Gems of History

Blumentritt and the Chinese

Ferdinand Blumentritt (1853-1913), best friend of our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal, was one of the greatest experts on Philippine history, culture, language and geography in his day.

He was an Austrian and had never been to the Philippines. Yet here we are referring to him in relation to the Chinese in the Philippines.

In Ferdinand Blumentritt and the Philippines: Insights and Lessons for Contemporary Philippine Studies by Feorillo Petronilo Demeterio III, we are happy to find Appendix A, “List of Blumentritt’s Writings about the Philippines.”

Among the 245 writings on the Philippines, three were about the Chinese in the Philippines – one on a Chinese geographer’s record about the Philippines and one on China-Japan conflict.

The exact titles are:

  • “The Chinese in the Philippines, 1879,” original in German, “Die Chinesen aref den Philippinen, eine historiche Skizze” (English translation available at Filipiniana Collection, DLSU);
  • “The Mestizos of the Philippines, 1885,” original in German, “Die mestizen den Philippinen;”
  • “The Chinese in Manila, according to the original Spanish document of Don Isabelo de los Reyes, 1890,” original in German, “Die Chinese Manilas, nach den Spanischen den Don Isabelo de los Reyes;”
  • “Philippines in the Eighth Century, according to a Chinese geographer, 1894,” original in Spanish, “Filipinas en el siglo XIII segun un geografo Chino;” English translation available in La Solidaridad Compilation.
  • “Considerations about the Chinese-Japanese conflict, 1895,” original in Spanish, “Consideraciones acerca del conflicto Chin-Japones;” English translation available in La Solidaridad Compilation

Demeterio is a professor at the Department of Filipino and director for Research and Advanced Studies of the College of Liberal Arts at De La Salle University. His book was published by DLSU Publishing House in 2013.

Demeterio classifies Blumentritt’s works about the Philippines in four periods: Pre-Rizalian Period (1879-1884), Rizalian Period (1887-1890), Post-Rizalian Period (1897-1898) and American Period (1899-1913).

Two among Blumentritt’s five articles on the Chinese would thus fall in the Pre-Rizalian Period and three in the Rizalian Period.

But what we need to emphasize is that “The Chinese in the Philippines,” which Blumentritt wrote in 1879, is the very first article he ever wrote on the Philippines.

This Demeterio pointed out in his book: “His (Blumentritt’s) first publication was an 1879 essay entitled ‘The Chinese in the Philippines.’”

We are pretty sure anybody who has gotten hold of a copy of Demeterio’s book and gone over the list of Blumentritt’s 245 works about the Philippines will definitely appreciate the Austrian’s broad knowledge and profound expertise as well as deep interest in Philippine culture, language, history and geography.

For us, we were really surprised that such a great Filipinist also paid attention to the Chinese in the Philippines. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 28, no. 3 (July 7-20, 2015): 5.