Filipino-Mexican-Central-and-South American Connection Filipino-Mexican-South American Connection

Tales of Two Sisters: Manila and Mexico

Highlights from the Mexican-Philippine Historical Relations Seminar
New York City- June 21, 1997 

Panel headed by Gemma Guerrero Cruz (Miss International 68), MA , Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, and the Philippines Centennial Commission Representative in Mexico.

1. Manila Galleon Trade connection and the cultural by-product. The seeds of Filipinos grew throughout the coast of Mexico when the Filipinos crew stayed in Acapulco for three months prior to their return to Manila. Sailors kept families in both cities.

2. Summary of her position paper. A notable development of the Galleon Trade was the cultural interchange between the two colonies. What Filipinos today regard as a Spanish influence in food, language, and customs, may in fact be Mexican in origin. The Tagalog word “palengke”, for example, may have originated from the Mexican “palenque”. The Philippines also adopted the Mexican monetary standard, the peso. In exchange, Mexico got the Philippine mango and Chinese silk, a highly prized commodity in Mexico in the 18th & 19th centuries. Lace-making was a skill that traversed the Pacific from Asia and is still an industry today in Olinalia, Mexico.

3. Aculturation gave rise to many cultural elements such as the Nahuatlismos in Philippine speech, the "TUBA" drink or the devotion to the Santo Nino de Sibuu (Cebu). Filipinos introduced the art of making the coconut wine as well . Words of Nahuati origin were assimilated in the Filipino language. These include achuete, atole, avocado, balsa, bangueta, cacahuete, cacao, caimito, calabaza, camachile, camote, calachuche, chico,. chocolate, coyote, nana(y), tata(y), tiangui, tocayo, zacate, and zapote.

4. The Philippine revolution or the Anti-colonial revolution (the name Gemma prefers) that led to June 12, 1898. After discussing this, she challenged the Fil-am audience to study the period 1899 and beyond since the American involvement started. It started with the coming of the American forces composed of volunteers from various states of the US. This explained the names of the various streets crossing the avenues in Malate district like North Dakota, Tennessee, Colorado, etc. All these streets were renamed after the independence date was moved to June 12.

5. One of the Mexican panel members, Cutberto Hernandez Legorreta states in his position abstract, " Very significant to us is the slave, baptized Enrique, who had been recruited somewhere in the Moluccas, bought by Magellan, taken to Lisbon, then to South America, and finally to the Marianas. He was the First man who circumnavigated the earth. He was helped by the Ladron islanders. (Marianas Islander or Chamorros) in the course of the well-known circumnavigation. Later, Enrique came in handy in Cebu for the Spaniards as he was likewise conversant with the Philippine Islanders. It would seem that this might be the first notice on record linking the Chamorros with the Malayan Filipinos. It was later observed the Chamorros, like the Philippine natives, were rice grower, while other Micronesians were not."

6. It is funny that two cultures dominated by Spanish language were communicating in a third language. 7. The story of TUBA brings back memories of my adolescence in the Philippines. On my third drink of "tuba," I could tell the world that the most beautiful women came from the Philippines; Gemma and other Filipinas who won international beauty pageants proved that long time ago. After I’d lose count of my "Tuba" drinks, I could ask the moon if she saw my great-great-grandfather "Enrique" going around the planet in 1521; the panel showed a slide of a composite picture of Enrique and he looks like one of our kind.

8. Memorial names of streets, buildings, and squares change as interpretation of history are re-written. Plaza Bonifacio along the Metro Theatre and Post office building near City Hall used to be called Plaza Lawton. General Henry W Lawton was credited for the capture of the great Apache Chief Geronimo. Like most of the American army officer who fought in the Indian pacification, Lawton was sent to the Philippines to fight the Spanish Military and the Filipino insurrection later. He was killed by the forces of a Filipino General named Geronimo. Insurrection or revolution, they were remnants of Katipunans founded by Andres Bonifacio.

Thanks to: Lilia C & Leopoldo Clemente and the other sponsors of the seminar. REFERENCE:

Filipinos in the New World

By one account, some 60,000 Filipinos sailed on the galleons from Manila to Acapulco over two-and-half centuries, mostly as crews. Many escaped upon reaching Mexico, never to return to the Philippines. Most of the Filipino sailors were natives or indios. There were also many who belonged to the mestizo class, products of intermarriages between Spanish and native Filipinos who traveled as merchants, technicians or functionaries.

Every year between 1570 and 1815, two galleons sailed from Manila to Acapulco to carry on a flourishing trade monopoly for Spain. One of every five members of the crew was a Filipino native but some historians claim it went as high as 50 to 80 percent Filipinos. The other crew members were Spanish, Mexicans and Portuguese.

I have been obsessed with the idea of tracking down the descendants of Filipinos who had migrated to Mexico. Because most of those ships were built by Filipinos in the Philippines, albeit through a compulsory system of labor called polo, I felt their role in the galleon trade should be recognized. Another point I want to bring out is that Filipinos had been in the New World much longer than any group of Asian.

A book published in Manila last year, "After the Galleons," written by eminent scholar, Dr. Benito Legarda Jr., had tipped me that a community of Filipino descendants could be found in Espinalillo near Acapulco. Another book that I found upon reaching Acapulco made a similar assertion.

Upon landing in Acapulco, I went straight away to Espinalillo in a hired car with a driver, Urbano Morales, acting as guide. Espinalillo, it turned out, was a barrio in the town of Coyuca, a half hour's drive north of Acapulco. The area is known as the Costa Grande, notable for its fine beaches washed by waves from the Pacific Ocean. Its most notable feature is a fresh-water lake 17 miles long that runs parallel to the seashore.

