Missions 109
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Understanding Chinese Culture Mentality in the Philippines



To understand the Church’s thrust of inculturation, it would be of primary concern to identify the three basic levels of culture at the outset. Identifying the levels of cultures will enable us to know how people organize societies and communities. It is of paramount importance that as the Gospel is proclaimed to a people, it has to identify itself with both external and internal part of culture in order for the Gospel to be transforming, purifying, and developing according to the design of God. Gaudium et Spes mentioned the two dimensional tasks of the Church in its encounter with culture: “the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”


I. Culture Mentality as Innermost Aspect of Culture

Louis Luzbetak identifies three levels of culture as important levels of integration. Faith becomes relevant to cultures inasmuch as it could be expressed in the various levels of culture. Cultures are systems consisting of a unique arrangement of parts. It comprises forms and symbols that provide identity to a people.


A. Levels of Culture

1. Material Culture

At the surface level, we find observable, tangible and phenomenal parts of culture. Material or physical culture includes building blocks of culture with forms, shapes, signs and symbols minus their meanings. It is the “who,” “what,” “when,” “where,” “how,” and “what kind” in culture especially in its meaningless forms. This level of culture includes houses, clothing, tools, infrastructure, and art.

Charles Kraft says that material culture includes axes, hoes, houses, clothing, automobiles, dogs, people etc. It is the external phenomena such as objects, events, processes, which incarnate, incorporate, realize, externalize the internal experience. This is also called material integration.


2. Cultural Forms

The second level of culture refers to the functions of forms, symbols, and signs. These are material things which are linked with meaning. It speaks of the relationships and linkages with people and things. Forms are then related to create systems of meaning. Culture is communication in as much as they convey meaning to people. Each cultural form marks the attitudes, values, and mental thoughts of people. It is also called structural integration.

Examples of cultural forms are the rites of marriages, initiation rites or rites of passages, colors to indicate signs, symbols used to demonstrate identity of a tribe or people. These forms build relationships which may be causal, purposeful, logical or purely ideational. Cultural forms may vary from culture to another. There are variables to the differences in cultural forms due to climate, geographical location, religion, and social interactions.


3. Mentality

The third level of culture refers to the basic psychology of a people. This level of culture includes the underlying reasons of a society. It is the starting point of thinking, reacting, and motivating. It is the mind-set of a people that powerfully conditions behavior. Louis Luzbetak calls this the “mentality of a culture.” It comprises modes of living, lifestyles, beliefs and assumptions. It manifests the “whys” of culture.

The mentality of a culture speaks of the “psychological integration” of a particular people. It directly describes the underlying premises, attitudes and goals of a people. Pitirim Sorokin calls culture mentality an inner experience, either in its organized form of unintegrated images, ideas, volitions, feelings, and emotions or in its organized form of systems of thought woven out of these elements of the inner experience. Culture mentality that was spoken of by Pitirim Sorokin refers to the pertinent aspect of culture that speaks of how and why a people react to a situation or do they speak of coherent ways of thought, and consistent manifested attitudes about reality and life.


B. Similar Terms

There are some terms used by social anthropologists that capture similar meaning with culture mentality.


1. Genius

“Genius” was a term used by Edward Sapir (1884-1939). It meant to describe general attitudes, views of life, and specific manifestations that give identity to a people. Genius is understood in three ways: first, it refers to the inherited element of culture which is synonymous to “spirit.” It provides the nationality, the image, and identity of culture. Second, it is a consistent attitude and a unified form of expression of life and action found in culture. Third, it is an attitude that is harmonious, balanced and self-satisfactory which brings collective meaning and significance to a cultural identity.


2. Soul and Spirit

 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) believes that each culture and civilization is governed with a certain “spirit” that distinguishes one cultural pattern from another. It is the soul of a people that gives unity to a people and distinct identity which distinguishes one from French, German, English or Filipino cultures. He held that the Absolute Spirit passes to its full realization by being manifested in this world in the form of human states and civilizations. He said that the “actual state is animated by this spirit, in its particular affairs-its Wars, Institutions etc.” He continued to say that it “is the concrete spirit of a people that we have to distinctly recognize” and “it takes the lead in all the deeds and tendencies of that people.”


3. Folkways and Mores

 Folkways and Mores were terms used by William Graham Sumner to describe the cultural patterns exhibited by a common people that give them a distinct character. For Sumner, culture’s institutions like marriage, forms and acts of worship, style of government and the like are mores whose cultural traits have been long-established customs. Mores are guiding principles for cultural patterns. It is also understood as the “must-behavior” of a society. They serve as habits and traditions and in them we see a noticeable pattern of consistency.


4. Mainsprings and Patterns of Culture

 Ruth Benedict was the originator of the configuration approach to culture. She calls cultural patterns the mainsprings of culture which a people coherently follow. She said that the abnormality of a particular culture is found in the incapacity to conform towards social accepted norms. At the heart of culture is the pattern of life and behavior. In her book she emphasized “within each culture there come into being characteristic obedience to these purposes, each people further and further consolidates its experience, and in proportion to the urgency of these drives the heterogeneous items of behavior take more and more congruous shape.”


