Chinese Emissaries of Sulu to China

Manila Times
23 May 2006 | 11:00 PM

By Go Bon Juan

DURING Corazon Aquinos term as President, she appointed Alfonso Yuchengco our countrys ambassador to China. Yuchengco is a Tsinoy, a pureblooded Chinese in the Philippines. His appointment, thus, created a stir in the Tsinoy community.

Many Tsinoys considered Yuchengcos appointment of great significance because it shows that Tsinoys like him are identified with the Philippines to the extent that they can represent the country, even to their ancestors country of origin, China.

Yuchengcos appointment is part of contemporary history. More than 200 years ago, the Sultan of Sulu appointed a Chinese from Sulu emissary to China. Three other Chinese from the Philippines gained the same distinction later.

The first was Gong Ting Cai, a Chinese merchant in Sulu, who was appointed in 1726. Ma Guang Ming, also a Chinese merchant, was appointed to China in 1743. Lastly, another Chinese merchant, Yang Da Cheng, was sent to China 10 years after Ma.

Besides these three emissaries, three other Chinese in Sulu were appointed official interpreters of the Sulu delegation to China: Yang Pei Ning, Ye Xing Li and Chen Rong.

Yang was appointed interpreter in the same year as emissary Gong, and Ye in 1752.

Among the three, Chen was the only nonmerchant. He was a Chinese sailor who was appointed interpreter for the Sulu delegation to China during the early reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty (1730s).

These historical facts and records show the close relationship the Chinese in Sulu had with the people and sultan of Sulu. As early as the 18th century, there were already Chinese who had deeply identified with the people of Sulu, and had gained the deep and full trust of the Sulu sultan that they were sent as official representatives to Chinarepresenting their adopted country to their motherland.

(Editors note: The ceremony presenting the Fifth Dr. Jose P. Rizal Awards for Excellence will be held on June 19, 2006, 7 p.m. at the Kaisa-Angelo King Heritage Center on Anda and Cabildo streets, Intramuros, Manila.)