At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

THE VULGAR CLASSES

For a while during the early eighties I associated with a number of Filipino Chinese. There was a commonality of circumstance and enterprise between us, and there were advantages for them to having a connection in the United Sates who could arrange things.

I would like to think that it was mutually rewarding, except that it wasn't.
Not entirely.



華菲人與福佬
FILIPINO CHINESE & FUJIANESE
["Wa-fuy lang u Hoklo"]

One thing about Filipino Chinese that grated was the snobbism characteristic to their class.
Their appreciation of fancy Western brand name goods (especially designer merchandise) and a worship of America, while simultaneously insisting that white people smell bad ("except you") combined with an over-the-top top-of-the-heap arrogance towards the natives, whether in Manila or San Francisco - all added up to us not always seeing eye to eye.

The one notable exception was a family that lived in a run-down villa in Quezon City. Yes, they also insisted that Caucasians smelled horrid ( in the tropic climate, where it feels like with every step you're wading further into hot jello, there may indeed be quite a whiff to whitey) and they too were commercially connected at every level of kinship to other Chinese. But there the similarities ended. Bookshelves all over, and every table seemingly a reading desk. It was a domicile remarkably free of status-shopping clutter, and easy on the eyes in consequence.
All members of that family had an old-fashioned Chinese appreciation for scholarly pursuits melded with the love of reading that was once common in the Western World, plus more PHDs than you could shake a stick at. They also owned an exceptional collection of calligraphy; several of them were themselves masters of the brush.

But they were utterly anomalous to that time and that place, quite at odds with most members of their tribe. It was a privilege to be in their circle. Exceptional in many ways.


Chinese Filipinos can be wonderful people to know.

Unless you really know them.

Then they're fascinating.

And somewhat repellant.

Watching the boiler-room heat of Manileño-Hoklo social interactions is best done from a little distance.

[Hoklo (福佬): a person from the southern part of Fujian (福建), whose dialect is most likely the Amoy (Hsia Men 下門) dialect of Minnanhwa (閩南話).]


商旅家同自己人
MERCANTILE WANDERERS & US FOLKS
["Sangly keh tng kakilang"]

The best and brightest prospect for many wealthy Filipinos, ESPECIALLY Filipino Chinese, is the eventuality that they or their relatives will move to the United States. Which many of them actually do in order to finish their education. Not that they particularly value education for itself, but an American degree has much more status than a piece of paper from any institution in the Philippines.
It opens doors in Manila, it opens the door to the United States.

[The piece of paper, that is, not the education. In many ways the concept of education, especially education for education's sake, is entirely foreign to Filipinos and Filipino-Chinese. Hence the huge number of lawyers, and near complete dearth of historians, philosophers, philologists...... ]


With clever maneuvering, the erstwhile student becomes a permanent resident, and then moves yet another relative into the country.

A Filipino family with many American members is in the cat-bird seat.
Their stateside kin will be able to provide them with American labels and brand name merchandise. Plus valuable connections and introductions.

The only fly in the Filipino Chinese ointment is that Filipino Chinese are mostly Hokkien. Home is always and ultimately Fujian province, their social focus remains Manila and the wealthy Chinese business community, and their perception of status stays firmly centered on being able to maintain wealth, and influence among the lesser Philippine mortals.

Marrying-out, for many Filipinos, is the purest sign that one has arrived in the United States, that one also belongs in America, and that the family has become successful in both environments.
It is the best thing that ever happened.

For Filipino Chinese, it is also the worst.
Definitely déclassé, in any case.


While the Hokkienese-bourgeois value system remains constant for multiple generations in its Philippine hothouse, it frequently dissipates in ONE generation once transplanted to the United States - the formerly pure Hokkien Business Bloodline becomes diluted with other genetic and cultural material (i.e.: 'white'), and the drive towards proper Filipino social supremacy falters.

Such social ineptness may be elided over by the immediate kin, but everyone else in Makati, Greenhills, and Binondo understands completely.


Having relatives who are chyap chying (雜精) instead of pure lanlang (咱人) marks both success and, ultimately, failure.




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1 Comments:

  • At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Chayim said…

    [The piece of paper, that is, not the education. In many ways the concept of education, especially education for education's sake, is entirely foreign to Filipinos and Filipino-Chinese. Hence the huge number of lawyers, and near complete dearth of historians, philosophers, philologists...... ]

    It's the same among the American Jews:

    http://www.jpost.com/Magazine/Opinion/Article.aspx?id=203464

     

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