The beginnings of the Chinese General Hospital may be closely intertwined with that of the establishment of the Chinese cemeteries and the 1800s era of the cholera epidemics.
Due to the contagions that beset Manila in the 1820s1, 18432 and 18823, the municipal cemeteries of Manila, then, overflowing with the deceased, could not accommodate the stricken Chinese, and much more so, as only Catholic Chinese were allowed to be interred in these cemeteries.
IN 1582, the Spanish authorities had segregated the Chinese into those who lived within the Parian12 (unconverted to Catholicism) and those who were allowed to inhabit Binondo, a settlement founded in 1594 by Governor Luis Perez Dasmarinas, as a permanent site for those Chinese who were converted to Catholicism by the Dominicans.
During these cholera epidemics in the 1800s, the La Loma area was seen as far from the City of Manila, around 2 kilometers, and in a hilly area where it was supposed to be aerated to blow away the miasma and avoid the cholereic spread. 5, 14
The Dominican owned Hacienda de La Loma was the area of one of the first cemeteries for the Catholic Chinese as the friars were focused on the evangelization of the Chinese in the Philippines, offering Catholicism, to be able to be buried, first within their churches or their confines and then in La Loma, but with the ultimate goal of finding a way to gain a foothold into China through its converts and “follow their networks to China”. 5,16
In November 25, 1843, the Spanish Governor General authorized the Catholic Chinese to establish a cemetery in La Loma4,13. This was called the ”Cementerio de Binondo” and was built in order to “exclude non-Catholics and outcasts of society from consecrated grounds like those that died from contagious diseases and people who were political enemies of the Spanish Crown”.5, 14
The Catholic Chinese were then buried in the “Cementerio de Binondo”, later named the La Loma Catholic Cemetery, as the Spanish Authorities eventually forbade the burial of the Christian Chinese in the Paco Cemetery that was built in 1823.
In 1846, since the La Loma Catholic Cemetery was for the exclusive use of the Catholic Chinese, the non-Catholic Chinese then, asked for a cemetery of their own and, in 1863, fulfilling a campaign promise, the then Gobernadorcillo of the Chinese Community, or Kapitan of the “Gremio de Chinos” or the Chinese Guild, Kapitan Lim Ong, bought an adjacent plot of land for these group of non-Catholic Chinese.5
The Chinese Guild, in those times, was well organized and had been tasked by the Spanish Authorities to be responsible for the affairs of the Chinese population. This Guild was a forerunner of the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc., the present owner and operator of the hospital and cemetery.
Subsequently, Don Mariano Fernando Yu-Chingco, added a lot to the original burial grounds.5 Chronicled by Edgar Wickberg, in early 1878, Yu Chingco “bought a tract adjacent to the previous cemetery from the Provincial of the Dominican Order” at a cost of 14,000 pesos.6
The purchase of these two plots of land gave further rise to the present Chinese Cemetery and land for the beginnings of the Chinese General Hospital
1960 De Jesus City Plan or Map of Manila, Philippines showing the 3 adjacent cemeteries: La Loma, the Chinese and the Manila North Cemetery
As cholera was a disease that killed multitudes in those times, it is easy to surmise that a “Chinese Clinic” was set up in land that the Chinese now purchased and owned. A clinic to treat these patients, and at the same time, despite being a morbid thought, one that was in close proximity to their own cemeteries.
This then occurred in 1891, when the first clinic was set up by Kapitan Don Carlos Palanca, providing an initial rudimentary health facility for the Chinese Community’s patients. Even then, the concept of “service to those in need” was seeded in the founding of the clinic-hospital and has remained its legacy as we celebrate the CGHMC’s 130th year.
DON CARLOS PALANCA TAN QUIEN-SIEN
The closest to a cartographic reference to the present day location of the Chinese General Hospital was the 1898 reference to a “Calle de Sangleyes” that is now the present day Blumentritt Street. (See 1898 map below, extreme upper left)
According to Saul Hofileña Jr., on the history of Sangley Point, the name supposedly is derived from ‘xiangli, a Chinese word for trader’, which became “sangley” to the Spaniards.10 Sangley literally means “merchant traveler” or “frequent visitor.” 11
Calle de Sangleyes was the “Street of Chinese traders” that slides out in at an angle and stretches out, from what was Calle de San Lazaro or the present day Avenida, towards the hills of the La Loma area where the “Cementerio de Binondo” and other purchased lands were.
