Why Once There were no Chinese in Taal, Lemery and Bauan in Batangas - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Why Once There were no Chinese in Taal, Lemery and Bauan in Batangas - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Why Once There were no Chinese in Taal, Lemery and Bauan in Batangas

This is more or less common knowledge in Batangas; albeit, from my own personal experience, if you ask people, nobody would be able to give a definitive reason why. Not that this continues to be true in the municipality in the present day. An acquaintance who was born, raised and continues to live in Taal says that one or two enterprises are, indeed, owned by, at the very least, Filipinos of Chinese ancestry.

Surprisingly, there has not been an awful lot of material written on the subject, either; and particularly so when one considers how much the Chinese or their Filipino descendants own thriving enterprises not just elsewhere in Batangas but the rest of the country as well.

The few materials that do exist hint at an economic reason. In his book, Daniel F. Doeppers wrote, “The high level and broadly distributed nature of indigenous commercial activity made the town of Taal the more generally prosperous in the province – and unwelcoming to Chinese businessmen. In fact, in 1895 no Chinese were registered in Taal and only 16 in its twin, Lemery, versus 200 or more in Batangas town (presently Batangas City) and Lipa.1

This economic rivalry seemed to have been more between the Chinese and the Tagalogs. Hugo Miller, cited by Ta Chen in a 1923 book, wrote that the Chinese tended to dominate commerce in the Visayas, the Bicol peninsula, Nueva Ecija, the Ilocano provinces and the Cagayan Valley. “In many parts of the Tagalog Provinces,” he went on, “natives control the largest part of the commerce. In a few places there are no Chinese. Taal-Lemery, in Batangas, is the most noteworthy of these.2

This economic rivalry between the Chinese and native Filipinos – and not just in Batangas – is, in fact, documented all the way back to the latter part of the sixteenth century. In 1591, the Spanish colonial government issued an ordinance in Manila which forbade native Filipinos from wearing silk and purchasing other products that were brought in by the Chinese, or the Sangleys as they were called in the era.

The ordinance was issued after ten native Filipino chiefs testified that the influx of Chinese products “has ruined the native industries, and demoralized the people.3

Taal Batangas
Poblacion Taal.  Image property of Batangas History, Culture & Folklore.

It can be correctly assumed that the Chinese were resentful of such an ordinance, as it curtailed their business in the country. Although there is no direct evidence to suggest so, this resentment probably contributed to the mutiny and subsequent killing of the Spanish Governor, Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, in 1593 after 250 Chinese were forcibly taken to row boats for an expedition to the Moluccas4.

The brewing tension between the Spaniards and the native Filipinos, on the one hand, and the Chinese on the other hand, not just because of economic rivalry but also because of the death of Dasmariñas, would boil over in 1603 in what history remembers as the Sangley Rebellion. The Spaniards, with the help of native Filipinos and the Japanese, would quell the rebellion and massacre an estimated 20,000 Chinese.

Taal, apparently, participated in this massacre. Sol Jose Vanzi, in an article about the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, wrote, “That year saw the outbreak of the Sangley revolution, when more than 20,000 Chinese were massacred, including 20 Chinese stonemasons who were constructing the shrine. One of the masons was Hay Bing, also known as Juan Imbing. People witnessed his execution and saw his body thrown into the lake with the others. But that night, he was led by Our Lady to the wells beside the unfinished shrine.5

Jose Eugenio Borao would note that soon, “both parties (the Spaniards and the Chinese) reached a new compromise and the agitation easily vanished as though nothing had happened.” However, he also noted that both sides continued to harbor grudges against each other, as could only be expected.

By the middle of the seventeenth century, Spanish colonial policy towards the Chinese had shifted towards encouraging them to become farmers. This, George H. Weightman wrote, “was intended to Christianize the Chinese, to amalgamate them into Philippine society.” This new policy was violently opposed in the Southern Tagalog area, particularly in certain areas of Batangas where the Chinese were barred or expelled with the use of force.6

Weightman quoted an excerpt from a book by Gregorio Sancianco y Goson, “There are towns in the province of Batangas, for example Taal, where the natives rose up and slew most of the Chinese: until this date there are no Chinese in that area (Taal region ).7

The resentment for the Chinese was apparently not limited to Taal. In other places in Batangas where they continued to live, they were harassed by the locals. Weightman quoted an anecdote of such harassment as told by one informant. “Retail stores, hotels, hardware, restaurants, bakeries, rice mills – all of these controlled by the Chinese... We stone them, spit on them, cheat them, insult them, but still they cling to the town people like lice sucking blood – life of the town.”

What is not as common knowledge here in Batangas is that apart from Taal, Bauan was also unwelcoming to the Chinese, as evidenced by another quote by Weightman of another informant:

“She narrated that there was once a Chinese man who attempted to establish a small store in Bauan (Batangas). But because the people, especially the children, hated Chinese during that time, they thought of some possible ways of driving the Chinese out of their place. So, the following nights, the Chinese was surprised to see that his cooking place was full of human waste and his kitchen tools were scattered around the place. Poor Chinese! A time when he can [sic] no longer stand such sufferings. He at once packed and went back to his former place where Chinese men were allowed to build stores... At present there are still no Chinese people living in Bauan, Batangas.”
Notes and references:
1 “Feeding Manila in Peace and War,” 1850–1945 by Daniel F. Doeppers.
2 Hugo Miller, cited by Ta Chen in “Chinese Migrations, with Special Reference to Labor Conditions,” 1923.
3 “The Philippine Islands: Volume VIII: 1591-1593,” compiled by Blair and Robertson.
4 “The massacre of 1603: Chinese perception of the Spaniards in the Philippines,” by Jose Eugenio Borao.
5 “Taal, Batangas: Lady of the Lake,” by Sol Jose Vanzi, online at Newsflash.org.
6 “Anti-Sinicism in the Philippines,” by George H. Weightman.
7 “Progreso de Filipinas” by Gregorio Sancianco y Gozon, as cited by George H. Weightman in “Anti-Sinicism in the Philippines.”
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