It was like being transported to the Philippines. The area is verdant with tall coconut trees and tropical fruits and plants. Many people walking the streets or staring from the windows of houses looked like Filipinos -- brown, with large eyes and black hair and of medium build. With the driver acting as interpreter, I talked to five or six households to ask if they were descended from Filipinos. They all said they had no idea. One person I spoke to was a woman who claimed she was 112 years old. She does not remember anything said about Filipinos living in their village.

All of a sudden, I realized I was asking the wrong questions. The term "Filipino" is a fairly modern appellation, referring to Spaniards born in the Philippines. Most Chinese in Mexico are actually Filipino! The word "Filipino" was coined only in 1889.During Spanish times, natives from the Philippines were known as Chinos or simply as Manila Men. They thought these Filipinos came from China. This notion persisted in Mexico up to today. Until now, many Mexicans refer to Filipinos as Chinos, and they usually had no family names. When I asked the folk of Espinalillo if they knew of anyone in the village who was of Chino descent, they merely shook their heads.

It was my driver who provided the answer, to my disappointment. He said: "After three or four generations, the thread of genealogy is lost. It becomes difficult to trace ancestry." He was right. Filipinos had been in Mexico for 10 or 15 generations. Their racial identity has become dissipated through intermarriages with other races. Mexico racial mixing is a very rich brew. One has only to look at its people today to reach this conclusion.

Thousands of people captured from India, Burma, Indonesia and Mindanao were collected in Manila and brought to Mexico as slaves. They filled up the labor shortage caused by the decimation of the Mexican Indian population from diseases brought by the Europeans.But one can see that in Acapulco and surrounding towns, Filipinos -- or their mixed versions -- are everywhere, apparent through their skins, black hair, almond eyes and ready smile. You find them in menial jobs as waiters and drivers, sales girls, security guards. They comprise the backbone of Acapulco's tourism industry.

Filipino Clans Take Root in Mexico My disappointment at not finding descendants of Filipinos in Espinalillo did not last long. At barrio Bajo los Ejidos, also in Coyuca in the Costa Grande, I saw a big sign at the side of a house in huge letters. The sign read: Parque Reyna Maganda. In short order, I was talking to a matronly lady, Lupe Maganda, who told me that Parque Reyna Maganda was a barrio park named after her mother who had just died. While we were talking she had an uncle summoned from another house to join us.

Soon we were joined by an old man walking with a cane by the name of Severino Maganda, 85 years old. When I explained to him that Maganda was a Filipino word (meaning beautiful) and that his family must have come from the Philippines, he showed no surprise. He told me that when he was a young boy, his grandmother told him that the Maganda family came from the Philippines. His father and grandfather both lived and died in Espinalillo.

Members of the clan have been living in the Costa Grande for generations and they are reputed to be quite a big clan. Their forbear must have adopted the Maganda name to perpetruate their memory of the Philippines.

In Acapulco itself, talking to knowledgeable people, I learned that there is another big clan in Costa Grande whose forbears came from Manila. This family has the unique surname of H-Luz (pronounced Acheh-Luz). One of its descendants, Rube H-Luz Castillo, has written a book on the history of Acapulco.

There are two other clans by the name of Guzman and Rodriguez, but I did not get to meet anyone of them. I was informed that in another barrio called Carizal, there were also Filipino descendants.

There is a unique private institution called Centro de Investigacion e Informacion Historica de Acapulco. I had a brief interview with its director, Benjamin Galicia Hurtado. Mr. Galicia told me that besides Acapulco itself, the big concentration of Filipino Mexicans can be found in the towns and cities of western Mexico, the coastal areas, in places like Puerto Vallarta, Guaymas, Navidad and San Blas.

In the galleon era, San Blas was an active port second only in importance to Acapulco. San Blas actively traded with Manila in the 1770's, and this trade was not necessarily carries out on the galleons. Skilled women such as sailmakers, shipwrights and carpenters from the Philippines were stationed in San Blas to repair and maintain the galleons.

A Filipino shipwright who became famous in Mexico was Gaspar Molina. Married to a girl from Sinaloa, Molina was commissioned by the Spanish viceroy in Mexico City to build a ship in Baja California to be used by the Jesuit missionaires who were starting to pacify the area. The ship, Nuestra Senora de Loreto, was launched in Loreto in 1760 to the great satisfaction of the Spanish authorities. In 1764, Molina built a second ship which was named Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion.

The Filipinos' big contribution to Mexican culture, according to Dr. Galicia, is in the area of food. In 1618, 74 of the 75 Filipino crew members of the galleon Espiritu Santo abandoned their ship. They were then asked by the local Indians to teach them how to make tuba, the drink derived from coconut trees. In the sidestreets of Acapulco the heady brew is sold as tuba fresca.

The Filipinos also imparted their know-how in making ceviche (seafood kinilaw) and other unique ways of broiling fish and shrimps. The Mexican term for a beach hut is palapa, which is Filipino for coconut fronds.

While it is common knowledge that their mangoes came from Manila, it comes as a surprise to me that the coconut tree, which they call palmera, also originated from the Philippines. The state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, is Mexico's biggest producer of coconuts and coconut products.

Juan de Cuellar, a botanist who was sent to the Philippines to study its plants and flowers - he preceded the other famous botanist Fr. Jose Blanco by a hundred years - had a hand in sending many Philippine plants to Mexico. One of the plants that De Cuellar introduced to Mexico was the rambutan which miraculously survived the long trip across the Pacific and thrived in the New World.

Filipino Sailors in the New World Filipinos had been going to the New World since the 16th century. A California historian, Lorraine Crouchett, noted that some Cebuanos sailed on the galleon San Pablo when it made its historic first crossing of the Pacific Ocean from west to east in 1565. Guided by Fray Andres de Urdaneta, the San Pablo was sent by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi to find the return route to Mexico and to obtain supplies for his expedition to settle the Philippines.

