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The Sangley Insurrection of 1603: October 4, 1603, the Sangley insurrection broke out in Manila in the name of their governor Juan Baptista

During the Philippine colonial era, the Spaniards made it a policy to isolate the Chinese from Filipino natives. During pre-colonial era, the Chinese can live anywhere. In 1581, the first Chinese “Parian” (marketplace) was erected, in a marshy ground near Intramuros. It quickly became the economic center of manila. But this did not dispel the suspicion of the Spaniards upon the Chinese. The Chinese were also feeling the pressure of racial discrimination from the Spaniards. When the Spaniards began preparing for what they thought was an imminent attack from China, the Chinese in Manila were so unnerved and decided to save themselves by striking first.

Map of the eastern islands; photographic facsimile from Mercator’s Atlas minor, Amsterdam, 1633 (

On the night of Saint Francis day, Saturday, October 4, 1603, at about 11:00pm, Manila was attacked by the Chinese. It all started with the coming of 3 unnamed Mandarins from China. Pampangan warriors were rushed to the city and helped drove the Chinese away. The Chinese made their last stand in San Pablo City. Almost 23,000 Chinese perished in the rebellion.

The Chinese, led by a certain Sangley Christian, Juan Untae, and in the name of the Sangley governor Juan Baptista, gathered on the other side of the river of the city of Manila to the number of ten or twelve thousand, while many others remained in the Parian who fortified themselves as well as they could. They burned several houses and the orchard of a Captain Estevan de Marquina, killed the captain and his wife and four children and several servants. From here they went to the village of Quiapo, on the other side of the river, which they burned, killing several native children and women.

The governor-general, Pedro Bravo de Acuña, knowing what had happened on the preceding days, notified Don Luis Dasmariñas, the former governor of these islands, who lived in Binondo, sending him some troops so that he might keep watch of the enemy. On the next morning Don Luis was reenforced by a number of people and with these he went to meet the enemy near the village of Tondo. The Spaniards went out from there but the Chinese surrounded them with such a number of men that they could not retreat. Don Luis was killed along with more than a hundred Spaniards.

The next Monday, the Sangleys decided to go back to the Parian, and united with the people who remained there, to take the city. With great force and impetuosity they attacked this city, in several parts of the wall with many contrivances which they brought along to assault it.

Don Luis Perez Dasmariñas (

Spaniards inside the Parian defended themselves well, killing many of the Chinese and doing all they could in defense. They also succeeded in setting fire to the Parian, obliging them to retreat to a stone chapel named Avocacion de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, where the Spaniards made a sortie to meet them and caused them great loss. When the Chinese saw that they could not maintain themselves there, they divided into bands and went inland, doing much damage as they retreat.

An attempt was made to reach them still, for which purpose one of the old captains of Manila, Don Luis de Velasco, was sent with a good force of soldiers. He attacked them one morning at dawn and killed more than three hundred. On the same day, when he returned with the intention of doing them more damage, he went so far into the enemy’s country that they killed him there with many other soldiers and two Franciscan friars.

The Chinese placed and fortified themselves in a very strong place called San Pablo de los Montes, about fifteen leguas from Manila, more or less.

This time the Spaniards sent captain and sargento mayor Christoval de Axqueta. He, with a hundred Spaniards, a number of natives, and some Japanese whom he took with him having located them and had a few engagements with them, killing many of the Chinese. Those who could escape fled, and all those who had remained were overcome and killed. Thence he went on to the other army which was situated in a place called Batangas. There the Spaniards overcome their enemy. Finally, both on account of the laudable efforts of the captain and likewise by the good behavior of the soldiers and the help of the natives, they killed all the enemy without losing a man, which was a very fortunate ending.

This account we are following is from the letter of the Audiencia to the king on December 12, 1603. In this letter, they praised the natives of provinces of Panpanga, Laguna, and Bulacan in helping quell this rebellion.

Abusive tribute collectors and unreasonable labor practice inspired another Chinese revolt in 1639. Several towns in Cavite, Batangas and Bulacan were sacked by the Chinese rebels. They eventually retreated to Laguna and there, in Cavinti and Lumban, put up their last defense. In 1640 they surrendered in Pagsanjan. Almost 24,000 Chinese perished.

      There was also a Chinese revolt in 1662 brought about by the threat of Koxinga, the Chinese conqueror of the Dutch in Formosa (Taiwan). The Spaniards, fearing an attack by Koxinga, immediately began to arm the colony, arousing fear among the Chinese residents. Soon, there were armed confrontations that led to open hostilities between the Chinese residents and the Spaniards. The Chinese fled to Taytay and Antipolo where they were  defeated by Pampangan force.

        The last Chinese revolt occurred in 1762, coinciding with the British occupation of Manila. Chinese in Pampanga concocted a plan to rise in arms. But the plan was betrayed to the Spaniards, and the plotters arrested and hanged.  The Spanish governor-general ordered the massacre of the Chinese throughout the country. About 6,000 of them were killed. The event was remembered as the Red Christmas of 1762.

Sources: The Sangley Insurrection. The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898. Volume XIV, 1606-1609. Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson

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