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THE ORIGINS OF THE VILLASENORS: FROM F'UJIAN TO LUCBAN* Dr. Luciano P. R. Santiago The City of Spring (1633-90)

As early as 1633, the Spanish

Franciscans and Dominicans in the Philippines had gained a foothold in the mission field in Fujian (formerly called Fukien) and adjacent provinces in Mainland China. Among the Chinese, Fujian is known as Hokien. Since time immemorial up to the present, the vast

majority of the Chinese in the Philippines come from this southern

5* ,-a _.qq .e

- . E ,#,t 14


province. The most prominent Fuiienese convert in the lTth century was padre Gregorio Lo or Lopez, who became the first Chinese bishop. He was born in Fujian in 1615 and was one of the frst natives to be baptized, there bv a Franciscan missionary n 1633- He clme to the Philippines, studied at the University of Santo Tomas and entered the Dominican Order in 1650. Four years later, he was ordained at the Manila Cathedral together with the first Filipino priest, Don Miguel Jer6nimo de Morales of Pampanga. padre Lo was consecrated Bishop ofNanking in 16g5. The fnst Chinese bishop probably knew the earliest known forbear of the Villasefrors, Don Jer6nimo Venco who also hailed from Fujian. He was born there in the town of Seongue in the district of Chian Chiu on


30 (the feast of


Jer6nimo) in around 1670. Appropriately enough, "ven" translates as ..root,, and is represented in Chinese character by a tree with a horizontal stroke underneath

to signifu "root;",'is the equivalent of Sefior or Don, the Spanish title of

lespect. Like a typical Chinese clan, the Vencos maintained a lao 7la (ancestral home) where their extensive genealogies were enshrined. We have yet to tap ihis source for the Villasenor clan. The ancestors of Dr. Jos6 Rizal, the National Hero, also originated from the :u*:_plu:.. Seongue is called Zhanggua in Mandarin and is now known- as Hongiian. Chan Chiu, on the other handis-1h9 present Zangshou or euangzhou which means '.City of Springl,' Its

natural harbor, glistening as jade of green and blue, attracted Arab and

European traders who referred to the citl as Zaytun, whence came the word

"satin." A fertile valley, Fujian was hemmed ir by mountains on every side except only in its eastern coast. The available space could not contain the burgeoning population and this led to the Fijianese exodus into Southeast Asia includLg the Philippines. In the process, they hid to leave their wives to spare them ihe trials and tribulations of migrating to a new land. Fujian was only three days awav by junk to Manila. Hence, auring tte Spanish Period, the Fujianes" bJca-. the middle men in the fabulous Manila Galleon Trade.


Pagsanjin: Roots and



The Spaniards called the Chinese Sangley (merchant). From the outset, the white men tried to control and intimidate

the immigrants by restricting them to a district named paridn n.u, oi attached 1o the walled city and within the range of the Spanish cannom. The releitles,



persecution of the Chinese drove them to revolt four times in the lTth century: in 1603, 1639, 1662 and 1686. One of the few consolations of the tragic century was a brilliant social experiment by the colonialists involving a choice group of Chinese converts. In around 1650, they resettled seven

Chinese, together with one Japanese, traders and farmers from the Pari6n to Pagsanj6n, Laguna in order to develop its virgin valley, #hich scarcely felt the plow. Pagsanj6n, which means '\vhere the river branches out" was then a mere barangay of the town of Lumbang. The eight pioneers were Mateo Caco, Juiin Joco, the brothers Alfonso and Diego Changco, and Marcos and Diego Suico, Eugenio Vinco or Venco and the lone Japanese, Josd Jegote. Blood brothers

in pairs from China, who looked out for each other, were corrunon in the Philippines. Eugenio Venco r,r'as most probably an uncle of our ancestor, Jer6nimo Venco. The pioneers married Tagalog women and from these bonds of matrimony sprang the hybrid vigor of the Villasefiors. By 1668, Pagsanj6n was so well developed by the trailblazers that it was raised into a municipality. Nineteen years later, its parish was erected with Our Lady of Guadalupe as the titular and San Juiin Nepomuceno as the second patron saint. A stone church was built migrating

and completed in 1690 under the direction of a Chinese architect, Don Miguel Guanco. Having emerged as the commercial center of Laguna, Pagsanj6n took over liom Bae as the provincial capital liom 1688 to 1858, the period, which witnessed the rise of the Villaseflors and their relatives.