The route discovered by Legaspi was used by the Manila galleons to travel to Mexico for 250 years. From that period, Filipinos traveled to the New World regularly. They continued crossing the Pacific long after the galleons were gone.

The first recorded landing of Filipinos in California took place in October 1587, on a frigate that came from Macao under the command of Portuguese galleon pilot Pedro de Unamuno. Unamuno left a written account of his landing at Morro Bay with a crew composed in part by Filipinos "armed with shields and spears." While reconnoitering the place, they were attacked by Indians who managed to kill one Spanish soldier named Contreras and a Filipino crew member. Unamuno was under instructions from the Spanish governor in Manila, Santiago de Veyra, to look for suitable ports for the Manila galleons.

The galleon San Agustin landed at San Francisco Bay in 1595 on a similar mission, also with a crew of Filipinos. The San Agustin, with Carmenho Rodriguez as commander, was sunk by a freak chubasco while lying at anchor, together with its cargo. The party was able to reach Acapulco on a raft which was built with the help of local Indians.

Two years later, the galleon Santa Ana was captured by the English buccaneer Thomas Cavendish while approacing the tip of Baja California. More than a hundred Filipino men, women, and children were forced to get off the ship at the town of San Jose del Cabo. In this town, one of the wealthiest families was a descendant of the Canseco family that used to live in Intramuros, Manila. "All the Cansecos in Mexico came from the Philippines," one family member told me.

Cavendish, with a wealth valued at P3 million at that time, sailed to the Philippines, bringing with him the Spanish pilot of the Santa Ana and three Filipino prisoners. The Filipino prisoners were released in Capul (named after Acapulco) island in the San Bernardino Strait. One of the prisoners, Francisco Mansalay, tipped off the Spanish authorities in Manila on the presence of the English pirates in the Visayas. Before the Spanish could act, however, Cavendish had escaped through the southern backdoor back to England.

Over two-and-a-half centuries, about a hundred galleons were built in the Philippines. Most of them were built in Pangasinan, Albay, Mindoro, Marinduque and Iloilo. Task forces of as many as 8,000 men called cagayan were organized by the Spaniards to cut the trees, convert them to timber and haul them to the shipyards. Able-bodied Filipinos were forced to work in shipbuilding under a compulsory system called polo. Their breastwork of Philippine hardwood could not be pierced by cannonballs. Eight galleons were captured by pirates over the centuries and several were shipwrecked or sank by typhoons.

In 1819, the capital of Spanish California, Monterey, was invaded and occupied for one week by a band of adventurers from South America, where handful of Filipino sailors were involved. The raiders came aboard the warship Argentina, commanded by Hyolite Bouchard, a French adventurer from Buenos Aires, Argentina. South America was in turmoil because of the independence movements and Bouchard was assigned to patrol the Pacific Ocean. The Argentina made a trip to the Philippines where it recruited more Filipino sailors.

In Honolulu, Hawaii, Bouchard ransomed another ship, the Santa Rosa, which was being held by King Kamehameha as payment for sandalwood purchased by the ship's crew who had mutinied and taken over possession of the ship.

The two ships proceeded to Monterey and managed to capture the city with little resistance. The governor of California, Sola, fled to San Francisco City, California, along with the city residents. When they returned one week later, they found that the whole city had been looted and razed. The pirates had disappeared towards South America.

REFERENCE: By FLORO L. MERCENE (June 18-20, 2000 Manila Bulletin Series and

Mexican Footprints

By Jaime B. Veneración

In the late afternoon of May 1, 1996, while on a visit on Oaxaca City in south Mexico, my wife Corazon and I were surprised to meet descendants of a Filipino. They were a group of old women and teenagers participating in the annual "maize festival" in that city.

How it happened was a mere accident. They were waiting in the plaza of the church of Sto. Domingo for the start of a procession. My wife wanted to take pictures of the beautiful girls who were dressed in colorful clothes for which southern Mexico is famous. The girls obliged. Thanking them profusely for their kindness, we asked for their addresses so we could send them copies of the pictures. One of the teenagers wrote "8 Filipinenses, Oaxaca."

"Could you have made a mistake?" my wife asked in passable Spanish. She thought Filipinenses was "Filipinas." The girls said there was no mistake, explaining to us that their district had been named after San Felipe de las Aguas, the patron of rain. But the old women sitting under the jacaranda trees (similar to our banaba and fire trees) nearby overheard the conversation and spiritedly joined in.

"So you are Filipinos. We are also Filipinos, because our great, great, grandfather was a Filipino by the name of Lorenzo Paulo." According to the women, Paulo, whom they lovingly called "nuestro patron," was a sailor in the 19th century who met their great, great-grandmother in Tijuana (near the U.S. border). As the trans-Pacific railway was being built by a British firm called Pearson and Company, Paulo sought and got employment there. He and his wife moved south and finally settled in the coastal town of Salina Cruz, in the state of Oaxaca.

"You should visit our place," one of the women told us. "You should see the monument in the town center where Lorenzo Paulo is identified as one of its founding fathers." But when told that the place was about 200 kilometers over dirt roads, we had to back out with excuses. We had to return to Mexico City the next day.

Déja Vu

Had my research stint been longer, I would've gone to Salina Cruz. I want to know what attracted a Filipino to settle in a place so far from his own country. Was it the similarity in the way people lived or practiced their religion, and he wouldn't have missed anything at all?

Although Oaxaca is a bit higher in latitude than the Philippines, its weather approximated our tropical climate. For this reason, the planting season started at the same time as ours, and the festivities and rituals related to planting occurred at the same time. In the Philippines, processions in May, such as the alay and the nin-day evening processions called the lutrina, were the welcoming rituals for the new planting season. The alay originally came from the very ancient past when young girls, always the symbol of purity and renewal, went to the sacred caves to offer garlands of flowers to the anito or the spirits of the forefathers. Reconfigured into the Christian tradition, alay became the offering of the young for the Holy Virgin. The lutrina, the prayers uttered by farmers as they walked through barren fields, were pleadings for the first rain.

