Tsinoy Beats and Bytes

Why begrudge Tsinoys their success?

I am saddened that someone of Manong Frankie Sionil Jose’s stature could misunderstand the Tsinoys and their role, influence and impact in all aspects of Philippine life (The STAR, “Can we trust America,” Hindsight column, Jan. 19, 2019). I don’t doubt Jose’s love of our country, but he’s been misinformed and misguided about our intense love and loyalty to the Philippines and equally intense pride in our ethnic Chinese heritage.
We are Tsinoys or Tsinong Pinoy, Chinese Filipinos whose blood may be Chinese but whose roots grow deep in Philippine soil and whose bonds are with the Filipino people.
In our ranks were heroes and martyrs who stood side by side with Filipinos and who gave their lives for our beloved country. I don’t mean just the Chinese freedom fighters who fought against the Spaniards, Americans and Japanese.
Among modern-day heroes, we can count world renowned botanist Leonard Co, whose life was snuffed out while gathering plant specimens for reforestation; Lawrence Ong, who died at age 44 after serving the Aetas of Bataan, juvenile delinquents in Cebu and Vietnam refugees in Palawan; and above all, the seven volunteer firefighters whose young lives were prematurely taken while serving others.
A quick breeze through history books would have shown Jose how the Philippine economy came to a standstill during Spanish times after disastrous events such as the massacres and mass expulsions of Chinese. Spanish authorities had to entice the Chinese back because the colony could not function without their services.
During the American occupation, the Chinese Exclusion Law was enforced, permitting the entry only of merchants and sons of merchants to the country. Thus, among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines was unique in not having a Tsinoy blue-collar working class.
But the enterprising Chinese opened sari-sari stores all over the country, from the remotest mountains to the farthest islets, making life easier for their Filipino clients.
The Chinese guerrillas fought side by side and shoulder to shoulder with their Filipino brothers during the Japanese Occupation. Right after the war, the Chinese started rebuilding their businesses, without waiting for reparations. Without their sheer dint of hard work, Philippine post-war economic recovery would have been slower.
It was in the immediate postwar era that saw enterprising Chinese workers going door to door to peddle their wares.
The Que family of Mercury Drug, the Yutivo hardware family, the Sy family of Shoemart, the Gokongweis of Robinson have one thing in common: sheer hard work, perseverance and persistence, heartbreak, sacrifices and sweat enabled their families to succeed.
Behind every pillar that spelled the success of our Tsinoy businessmen are true stories of “exploiting” every opportunity provided by the Philippines in order to earn money to support their families.
And for each successful opportunity they “exploited,” thousands (now millions) of Filipino families benefited in terms of downstream businesses and employment.
Without the Chinese Filipinos who didn’t pull out their capital during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship, our economic growth would have been much slower. Without the enterprising Tsinoys who went into small-scale manufacturing when the retail trade was closed to them by law in 1954, Philippine industrialization would not have grown as fast.
Textile vendors in the Divisoria-Ilaya area pooled resources to build the first textile mills. Small enterprise shoe sellers, T-shirt and candy vendors pooled resources to build the shoe, T-shirt, candies and confectioneries factories.
Yes, the retail trade nationalization was a crisis, but the Tsinoys again “exploited” the opportunities provided by that crisis, and their action moved Philippine industrialization forward much faster.
What they earned, they plowed back into the Philippine economy. They provided jobs to Filipinos; otherwise, we might have double the eight million overseas Filipino workers we have now.
Why begrudge, denigrate and punish Tsinoys for their success and the wealth produced by that success? Why be inhospitable to excellence? Other countries boost their economic achievers up. But here Jose wants to put them down? We know who will suffer most if this happens.
It is a figment of his imagination to conclude that the Chinese Filipinos now control 80 percent of Philippine businesses. The Tsinoys are mostly in the visible buy-and-sell businesses and that perhaps is the source of the myth behind the Tsinoys’ economic dominance.
The Philippine government and the established old Filipino families and new Filipino players still own the bigger share of the Philippine economic pie. However, Jose should not begrudge anyone, not the Tsinoys or their fellow Pinoys, their share of the economic pie. When their share grows, it is the Philippine pie that grows bigger and it is the Philippines and Filipinos who benefit from this bigger pie.
The Tsinoys have not been silent on the South China Sea issue. We recognize that there is a dispute and we stand with Filipinos in laying claim to our sovereignty over the disputed islands. But, unlike the hawks in our midst, we will not support war mongering and threats of going to war with China. No matter how great an improvement our defenses have, we still are not equipped to go to war with anybody – China, the United States, or any other country.
We have learned well the wars of our fathers and know that war is never an answer to any political dispute. It is irrational and downright insensitive and dangerous to bring up the Vietnam boat-people crisis and foment mistrust and violence. Envy, stereotypes, misguided threats and scapegoating have no place in civilized discourse.
Our brother Filipinos have learned to accept their Tsinoy brothers as integral and inseparable parts of Philippine society. Their loyalty has been proven in times of war and in times of peace as they work together to rebuild our nation.There is no sense to make us Tsinoys the collateral damage in the South China Sea disputes or for that matter in the proxy supremacy positioning between China and the United States.
We stand with the Filipinos as we have been one family in ancient times and even more so in modern times. We only have one ship. We sink and swim with that one ship – and we all have a duty to keep it afloat.