7 Debunked Myths about Chinoys that You Need to Know

When in Manila, there have been Chinito and Chinita celebrities that have gained popularity in the recent years. Some examples include Kim Chiu, Xian Lim, Enchong Dee, Richard Yap, and the Teng Brothers.
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While these Chinoy celebrities have legions of loyal fans, some posts online about non-celebrity Chinoys still get racist and derogatory remarks such as “bumalik na lang kayong China!” and “‘Wag niyong ninanakaw ang Spratlys!” There are also less serious and even humorous misconceptions about the Chinese-Filipinos. This list is a mix of both.

Here are seven myths and stereotypes some people have about Chinoys:

7.) Chinese-Filipinos wear outlandish “traditional” #OOTD’s.


Chinese-Filipino Kim Chiu Photo by Antonio Carranza

As much as red and gold silk look great on Kim Chiu, these outfits are very unusual to wear–even on special occasions. While most Chinese-Filipinos would still wear red on birthdays, a red polo shirt with denim jeans would suffice.

6.) Chinese-Filipinos are excessively studious and naturally good in Math.Asian 2 Asian

Not all Chinese-Filipinos become businessmen, mathematicians, engineers, and doctors. Proof of that is the many Chinoys who have ventured into the creative industries. Just think of successful fashion bloggers such as Laureen Uy, Camille Co, and Kryz Uy, or the Chinita and Chinito celebrities mentioned above. There are also numerous Chinoys who have made a name for themselves in sports, politics, architecture, and communication.

5.) “Intsik” simply means “Chinese.”

“Intsik” is often a derogatory term. Sometimes, the mere mention of the word “Instik” stirs up negative memories. In his column, Michael Tan, the current chancellor of UP Diliman, wrote about similar experiences:

I grew up on the receiving end of Intsik as an epithet, pagmumura in Filipino. Walking to or from Xavier School in San Juan City, whose students are predominantly ethnic Chinese, I would have urban poor kids chasing after me chanting, “Intsik, intsik, tulo laway” (drooling saliva). That insult was intended to go with “Intsik beho,” “beho” being a Filipino corruption of the Spanish “viejo” which means old. I suspect that term was used to taunt poor old Chinese men, probably ambulant vendors … The word is derived from “in chiek,” which in Hokkien/Minnan Chinese (the language used in the part of Fujian province from which most local Chinese come from), means their uncle.

4.) The “Great Wall” is proof of their racism.


For teens and those in their 20’s, there seems to be a recurring question asked to Chinese-Filipinos: “May Great Wall ka ba?” Having a “Great Wall” means not being allowed by the family to marry someone who does not share the same ethnicity. This is a theme that is seen in plots of some movies and dramas such as Mano Po. 
This kind of practice still exists in some Chinese-Filipino families, but I could also name many friends whose families have long disregarded this rule. The question is, are those who practice this really racists? Chancellor Michael Tan provides social and historical context in his column, where he argues that race is not the primary issue. Instead, it is ethnocentrism — which is not limited to the Chinese-Filipinos only.
More than race, the wall is based on ethnocentrism, which is the idea that’s one own ethnicity or cultural group is superior to all others. Ethnocentrism exists everywhere, and is extended into warnings that a marriage to someone from another culture will result in great misery. Even among Filipinos, for example, there are still families that warn children about marrying someone from other ethnicity because of stereotypes, e.g., a “Bisaya” used to extravagance will never be happy with an Ilokano who is so thrifty. Ethnocentric people often forget that within their own group there are also many variations and that in any cultural group there will be extravagant and thrifty people … We — “Tsinoys,” “Tsinays,” “Pinoys,” “Pinays” — need to keep fighting the stereotypes that fortify the great wall…Cultural differences exist, no doubt, but rather than focusing on them as obstacles and challenges, consider them the spice of relationships, and of life. 

3.) Matters regarding the Philippines don’t concern them.

Paki Ko Meme

History immediately disproves this myth. In Teresita Ang See’s lecture, The Fires of Revolution: Shared History, Shared Destiny last September 14, 2012, she cited numerous examples of the Chinese and the Filipinos who fought side by side against the foreign colonizers.
She talked about the 4,000 Chinese migrants who united with the natives of Jolo against Spain. While we know from the textbooks in our history classes about La Liga Filipina, a relatively unknown fact is that La Liga Filipina was formed in the house of a Chinese-Filipino, Doroteo Ongjunco. Some of the financiers were also Chinese mestizos. The Katipunero’s Ang Kalayaan, was printed in the house of  yet another Chinese mestizo, Pio Valenzuela. The GOMBURZA priests were all of both Filipino and Chinese ethnicity. The trece martires, or 13 martyrs of Cavite were all Chinese mestizos. Aguinaldo was also quoted praising General Jose Paua, a Chinese who recruited and led 3,000 Chinese revolutionists against Spain. Aguinaldo said, “Many Chinese sympathized with the cause of Philippine revolution, not a few also joined the revolutionary army and carried arms.” (Source)

2.) The Chinoys are referred to as “Filipino-Chinese.”


Unlike “Intsik,” “Filipino-Chinese” is not an offensive word. But it is also not the proper term. 

The proper term to refer to “Filipino nationals of Chinese ethnicity but born and/or raised in the Philippines” is actually “Chinese-Filipino.” Using “Filipino” as the second word implies that it is used as a noun. This is according to Teresita Ang See as cited by DJ Mellow 94,7 DJ Stan Sy in his undergraduate thesis when he was still a student in the University of the Philippines.

In DJ Stan’s consultation with another professor, Professor Angela Yu, she explained:  “Using it as a noun connotes an act of settling and an intention to develop longer relations with Filipinos.” DJ Stan added, “The Chinese-Filipino term implies that I am a Filipino. I just happen to be of Chinese ancestry.”

While using the “proper term” does not seem like a big deal at first, the words we use always have a power over us and the people around us. By using the term “Chinese-Filipino” over “Filipino-Chinese,” we recognize through words that the Chinese-Filipinos are Filipinos. The use of the “Chinese” is simply an adjective describing what kind of Filipino they are.

1.) They are not Filipinos.   

This is perhaps the saddest and most troubling myth. The failure to acknowledge the Chinese-Filipinos as true Filipinos is the root cause of racism and xenophobia. Many Chinese-Filipinos have decided to stay here for good. The Philippines is the country they call home. Nationalistic quotes like “Filipino for Filipinos” and “Itaguyod ang sariling atin” seem great–until people demand exclusivity regarding who the “true Filipinos” are.
Who are the “true” Filipinos? This is not a question of citizenship, of ethnicity, of jus sanguini or jus soli. It is a question of belongingness and exclusivity.
I think it should be about choice. We do not choose the countries that we are born into. But we do get to choose what country we pledge our allegiance to, what country we choose to stay in.  Are these decisions less important than the color of our skin or the size of our eyes? Shouldn’t our choices count more than circumstances we could not control?