The maize festival in Oaxaca City looked very similar to our own lutrina. For instance, the procession didn't start while the sun was still up, but the moment it got dark, and when flashed of lightning forboded rain, the young girls and the old women lined up for their procession, and some danced to music from a band. It seemed to be the moment they had been waiting for. They seemed unmindful of being drenched with rain; in fact, they were happy, perhaps because God answered their prayers.

Any adventurer of Paulo's kind would've stayed in Oaxaca for this and other reasons. Unlike his own Philippines, which was suffering from colonial rule, independent Mexico of the 19th century had begun large-scale commercial developments. Railways crisscrossing the vast desert plains and mountains were being constructed. There were also political instabilities of failures of law and order. Oaxaca was always at the center of political action in the 19th century, with two of its most important political personalities becoming national leaders--the revered Benito Juarez and the detested dictator, Porfirio Diaz. Adventurers like Paulo would've relished the opportunities such an unstable society offered to immigrants like him.

The Subversive

While Paulo's heirs couldn't say if he was ever politically involved in the tumultous birth of Mexico as a nation, it was a possibility. There was a Filipino who did participate, and his name was Ramon Fabie.

When Fr. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla started the Mexican War of Independence against Spain on Sept. 16, 1810, he had Fabie as a lieutenant. Belonging to a wealthy family in Manila (the Fabie state was in Paco), Fabie had been in Guanajuato, then the center of gold and silver mining, since age 16 to study mining engineering. At age 25, he got entangled with the political activities of Fr. Hidalgo, who wanted to make Guanajuato his revolutionary capital.

The conquest of Guanajuato by Fr. Hidalgo's revolutionary army was bloody. The Spanish defenders, seen as exploiters of the obreros in the mines, were dealt with severely. Those who exacted revenge or recently emerged from years of hard work in the deep tunnels of the mines committed a lot of killings. For about two months, Hidalgo's victorious army declared the city "independent." Then tragedy struck. The Spanish loyalist forces counterattacked and, in an even bloodier manner, gave the defenders no quarter. Ramon Fabie survived the siege but was captured. Together with several others, he was hanged.

Dangerous Deportees

That decade-long war of independence in Mexico led to events that influenced political developments in the Philippines. For one thing, several revolutionaries captured by the government were deported to the Philippines. Distributed in varios presidios or military fortifications, they brought the news of developments back home. The many reports of local functionaries expressed concern about the negative influence these new arrivals brought to their respective communities. What made the local officials really worried was the unusual stature of these deportees. One of them, by the name of Epigmenio Gonzalez, was a close confidante of Fr. Hidalgo in the initial meetings of revolutionaries at Queretaro, near Mexico City. Many of the major personalities of the revolution, including Hidalgo, Ignacio Allende and Juan Aldama, met in Gonzalez' store and restaurant, in the guise of a literary circle. Gonzalez' major contribution to the movement was the writing of "Aurora Queretana," perhaps of the Mexican people's earliest declarations of independence from Spain. "Aurora" referred to the eastern morning star whose risings was symbolic of the coming new age. The authorities deemed it subversive not only because of the metaphors it contained, but also because of its mention of "amor a la patria" or "love of country(Mexico)" at a time when the people were expected to be just Spain's loyal subjects.

For such activities, nothing short of death was the penalty meted by the local government. Fortunately for Gonzalez, his brother Emeterio and about 40 others, the central government in Madrid committed their penalty to a destierro perpetuo or deportation, to the Philippines. For more than 25 years many exiles persevered in various presidios, until Mexican independence allowed them to return to Mexico. Some, such as Emeterio, died in the Philippines. But Epigmenio and the others were fortunate to go back to a country now freed from colonial rule.

Ever grateful to their heroic contributions, the Mexican government gave them monthly pensions as veterans and heroes for as long as they lived. In the centennial of independence at the turn of the century, the government built a commemorative monument in Mexico City, in which were inscribed their names and that of all other major figures of the War of Independence of 1810..

Creole Revolt

Meanwhile in the Philippines, a year after Mexico declared itself independent in 1821, a mutiny of Creoles or criollos (Mexican-born Spanish) broke out. It was led by Andres Novales, Luis Rodriguez Varela and the Bayot brothers. What triggered the revolt was the order of the colonial government to disarm the Creole solders. The order suggested that the loyalty of the soldiers was in doubt after Mexico declared its independence from Spain. But the Creole officers thought this was just a ruse to prevent them from getting promoted. They feared being displaced from their jobs by recently arrived troops from Spain.

For several days in June 1822, the revolt was a success. The rebels took over the residence of the governor-general in Manila as well as public offices and strategic forts in the other parts of the archipelago. However, the government mustered loyalist Pampango troops from various presidios for a decisive counterattack. Now outnumbered by local troops, the Creole rebels surrendered. Some were executed outright, while most were sent back to Mexico the following year aboard the galleon "Flor del Mar."

What made this revolt politically significant for Filipinos was its demonstration of Spanish military weakness. It also called to public attention the personalities behind the uprising as well as their writings, which previously circulated only among the elite. One of its leaders, Luis Rodriguez Varela, had written a tract called "Proclama Historial" in which he referred to himself as "el conde Filipino."

The tract implied that Rodriguez Varela was commited to the King of Spain, who was deposed by the French as a result of Napoleon Bonaparte's expansionism, but it also agitated for some reforms that would be needed in order to secure the loyalty of the subjects in the Philippines. Varela also attacked the corruption in the local government.

