First published in Tulay, Fortnightly Chinese-Filipino Digest 24, no. 9 (October 4-17, 2011): 5.
戴 (Dai in Mandarin, Te in Hokkien) is the 21st most popular Chinese surname in the Philippines. It ranks 57th in China. The surname Te originates from the imperial clan of the Zhou (周) Dynasty (1066-256 BC). When the first emperor Zhou Wu Wang (周武王), who reigned for three years (1066-1063 BC), conferred title and territory to members of his Ji (姬) clan, some were given a place called 戴, now called Dai Cheng (戴城) or Dai Town.
They established the State Dai in Henan province under its provincial capital Kai Feng. Unfortunately, State Dai was eliminated by State Zheng (鄭) in 713 B.C. Since then, heirs of State Dai used the name of their state as their surname.
Te may not be a major surname among Tsinoys in general, but it is common in Davao’s Chinese-Filipino community. In fact, there is a Chinese saying in Davao: “洪天戴地 (Ang ti Te due),” which literally means “the sky (ti) belongs to the Angs while the earth (due) to the Tes.”
It is an idiomatic expression to describe how numerous the Angs and the Tes are in Davao. (Its counterpart in Cebu is “吳天吳地 (Go ti Go due),” meaning “both the sky and earth belong to the Gos.” That’s how numerous the Gos are among the Chinese in Cebu.)
When one encounters Tsinoys with surname Te, it will be pretty safe to assume or ask if they are from Davao or have relatives there.
Moreover, in the motorcycle business in the Philippines, chances are, the dealers or importers of popular China-made models are businessmen with the surname Te or closely related to them.
A renowned Tsinoy with surname Te who people are more familiar with is human rights lawyer Theodore Te.