5. Ethos

 Clifford Geertz speaks of ethos as the moral and aesthetic aspect of culture. For him, this ethos is a cultural pattern which explains the reasons behind any particular behavior and quality of response a people give to certain reality. It is collective view and reaction to reality. He said that “a people’s ethos is the tone, character, and quality of their life, its moral and aesthetic style and mood; it is the underlying attitude toward themselves and their world that life reflects.”



II. The Chinese in the Philippines: Affirming its Advent and Presence

 The group of Chinese constitutes one of the fascinating cultural groups actively shaping Philippine society and church today. According to the 2005 statistics of the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission of Taiwan, there are around 1,146,250 ethnic Chinese in the Philippines. In the past 5 years they have relatively increased in number and they can all be found in the entire archipelago. Among the nations in the world with the presence of ethnic Chinese population, the Philippines ranked 9 with an increase of .62 growth rate. In the same statistics of 2005, the country to have most ethnic Chinese is Indonesia with a population of 1,146,250 ethnic Chinese, followed by Thailand 7,053,240, Malaysia, 6,187,400, United States of America 3,376,031, Singapore 2,684,900, Canada 1,612,173, Peru 1,300,000, Vietnam 1,263,570. These statistical indications prove that the influx of Chinese in many countries had underwent varied levels of integration. In the history of Chinese migration to the nations outside Mainland China, traces of successes and failures have been the result of the encounter between cultures.

 The Philippines was one of the aspired places of venture before the advent of Spanish occupation. The Negritos as the first settlers of the Philippines are believed to have migrated some 30,000 years ago from Borneo, Sumatra, and Malaya. The Malayans became the second group of people who migrated to the Philippines having a more advanced material culture.

 The Chinese migrated to the Philippines as a result of the expansion of the dynasties of China and to settle in lands of opportunity for trade. They braved to go beyond the Chinese seas for a better opportunity of trade. Wave after wave of Chinese migrants braved and sailed the turbulent seas just to discover more opportunities in the neighboring countries outside China like the Philippines.

In the 14th century Arab traders from Malay and Borneo introduced Islam into the southern islands and extended their influence as far north as Luzon. The first Europeans to visit the Philippines were those in the Spanish expedition around the world led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Other Spanish expeditions followed, including one from New Spain under López de Villalobos, who in 1542 named the islands for the Infante Philip, later Philip II.

 In the past decades, the migration of Chinese from the Mainland China and from other neighboring countries of Asia remains to be a prevailing phenomenon. As the number of migrants on the move in South East Asia has risen dramatically in recent decades and as political and economic change has swept the region, Chinese migration which includes labor migration has still been a continuing response to economic and peace and order related reasons. In these contemporary times, it has been a phenomenon at the world stage that in 2005 for example, some 191 million people which is three percent of the world’s population lived outside their country of origin. The magnitude and complexity of international migration makes it an important force in development and a high-priority issue for both developing and developed countries.

 Migration opens the door toward an encounter between the inflowing and the receiving culture. Reactions are expected to be varied and conflicts are assumed to be imminently part of cultural difference.

 Globalization and the rise of the digital world have provided the influx of several nationalities in the Philippines including the Chinese. Today, the Chinese communities in the Philippines continue to evolve into different melting subcultures and groups. The ethnic Chinese groups had become more complex and varied as they integrate with the rest of the Philippine society. The influx of the Chinese business community in the country is another phenomenon that provides a new theological and missiological reflection since many of them interact and intermarry with Catholics.


 

III. First Phase of Inculturation: Sangleys to the Philippines


 “Sangley” is said to be an archaic word used in the Philippines to refer to the Chinese engaging business and trade in the Philippines during the Spanish period. It comes from two Chinese words “chang” which means “frequent” and “lai” which means “coming.” The unending influx of Chinese traders to the Philippines wave after wave had inevitably allowed the Spanish authorities to describe and call them people of “frequent coming.” “Sangley” is also derived from the Chinese word “seng li” which means “business.” They did extremely well in all trades and crafts. Spanish officials relied heavily on Chinese labor that time to sustain their everyday life. The Sangleys were artists, porters, fishermen, bakers, shoemakers, and masons. They were providers of food, retailers, and artisans who readily engaged in a host of professions, and charged cheaply for their services.  Yet it has to be noted that the Chinese traders had visited and lived in Manila long before the arrival of the Spanish. The Chinese traders came from Fujian and were part of the larger Chinese maritime trading economy that grew in importance from the Song Dynasty (1127–1276 CE) onwards. 