Another political scheme was applied to Pagsanj an in 1697. The very lnst Gremio de Mestizos de Sangley

(Chinese mestizos) in the colony was set up there as a rival to the well-established


de Naturales (natives).

The move was a strategy of divide-and-ru1e,

which proved to be very lucrative as well. For in the scale of taxation, the mestizos were charged twice the tribute paid by the naturales whose economic status was disparaged. Further, the fullblooded Chinese were taxed twice the rate for their half-breeds. In contrast, the Spaniards and Spanish mestizos were exempted from tributes. Similar political groupings of Chinese mestizos in Manila and suburbs followed only half a centurv later in 1741.

From Fujian to Pagsanj{n and Back (1690-1740) Don Jer6nimo Venco came to the Philippines in around 1690 not to settle here but to court and marry a Chinese mestiza of Pagsanjrin by the name of Dofia Juana Dinio. Her surname remains

to this day a prominent patronymic of

Pagsanj6n. It was about the time when the town had just become the capital of Laguna (1688). The marriage was apparently arranged since as noted earlier, Pagsanjrin had been founded by Christian Chinese traders, one of whom was surnamed Vinco or Venco, probably

an uncle of Jer6nimo. Indeed, Dinio "a lady who is related by blood,,, "nio" being the equivalent of the Spanish means

Seftora or Dofra.

San Cristobal: The Light in



Jer6nimo brought his bride back to Seongue where they begot two sons who reached maturity. The first, named

Christ6val Guico was born on February 2,1692 while the second, also christened Christ6val de Villaseffor, was born on November 21,1694. San Christ6val (St.

in Iloilo' Drawn san cristobal in the Philippine setting. (Fagade of the Miag-ao church by F' Zobel de Ayala' his name ceased to be in the sanctoral' However, he has remained a powerful christopher) for whom both sons were symbol of hdelity and fortitude in the named was the saint who carefully bore church' the Christ child on his shoulders while

In regard to the two sons' river. Looming over the Tagalog Surnames', Guico translates precisely as "Lord Eider Brother'" According to provinces of Lugu* and Tayabur (no* family tradition, Villaseflor' which Quez6n) is the sacred volcano, Bundok means "Lord of the Village"' indicated Banahaw. To San Christ6val, the their noble status in the old country, missionaries had dedicated the threewhich made it an agonizing decision for mountain range. The terrain was them to cast off their deep roots' Of the reminiscent of Fujian except that the to mighty mountain here dominated huddled masses they were not, though for be sure they had enorrnous empathy *iiho.rt limiting the landscape. them. Villaseflor was probably adopted When a light glowed on the from a Spanish godfather or padrino of mountaintop i" the still of the night, it was believed to be San Christ6val the family. It was, however, a rare surname among the Spaniards in the leading a lost soul in the right path. The pious legend and the luminous iandscape Philippines' tn ttre late nh century' there was one by the name Don Miguel flred Jer6nimo's spirit. He named his de Villaseflor who may well have two sons for the saint although neither assisted Jer6nimo Venco' one of them was born on his feast day On November 3' 1693' he (July 25). Jeronimo apparently ''orchards orh that it was San Christ6val recorded to have sold "on.lud.d lands" in Sta. Ana, Manila for the sum of who had guided him safely across the 300 pesos to Don Thomas Nuflez de stormy seas from the mainland to the Loarca. There is not much else known Philippines and back with his young about him fiom available documents' bride. And should the two sons decide In Spain- the titie Conde de someday to reclaim their maternal Villasefior was created b1' the king in heritage in the Philippines, it would 1687. The count-ship $'as endowed with again-behoove San Christ6val to protect a celestial coat-ot: arrns depicting a ttem from all the dangers along the way silver half moon surrounded by seven and help them n"O the path to gold stars hanging .n a biue sky'" The pagsanj6n. Villaseflor cian in the Philippines may In the 1960s. St. Christopher was

crossing a formidable


a "legendary saint" and thus-


t I

t tl

also lay claim to this heraldic symbol in spirit.

