Filipino fishers left their mark
Descendants tell of settlers who came to Kalk Bay
FOR MANY people, Heritage Day is about their South African roots. But
South African heritage is complex and represents a number of cultures.
In the mid-1800s, Filipino sailors settled in Kalk Bay, where they integrated into the fishing community. They became known as the Manilas, after the Filipino capital. Today, there are a number of descendants of the settlers from the Philippines spread across the peninsula.
Tony Trimmel descended from the Erispe family, who settled in Kalk Bay. He still lives there and is a member of the Kalk Bay Ratepayers’ Association and the Kalk Bay Historical Association.
He said the Filipino heritage was a rich one that should not be forgotten.
He explained when the first Filipino settlers arrived in Kalk Bay, they found a place as fishermen.
“Many of them owned their own fishing vessels and owned their own properties,” he said.
Although they adapted to life in
Kalk Bay, he said they brought their own language and culture. They spoke a mixture of Spanish and their native tongue, Tagalog.
Up to the 1970s, there were still fullblooded Filipinos, who spoke the native Filipino language. “As the years passed they adapted to the Afrikaans language.”
St James Catholic Church was established in 1859 to serve the staunchly Catholic Filipino community but not where it stands today. It was where the St James railway station is now.
When the railway line was built, the church had to go and the new one opened its doors in 1901.
Trimmel said although there were still a number of Filipino descendants living in Kalk Bay, many had moved to different parts of Cape Town.
Because the Filipinos were avid fishermen, their diet was rich in fish.
“When there were scarce fishing days, we had access to klipkous, which we would collect off the rocks,” said Trimmel.
They would use it to make delicious frikkadels.
“In Kalk Bay, we had the best of everything.”
He said a group was working on documenting the Filipino heritage, so it didnt get lost through the generations. “The elders are dying out.”
Stephanie Eckardt, a descendent of Severo Pastor, who settled in Kalk Bay, explained although the facts around her grandfather’s arrival were unclear, there were a number of stories about it.
“As far as we know, my grandfather came to South Africa but he was supposed to go to Spain,” she said.
She said he was in his late twenties when he arrived in Kalk Bay in the late 1800s alone. He corresponded regularly with his family in the Philippines.
He was born in Leyte, in Palompon, in the Philippines on September 27, 1866.
Eckardt still has a copy of her grandfather’s baptism certificate. He became a fisherman and stone mason.
He married a Filipino woman, the daughter of one of his friends, in October 1897 at St James Catholic Church.
“She was much younger than him.” Her grandparents moved to Loader Street in Green Point, where the family lived for a number of years until the Group Areas Act came into effect.
“I vaguely remember my grandmother. I was 6 when she died and my grandfather died in 1932. I never met my grandfather.”
She remembers her family members always talking about their Filipino heritage.
Every few years, the Pastor family has a reunion to stay in touch with relatives from across the world.
In 2013, the reunion was in Cape Town. Next year, it will be in the Philippines.
“Our family in Cape Town is still very much in contact with each other.”
Eckardt said it was important for people to know where they came from.
“I think it is quite something to know your heritage. I am happy we still have some documentation that shows our heritage.”
In 1944 her uncle Apolinario Pastor – who was president of the Philippine Commonwealth League of South Africa – wrote a letter, highlighting Philippine Commonwealth National Day, which was to be celebrated on Sunday, November 12, 1944, at St James Church.
An extract from the letter reads: “I am hereby making an earnest appeal to all the families of Filipino descent to make a special effort to attend. It is now more than ever, that you all should join together in prayer for the success of the liberating armies now invading the Philippines, to speedily clear the Japanese from the beloved homeland of our fathers. The service will serve a dual purpose, the mass will also be offered up for all those Filipinos now deceased in South Africa.”
To preserve the Filipino heritage, a proposal has been put forward to name the steps near the Filipino cemetery in Kalk Bay the Manila Steps in memory of the “Manilas”, the early settlers.
Brett Herron, chairperson of the city’s Naming and Nomination Committee, said the proposal had been submitted by the Kalk Bay Historical Association.
“The association deemed it appropriate to honour the contribution made by these early settlers. The City of Cape Town’s Naming and Nomination Committee on March 8 discussed the proposal and subsequently recommended to the executive mayor Patricia de Lille that the city undertake a public participation process for naming the unnamed steps the Manila Steps.”
The public participation process took place from June 15 to July 15.
“The report about the outcome of the process will serve before the city’s Naming and Nomination Committee for consideration… The committee will make a recommendation to the executive mayor once the members have discussed the report.
“Any possible naming process will only take place once these processes have been finalised and once considered and approved by full council.”
The steps lead from Boyes Drive to the Filipino graveyard at the cul-de-sac on the corner of Quarterdeck and Kimberley roads.
Fishing boats docked at Kalk Bay Habour.
The stairs in Kalk Bay which it has been proposed be named the Manila Steps in honour of the first Filipino settlers who arrived in the area in the mid-1800s.