A. Sangleys: Migration and Trade

The term “sangley” which was used to describe the Chinese in the Philippines suggests the initial encounter between cultures. Before and during the coming of the Spaniards to the Philippines, migration was marked by an endless mixture of struggles and conflicts, peace and joyful relations with both Filipinos and the Spanish government. The wave after wave of migration and trade in the Philippines indicated the ingenuity of the Chinese mind. The Philippines was not only a project for building new homes outside Mainland China but a strategic place for a better economic condition. For the Chinese in those times, the Philippines was an opportunity of advancement of trade and commerce. However, some authors like Victor Purcell said that the Ming Dynasty had been characterized by a tendency toward expansion. It was said that in 1405 Emperor Yung-Lo sent a high officer to Luzon who was to govern the Philippines. It was on the second year of his reign that the Emperor sent Admiral Cheng Ho to Luzon to establish Chinese sovereignty over the island. Sixty vessels were sent thrice and attempted to take dominion over the neighboring islands but failed following the death of Yung-Lo and the admiral. Under Yung-lo, China reasserted its claim to universal sovereignty over the neighboring states and reestablished the traditional tributary system. The Emperor died at Yü-mu-ch’uan, in southern Jehol, returning from an expedition against a Mongol tribe, on Aug. 2, 1424, and was succeeded by his son Chu Kao-chih (Emperor Hunghsi, 1424-1425). The Chinese Emperor Yung Lo that time sent Admiral Cheng Ho with a large fleet of around 60 ships to Philippines.

It was likewise noted by some historians that another reason for Chinese “frequent coming,” trade and migration in the Philippines was their escape from the effects of the feudal system in the Mainland. As a result to feudalism, poverty and the lack of opportunities for work, and oppression were rampant. These created among the Chinese the strong will to survive and the determination to fulfill their dreams beyond the shores of China. Due to these problems, to the Chinese, migration may be interpreted as defiance to their origins, their homes and their cultural heritage in China. Yet the Chinese believed that it is outside the Mainland that they could fulfill their dreams.

However, the Chinese who reached the Philippine shores wave after wave during the Spanish period may be divided into three groups. First, there were Chinese who engaged purely in trade with the Filipinos and Spaniards without the intention of building their new homes in the Philippines. Second, there were Chinese who sought to build their new homes permanently in the Philippines as an escape from poverty, conflicts and oppression in the Mainland. They were the Chinese also who found the Philippines a home and do not ever thought of going back to their place of origin. Third, there were Chinese who desired to establish their new homes in the Philippines only temporarily and as peace and order, and good economic opportunities are restored in the Mainland that time, they would journey themselves back home.


1. Mission to the Sangleys

 The constant and increasing conditions of migration and trade wave after wave from China to the Philippines during the Spanish period provided a fertile ground of opportunity for mission. The religious congregations who had established their congregation houses and mission stations in the Philippines began to think of expanding their missions to China. When the Spaniards settled in the Philippines in 1565, news of the populous countries in Asia, such as China, Japan, Siam, etc. began to reach the missionary congregations in Mexico and Spain. Thinking of the new opportunities of mission, the Dominicans in Mexico thought of the need of founding a new Province for the evangelization of the Kingdoms of the East. The work was entrusted to a veteran missionary, Fr. John Chrysostom who obtained the necessary permits from the Pope, the King and the Master of the Order, began his missions in the East.

However, those missionaries who had their tasks of mission in the Philippines were not convinced that the mission toward the Sangleys did not only remain to be a vision in the Philippines but knew they had to go beyond the shores of the Philippines. China became a dream for the missions. The projected Province, to be known as the Holy Rosary Province, became a reality when in 1587, the first Bishop of Manila, Domingo de Salazar, OP began to have a new apostolate and evangelization among the Chinese in the Philippines and hopefully proceed to further mission in China.

 Migration and Trade among the “Sangleys” were opportunities of amicable relations between the Spaniards and the Chinese that would lead toward a wider mission in Mainland China. This was thought to be a stepping stone for a new mission plan for China. In 1631, after at least seven previous attempts that ended in failure, the Holy Rosary Province for the Chinese apostolate succeeded as a dream came true.


 2. Encountering and Affirming A New Culture

 The Church in the Philippines through the mission activity of the religious congregations constantly considered the Chinese culture as something new. Mission began through three basic dimensions: first, mission was possible through affirming and appreciating each other’s culture. The Chinese in the past were trading their products from silk, and ceramics. Second, the harmonious co-existence was an entry into social integration and intermarriage. Peace and order attracted the Chinese to dwell in the Philippines. The Chinese are peace loving people. Third, learning the language of the Chinese became an inspiration for mission and one of the meeting points for proclamation of the Word. The mission toward the Chinese in the Philippines became an important aspect of Church’s life because missionaries began to learn to speak Chinese that provided more conversions among the Chinese. Yet, migration and trade became the vehicle toward allowing the Spaniards have a foretaste of the cultures in the Mainland. Culture is the venue for an encounter between peoples and the Gospel. John Paul II explains that “culture is the vital space within which the human person comes face to face with the Gospel. Just as a culture is the result of the life and activity of a human group, so the persons belonging to that group are shaped to a large extent by the culture in which they live.”


