Opinion

On Being Chinese Filipino (With 'Filipino' First)

An explanation for Solita "Mareng Winnie" Monsod, who does not believe in the loyalty of Tsinoys.
ILLUSTRATOR Jasrelle Serrano
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I am very disturbed by the view being perpetrated by certain writers conflating Chinese from mainland China and Chinese-Filipinos as one and the same when it comes to their political affiliation and identity. Recently, Solita Monsod stated that “I have often observed…that a Chinese-Filipino will never ever state unequivocally that he/she is a Filipino first, and a Chinese second (meaning, his loyalty is to the Philippines).” Which “Chinese-Filipino” is she talking about?

First of all, I prefer to use “Chinese Filipino” without the hyphen as this would mean that a person is primarily a “Filipino” and that being “Chinese,” used here as a modifier, comes second. I am a Chinese Filipino in my 50s, born and raised in the Philippines. Even if I now live in the United States I still consider Philippines my home and myself a Filipino. And I can say that many who belong to my generation of Chinese Filipinos and those of the next generations share the same sentiment, as was evident in the first and second Mano Po movies where the main characters—both Chinese Filipinos—unequivocally proclaimed themselves Filipinos and their political loyalty to the Philippines, even though they may be Chinese “by blood.”

“Chinese Filipinos” are not a monolithic group. There are different generations of Chinese Filipinos and majority of those who belong to the second-, third-, or fourth-generation (i.e., those born in the 1950s to the present) consider themselves first and foremost as Filipinos. It is true that many of the older generation of Chinese Filipinos, those of my parents’ and grandparents’, and born in China in the 1920s to the 1940s, may still lean politically more heavily toward mainland China. But this was partly due to their experience of growing up as Chinese citizens who were denied Philippine citizenship until President Marcos paved the way for mass naturalization in 1975. Their generation may still prohibit intermarriages between their children and Filipinos, but they are in the minority. Those belonging to my generation and beyond, who now constitute the majority, have been intermarrying with Filipinos.

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The view that recent Chinese immigrants and Chinese Filipinos identify more with China is one that is, unfortunately, shared by many Filipinos. This is mainly due to ignorance. But I had not expected this type of ignorance from someone like Solita Monsod, who, as an educator should know the importance of doing one’s homework to avoid perpetuating such an erroneous view.

As tensions between China and the Philippines escalate, many Chinese Filipinos are now beginning to feel stigmatized by Filipinos who think that the former are politically loyal to China. If, as Monsod points out, the Chinese Filipinos are seen as participating in “taking away what is ours,” there may come a day, heaven forbid, when the Chinese Filipinos could experience the same pogrom Chinese Indonesians experienced in 1998, when they were scapegoated as causing the country’s economic difficulties.

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Richard T. Chu
Richard Chu was born and raised in the Philippines. He is currently a Five College Associate Professor of History University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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