By Joelle Theresa Ngo
Most Filipino-Chinese individuals who grew up in the Philippines would agree that our character and traits are more Pinoy than Chinese. However, living in the Philippines doesn’t exempt us from growing up with the rich culture of the Chinese and being accustomed to traditions passed down from our angkong and amma’s ancestors to our generation today.
We may act and think like true-blue Filipinos at times, but there are still some Chinese customs instilled in us that some of our Filipino friends won’t easily understand. (Raise your hands if you've gotten a weird look or two!) So whether you're a fellow Chinay who wants to be understood or a Filipino who just wants to delve further into the crazy culture of the Fil-Chi community, we've got the lowdown on the stuff that will help you learn more about our culture!
1. There’s no such thing as too many red clothes. Chinays know all too well how much Fil-Chi families love throwing parties and gatherings—and, most of the time, the only color you can wear to these events is red. After all, the color symbolizes good luck, so don’t be surprised when you open your Chinay friend's closet and see a lot of red. It's required, okay?
2. A Chinay’s parents will be some of the strictest parents you’ll ever encounter. Aside from not being allowed to have a boyfriend before finishing your studies, strict curfews still apply even after graduating from high school (and, for some, even college). They’re just that protective!
3. The “Great Wall.” This is a term that most Pinoy guys who ever attempted to date a Chinay would totally get. As some of you may have already heard, some Chinese parents do not approve of their daughters dating or marrying someone who isn't Chinese. So if a guy doesn’t meet this certain qualification, you’ll probably hear him say, “Na-Great Wall ako, bro.”
4. The “Snow White” joke. Some of your friends think you can pass as the the Fil-Chi version of Snow White because of your fair skin. It can be quite flattering at times–but there are moments when some jokes go overboard. “Aminin mo, naliligo ka ba sa gatas?” or “Bes, may dugo ka pa ba? 'Yung totoo?” We can't help it, we were born this way!
5. Losing count of how many times you hear the line “Pengeng Tikoy” every Chinese New Year. Do you remember bringing some tikoy as your snack to school? Or that time when you got swarmed by your classmates after they found out you brought some? Yes, we know that tikoy is delicious, but, sometimes, we just can't understand why our Pinoy friends go crazy over it. SMH.
6. Angpaos are lifesavers! Going to a bunch of family gatherings almost every other month can get pretty dull and boring, especially if you have to act like you know everyone when you really don't–but we admit that angpaos from relatives just make it all worth it! Money, money, money!
7. Kai shao. Chinay singles are extremely familiar with this one. Kai shao means “to introduce” in Hokkien. Although arranged marriages are no longer a thing nowadays, Kai Shao is when a single female of marrying age is introduced to a single male who their friends or family think can be a potential partner. Unlike arranged marriages, two people who were kai shao-ed by their loved ones or buddies can choose not to proceed with dating each other if they don't hit it off.
8. Dealing with unnecessary stereotypes. Sometimes it’s quite a challenge to respond to questions or comments such as, “Chinese ka? So magaling ka sa Math, 'noh?” or “Lahat talaga ng Chinese puro RK (rich kid)!” or worst, “Mga swapang ‘yang mga ‘yan, eh.” Sorry to break your bubble, guys, but none of those are true.
9. Color black is a big NAY. It’s incredibly tough for people who love black to be in a Fil-Chi family. While wearing red clothes is a requirement to most Chinese occasions, putting on a black outfit is a big no-no, because it’s simply “bad luck.”
10. The academic pressure is real. Aside from having two separate tutors for your English and Chinese subjects, you have to deal with more than one Math and Language subjects, beat your deadlines in English class and memorize a ton of stuff for your Chinese tests. Every day is an endless cycle of quizzes and seatworks from your English and Chinese teachers. Double whammy!
To fellow Chinays, which of these things did you relate to the most? Share it with us in the comments below!
Banner photograph from Chalk Magazine. Original photo of Kryz Uy by Charisma Lico. GIFs from GIPHY, The Laughing Narwhal's Tumblr (angpao), pink-acorn's Tumblr (no boyfriend 'til married), About Noxamus' Tumblr (kai shao).