Many Filipinos and Chinese today would be surprised to know that one of their countrymen were guests of honor on each of their country’s declaration of nationhood. A Chinese turned Filipino freedom fighter was in Kawit, Cavite, Philippines on June 12, 1898, when the first republic in Asia was born and the beautiful 3 stars and a sun Philippine flag was first waved. Half-a-century later, in a strange twist of history, there was also a Filipino political ideologue in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China on October 1, 1949, when the first communist state in Asia was born and the imposing red flag with five stars was first unfurled.
A Chinese in Kawit 1898
Chinese people, especially those from the southern China provinces like Fujian, Guangdong, Hongkong, Macau, and Taiwan, have always been part of Philippine society even before the Spaniards came to colonize our natural resources-rich archipelago.
During the time of Imperial China, these Southerners would go to the Philippines to trade their exquisite oriental products and exercise their natural leanings towards entrepreneurship. During the oppressive and backward Qing Dynasty, many southern Chinese were forced to left their homeland and cross the vast South China Seas / West Philippine Sea to seek a better life and to test their fate in the Philippines.
One of those Chinaman who tried to test their fate away from their motherland was a young man named Paua (later changed to his Christian name Jose Ignacio Paua). In 1890 together with his uncle he left his impoverished village in Fujian and landed a job in Binondo as an apprentice blacksmith.
Paua quickly mastered the trade and had befriended many Filipinos including high-ranking members of Katipunan, a revolutionary movement that aimed to end the Spanish rule in the Philippines. Magdalo, Katipunan’s sub-group in Cavite became one of his clients in his blacksmith shop. He was the one in charge of repairing Katipunan’s cannons and other weaponry.
Emilio Aguinaldo noticed the expertise and contribution of Paua to Katipunan and on the outbreak of Philippines-Spain War on 1896, Paua was asked to formally join the Katipunan in Cavite. Paua became Aguinaldos’ adviser and supervisor on ammunitions and weaponry. Magdalo’s early military campaign successes against Spanish soldiers were contributed to Paua for his skilful and resourceful supervision and provision of ammunition and weaponry.
Aside from supervising the provision of ammos to the Katipunan, Paua became Aguinaldo’s go-to man in soliciting funds from wealthy Chinese traders based in the Philippines. His reputation among his fellow Chinese was so good that he was able to solicit huge amounts of money to keep Aguinaldo in fighting the Spanish forces.
Later on Paua joined the battlefield to fight side-by-side with the Katipunan. Teodoro Gonzales, patriot-lawyer, described Paua in his unpublished memoir: “It was a strange sight in camp to see him – a dashing officer with a colonel’s uniform but having a pigtail. His soldiers were Tagalogs, all veteran fighters; yet they were devoted to him and were proud to serve under his battle standard, notwithstanding the fact that he was a Chinaman.”
On June 12, 1898, when Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence in Kawit, Cavite and raised the Philippine flag for the first time, Paua cut off his queue (braid). Paua said: “Now that you are free from your foreign master, I am also freed from my queue.” [The queue, for the Chinese, is a sign of humiliation and subjugation because it was imposed on them by the Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty. The Chinese revolutionaries in China cut off their queues only in 1911 when the uprising which toppled the Manchu government succeeded.]
When the Filipino-American war broke out, Paua was again at the forefront of the battle. Taught in the rigid discipline of martial arts, he trained his men well. Among the very few battles won against the superior fire power of the Americans were those led by Paua. Paua became a scourge of the American troops, who greatly feared his attacks. Prof. Luis Dery wrote: “The ferocity with which he contested every inch of Philippine soil lost to the American troops showed his total transformation from Chinese to Filipino – in heart and in deed.”
Upon the defeat of the Filipino soldiers during the Philippine-American Wat, Paua retired in Bicol. He was even elected mayor in a town in Albay. He died wishing that Philippines would be independent from the Americans. The eminent Filipino historian Teodoro Agoncillo said of Paua – He is more Filipino than many Filipinos.
