Tuesday, September 26, 2006


His life was a classic rags-to-riches story: Born of a poor family in T’ung-an hsien, he migrated to the Philippines in 1844. Although starting out in a measly position in the textile business, through hard work, tenacity, and acquired connections, he prospered.

Only about twenty years after arriving in Manila, he had risen as a powerful leader in the Chinese community. His wealth stemmed from importing enterprises, which included sugar and rice. He was also involved in coolie brokerage. Besides the businesses that he presided over, there were many commercial ventures in which his investments raked in enormous profits.

When he converted to Catholicism, his baptismal sponsor was Colonel Carlos Palanca Y Gutierrez — a Spanish forces leader in the Franco-Spanish intervention of 1858-62 in Cohin, China. He then assumed the name of his godfather (padrino); changing it from Tan Quien-sien to Carlos Palanca Tan Quien-sien. He eventually became widely known as Don Carlos Palanca.

He attained the position of gobernadorcillo from 1875-77, and again some years later; serving as the interim gobernadorcillo in 1885 and 1889. And when not in office, he continued to move behind the scenes with undisputed power; an effective arbitrator of disputes as well. For his services as gobernadorcillo, Spain granted him the Medal of Civil Merit and the Grand Cross of Isabel the Catholic.

He was always active in community affairs and philanthropy; raising funds for the community hospital and even provided a building for it himself in 1891. His generous donations extended outside of the Chinese community. There were many exemplary accomplishments attached to his name — the abolishment of vice in the community, the end of police extortions of the Chinese; the abolition of the death penalty for crimes committed by Chinese; and through powerful connections in Spain, softened Spanish legislation on the Chinese

He played a major role in the community’s efforts to obtain a Chinese consulate in Manila during the 1880s and 1890s. When the Americans took control of the country in 1898, he provided the American troops with temporary lodging arrangements, as well as furnished them with coolies to build their barracks. Subsequently, he urged the Ch’ing government to negotiate with the United States for a Chinese consulate in Manila. When the consulate was established in 1899, the Ch’ing government appointed his son, Ignacio Palanca Tan Chueco, to the position of first consul.

When the Philippine Revolution broke out he chose to keep distance; not committing to either side. When the Spanish government charged a number of mestizos with conspiracy, he argued in behalf of some of them and helped secure their release, though his attitude toward the Chinese mestizos was one of contempt. Not a believer of inter-racial marriage, he sent his son to a school in China to thwart his filipinization.

The Spanish and Filipinos, on the other hand, regarded Don Carlos Palanca with mixed sentiments. Their pervasive perception of him was that of a master corrupter; one who would resort to extreme measures just to get what he wanted.

He was thought of as a man obsessed with becoming the Chinese consul. He did assume the interim role of which when his son’s return from China was delayed for several months; unable to immediately fulfill his appointment as consul.

There were speculations among the Filipino intellectuals that Jose Rizal modeled after Don Carlos Palanca his character of Chinaman Quiroga in El Filibusterismo. Jose Alejandrino, a friend of Rizal, confirmed that it was indeed the case. Alejandrino further claimed that Don Carlos Palanca approached Aguinaldo — when he was forming his revolutionary government — about the possibility of creating an opium monopoly.

Despite such controversies, he was, undoubtedly, a powerful force in the Chinese community during the late nineteenth century. When he died in 1901, a statue was erected in the Chinese cemetery as a tribute to his community service and philanthropy.

The Chinese in Philippine Life 1850-1898
By Edgar Wickberg
Ateneo de Manila University Press

Photo of Carlos Palanca credit:
Fei-lu-pin Min-li-la Chung-hua Shang-hui san-shi chou-nien k’an ed. Huang Hsiao-ts’ang
(Manila, 1936)

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:45 AM


Blogger Senorito<- Ako said...

When I saw the quiapo handicraft store pics... All 30 years of my existence flashed back in 2 seconds. Thanks for that. :)

September 26, 2006 7:39 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I thought it would somehow be of interest to you S.A.! I plan to shoot more pics of that area and feature our handicrafts in the near future. Any point of interest I should know about?

Ivan's San Miguel tour was cancelled; waiting for new date.

