Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Top 10 Chinese Family Names in the Philippines

Ever since the Philippine President started declaring the Chinese Lunar New Year as a special non-working holiday (I’m unsure if it was President Arroyo or Aquino who started this. Knowing her penchant for creating holidays I guess it was PGMA), I’ve regarded the holiday with much more enthusiasm and respect. Not only because I get the day off during the Chinese New Year, but also because I share part of the heritage of the Chinese-Filipinos being a TAN descendant from my mother’s side of the family as well being a SINDIONG descendant on my father’s family. Though the holiday has no religious or spiritual significance to me, I would like to offer my own well wishes to the rest of the Filipino-Chinese community on this day and what better way to give to wish them well than to give out the latest list of top 10 Chinese surnames in the Philippines.

As a caveat, I would like to point out this early that these rankings are based on the top 50 surnames compilation of family names in each city and municipality. Thus, the count of the people carrying these particular top 10 surnames are based only on those found in top 50, not overall in the Philippines.

In China today the following surnames are the ten most populous: Lǐ, Wáng, Zhāng, Liú, Chén, Yáng, Zhào, Huáng, Zhōu, and Wú.  These surnames appear in variations in the Philippines as Lee, Dy, and Sy; Wong and Ong; Chong, Teo, and Tiu; Lao; Chan and Tan; Leung; Chiu and Chu; Wong and Ko; Chao; and Wu and Go, respectively. Though they have their counterparts in the Philippines these variants are not similar in ranking though most of them are still part of the top 10 most populous Chinese family names in the country. These are:

1. TAN (). The surname Tan appears as the most populous Chinese surname in the Philippines and ranks as the 55th most populous among all family names in the country. It is derived from the name of an ancient region in China (in the province of Henan). As part of the sentence it is first a verb and means to arrange, exhibit, narrate, tell, to state, to display, or to explain. It can also function as an adjective and means aged/old, stale, and vintage. As proof of its prevalence as a surname it appears as one of the top 50 surnames in 123 cities and municipalities and can be found in all the regions in the Philippines especially in the National Capital Region and Eastern Visayas. There are an estimated 86,513 people carrying the surname Tan in Metro Manila with a high concentration in Santa Cruz, Quezon City, and Tondo. In these three areas alone there are more than 20,000 Tans.
2. LIM (). The number 2 Chinese surname and number 99 among all surnames in the Philippines. It means “woods” or “forest”. It appears as part of the top 50 in 74 cities and municipalities and there are 58,450 carrying the surname. Like Tan it is also prevalent in Santa Cruz, Quezon City, and Tondo.

3. UY (). A variant of the surname Huang, Uy ranks 218th among all Filipino family names. It means “yellow” though it is also associated with the metal “gold” or the chemical “sulfur”. It appears in 32 towns and cities in the Philippines and is most populous in Cebu City, Tondo, Davao City, Manila, Iloilo City, and Bacolod City, totaling 10,955 people carrying the last name. All in all, among those where it appears as one of the top 50, there are 18,746 people bearing the name Uy.

4. CHUA (). Derived from the last name Cài, Chua appears as the 303rd most common family name in the Philippines. The surname is derived from the name of a former kingdom in China. It appears as part of the top 50 in 24 cities and municipalities and there are 23,337 people carrying the surname in these 24 towns and cities. It is most populous in Metro Manila and in Iloilo, particularly in the cities and municipalities of Santa Cruz, Tondo, Manila, Sampaloc, Kalookan City, Bacolod City, Ermita, and Iloilo City, where 19,218 Chuas reside.

5. ONG (). Derived from the last name Wāng, which means “go”; it appears as part of the top 50 last names in 15 cities and municipalities and there are 11,825 carrying the surname in these 24 towns and cities. It appears most numerous in Santa Cruz, Tondo, Manila, and Iloilo City, still in Metro Manila and Iloilo similar to Chua. In these 4 areas alone 9,710 or 82% of Ongs reside.

6. GO (). Derived from the surname Wú, which was a former state in China, it appears as part of the top 50 family names in 19 cities and municipalities in the country and there are 11,620 people carrying the surname in these 19 areas. A bit differently from the previous surnames, Go is more common in Visayan cities particularly in Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Tacloban City, though it also appears in Tondo and Manila. In these 5 alone there are 9,877 people bearing the last name Go.