 3. Religious Influences

 During the Spanish period, the Chinese traders and those who migrated were found to be a religious people. The Chinese were Buddhists and they also brought with them popular piety and other traditions. The arrival of the Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippines in 1521 did not mark only the era of Spanish interest in the country but it also was an encounter with the Chinese who were practicing various religious traditions. The basic reason for Chinese practices was reciprocity. It is the mutual exchange of gifts and favors between gods, spirits and its worshippers so that both parties gain from the transaction.


a. Ancestor Veneration

Among the religious traditions or thought systems the Chinese brought into the Philippines, ancestor veneration was most popular. According to ancient law, the highest King of China, also called the Son of Heaven (Tianzi), sacrificed to Heaven (Tian or Shangdi), Earth (Di) and other gods. The religious goal of ancestor veneration is to ensure the ancestors continued well-being and positive disposition towards the living and sometimes to ask for special favors or assistance. The social or non-religious function of ancestor veneration is to cultivate kinship values, such as filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family lineage.

Ancestor veneration for the Chinese was a sign of a continued act of filial piety to those parents or grandparents or any family member who have died. It has a threefold dimension: 1) the Chinese believe that filial piety is not only practiced in this world by it is completed in the world beyond by honoring the dead; 2) it is believed that those who have died have a continual and beneficent interest in the affairs of the living; 3) failure to remember them might bring about bad luck to human affairs in the world. There is a sense of “fear of the dead” or any form of uneasiness, ancestor veneration is practiced to placate them.

The Filipino-Chinese or the older generation still possesses strong sense of veneration of ancestors because of the strong family cohesion and sense of family interdependence especially the living and the dead. Another reason for strong adherence to ancestral veneration is the strong sense of the future. The Filipino-Chinese views the future with great hope. They express hope in a very practical and pragmatic way. They view ancestors as providers of security in material possessions, long life, and good health. The younger generation, the Chinese-Filipinos pay lesser attention to ancestor veneration for two major reasons: first, most of the Chinese-Filipinos are Christians, and second, many of them have been cut from this tradition.


b. Divination

During the Spanish period until before the postmodern period, the practice of divination was widespread among the Chinese who ventured into the Philippines for a better life. The word divination comes from the Latin word “divinare” which means “to foresee.” Since the Sangleys were not sure of their fate as they cross the seas and they had to have insight on the future of their trading enterprise in the Philippines, they resort to consult the gods. Divination is a widespread practice in Chinese popular religions. It attempts to know the intention of the gods and thereby foretell the future. The future is a major concern for the Chinese. Consultation with Taoist priests and other diviners was common among them to secure protection, prosperity and longevity. The older generation Filipino-Chinese still appears to resort to divination and not anymore to the Chinese-Filipinos today.

Among the many instruments used to know and foresee the future, divination blocks were popular. Dropping the divination blocks reveals the response of the gods regarding their search for luck and good fortune. Julia Ching illustrates that divination blocks are two pieces of wood, rounded on one side and flat on the other, cut into the shape of a crescent moon, mirror images each of the other. When dropped on the floor, the combinations of positions indicate responses from the deity.


c. Feng-Shui or Geomancy

Feng-shui is one of the most popular cognitive worldviews of the Chinese who came into the Philippines. If the Spaniards and Filipinos had to be impressed with the Chinese concept of space and time, it would be the art of placement. It is one of the most practiced and popularized beliefs about the movements of the world. The Chinese viewed the world as full of spirits and hidden powers for good fortune. They believe that spirits control many parts of nature. The rite of feng-shui has to be done to ensure no spirit or god is disturbed who will cause bad luck.

Literally feng shui means “wind” and “water.” It is connected with making the correct placements as to where a building, house, business edifice, temple or grave be established or erected to ensure peace, luck, and to bring possible prosperity on the site. The Chinese believed that to be in harmony with the environment improves fortunes in life. Forces of nature are responsible for prosperity, health, and good luck. It is asserted that when one changes environment, he changes life. Feng-Shui practices continue to be popular among the Filipino-Chinese generation yet slowly eroding from the minds of the young generation Chinese-Filipinos today.



III. Second Phase of Inculturation: Christianization of the Sangleys  


 Inculturation includes the process of making the Gospel take root in local cultures, values, and mentalities. The Church as the sacrament of the Kingdom of God makes the gospel message serve as an enriching the purifying force on human cultures. John Paul II reminds us that once the Church “knows and understands these various aspects of culture, then she can begin the dialogue of salvation.”


A. Evangelizing the Sangleys in the Philippines

When the Spanish fleet reached the Philippines, it did not only encountered Filipinos but also the Chinese traders. It was an opportunity on the part of the Spaniards to widen their mission of evangelization. It was already for the Spaniards an experience of a plurality of cultures and religions which perhaps they have not experienced in their homeland. The direction of mission in the 16th century was indeed a reality outside Europe which they call the “mission fields.” Now, as times change, it seems that “mission fields” included Europe and the whole world are now “the mission fields.”


