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Filipinos in Liverpool Capetown,SA(Part 5)

Filipinos in Liverpool (Part V).

I started the ‘Filipinos in Liverpool’ story years ago when I discovered a Filipino settlement near the Mersey side area around the mid-1860s. These were the seafarers who found the Atlantic Ocean, facilitated with the opening of the Suez Canal during that decade. The canal bypassed going around the southern tip of Africa, almost cutting the trip by half.  The congregation around Frederick Street is explained on my Liverpool Part I

I remember John, who was part of the De La Cruz family mention another uncle. Francis De La Cruz left Liverpool for South Africa in the early 1900s. Although Francis adopted his mother’s family name I kept it open, hoping that with the internet we would find the other bookend.  I am still digesting a new discovery when an email from the grandson of Francis arrived last week. From John’s story found on, we get this excerpt:

Her eldest child, Francis, is stated as being 10 years old so she would have been barely 18 years old when she bore him. Josephina is 7, John is 5 and Madeline is 2, all born in Liverpool. I know for certain that this is my branch of the De La Cruz clan. Firstly, John is my grandfather, John de la Cruz II. I have early childhood memories of Auntie Fina (Josephina). I remember that she had a parrot which bit my finger when I tried to stroke it! 

I also recall my father telling me that his Uncle Francis went to live in South Africa in the 1920’s. Because of South Africa’s strict race laws he changed his surname to Winn, his mother’s maiden name. Family tradition says that he went on to become the harbormaster at Durban, South Africa. I still have to verify this. [note: this was few years ago]

Last week I got this email from Christopher Paul Winn: winncris.jpg

I came across your site when I googled Lita Rosa and the De La Cruz family name. My name is Christopher Paul Winn and I think we are related thru my father Herbert Winn who was the son of Francis Vincent Delacruz (who had subsequently changed his name back to his mother's maiden name, Winn) and Francisca Macranus. I was born in Wynberg, Cape Town South Africa, and I now live in Atlanta GA. I have eight siblings, my parents had left South Africa in 1968 and we had lived in Guyana, South America where some of my family still reside. My sister, Allyson Flack, who is visiting me now lives in the Isle of Man. winnwifedaughter44s.jpg

My wife's name is Roseanne and my daughter's name is Annabel.

My father's (Herbert Winn) father was born Sept 1870 Francis Vincent Delacruz, who had changed his name to his mother's maiden name, Winn, when he left the merchant marine  and settled in Cape Town. My grandfather married Francisca Veronica Macranus in Kalk Bay Cape Town, who was also of Filipino extraction in 1900.  I have a certified copy of my grandfather's birth certificate, he was born in the sub district of Dale Street in the county of Lancaster, Liverpool ast 3 Court Brook Street. His parents were John Delacruz and Elizabeth Delacruz of Liverpool.

I immediately copied John and the cousins are now rewired. Everyone is still trying to fiqure how the separation in time and space happened. Christopher, the grandson of Francis Delacruz, is now residing in Atlanta.  His next letter was even more interesting when he mentioned Filipinos settled in South Africa centuries ago. He wrote and let me converge the tales of two seaports: 

Winn when he settled in Cape Town: I am unsure when exactly he settled in Cape Town. I have a copy of my grandfather's certificate of discharge when he was in Pensacola FL d/d June 1897; he was 26 years old at the time. The name of the ship was " Kelverdale,” Offical Number 80.087, Port of Registry: St John NE (sic). So he had had to have gone to South Africa between June 1897 but before he married in May 1900. I have his marriage certificate which I had gotten a copy of in the mid 1970's because I was trying to get a British passport (I also have his British birth certificate). My grandfather was married in May 1900 in the parish of St. James (Kalk Bay) to Francisca Macranus who was Filipino as well. Francisca was 17 at the time and Francis was 30. There are still  Macranus' living in Kalk Bay today which is a very picturesque fishing village. I was told by my father (Herbert Winn) Kalk Bay was founded by Filipino fishermen who may been have stranded in Cape Town. My father was an art teacher at the Kalk Bay Primary School and I attended my first year of school there in 1961.

There were already Filipinos in South Africa before Francis arrived in 1900? Where is this Kalk Bay?

With the ongoing news about the North African Pirates and the captured Filipino seafarers in the pirate-infested North African coast of Somalia, let me shift back south of the old continent. (history of Kalk Bay)

Of all the towns and villages in South Africa there must be very few, if any, which have had a more interesting and fascinating history than Kalk Bay. Its modern day history started when the Dutch East India Company proclaimed Simon's Bay a winter anchorage for their ships from May 15th to August 15th each year from 1742.

The whaling boom was short-lived, as killing the female Southern Right Whale who had come to calve in the warm waters of the False Bay, soon resulted in almost total extinction of the whale population around these shores. By 1835 Kalk Bay again became a 'backwater' but this stagnation again did not last long for in the mid-1840s a Filipino crew who were ship-wrecked at Cape Point settled at Kalk Bay. They found the climate most favorable but above all the abundance of the fish in the False Bay was almost too good to be true.

