Xenophobia Begins At Home 3: Chinese

Secret Invasion

Secret Invasion

Wikipedia scholars, when not watching YouPorn, speculate that our island of Luzon was once part of the Song Dynasty of China.

While the factual basis of this is still debatable, records do show that the Chinese had contact with the island of May-i (supposedly our Mindoro) centuries ago. Records also show Chinese trade with a country they called Feilubin,which was prety lazy on their part.

Since Hispanic times, the Chinese have been a permanent, if repeatedly forced into ghettoes, part of our society. There was a time, it has been written, when one could purchase a Chinese servant for 50 pesos. That was, of course, back in unenlightened times when 50 pesos was actually worth something.

The Chinese have since assimilated into our society through intermarriages and clever name changes that we don’t know where their culture ends and ours begins. Pancit with rice, though, is probably all us.

What We Call Them:
Beho- A bastardization of the Spanish viejo, for old.  This doesn’t make much sense in English or Tagalog either. It may refer to old Chinese merchants who sold stuff like rhino penis, tiger balls, panda nipples and cute, furry creatures that multiply on contact with water.

Sangley-From the Hokkien word for “business,” referring, we suppose, to the merchant nature of the Chinese immigrants who came to settle here.

Sangley Point in Cavite is named after the large number of Sangleys who lived there. By that rationale, Sangley should now mean “women of negotiable virtue who provide discreet services to Navy seamen.”

Intsik- Apparently, this comes from “Indiong Tsino.” By apparently, we mean that that’s the first thing that came up on Google.

Ching-chong- An offshoot of attempts by world-recognized expert on Chinese culture Roman Tesorio Villame Ph.D’s at putting the Chinese diaspora in the Philippine context, many Filipinos now believe that mastery of the Chinese languages lies in the ability to pronounce random syllables rapidly.

Singkit– Tagalog for having slanted eyes. Because they do. Can also be substituted with pulling at the corners of your eyes, but is less rude.

Sir/Ma’am- They pretty much own us now. But in a benevolent manner, allowing us to eke out a meager living so we can play at contentment by buying their products.

What We Say About Them:
The Chinese are supposedly skinflints. This, experts say, is the secret to their wealth. That, and the cleverness to find loopholes in our labor laws, therefore allowing them to do away with things like benefits and security of tenure.

This is documented by the seminal Maynila Sa Kuko ng Liwanag and every other film from the ’70s to the ’80s that had a social message. The social message being hate the Chinese, we guess.

The Chinese also allegedly hate Filipinos and see them as “tribals.” Given how we used to buy them at 50 bucks a pop, one might say that we pretty much deserve it. Oh, and did we mention that we forced them into living in a ghetto that the Spanish shelled with their cannons every few years? How do you like them apples, Philippines? They’re from China, too. Like ponkans.

Why We’re Douchbags For Saying It:
Scratch deep enough, and almost every Filipino has Chinese blood. When history books refer to the mestizos, they meant the Chinese-Filipinos and Chinese-Spaniards who were slowly outnumbering the Spanish whose kung fu was not better than their kung fu. Full, half, one-fourth, one-eighth. Everyone is part Chinese as has been proven by Mano Po 1 through 5.

This means that when we insult the Chinese, we’re also insulting ourselves, or people we are related to, or people who know kung fu. This also means that in case the Emperor of China ever comes back to power, we’ll be 1,321,851,888th in line for the Throne of Heaven.

Also, the Chinese, along with our OFWs, are pretty much the backbone of the Philippine economy. Sure, we still have people like the Zobel de Ayalas who keep it old school by being Spanish, but every other captain of industry is Chinese, or has Chinese blood. The Lopezes are also Ongsiacos, the Gokongweis are, well, they’re Gokongweis. Name an industry, and there’s a Chinese-owned company engaged in it. We pretty much owe these guys our jobs.

If the Chinese don’t want us in their families, it’s all really just a matter of preference. Except when they’re citizens of the First World or are incredibly wealthy, we don’t want foreigners marrying into our families, either.

We have values, norms and customs that are peculiar to Filipinos, and it’s generally easier to integrate into a family that understands the culture. Unless, of course, a green card or citizenship papers is included in the dowry. In which case, it’s welcome to the family, hijo.



  1. Intsik: I\’ve often wondered if this is related to the Indonesian word \"Encik\" which means \"Mister.\"

  2. Dizzy, this is certainly possible given our Malay roots. From what I’ve found, “intsik” could also be from some Chinese word for uncle, but I like yours better.

    I thought the Indonesian word for mister was “Pak”, though. As in,Selamat tidur, Pak Ibrahim. I may be wrong since the last time I tried to speak Bahasa Indonesia was three, four years ago.

  3. Ethnic slurs against persons of Chinese descent in the Philippines are nothing new. For example, during the Spanish Colonial Period, the Spanish Friars were virulently racist towards Jose Rizal. They were constantly insulting him with ethnic slurs directed against Rizal’s Chinese ancestry, such as “un vulgar mesticillo chino” for “vulgar Chinese half-breed”. At the time, the Spaniards had nothing but contempt for “half-breeds” including Spanish mestizos in what is now Latin America. After the Spaniards massacred tens of thousands of “sangleys” during their first century of rule in Manila, most if not all of the “sangleys” who arrived thereafter intermarried with “indios” and sired a new indio race called “mestizo de sangley”. Naturally, the white Spaniards viewed the “mestizos de sangley” with utter contempt and treated them with disdain including Jose Rizal and his family. Over time, the “mestizos de sangley” internalized the white racism of the white Spaniards and turned it into self-hatred. In fact, Jose Rizal disowned his own ancestors, the “sangleys” who were massacred by the white Spaniards, and his own people, the “mestizos de sangley”. He saw himself as “white” who belonged to White Christian Civilization.