From Fujian to Lucbin: Witnesses to Hope (1740)

It took the faithful brothers almost half a century to finally decide to

migrate to their maternal country n 1740 when they were already in middle life. Both of them must have had earlier families. In that era" most people in the Philippines and perhaps in Asia too, died in theirs 40s and 50s or even earlier. But in the same age range, the hardy brothers decided to start their lives all over again. Determination and perseverance were two profound values they would pass on to their descendants. What major force drove them to make the perilous step is mentioned neither in the written accounts nor in the oral tradition of the clan. Perhaps, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - war, famine, pestilence and death - had descended upon their land. But their unswerving trust in

Divine Providence through

the intercession of their common patrorl San Christ6val, helped them remain steadfast in their resolve. Greater problems were awaiting them,in the Philippines but San Christ6val appeared never to have failed them. They anived just when the Spanish government was beginning to curb Chinese proliferation in the colony by restricting migration and expelling illegal aliens. But no matter. Clandestinely, the instant fugitives changed course from Pagsanj6n to Lucbdn where they knew the missionary Fray Gin6s Cathos and some Chinese families, probably relatives, who gave

them refuge. Nestled at the base of Mount Banahaw, the seat of San Christ6val, Lucb6n beaconed like a blessed light. By then the authorities had

for their arrest as corrmon criminals subject to "beheading" (degollaci6n) if found issued warrants

guilty. Other crimes must have been imputed to thern. The merciful Fray Gin6s hid them in the inner recesses of the dome gallery hovering over the church transept. The stone church of San Luis Obispo of Lucbiin had just been completed seven years earlier in 1733. In the meantime, the Franciscans and the influential Chinese mestizo groups of both Lucbrin and Pagsanj6n mobilized and worked together for their amnesty. They did succeed but probably without b"ittg able to avoid giving bribery to key officials. The fact that the brothers Christ6val were Chinese Catholics whose mother was a native of Pagsanjdn and thus, they were partly Filipinos, would have helped their case immensely. In testimony of theh faith and parentage, they had carried their baptismal certificates all the way from Fujian. Although the original documents had disintegrated, the data they contained were copied for posterity by devoted descendants. No sooner had the following year started than a monstrous earthquake demolished the church of Lucbiin on January 12, 174I. The dome over the transept, which had sheltered thern, collapsed to the ground. In gratitude to San Christ6val for their deliverance twice over, the brothers vowed to carry on from generation to generation in their adopted town their family tradition from the old country of assisting the destitute and the desperate which they too had been once before. Two Nuptial Knots (1744 & 1746) Because of their nobility and mettle, despite their age, the brothers Christ6val were deemed eligible old bachelors or widowers by their hosts and


in the Chinese mestizo

community of Lucb6n. One of them was

Don Lufs pangco (whose surname

translates as ..fat lord,') with his wife, Dofla Jupna Flora. The affluent couple had two daughters, Josefa de la Cruz and Ana Urbina.ln 1743, Mount Banahaw of San Christ6val erupted (for the last time in recorded memory) b.r.yirrg the town of Sariaya in the South U"t largely sparing Lucbdn in the Northwest. It was indeed a propitious event. The following year, the elder Christ6val took to wife Josefa. And two years later tn 1746, the younger Christ6val exchanged vows with Ana. Thus, began a new chapter in their lives as well as in the histbry of Lucb6n. Their children and descendants were officially classified as Chinese mestizos. It should be noted that there were two



