritime trade between China and the Philippine islands.
Rare Philippine shell collection
This collection of rare Philippine shells include those of extinct species of mollusks like the Gloria maris, the golden cowrie, the sundial and the very rare cypraea valentine (Donated by Tsinoy philanthropist Henry Tong.)
Tsinoys in nation-building
A hologram traces the transformation of the early barefooted, illiterate, impoverished, peasant immigrant to become the modern-day Tsinoy or Tsinong-Pinoy, blending the best of the Filipino and Chinese as he claims his rightful place in the Philippine sun. The Tsinoys are not bystanders. Like the rest of our countrymen, we toil and sacrifice to build this nation that we call home. A special section contains rare documentary materials on the Chinese in Philippine history.