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Paradox of Being a Female Tsinoy

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I am a middle child with seven siblings, born of a Chinese father and Chinese mestiza mother. I guess three-quarters Chinese is sufficient enough to strongly distinguish me as one of the yellow race.

My mother is a Batangueña, strongly influenced by Chinese culture. She totally surrendered herself to traditional Chinese ways with her marriage at the tender age of 14.

My mother lived with her Chinese in-laws on the beautiful island of Mong Pong, Marinduque. Her education was acquired through experience, learning all things Chinese, from language to culture to tradition. She also learned the mathematics of buying and selling copra, as well as the rigidity and harshness of running a business, Chinese style.

After nine long years on the island, my parents moved to Sta. Cruz, Marinduque. There I was born, amid the mountains of the copra industry—and its accompanying hard work.

At age seven, my brother and I would gather copra from the drying yard and trade it with our mother for five cents a kilo. We weighed copra meats in addition to chores like sorting and determining moisture content.

These responsibilities were part of the busy daily work schedule assigned us.

Early on, I learned how being independent and responsible are results of being left alone to make decisions in times of need. I was raised to be productive, industrious, and self-contained. I was instilled with many values that were agreeable and conforming to Chinese norm and customs.


By God’s grace and through the enterprising Chinese culture, we were able to attain our goals and went beyond our expectations. Our hard work and dedication paid off in the end. After finishing college, my brothers were assigned their own areas of business ownership in the family corporation. My sister and I were not.

Why? Because we were born of lesser gods, so to speak. Girls were considered inferior assets in the family. Fortunate indeed were my brothers, for they were given everything: business, property, plus some luxuries.

Us girls were left to fend for ourselves with only a meager inheritance, such as jewelry, and parental blessings if we planned to leave the family to marry into a reputable Chinese family.

But I had a dream and I wanted to pursue it.

After graduating from industrial engineering at Mapua, I immediately applied for jobs in Manila to move away from my parents’ shadow. I started learning how to live life on my own.

My parents frequently discouraged me from working for other companies and constantly told me to come back home.

During those times we were home, my sister and I were usually matched with several prospects for marriage. My parents and older relatives would unceasingly search for the right man of Chinese descent to bring honor to our family.

Unfortunately, this did not work out for my sister. She ended up separated from her Chinese husband. Me? I stayed single. But I always felt hunted—and haunted! On one occasion, I called off an engagement and an attempted wedding.

Gift from Heaven

Entrepreneurship runs in my blood, and I considered my calling for trading a gift from heaven. One day, my mother asked me to help distribute refined coconut oil after my office work.

I tried it out to augment my income. I started with 50 cans, until I was able to sell more. This inevitably led to my resignation from the company I worked for.

With an initial 10,000 pesos (US$228.39) in savings as capital and a credit line from my parents’ company,

I started distributing cooking oil in Metro Manila. I promoted and marketed to many customers. I valued every relationship, recognizing it to be an important factor in enhancing sales and customer loyalty.

One time, our brand of coconut oil was discontinued due to constant production breakdowns. This forced me to find alternative sources. The values I learned from my parents—plus my business acumen—are the secrets of my staying power in the industry.

I am grateful to have achieved my present status, having survived 16 years in the business, growing it to 25 employees. From humble beginnings as a saleswoman, I was able to provide a comfortable life for myself. I get to travel frequently to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Being born Tsinoy, and female at  that with unequal privileges, put unusual strain on our family ties, making us afraid. On the other hand, we are lucky to be born Chinese because it has its advantages.

print ed: 07/08


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