Chinese mestizos in the Philippines during the Spanish period. The first type was the offspring of a Chinese father and a Filipina -*oth"r. who therefore was an exact half_breed. The second type was the child in a family which had been classified fbr generations as Chinese mestizos in the

direct male line regardless of the amount of Chinese blood running in their veins since the race of their maternal lines were not taken into consideration. The children of the brothers Christ6val belonged to the frst type while their

grandchildren and

The Crist6bals of Lucb{n Don Christ6val Guico fathered three sors before he died: Don Juin (married Dofla Ana Josefa Espfritu), Don Vicente, y9 D..o" Marcos (married Dofra Eugenia Isabel). All of thenr, following ChLese custorn, took their patriareh's first name as their surname, Crist6bal as spelled in the new orthography.

Their progeny intermarried with their Vilaseflor relatives, mostly distant

cousins, despite the

Chinese prohibition of consanguinous marriages in the paternal line. (There

wffi, however, no prohibition of

marriage in the maternal and paternal_

Chinese-Filipino mestizo couple in the early 19'n century.


afterwards pertained to the second type which was the most common by the ig,h century. Unlike in pagsanj6n, there was no separate Tribunal (Municipal Hall) nor gremio for Chinese mestizos in tucban. They and the naturales met together in the same hall and as members of the principalfa, the1, took turns serving as mayors of the town. In the procesl the


Villaseriors pertecte,C the art of prudent interpersonal relations or pokikfsama with both the natir es and rhe Spaniards, which the clan has been knonn for.

maternal lines.) They were able to crcumvent the ancienr ban by a

technicality: the two branches of the clan

now sported different surnames, which dissimulated their paternal relationship. Besides, canon law of the Cathollc

Church permitted


marriages with special dispensation. Hence, the two branches were reunited more than a few times in the lgth and

like the noble families of China and Europe, whiqh probably pointed to their noble background in Fujian. The descendants also

20th centuries

intermarried within their own branch. More typically, however, they intermarried with other prominent families from the Gremio de Naturales as well as Spaniards and Spanish mestizos, a fact, which widened the interpersonal ties and contributed further to the hybrid vitality of the two clans. The Cristobals moved fast in the social ladder of their adopted town. Presbitero Don Pio Crist6bal, the eldest son of the eldest son (Jutln), ascended the altar of God with the priestly dignity

- a sure sign in those days of family

prestige. In 1819, Don Marcos Crist6bal, the youngest son, became the first of the clan to be elected by the principalia as the gobernadorcillo (mayor) of Lucb6n. Marcos' son, Don Saturnino Crist6bal Rilles also became the town executive in 1840. It was he who ordered the religious image known as Santo Sepulcro (the dead Christ in a glass coffrn) to be sculptured. Since then, it has been used on Good Friday processions and considered miraculous by the townsfolk, who call the image Mahal na Sefior (Holy Lord). From Don Saturnino descended the prominent Lukbrin clan of Manila and Camarines Norte whose surname honors their ancestral town. Saturnino's daughter, Andrea married Don Agustfn de San Miguel who changed his family name to Lukb6n in 1849. In that year, Governor General Don Narciso Claveria, Conde de Manila, ordered thp systematization of Filipino surnames. The majority of the Filipinos chose or changed their patronymics to Spanish surrrirmes. Only a small minority, like Don Agustin, went against the current.