    After the United States annexed the Philippines, the “illustrados” (who viewed themselves as “white”) sought to create a “white” identity for the nascent Filipino Nation which they copied from the “white supremacist” Anglo-Americans. So, the ethnic slurs mentioned above were not products of any innate racism on the part of indigenous Filipinos but were in fact designed to foster a Philippine version of Western Orientalism.

  4. AntiBeast, you’re my kind of pedant. Let me buy you a drink some time.

    I didn’t know about Rizal denying his heritage. Sort of belies his whole Pride of the Malay Race vibe, huh?

  5. One more thing…the Filipino “Nationalists” who were promoting hatred and violence against the “Intsiks” during the American Colonial Period became active collaborators when the Japanese invaded Manila…while the alien “Intsiks” (alien because of they were not allowed to become Philippine Citizens under the 1935 Philippine Constitution written by the same Filipino “Nationalists”) turned into guerillas who fought the Japanese invaders!

  6. By the way, the Chinese immigrants who left China for the Philippines like the father of San Lorenzo Ruiz and the paternal ancestor of Jose Rizal were not even “Chinese”…at the time, it was illegal for Chinese to emigrate (during the Ming and Qing Dynasties) and those who did so CEASED TO BE CHINESE. They are “Intsik BEHOOS” (in Hokkien, BEHOOS means HORSESHIT). Tsk, tsk, tsk…they even invented their own language BUTSEKIK…


    After the 1603 massacre, most of the “sangleys” who arrived thereafter agreed to convert to Catholicism, including the father of San Lorenzo Ruiz and Domingo Lam-co, the paternal ancestor of Jose Rizal. The Spaniards created Binondo for these converted “sangleys” who were now allowed to intermarry with “indio” women. The “sangleys” salivated at the prospect of having great sex with their “indio” wives, and so that’s where this ethnic slur came from:


    By the way, Jose Rizal never was an “indio” despite being hailed as the Pride of the Malay Race. During his trial, he opposed not only his death sentence but also his legal status as a “mestizo de sangley” which was contained in the verdict. Rizal did not even mention his own people the “mestizos de sangley” in his two novels. Indeed, “mercado” his original family name meant “market” which was chosen by Domingo Lam-co to prevent his heirs from facing the anti-Chinese hatred and prejudice of the Spaniards. No matter what he did, he could never get away from his “sangley” origins.

  8. Well, the problem is: all the history textbooks you read in the Philippines are WHITE-WASHED versions. Most Filipinos don\’t even understand why they are called Filipinos and how they became Filipinos!

  9. Just curious…

    Of the total chinese population in the Philipines that either or identify themselves as chinese or chinese-filipino:

    1) How many are chinese-born / foreign-born?
    2) How many are chinese-born but is now naturalized filipino?
    3) How many have chinese-born parents or grandparents?

  10. nice conversation you have here mga pinoy 🙂
    i totally agree with you antibeast\’s remark on history textbooks…
    sad reality… educate us more antibeast 🙂

  11. Are we talking about pure Chinese or Filipino-Chinese people?

    Either way, what I’ve heard is that most of them are usually rich and prefer owning business to having a job. And that Chinese girls rarely date/marry outside the community but the guys increasingly do.

    I don’t have a pure Chinese friend (someone who speaks Chinese at home) – so I can’t be very confident of these stereotypes.

  12. Sorry to correct you AntiBeast but you appear to be making a few things up. After a few generations Rizal’s family switched statuses, at least according to the Spanish colonial tax-census registers. Domingo Lamco’s grandson paid colonial authorities to be an Indio rather than as a Chinese Mestizo in the eyes of the state. The “racial” categories of Spanish colonial Philippines were fluid — or could be made to be so, to be made molten, by cold hard cash. Consider the Noli’s Capitan Tiago: an “Indio” who bribed his way into being considered a Chinese Mestizo. Or the famed sculptor Isabelo Tampingco, a Chinese Mestizo from Binondo, who carried around a genealogy linking him to Manila’s precolonial, or “Indio” nobility.

    And no, Rizal never, ever considered himself “White.” Nor did the Illustrados. Rizal was an “Indio” legally and a “Filipino” in the national community his writings conjured into becoming.

    As for Intsik Beho, your etymology is fanciful at best. Intsik Beho is more likely a Spanish colonial neologism: a corruption of Hokkien and Spanish terms for your old uncle (din chiek viejo).

  13. Owe it to them? I still yet to see a Chinese-owned business that provides decent pay and working conditions that is at par or just even close to western companies. If there is group (if indeed they are group like the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce) that can make living standards in the Philippines improve, that would be them.

    It’s very likely some parts of the Philippines was under Chinese rule sometime in history. However, same can be said of China itself being under Mongol, Japanese and western rule so nothing quite unique in that.

    There will always be racial thing going on regardless of where you are. Just look at the USA. To me, it shouldn’t matter who you are. What matters is that for every decision we make, we ensure those are aligned with the greater good and good for future generations.

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