Philippine Chinese Charitable Association gets by with a little help from friends

Philippine Chinese Charitable Association gets by with a little help from friends 
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

Institutions like the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center and the Chinese Cemetery have been around for so long that many people take them for granted. What a lot of people don't know is that both were founded and is still managed by a not so little group called the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association (PCCA).

It is composed of Chinese-Filipino businessmen who, true to the name of the association, give back to the community that sustains them. The PCCA also owns and operates the hospital's nursing college, a charity clinic, and a retirement home.

The current crop of officers have been actively infusing changes and improvements to their resources, heeding the directives of the association for civic-action, and living up to the heritage passed down by more than a century of past leaders.

The PCCA traces it beginnings as far back as 1877, when the Spanish government created the position of Capitan de Sangley (Chinese Captain) to administer the affairs of the local Chinese which included monitoring their trade and commerce as well as overseeing education and civic programs.

Prominent Chinese were appointed to this position and the first capitan, Lim Ong, donated land for a cemetery due to the fact that Chinese weren't allowed to be buried in Catholic cemeteries. The second capitan, Mariano Yu, purchased additional land from Dominican friars for the construction of the Chung Hok Tong temple. A clinic, which would go on to become the Chinese General Hospital, was built in 1891 under the aegis of Capitan Carlos Palanca Tanchueco.

In 1907, after the defeat of the Spanish colonists and during the occupation of the Americans, the different properties and assets of the group were consolidated into a corporation named Communidad De Chinos. The collective's new legal status enabled to them to do more work, such as putting up a nursing school in 1921, and purchase more real estate, like their office space in downtown Manila in 1934.

Phoenix rising 
When World War II broke out in 1941, then president Go Pin Chiu was arrested by the Japenese Kempeitai for his involvement in the anti-Japanese movement. Operations were halted and did not resume until Tan Unliong became president in 1945.

As the group started to become active again amidst the post-war rebuilding, it suffered an identity crisis in the late 1950s when its government registration was up for renewal. Despite some initial internal disputes, it was decided that Communidad De Chinos would be reborn with a new name: Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc.

Chua Kwei Lim was named the new president on June 15, 1958, carrying on the mandate of using the group's assets for charitable endeavors. Since then, a host of notable personalities have served as president or chairman of the board.

Even with term limits for the presidency, the likes of Vicente Dysun Sr., D.K. Chiong, George Lee See Kiat, and Johnny Cheng enjoyed the honor of being re-elected several times over. James Dy was elected into the presidency of the twelfth board of directors in 1987.

With business interests in music recording, real estate, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and travel-toursim, Dy has since been re-elected several times and has effectively been leading the PCCA for close to two decades now.

From the initial system of having fifteen directors, with three seats reserved for representatives of the Cantonese Association and the rest for Fookien representatives, the PCCA now has twenty-five directors. Current officers include executive vice-chairman Florante Dy, and vice-chairmen Chua Kee Lin and Siy Yap Chua.

Latest milestones
Among other achievements, this current batch of officers are credited with streamlining the management of PCCA's hospital and nursing college by implementing a separation of administrative responsibilities for the two institutions.

The nursing school started with only 21 students. Today, it is a full-fledged college with around 1,400 students. The hospital, on the other hand, undergoes continuous renovations and expansions. It celebrated the 10th year anniversary of its Heart Institute last year.

And, yes, charity still lies at the heart of these PCCA institutions. The hospital has more than one hundred beds in its charity ward, averaging 3,500 charity cases a year, and it provides free medical care for employees of many government agencies and NGOs. It also sends its staff to render free medical consultations to indigent patients at the group's charity clinic located in the PCCA office building in Binondo.

The PCCA has also recently inaugurated a newly constructed retirement home, aptly called the PCCA-Home for the Aged, located in one of the many properties owned by the group. The new structure cost P20M to build and is an addition to the original home built in 1951. Medical care for the residents are provided by the hospital while funding for the home is provided by contributions from the Filipino-Chinese community as well as annual fund-raising efforts done in partnership with United Daily News.

The PCCA does not limit its generosity to the Manila area. It has held medical and relief missions to provinces throughout the nation. Neither does it curb assistance to Chinese-Filipinos only. The credo is to help others regardless of race or religion. In a time when the world is making headway in breaking borders, extending aid and embracing diversity, it's good to know there's been a group of people who've been doing the same thing for quite a while now.

Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc. (PCCA) 1122-1126 Soler St., Binondo, Manila Tels.: 244-7231 to 34

The mother of all business clubs

Prior to 1904, only music associations were legally permitted by the Spanish government. When business-interest groups were finally allowed to be formed, the same Chinese merchants who became involved and banded together in the seminal beginnings of the PCCA also became the same group of people who formed the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Since then, both groups have more or less shared the same members and officers.

James Dy, Emeritus President of Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (FCGCC), claims, "We are the oldest business organization in the country. We are the mother of all business clubs."

It has been involved in protecting the business interests of the Chinese community and claims to have been the "biggest Chinese trade chamber" from the 40s to the 50s. The FCGCC celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2004 and marked the event with the creation of a commemorative postage stamp.

Dy admits that from the 50s to the 80s, it suffered a "low season" due to politics. In 1958, Ralph Nubla of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCGCII), which had been formed in 1954, offered ten seats in its board to the leaders of the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

One of these seats was given to Dy. However, internal disagreements spurred Dy to leave the Federation with his colleagues in 1988 and return to what is now known as the Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

As with the PCCA, Dy has been leading the General Chamber of Commerce since then. He boasts that the individuals who were at loggerheads with him back in the Federation now concedes, "that it was a mistake to let me go." [The Federation and its splinter group, the Chinese Filipino Business Club, were featured in the first issue of Asian Dragon. Ed.]

He points out that the reins of leadership will eventually have to be passed on to a deserving candidate who understands the sacrifice involved. "I am scouting for a successor to lead both PCCA and FCGCC. It is more demanding than your own business and it takes time away from your family because you are, in effect, serving the entire Filipino-Chinese community."