In fact, references, about improvements of the road, leading to these areas, had been turned down by the Spanish authorities as these involved land transfer.15 It could be surmised that the religious orders may have had a hand in approving these land transfers and improvements, with the ultimate aim of the further evangelization of the Chinese. Or it is possible that the Chinese Guild then, donated the land in favor of road improvements by the authorities, hence the present Blumentritt street separating the buildings of the Chinese General Hospital today.
Furthermore, to cement its place in old Manila History, a 1901 city map of Manila by Norris Peters, shows the “Chinese Hospital” along the “Calle de Sangleyes” or Blumentritt street.8 (Red arrow added by the author)
Interestingly, in 1899, during the Filipino-American War, a map of Manila, (see below) depicting the American army lines, showed the “Chinese Hospital” in its present location with the San Lazaro Hospital as a reference point.7
It is now historically known that the Chinese General Hospital was established in 1891 and cartographically referenced in 1899 and 1901 by the Americans.
In this 1915 Map of Manila, the Chinese Hospital is depicted below with what looks to be a tranvia line passing through Calle San Lazaro (Avenida) turning right into Blumentritt and ending in a roundabout in what was to become the Manila North Cemetery established by the Americans in 1904. 9
Thus the beginnings of the Chinese General Hospital, from the humble clinic hut to the present day modern healthcare institution that she is. Constantly evolving, constantly changing to be at par with the world’s best, driven by the legacy of her forebears – to be of service to the community.
This is a heritage of 130 years and a tradition that will live on.
by: Juliano Z.K. Panganiban, MD
Chinese General Hospital
- Epidemic and Massacre in 1820 Manila, Ambeth R. Ocampo (PDI, January 29, 2020)
- In the 19th century, the “properly documented” cases of cholera include the years 1820-1823, 1830, 1842, 1854, 1863-1865, 1882-1885, 1889, while other dates were mentioned by Dean Worcester; namely 1812, 1843, 1887, 1890,1893-4, 1896-1897, thought these were “not properly documented”. James, “Cholera Epidemic”. p.130.
- Death in the time of cholera (1882), Ambeth R. Ocampo (PDI, March 15, 2011).
- “Towards a History of Chinese Burial aground in Manila during the Spanish Rule”, Richard T. Chu and Teresita Ang See.
- The Manila Chinese Cemetery in Gems of History by Go Bun Juan
- Edgar Wickberg, The Chinese in Philippine Life, 1850-1898, Quezon City, Philippines: Ateneo de Manila University, 2000 (Orig. pub. 1965), p. 185.
- US Library of Congress: Map of Manila and vicinity : showing positions of troops prior to the battle of February 5th and location of the military telegraph lines then in operation, also positions and locations after the capture of Caloocan, February 10, 1899
- 1901 Norris Peters Map of Manila
- Map of City Manila and Vicinity, Office of the Department Engineer, Philippine Dept. June, 1915
- Hofilena, Saul Jr. (2011). “ Sangely Point and the former U.S.Navy Yard in Cavite City”
- Ambeth R. Ocampo (2020-08-19). “Reclaiming ‘Instik’ “. Inquirer.net. PDI.
- Robert Gardner, “The Mystery of Manila’s Octagonal Cemetery”
- Sanidad de Cementerios, SDS 5758, National Archives of the Philippines, Manila, folio S581. It was under the governorship of Francisco de Paula Alcalá de la Torre, who held the position from 17 June 1843-16 July 1844, that this decree was issued. On 31 March 1875, José Segui, who was the Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila from 1830-1845, gave his blessing to this decree. See Exhumaciones 1850–1878, Genealogical Society at Utah, Reel 1357033.
- Huetz de Lemps, “La controversia de las sepulturas en Filipinas.”
- Wickberg, The Chinese in Philippine Life, p. 185, writes that in the mid-1850s, the Chinese gobernadorcilloand the principales requested permission to improve the road leading to the cemetery. However, this was not approved because “it involved the transfer of some land, which the Spanish were unwilling to allow.” Whether this request was made before or after Lim purchased more land for the cemetery is not clear.
- Pacific Purgatory: Spanish Dominicans, Chinese Sangleys, and the Entanglement of Mission and Commerce in Manila, 1580-1620 page 339, Ryan Dominic Crewe
University of Colorado, Denver