Chinatowns

Published January 24, 2023, 12:05 AM

by Jullie Y. Daza

MEDIUM RARE

Jullie Y. Daza

In my book Chinatown Is Not A Place (2020), I tried to explain why Chinatown is not a place. It’s many things and not just one place. (For one thing, as pointed out by a worldly-wise friend, every other country in the world has a Chinatown.)

The celebration of Chinese New Year’s Day during the weekend was, as expected, an explosion of noise, color, people greeting one another and having fun and enjoying food — signs of prosperity — to welcome a romantic Year of the Rabbit after a ferocious Year of the Tiger. In Metro Manila alone, there are three Chinatowns – Binondo in Manila; Banawe in Quezon City; and Greenhills-New Manila where, ‘tis said, “the rich Chinoys live.” No Chinatown in Makati except a tiny but charming Yin and Yang Shop of Harmony for feng shui consultations.

The loud and lively revelry keynoted by the one and only William’s lion and dragon dancers on Jan. 21-22 brought back memories of the feng shui master Paul Lau, who popularized for Chinoys and Pinoys the environmental psychology and usefulness of living in harmony with nature, principally wind (feng) and water (shui). Before Paul came along, there were one or two practitioners, yes, but because they did not speak English, feng shui was an archaic system whose teachings had been confined to experts with a narrow world view.

If we teach history to show how present is sprung from past, we need to go back to presidential decree No. 836 signed on Dec. 3, 1975 by President Ferdinand Marcos granting citizenship to “deserving aliens who qualified for citizenship with none of the disqualifications.” Three years later, 16,000 applicants, most of them of Chinese blood, were granted citizenship, with 23,000 more pending.
In 2019, Imee Marcos noted how her father’s signature had forever “changed the color of our economy” and “contributed to the rise of a truly dynamic entrepreneurship.”

I for one cannot imagine how that ship could’ve sailed without the tai pans having been granted citizenship as a first step toward building their retail trades and enlarging upon those to become malls, banks, subdivisions, factories, hotels, resorts, etc. — until their owners were catapulted to the rank of captain of industry. Kiong Hee Huat Tsai, congratulations, be prosperous!

 
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