Tracing Back Chinese Roots In Filipino Culture

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Tracing Back Chinese Roots In Filipino Culture

Situated at the heart of Manila, Philippines is the humble yet progressively evolving district called Binondo – also known to many as the world’s oldest Chinatown.

It comes as no surprise that this quintessential town of culture and nostalgia is on the list of must-see places when visiting Manila. A trip to Binondo is a journey back in time; an opportunity for travellers to not only get a glimpse of Manila’s past, but also the long and enduring relationship between China and the Philippines.

Binondo used to be Manila’s center of business and finance. Today, remnants of its past still remain standing and thriving. The streets of Binondo are still lined with a plethora of Chinese family-owned businesses, ranging from hardware stores and electronic shops to restaurants and traditional apothecaries. Buildings sit tightly next to each other, frequently giving room only to small alleyways. But even so, bits and pieces of Chinese influence still have their place within its heavily crowded space.

Alongside modern businesses, one can also find temples and feng shui specialty shops. And yet, a popular Catholic Church also shares the same address. Binondo also has a good number of Chinese schools with a curriculum that includes Chinese language and calligraphy, but without forgetting to add Filipino language as a required subject as well.

It’s amazing how both cultures managed to keep their identities, while also harmoniously coexisting side by side throughout so many years. Binondo is more than 400 years old and it is more than just a tourist attraction or an ancestral heritage to many Filipinos. It is evidence of some Chinese roots in the Filipino culture but more importantly, it is a representation of two cultures coming together and learning from one another.

Chinese Influence On Filipino Culture

Binondo was founded in the year 1594 and it served as a settlement for Chinese immigrants also known as the sangleys at the time. But even before Spanish colonization, ties between China and the Philippines have long been established through trade. And with a history that started many centuries ago, it’s not surprising to discover bits of China in Philippine history and culture.

Interestingly, Chinese influence still remain engrained in Philippine modern culture, withstanding the 333-year long reign of Spanish power in the country. Take a peek at the everyday lives of Filipinos today and you are sure to find evidence of China’s cultural presence.

Filipino-Chinese Cuisine

They say that one of the best ways to experience a country’s culture is through its local cuisine. Philippine cuisine is undoubtedly diverse and symbolic of the rich culture of the Filipinos. But believe it or not, evidence of Chinese influence on Filipino cuisine isn’t that hard to find.

Hopia

The hopia, for example, is a delicious flaky puff pastry introduced by Chinese immigrants from Fujian. It won’t take long to realize its resemblance to the desserts and pastries of neighboring countries Hong Kong and Taiwan. The hopia is traditionally filled with a sweet Mung bean filling but Filipinos made it their own by creating their original choice of filling. There’s the ube hopia which has a native purple yam (ube) filling instead of the typical Mung bean (monggo). A quick research of traditional Filipino desserts and you’ll find that the ube is a local favorite.

Tikoy

Apart from the hopia, the tikoy is also another perfect example of Chinese influence not only on food, but also on Philippine tradition. The Philippines celebrates Chinese New Year every year with tikoy, also known as the Chinese Nian Gao. As its name suggests, this rice cake is the centerpiece during Chinese New Year.

Both Filipinos and Chinese believe that the tikoy will bring money and good luck. Just like the hopia, Filipinos have also made their original versions of the tikoy. During Chinese New Year, you can find purple yam flavored tikoy as well as pandan – both flavors being very Filipino.

Siopao and siomai

Filipinos love sweets which is probably the reason why the hopia and the tikoy were such a big hit. But that does not mean that Filipinos do not enjoy more savory foods. Siopao and siomai are your typical Chinese meat buns and dumplings. But ask any Filipino around and they will tell you that they are a Filipino staple and that they are totally different from the Chinese version. But judging from the names themselves, it’s undeniable that these local favorites were inspired by Chinese dimsum.

Birthday noodles

True to its name, Birthday Noodles are served during someone’s birthday. This dish is also called Longevity Noodles or Long Life Noodles. And according to Chinese superstition, the right way to eat this dish is to avoid cutting the longer strands as it symbolizes cutting off one’s luck. Despite the majority of Filipinos being very religious, many still follow the tradition of including Birthday Noodles in birthday party menus. And yes, they also try to eat it the “proper” way with hopes and wishes of good luck to the birthday celebrant.

Family Ties

The Chinese are known for their culture of filial piety. They take the hierarchical structure of their families very seriously by honoring ancestors and obeying the wishes of those older than them. This belief complements Filipino beliefs about family as well. Filipinos put their family above everything else and they have high respect for their elders.

The hierarchy in Chinese families may have influenced Filipinos to obey not only the wishes of their parents and grandparents but to also show equal amount of respect towards their older brothers and sisters. Until today, Filipinos have the habit of calling their brothers and sisters “ate” or “kuya” instead of calling them by name as proof of their respect and humility towards their siblings.

Superstitions

According to statistics, the Philippines is 82.9% Catholic so it is very interesting to discover their very superstitious culture. While most of their superstitious beliefs have unknown sources, quite a handful of them are actually a result of Chinese influence. As mentioned above, plenty of Filipinos practice Chinese superstitious beliefs through food such as eating Birthday Noodles or tikoy for good luck and prosperity.

Another interesting tradition inspired by Chinese superstitious belief is the Filipino’s preference for the color red. The Chinese believe that the color red symbolizes good fortune. With that in mind, Filipinos started to wear red on their birthday as well to reinforce their chances of good luck on their special day.