Perhaps for the first time, a political statement used the term "Filipino" as a national identification. Previously, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, "Filipino" had been used by woodcut engraver Nicolas Bagay. The famous maps of Fr. Murillo Velarde and other religious drawings were signed by Bagay as "por Nicolas Bagay el indio filipino." But, as pointed out by historians, since indio was a generic term referring to all subjects of Spain, another qualification to indicate geographic origin had to be used for those indios from the Philippines. In the case of Varela, however, his assertion of being a Filipino already carried the notion of nationality as propagated by the French Revolution of 1789.

Nation as a Notion

How this distinction was understood by brown, native Filipinos may only be extrapolated from the concepts and phrases that circulated in literature and documents at that time. Contemporaneous with Varela's "Proclama Historial" was Francisco (Balagtas) Baltazar's "Florante at Laura," which, though written in the Spanish corrido genre, didn't tell the usual religious story. Instead, it spoke of a hero, Florante, who was a deposed ruler of a faraway kingdom of Albania. The pretender to the throne exploited the people, took away Florante's sweetheart, Laura, and had Florante tied to a tree in the forest where he could be devoured by lions. Florante was saved by a Moro prince who, just like him, was a victim of schemers and pretenders. The Christian and the Moro then found themselves together in the struggle to recover their respective kingdoms.

Francisco Baltazar referred to the lost kingdom as "ang bayan kong sawi," roughly, "my unfortunate bayan," a bayan exploited by pretenders and colonizers and which should be defended by Christian and Moro brothers-in-arms. And used here, "bayan" already presaged the concept of a nation, a construct presupposing the existence of other nations. The knowledge that there already existed certain places such as Albania made it valid for one to have a "bayan" of one's own.

In other words, at the time of the Creole revolt, there already circulated in the Philippines words and concepts, even viewpoints, about the need to unite various ethnic groups into one "bayan." Later, this would materialize in the writings of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto as "Inang Bayan" (Motherland) who would be defended against all odds by her "mga anak ng bayan" (children of the nation).

The seeds of national community had begun to sprout in this period between 1800 and 1840, when these formulations of cultural and geographic identity began to be understood by the people.

International Solidarity

The revolutionary government of Mexico had anticipated some of these developments, if we go by its secret memorandum recognizing the importance of maintaining a bond with the Philippines. It said:

"Now that we Mexicans have fortunately obtained our independence by revolution against Spanish rule, it is our solemn duty to help the less fortunate countries... especially in the Philippines, with whom our country has had the most intimate relations during the last two centuries and a half. We should send secret agents... with a message to their inhabitants to rise in revolution against Spain and that we shall give them financial and military assistance to win their freedom.

"... In the eventuality of the separation of the Philippines from Spain we must take utmost efforts to revive the former Acapulco-Manila trade which had been one of the contributory factors to Mexico's economic prosperity. As revived, this trade shall not be a government monopoly, as Spain made it, but shall be a free enterprise which all merchants are welcome to be engaged in. The restrictive measures that Spain previously imposed must all be abolished.

"... Should the Philippines succeed in gaining her independence from Spain, we must felicitate her warmly and form an alliance of amity and commerce with her as a sister nation. Moreover, we must resume the intimate Mexico-Philippine relations, as they were during the halcyon days of Acapulco-Manila trade."

Secret agents were sent to the Philippines, but they weren't insightful enough to make contact with local revolutionaries. This was still more than 50 years before the Katipunan. While there were murmurings and unrest, the language and tenor of these secret movements would be completely incomprehensible to a foreign agent. Returning to Mexico to render their reports, they were filled with disappointment. But Bishop Antonio Juaquin Perez of Puebla, a member of the Supreme Junta, advised them not to be disheartened and, in these prophetic words, told them:

"Never mind. In God's own time, the Filipinos will rise in arms against Spain and win their independence like our people. Then, and only then, shall we be able to resume our ties with the Philippines."

Jaime B. Veneración is a history professor at the University of Philippines. This article originally appeared in FILIPINAS magazine, July 1997, as part of their Centennial Notes, a literary series leading up to the 1998 Philippine Centennial.


The Mexican Connection | The cultural cargo of the Manila-Acapulco galleons
By Carlos Quirino

Mexicans as a whole regard the Philippines not as a former colony of Spain, but of Mexico -- not legally, of course, but in every other way.

The fact that Ferdinand Magellan and Miguel López de Legázpi took possession of the islands in the name of the King of Spain cannot be contested. Neither can it be denied that the governor generals were appointed by the Spanish kings, a clear attribute of sovereignty. But from 1565 to 1815, a period of 250 years coinciding with the commercial intercourse between Manila and Acapulco, the links between the two countries bordering the Pacific Ocean were so close that they have given rise to the claim that the Philippines was indeed a former colony of Mexico.

Magellan and Loaisa sailed to the Pacific Ocean via the straits at the southernmost tip of South America aboard vessels made in Spain. But starting with Alvaro de Saávedra in 1527, the ships that sailed for the archipelago were constructed on the western coast of Mexico. Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, built three small ships near the mouth of the Zacatula River (now Rio Balsas) for his relative Alvaro. Ruy López de Villalobos sailed aboard six vessels made in Jalisco in 1524.

When Legázpi left the port of Navidad, also in the province of Jalisco, his four ships had been built in that small sea town. Although Legázpi was a Basque from the northern region of the Spanish peninsula, he had spent 20 years of his life in Mexico City, while his grandsons, Felipe and Juan de Salcedo, were born and bred in Mexico. The latter -- known as the last of the conquistadors, after subduing the native groups in Luzon and thwarting the corsair Limahong, or Lin Feng, from capturing Manila -- died of a malignant fever in his encomienda in Vigan on March 11, 1576. Probably half of Legázpi's crew was composed of Mexicans: creoles like the Salcedos, mestizos and Aztec indios.

