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How a Pasigueno almost preserved Macao for the Philippines

From the Desk

17th Century Portugese Macao

The Dynastic Union of the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal brought peace to the otherwise warring empires of the Iberian Peninsula - the old world powers. Between 1580 - 1640 the Iberian Union linked the great territories, colonies and even the very peninsula under one monarchy, the Spanish Habsburgs. This union ended the long imperial race of Spain and Portugal in dominating the known world and ensured an alliance that allowed the flourishing of territories. One of these territories are the islands of the Spanish Philippines and the Portuguese Macao. Technically, they are miles apart being separated by the large South China Sea and governed by their European Masters whose home is at the other side of the world.

The proximity of the Portuguese Macao to mainland China earned its mark as an important port of the famed Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade and acted as the keeper of all Chinese Goods like silk among others before being transported to Manila and then to the Viceroyalty of Nueva Espana (Mexico). Such is the significance of this small island to the Philippines that we coined a term, "lutong Macao" to denote anything preconceived or bound to occur. This term came from how the Macao people would cook with their ingredients prepared ahead of time. And though "lutong Macao" nowadays have been synonymous to "rigged results", decisions or investigations especially in the 70's when "Macao" turned into "Macoy", this island left something in our culture and contributed to the Filipino's oriental image.

Sebastian Corcuera

By 1640, the alliance of the two kingdoms fell as the House Braganza assumed the kingship of the Portuguese Throne. This meant trouble to the growing trade of Spain, which is why it tried all the aces to maintain Macao under the Spanish Flag. The last resort of the empire is to send a brilliant negotiator and diplomat, Don Juan Claudio, Encomendero de Pasig to the Embassy of Spain in Macao. He was sent by the then Governor General, Sebastian Corcuera to ensure that Macao would still remain Spanish. Corcuera is known as one of the greatest military leaders in the Philippines, however his term as governor is already marred by both the loss of the Spanish Settlement in Formosa (Taiwan) and the expulsion of the Spaniards in Macao. By sending Don Juan in the contested island, the governor hopes to settle the disputed territory once and for all.

Upon his arrival, he was welcomed by the Spanish Governor of Macao, Don Sebastian Lobo de Silveira. Don Juan failed on his sojourn as the people rose in tumult, assassinated Don Sebastian and pronounce their allegiance to Portugal. This was indeed a heavy blow to Governor Corcuera but despite all of it, he trusted a Pasigueno in keeping Macao under the Spanish Crown. A mere footnote in history, little is known on the life of Don Juan Claudio or what happened to him after the failure of the talks and the rebellion of the Macao People against Spain. Come to think of it, if Macao chose to side with Spain, they could have been liberated as early as 1898 or 1946 and not in 1999.

The failure of the Philippines by the sword on that year of 1640 was regained when a Pasigueno by the name of Sor Lourdes Gomez regained Taiwan by the Cross. Sor Lourdes founded the First Mission House of of the Philippine Daughters of Charity in Taiwan in 1959 and henceforth was called the Lourdes Homes. A dentist, Sor Lourdes taught for several year in La Concordia College and then served as director of the Hospicio de San Jose.

The brother of then Secretary of Labor Augusto "Bobbit" Sanchez, the late Rodolfo Sanchez became Pasig Town's colorful diplomat as he served in different countries as ambassador, then as Consul General of the Philippines to the United States and finally as ambassador to The Hague, The Netherlands. On his spare time, he found painting a hobby in his home in Sta. Cruz.

Our culture and history as Orientals and Westerners is still subject to debate as we are indeed a mix of both. Some would argue that the country was deliberately placed in the wrong side of the world as we are complete surrounded by cultures alien to us. But our diplomats like the late Rody Sanchez embraced these differences and helped the Philippines be one in the family of nations.

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