For centuries, Chinese immigrants have blazed a trail in our country, establishing a distinct Chinese-Filipino culture. There are now approximately 900,000 to one million ethnic Chinese in the Philippines, accounting for between 1.2 percent to 1.5 percent of the entire Philippine population. Half of this population lives in Metro Manila, while the other half is spread throughout other important cities such as Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, and Bacolod. As we celebrate the rich and fascinating culture of the Chinoy community, let’s look at some interesting facts about one of the Philippines’ most significant communities:
1. The Chinese were in the Philippines before the Spanish
Chinese traders and immigrants were already doing business in the Philippines long before the Spaniards “discovered” it. By the 12th century, trade between the two countries was frequent, with the Chinese bringing in things like silk and porcelain in return for local beeswax and sea slugs. Despite this, the Spaniards took it upon themselves to govern the Chinese community by restricting residential and vocational freedoms, deporting people, and even resorting to violence on occasion.
2. Many Chinoys’ ancestors came from the Fujian & Guangdong provinces in Southern China
The majority of Chinese-Filipinos in the Philippines may trace their ancestors to Fujian or Guangdong provinces in southern China. As a result, many of them speak the same dialect, Hokkien. This language is spoken in a variety of nations—though with varying dialects)—including Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, demonstrating the scope of Chinese immigration across Asian countries.
3. The Chinoy community is the smallest in Southeast Asia
Despite their enormous effect on Filipino culture, local Chinese constitute a very tiny minority in the nation. Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia have historically a far larger Chinese population than the Philippines. Nonetheless, the Chinese have demonstrated their impact on the Filipino population through enormous corporations, such as SM, which was established by Chinoy Henry Sy, and even in politics, such as former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, and therefore, her son, Benigno Aquino III, who are descendants of Chinese immigrant Co Yuan Hwan.
4. The first and oldest Chinatown in the world is Binondo!
Binondo is the world’s first, and hence the oldest, Chinatown! Those simple lanes in the center of Manila were founded in 1594 and continue to be culturally significant to local Chinese. Historic attractions like the Capitol Theatre, which was built by National Artist Juan Nakpil, the 100-year-old China Banking Corporation Building, and several iconic Chinese restaurants are still popular with both residents and visitors today.