Although many Filipino-Chinese historians would like to paint a very heroic picture of Paua, the truth is he was one of those chosen by Aguinaldo’s generals to arrest Andres Bonifacio following the Katipunan great schism. He was tasked to bring Bonifacio alive in Cavite for what Filipino historians call as a mock military trial that resulted to the greatest tragedy in Philippine history. Obeying from the orders of his Filipino military superiors, Paua agreed. According to some historical account, Paua almost killed Bonifacio by stabbing the Supremo’s neck when the latter resisted his arrest.
A Filipino in Tiananmen 1949
I’m sure very few Filipinos know this. There was one Filipino on the podium in Tiananmen Square in Beijing when Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic on October 1, 1949.
The special Filipino guest of Mao was Teodosio “Teddy” Lansang of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP), the original communist political party in the Philippines.
The PKP was founded by, among others, the Lava Brothers (Jose and Jesus Lava) during the Japanese Occupation. Its military arm, the Hukbo ng Bayan laban sa mga Hapon, or the Huks was a major guerilla force that harassed the Japanese occupation army in Central Luzon. After the end of the Second World War, through the leadership of Luis Taruc, the Huks continued their guerilla war, this time against what they saw as a pro-colonial, inefficient, inept, and corrupt Philippine government and Armed Forces of the Philippines.
It was said that PKP and the Huks was almost close to victory had not the American government supplied the Philippine government with ammos, cash, and propaganda. In no time, the Philippine government won the hearts and mind of the public especially when a charismatic mechanic-turned-president, Ramon Magsayay was tasked by then Presindent Elpidio Quirino to solve the PKP-Huk question.
Teddy Liansang, according to top Filipino journalist Tony Abaya stayed in Mainland China for a long time exchanging communiqués with Renato Constantino and Francisco Nemenzo who according to Liansang are PKP Politburo members. Sometime before Sino-Soviet ideological split in 1960-61, Liansang moved to USSR. In Moscow, he helped found the institute where Soviet diplomats bound for the Philippines learned to speak Tagalog. He also married a Russian woman, by whom he had a son (who in 1990 had risen to major in the Soviet Army) and a daughter (who in 1990 had become a ranking academic in the University of Moscow). Teddy Liansang died in Moscow before the collapse of USSR.
Liansang’s, Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas by the way finally folded in late 1960’s when several of its leaders and ideologues decided to support Ferdinand Marcos’ Bagong Lipunan and Revolution from the Center. Youth members and leaders of PKP, foremost is Jose Ma. Sision, then on formed the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) which up to this day through its armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA) is waging a half-a-century campaign to overthrow the Philippine government.
I was told that when Russian-leaning Filipino communists were ousted in China following the Sino-Soviet split, a new group of young Filipino communists moved in to the “communist mansions”. Rumor has it that the Plaza Miranda bombing of 1971 was partially planned in Beijing by young Filipino communists and that the bomb used was from China.
In early 1980’s Filipino communists as well as other non-Chinese communist leaders in China were advised to go back to their respective countries as the Chinese government decided to stop in exporting its ideology.
Happy Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day (celebrated every June 9th)! May understanding, peace, and prosperity be upon Philippines and China!
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! (June 12th, Philippine Independence Day). The song “Dakilang Lahi” perfectly says what I think and feel for my one and only country.
na sa ‘yong tangi
pag-ibig ko inang bayan
oh Pilipino gagaling ang sugat
ng iyong nakaraan
nang pahiran ko
luha ng ‘yong puso
ay natayo muli
ang karangalan mo
Oh ang pag-ibig ko’y sa ‘yo
ikaw ang s’yang dalangin ko
sa diyos kailan pa man
ang iyong bituin
at sumikat na’ng araw
ang kalayaan mo’y sinisigaw
Ang bukas ay tanging sa’yo
ang kulay mo
dugo’t pawis inalay mo
‘di ka na maaapi ngayon o kailanman
pag-ibig ko’y sa ‘yo inang bayan
iyo’y muli nang nakamtan
tulad noong araw
bago inagaw ang kayamanan mo, ang ‘yong kalayaan
Nang pahiran ko
luha ng ‘yong puso
ay natayo muli
ang karangalan mo.
Photo credit: Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, Public domain