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Random Thoughts | On Tsinoys

“Thinking about the (Tsinoy) generation before us helps us understand ourselves. We mourn their departure before but celebrate the good times we had together, resolving to pass on their sense of the good life, one that is relished (masarap na buhay), and one that is moral (mabuting buhay).” (Michel L. Tan, “Passing of a generation”, PINOY KASI, Philippine Daily INQUIRER, June 19, 2019).


TAN wrote about the death of his Uncle Kayao at the age of 98 who was one of the “first-generation ethnic Chinese in the Philippines whose fathers had been the ones who migrated here at the beginning of the 20th century… studied in Catholic Schools where they quickly developed what we call today a Tsinoy identity – Filipino first, yet continuing to speaking Chinese with an appreciation of Chinese culture, from lauriats to trips to China.” These Tsinoy, per Tan, also “carried the cachet of the American Occupation, speaking English and admiring American culture, but also carried the imprint of the Spanish period, especially in terms of Catholicism, some of them devoutly so.”

Tan followed up: “Yet it was not a closed Catholicism, as American liberalism encouraged openness to other cultures long before inclusivity and diversity became catchwords… We did not have the ‘Great Wall’ that plagued many ethnic Chinese families, the term referring to the ban on relationships and marriages with non-Chinese. So we are a clan of many colors, our reunions ringing out with languages and accents from all over… (We) cultivate something very Filipino, a bonhomie, a life of cheer and goodwill.”
This recent article of Tan mentioned above interested yours truly so much for it related to some of my memorable experiences in life with our Chinese-Filipino brothers and sisters.

I was born and grew up in Manila when there were still Tsinay with small feet. I clearly remember that when my family will celebrate then a special occasion, we feasted in a Chinese restaurant either in Ongpin or “Mamon Luk” at Quiapo. “Kaya nga sa “manok puti’ raw ako pinaglihi ng mama ko.”

Besire our home in Manila, was a Tsinoy’s “sari-sari” store (where we make “utang”) owned by “Maning” a Tsinoy married to a Pinay, with 2 children who were then studying in college. Later on, through good financial management,”Maning” opened a grocery store in a nearby place.

In a billard hall downtown where my friends and I played billiard, a Tsinoy started then selling tasty fresh lumpia with grinded peanuts and hot sauce at the sidewalk. Two months later, he rented a small store nearby the billiard hall with an assistant. Three months later, he expanded it with 3 waiters, into a medium – size eatery. Ayear later it was already a big restaurant specializing in selling tasty fresh lumpia with more waiters. Five years later, he established another restaurant in Quiapo. Then ten years later another branch restaurant at Sta. Cruz near Quiapo.

In Manila, I witnessed the transformation of a Tsinoy “taho” ambulant vendor into a “taho” factory operator and a Tsinoy “bote – garapa” street buyer to big junk yard owner.

Of course, the biggest success story I witnessed was that of the Tsinoy Sy family that started selling shoes in a medium – size store at Carriendo into a conglomerate of big malls nationwide. Of course, there is also the success story of a Davaonon Jollibee tycoon.

Let me now relate to you my experiences regarding Pinoy – Tsinoy social relationship then.
In Batangas, (I don’t know now), Tsinoys were not welcome in said province to say the least.

Bantangueños, are noted for their entrepreneurial spirit. I suppose they then do not like any competition with business – oriented Tsinoys.

In Manila, while Tsinoys were welcomed, Manileños discrimination against Tsinoys were strong. In Baguio, where there was no “China Town”, Tsinoys were very well assimilated with Baguio residents. Some Pinoy friends of mine there have Tsinays as girlfriends.

In Davao, in my own observation, Tsinoys are more assertive but friendly. There was a time in Toril when Davao CityMayor Luis Santos and I attended a drinking session in the residence of a Tsinoy businessman. Our Tsinoy host was boasting then about how fast was the development in China which he saw the last time he took his vacation there. “Is that so, Mayor Santos commented and asked: “Why did you not stay there for good? Why did you return yet to Toril?” Our Tsinoy host smiled and confessed? “Mas masarp at masaya ang buhay sa Toril. May inuman pa at masarap ang pulutan!” We have a good laugh together.

One of my good Tsinoy friend in Davao City is Engr. Edgar Te. He actively heads our secretariat and is our finance man in our Kilos Pederal sa Pagbabago. He’s still single. I hope he will marry a good Pinay beauty queen. “Problema lang baka nawalan si kaibigang Edgar ng mana? Joke lang”

Many years age in Panabo “Kapihan sa Plaza” near its Hall of Justice, we talked of how Tsinoy tycoons “control” the Philippine economy. I told to them that when I went to thehinderland of Mountain Province looking for the “Yamashita treasure”, I met there a Tsinoy who rented part of the rice terraces in the area for his rice production business. Alawyer friend then in jest suggested: “Magpaampon na lang mga Filipino sa Tsina.” I jokingly retorted: “Ayaw nga tayong tanggapin ng mga Amerikano, lalo na tayo hindi tatanggapin ng Tsina. Takot silang maging Presidente nila ang isang Pinoy!”

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