September 26, 2006 10:07 AM  

Blogger E. S. de Montemayor said...

to think we have a literary prize named after him?!?!?!

but thanks talaga for this really really good entry... hope you make more articles on the not-so-known history of ours... like david fagen, the negro who fought for the filipinos during the fil-am war..

September 26, 2006 11:18 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Jules. Actually, I enjoy coming across obscure historical finds about our beloved city.

September 26, 2006 12:21 PM  

Blogger ipanema said...

My goodness, I'm learning history through your posts Eric. Thank you for sharing. And to confess, I even don't know he's Chinese, until now. lol @ myself.

September 26, 2006 1:32 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Neither did I, Ipanema. I was just interested to know who Palanca was; the man whose name replaced that of Echague, as well as the name behind the prestigious Philippine literary awards.

September 26, 2006 1:43 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who would have thought that the man behind that famous street and that reknowned literature award was of chinese descent. I would not have guessed it in any way if not for this post. The name is just to occidental. Such a good and surprising info eric...

September 26, 2006 3:10 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks, Major Tom. I, too, enjoy posting such entries.

The contributions of the Chinese in our local history is indeed astounding, though they weren't given that much credit. After all, they were here long before the arrival of any European explorers, and have been trading extensively with the Philippine natives.

As previously mentioned, I feel short-changed that their contributions were never discussed in any of my history classes.

September 26, 2006 6:15 PM  

Blogger Photo Cache said...

This is indeed an education. History is better learned this way. Much more fun too. Thanks and please keep 'em coming.

September 26, 2006 10:20 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice entry Eric. I am learning alot from you. Thanks for sharing.


What is gobernadorcillo though?

September 26, 2006 10:23 PM  

Blogger Iskoo said...

para daw saan yung mga nakasabit na chinese sign sa last photo mo?

interesting topic, very informative.

September 27, 2006 12:12 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I will, Photo Cache, and am glad you enjoy this kind of read :)

September 27, 2006 6:04 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Gobernadorcillo is a civil service position similar to that of mayor, Kyels.

September 27, 2006 6:07 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

These are prayer cards, Iskoo. I took the photo from inside the Kuang Kong Temple in Chinatown (Binondo) which is one of the oldest Chinese temples in the country.

Check out Sidney's entry about this temple at PinoyTravelBlog:



September 27, 2006 6:22 AM  

Blogger Wil said...

"Not a believer of inter-racial marriage, he sent his son to a school in China to thwart his filipinization." Forgive my bluntness, but that sentence sums up my opinion of Palanco -- he's a jerk.

September 27, 2006 7:36 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And that may very well be the reason why the reaction of both the Spanish and Filipinos toward him was mixed, Wil. And from what I remember, Chinaman Quiroga was painted as a shady character in El Filibusterismo.

Life among the Chinese community in the later part of the 19th century was one of intense rivalry amongst those aspiring for power and leadership. One also had to contend with the pervading racial bias from the Spanish and the mistrust from the Indios. Perhaps, Palanca merely mirrored such sentiments. Yet, he himself had undergone filipinization through his christening.

September 27, 2006 9:27 AM  

Blogger Gayzha said...

I'm such an ignoramus when it comes to the Philippine history - i mean the important details and the behind the official history - stories!

Funny, I have even a Filipino image of Palanca with the likes of Magsaysay!

September 27, 2006 9:34 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Jase!

One of my previous history posts I began with, "It has been said that we Filipinos have no sense of history. However, according to Ambeth Ocampo, it isn’t so much as indifference or amnesia, but rather our uncertainty as to what or whom to believe. Thus, the easy way out is to simply ignore the past."

So, you're excused ... hahaha!

I googled many times but unable to find any image or historical text about Carlos Palanca, except for this excerpt from this book published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press. Is this photo you mentioned online? Due to limited resources, I, for one, wouldn't consider my entry as the definitive truth. I welcome correcions/disputes from readers. After all, I'm basically a student of our local history. I should ask for Carlos' input as well.

Thanks Jase!

September 27, 2006 10:08 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a revelation... never did it cross my mind that Don Carlos Palanca was originally Chinese. The name is just too Spanish and I thought that the Chinese features of the present Palanca clan had to do with inter-marriage with Chinese- Pinoys.

September 27, 2006 11:07 AM  

Blogger ladybug said...

