RIZAL’S CHINESE OVERCOAT
by Tu Yiban (塗一般)*
first published as 《黎剎的中國外衣》 in the Chinese Commercial News (Manila), 《讀 與寫》 (Reading and writing) supplement, 14-18 February 2005 translated into English by Daniel Ong**
*Tu Yiban (塗一般), pen name of Alfonso O. Ang (伍哲燦); born in Binondo district, Manila, Philippines; Filipino citizen; businessman by profession; history and culture enthusiast, life member of the Philippine National Historical Society; freelance writer and contributor to local Chinese dailies; has so far authored and published two books in Chinese: 《博土經》上下卷 (Bo Tu Jing Books 1 and 2) **Daniel Ong (王英華), an ethnic Chinese of Philippine citizenship; officially an ophthalmologist by profession; non-medical interests include history, linguistics, anthropology, and religion
Author’s Recommendation: Since this essay is pretty much a critique of the book 《黎薩 爾與中國》 [Rizal and China], it would be best if the reader has a copy of the book at hand. Interested readers may contact the Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, Inc., corner Anda and Cabildo Streets, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines, with phone numbers 63-2-5266796 to 98, and 63-2-5276083.
The confirmation that Jose Rizal’s Chinese ancestors hailed from 上郭 Shangguo Village in southern Fujian province sparked the recent “Rizal fever” in the Chinese- Filipino community. [Translator’s note: Shàngguo is the Pinyin rendering of the Mandarin pronunciation of 上郭, while Siong-ke is a rendering of the pronunciation in Minnan or Hokkien—the speech of southern Fujian and Taiwan, and of majority of the Chinese in the Philippines. Shangguo was once a village of 羅山鎮 or Luoshan Town. Due to changes in the administrative divisions of Fujian, Shangguo has become a community under the Xintang Subdistrict of Jinjiang City (晉江市新塘街道辦事處上郭 社區). “Chinese-Filipino” refers to ethnic Chinese or people of Chinese ancestry in the Philippines.] The joint research done by Mr. Melanio Cua Fernando, board member and columnist of the Chinese Commercial News [translator’s note: Chinese Commercial News or 《商報》, a Chinese daily broadsheet newspaper published in Manila], members of the Ke (Cua) and Cai (Chua) clans in Shangguo, and a number of other notables, has shown that the name of Ke Yinan (Domingo Lamco), Rizal’s great-great-grandfather, is found in the “Genealogy of the Ke Clan of Shangguo” (《上郭柯氏族譜》), thus proving that Rizal was of Chinese ancestry1. This has created quite a stir within the Chinese-Filipino community, which attaches much importance to ancestry and bloodline. This writer, however, has not found any trace of Rizal’s identification with China in his voluminous writings. In fact the contrary is true: Rizal’s writings abound with rejection and criticism of the Chinese. In spite of this, the Rizal family, led by Rizal’s grandniece Asuncion Lopez-Rizal Bantug, has visited their ancestral hometown of Shangguo2. This “pilgrimage” of sorts, which would not have been to Rizal’s liking, has nevertheless brought some consolation to Chinese-Filipinos. While we rejoice over this newly affirmed kinship with the national hero, we seem to have conveniently overlooked a new trend in mainstream Rizal studies.
Chinese-Filipino history experts with a grasp of English and Tagalog would know that the focus of mainstream “Rizalism” has shifted from the old “deification” to the current treatment of Rizal as a human being. On the contrary, Chinese-Filipino history gurus who favor assimilation [translator’s note: i.e., assimilation of local Chinese into Philippine society] have gone out of step with mainstream society. Not only have they continued to “whitewash” Rizal, they have even hid him beneath a tailor-made “Chinese overcoat,” transforming him from the rabid anti-Chinese that he was into a “true friend of the Chinese people who had the greatest appreciation for Chinese culture.” As this writer had mentioned elsewhere3, Rizal had been made to don the “Chinese overcoat” to “foster...