The majority of the military reinforcements and married colonists sent to the Philippines during the first two centuries after Legázpi were Mexicans. The first group of 300 that reached Cebu in 1567 was commanded by Felipe de Salcedo. The second group of 200 reached Panay in 1570, just before Martin de Goiti sailed for the conquest of Manila. Another military group that reached Manila in 1575 was composed of 140 Spaniards and 38 Mexicans, all recruited in Mexico. Much later, prisoners from Mexico were sent to the islands in exile. The total number of Mexicans that emigrated to the Philippines has not been fixed, but in the two centuries and a half of contact we can safely assume that this figure reached several thousands.

Tomás de Comyn, general manager of the Compańia Real de Filipinas, in 1810 estimated that out of a total population of 2,515,406, "the European Spaniards, and Spanish creoles and mestizos do not exceed 4,000 persons of both sexes and all ages, and the distinct castes or modifications known in America under the name of mulatto, quarteroons, etc., although found in the Philippine Islands, are generally confounded in the three classes of pure Indians, Chinese mestizos and Chinese." In other words, the Mexicans who had arrived in the previous century had so intermingled with the local population that distinctions of origin had been forgotten by the 19th century. The Mexicans who came with Legázpi and aboard succeeding vessels had blended with the local residents so well that their country of origin had been erased from memory.

Nevertheless, these Mexicans left behind them their linguistic heritage: there are scores of words of Nahuatl origin in the Tagalog language. To mention a few: achuete, atole, avocado, balsa, banqueta, cacahuete, cacao, caimito, calabaza, camachile, camote, calachuche, chico, chocolate, coyote, nana(y), tata(y), tiangui, tocayo, zacate, and zapote. Of course, many more words of Spanish origin had been adopted by the Tagalog and other native groups into their language. A town in the province of Pampanga, originally named masicu, for a place where the fruit chico abounded, was undoubtedly renamed Mexico by the emigrants from the New World who settled there early in the 17th century.

Aztec Garden

A good number of fruits, medicinal plants and flowering plants were exchanged between Mexico and the Philippines. Besides corn (maiz in both countries), tobacco -- an American plant -- was introduced in the Philippines probably via the Portuguese in Malacca before the arrival of the Spaniards. It grew to be so popular in the islands that the government made a monopoly out of it in 1782 as a revenue-raising measure. The avocado, maguey and cacao came from Mexico. Although pepper was probably indigenous to the Philippines, the word sili undoubtedly was derived from the Mexican Chile, while the piquant local sauce called tabasko got its name from the Mexican province of Tabasco. In return, Mexico got its mango from the islands, and with so high a regard did the Mexicans hold this Oriental fruit that to the present day, beautiful young maidens still elicit the exclamation of "que manga es."

Among the fruits, vegetables and plants brought into the islands from Mexico and South America were pineapple, arrowroot, peanut, lima and yam beans, balimbing, cassava, chico, papaya, zapote, tomato and squash. Among the ornamental and medicinal plants: tuberose, spider lily, canna, Mexican poppy, camachile for its tanbark, ipil-ipil as a hedge plant, the sensitive mimosa, indigo and achuete for dye, madre de cacao, periwinkle, campanella cactus, lantana, and some kinds of peppers. The sweet potato, or camote, was already grown locally by the time Magellan landed, but other species probably came from Mexico. These items were brought mainly by friars who settled in the archipelago after staying for a year or two in Mexico.

Although presentday Filipinos are not aware of it, a number of their dances and musical compositions did not originate from Spain but from Mexico. "La Paloma" and "Sandunga Mia," for example, were composed and first heard in the New World. The barong Tagalog might have been copied from a province of Mexico. An investigation into this aspect of Filipino culture will reveal more ties between the two countries.

Even in religious matters, the Philippines came under the early jurisdiction of Mexico. In 1578, Pope Gregory XIII created the bishopric of Manila, and made it a suffragan to the archbishopric of Mexico. The first bishop, Domingo de Salazar, brought with him 30 Dominicans, four Jesuits and six seculars; we can presume that a minority of them were Spanish creoles from Mexico. Salazar had been in the New World converting and instructing the indios for a quarter of a century prior to his appointment, and was a supporter of the policies of Fray Bartolome de las Casas and Fray Francisco de Vitoria for a more humane treatment of the natives. He came into acrimonious conflict with the civil authorities in the islands because he protected the natives against slavery, exploitation and the tyranny of the encomenderos. He returned to Spain in 1590 to advocate the restoration of the Royal Audiencia, which could check the abuses of the colonizers. He also urged the creation of a Philippine Ecclesiastical Province independent of Mexico, subdividing the archipelago into three bishoprics in Luzon and one in the Bisayas. The aged prelate was successful in his pleas before the king and the Council of the Indies: a royal decree of November 26, 1595, reestablished the Audiencia, while a royal decree of July 17, 1595, raised the See of Manila to the category of a metropolitan, with three suffragan bishoprics under it. The aged prelate, however, never saw the fruition of his labors, for he died in Spain on December 4, 1594.

Mexicans of Spanish parentage occupied numerous posts in the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Philippines. Of the Spanish peninsular clergy sent to the islands, the majority often spent many years of missionary service in Mexico. The third bishop of Nueva Caceres, in the Bicol region, Baltazar de Cobarrubias, was a Mexican-born and -educated friar who had received his holy orders at the Augustinian convent in Mexico City. He became bishop elect in 1603, but in a Secrel consistory held in the Vatican two years later he was transferred to the bishopric of Antequera (Oaxaca in Mexico), and moved to the See of Michoacan in 1608.

Unholy War

Another Augustinian from Mexico, Francisco Zamudio, was consecrated the eighth bishop of Nueva Caceres in 1630. Because of his Mexican background, his tenure of office in Naga (the native name for Nueva Caceres) was filled with disputes, not only with his friar brethren but with his archbishop as well. The rivalry and subsequent bitter conflict in the Philippines between the friar orders -- known as the regulars -- and the seculars, most probably started with Bishop Zamudio and culminated in the martyrdom of Fathers Burgos, Gomes, and Zamora some 250 years later.

