The Life of Jose Rizal: Philippine Patriot
Rizal's Chinese Ancestry
Clustered around the walls of Manila in the latter half of the seventeenth century were
little villages the names of which, in some instances slightly changed, are the names of
present districts. A fashionable drive then was through the settlement of Filipinos in
Bagumbayan-the "new town" to which Lakandola's subjects had migrated when Legaspi
dispossessed them of their own "Maynila." With the building of the moat this village
disappeared, but the name remained, and it is often used to denote the older Luneta, as
well as the drive leading to it.
Within the walls lived the Spanish rulers and the few other persons that the fear and
jealousy of the Spaniard allowed to come in. Some were Filipinos who ministered to the
needs of the Spaniards, but the greater number were Sangleyes, or Chinese, "the
mechanics in all trades and excellent workmen," as an old Spanish chronicle says,
continuing: "It is true that the city could not be maintained or preserved without the
The Chinese conditions of these early days are worth recalling, for influences strikingly
similar to those which affected the life of Jose Rizal in his native land were then at work.
There were troubled times in the ancient "Middle Kingdom," the earlier name of the
corruption of the Malay Tchina (China) by which we know it. The conquering Manchus
had placed their emperor on the throne so long occupied by the native dynasty whose
adherents had boastingly called themselves "The Sons of Light." The former liberal and
progressive government, under which the people prospered, had grown corrupt and
helpless, and the country had yielded to the invaders and passed under the terrible
tyranny of the Tartars.
Yet there were true patriots among the Chinese who were neither discouraged by these
conditions nor blind to the real cause of their misfortunes. They realized that the easy
conquest of their country and the utter disregard by their people of the bad government
which had preceded it, showed that something was wrong with themselves.
Too wise to exhaust their land by carrying on a hopeless war, they sought rather to get a
better government by deserving it, and worked for the general enlightenment, believing
that it would offer the most effective opposition to oppression, for they knew well that an
intelligent people could not be kept enslaved. Furthermore, they understood that, even if
they were freed from foreign rule, the change would be merely to another tyranny unless
the darkness of the whole people were dispelled. The few educated men among them
would inevitably tyrannize over the ignorant many sooner or later, and it would be less
easy to escape from the evils of such misrule, for the opposition to it would be divided,
while the strength of union would oppose any foreign despotism. These true patriots were
more concerned about the welfare of their country than ambitious for themselves, and
they worked to prepare their countrymen for self-government by teaching self-control
and respect for the rights of others.