Gems of History

Parian in Cebu

The Parian of Manila is by far the most known district the Spanish colonizers had restricted the Chinese in the Philippines to during their four-century rule. Outside of the city, however, were other thriving, albeit less known parians. Several of them were home to not only the Chinese but also Chinese mestizos.
Two parians I came across in my travels are in Calamba, Laguna and San Fernando, La Union. They still exist.
Alberto Sta. Maria, OP, identifies other parians in his article, “The Chinese Parian (El Parian de Los Sangleyes),” in The Chinese in the Philippines: 1570-1770 (1966).  Notable is the old Parian in Guagua, Pampanga which, Sta. Maria writes, “was second to Manila as far as the number of Chinese residing therein was concerned.”
In Panay town, where there were about 2,000 taxpaying Chinese by Sta. Maria’s count, was found a parian or silk market where Chinese mestizos who were Christians lived.
Chinese and Chinese mestizos, meanwhile, comprised the small parian in Naga, he said.
But the Parian of Cebu appears to be the most documented district after Manila’s.
Sta. Maria makes mention of it in his book: “In the city of Cebu, there is a parish called Parian whose parishioners are for the greater part Chinese mestizos.”
Concepcion G. Briones devotes an entire book to it: Life in Old Parian (1983).
An interesting and concise account of the Parian and the Chinese and Chinese mestizos in Cebu during the Spanish time appears in in the book of recently named National Artist for Literature Resil B. Mojares.
In “Origin and Rise of Parian” in his 2017 edition of Casa Gorodo in Cebu, Urban Residence in a Philippine Province: 1860-1920, Mojares traces the beginnings of Cebu’s Parian to 1590.
“Visiting Chinese traders had come to Cebu before this time, but it was only during Spanish occupation, in the 1590s, where Cebu briefly participated in the galleon trade, that the Chinese district of Parian was formed and evolved into a market and trading center,” he writes.
Mojares cites the account of Pedro Chirino, the superior of the Jesuit residence in Cebu who said “more than 200 souls and only one Christian” were then living in the city’s ‘Chinese quarter’ in the port area. They were traders and artisans who had sailed to Cebu in trading junks.
The Chinese in Cebu were baptized on Pentecost Sunday in 1590, including Don Lorenzo Ungao and Don Salvador Tuigam, who were described in Mojares’ book as “two Chinese of rank.”
The Chinese Christians had built a church by 1599. The bishop initially entrusted its administration to the Jesuits. But the Jesuits returned the Chinese parish to the bishop a year later, although they continued to stay in the city.
Mojares said the second bishop of Cebu, Pedro de Arce, divided the port area into two parishes in October 1644: the ciudad for the Spanish with the cathedral and the Parian parish for the Christian Chinese and native Filipinos who lived near the border.
The Chinese parish would be administered by the secular clergy till 1828 when the bishop of Cebu placed it under his jurisdiction.
Then came the Cebuano uprising of April 1898.
The Spanish vessel Don Juan de Austria bombarded the city during Holy Week of 1898 to flush out the insurgents. “The Parian was razed to the ground and fires spread in all directions,” Mojares writes.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Parian in Cebu had shrunk to a community of 539, but would turn into an “aristocratic barrio” where Cebu’s wealthy families lived, according to Mojares. It eventually became part of urban Cebu.