Domingo Rojas came to the Philippines on a boat from Canton, China (according to Teofilo Rojas, son of Modesto Rojas ) when he was still a young boy. He had nine siblings and they came here because there was much grief and strife in China then. Domingo's original surname was Go Pao and he took on the Spanish surname of his godfather, 'Rojas' when he was baptized into Catholicism. Domingo's family brought their wealth ,mostly gold, here with them. It must have been around the mid to late 19th century when young Domingo arrived in the Philippines and his first stop was Silang. Ka Pilo (Teofilo Rojas) told me more than 12 years ago that there were 2 gentlemen with caps and queues who accompanied him here. Who they were, Ka Pilo didn't also know.
So much mystery surrounds Domingo Rojas and were it not for one granddaughter , Encarnacion (daughter of Hilaria Rojas), I would not even know his name. There are no traces now of his other siblings and what became of them. My search continues because I truly would like to meet our other Chinese relatives and learn more of our Chinese heritage from them.
Domingo married Honorata Saraza y Santos from Anabu, Imus, Cavite and had 6 children (Victor, Gregorio, Modesto, Juan, Honorio and Hilaria). Honorio established roots in Cavite City and became wealthy due to gambling and the real estate business. Auntie Syon (Encarnacion Rojas ) told me that when she was young, she used to go to the Rojas mansion in San Roque, when it was still newly built. Both Lolo Domingo and Lola Honorata stayed there but when they got weak due to age and sickness, they asked to be transferred to the home and care of their only daughter, Hilaria.
There are several tales and anecdotes ahout Domingo 's and Honorata's children. Lola Hilaria, I was told, used to own several Kalesas (horse drawn carriages, was a popular mode of transportation in the Philippines in the olden days) and Lolo Noryo (Honorio) drove one of his sister's Kalesas. He was a cochero before he met his first wife, Maria and before he became Don Honorio.
Lolo Destoy (Modesto),according to his grandchild Ednalin Rojas Cruz, was a handsome fellow who sported and cap and a queue when he was young. She saw an old picture of him dressed in Chinese garb. Unfortunately, the picture got destroyed by a violent storm years ago. Edna used to take comfort when she was afraid or lonely by looking at the picture of her Lolo Destoy. Modesto was very rich but his first wife ran off with their lawyer. Said lawyer was able to transfer most of the properties of Lolo Modesto in the name of his first wife. He went on to marry a second wife, Lola Salud whom he met in Manila. They owned a race track in Blumentritt. Later, they moved to Mindoro and then to Silang where they established roots and had several children.
Lola Hilaria married a Chinaman, Go Seung Co who was more than 20 years her senior. She used to tell her youngest daughter Auntie Syon (Encarnacion) that she had many suitors, even members of the Guardia Civil. Lola Hilaria lived to be 101 years old and is the only daughter of Domingo and Honorata.
I would like to know more about our Chinese heritage. I have not lost hope in finding our long lost Chinese relatives. Deep in my heart, I have a special affection for China and the Chinese people.It is such a pity that I never learned the language though. But I am proud of my Chinese ancestry and I am sure all my other relatives feel the same.
Edna Rojas Cruz mentioned in one of her emails to me that the family of Domingo Rojas was very much landed in China and that these lands were later confiscated by the Communist party. As earlier noted, Domingo Rojas came to the Philippines as a young boy sometime in the mid to late 19th Century. I asked my brother, Virgilio Rojas, a scholarly historian, about the conditions of 19th century China at the time when Domingo and family lived and prospered there. Below are his explanations to me of what might have happened with those real estate properties of the Rojas ancestors in Canton, China and some possible theories of why they chose to settle in the Philippines.
"Particularly from the 1840s to the 1880s, China witnessed quite turbulent times. The Qing Dynasty (1600s-1911) was among others ravaged by two costly rebellions (the Taiping and and the Boxer rebellions), the notorious Opium Wars and two devastating famines, and a number of Western powers succeeding to force the Chinese to concede to unequal trade treaties and occupation of certain concessions in the country. Social marginalization and popular unrest were rampant and widespread in the wake of the Qing state's failed modernization project. Chinese modern history is usually associated with the nationalist government of Dr Sun Yat-sen of 1910s. The Chinese Communist Party under the leadership of Mao Zedong waged a protracted people's war against the nationalist Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang (KMT) party during much of the interwar years. The communists ultimately conquered state power only in 1949. If ever there had been social and political resentment among the Chinese peasants the source of that would have been less the communists than the much-feared warlords in the countryside.
The most probable cause of massive emigration among the Chinese peasants at the time our ancestors were known to have left China would have been the famine years and the successive rebellions, coupled with rising warlordism and lawlessness in the countryside in the wake of the Qing state's deterioration.
The queue was in fact a Manchu tradition imposed by the Manchu rulers of the Qing Dynasty, who forced the Han Chinese to wear the Manchu queue and Manchu-style clothing. The penalty for non-compliance was death.
The Communist party started to become a serious political contender in the 30s, like you suggested, and as I noted above, they finally beat the KMT and secured complete state power only in 1949. And as alluded to if ever lands were lost they were most probably usurped by the warlords due to lawlessness in the countryside during the interwar years. In other words the purported cause of emigration sounds questionable, in much the same way as the purported cause of confiscation raises much doubt.
- Virgilio S.Rojas - 13 and 14 March, 2007