Days before yesterday’s celebration of the Lunar New Year, boxes of tikoy had been piling in the house, mostly gifts from well-meaning friends. I supposed they wanted to make sure I know that they had remembered my family and me on this “second” new year.
“Why do we have those tikoy when we are not even Chinese?” my eldest daughter once asked me. I laughed when I heard the question. I could not think of a good answer so I just went on nibbling on the mongo hopia which came with the boxes of Chinese goodies sent by relatives and friends.
As I swallowed the last morsel of this timeless favorite, I recalled what one respected member of the academe told me a few years ago.
“Dr. Jose Rizal was as much a Chinese as he was a Filipino,” the professor said.
We were then 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 – a fellow Antipoleño – noted that there had been media reports which tend to spark anger and fear of our neighbor, Mainland China. 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 role 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.
I recall my my professor-friend joking 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.
As we join the rest of the world in marking the Lunar New Year, we pay tribute to our Chinese forebears as we celebrate the Chinese in us.
We also remember our brethren in the Southern Tagalog region who are still picking up the pieces in the aftermath of the recent eruption of Taal Volcano.
The New Year – both the one we mark on January 1 and the one we marked yesterday – are meant to signal hope which comes with a new beginning.
We pray that the Lunar New Year would usher in a time of calm for them so they can continue to rebuild their lives.
We wish our readers a fortune-filled Lunar New Year.
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