1. Baptisms

Many Chinese had been baptized because of the efforts of evangelization of the Friars. They became good Catholics and were dedicated to live and die for the faith. Churches had some presence of Chinese Catholics during that time.  However, historians noted that as the Chinese immigration and trade to the Philippines during the time of the Spaniards had extensively grown, it provided deep-seated suspicion of rebellion and domination in business and trade on the part of the Spanish government. There were edicts issued in 1775 and 1766 demanding their submission to Spanish authority, paying of taxes and even to Church authorities. One of the ways to escape deportation was to be baptized. Several non-Christian Chinese were expelled from the Philippines as part of an attempt by the Spanish government to increase its control over the revenue of the Galleon Trade.

There were several motivations for Baptisms among the Chinese in the Philippines following the periodic deportations, residence restrictions, trade regulations and political suspicions against them. Despite these challenges, the Chinese were good traders and projected good sense of value. Studies say that many of them became pragmatic. They were baptized as compliance to Spanish regulations to further their trading enterprise since silk trade became more attractive during the Spanish period. Likewise, many Chinese embraced Christianity because of the promise of eternal life, abundance, and safety of their stay in the Philippines. On the other hand, expulsion and restriction edicts were feared by the Chinese, baptisms were just received to escape deportation. The Spaniards considered conversion through baptism to be a symbol of allegiance to their authority. Although they were interested in gaining a profit from the colony, the Spanish also recognized a responsibility to protect the property and personal rights of these new Christians.


2. Parian

The Parian is the center of commerce in Manila during the Spanish occupation in the Philippines. The Chinese were traders in the silk market, small shops of tailors, cobblers, painters, bakers, confectioners, candle makers, silversmiths, apothecaries and other tradesmen. It served as a ghetto outside the walled city of Manila where non-Christian Chinese lived. Only those who were baptized Christians were mostly allowed inside the walled city to do their business thus creating a division among them. As they grew in numbers through waves of influx from China, the Spanish authorities were alarm of the rapid increase which prompted them to make them embrace Christianity as a requirement to stay in the Philippines. This reaped varied reactions and responses. Some embraced Christianity by convenience, by force, or by conviction and desire, and by fear of deportation to China.


3. Chinese Apostolate

Due to the increasing number of baptized and non-baptized Chinese in the Philippines which grew year after year, the religious congregations including bishop of Manila thought of establishing an apostolate for the Chinese. Bishop Domingo Salazar O.P. who was also the first bishop of Manila supported the idea of having an apostolate that would focus on the evangelization of the Chinese in the Philippines. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, there were around 66,000 Chinese who were having trade and domicile in the Philippines.

To facilitate the evangelization of the Chinese, the missionaries have to learn the Chinese language and culture. It was quite the opposite of their intention as they colonized the Philippines. They imposed on Filipinos to learn Spanish but not always in the case of the Chinese, the church and Spanish authorities desired to learn the Chinese language in order to reach them.


4. Sangley Rebellion

The Spanish government’s relations with the Chinese were not amicable all the time. There were pockets of rebellion when suspicions of the Spanish Archbishop Benavides against Chinese ambitions to control the Philippines. In 1603, it was known by rumor circulating in the city that time that there some gatherings of Chinese in Binondo and Tondo against Spanish government authorities, attack on Spanish residences outside Intramuros, and the attempt to breach the walled city of Intramuros which prompted the Spanish authorities to purge the Chinese. As the Chinese revolted against the Spaniards, 20,000 Chinese were massacred and slaughtered. Chinese leaders of this rebellion were identified and were executed. After suppressing the uprising in Manila and its suburbs, Spanish forces pursue those, who escape to the provinces.  After the uprising, a Spanish ambassador is dispatched to Guangzhou to communicate officially the bloody insurrection in the Philippines in the months of October and November 1603.

Rebellions began with the attitude of distrust from the part of the Spanish authorities. Example of this was the arrival of the three officials from China in search for what they called the “mountain of gold.” This created fears on the part of the Spaniards thinking that they have come to initiate invasions from China who would be aided by the local Chinese in the Philippines. In 1639, many Chinese were forced to work and to pay arbitrary tax even beyond their means and the economic hardships following the poor results of the Galleon Trade. As a result 30,000 Chinese were killed. Occasions of atrocities are opportunities of Church’s renewal and vocation to scrutinize the signs of the times.


B. Mission Beyond the Philippines

The fervor of mission of Christianizing the Far East did not slow down when it reached the Philippines. Mission became intensified when the Spaniards thought that the presence of the Chinese in the Philippines can be utilized for a further mission in China. Religious congregations began to turn their gaze to a wider mission field where empires and cultures await for the Gospel.


