Mexico Was Ahead In Welcoming Filipino-Indio Settlers

by Bobby Reyes

“Galleon 4” | Image via Flickr/Creative Commons by colored.chalk

(Part II of Melting Pot series)

When I worked for a California-based van-line company in the 1980s, I met a rig driver’s owner-operator. He was of Mexican descent. Like some of the other young truck drivers, his wife accompanied him. The spouse serves as his navigator and does some of the chores of a moving-firm employee. When he learned that I came from the Philippines, he welcomed me like a long-lost cousin. Indeed, many Filipinos and Mexicans treat each other kindly because of nearly five-centuries of friendship, starting from the days when both countries were Spanish colonies.

I remarked to my new “cousin” that his wife possessed beauty and brains and strength. She could easily lift packed cartons for loading into the 45-foot moving van. He replied that “the strength of a Mexican home did not depend on how strong the house’s foundation was built but on the shoulders of the mother (or woman).”

I told him that “God probably built the women of Mexico and the Philippines with the same beauty, brains, and brawn'” to use an adage. And yes, I related to him that according to an oral history of both our home countries, thousands of Filipino sailors and carpenters jumped ship once the Spanish galleons reached Mexico. These usually happened when Filipino crew members got scared when the galleon they were riding on met huge waves as it crossed the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes, ships sailed into stormy weather since no one has discovered the radar at that time. And there was no radio communication invented, however. Some of them decided to just desert and disappear with the crowds. And join a band of Native-Mexican Indians and get married to one of the single women of the tribe. After all, the Spaniards called them the native people of the Philippine archipelago Indios.

This year marks the 456th year of Mexican-Philippine ties of friendship and shared heritage. If a handful of Filipino-Indio sailors jumped ship — even beginning with the initial return voyages of the first ships that arrived in Cebu, Philippines — then we talked of nearly 12 generations of Mexicans of Filipino descent — on a biblical age of 40 years. If we use the standard era of 20 years, we talk of more-or-less or 25 generations of Filipino-Mexicans. So, there could be hundreds of thousands of them, or even a couple of millions — as they married or their offspring then intermarried with other tribes and multiplied. Perhaps, it is time to use DNA tests to determine the ancestry of many Mexicans whose family oral history includes an ancestor who was a Filipino Indio.

“… according to an oral history of both our home countries, thousands of Filipino sailors and carpenters jumped ship once the Spanish galleons reached Mexico. These usually happened when Filipino crew members got scared when the galleon they were riding on met huge waves as it crossed the Pacific Ocean.”

In 2003 (nearly 18-years ago), Prof. Cesar Torres and I started discussing the Clash of Civilizations and Filipinos. Professor Torres, who retired from the University of the Philippines, urged me to write a series of our discussions about it. And I did. Here is Part I of the 5-part series (which carries the links to the four other parts.)

Professor Torres lives in San Francisco. He wanted to host in the Bay Area a Filipino conference on civilizations. This was held back for lack of support from community leaders and government agencies of both the U.S. and the Philippines.

And thus, I could not include my research on the Filipinos of Mexican descent (or should I say, “Mexicans of Filipino descent”). But in this column that I write for the Philippine Daily Mirror, I will now try to complete it.

My hypothesis in this Clash of Civilizations and the Filipinos should have included some Mexicans of Filipino descent (and continue to have) DNA from their great maternal grandparents (12- or 25-generations removed.) Perhaps, that is my logical argument and that they belong to the Mayan or Aztec civilizations. Probably, Professor Torres would have suffered a heart attack if I could finish the series in the mid-2000s. Imagine Filipinos being people with DNA from Malays, indigenous Taiwanese, Austronesian, other Asians, Chinese, Japanese, Arabians, (Asian) Indians, Iberians, Americans, British, other Europeans, and now Mayan Aztec.

Or Professor Torres could have died by laughing so loud. That is, had I told him of an incident with the Gang of Four (Filipino writers) of Los Angeles. I mentioned the “Gang” in the first article of this column published on November 23, 2020. I wrote that the now-departed Robert G. Corrales, a part-time pastor, became its fifth member. The incident started when our literary mentor, poet-pundit Fred Burce Bunao (now also deceased), asked the group in the late 1990s for the earliest account in Filipino brides’ recorded history.

By the way, it was pundit Bunao who claimed that a Greek philosopher once told him (in his early life as a fellow Greek) that “history is the art of choosing from among so many lies that which is closest to the truth.”

My hypothesis in this “Clash of Civilizations and the Filipinos” should have included some Mexicans of Filipino descent (and continue to have) DNA from their great maternal grandparents (12- or 25-generations removed.) Perhaps, that is my logical argument and that they belong to the Mayan or Aztec civilizations.

We were drinking coffee (not wine) and eating pastries in Temple Street of the now-historic Filipino Town district of Los Angeles. The Greek in me said that I wrote an essay in college. Our professor said that it was the best example of “hyperbolic literature.” I narrated that the bride in that wedding in Cana of Galilee — as described in John 2:11 where Jesus Christ turned water into wine — was most-probably a Filipino beauty with brains and brawn. My four other writers looked at me, and all shook their heads.

I said it was hard to prove it, but I could cite circumstantial evidence to explain my contention. The Chinese traded with what became the Philippine archipelago at least a thousand years before Christ was born. One of the Chinese traders took a native girl for a wife. She sailed with the groom back to China. Then the Chinese came up with the so-called Silk-Road Caravan that traded with Imperial Rome. The caravan passed the Middle East, including then Roman-controlled Galilee. Perhaps one of the descendants of the said trader traveled with his family, which included several daughters. One of the daughters that had Filipino-Indio (sic) great-grandmothers (so many generations removed) became the bride of that wedding story in the Bible.

To make the story more historically-palatable, I explained that out of that marriage in Cana came a descendant that joined the 1519 crew of the Spanish expedition commanded by Fernando de Magallanes. After all, at least 30 nationalities represented the Magallanes’s squad. When Magallanes died in combat in Mactan Island in April 1521, that descendant with Galileean heritage decided to stay behind in Cebu. The natives asked him what he could do so that they would spare his life. He said that he could do the same miracle as what Jesus did at the wedding of his earliest ancestor at Cana. ( Remember Magallanes and Company had baptized the king, queen, and their followers at that time.) And so, he turned coconut water into wine. And all the Cebuano men loved him for that “miracle.”

Then I continued my tall tale. When the Miguel Lopez de Legazpi-led Spanish expedition from Jalisco (Mexico) arrived in 1565 in Cebu, the former crew member from the Magallanes expedition welcomed them. Then one of his sons became a crew member of the first ship that sailed back to Mexico. And eventually, the grandson performed, too, the same miracle. He also turned coconut water into wine. Up to now, Mexicans call it the “vino de coco.”

And wow, Mr. Bunao and Pastor Corrales clapped their hands and said, “Bravo!” But the two other writers, Romeo P. Borje (the dean of Filipino columnists in Southern CA) and Mar G. de Vera (a book author and editor) were speechless.

Now you know why some Filipino-American historians hate me for starting the hoaxes peddled by some Filipino-American National Historical Society (FANHS)? I used to be a member until they kicked me out for persuading some of its key leaders to believe in my tall tales. Up to now, the “believers” still write about the hoaxes I told them in jest.

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