Second of 3 parts

PRIOR to Spain’s arrival in what is now the Philippines, trade with China was flourishing in the 10th century or even as early as the 2nd century. Artifacts date the presence of Chinese for 2,000 years during the Song and Ming dynasties. It was perhaps to the credit of both ethnic groups, the pre-Hispanic Filipinos and the Chinese, that relations were protected by diplomacy where its abundant natural resources were never subject to conflicts — except perhaps internecine clashes among local tribes. Historical records also show that tribal leaders regularly visited the Chinese capital; perhaps to pay homage to the Chinese emperors.

Not until after we were colonized were the social structures demarcated along racial lines. Natives were classified into indios, indigenous Filipinos, a somewhat derogatory appellation; mestizos, Filipinos of mixed blood; insulares, Spaniards born in the islands; and peninsulares, Spaniards born in Spain. The Chinese were in a class of their own, referred to as Sangley (businessmen or migrants) or Intsik (venerable uncle) and those that intermarried as mestizo de Sangley, not pejorative at first though it assumed racial undertones over time.

Parian 1500s
The first true overt act of racism was in the 1580s when the Sangleys were forcibly relocated outside Intramuros and assigned to Parians — ghetto-like quarters. These in time became the thriving Sangley markets, precursor to the present Binondo, Tondo and Baybay areas. Residents were not allowed within the gates after dark except for those domestic staff of Spanish households and other exceptional professions (cooks, bakers, etc.). The intent was not to assimilate the Sangleys.

Historical records show the Sangley shops growing to around 1,000 in less than two decades. And even in the labor sector, they provided important services “as gardeners, carpenters, bakers, butchers, painters, smiths and goldsmiths, or produced bricks and lime,” working for the “encomenderos, landowners, merchants, bureaucrats or ecclesiastical authorities.”(;

But more importantly, having earlier involved themselves in silver trading, they segued into moneylending, virtually capitalizing merchants investing in the Galleon trade, the yearlong route to and from Mexico.

In retrospect the Sangleys/Intsik were hardened by the underlying discrimination imposed by the Spanish colonials and planted the seeds of what would later morph into the typical segregated Chinese business mores of hardworking people keeping to themselves and their tightly knit clans. It is also a sad episode in our history that during these decades “23,000 Sangleys were massacred by the Spanish colonials as they were becoming too numerous and too rich.”

This was only eclipsed by the Chinese pogrom in Indonesia in 1965-1966 which killed an estimated 500,000 Chinese supporters of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) during an attempt at a coup similar to a “RevGov” encouraged by President Sukarno himself. Indonesian intellectuals and political scientists also attributed this to a widespread distrust and racism fueled by the successes of the Indonesian Chinese.

Rise of mestizo de Sangley, sari-sari stores
It has always been a misconception that the humble sari-sari was a native original invention. Historians point out that even at the start of the Spanish colonial period, the Sangleys were already thriving in the local business scene. Their relocation to the Parians stripped them of their lands forcing the enterprising Intsik to set up roadside stalls hawking their wares even within Intramuros during the day when they were allowed inside walls. But the phenomenon that helped propel business to thrive in the islands is the later emergence of the mestizo de Sangley through intermarriage. It is noted that Sangleys were not allowed to own land, but their native wives could. Playing a crucial role, they shaped the economy from an agrarian to a light industrial one. Richer than most of the natives, they had access to education and travel overseas, broadening their perspectives and helping to frame the concept of Filipino nationhood and emerging self-identity. Our revolutionary pantheon of heroes had Chinese blood or were mestizo de Sangley — Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini and del Pilar, among others.

Despite their contribution to enrich our society, racism was always seething underneath. And this is replicated in Southeast Asia where Chinese came in droves, settled and became more successful than the natives.

The American century brought with it the cultural baggage of racism toward the Chinese. These were their experiences too in California gold-rush mines and the great opening of the west when Chinese emigrants were needed to do the menial jobs in the railroad constructions.

As the mestizo de Sangley were reluctantly slowly assimilated, the waves of emigrants from Fujian and adjoining provinces in China due to China’s civil wars, were not. The inability to distinguish these migrants from the Tsinoys — Chinese Filipinos — who were becoming dominant in business persuaded the government to pass a “Nationalization of the Retail Trade Law” which forbade Chinese sari-sari store owners from passing their businesses on to their children, driving many to abandon the sari-sari stores, impelling fixed intermarriages and perhaps the birth of the system of front men and dummies. Thus, acquisition of Filipino citizenship by naturalization or otherwise became imperative, causing bureaucratic corruption and scandals in government particularly in the 1950s to the 1970s.

PH industrialization
This proved to be a blessing in disguise. Curtailment of merchant activities, breaking their affiliation to the sari-sari store, hawking wares, and agricultural goods, etc. spurred Tsinoys and the other Chinese merchants to take risks and move to alternative livelihood to survive, outside of the traditional sugar and tobacco processing into manufacturing, agribusiness, and exports.

Raising capital from the predominantly Spanish and European banks was restrictive. Access to credit for the Tsinoys were made possible by their age-old clanship network where trust and traditional family ties were more important than formal written contracts. This Confucian ethos in fact gave the Tsinoys their biggest advantage. Their word were their bond and reputation, their collateral. And the critical fact that profits were frugally plowed back into the local economy rather than stashed abroad.

