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Throughout the Spanish Colonial Period, the Chinese outnumbered the Spanish colonizers by ten to one, and at least I\on two occasions tried to grab the power, but their revolts were quickly put down by joint forces composed of indigenous Filipinos, Japanese, and Spanish.Following the mostly unpleasant initial interaction with the Spaniards, most ethnic Chinese in Manila and in the rest of the Philippines started to focus on retail trade and service industry in order to avoid massacres and forced deportations to China.Most of the Chinese who arrived during the early Spanish period were Cantonese from "Canton, Nyngo, Chincheo, and Macau", who worked as stevedores and porters, as well as those skilled in the mechanical arts.

Nevertheless, the Chinese were able to settle in the Philippines with the help of other Chinese Filipinos, despite strict American law enforcement, usually through "adopting" relatives from Mainland or by assuming entirely new identities with new names.

The privileged position of the Chinese as middlemen of the economy under Spanish colonial rule quickly fell, as the Americans favored the principalía (educated elite) formed by Chinese mestizos and Spanish mestizos.

As American rule in the Philippines started, events in Mainland China starting from the Taiping Rebellion, Chinese Civil War, and Boxer Rebellion led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty, which led thousands of Chinese from Fujian province in China to migrate en masse to the Philippines to avoid poverty, worsening famine, and political persecution.

This group eventually formed the bulk of the current population of unmixed Chinese Filipinos.

During the Spanish Colonial Period, the term Sangley was used to refer to people of unmixed Chinese ancestry while the term Mestizo de Sangley was used to classify persons of mixed Chinese and indigenous Filipino ancestry; both are now out of date in terms of usage.

"Indigenous Filipino", or simply "Filipino", is used in this article to refer to the Austronesian inhabitants prior to the Spanish Conquest of the islands.During the Spanish Colonial Period, the term Indio was used.They are one of the three major ethnic groupings in the Philippines, namely: Christian Filipinos (73% of the population-including indigenous ethnic minorities), Muslim Filipinos (5% of the population) and Chinese Filipinos (27% of the population-including Chinese mestizos).When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, there was already a significant population of Chinese migrants due to the relationship between the barangays (city-states) of the island of Luzon, and the Ming dynasty.The first encounter of the Spanish authorities with the Chinese was not entirely pleasant - several Chinese pirates under the leadership of Limahong, who proceeded to besiege the newly established Spanish capital in Manila in 1574.He tried to capture the city of Manila in vain and was subsequently beaten by the combined Spanish and native forces under the leadership of Juan de Salcedo in 1575.Almost simultaneously, the Chinese imperial admiral Homolcong arrived in Manila where he was well received.During the waning years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines in the 19th century, the Philippines was referred to as an "Anglo-Chinese colony with a Spanish flag" in reference to the majority of the colony's trade and industry being conducted by the Chinese while exports were controlled by British merchants.It was during this period that the population of the Mestizos de Sangley (Chinese mestizos) greatly increased.Many Chinese-Filipinos joined the guerrilla movement of the Philippine-Chinese Anti-Japanese guerrilla resistance fighter unit or Wa Chi Movement, The new-found unity between the ethnic Chinese migrants and the indigenous Filipinos against a common enemy - the Japanese, served as a catalyst in the formation of a Chinese Filipino identity who started to regard the Philippines as their home.The election of Ferdinand Marcos to the Philippine presidency brought forth much of the changes within the Chinese Filipino community.

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