Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Chinese Roots

The recent skirmish and sabre rattling with the People's Republic of China has left me mulling over the Chinese heritage that's coursing through my veins, diluted though it may be. When I started tracing my family tree I already knew that I had Chinese blood somewhere in the distant past, but I have never really been successful in tracing much about my Sino line.

I know I have TAN blood on my mother's side of the family. My great-grandmother, Anacleta, was the illegitimate daughter of a chinese merchant with the last name Tan from Amoy who came to Argao in the mid-1800s. We have never really figured out who this man was as he is said to have a legal family even before he had his dalliance with my ancestor. What we do know is that he has left descendants in Argao and my great-grandmother was one of four children that he had with my great-great-grandmother, Manuela Birondo. He is also said to have sired other children with other local women in Argao. My late grandfather, Jesus Birondo Lucero, rarely mentioned his chinese grandfather and I believe my great-grandma never even told her chidlren the name of her father. Though through all his life he cultivated amazing business dealings with prominent Chinese tycoons in Cebu City and one of his own children even ended up marrying a pure Chinese Cebuana, my grandfather was always a little critical of the Chinese in general. For him anyone with chinky eyes was Chinese and should not be someone to be trusted. I guess he inherited the resentment of his mother's family towards the Chinese for impregnating my great-great-grandma four times.

I myself have tried to learn more about my Tan line, but to no avail. Perhaps with genetic testing I will be able to delve deeper into my Tan ancestry.

Meanwhile, on my father's side, I know I am descended from the Sindiongs. My great-grandmother, Maria del Carmen Legaspi y Edesa (spelled as Ediza today) was the daughter of a Chinese mestiza by the name of Prudencia Edesa. Prudencia, known in the family as Lola Dinsay, was said to have always worn an ornate necklace with an "S" for a pendant. When asked what it stood for, she always stated that she inherited it from her Sindiong ancestors who were an old Chino-Cristiano family in Parian, Cebu. The Sindiongs actually have a very interesting history. A Sindiong ancestor, Juan Cindiong of Parian, was one of the prominent Chinese men who petitioned the Spanish government on April 25, 1768 to not expel the Christian Chinese living in Parian because they had always been faithful and loyal to the authorities. They even mentioned their participation and support of the Spanish forces in its skirmish with the British when they tried to take over the Philippines in the mid-1700s.

Of course, like my Tan ancestry I have not been able to really go beyond the parents of my lola Dinsay, Mariano Edesa and Anacleta Lacaba. Mariano, naturally, was consistently describe in records as a mestizo Sangley.

Which only goes to show that yes, I may have some faint Chinese blood in me but in the conflict against China my loyalties are pretty clear: my ancestors themselves chose to live in the Philippines, and one of them even petitioned the Spanish authorities not to have him and the other Chinese expelled from the archipelago. I hope other Filipinos with Chinese roots share the same sentiment.

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