Fray Zamudio insisted on his diocesan rights of examination and visitation over the discalced Franciscans see. In Mexico, the right of the church hierarchy over the regulars had been upheld, but in the Philippines, the latter had resisted vigorously against what they considered as an encroachment of their monastic privileges. The provisors of Manila and Cebu upheld Zamudio, but Archbishop Hernando Guerrero sided with the regulars and annulled the bishop's actions. When the archbishop and Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera had a bitter altercation over jurisdiction, Zamudio sided with the latter, with the subsequent result that Guerrero was exiled to the village of Mariveles at the entrance to Manila Bay. Because of the vacancy in the metropolitan see, Zamudio was named Provisor General in May 1636 by the cabildo, or cathedral chapter composed wholly of seculars. He immediately absolved every one that had been excommunicated by the exiled prelate. Since Guerrero had named a Dominican for the post prior to his departure, the Catholic Church in the Philippines almost disintegrated into a schism because followers of both sides acrimoniously supported their respective points of view.

The underlying reason for this public dissension was racial. The rivalry between Spaniards born in the peninsula and those born in the colonies, the creoles or americanos, affected not only the clergy but also the lay population. The Augustinians, and the Hospitaller Orders of San Juan de Ojos, San Hipolito and Guadalupe, whose members were creoles, were opposed by the Carmelites and the apostolic colleges in that country. "While legally they (both factions} were on complete equality," writes Dr. Domingo Abella, Philippine ecclesiastical historian, "class distinctions were apparently encouraged as much as possible by the Spanish colonial policy, because the principle of divide et impera of every aristocratic system was the leading idea for the permanent subjection of the colonies."

The rivalry reached such an extent that in 1627 the Dominican Order in Mexico refused to admit creoles into its ranks, an act which the Spanish king disapproved. In the Philippines the situation had not openly reached that extreme. The insular hierarchy managed to keep the number of creoles, mestizos and indios who were embracing the religious life down to a minimum. But the racial discrimination rankled among those born in the colonies. Archbishop Guerrero and Bishop Zamudio were both Augustinians, but the former was a peninsular, while the latter was a creole, and this was probably the reason for their taking opposite sides.

The controversy was resolved by elevating the matter to the Council of the Indies in Madrid, although it could have been referred to the Viceroy of Mexico, because administratively the islands were under the jurisdiction of Mexico, but then the peninsulars feared that the viceroy would side with the creoles. A royal decree in 1639 finally solved the conflict. Zamudio was rebuked for meddling in affairs outside his jurisdiction, and ordered to return to his diocese. But the bishop never learned of his reversal, for he died several months before the decree was issued, and was entombed in the Augustinian convent in Intramuros.

Zamudio's successor in the Bicol provinces was also another Augustinian born in Mexico, Nicolás de Zaldivar. He was a resident of Madrid. After he was sworn into office in 1639, he sailed for Mexico, where he tarried for about three years. He was denounced to the Council of the Indies as "living in the city of Mexico with great scandal in all respects: he operates a gaming table in his house, where cards are played continuously." The king therefore peremptorily ordered him to leave for Manila, and instructed the viceroy to see to it that the orders were obeyed. By the end of 1642, he was performing his duties in Naga. He prudently did not continue the controversial policies of his predecessor. Shortly before his death, in 1646, he played an important role in the defense of Manila when the Dutch fleet attacked and tried to capture Cavite, where the naval arsenal and port were located.

Another Mexican-born prelate, Miguel Poblete, occupied the archbishopric of Manila in 1653. Like Bishop Zamudio, he insisted on the right of subjecting the friars under the jurisdiction of bishops, in accordance with a bull of Pope Urban VIII. He announced the withholding of all stipends for curacies if disobeyed. The monastic orders retaliated by threatening to leave their parishes. Faced with the threat of vacancy, Poblete had to withdraw his order. When the archbishop refused to appoint Governor General Diego Salcedo's nominee as one of the canons of the cathedral, he was threatened with banishment to Mariveles. Poblete reluctantly acceded to the appointment but under protest. An irked governor thereupon suspended the archbishop's salary as well as those of his canons, forcing the prelate to borrow money for his personal support. These vexatious acts hastened the aged dignitary's death, for he passed away on December 8, 1667, mourned by the people "for his virtues and Christian charity."

Culture-Laden Galleons

The most enduring link between Mexico and the Philippines were the galleons that sailed almost annually between Acapulco and Manila. Starting in June of 1565 with the San Pedro, one of Legázpi's fleet, the ship returned to Mexico with Fray Andrés de Urdaneta delineating the return route across the vast Pacific. The San Pedro carried a small quantity of spices and gold gathered in Cebu and northern Mindanao, thus initiating the long history of trade between the two countries. The ship going east became known as the Nao de China -- to this day among Mexicans while those going west were termed Nao de Acapulco. The former brought the luxury items of the 0rient to the New World and Spain, such as porcelain wares of the Ming dynasty, brocades and silk from China, spices from the Moluccas, perfumes from Arabia, rugs from Persia, fine muslins from Madras, pearls from Sulu, and the famed manton de Manila, which, despite the name, were in reality silk shawls woven in the southeastern coasts of China. In exchange, the New World poured millions of its wealth into the Far East in the form of the silver coins known as "pieces-of-eight," turned out by the Mexican and Peruvian mints.

Of the 108 galleons that crossed the Pacific in two centuries and a half, the actual number built for that purpose probably totaled less than half -- that is, about 50 vessels in all. The majority of the 108 made more than one round-trip voyage, while a score foundered on their maiden voyage. Hence, of the approximately 50 galleons constructed for the Manila-Acapulco run, about 15 were built in Mexico, five were built in other countries, and the rest were made in Philippine shipyards. The provinces of Jalisco and Guerrero on the Pacific coast undoubtedly supplied most of the galleons built in Mexico, specially during the first 50 or 60 years of its history.

