By Walter Ang
February 5, 2000
As the Chinese New Year approaches in the year 2000, Chinoys across the country gear up for another celebration of new beginnings. We'll be bringing out the red outfits, haggling for round fruits in Divisoria, buying the ubiquitous tikoy in bulk, and filling up the reservation books of Chinese restaurants to usher in the year of the Dragon.
For scores of Fil-Chi who traditionally celebrate the Chinese New Year, this is something to look forward to. A renewing of ties, a chance to meet up with family. Welcoming the new?new hopes, new lives, new loves, and chucking out the old?old grievances, old hates, old hurts. Speaking of chucking out the old, this is an excellent time to purge old misconceptions of the Chinese community here in the Philippines. After all, this is already the 00's (how do we call this first decade of this millennium?). It would be a good thing to start off in a more enlightened state.
I've lived in Manila all my life and I still come across the occasional curious query about the Chinoy and the Chinoy way of life. It's sometimes amusing to note the common fallacies about the Chinoys. So for everyone's benefit, let's debunk a few of those myths and all learn, say it with me now, how to be Chinoy without really being good in Math.
1. All Chinoys have excellent Math skills.
There is a college anecdote where if you discover there are Chinoys in your math class, you should drop out because they'll pull up the curve so high you won't stand a chance of passing. This is a blatant falsehood. If I could only put into words the anguish I had to endure during all my math classes! While I may not speak for all Chinoys (less the mathematically gifted ones raise a fuss), I do know that almost every Chinoy classmate I knew in high school would rather eat nails than learn how to solve for the square root of 9.
2. All Chinoys are fair skinned and have chinky eyes.
My skin is tan and my eyes are sort of slanty but not really chinky. There are certain times when you should see the surprised look on some people's faces when they find out I'm Chinoy. Then they'll follow it up with, "Why are you so dark?" While I sometimes want to counter with, "Why are you so rude?" I usually just flash a smile and use the alibi that I commute a lot.
This simple alibi saves me the time and effort of having to give a long scientific explanation. Who has the time to listen to a lengthy discussion of Punnett squares, genotypes, and the effects of UV rays on the skin? Seriously though, I once read in a Newsweek article that people in the southeast region of Asia all share a common gene pool. So to say that we're all brothers and sisters isn't really just a figurative statement.
3. All Chinoys are filthy rich.
I would be the most overjoyed person on the face of the earth if this were true. (Imagine all the neat stuff I could buy!). Unfortunately, I must accept the bitter truth that not all Chinoys are filthy rich. Most Chinoys are very middle class. On the other hand, I know a couple of Chinoys who are filthy, but that's another story. Lucio Tan, Henry Sy and the other taipans are the exceptions rather than the rule.
4. All Chinoys are prudes and conservative.
While there is a tendency to have a more conservative outlook in raising children, there are a lot of Chinoy families who have an more global perspective with regards to their kids' upbringing. Families who are not afraid to integrate different cultural norms into their lifestyle.
The present Chinoy community is basically split up into two groups. Those who have grown up here are more assimilated to the Pinoy way of life. (We are capable of eating balut together with our sioapo.) The second group are the wave of fresh immigrants who are still trying to find their pacing in this new tropical home. They would be wont to more familiar habits, and this could be a reason why they're perceived as more conservative. (They'll probably skip the balut for now.)
Perception is a powerful thing. Sometimes we see what we want to, instead of what really is. Hopefully, as we go through the journey of this millennium, we can all learn to discern the better image. Kung Hei Fat Choy!