The Sangleys of Pampanga
Have you ever wondered why there are tons of Filipinos with Chinese surnames? Probably not, because most of us know that at some point in our history, the Chinese were already here even before the archipelago was called the Philippines. The Filipino-Chinese are prominent because they are the forerunners in the fields of trade and industry which spanned their legacy from the pre-Hispanic Philippines to date.
There is no doubt the Chinese merchants reached the archipelago through sail since, nautically-speaking, the island of Luzon isn’t that far from mainland China. And if the Chinese merchants reached the islands through boats and ships, it is undeniable they could have navigated through rivers and creeks.
The communities in the pre-Hispanic Pampanga thrived in the village of Betis which was
“…muy poblado de gente y e la más fortificado de toda la isla de Luzón… (…well-populated, the most fortified throughout the island of Luzon)”
as well as the settlements in Lubao certainly had Chinese merchants for trade interactions and exploration. A century and a half after the first contact of the Spaniards to the natives (1738 to be precise), the Chinese mestizos numbered up to 3480 in Pampanga. Then 24 years later, the Chinese migrated in “large flocks to Guagua” which was probably because they allied with the British forces, where they also “joined in their military campaigns, set fire to many towns, desecrated the churches, killed several Spaniards, and even tortured a few priests.” This happened in the aftermath of the British occupation of Manila in 1762-1764.
Another event the Spanish era, a mysterious disappearance of the Sangley colony established by the royal cedula in April 27, 1784 in the Pinac (Swamp) region of Candaba happened in 1850. The traces of this colony comprised of 200 Christian Chinese was nowhere to be found. Adding to that, there was an excavation in 1937 facilitated by Professor Henry Otley Beyer and Henry Costenoble. The excavation unearthed Chinese burial jars from Southern China at barrio Dolores in Hacienda Ramona, north of Porac. These burial jars were dated back from the 3rd century of the Christian era.
Today, the Chinese influence on Kapampangans lives on. There are certain words that were borrowed from their language. This is the result of interracial marriage and because of trade and commercial purposes. Family-related terms such as ápû 阿婆 (maternal grandmother), impû 外婆 (paternal grandmother), ingkung 外公 (paternal grandfather), atchi 阿姐 (eldest sister), koya 哥仔 (eldest brother) are loan words from the Cantonese and Hokkien languages which are widely used in Kapampangan households especially those of Chinese descent.