The story of the first Filipino to set foot in England is a rather sad story that does not show the British at the time in a very good light.
His name was ever Jeoey or Jeoly. Research shows a few different spellings for his name, which is probably because there was no standard spelling at the time.
He became known in England as “Painted Prince Jeoey” or “Painted Prince Giolo.”
Jeoey arrived in England in 1691 with William Dampier when he returned to England from Mindanao, Philippines.
William Dampier a buccaneer-adventurer purchased Jeoey as a slave when he was exploring the Philippines.
When Dampier returned to England he was broke after failing to discover unexploited spice and gold in the Spice Islands, so he sold Jeoey to raise money to publish his journals which were titled “A New Voyage Around the World” in which he described Jeoey’s tattoos.
Jeoey become famous in England as the most well-known tattooed curiosity in exhibitions and was advertised as the first painted savage ever seen in England.
Jeoey was tattooed between his shoulders, on his thighs and on his chest, he also had tattoos in the form of broad rings like bracelets on his arms and legs.
Jeoey was first put on display in Fleet Street, London at the Boar’s Head Inn, there is still a pub on the site today and it has been renamed the “Tipperary” it was also the first pub in the first pub outside of Ireland to sell Guinness.
Some advertising of Jeoey’s public appearances have survived one by John Savage can be seen above.
The adverts also include a very embellished story of Jeoey’s life and also claimed the people of the Philippines at the time believed the tattoos defended them against venomous creatures and that they had healing powers.
Even Dampier remarked on the made up stories about Jeoey that circulated England and openly ridiculed them as no more than a marketing campaign. Along with the story about venomous Creatures fleeing from him was a story that the Sultan fell in love with Jeoey’s sister. It seems Fleet street telling lies to make money from immigrants has been happening since the late 1600s
Sadly Jeoey died just 2 years after arriving in England, while his exhibitors claimed his tattoos gave him magical healing powers they could not save him from smallpox and he died in 1693 in Oxford England.
Jeoey was buried in an unmarked grave and it is believed that he is buried in St Ebbe’s Churchyard. A surgeon from Oxford University removed part of his tattooed skin and it was kept in St. John’s College Oxford in 1740 until it got lost.
Jeoey’s tragic story of enslavement, forced transportation to England, becoming a public exhibition for profit and his fatal illness says a lot about how things were in Europe at that time, he might have been the first but he was not the last to be treated like this.
Was Jeoey the first OFW?
There is no doubt that he was the first Filipino OFW to go to the UK, if you can call a slave an OFW. However, as traders from the Middle East and China had been going to the Philippines many years before this he would not have been the first Filipino OFW.