The Villasefiors of Lucbfn We now come to our direct line of descent from the younger brother, Don Christ6val de Villaseflor. Five children were born to him and his wife, Dofla Ana Urbina Pangco: Don Blas Mariano (born on February 3, c1747 and maried Dofla Juana Mioaela de Luna); Dofla

Maria Dominga (born on August 4, cI748 and married Don Vicente Santiago de la Cruz who later adopted the surname Eleip;al and served as the mayor of Lucb:in in 1787); Doffa Maria

Lina (born on Sept. 23,


unmarried); Don Antonio Serapi6n (see data below), our direct ancestor; and

Dofla Anastacia (born on April 15, c1755, unmarried). The Ele6zars, descendants of Vicente and Maria Dominga, have led the way in celebrating a grand reunion last year,

n Lucbiin. They published

a twovolume work on their genealogy and lineage. We, the descendants of Antonio Serapi6n, are now following their edifring example this year. As explained 2002

of the Eleiizars also liom Antonio Serapi6n. It is recorded that the manse of the dowager, Dofia Ana Urbina burned down in the Great Fire of 1789 in Lucb6n. She took refuge in the house of

earlier, some descended

one of her married children.


probably died a few years later. Don Antonio Serapi6n de Vilasefior, the second son of the second son, was born on February 25, c1752(feast of San Serapi6n, m6rtir) and died in c1812. He married Dofia Lina de la Rosa who apparently died young and childless. On September 7, 1791, the widower remarried to a 19 year-old town-mate Dofia Rosa de los Angeles. She was born on March 2,1112 and died in c1825. They were blessed with eight

children: Srta. Dofla Cayetana


Villasefior (born on August '7, 1792, unmarried); Don Fernando de Villaseflor (born on MaY 30, 1793 and married Dofla Martina Solueta de San Antonio); Don Silvino de Villaseffor (bort on February 7, 1794 and married Dofla Micaela de San Agustin of TaYabas,

Tayabas); Padre Don Silvestre de ViilaseRor (born on December 31, 1794); Dofla Salvadora de Villasefior (born on March 18, 1798 and married Licenciado Don Pasqual Nepomuceno y Llamas, a prominent Manila lawyer from Pagsanj6n); Padre Don Agustin de ViilaseRor (born on August 28, 1800); Doffa Eufemia de Villasefior (born on March 3, 1802 and married Don Higino Sanchez); and Don Ju6n de Villaseflor (born on June 24, 1805 and married (a) Doffa Rufina Santiago Tigmaque & (b) Dofla Micaela Cajigal).

In the



Villaseflors dropped the preposition "de" from their surname.

The Rise of the Villaseflors Like their Chinese forbears, both the Villaseflors and the Cristobals prospered through their entrepreneurial activities, which included the purchase, clearing,


and cultivation


agricultural lands as well as trading in and other commodities in the .i"", "op.u provinces of Laguna and Tayabas (now Quez6n). Their social rise coincided with the economic prosperity of . the Philippine colony from the late l8'n to the 19'h centurY as signaled bY the official opening of the Port of Manila to international trade in 1834. They emerged as the two most influential Chinese mestizo families of Lucb6n and among the most prominent in the aforementioned provinces' To

show their gratitude to

Divine Providence, they engaged extensively in


works of charity and put themselves at the service of the church. ManY a descendant became priests and nuns' On September 1, 1854, the SPanish

governor of Tayabas, Don Jos6 Maria de L O *tote the governor-general that "The Villaseflors are well known in the whole province and even in the capital (Manila) for the fine religious qualities

which characterize the said family'" In that yetr, Don Pedro NePomuceno Viliaseflor, one of the clan's most illustrious scions (son of Dofla Salvadora


Villaseflor), founded



Hospicid de Pobres de Lucbdn (Asylum for the Poor of Lucban), . which

Governor La O, was "probably the first one to be established in any of the provincial towns of these




In fact, it was the only

charitable institution of its kind to be set up and administered by laymen in the Philippines during the Spanish Regime' For the perpetual sustenance of its poor residents, the Villaseflors purchased a fertile piece of rice land and donated it to the foundation.

