Independence Day, 2019

I spent Philippine Independence Day 2019 day revisiting sites that have to do with my Chinese Filipino heritage.

I joined a field trip

General Ignacio Paua

At the intersection of Aguinaldo Highway and Jose P. Rizal Sts. in Silang, Cavite stands a monument to General Ignacio Paua, the only Chinese Filipino (Tsinoy) general in the Katipunan.

According to the plaque (apologies for any mistakes in translation), Gen. Paua was born in Laona, Lamwa, Fookien, China on April 29, 1872.

He emigrated to the Philippines in 1890 and joined the Philippine revolution against the Spanish as a General under Emilio Aguinaldo, who put him in charge of making and securing arms for the provinces of Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Tarlac.

His is the only Tsinoy whose signature appears on the Philippine Declaration of Independence signed at Biyak na Bato in 1897.

He was also Treasurer for the Bicol Region during the Philippine American War. He surrendered on March 24, 1900, was imprisoned in Fort Santiago, and was later released on June 21,1900.

He settled in Matino, Albay where he served as Municipal President, passing away on May 24, 1926.

Kaisa para sa Kaunlaran Foundation members during their annual visit to Gen. Paua’s shrine.

Every year, members of Chinese Filipino cultural and civic organization Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran Foundation, who runs the Bahay Tsinoy museum in Intramuros which traces the history of Chinese Filipinos, pays their respects to Gen. Paua, as do members of the Lao Family Organization, as Gen. Paua hails from the Lao clan.

It was my first time to visit the monument, which also contains a small park with shrubs, lampposts, and benches; as well as a marker for Silang.

There’s a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment in the country today, to the point that the alliances of Tsinoys are questioned. Gen. Paua, a Chinese immigrant who fought for Philippine independence, is a reminder that Tsinoys may be ethnically Chinese, but they are wholly Filipino ready and willing to lay down our lives for inang bayan.

Ma-Cho Temple in Batangas City

We visited the Ma-Cho temple in Batangas City. Ma-Cho is a Chinese sea goddess worshipped by fishermen. There are Ma-Cho temples around the Philippines but what makes this different is the image of Ma-Cho in Batangas is the same as the of Caysasay, whose basilica is located in Taal.

The Ma-Cho temple in Batangas City. Ma-Cho is a Chinese sea goddess worshipped by fishermen.

Legend says that the statue of Our Lady of Caysasay was found in 1603 by a fisherman fishing in the Pansipit river. It is believed to be one of the oldest images in the Philippines.

Though this particular temple was built in 1975, Ma-Cho has had devotees in these islands long before the Spanish arrived. It is believed that the Spanish ‘swapped’ Ma-Cho for the Lady of Caysasay because it’s what conquering Christians did, and because they shared a connection to bodies of water.

Devotees of Ma-Cho and Our Lady of Caysasay from nearby Taal town believe they venerate the same person, and even share the same holy image.

This temple celebrates Ma-Cho’s feast, which lasts a few days, before Dec 8, whereupon celebrants continue on to Taal to worship in the Basilica.

In the same way that the Lady of Caysasay, and Mary in general, is called ‘Mama Mary,’ locals call the Chinese sea goddess ‘Mama Ma-Cho.’

Not the Lady of Caysasay but notice the Catholic image surrounded by Chinese ones.

It’s interesting how entwined Filipino and Chinese cultures were, and how vestiges of this persist to this day. I hope it’s something both Filipinos and Chinese don’t forget.


Yvette Natalie U. Tan is a multi-awarded author of horror fiction and the Agriculture section editor of Manila Bulletin.