They persuaded fellow Filipinos, who crewed on Yankee sugar ships that lay at anchor in Simon's Bay, to desert their ships and join them in Kalk Bay where their leader, Felix Florez, would provide them with shelter and fishing gear. The Filipino populations of Kalk Bay slowly grew and the anti-Spanish riots in the Philippines in the 1850s resulted in thousands of refugees fleeing the Philippines, and a good many joined their countrymen in Kalk Bay. Their numbers were reduced somewhat in 1898 when America took possession of the Philippines and many returned home.

The families, who stayed, some 60 odd, still have descendants in the village to this day and the names of de la Cruz, Fernandez, Menigo and Erispe still appear in St James Catholic School register. Delacruz?

By Lawrence G. Green published by Howard B Timmins Monarch house

One hears several romantic stories about the origin of the Filipinos who have been at Kalk Bay, and also in the Italian quarter of Cape Town, for more than eighty years.
In fact, they arrived very much as the Greeks did.

One bold pioneer named Felix Florez settled at Kalk Bay in the 'sixties of the (19th) century.
He is said to have arrived in Alabama. At all events Florez persuaded otsher Filipino sailors to join him, and so the community grew.

The story that these swarthy Spanish-speaking people were all shipwrecked, some on the Cape coast, is merely a legend. It was the revolt of the Philippine Islanders against Spain in 1872 that gave the impetus to the movement to Cape Town. Conditions were none too pleasant then, and refugees found sanctuary at Kalk Bay.

By the time of the first British occupation in 1795, Kalk Bay was already an established fishing village, and in the early 1800s it boomed briefly as a whaling station. In 1840 the community was swelled by shipwrecked Filipinos who settled there to fish, and later by the arrival of the railway in 1883, which brought visitors, boarding houses and seaside homes for the wealthy in its wake.

the number of them died in the smallpox epidemic of 1882, but the survivors kept the Spanish countenances which you still see on the waterfront.
These were the people among whom that great Roman Catholic priest Father Duignam worked for half a century. When "Father John" arrived in 1874 the Filipinos were sailing to Simonstown in their fishing boats every Sunday; for the track was often impassable, and there was no railway. Father Duignam built the white thatched church St. James, and which gave its name to the suburb.

An event worth recording in the Filipino community in Cape Town was the birth of quadruplets. Captain and Mrs. Bascilia Bessies of Riebeek Street were the parents, and the quadruplets were born on May 29 1906. Captain Bessies was skipper of one of the Stephan coasters. He is dead, but I believe Mrs. Bessies is still living in Cape Town. Two of the “quads " died at the age of twelve month and one at seventeen years. The survivor served in the army in the Middle East during the recent war, and was wounded in the leg. Not long ago he assured me that his health was perfect.

 Early History of First Filipino Settlers in the Western Cape (Kalk Bay), South Africa

Kalk Bay, the little fishing village in the Western Cape, witnessed the arrival of the first Filipino (fishermen) settlers in the history of South Africa. With the abundance of fish in False Bay, the arrival of these Filipinos in the mid-1800’s signaled a major development in the establishment of a fishing industry in Kalk Bay. Soon thereafter, as huge crowds descended on Kalk Bay, a new community was formed from 1895 to 1913.

Quite a number of stories have been told of how these Filipino fisher folks found their way into Kalk Bay, and here are some of those:

A ship from the Philippines was wrecked near Cape Point (c.1860) and rested in Kalk Bay while trying to make its way to Cape Town. Ship deserters then settled in Kalk Bay; these were Filipinos who fled from the Philippines after the rise of national sentiment, which resulted in imprisonments or exile from Spanish rule;

Felix Florez, who came from the island of Panay, and who was born of a Spanish father and a Filipino mother, a devout Catholic until his death in the 1890’s, became the leader of a small community of the Filipinos who settled in Kalk Bay. He was respected and feared, and established himself quite well, as well as becoming a source of security to all Filipinos in the little fishing village.

Although there were fish enough in the False Bay, life in the little fishing village was not at all a bed of roses. These fishermen were forced to row and sail their fishing boats as far into the False Bay in search of fish and returned only after a few days. Back sprains, ruptures, heart and muscular ailments, flu and fever (especially during winter season), were common ailments being experienced by these fisher folks, over and above the meager income they received after all their hard day’s work. Medical reports and church records indicated that the life span of these fishermen was between 40 and 50 years.

As a result, other members of the family like the wives and their children, particularly the boys, were sent to work as domestics in houses and hotels and trained in the basic skills of fishing, chopping and collection of wood at times.