Wow! Very informative post eric! Learned a lot from it. I don't think anyone could rise in a position of power during that time without doing something hanky-panky on the side.

September 27, 2006 1:53 PM  

Blogger Resty Odon said...

You'll be surprised at how much of the everyday Filipino is Chinese. Do visit the Bahay Tsinoy museum in Intramuros when you can. Hi, Senor, would you feature that one, too? :) Nice site.

September 27, 2006 3:51 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Akala ko Spanish si Don Carlos, chinese pala! buti na lang napunta ako dito sa blog niyo, very informative ang mga posts at nakakaenjoy basahin. I started reading your archives last night, babasahin ko lahat! hehehe!

Add ko po kayo sa link ko ha? Thanks!!
God Bless!

September 27, 2006 5:50 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

History and politics go hand in hand. That is why they don't tell you everything in school...

September 27, 2006 6:52 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Jase (again)!

Carlos just emailed back to confirm that this man as pictured above was indeed the famous Carlos Palanca.

September 27, 2006 7:33 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Perhaps, his descendants after his death, married Spanish mestizos, BW, because they had to in oder to assimilate and be accepted as members of the Filipino elite society. From what I understand, some prominent Chinese did just that and reversed the syllables of their last name (ex., from Zon-Tua to Tuazon).

September 27, 2006 7:38 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That is so true, Ladybug. It happened in all major cities also such as New York, Chicago and I'm sure London as well.


September 27, 2006 7:41 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Right you are, R.O.!

Hey, that's a good idea. I know exactly where that is, too. That's near San Augustin Church. I will -- promise :)

And thanks for visiting ... and the idea!

September 27, 2006 7:44 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you, Ronald. I'm glad you're enjoying the site :) Will visit yours, too.

September 27, 2006 7:45 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I guess you're right, Sidney. It was just a shame because it would have helped cut down the barrier between the Filipinos and the Chinese students of my high school. At that time, the purely Chinese hardly socialized with Filipinos and Filipino-Chinese mestizos outside of school.

Had these significant parts of our local history been discussed more at length, there would have been better appreciation and understanding from both groups.

Of course, nowadays, it hardly matters for the Chinoys have become a more active part of our society in general.

September 27, 2006 7:51 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the explanation Eric, and I do agree with Sidney that politics and history go hand-in-hand. It's true.

September 27, 2006 8:00 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Or as they say, Kyels, "History is written by the victors."

September 27, 2006 8:11 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

If one wants to compare family resemblances, here's a picture of the Jr. on the web:


While the ethnic Chinese are estimated to be no more than two percent of present population, we easily forget about those who have become mestizos.

Isn't Cory Aquino and her siblings still pure Chinese?

The Osmenas of Cebu, from the past President down to the present Senator, are considered mestizo-Sangley, thus have Chinese lineage. And this is quite common in places like Cebu where early Chinese concentration was noted. Even mestizos comprising of a mixture of Spanish and Chinese.

And a means of segregation during Spanish times was the creation of "parian"(ghetto), both in Manila and in Cebu, where ethnic Chinese traders/residents were segregated from the rest. My maternal ancestors came from one such parian in Cebu. Though, unlike the present ghettoes, the parian was more like the present gated communities because the Chinese prospered faster and more than the rest of the population.

September 28, 2006 12:44 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Quite ironically, Amadeo, for a prominent family who bestows upon great honor to our writers, not that much is written about them. And thanks for the photo of Jr. -- remarkable resemblance!

I do believe that our first gentleman comes from the same mestizo lineage, no?

And many thanks for pointing out the Sangleys and Parians which inspired me to include in my entry of today, "Ysla de Binondo."

Incidentally, you may find R.O.'s site interesting:


Thanks again, Amadeo!

September 28, 2006 8:23 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the history lessons. I left the Philippines after Grade 4 so I don't know much...

Now I have a hankering for that hopia on Carlos Palanca street. Too bad I'm on a diet :-(

September 28, 2006 1:42 PM  

Blogger PhilippinesPhil said...

Seems like there are a lot of Chinese here in Pampanga. Some of the most well off business families are Chinese, or so I'm told. I have to be TOLD that they are, because I can't tell the difference in the way they look, except several seem to be larger in stature.