1. Religious Congregations

Religious orders in general arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century. These religious orders had the mission to Christianize the Philippines. The Franciscans were the first Catholic religious order to establish their presence in the Philippines. The Franciscans came here in 1577; Jesuits, 1581; Dominicans, 1587; Recollects, 1606; Paulists, 1862; Sisters of Charity, 1862; Capuchins, 1886; and Benedictines, 1895.

These religious orders became ardent missionary orders for China. They thought of utilizing the presence of the Chinese in the Philippines to learn the language, understand their mentalities and their view of life. Although, responsibility for conversion of the indigenous population to Christianity was assigned to several religious orders: the Dominicans, Franciscans, and Augustinians, known collectively as the friars-- and to the Jesuits, the evangelization of China became the also a fertile ground of mission. Their mission of evangelizing the Chinese in the Philippines became a means of making these Chinese potential missionaries to their own homeland. To effectively carry out mission in the Mainland, the Friars needed to build healthy relations with the local Chinese.


2. Positive Approach to Culture

The Friars began to have a positive approach to the distinct cultural heritage of the Chinese as a way to effectively carry out their mission. They realized that to eradicate these customs, mentalities and cultural traditions of the local Chinese meant isolation and diminishing opportunities of mission. The Church is called to “recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”

To facilitate the conversion and catechism for the Chinese in the Philippines, a parish was erected in 1596 to attend to the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Chinese. The Church was founded by the Dominican Friars and it is remains a living sign of how the Chinese have been integrated into Christianity and also with the mainstream of Filipino and Spanish cultures.


3. Deepest Dimension of Culture

If the local church of the Philippines is called to proclaim the Gospel which is knowing the Kingdom of God and His Will, missionaries had to study and learn from the mentalities and worldviews if they should learn about people like the Chinese. A worldview is one of the cultural domains that reveal the inner drives of a people. It includes how a people view reality. A civilizational worldview contains many symbols. To empathize with such a worldview is to hold on to many “prime symbols.” To understand the Chinese worldviews is to encounter several Chinese “prime symbols.” These are symbols that unify and identify the Chinese people and culture.

The presence of the Chinese in the Philippines provides the missionaries a glimpse of what lies inside China. The worldviews of the local Chinese foreshadow the mentalities of the Chinese in Mainland China. The Gospel needs to dialogue and penetrate into these forms of worldviews.


a) Cognitive Aspect of Mentality

The cognitive aspect of Chinese mentality includes their philosophy about man and the universe. It refers to the varied concepts about the world and its forces, the veneration of ancestors, the concept of time and space, the philosophy behind the relationship between man and nature, the reasons for traditional family rituals, and religious traditions that shape their identity.


b) Emotional Aspect of Mentality

The emotional aspect of mentality comprises the values, interests, aspirations, attachments and attitudes that trigger deep emotional reactions of a culture. Emotional worldviews of the Chinese in the Philippines include their feelings and attitudes toward China, other Chinese communities, or other peoples and cultures. A culture like the Chinese in the Philippines has its own set of moral standards, sense of good and evil, family and kinship emotional attachments and attitudes.


c) Motivational Aspect of Mentality

Motivational aspect of mentality refers to the basic priorities of a culture. It includes their ideals, concerns, hopes, goals and drives in life. The will to survive outside their homelands is seen in their desire for migration. It is a fundamental need that a culture should find its place among other cultures and peoples, and that it be thought well by the rest of humanity. This refers to the basic motivational drives in a culture to assert identity and distinction.



IV. Third Phase of Inculturation: Chinese Culture Mentality Enriching the local Church


 Inculturation reaches its mature development when the local church and its local cultures contribute the richness of their encounter to the universal Church. Gaudium et Spes refers to the different styles of life and multiple scales of values that arise from the diverse manner of using things, of laboring, of expressing oneself, of practicing religion, of forming customs, of establishing laws and juridic institutions, of cultivating the sciences, the arts and beauty.


A. Chinese Mentality as Constantly Renewing

Culture is a product of human nature and is imperfect in itself. It needs to be purified by the Gospel. To ensure this, the local culture has to be in constant contact with the Gospel. The many ramifications of the Chinese-Filipino mentality imply not only the good in it but also its imperfections. Gaudium et Spes emphasized that the Gospel of Christ constantly renews the life and culture of fallen man, it combats and removes the errors and evils resulting from the permanent allurement of sin. It never ceases to purify and elevate the morality of peoples.


B. Chinese Mentality as an Element for a Renewing Church

The constant encounter between the Gospel message and the Chinese-Filipino culture elicits newness of their Christian life. It is a new way of being Church in the Philippines. The Second Vatican Council says that the Church, living in various circumstances in the course of time, has used the discoveries of different cultures so that in her preaching she might spread and explain the message of Christ to all nations, that she might examine it and more deeply understand it, that she might give it better expression in liturgical celebration and in the varied life of the community of the faithful.