During these hard times, Father Duignam (1874-1925), the Venerable Archdeacon Richard Brooke (1901-1922), and Lt. Col. Henry Ashton (1860-1871), attended to the needs of the community as follows:

  • Gave assistance to those affected by the great flu epidemic of 1918;
  • Instigated many petitions in the interests of the fishermen;
  • Offered decent burial services to fishermen;
  • Built a Catholic church at St. James;
  • Became mentors and benefactors to the Filipino fishermen.

After the Spanish and American occupations, most of the Filipino fishermen stayed in South Africa but never forgot their mother land. It was alleged that there were about 30 to 40 true-blooded Filipinos that remained (and later multiplied in the course of inter-marriages with the other people) in Kalk Bay.

Today, although few in numbers, some of these fishermen moved on and established themselves in other parts of the Cape peninsula, but their stories remain untold.

Later, many emancipated slaves from Batavia, Java and Malaysia settled in Kalk Bay and fishing became their life skill. From 1955 onwards fishing stock were reduced due to “over fishing”. Today the harbor still operates on a small scale and one is still able to purchase fresh fish off the boats. The village has a bohemic quality and boasts many bric a brac and antique shops, perfect for browsing, as well as a number of fine restaurants. - Michael J Walker,
Kalk Bay Historical Association

Felix Florez, one of the first Filipino ship deserters (1873) from a South Confederate Ship, allegedly influenced many Filipino crewmembers to desert their ships while anchored off Simon’s Town.

Further along the Cape Peninsula are the charming seaside towns of the southern suburbs. Interestingly, Kalk Bay, one of the quaintest and most beautiful towns in the area, was founded by Filipino seamen who jumped ship in Cape Town in the late 19th century. It's even possible to bump into some of the descendants of these first Filipino overseas Filipino workers, who still have family names like Pastor, Cabacungan and Bautista.

At the end of the Cape Peninsula lies the Cape of Good Hope, an ironic name given the treacherous and perilous waters that have claimed the lives of many sailors. Cape Horn or the Strait of Magellan is the American counterpart.

St James is named for the Catholic Church built in 1858 to cater to the Filipino community that settled there after shipwrecked mariners discovered the rich fishing grounds of False Bay and encouraged other Filipinos from cargo boats carrying sugar to jump ship. Imhoffs Gift on the road to Kommetjie was given to widow Christina Rousseau.

Felix FLOREZ born: JUL 1844 in
Philippines Panay Island
death: 1 MAR 1884 in Kalk Bay 
CSS Alabama enters Table Bay at 10:00 AM August 5, 1863.

  Felix Florez seems to have been a memorable character. His father was Spanish and his mother Filipino. He had a shop at Kalk Bay where he sold fishing tackle. As head of the community he maintained the old Philippine traditions. For many years these poor fishermen still contributed to charities in Manila. florezalabama.jpg

I am little bit of an amateur historian who has been researching the Filipinos who participated in the US Civil War. I already found one veteran who fought for the confederate. There were the “privateers” working for both sides. Joseph Cruz Del Cano, native of Manila, served aboard Savannah, which was captured by the Union Navy in 1862.  He was then incarcerated at Fort Lafayette. He requested an Oath of Allegiance, and his wife lived in Liverpool, England. They were charged with piracy. Upon hearing this, President Davis contacted President Lincoln after the battle of Manassas and threatened to hang a federal officer for every crewmember found guilty.

Del Cano, in correspondence sent from Fort Lafayette, dated February 12, 1862, and co-signed by fellow inmates, mentions that he was a native of Manila, but a resident of Liverpool, England. Fort Lafayette served as the Union prison camp for confederate prisoners. Traffic from Liverpool was screened closely as the defiant and elusive CSS Alabama was built in Liverpool for the Confederate Navy.

Del Cano probably went back to Liverpool, but we will never know if he was an actual agent for the Confederacy or not.

I now wonder if Joseph Cruz Del Cano was related; but regardless, he probably got some reprieve when he claimed, although a resident of Liverpool, he was a native of Manila He was the only known veteran who might have fought for the Confederate.

This Felix Florez escapade in Kalk Bay is daunting at the least with the image of the CSS Alabama raiding the Union maritime

The Delacruz Family from the Philippines came by the sea and ship. The seafaring tradition among the Filipino is almost legendary but it also the vehicle that brought these people to America. The Winn Family just took the circuitous journey, from Liverpool, Kalik Bay, Guyana to America. The opening of the Suez Canal in the later part of the 1860 provided a more direct route to Europe from the Far East. The increased the marine traffic in the continent brought more Filipino Seafarers. . It also diminished the value of Cape town and forgot the presence of the Filipino community in this part of the world.  My grandfather, Enrique travelling with Magellan passed by this route in the early 16th century on his first and only trip to Europe ( The Filipino participation in the US Civil War has been my passion, the picture of a Filipino American soldier in Union uniform has been my treasure. Now I could add the picture of Felix Florez of the CSS Alabama in the inventory. .

Chris Winn sent article published in South Africa half century ago about the Filipinos in Capetown. Click


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