#SandiganTrivia: A Filipino dwarf became a famous figure in 19th-century Britain

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DON Santiago de los Santos, a Filipino dwarf, became part of a traveling show in England between the late 1820s and the early 1830s. He was, indeed, a local celebrity in that part of the world. So, how did he end up in England?

Popular journals from the late Georgian and Victorian eras had documented his story, although they might have exaggerated some of the details to sell more copies.

Anyways, the existing documents suggest that Don Santiago de los Santos was born in 1786 to poor parents. The 1836 edition of the Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction (Volume 28) went on to say that he is “a native of the Spanish settlement of Manila; in one of the forests of which, it seems, he was exposed to death in his infancy, on account of his diminutive size. He, was, however, miraculously saved by the Viceroy, who happened to be hunting in that quarter, humanely ordered him to be taken care of and nursed with the same tenderness as his own children, with whom the little creature was brought up and educated, until he attained the age of manhood.”

Sadly, the Viceroy died when he was 20 years old. His foster-brothers and sisters moved to Spain shortly thereafter, while Santiago decided to stay because of his “attachment to the land of his birth.”

That decision proved to be futile. Neglected by his own family, he “found his way to Madras, and was brought to England by the captain of a trading vessel.”

The journal also reveals some of Don Santiago’s unique characteristics. He was described as “stoutly built” with “slight copper” complexion. He was also fond of “glittering attire, jewelry, and silver plate.” And just like Dr. Jose Rizal, Don Santiago was also multilingual: he could speak his native tongue as well as Indian patois, Portuguese, and English.

He later married Anne Hopkins, a 29-year-old dwarf from Birmingham who was slightly taller than him (she was thirty-eight inches tall while Don Santiago was only twenty-five inches high). However, they faced a minor hurdle before they were able to tie the knot. According to the 1848 edition of ‘The London Lancet,’ “a protestant clergyman hesitated to marry them, on the presumption that it was contrary to the canon law, as being the means of propagating a race of dwarfs; but in this he was overruled by the high bailiff of Birmingham, and some legal opinions.”

They were finally married on July 6, 1834, at two separate churches in Birmingham (Santiago was a Roman Catholic while his wife was a Protestant). Anne Hopkins eventually gave birth to a child, but it was not a happy ending: “the infant, though it came to the world alive, did not survive its birth above an hour. Its length is thirteen inches and a half; its weight is one pound four ounces and a half, (avoirdupois;) it is in every respect well formed; and the likeness of its face to that of the father is very striking.”

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