1. Liturgy

A significant place where the dialogue between gospel and culture is said to be transpiring in a particular culture is the liturgy. Liturgy expresses the faith of an inculturated church (lex orandi lex credendi). The Chinese were known to be strongly attached to their cultural traditions thus several elements of their culture were integrated to foster a vibrant liturgical celebration. Among these elements, the language is an important factor of cultural identity. Several parishes in the Philippines have begun their liturgical celebrations in the Chinese language. These liturgical celebrations are not said in purely Chinese languages. The Eucharistic celebrations are usually said in a variety of languages like Chinese, English, Tagalog or the dialects in the Philippines depending on the place where these masses are celebrated. Example of this are the songs, presidential prayers, the canon, and readings are said in Chinese while the homily is done in English or in any Filipino dialect since the congregation is composed also with Filipinos and other nationalities.

Another significant cultural element incorporated in the liturgy is the burning of incense as a form of worship and enhancing a strong sense of identity. When Chinese incense is employed during the celebration of the Eucharist, primarily it sets up the tone of the liturgy. It creates an atmosphere of worship and presence of God. Likewise, it also provides a strong sense of belonging and identity among the congregation. Incense had been a common ritual among the Chinese in their ancestor veneration and prayers.

Indeed, liturgy as an expression of an inculturated faith has become a venue of the Church’s catholicity where a diversity of expressions both cultural and liturgical is acknowledged. John Paul II says that In the process of encountering the world’s different cultures, the Church not only transmits her truths and values and renews cultures from within, but she also takes from the various cultures the positive elements already found in them.


2. Exigency of an Inculturated Priestly Formation

The Church as an evangelized and evangelizing community sends out evangelizers. Paul VI saw this urgency to be responded with concern and commitment. All evangelizers have to be formed according to the Word because “a serious preparation is needed for all workers for evangelization.” Thus, these evangelizers should have an inculturated form of priestly orientation. The impetus of this is derived from the challenge of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines which says ““And here on our own land is a vast field of mission related to the Filipino-Chinese Apostolate. Less than 20% of the Chinese in the Philippines have had some effective evangelization.”

The vision of having a separate training program for the Chinese in the Philippines began through the initiative of Bishop Domingo Salazar in 1587. The religious orders during the Spanish period began to learn the language, be accustomed to the culture, worldviews, and mentalities of the Chinese to have access to China. To preserve and protect culture, customs and traditions are means to find the Word a fertile ground to be sown, nurtured and grown. The Gospel needs culture to bring about the presence of the Kingdom of God in this world. Pius XII reminds us that the local church should not “destroy or extinguish whatever its people possess, that is naturally good, just or beautiful.”


C. Chinese Mentality: Prospects for a Renewing Society

The rich encounter between the local church in the Philippines and the culture mentality of the Chinese could be concretely manifested in the transformation of Philippine society. A transformed society is usually built up through a mutually enriching encounter between the Gospel and a people with its particular culture and tradition. The transformation of the Philippine society rests not only on Filipinos alone but also through the many cultures and sub-cultures it comprises. The Chinese sub-culture possesses a variety of elements to contribute to the betterment of society. The renewal of the society is not solely left to the Church hierarchy but also the lay through their authentic cultural expressions that contribute to the good of the people. John Paul II emphasized that the entire Church has the mission to transform society by “infusing the “mind of Christ” into the mentality, customs, laws and structures of the secular world in which they live.”


1. Community of Disciples

While it is true that the renewal of the society may begin from just structures, discipline, prudent implementation of laws, and the preferential option for the poor, it is also an urgent concern that we build a community of disciples as a stepping board towards a renewed society. The Second Plenary Council affirms the potential of the Church in the Philippines as evangelized community. Paul VI agrees that it is a complex process yet the “renewal of humanity” is a priority. As an evangelizing community, the Chinese are expected to be agents of renewal in the society. Paul VI mentioned the direction of evangelization: to be “evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity.”

The Chinese in the Philippines are agents of renewal in Philippine society. The formation of a community of disciples entails the preservation of cultural elements that exhibits authenticity of the community. Let us be reminded that the authentic values found in cultures and sub cultures are seeds of the presence of Christ in them. In Christ, “authentic values of all religious and cultural traditions, such as mercy and submission to the will of God, compassion and rectitude, non-violence and righteousness, filial piety and harmony with creation find their fullness and realization.”


2. Community of Hope and Trust

One of the problems that the Chinese-Filipinos in the Philippines face today is the prevalent and raging patterns of kidnapping and extortion. This phenomenon are known and read in the newspapers and television news that racked the Chinese communities in the country which eventually created various reactions. Some Chinese had left the Philippines to escape from their dreadful ordeals. Many were victims already of these atrocities. Though there are many local Chinese who joined politics, yet some had indifferently receded from society interaction like participating in government, institutions, and other communitarian activities for fear. Some had intensified their affiliations to associations to seek better cohesive collaboration with other Chinese to fight against rampant, escalating series of kidnappings.

