We Filipinos call it reto. It’s the act of matchmaking two people, whose paths may not have crossed if not for us. For the Chinese community, especially the Filipino-Chinese (Chinoy), they call it kaishao, or arranged date. And it’s kind of a big deal.
In fact, there’s a woman called the Kaishao Queen, whose role is to introduce two people to each other based on their profiles. She even has a high success rate. There’s also a private Facebook group that emerged during the quarantines where Chinoys can set their friends up for kaishao dates. In 2021, the group had 18,000 members.
Kaishao traces its history to matchmaking, a popular tradition among the Fil-Chi community in the ’60s to ’80s. According to a report by ANCX, parents would ask the help of a matchmaker to find someone for their child. Once a match is made, everyone is introduced and a marriage is set. This tradition has evolved over time to be not as binding, which is the kaishao tradition practiced today. When the individuals matched aren’t compatible, they can go their separate ways.
This tradition is what Mae Coyiuto explores in her latest young adult novel, Chloe and the Kaishao Boys. The book is a hilarious rom-com that follows Chloe Liang, a Filipino-Chinese teenager who knows exactly what it takes to be the perfect daughter. That means staying in Manila, studying business management, and joining the family company. But when she unexpectedly gets off the waitlist for the University of Southern California, her dream of becoming an animator in the United States gets within reach.
Before she goes, her father sets Chloe up on one awkward kaishao after another, intent on finding her the perfect escort for her eighteenth birthday party. Chloe knows that at home in the Philippines, her future is all planned out for her while going to America leads to a path filled with risk and uncertainty. She must decide if following her dreams is worth everything — and everyone — she’ll leave behind.
“I actually wrote this when I was in grad school for writing. Our professor gave us an assignment to write a young-adult fantasy. I really love reading fantasy, but my mind never works that way so I was like, I kind of want to write something set in a high school similar to where I went to here,” Coyiuto tells WheninManila.com.
At the start, she was worried because it might be too niche for her class. Like Chloe, Coyiuto studied abroad, earning her master’s degree in writing for children and young adults from the New School in New York City.
“Even though my classmates were based in the States, they wanted to learn more after reading that. So for the next few years, I just kept on working on the story. And then eventually, it turned into this book,” she reveals.
The kaishao tradition is still alive, flourishing, and even successful. In Coyiuto’s circles, however, people are more comfortable getting set up by their friends rather than their family. She adds, “I know a lot of success stories. I think a lot of my friends or people in my batch are getting engaged these days and I know a lot of people who were kaishaoed.”
In fact, Coyiuto has experienced it before, which helped inform Chloe and the Kaishao Boys. According to her, her parents set up her when she was in college but they didn’t tell her it was an arranged date.
“They know if they asked me upfront, I would be like, ‘No, I don’t want to do that.’ Sometimes you go out to lunch, and then there’s a guy there. I’m kind of socially awkward so I was like, ‘This is not a good way for me to meet anyone.’ It became good material for [the book] because what if both parties weren’t aware there was something happening?” Coyuito says.
Kaishao can be awkward and tricky territory, like with all first dates. Coyiuto has tips on how to ace it.
Kaishao, or arranged date, is part of the Fil-Chi community. It’s a topic that @maecoyiuto wrote about in her book Chloe and the Kaishao Boys (which we love). We asked the author on how to survive a kaishao date, in an interview hosted by @National Book Store ❤️ #booktok #booktokph #booktokphilippines #yabooks #yabooktok
She stresses the importance of letting the people involved know it’s a date. Consent is key.
She adds, “Just be yourself. Even if it’s someone you know who set you up with this person, they deserve to know who you really are. It’s nice if someone likes you for your genuine self.”
Lastly, don’t feel any pressure. Kaishao isn’t as binding as arranged marriage so it’s not a big deal if you and your date aren’t compatible. Coyiuto adds, “You never know, you might get a friend or something more out of it.”
The dating culture of the Chinese continues to have a hold on us, especially with movies like Crazy Rich Asians and the Mano Po franchise. But Chloe and the Kaishao Boys shows us that dating as a Chinoy is similar to that as a Filipino. Sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends. Or family.
Chloe and the Kaishao Boys is available for only P595 (trade paperback) in select National Book Store branches, online at nationalbookstore.com, and on their official stores on Lazada and Shopee.
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