The number 8 is a lucky number according to many Chinese and Filipinos. This is the reason why most Filipinos would prefer to have their car plate numbers or mobile numbers with as many 8’s as possible – but that does not end there…

Plenty of Filipinos today also incorporate principles of Feng Shui in their home. They also regularly check their yearly horoscope during Chinese New Year. In relation to Feng Shui, they try to style their home or make changes according to the forecast of their yearly horoscope. Of course, following these superstitions does not represent of dictate the Catholic faith of Filipinos but rather, it is viewed as a fun and enjoyable way to celebrate culture and tradition.

Moving Forward

Having said all this, the cultural history and relationship shared between the Philippines and China runs deep in the veins of Filipino culture. Despite the political riffs and tensions between both countries in recent years, their past is too much entangled with one another that it cannot be undone. Perhaps tracing back the Chinese roots in Filipino culture can ignite the ancestral brotherhood between both countries once again, hopefully proving to the world that cultural identity is not lost or given away, but shared. After all, there’s 400 years worth of evidence sitting in the heart of Manila and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

kimsasaki

kimsasaki

Hello there, my name is Kim Sasaki. I am a freelance writer and an SEO/digital marketing expert. working with online businesses and helping them grow. Send me a message and let's talk about how we can get traffic for your website starting TODAY

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germinator avatar
Geremy (@germinator)
Member
2 years ago

so after being hundreds of years being geographical close to each other, there are only 4 dishes that influence the Philippines ? LOL

ronnie avatar
ronnie (@ronnie)
Reply to  Geremy
2 years ago

Assuming your filipino

Lumpia, pancit, I think lugaw 

selurong avatar
Member
Reply to  Geremy
2 years ago

There’s actually more. In actually want to know how Filipino cuisine affected Chinese cuisine, since importation of American and Latino cuisine happened via the Philippines. But that’s a topic not often explored.

josh avatar
josh (@zexsy)
Member
Reply to  Selurong (Rene B. Sarabia Jr.)
2 years ago

I seen a few dishes that copied filipino dishes, they copied the halo-halo & they have their own version as well

germinator avatar
Geremy (@germinator)
Member
Reply to  Selurong (Rene B. Sarabia Jr.)
1 year ago

selurong avatar Rene B. Sarabia Jr

can you give a few examples?

selurong avatar
Member
2 years ago

Actually most Chinese-Filipinos are from Guangzhou or South China and South China was were the Austronesians come from. And the South Chinese who migrated to the Philippine already have partial Austronesian descent themselves compared to the native Austronesians in the Philippines.

josh avatar
josh (@zexsy)
Member
Reply to  Selurong (Rene B. Sarabia Jr.)
2 years ago

they are a small minority.

selurong avatar
Member
Reply to  josh
2 years ago

Yes indeed. Pure Chinese are small minority however those with partial Chinese descent are 27% of the country and those of partial Spanish/Latino descent are 13% of the country however these Chinese or Latin hybrids are more loyal to the Philippines than to China or Spain.

josh avatar
josh (@zexsy)
Member
Reply to  Selurong (Rene B. Sarabia Jr.)
2 years ago

dude stop! vietnamese DNA is only 10% chinese at most. vietnamese got invaded by the chinese for thousands of years and they only show 10%

the only reason why filipino score high on east asian DNA is because they count the native taiwanese tribe as east asian which is false. 

the chinese merchants were no more than 500-1,000 that went to the philippines since 15 century. its just impossible for PHiippines to have 27% chinese ancestry. 

Philippines is a former spain and the mestizo population is no more than 5% percent at best. 

how in the world can a bunch merchants effect the genetics population? 

this is the fault of mis-information flowing around the internet like wiki

 

josh avatar
josh (@zexsy)
Member
Reply to  josh
2 years ago

vietnam= got invaded by chinese army ( 10% )

Philippines= a bunch of merchants 500-1000 at best ( 27%?????) 

thailand= recently chinese started moving there  ( 14% chinese-mestizo at best)

it doesn’t add up. ( you must consider the fact that spain & america banned the chinese from migrating to philippines)

selurong avatar
Member
Reply to  josh
1 year ago

@josh

Oh ok. Maybe it’s also the fact that the term “Chinese” for the Spanish were broad, in Mexico, people from Taiwan, Japan, Korea or Macau were all considered “Chino” even when they didn’t belong to the Chinese nation. I think the Chino recorded in Spanish censuses also included Japanese, Macaunese and Taiwanese there were alot of Japanese Christians who were persecuted in Japan and migrated to the Philippines and the Japanese hated the Chinese, they would be insulted if you called them so. However, the Spanish census labelled them as Chinos anyway. I think the “Chino” descent found in Spanish censuses aren’t really direct from China they’re mostly from Portuguese Macau or Japanese Christians exiled to the Philippines but then got labbeled as “Chinese”, my childhood friend’s name was “Chino” too, yet his surname is “Ng” which apparently is Vietnamese instead lol. I think a large percentage of Chino registration that appeared in Censuses is as Chinese when translated into English but in the original Spanish means just the more inclusive Chino meaning.

kristel avatar
kristel (@kristel)
2 years ago

I think I have Chinese ancestry in my family DNA, I would like more study about Chinese ancestry within the Filipino Population. 

caelyn avatar
caelyn (@caelyn)
1 year ago

chow king

 

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