COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
I just finished reading Tulay, a Chinese-Filipino Digest that comes out fortnightly. One of the articles expressed the isolation of growing up Chinese in the Philippines, the strain one has to undergo in living between “two seemingly conflicting worlds,” as the writer aptly describes. The rest of the articles portray the situations in which the Chinese Filipinos are placed in their respective communities, and the efforts they’re making to assimilate in the bigger Filipino community.
Most Chinese Filipinos, or Tsinoys of today, come from the second to the third generation of Chinese Filipinos. They speak Tagalog more than Hokkien, and consider the Philippines their homeland. These later generations of Chinese overseas are breaking grounds in taking roots in Philippine soil not as a separate entity with high walls, but as an integral part of Philippine society.
As they gradually move towards becoming a Filipino and help in nation building, they did not cease to be Chinese. They still retain their language, religion, food and medicine, holidays, and other aspects of their cultural life.
Since they started to settle here, the Chinese have managed to build their own houses, schools, temples, and cemeteries. Through the years, they have restaurants, groceries, stores, clinics, and other establishments to answer to their needs. And they continue to engage in business or other occupations to make a living.
Now, if the Chinese who migrated here from China can eventually be integrated in the mainstream of Philippine society, I think our Muslim brothers who have long stayed in Philippine soil can make a similar move. They should refrain from burning the remaining bridges they have with the government and the rest of the Filipino people. Further attitudes of belligerency on their part will only make them more marginalized.
Education can be a key to survival. It will empower them individually and collectively. It will enable them to strongly assert their right for space and freedom to live their lives without harassment. It will also help them attain economic and political security.
I met some Muslim Filipinos in my high school and college days that went back to Mindanao to serve their localities. A few worked in big corporations while others joined government service. They practiced their religion then, as students; and I know they still practice their religion now, as working citizens.
There are other ways to survival and our Muslim brothers should know better what serves them right, like when the Chinese took the path of industry and hard work. Yes, the government has to come in but in a fledging democracy like ours, each interest group has to work its way towards being heard and represented.
Indeed, this country has a place for everyone as long as he does not sow suspicion and mistrust. We are still a warm and hospitable people. And for those of us living here who are not Chinese, Muslims, or belonging to any ethnic group, we would like to maintain that we are not sleeping with an enemy.