The Chinese Connection

By: Malou Guanzon Apalisok - CDN Digital | February 23,2020 - 07:09 AM

Chinese tradition holds that 8 is a lucky number so many Cebuano Chinese who had important milestones in the first quarter of this year chose February 20, 2020 to celebrate.   

Among them was His Excellency Ambassador Frank Benedicto who picked the auspicious date to notch another year.  Actually he was born on  February 03 but chose to lunch with media friends on 02.20.2020.  The sum total of this date is 8.  

It was great to see Ambassador Benedicto, former PH Ambassador to Singapore, Ottawa, Beijing, Seoul and Brazil enjoying the company of media friends in Tsay Cheng of the Grand Convention Center.  Newspaper editors, station managers, radio commentators, multi-media reporters, columnists and lifestyle writers all keep a busy schedule but they always make time for this kindly diplomat who is all of 82 summers.  I wish Ambassador Benedicto good health and may he live to be a hundred.  


Lucky 8 must also be high on the minds of the trustees of the Sugbu Chinese Heritage Museum Foundation, Inc. led by chairman Bob D. Gothong and vice chairman Elizabeth Gan-Go when they chose the date to unveil the very first Chinese Cebuano museum.  The museum is housed in the newly restored Gotiaco building at the back of Cebu City Hall.

Built in 1914 by Cebu’s most notable taipan, Manuel Gotianuy to honor his father the philanthropist Don Pedro Singson Gotiaco, the Gotiaco building in itself is a repository of stories of cultural and historical importance.  

According to the website, Geni, which traces the genealogy of prominent people, Don Pedro Lee Gotiaoco was a 19th century “rags-to-riches” Chinese immigrant tycoon, philanthropist and Cebu Chinese community leader. His Chinese name is “Go Bun Tiao” in the Hokkien and pronounced “Wu Wen Tiao” in Pudonghua or Mandarin.  A tragedy in which he accidentally shot a cousin forced him to flee to the Philippines to escape prosecution. 

Historians cite Don Pedro for exemplifying “traditional Confucian values of hard work, frugality, discipline, integrity and xiao-sun or filial piety of total obedience to elders and reverence for ancestors.” He was a generous man who took care of his relatives and donated large sums to his ancestral hometown and his adopted place, Cebu.  He was, according to Spanish colonial government records, one of Cebu’s top taxpayer.

During last Saturday’s event, one of Manuel Gotianuy’s son, businessman and philanthropist Atty. Augusto Go said that when his grandfather Don Pedro learned that his father Manuel was building a four-storey building, something unheard of at that time, the patriarch thought it was foolish.  However, Manuel stuck to his guns and not only went full speed ahead but also equipped the building with modern amenities like air condition and elevator, the first edifice to do so during that time.  

Pretty soon, important business establishments, from shipping, power, telephone, insurance to law offices leased spaces in the building.  Gotiaco building became a landmark and Don Pedro kept his mouth shut.

For his part, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella shared an interesting anecdote that happened when he was still the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas.  A Chinese counterpart was then visiting Cebu and after taking care of official business, the visitor asked Labella if there was a Chinese museum he could go to.  For a moment, it was embarrassing but Labella saved the day with a witty riposte saying, Cebu City is a Chinese museum in itself. 

But it is the story of Don Pedro Gotiaco finding many loves in his adopted place that usually keeps the historical fire burning.  May I lift from the article, “The secret father of President Sergio Osmena & forebear of John Gokongwei, Jr., Gaisanos, Gotianuns” by Wilson Lee Flores and published in Philstar, June 20, 2010.

“Pedro Gotiaoco, or Go Bun Tiao, was born in Fujian, China, on June 30, 1856. A story goes that he was also the illegitimate father of Sergio Osmeña Sr., who was born on September 9, 1878, when Pedro was 22 years old. The mother was Juana Suico Osmeña.” 

“This story has remained unconfirmed. He was also the father of Doña Modesta Singson Gaisano from a third wife. Modesta would become the matriarch of the Singson-Gaisano family.”

“Pedro married Go Disy and produced three sons: Go Chiong Wei, Manuel Gotianuy and Kong-Uy Go. Go Chiong Wei  would be John Gokongwei Sr.’s father.” 

Sorely missed during the opening of the museum are the Osmenas, Tommy, Lito and Sonny. Urban legends or not, I have never heard them reacting publicly to these stories. (To be continued)

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