The influx of Mexicans to the Philippines was reciprocated to a smaller extent by the emigration of Filipinos to that country. The first of this group were the four followers of Magat Salamat, son of the Lakandula chieftain of Tondo exiled to Mexico by Governor Santiago de Vera in 1588 after the first abortive revolt against the Spanish regime. These were Gabriel Tuambacan, Francisco Aeta (a Negrito?), Luis and his son Calao, whose family names were not recorded. Hundreds of indio sailors deserted their ships upon arrival in Acapulco or later in San Blas. Up to this day there exists a small colony of Filipinos, descendants of those who had jumped ship, residing at San Blas.

As a corollary to the galleon trade, there developed the situado, or financial aid to the Philippines. The island colony had to pay its soldiers, the salaries of bureaucrats, hospitals, widows' pensions, and other expenditures of administration. The tributes and taxes raised in the islands were vastly insufficient to meet the expenses of government and the king left it to his viceroy in Mexico to solve this problem. What could be more logical than to levy import taxes on the goods coming from Manila aboard the galleons, and use these sums as a monetary aid to the island colony? The usage was confirmed by Philip III in his decree of 1606.

At first the situado was made up of the returns from the almojarifazgo, or customs tax, collected at Acapulco. Much later, when the galleon trade could not meet the amount either -- because the ships could not make the voyage because of typhoons, shipwrecks or capture by the English -- the Mexican treasury had to draw from its own funds to help the Philippines balance its budget. At that, the arrival of the situado in Manila did not take place regularly, and the archives in Spain, Mexico and Manila contain correspondence complaining of the resulting fund shortage.

Prior to 1687 the annual situado was not fixed, and depended on the exact amount of the deficit in the islands for a given year and the availability of funds from the viceroyalty. During the last decade of the 17th century, the total annual sum of the situado was set at 250,000 pesos. The amount of the aid sent, however, varied from time to time.

In the second decade of the 18th century, Manila officials complained to the crown that the reduction by 100,000 pesos in the subsidy was unfair and causing hardship in insular administration. As governmental expenses increased with each decade, insular officials requested Madrid to increase the situado -- a demand which coincided with the request of merchants that the volume of the Manila-Acapulco trade be expanded. Bigger vessels were thus constructed, more merchandise was sent to Acapulco, and more silver dollars were shipped to Manila. By the end of the 18th century, the galleons were permitted to trade at six times their initial limit.

Starting in 1802, the trade with Acapulco began to wane. The galleons Casualidad, Montańes and Rey Carlos returned to Manila with unsold cargoes. The entry of American and European traders into the Mexican market plus the establishment of the Compańia Real de Filipinas in 1785 had encouraged direct shipping between the Iberian peninsula and the islands, cutting down on the monopolistic aspect of the galleon trade. To cap its termination, Mexico declared its independence in 1810, and in the following year the San Carlos could not land its cargo in Acapulco because the Spanish priest -- general José María Morelos had laid siege to that port. The galleon sailed instead to San Blas, where it disposed of its cargo at a big loss. Not knowing that a revolution had broken out in Mexico, authorities in Manila had dispatched in 1811 the Magallanes to Acapulco, where it became stranded in the harbor, and was able to return only four years later to become the last of the galleons to cross the Pacific. Frigates were sent from Manila by insular merchants, but no buyers could he found in Acapulco, which was in revolutionary flames, and not until 1821 did it gain its freedom. The famed galleon trade between Mexico and the Philippines had come to an end.

Nevertheless, the Mexican influence on the Philippines was to have an epilogue several years later in the brief hut bloody revolt of Captain Andrés Novales, a creole who might have been born and educated in Mexico.

"Officers in the army of the Philippines were almost totally composed of Americans," observed the Spanish historian José Montero y Vidal. "They received in great disgust the arrival of peninsular officers as reinforcements, partly because they supposed they would be shoved aside in the promotions and partly because of racial antagonisms."

Some months previously, in February 1823, a dozen of the leading suspects among the creoles who called themselves 'hijos del pais" were deported to Spain. Among them were Domingo Roxas, leading businessman and ancestor of the present-day opulent Ayala, Zobel, Roxas and Soriano families, José Ortega, general manager of the Royal Company, the barrister José Maria Jugo, Captain Jose Bayot and his two brothers, Luis Rodriguez Varela, former mayor of Tondo and self-styled count of the Philippines, Regino Mijares, sergeant-major of the king's regiment, and a dozen other suspects. Ordered to leave for Misamis Province, Novales instead convinced the brother officers and non-commissioned officers of the king's regiment to join him in a coup d'etat in June of that year. These "americanos,", composed mostly of Mexicans with a sprinkling of creoles and mestizos from Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica and other former colonies of Spain in South America, supported Novales. With about 800 native soldiers they seized early in the morning the royal palace, the city's cabildo and important government buildings in Intramuros, killed the lieutenant governor, Mariano Fernández de Folgueras, but failed to seize Fort Santiago because his brother who commanded the citadel at the last minute refused to open its gates.

The loyalist troops, led by Spanish peninsulars, mustered a counterattack, and the timely arrival of a battalion of native soldiers from Pampanga Province spelled the end of the rebellion. Novales was arrested trying to escape from Intramuros, and his followers either caught or killed. A drumhead court martial was immediately convened, and by late afternoon of that same day Novales and his principal followers were executed by a firing squad.

From that time on, Spain took good care that the Mexican links with the Philippines were terminated, and in the seven decades that followed erased the Mexican influence from the minds and hearts of the Filipinos.


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