I've heard there is still some standoffishness between those of Chinese descent and other Filipinos. Is this true, or overblown?

What I find interesting is how they can continue to remain so separately "Chinese" even after being here for generations.

Interesting also that Mr Don Carlos Quien-Sien converted to Catholicism, but rejected Filipinization of his offspring. Isn't it odd then that he would reject the beliefs of his ancestors, very important to Chinese I hear, even as he sought to keep his son from becoming "too Filipino?"

September 28, 2006 10:51 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

I am told that the Arroyos are indeed Chinese mestizos.

Re the continued separateness between the native residents and the ethnic Chinese, I suppose when two very dominantly different ethnic groups are thrown together at very close quarters, barriers, whether intentional or not, will continue to separate them and keep them from full integration/assimilation. Sadly, to this day this is still true, though more circumspect and publicly glossed over.

For history buffs, a very unique Chinese practice that we as youngsters witnessed among elderly women was the effects of foot-binding. Elderly women who had to be helped walking about, the result of that old practice which has reportedly been discontinued.


It was easy to understand why those adult women with small feet, having difficulty in walking about and doing chores, would feel estranged from their new surroundings. And would thus pine for familiar surroundings – in China.

September 29, 2006 2:56 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Aurea. And those mini hopia are really delish, but you're on training :)

September 30, 2006 10:16 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I've a feeling, Phil, that Palanca converted to Catholicism for political reasons at that time.

I think after Manila, Pampanga was the next place to explore and do business in during that time Phil so, many Chinese in that part of Luzon.

September 30, 2006 10:20 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, Amadeo! I used to see some women in Chinatown when I was a kid whose feet were bound by those metal shoes. Actually, Ivan took us a to store in Binondo which used to sell those metal shoes, but has stopped for lack of demand.

Ivan also mentioned that some Chinese men found those bound feet erotic. Nonetheless, I'm sure it was a painful practice for those women.

September 30, 2006 10:25 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My family is a friend of the Palancas, Thanks for this very nice article about the ancestor of the Palanca's family. ihope you don't mind if I posted this in another website with crediting your work.


February 03, 2007 5:32 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Go ahead, Rey, but share with us the URL of the site so we may get a chance to visit it as well :)


February 03, 2007 7:18 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Here's the site where I usually hangout to remember the past.

Thanks again,


February 03, 2007 8:15 AM  

Blogger Aura said...

Hello SE!

I was trying to find a site where i can find some information about my family tree and i came upon your post about D. Carlos Palanca. I´ve always been curious about him and only know i learned more about him,

Being a Palnca myself,we used to joked that maybe we are related to him,( guess we were the poor family
relative) as i never knew so much about my fathers family from Julita,Leyte and that my grandfather was of chinese decent. My father never speak so much about himself except that he came over to manila and joined the army when he was 17 yrs old.

I intend to visit Tacloban this year "God Willing" to meet and get acquianted to the family.

April 20, 2008 7:12 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Unlike in the States where it's easier to trace one's genealogy, doing it here in the Philippines does seem to be more of a futile effort.

However, over coffee one evening with a UP professor, he said that such shortcoming opens possibilities for one to create/propagate a certain mythology with one's heritage.

In your case, Aura, let's not forget the other Palanca clan from which the prestigious literary award has been named after.

Hopefully, may you gather more information when you spend some time in Tacloban.

Good luck!

April 21, 2008 6:46 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Enrique!

I enjoyed reading your blogs and so as the people's comments about Don Carlos Palanca. Same as the other people, i've really always wondered if he's a spanish or a filipino? but the moment i read about this. i never realized he's Chinese.. I'm a Palanca, and from a Chinese family.. so i've been really curious about him..

I was surfing the net and got lucky to ahve found your site!..

i were just to ask? was he the owner of the La Tondena company before? and how's he related to the Palanca's in showbiz?

Hope to hear from you! =)

March 06, 2009 4:24 PM  

Blogger jan strings said...

sir, thank you for this article! i just finished reading the noli again and this piece of history just enriched my appreciation of it. it's also great to have these gems of historical facts on the internet especially for one like me who is out of the country and cannot find philippine history books from where i live.

March 16, 2009 5:16 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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