The Dominicans, the Chinese in Binondo, and La Naval de Manila (part 2)

Among the Dominican missions in Manila we have Binondo, Parian and San Gabriel – these were established for the Chinese. These facts make the image of La Naval older than San Lorenzo Ruiz by a few years; simply because before 1594 Binondo “did not yet exist as a village” as said by the eminent historian, Fr. Fidel Villaroel, O.P.

Lorenzo Ruiz: the Indio

Villaroel said that Lorenzo Ruiz was raised in Binondo, and educated by the Dominicans. His “house was not far from Rosario street (today Quintin Paredes St.) that led to the Church dedicated to the Rosary of Mary…he was made a sacristan…We can imagine Lorenzo seeking refuge in Santo Domingo Convent under fear of being implicated in a crime.” We know of course that Lorenzo had a quarrel with a Spaniard. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there was a boat leaving and little did Lorenzo know that the boat was on for a serious and secret mission to Japan. But that he was able to join the boat meant that he went to Santo Domingo Convent to hide.

Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Binondo, 1600-1610.  His birth date cannot be known because records were destroyed during WWII. Lorenzo’s father was Chinese and his mother was from Manila, a Tagalog. His mixed blood made him a mestizo. Like chinito now. But during his interrogation in Japan, Lorenzo, as to his nationality said, that he was an indio (the word Filipino was not yet used that time). By identifying himself as an indio, Lorenzo, I consider, is one of our early patriots. Rant Bubble: if the concept “filipino” were already used during his time he might have said “I am a Filipino.” E tayo di ba naiinsulto tayo kapag tinatawag tayong indio. Gusto natin mataas, kailangan “Illustrado,” or ano pa, wag lang indio kahit hindi di tisoy. Isa pa, kahit si Rizal na tinawag ni Leon Ma. Guerrero na “first Filipino” e may Chinese blood din.

Lorenzo, to Villaroel’s estimation received a very good education. Alam n’yo ba kung ano pinag-aaralan ng mga Chinese sa Binondo? This is what Fr. Francisco de Montilla, a Franciscan wrote,

            For the administration and formation of these Christians and of their children…(the Dominicans) have founded in that place a church and a school, where they gather the people on feastdays and preach to them in their own language…Also of great help to keep the Chinese as good Christians is the training and teaching the Dominican Fathers give to the Chinese children in their school, which they attend from early childhood, and the Fathers teach them to read and write in Spanish and in Latin and in the Chinese characters.”

Lorenzo being an escribano must be very well educated in these languages. But besides the formal training, many Filipino-Chinese “learn the Chinese language form their fathers,” Spanish language from the Dominican priests, and Tagalog from their mothers. “Besides, the Dominicans teach them music and songs and how to play the flute and the flageolet…And they learn with great ease because they are extremely gifted.” Here it is worthy of note that Fray Miguel de Benavides, the founder of UST, spoke in fluent Chinese.

What does this tell us? Lorenzo most probably prayed to our image of La Naval de Manila. Of course during his time it was not yet called Our Lady of La Naval de Manila. Remember that Lorenzo died in 1637 in Japan. The Battle of La Naval de Manila happened in 1646. But the point is, as a sacristan and having lived near Intramuros and being close to the Dominicans, San Lorenzo Ruiz must have known and prayed to the image of La Naval de Manila.

As an aside, many Filipinos revile Spanish time under the caricature “Padre Damaso.” People subscribe to caricatures when they know very little about what they are talking about. Caricaturing the past happens because we lack the details. I am guilty of that too. Just years ago, I hated everything friarish and lumped Spanish colonial time as “dark age.” I remember a historian said that we fall into error of “picturing” say a period of 100 years ago or 300 years ago from our point of view. That is wrong. A time for example of 50 years ago is just as different, probably it would look alien to us. EDSA 1 did not even happen a hundred years ago but there are already a lot of misconceptions about it, add to the fact that even I could not even reconstruct it in memory in its details not even speaking of its affective aspect. What I am saying is that 1600 Philippines is so complex we could not just lump its history under a phrase or a sentence. Anyway, the Binondo we are speaking now is still existing.


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