The Amazing GenealogY An abiding interest in their roots runs deep in the veins of the Villaseflors, which impel them to hold clan reunions' The marvelous records of their


and lineage have been

updated by

various diligent descendants from the different branches for the past three centuries in various forms such as narratives, cartwheels' py'ramidal -detailed charts, outlines and articles for the benbfit of posterity. From circa 1670 up to at least the 10rt generation, almost every descendant of the Chinese progenitor is traced and accounted for'iii io o,rt kno*1edge. this is the longest continuous and comPrehensive

of a Chinese mestizo clan in the Philippines, which was researched and committed to writing by its own members, whether individually or as a group. It is a unique historical and sociological record that has yet to be genealoglr

tapped by scholars.

'*Fujian hovince, china-" (Internet website, 2000)

Note: This article is an enlarged and revised


Bitacora: 1994. p.790.




(Unfortunately, this publicatiur has several

lpographical errors.)

for the

Please see the original,

detailed sources



based on caroline courtauld. Fujian: China,s

Land of Mists and Mountains.'(passiort Books ). " temando Gonz6lez-Doria. Diccionario Herrildiio y Notitnin


of part of a

author: Luciano PR Santiago. ...The Soul of Lucb6n: Don Pedro Nepomuceno Villasenor and His Asylum for the poor.,' Bikolnon:. Journal of Ateneo de Naga- ae997): 9_39.



Reinos de


iii rhe various Genealogies of the clan (arranged chronologically): 1899 - D. Ju{n Ordoveza y Villasenor. "A,rbol Geneal6gico de Consanguinidad.,, (Sta. cruz, Laguna: MS). This is the oldest existing genealogy;f the clan. c1930 - D. Juin D. Nepomuceno.-"The Descendantr oibon Pio Rafael Nepomuceno and Doia Magia Agustina Henson.,, (Angeles, pampanga: MS). c1947 - Dr. Pedro Natividad Villasefior. "Los Descendientes de los Esposos Jer6nimo Venco (Chino) y Juana Dinio de Pagsanjriq Laguna." (Lucena, MSS, ct}+11. This is the most comprehensive genealogy of the Villasefior clan up to the time of its compilation. 1959-70 - ordoveza Clun. Aiiol Genealfigico. (Maniluiordorr"za clan Reunions). The ordoveza-Villaseflor Genealogy was updated and printed in various formats ylarty. 1960 - Carlosa Eleitzar-rJnson. Kasaysoyan ng Aigtqtn ng ordoveza. (Maniia: ordoveza Clan). 1962 - Luciano PR fanliaeo. Genealogt of the ordoveza-Villasefior Clan. (Malila: MS). 1972 - Dr' Carmelo G. Nepomuceno. The Relatives of Don Judn D. Nepomuceno. (Montreal, Canada: CG Nepomuceno). 19b7 - Marco D- Nepomuieno. The'Nepomucenos of Angeles City. (Angeles City. MD Nepomuceno) 1987 - Luciano PR Santiago. "Villasefior and de la Rosa: Memoirs of Two portraits.,, Phil' Quarterly of culture & society (POCD. l5(1987): 277-294. .- (with \ .'-"' genealogical



1991 - Luciano PR Santiago. "casa ordoveza of Majayjay, Laguna. - pecs l9(199r): 11-30 (with genealogical chart). 1997 - Luciano PR Santiago. :'Th" Soul of Lucb6n: Don Pedro Nepomuceno Villaseflor and his Asylum for the Poor." Bikolnon, Journal of Ateneo d, Nigo. qflggi):9-39 (with genealogical chat). 2001 - Jaime Elednat Racelis. The Villasefior Families. Descendants of Don Antonio Serapi6n Villasefior. (pdsig City: MS). 2002 - Eledzar Families oieuiz6n. (Manila: Eleazar.Grand Reunion) 2 vols. 20az - Antonio P- Dimalanta, Jr. Arbol Genealilgico: ordoveza.pdrez-Rivera-Dimalanta Branch. (Agana, Guam: ApD). 2003 - Marco D. Nepomuc"* A Dr. Carmelo G. Nepomuceno. The Nepomucenos of Angele s. (Montreal, Canada: Nepomucenos).

Villasenor Clan of Lucban, Quezon  

First chapter