“Our leaders are in Beijing for the APEC Summit and by divine intervention, we are here. And it was also by divine intervention that the Sulu king was buried here as a sign of the early friendship between China and the Philippines,” Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos said.
Relampagos, chair of the House committee on tourism, said China ranks third in terms of tourist arrivals in the Philippines, next to South Korea, the United States and Japan. Chinese tourist arrivals for the period January to July this year numbered 268,028, up by 8.53 percent.
Teresita Ang-See, secretary general of the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas, said the sultan traveled to China, along with a 340-member delegation, in 1417 to improve relations between Sulu and China.
See said the sultan was welcomed by the Chinese Ming Emperor Zhu Di. However, the sultan fell ill on his way back to Sulu and died.
Upon learning of the sultan’s death, the Ming emperor ordered grand funeral rites. The mausoleum in Dezhou was in accordance with China’s imperial tradition.
Following the sultan’s death, his eldest son returned to Sulu to assume the throne. The sultan’s second and third sons – Paduka Wenhala and Paduka Andulu – stayed behind for the traditional mourning and to take care of his grave. They stayed in China and the emperor granted them land. They married local girls and subsequently became Chinese citizens.
The tour was organized by tycoon Carlos Chan, chairman emeritus of Liwayway Marketing Corp., which has numerous plants in China. Chan is also special envoy to China.
“With our long history of friendly relations with China, there is no reason why it should not be our number one partner in tourism. We hope in the near future China will be the Philippines’ number one tourism partner through the help of the private sector like Ambassador Chan,” Relampagos said during the visit to the Sulu sultan’s tomb.
Filipino company Liwayway Marketing Corporation is building its biggest plant yet in China – a factory sitting on a 33-hectare land provided by the Shandong government, said Chan. The company is the maker of popular snack brand Oishi.
Oishi’s tagline “Shang Hao Jia!” literally means “topmost, best, excellent” and its vast reach in Asia, particularly in China, shows that it has not fallen short of its brand’s expectations.
During a tour of the snack firm’s facility in Jiyang county, Chan said the plant is set to be completed in two years’ time.
Even Zu Aiming, party secretary for Jiyang county in the city of Jinan, recognizes the Filipino company’s contribution to the local economy. According to her, most of the food companies located in Jiyang are Taiwanese.
“Liwayay is a famous food enterprise from Southeast Asia. They focus on high quality products,” she said. Since its entry into the Chinese market in the early 1990s, the ubiquitous Oishi bird has soared high, now with 15 factories all over China.
From repacking starch – the famous Liwayway gawgaw in the 1940s – Liwayway has grown into an international Filipino brand with 29 factories all over Asia.
Started in the 1946 by Chan’s parents, immigrants from Fujian province, Liwayway Marketing first ventured into repacking of starch and coffee.
The company name, which literally means “dawn” in Tagalog, showed their optimism in the Philippine economy following the war, says Chan. Carlos and his brother incorporated and eventually expanded the business venture.
Chan started the Oishi brand in 1973 through the shrimp and prawn cracker products Oishi and Kirei. Both are Japanese products (“Oishi” literally means delicious, while “Kirei” means beautiful).
Four decades later, Liwayway Marketing’s Oishi has established a stronghold in China and was the first non-Chinese brand awarded with the “Shanghai Famous Brand,” said Chan’s son, Larry, president of Liwayway China.
In fact, for the first 15 years in China, everyone thought it was actually a Shanghai brand, Larry said.
The elder Chan targeted Shanghai – the economic center of China – in the late 1980s, eventually opening up the first factory in 1993. Since then, the elder Chan has built 15 plants – 10 focusing on its snacks production, three for juice manufacturing and two for packaging.
Larry said the schemes provided by the Chinese government have been very conducive for expansion. These include free lands, subsidies, tax breaks and even construction of factories at no cost.
Larry added the Oishi brand now has four clusters of products: snack food (its biggest), potato chips, confectionary and juices. According to him, the brand’s strength is its wide-range of products, including its healthier offerings of products that use a variety of natural ingredients and with generally lower oil or fat content. The Oishi brand even has the “Uyghur series” that caters to China’s Muslim region in the northwest.
At present, Oishi’s biggest market is central and northeastern China, according to Larry. The elder Chan said the Oishi brand has been so strong in China that some have tried copying its products. “Some Chinese brands have tried but their number has dwindled,” he said.
For three years, Liwayway has been awarded as one of the top 10 successful ASEAN companies entering China.
In 2005, the elder Chan was awarded “Honorary Citizen of Shanghai” by Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng.
Zu herself recognizes Chan and his brand’s recall here. “He is a well-known person in Jinan now,” she says of the Filipino tycoon, whom she acknowledges has contributed greatly to Philippine-China friendship.
A few years ago, Chan donated P14 million for the renovation of the complex where the tomb of Sulu Sultan Paduka Patara stands. The Shandong government learned about the donation and doubled the amount.
Chan said the Ming emperor had ordered a portrait of the Sulu sultan garbed in red, to signify his being king, before the sultan died. The portrait is on display by the entrance of the complex. Its replica is also on display at the Dezhou city museum.
Part of the Filipino delegation, Panglima Sugala Mayor Rejie Sahali, became emotional during the visit at the tomb of the sultan, her ancestor. Her father, former Tawi-Tawi governor Sadikul Sahali, is originally from Jolo. During the visit, she and her brother Nurjay met the other descendants of the sultan now living in Shandong.