The solutions to the various problems that shook the Chinese in the Philippines had been their outcry especially to the Philippine government. However, many Chinese pin their hopes in God’s providence which develops their sense of God. In one way or another, problems solidify their religious traditions and cultural practices. Chinese culture and traditions provide identity to culture. This is an opportunity of the local church to preserve local cultures and traditions to strengthen its catholicity. Ecclesia in Asia affirms that local cultures like the Chinese communities in the Philippines “need support and care in order to preserve their human dignity and their cultural and religious heritage.”


3. Great Asian Missionaries

The great missionaries of the past who gave their lives for the glory of God and the expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven are hallmarks of the fruitful encounter between the local church and particular cultures. Their lives of faithfulness, sacrifices and even martyrdom are their gifts to God and to His Church. The Church learns from the Asian Martyrs new ways of bearing witness to the Gospel in particular contexts and cultures. John Paul II affirms this saying “great host of Asian martyrs, old and new, never cease to teach the Church in Asia what it means to bear witness to the Lamb in whose blood they have washed their shining robes (cf. Rev 7:14)!”

The Chinese martyrs are examples of what culture could give to the Church. The purification of cultures is seen through the blood of the martyrs. Indeed Ecclesia in Asia clarifies that it is martyrdom which reveals to the world the very essence of the Christian message. Martyrdom is one of the highest forms of witnessing the Chinese could give as a proof of the relationship between culture and faith. In this part of the world, Asia has already given the Church the richness of culture. Asia has given the Church and the world a great host of these heroes of the faith. One of these is St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the proto-martyr of the Philippines who was a Filipino-Chinese called to be a witness of the faith in Japan after a dreadful accusation of murder against him that inevitably allowed him to flee to Japan and met his death as a sign of fidelity to the Church and to Christ.

Part of being constantly evangelized, the Church learns from the martyrs of every age who gave their lives in witness to Christ. Martyrdom reminds the Church that Christ is present and alive in various cultures and traditions. Martyrdom makes the Church feel that it needs to be continually refreshed and renewed, and she is in a “constant need of being evangelized.”


4. Older and Younger Generation of  Chinese Today

The Chinese living in the Philippines may be divided into two major categories depending on their level of integration. The older generation Chinese comes from China and have lived in the Philippines for many years. They speak the Chinese language fluently and have limited contacts and interaction with Filipinos. They preserve more Chinese traditions and practices with the strong intention of passing on to the younger generation the Chinese culture.

On the other hand, the younger generation is more integrated to the Philippine society. They are those who were born in the Philippines and have no idea of the homelands of their parents and grandparents. They do not speak the Chinese language fluently and are more Filipino than Chinese in their cultural orientation.

The experience of a pluralistic society like the Philippines challenges the local church to be more inclusive and to exercise a certain level of tolerance. For the older generation, the rigid structures of traditional culture are the necessary mainstay of one’s personal and family life; they cannot be abandoned. The younger generation, on the other hand, regards them as useless obstacles, and rejects them to embrace new forms of societal life. The conflict between generations leads to a tragic dilemma: either to preserve traditional beliefs and structures and reject social progress; or to embrace foreign technology and foreign culture, and reject ancestral traditions with their wealth of humanism.


V. Assessment

1. In the foregoing pages, it was our task to identify Chinese culture mentality as the locus of Church’s thrust of inculturation. The Chinese culture mentality is integral part of culture and it is a vital aspect for dialogue between the Gospel and culture. Mentality of a people is the inner culture and the psychology of a people where the Gospel has to penetrate and shape it according to God’s standards. Dialogue between Gospel and culture would be integrative which will allow the local culture to encounter, react, and evaluate.


2.  Culture mentality belongs to culture and the deepest part of culture. It cannot exist outside a cultural context. It is the matrix where man lives and responds to realities. It is the creative and integrative component of culture. It is the point of dialogue between Gospel and culture. If the Gospel has to form and shape culture, it has to be able to dialogue and meet the inner and the deepest aspect of culture. The present situation of Chinese culture in the Philippines evangelized or non-evangelized is a product of a dialogue between local cultures.


3. Culture mentality is not perfect in itself. It is needs to be strengthened, guided, purified, and converted. It has to grow and be perfected by the Gospel. Therefore, culture mentality of the Chinese contributes to the being and nature of the Church as missionary. The local church has to proclaim the Gospel to form mentalities according to the mind of Christ.


4. Inculturation refers to the dialogue between Gospel and cultures. It makes possible the encounter between culture mentality and the Gospel. It is in the mentality of a people and the Church’s mission of inculturation that we can discover the movement of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is the primary agent of mission and evangelization. Inculturation is not only understood as the insertion of the Gospel into a particular culture, or the transformation of the values of that culture into Christian but it concerns what a local could share to the Church after it has been evangelized.


FILIPINO-CHINESE  IN THE PHILIPPINES