Saturday, February 9, 2013

THE CHINESE CHAMORROS


The Late Senator Antonio Reyes Unpingco
Descendant of the Chinese Rosauro Unpingco

Limtiaco, Tyquiengco, Unpingco...these are names of Chamorro families we often hear.

They are also all descendants of Chinese men who moved to Guam during Spanish times in the 1850s and 60s.

That would have been during the administration of Governor Felipe de la Corte, at a time when Guam's small population (not helped by the smallpox epidemic of 1856) was at one of its lowest in years.  There was always talk about bringing in new settlers to increase the numbers on Guam and the Marianas.

VIA MANILA

Though the records show that these Chinese men who moved to Guam were born in China, more than likely they came to Guam through the Philippines.  There was no regular transportation between Guam and China, but there was between Manila and Guam.  The Philippines had a large population of Chinese; both those born in China and those born in the Philippines.

FUJIAN

The records also show that the majority of the Chinese who moved to Guam (and for that matter even to the Philippines) were from Fujian, a province in China.  Fujian Chinese had their own language, different from Mandarin (in the north) and Cantonese (in the south).  Sometimes older or alternate spellings are used for Fujian : Fukien or Hokkien.

FUJIAN PROVINCE
(in yellow)
You can see on the map it's not far from the Philippines


The circled city of Nan'an, also called Lamua, was the birthplace of many Chinese who moved to Guam, including the ancestors of the Unpingcos and Tyquiengcos.

-CO

Have you noticed that many Chinese Chamorro family names end in -co?  Unpingco, Limtiaco, Tydingco, Champaco, Tyquiengco.

Here's the reason.

The Chinese usually have three names : the family name first, then the generational name and finally the personal name.  The generational name indicates to others what generation of that family you belong to.



FAMILY MEMBER
FAMILY NAME
GENERATION NAME
PERSONAL NAME
FULL NAME
Father
Xia
Zhou
Jin
Xia Zhoujin
1st child
Xia
Han
Zheng
Xia Hanzheng
2nd child
Xia
Han
Li
Xia Hanli
3rd child
Xia
Han
Yong
Xia Hanyong

But the Fujian Chinese had a peculiar custom.  They would often drop the generational name, and add -co to their names.  "Co" in Fujian Chinese means "elder brother" and was simply a mark of respect to call a fellow countryman "elder brother."
 

Corazon COJUANGCO Aquino
Former President of the Philippines

Her ancestor also came from Fujian, China, with a surname ending in -co.  Aquino was her married name.


LATER CHINESE MIGRANTS

Not all the Chamorro Chinese on Guam trace their ancestors back to Spanish times.  Some, like the Won Pats and the Quans, came during American times.

And not all the Chinese who moved to Guam in Spanish times had names ending in -co.  Think of the Quengas, who have a Chinese ancestor.

TAITINGFONG

Many people think this is Chinese.  But it's Chamorro.  It just sounds like it could be Chinese.


3 comments:

  1. I'm Filipino and lived on Guam for three years in the late '90s. I've wondered if the Limtiaco and Unpingco on Guam descended from Filipinos of Chinese descent that moved to Guam from the Philippines.

    I descended from Tantamco and knew that it is a combination of my forefather's name but was not aware of the reason for the -co in the end. Thanks for this post.

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    Replies
    1. The Limtiacos, Unpingcos and many others were Chinese born in China (usually Fujian Chinese) but they passed through the Philippines before settling on Guam. A special Chinese census for Guam can still be found in the records.

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