So there goes the old Chinaman’s tale of how so deeply sinicized the Philippines has become such that it just is extremely difficult to expunge the Chinese imprimatur in every aspect of the country’s social life: economy, culture, politics.
As far back as the late sixties, I already contemplated an opus in the genre of Hollywoodian spectacles like “How The West Was Won” or “Gone With The Wind,” though at the time I was yet far removed from any idea of turning into a filmmaker. And even now that I am far removed already from my heydays as a filmmaker, I have not quite let go of the potential of doing this movie entitled “The Seven Suns of Mother China.” I am pretty sure that once done, the effort will contribute, if but in a modest degree, to understanding the perceived unabated tension between China and the Philippines over conflicting claims in the South China Sea.
Chinese culture has so permeated Philippine society that China, if at all, will certainly encounter much difficulty deciding whether or not to war against the Philippines. In the end, when we talk of a nation we come down to the basics: people. How does China pick out the Chinese among the Filipino people from non-Chinese, and then hit only these nons. When China fires nuclear warheads against the Philippines, how sure is it that it won’t hit Chinese as well?
Another article is necessary in order to delineate this topic in an exhaustive manner. Suffice it for now to state that if no invader has really succeeded in conquering China because all conquerors eventually melt into the unassailable, irresistible Chinese culture, in like manner no people intermingled with Chinese are able to resist this Chinese cultural assault.
In the end, if this conclusion be true, then what the Philippines is now is only Filipino in nomenclature, but in culture – which is a nation’s soul – the Philippines is Chinese.
This statement is based on a principle that in a contradiction, as illustrated by Mao Zedong in his book On Contradiction, the primary aspect determines the character of the contradiction. So consider now the Philippines in its various ramifications.
The Chinese composition of the country is estimated to be 1.8%, or 1.5 million. Set against the Philippine population now of 100 million, the Chinese composition appears to be not much. But the figure is deceiving. It speaks only of people with pure Chinese ancestry. It makes no count at all of those portions of the Philippine demographics resulting from intermarriages of “pure” Chinese with native Filipinos, no matter how minimal already this genre of the Filipino people has dwindled into.
Here is one account, lifted from Wikipedia, on the subject matter:
“The exact number of all ethnic Chinese in the Philippines is unknown. Various estimates have been given from the start of the Spanish Colonial Period up to the present ranging from as low as 1% to as large as 18-27%, including the Chinese mestizos and Filipinos who have Chinese ancestry. The National Statistics Office does not conduct surveys of ethnicity.”
In 1915, noted historian Austin Craig was commissioned by the United States to make a survey of the total number of various races comprising the Philippine population. From official records and various normal sources of information, he was able to gather around 20,000 cases of Chinese residents in the Philippines. Not satisfied with the figure, he observed that there was a “widespread concealing and de-emphasizing of the exact number of Chinese in the Philippines.”
In this situation, one account estimates that Chinese comprise around 27% of the Philippine population, or at current reckoning, 27 million. Still the estimate does not include those whose Chinese ancestry falls below 50%, meaning grandchildren of Filipino-Chinese parents are not considered in this reckoning.
If we take into account another research report placing the annual growth of Chinese mestizo population in the Philippines at 10%, then the 486,000 recorded in 1894 should have ballooned into some 6,000,000. But there is this setback in such a calculation. Population does not grow on the bare laws of average. Like bank interest rates that get compounded monthly, the 1894 figure must be compounded year after year all throughout the more than one century from the time that count was first figured out. Sadly, I am not one equipped to state just how enormous Chinese population in the Philippines has grown since the late 1800s.
Nonetheless, I dare venture into this conclusion: that the Chinese question in the Philippines goes deeper than mere numbers. It is one in which every Chinese must tackle head on and dare state the candid answer.
In this regard, Manila Councilor Bernie Ang, of pure Chinese ancestry, feels he has been put to a crucial test. In the past elections, an electorate, knowing that Ang is not a natural born Filipino but has been merely naturalized, chose to challenge the alderman’s Filipino loyalty thus: “How can you truly serve the Filipino people when you are a Chinese?”
To the electorate’s challenge, Ang delivered what strikes me as a classic statement: “In your case, you were born in the Philippines. You have no other choice but to be a Filipino. In my case, I can choose to remain a Chinese but I chose to be a Filipino. Between you and I, who is more Filipino?”
(To be continued)