7. YAP (). Derived from the last name Yè, it appears as one of the top 50 surnames in 16 cities and municipalities and there are 8,460 carrying the surname.  It means “leaf”. Numeorus Yaps can be found in Cebu City, Davao City, Iloilo City, and Bacolod City.

8. YU ( / ). The Filipino Yu is the same as the Chinese Yu, though there are two Yu Chinese versions.  The first Yu means "in", "on", "at";and "go to", while the second one means "extra" or "surplus". It appears as part of the top 50 surnames in 15 cities and municipalities and there are 6,610 people in these 15 areas carrying the surname. It appears the most in Cebu City, Tondo, and Tacloban City.

9. ANG (). Derived from the surname Wāng whcih means "king". It appears as part of the top 50 in 10 cities and municipalities and there are 4,553 carrying the surname in these 10 cities and municipalities. It is most numerous in Tondo in Metro Manila and In Davao City.

10. LEE (). A variant of the surname Lǐ, it means "plum". Although it is the most numerous Chinese surname in the world it is only the 10th most populous last name in the Philippines and appears as part of the top 50 in only 11 cities and municipalities. In these 11 places there are only 2,099 people carrying the surname. It is most populous in Baguio City, San Juan in Metro Manila, and in Jolo, Sulu.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!!!!


  1. Hi, I started becoming interested with my chinese heritage, I am a descendant of the Guanzon family from my mother side, do you happen to know the character for that surname? I am aware that chinese-filipinos before would play with their surnames to make it sound hispanic, now I don't have any clues about the original surname of those who carry Guanzon. I hope you can help me.

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  3. This helped me know more about my dad's side of the family.

  4. Yiu/Yu in Hokkien/Minnan means "aspen" or "willow," written as 楊 (Mandarin reading: Yang). This is more common than the one cited in this article.

    Ang in Hokkien/Minnan means "flood," written as 洪 (Mandarin reading: Hong). Due to statistics, this is more common than the one shown in this article.

  5. weirdly enough, most of the carrier of the last name doesn't even look like chinese... get ready to be look down upon if you don't look like one, or just trying hard to look like it.

    1. especially if its your great great grand father, and you carry that last name, and you don't even look like one, nor surrounded with the culture. also, another scenario would be sometimes, the only chinese is your grandfather, so technically you will only look like shit if you didn't studied in a chinese school, and or have the chinese fil traits... better stick to your filipino roots instead if you are not surrounded with the chi-fil crowd or don't even an ounce of the culture. word of advice.

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    3. to all the 50 % chinese. its better if you find a pure, or a foreigner. that way, no one will look down upon you secretly or sometimes even directly to your face, lol. another thing, if you are 75% meaning, the only filipino (doesn't matter if he/she is half spanish, for them, its still a filipino, but as long as you came from a good back ground, super points for your grandmom/dad. if your grandma or grandpa who is the only filipino blood in your clan who looks like a maid or a trabahador... you are in for the big trouble) so for the 50 to 75 percent chinese kids out there,that one of your granparent that could be your grand mom or dad- its advisable to do the same- get a foreigner or a pure chinese.
      if you are a 25%- as long as you look like one, the culture, your surroundings) you are good to go. if your child comes out looking like a maid, or a trabahador... don't count on it. you'll be just question why your last name is a chinese name to begin with.
      its true- lets admit it... the most racist are asians than white-
      as in EAST ASIANs.

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    5. chinese filipino are not racist, not all... but they will be look down if you mingled with their genes (as long as you came from a good family background, filipino who doesn't look like maids or trabahador tribe is what i mean).... it goes on to generation to generation due to east asians traits and upbringing are naturally racist than caucasians. its already embarked to their mind since they are pre school , kinder, or grade school that that's how it works. especially when they grow older.

  6. Hi, I wanted to share that I finally I got an answer to my lifelong question, and half of my identity and what chinese family I came from. It's the "Uy" or "Huang" clan. my sister and I were having a conversation then she suddenly told me that she & my cousin found out that we came from the Uy family (told by our uncle in his 60s, who met some from our Uy clan).