Thus, the advent of the original taipans, borne out of the crucible of adversity, deprivation and latent racism but fortified by their Confucian values. Henry Sy from Xiamen who started with his father a sari-sari store transforming this into the biggest conglomerate in the country. John Gokongwei Jr., born rich of a family from Fujian but later became destitute but fought his way up as a trader from Cebu and formed a business empire, the JG Summit Holdings. And Lucio Tan, also from Xiamen, was a factory worker who built a tobacco company parlaying this into a “liquor, tobacco, aviation, banking and real estate” empire. Other taipans no less extraordinary came into their own, George Ty, Ramon Ang, Andrew Tan and Tony Tan Caktiong completing the list of the wealthiest Tsinoys.

These are the taipans — the core of the Tsinoy oligarchy who dominate business, perforce the economy. By definition those who control the economy control the levers of political power. Do they? And are they instruments for the country’s good or only of their family and clans. And in this regime where the political leadership has shamelessly flirted with, and is now dangerously in the arms of, Xi Jinping, where will we find ourselves in the coming years. In the vernacular, “Saan tayo pupulutin!”


The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.
“Then I fall to my knees, shake a rattle at the skies and I’m afraid that I’ll be taken, abandoned, forsaken in her cold coffee eyes.” – A quote from the song, “She moves on” by Paul Simon, singer/songwriter

THE recent tremors affecting the central provinces of Mindanao caused by a series of seismic waves radiating to the northern and southern parts of the island, were like nature shaking a rattle, emitting sharp sounds and unnerving motions from the underground, both frightening and bewildering as to the intensity and confusion they generated.

The successive earthquakes and aftershocks were rattling the nerves not only of residents close to the epicenter but also those living along the active fault planes who were not used to strong earth movements. Some reported dizziness, anxiety, depression and other post-traumatic stress symptoms after experiencing continuous shaking and periodic vibrations.

As this article was written, less frequent but perceptible tremors were felt on the affected areas although everyone is reportedly bracing for aftershocks which many hope and pray, would not turn out to be the dreaded “big one,” as some irresponsible persons are falsely posting on social media. Shake a rattle drum to this latter blokes.

According to Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), since the 1900s, Mindanao has been rocked by at least 35 earthquakes, three of which, felt at “Intensity 7” or worse, were deemed destructive: the 1976 Moro Gulf earthquake which caused a tsunami reaching up to nine meters that killed about 8,000 people including the unaccounted ones; the 1999 series of earthquakes in Agusan del Sur damaging roads, and poorly constructed schools and infrastructure; and the Sultan Kudarat earthquake in 2002, killing eight people with 41 others injured and affecting over seven thousand families in the provinces of Sarangani, North and South Cotabato (Rappler 2019). Shake a rattle of prayers for all who perished in these tragedies.

The series of earthquakes in October of this year, just weeks apart, with magnitudes of over 6 hitting many provinces, again, in Cotabato and southern parts of Davao accounted for the death toll of 22, damaging homes, school buildings and many infrastructure, shaking and sending chills to many residents who have to deal with continuing albeit smaller tremors which can be felt as far up the city of Cagayan de Oro and down the southern province of Sarangani.

Some local officials reported residents having developed “earthquake phobia” keeping watch on their clock hanging inside their tents in evacuation sites, losing sleep with anxiety awaiting when the next tremor would be coming. With frayed nerves, some would panic over even slight ground shakings.

But this is not about the temblor as much as the response of people and the country’s leaders and responsible officials. Except for the government of China which donated P22 million in aid and support for relief efforts in Mindanao, hurray for China, other foreign countries just expressed condolences and messages of sympathy to families of victims. No pledges, no assistance. Perhaps, they can’t trust our government agencies to do the job for them anymore. To them, a shake of the baby rattle.

To the initial bunch of donors who immediately come with their financial assistance such as Yorme Isko Moreno of Manila with his P5 million personal money, Mayor Vico Sotto with relief goods and P14 million coming from the people of Pasig City, Mayor Marcy Teodoro of Marikina with 100 modular tents, movie star Angel Locsin who moved about sans fanfare for her charity work offering food and other assistance to victims in Davao and North Cotabato, to Mayor Inday Duterte for relief distribution, Cebu provincial government for disaster relief campaign and to the many nameless others who came with their relief aids, shake a rattle of joy and thankfulness for their kindness and generosity.

To our government officials and politicians goes our appeal to set aside politics, distribute the relief items according to the wishes of their donors and not allow goods to rot because of political colors as was shown in the previous administration’s handling of donated goods. To them, shake a rattle of enlightenment and peace.

In whatever disaster or crisis that befalls the country, trust Filipinos’ resiliency and coping mechanisms such as resorting to prayers and humor to come to their succor.

Social media become a natural venue for memes, practical jokes and bantering such as the ones which came after Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy reportedly claimed that he caused to stop the earthquakes so they can no longer create damage. To everyone, shake a rattle of laughter and fun while we help provide for the needs of our less fortunate brethren in Cotabato and Davao provinces.