A Cebu Street Named Sanciangko

Sanciangko street in downtown Cebu City.

A few weeks ago after finding my coin collection in my parents' house while vacationing in Manila, I decided to finally organize them. I started looking for coin albums in books

Unfortunately, I wasn't successful in any of the Manila stores that I went to. I ordered online but since the supplies were coming from China, it would take a couple of weeks. When I got back to Cebu, somebody mentioned that I should inquire in People's Supplies store which is located on Sanciangko street in downtown Cebu. 

One Saturday afternoon, I visited the store but to no avail. My friend and I decided to search in Elizabeth Mall which was just down the street. While walking towards the mall, I noticed Cebu Coliseum and the University of Cebu as well as a Sogo Motel (which is notorious during Valentine's week) on the same street. 

I always thought that Sanciangko was a Cebuano term or word with a Chinese origin. It never occurred to me that the street was named after a 19th century Ilustrado, a native Filipino, an illuminated intellectual. 

Whoever thought of the street names in this area of downtown Cebu sure knows a lot about Philippine History. 

An Intellectual Revolution

It was by chance that I came across the name Gregorio Sancianco (Filipinized spelling: Sanciangko) while reading about the 1872 Cavite Mutiny and the fight of the Filipino Clergy starting with Father Pedro Pelaez (another future post in the making).

By the 1860s, most colonies of Spain in South America declared themselves independent. All of their attention now was directed to the Philippines and Cuba. With the Glorious Revolution of 1868, where Isabela II was deposed, the liberals dominated the Spanish Government. They sent their ally, Carlos Ma. de la Torre as the new governor-general of the Philippines in 1869. It emboldened the aspirations of the broad-minded Filipinos, the term Ilustrados will be associated to these 'radicals'.

Gregorio Sancianco y Gozon was part of the first-generation Ilustrados who were inspired by the enlightened native priests. He was born in the Tonsuya district (present-day Tambobong) of Malabon to Chinese Mestizo parents on March 7th, 1852. 

A memorial bust of Gregorio Sancianco in Malabon. Photo: wikicommons

Schools in the 19th century were dominated by the Religious Orders. Most University graduates became lawyers, scribes or priests. The study of Pharmacy and Medicine were only introduced in the Philippines by the 1870s.

In 1869, university students composed of Mestizos (mostly Chinese mestizos) and Indios across various schools organized Juventud Escolar Liberal. The organization was part of the Comite de Reformadores (Reformist Committee) which was working for Filipino secular priests to gain their own rights. 

The reforms that Juventud Escolar Liberal wanted were to change the curriculum in the universities and the way that the Friars interacted with their students (they wanted the priests to show respect towards them).

Student activism and political lobbying  became the means of forwarding their ideas. In Rizal's second novel El Filibusterismo, a representation of Juventud Escolar Liberal was part of the plot. 

Colegiales de Manila (students of Manila), 1847, by Jose Honorato Lozano. University colors of the 1840s: University of Santo Tomas in green, San Juan de Letran in blue and Colegio de San Jose in maroon.

Proponents of the movement were Gregorio Sancianco, Paciano Mercado Rizal (Jose Rizal's older brother) and Felipe Buencamino. Paciano Mercado was closely linked to Father Jose Burgos, the successor to Father Pelaez. Father Burgos was the most-titled alumnus of the Unibersidad de Santo Tomas, earning a total of 8 degrees: 3 bachelors, 2 licentiates and 2 doctorates.

By 1872, de la Torre was out and Rafael Izquierdo was the new governor-general. In February of that unforgettable year, Fathers Burgos, Jacinto Zamora, and Mariano Gomes were implicated in the Cavite Mutiny. Charged with treason and sedition, the three priests were garroted in Bagumbayan, just outside the walls of Intramuros. 

The Exodus 

Aside from the arrests, executions, and imprisonment, various personalities connected with the 1872 mutiny were deported to the Marianas. Some decided to leave the Philippines and relocated to Spain. 

Rizal paid homage to 1872 which paved the way for the Ilustrado movement and became the seeds of nationalism and identity:

"Were it not for 1872 there would not be any Plaridel, or Jaena, or Sancianco, nor would the valiant and generous Filipino colonies in Europe exist; were it not for 1872, Rizal would now be a Jesuit, and instead of writing the Noli Me Tangere, would have written the contrary. At the sight of these injustices, and cruelties though still a child my imagination awoke, and I swore that I would dedicate myself to avenge one day so many victims, and with this idea I have gone on studying, and this can be read in all my works and writing. God will one day grant the opportunity to fulfill my promise."  

One of those who continued their education in Spain was Gregorio Sancianco. The Pardo de Taveras and Pedro Paterno also immigrated to Europe in the 1870s. The second version of the Ilustrado movement that sprung in the 1880s were advocating for the Philippines to become a Spanish Province; equality among the Spaniards, mestizos, indios, and Chinese ruled by the same laws. The policy of assimilation was what they were fighting for. 

Sancianco studied law at Santo Tomas and continued on to Universidad Central de Madrid where he obtained a doctorate in civil and canon law, and a licentiate in administrative law. 

In 1881, Sancianco wrote and published El Progreso de Filipinas while in Spain. It covered economic problems in the Philippines, infrastructure, tax and fiscal policies, and reform of the educational system. It was an academic approach to what can be achieved in the country if the Spanish government dedicated itself to promoting progress and changes to its colony. 

"Spanish is spoken throughout the islands but only by the peninsulars, their families and some who have studied... In fact, in the very walled city of Manila which has always been the residence of the peninsulars, this language is hardly known by the indigenous residents there (mostly the servants of Spaniards). This is due to neglect of primary education all over the archipelago."

El Progreso was reviewed in La Oceania EspaƱola in 1882. When Rizal wrote his essay, Sobre la indolencia de los Filipinos, Sancianco's treatise was used as one of his references.  

Title page of Sancianco's El Progreso de Filipinas

Sometime after the publication of El Progreso, Sancianco returned to the Philippines and settled in Nueva Ecija. By May 1884, he was falsely implicated in the Santa Ana, Pangasinan uprising led by Andres Novicio. He was arrested but was eventually released in September 1884. 

He assimilated in Nueva Ecijan society and was named a justice of peace. He had to retire from civil service due to his quarrel with a Cabanatuan parish priest. He eventually joined the law firm of Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista in Manila. 

He would die in 1897, unknown or forgotten by the new faces of a different kind of revolution (e.g. Mabini, Bonifacio, Aguinaldo, et al.). 


Old Manila, 2nd Edition, Carlos L. Quirino, Vibal Publishing, 2016. 

Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People, Volume 4, Life in the Colony, Maria Serena Diokno and Ramon N. Villegas, Asia Publishing Company Limited, 1998. 

Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People, Volume 5, Reform and Revolution, Milagros C. Guerrero, John N. Schumacher, S.J. Asia Publishing Company Limited, 1998.  


Anonymous said…
If Sancianco came from Chinese ancestry, maybe his real chinese spelling was Sun Chiang kho or San Chiang ko. During the old times, some Filipinos with foreign ancestry consciously change their surnames to avoid being caught or not to be wrongly identified by the authorities. Just like the surname Cojuangco. The original chinese spelling is Kho Hwuang Kho