The Chinese in us

Published February 17, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.
Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.

By Dr. Jun Ynares, M.D.


“Dr. Jose Rizal was as much a Chinese as he was a Filipino.”

I heard those remarks from an Antipoleño professor recently. We were talking about education programs for local communities when the conversation shifted to recent media reports regarding our neighbor, the People’s Republic of China.

The good professor noted that the media reports tend to spark anger and fear against the Mainland Chinese. These have to do with alleged military structures being built in islands in the South China Sea with multiple claimants.

Recent media reports tend to spark anger and fear of our neighbor, Mainland China. The sentiment seems to be compounded by reports that our neighbor has started to “name” some features of the Benham Rise, a body of water with ownership being ascribed to our country.

The professor said the sentiments are ironic. He mentioned a long-held belief that there is hardly any Filipino who is without Chinese blood.

His best example was the National Hero, himself.

The professor mentioned the research work of esteemed Filipino historical researcher, Dr. Eusebio Koh.

He said that Dr. Koh’s research, citing the work of other historians, tend to show that Dr. Jose Rizal may have been 80 percent Chinese despite the recognition given him as The Great Malayan.

“The historical research showed that Dr. Rizal’s grandparents on his father side were both Chinese from the Chinchew province of Mainland China, and which settled in Biñan, Laguna,” the professor pointed out.

While the Chinese lineage of Dr. Rizal’s mother is harder to trace, Dr. Koh mentioned that Doña Teodora Alonzo’s father “looked very much like a Chinese.”

The Spanish-sounding royal family names Dr. Rizal had, the professor explained, were adopted names. The change of names from Chinese to Spanish were a necessity because the Chinese were looked down upon by society at that time.

In fact, some of the Filipino’s most-loved Chinese food sported royal Spanish names.

For example: “Morisqueta Tostada” is actually Yangchow fried rice; “Camaron Rebosado” and “Camaron Rellenado” are variations of shrimp-based Chinese culinary delights that are not complete without the sweet-and-sour dip.

We subscribe to the view that there are as many liters of Chinese blood in our veins as there are of other races.

This is something we accept and honor.

After all, our Chinese-Filipino forebears played crucial roles in our history and evolution into a nation. Top honors, of course, belong to the very Chinese Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda – the grandson of the pure Chinese immigrant, Lam Co.

The Chinese are not just street-smart entrepreneurs. It appears they are also fierce nationalists as evidenced by the life of Dr. Rizal. Supporting evidence is the fact that the first Filipino nationalist-feminists – the revered Women of Malolos made famous by Dr. Rizal’s letter – had mestizo-Chinese family names.

Among these women patriots of Malolos were from families with the surnames Tanchangcos, Uitangcos, Tantocos, and Tiongsons.

My professor-friend joked that he believes China will “never invade the Philippines”.

“Why?” I asked.

He said there is no need for the Chinese to invade the country – after all, the Chinese are already here.

I can only agree. The fact is, the Chinese have long been here and have been part of the building of our economy and the creation of our identity as a nation.

I will celebrate that fact by treating myself to a big bowl of hot mami and feasting on special siopao at Ma Mon Luk.

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!


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