Thursday, February 11, 2010

Honoring Chinese Filipinos on Valentine's Day

Chinese New Year on February 14 coincides with Valentine's Day. I find that interesting. So, let me honor Chinese Filipinos who celebrate Chinese New Year that day. I have lots of friends these days from their ranks and I wish I can greet each one of them by name here. The list is long and that's heart-warming.

My wife spoke about her first impressions of Chinese-Filipinos in her first Toastmasters meeting around two weeks ago. She told the audience about saying "No" to a Chinese-Filipino suitor because she knew back then that Chinese parents wanted Chinese in-laws. She didn't want an unwelcome look, from anyone.  Now, here's the thing: most of those in the audience were Chinese Filipinos LOL!

I benefited sometime later from my wife's decision. Good decision, Dear! Couldn't be better! He he.

My wife's story is common in Filipino society, though diminishing. Inter-marriages are getting more frequent, through the two subcultures remain distinct. Each subculture interacts well with each other, and learns from each other.

The Chinese these days, especially those born and raised here, speak of personal choices with more intensity viz a vis parental or family choices. They are a race of risk-takers after all, and that spills over their choices in life: choice of mate, choice of business or employment, etc.

In the same sense, the same is happening to locals. Personal choice drive locals to learn new things, venture abroad, and face daunting risks so that they can contribute more to family coffers.

Personal choice is also what drives more locals to venture into business. The rules of the game change and they have to be more prudent in the way they handle time and money. Some habits--and friends--have to be let go or de-prioritized. That takes choice, and that takes guts.

I salute the Chinese the most for their entrepreneurial skills. It is a welcome contribution to local culture. It's natural for Chinese families to talk about business on their dinner tables. For some reason, locals do not do as much, if at all. It is no wonder that more than 90% of the country's economy belong to the businesses of Chinese families.

In fact, locals make fun of the Chinese people's propensity to think business. One that I get to hear most often is the joke about a dying patriarch. The eldest told his father in his death bed that everyone was in the room, with him.

With a weak and hoarse voice, the father called each by name all the way to the youngest. Each one lovingly replied, "Yes Father, I'm here." Then, finally, the father took a deep and strained breath and sighed, "So, who's minding the store now, you (tot-tot)?"

I'm not Chinese, so I find that funny. I wonder what the Chinese find funny about the locals. But one thing is clear, the locals are lucky we have Chinese people to teach us a lot about entrepreneurship and money-making as a family affair.

Come to think of it, maybe it's just the employed class among locals that's laughing. We have lots of locals who sell stuff on streets. That's the way many of the Chinese tycoons started. A growing number of locals are good entrepreneurs, some of whom owe that to the influence of the Chinese.

Don't get me wrong. Being Chinese does not exempt them from the struggles of being an entrepreneur. Locals are slowly realizing that they can be successful entrepreneurs too, if they just do what it takes. And I do hear stories of Chinese Filipinos helping locals to become entrepreneurs.

Then again don't get me wrong too. Not all Chinese have chosen to be entrepreneurs. Many of them are happily employed, rejoicing over the fact that someone else is carrying the risks while they work on a specific aspect of the business and have a regular salary to bank on.

Once upon a time, society in the Philippines was composed of two classes: the Spanish colonizers and the Indios (the locals). During this time, the word "Filipino" referred to Spaniards who were born in the Philippine Islands. A lot of us don't know that, huh?

Moreover, at this time, the Chinese merchants weren't even treated as citizens. They were aliens, outcast from society, but considered "necessary" to shine the shoes of soldiers, cut hair and buy vegetables from. Yes, Indios suffered under Spanish rule, but at least they were considered citizens, could buy lands and get employment. The Chinese didn't have these privileges. They had to be merchants, or perish.

Fast forward today, the Chinese is dominant in Philippine economy while the locals have taken over the realm of politics. The Chinese have adapted well in changing times through centuries, mostly on the strength of their entrepreneurial skills. They did it over centuries without cover of political nor military might (maybe with a few exceptions, yes).

We have a lot to learn from our Chinese Filipino brothers.

Let's all dream of being employers, rather than employees.

Let's all dream of being doers, rather than talkers.

Let's all dream of making things happen, rather than just watch things happen.

And let us thank the Chinese people among us for providing us testimony that money can be made in this country, if we just really work for it.


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