IMSCFBy Vaughn Geuseppe Alviar
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I have a confession to make: I have IMSCF, or the “I am Spanish-Chinese-Filipino Syndrome.” It is an illusion (or desperate desire) that one is a Spanish- and/or Chinese-Filipino.
Some say only Filipino-Americans have it. I think otherwise. To full-blooded Filipinos, being pure Filipino means being “plain” Filipino. I should know. As far as the evidence goes, I’m a Filipino born to and raised in the Philippines by Filipino parents whose own parents are Filipino. But I have chinky eyes—reason enough to hope, I think.
I think Chinoys are elites. They come from a nation that now reaps gold medals in math and sports, and sometimes in spelling. It also seems that Chinoys won’t need to save up because generations and generations of hardworking ancestors did it for them. Their record is undeniably far more superior. Why, Chinese jars are heirlooms. Philippine jars are for bagoong and the halimaw sa banga.
On some days, I wish I had Chinese blood. On others, I tell people I have it. Here is where IMSCF kicks in. Many won’t believe me because my skin is dark brown. Then, I ride on the issue of racial stereotyping. By then, I would have been Chinoy.
The Spanish blood I rejected long ago. Spaniards are white, and Chinese are yellow. Aside from the obvious fact that yellow is nearer to dark brown (than white, that is), we have China embedded in our culture.
Pancit was on everyone’s menu in the New Year celebration, I know. We laugh at but believe in the thought that every strand of it prolongs life. Folks say MSG is poisonous but sprinkle it liberally on everything, anyway. My grandparents told me siopao was made from cat meat. It didn’t matter. I ate one or two every time some house nearby served it. They said taho was Chinese vomit. I knew better—maybe because I had Chinoy instinct.
The Philippines has the oldest Chinatown in the world. This place in Binondo was mighty important when we hunted for those 12 round fruits, fireworks, torotot, tikoy and some advice on what to wear as the clock struck 12, the time dependent on which network’s countdown you watched. It’s older than the country or even the aspiration for it.
Feng shui is like a religion here. We can spend hundreds of bucks for the promise of better fortune. Our family restructured our house and bought ornaments with characters only God can comprehend because a feng shui book said so. Alas, we had better luck afterward—this may be IMSCF speaking. Neighbors borrowed the book to follow suit and the book was never to be seen again. Mama gets the resolve to look for it every New Year, when there is a national craze over good fortune.
If there is one nation that has a strong impact on Filipino culture, it’s China. We invite luck the Chinese way, in general. It is ironic that we are on bad terms. Now, whenever we talk about Chinese stuff, we also summon thoughts of an ongoing territorial turmoil.
When I was a kid, the number of our islands was 7,107. I remember a cheese advertisement spoof on a (Spanish-blooded) Filipino beauty queen’s “High tide or low tide”? The ad became really popular as it gave a new angle to a simplistic count. Nevertheless, my number was still 7,107. It was not very complicated, no power play was involved. Now, I bet 10-year-old Ate and Kuya—derived from Chinese words atchi and koya—can debate on the number of islands citing baseline laws and more, thanks to the media coverage of the territorial conflict.
Some heroes of the Philippine Revolution against Spain were of Chinese descent. Because of them, we have June 12. Now, the dispute over Scarborough Shoal and others is threatening to nullify whatever these brave people worked on more than a century back.
I do not harbor hard feelings for Chinoys. Pure Filipinos are way past any sense of alienation or tolerance. We have long accepted Chinoy culture as a tinge of color in our hodgepodge nation. If it helps, let me use what others have used—I have Chinoy friends. If that isn’t enough, I admit inggit. Again, IMSCF.
I’m just concerned. The Chinoy dilemma will be, if it is not already, serious. Chinese people respect their heritage more than anyone else, but the Chinoys live in the Philippines. I can imagine how torn they are whenever they hear news on the West Philippine Sea (or is it South China Sea?).
For pure Filipinos, it doesn’t need too much thinking: Scarborough is so much nearer to Luzon than to any point in China. Succumbing would mean lack of power to protect our territory from invasion. I don’t know which side Chinoys belong to on this issue, or how the government is intending to mend this rift, but we owe to every citizen, no matter the “breed” or lack of it, to solve the issue fast. Filipinos must feel secure in their territory.
Many of China’s high-technology ships are out to taunt our imperiled defenses. Chinese aircraft have also flown over our territory without permission. To retaliate, we claimed our part of the vast South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea. We are also soliciting any form of support worldwide. We just can’t display a power we do not have.
China recently released a passport with a map that claimed even Taiwan as its own. It sounded the alarm for just about every nation surrounding it. China’s claws are definitely out, and its eyes might be on our nation.
I have IMSCF. I sometimes argue that the lack of evidence that I am not Chinese means that I am. But one truth is that I have Katipunero blood. I’ve just begun making a name for myself, and certainly not in the military. But if anyone tries to threaten my country, give me a bolo or maybe a lantaka. I’ll fight.
Anyway, in hopes of a peaceful resolution, kung hei fat choi! My New Year commitment: Get a Philippine passport that will say I am Filipino, like the Chinoys—my relatives on some days. My picture in that booklet will be smiling, proud.
Vaughn Geuseppe Alviar, 21, is a newbie at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He grew up in Cagayan and now lives in Cavite. He is self-medicating for his self-diagnosed illness. He says getting published in Young Blood will make his 2013.
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