Sangley - Culture


One of the main objectives of the Spanish administration from the beginning of the colonial period in the Philippines was to spread the Christian religion. With the help of the government, religious orders built traditional stone-and-brick churches throughout the islands in the Spanish or Mexican Baroque style. Located inside the walled-city of Intramuros, San Agustin Church was the first stone church built in the archipelago. It became the spiritual center of Christianity in the Philippines, and also in Asia. The remains of Miguel López de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo and Martín de Goiti (who was killed during Limahong's siege) were interred in that church. During the short-lived British invasion (1762–64), Intramuros was pillaged and the San Agustin Church desecrated by the British forces.

The Spanish government created schools and colleges run mostly by religious Orders, including the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the Ateneo Municipal, the Universidad de Santo Tomás in Manila, or the Colegio de San Ildefonso in Cebu, that were opened to all types of students, regardless of race, gender or financial status in case of primary instruction. In 1863, the Spanish government established a modern system of free public education, the first of its kind in Asia.

Binondo served as the traditional center of community life for the Catholic sanglays and their descendants, the mestizos de sanglay. The Gremio de Mestizos de Binondo was the official guild chartered to administer community affairs. Born in Binondo, San Lorenzo Ruiz was a mestizo de sangleay who served as an altar boy in the Binondo Church (which has since been named after him). Established by the Spanish Dominicans for Catholic sanglays, the Binondo Church is now known as the Minor Basilica de San Lorenzo Ruiz. It became the center site for the religious rites of the community. The Catholic mestizos de sanglay expressed religious devotion with processions marking important occasions, such as the Feast of La Naval de Manila, commemorating the naval victory of the Spanish over the Dutch off Manila Bay in 1646.

In the late 19th century, cosmopolitan mercantilism emerged in Binondo, at the same time that Western and Overseas Chinese merchants entered the island's economy, which was being integrated into the global trading system. The Spaniards tended to be more isolated from the new urban environment, living in Intramuros, where Hispanic Catholicism dominated the walled city. The rapid urbanization transformed the ethnic enclave of Binondo into a thriving commercial district within an expanding urban core. The Overseas Chinese (traditional Chinese: 華僑; pinyin: Huáqiáo) merchants essentially displaced the mestizos de sanglay from their role as the domestic traders of the islands. Although officially under Spanish rule, cosmopolitan Binondo became the semi-official capital of an "Anglo-Chinese Colony" in the late 19th-century Philippines.

Chinese-Filipino merchants dominated the textile industry in Molo and Jaro. Iloilo produced sinamay, a hand-woven cloth made from fine abaca threads, which was used for the casual camisa de chino; jusi (Chinese term for raw silk), a translucent fabric woven from silk yarn for the formal barong tagalog; and piña, a handwoven fabric made of pineapple fiber for heirloom garments. During the late 19th century, the mestizos de sanglay wore embroidered barong tagalog while indios wore multicolored camisa de chino. The indios were not allowed to wear European-style clothing, as a means of separating the groups.

In food, Chinese-Filipinos adapted Hokkien food from Fujian. They used indigenous ingredients and Spanish names to improvise what became part of Filipino cuisine. During the 19th century, noodle shops called panciterias serving comida China (Chinese food) dotted the islands. The ubiquitous pancit (meaning "noodle" from the Hokkien word pian-e-sit) became pancit luglog and lomi (flavored with sauce); mami (served with broth); pancit molo (cooked as pasta) and pancit Malabon (mixed with seafood). The rice staple (and wet-rice agriculture) common to East Asia originated in China, as did the rice porridge called arroz caldo. Other well-known Filipino dishes such as lumpia (egg-roll), maki (soup dish), kiampong (fried rice) and ma-chang (sticky rice,) among others, trace their origins to the culinary arts of the Hokkien migrants settling in the islands over the centuries.

In the historic district of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, known as kasanglayan (meaning where sanglays live), prosperous Chinese-Filipino merchants built stone-and-wood houses (really brick and wood) called bahay na bato. These followed some of the tradition of Malay village houses-on-stilts, called bahay kubo, but instead of using bamboo and thatch, they used molave-wood structural beams to frame the two-story house. Walls were formed of brick coated with plaster. Sliding window panels made of translucent capiz shells, in latticework patterns, enclosed the typically large horizontal windows. On the outside, sliding wooden shutters could cover the windows for another layer of privacy and ventilation control.

In contrast to the stone-and-brick Spanish colonial houses, this style of residences was better suited to the tropical environment of the islands. It was more flexible, so could better withstand frequent earthquakes. Steep roofs with overhanging eaves provided shelter against rain and storms, and added to the sense of openness and space connecting the interior and exterior. These helped shield residents from seasonal monsoons. During less severe rain and in the hot summers, the sliding windows could be opened to allow greater circulation of air and more light into the house. When illuminated at night, such houses resemble giant Chinese lanterns. The stone/brick-and-wood house became so widespread throughout the islands that this typical Chinese-Filipino merchant's house came to be known as the "colonial Filipino" style.

The mestizos de sanglay synthesized a hybrid culture incorporating Hispanic and European influences with both indigenous and Asian elements. In fashion, cuisine, design and architecture, a distinctive style emerged, especially among the wealthier segment. As the Sanglay prospered from trading, they built the first and in many cases the only stone-and-wood houses in the countryside. Like other rising elites, they created forms of conspicuous consumption to signify their status. The mestizos de sanglay held feasts to commemorate baptisms, weddings, funerals and processions. As the 19th century drew to a close, the medieval Spanish empire in the Philippines, was defeated by the rising Western empire of the United States (US). After the Spanish-American War, the US took possession of the Philippines and influenced its culture in turn. The mestizos de sanglay and other Filipinos came to be called, the Little Brown Americans, as residents were given special status as a protectorate in relation to the US.

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