“Chinatown is not a place,” declared journalist-author Jullie Yap Daza to her friends. Now that sentence is the title of her latest book.
Technically, Chinatown is only one square kilometer in size, an area surrounded by streets whose real estate values rival Makati’s. If it’s not a place, what is it?
In Daza’s words, Chinatown is as much about the Binondo-born as the Greenhills-bred. It is remembering the hard-working “Intsik” who rose from rags to riches as it is about raising today’s generation of Chinese Filipinos who, like her own grandchildren, show no trace of the Chineseness that once set their ancestors apart as a minority group in Philippine society.
In her easily recognizable style, Daza puts together a collection of anecdotes and jokes, tales told by Chinese-Filipinos aka Chinoys about themselves. With humor and her usual light touch, she catches tai pans and tai-tai in their unguarded moments along with other prosperous but famously frugal merchants and traders.
Published by Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp., Chinatown Is Not A Place “is not a history book,” according to the author, “though someday it might well be.”
In the meantime, there is much to discover about their trademark frugality vs their propensity toward prosperity.