Love is a universal experience — one that often defies the constraints of race, culture, and time.
But for the Filipino-Chinese, especially, there is one common specter that haunts with heartbreak and drama many a youthful romance.
Yes, what I’m talking about is the infamous Great Wall.
Many of you probably already know this, but the Great Wall is more than just a historic structure built to keep the Mongolian invaders from conquering China. For Chinoys, it is the symbolic wall that many families maintain to preserve their culture and heritage. Although it may often be perceived as a manifestation of racism, for a community of Filipino-Chinese diaspora who struggle to preserve the remains of tradition and identity, it may serve as an act of loyalty — to family and to whom we perceive ourselves to be.
In the latest episode of CHiNOY TV’s Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart, multiple Chinoy personalities discuss what it means for a member of the Filipino-Chinese community to romantically commit to both Chinoy and non-Chinoy partners. With the rise of a new generation of Chinoys, there have, of course, been a range of conflicting views on interracial romance. What’s important, however, is realizing the things to value when pursuing relationships, whether they involve Chinoys or not.
Although none of us can claim to be experts in love, here are three key insights that we’ve taken away from the discussion:
1. Each and every relationship takes work.
The Great Wall isn’t always the insurmountable structure that many people believe it to be. It’s just that most Chinoy parents are protective of their children. The spouses’ children bring in, after all, will permanently affect the future dynamics of the family. Specifically, what many Filipino-Chinese elders fear is that the new partner may brush away the importance of tradition and culture. As each new generation is born, the Chinese languages and values that have been passed down have already started to erode. It makes sense then to have your children marry into the same kind of family to preserve those traditions, right?
When entering an interracial relationship, both sides need to put in the work. The Chinoy partner, for instance, needs to prepare the non-Chinoy partner for the expectations that may be foisted upon them. The non-Chinoy partner should also learn to acknowledge what their new potential family also values. It should be said that this also works vice-versa and, in fact, may be applicable to other multicultural relationships as well.
“I remember I had to train my boyfriend,” shares pageant queen and model Nicole Cordoves. At the time, she recalled that her Ilonggo boyfriend was sitting with her family at a lazy Susan table, where he then proceeded to serve himself food first. Noticing this, she immediately had to explain to him that he needs to serve the elders first as a sign of respect.
Years later, after learning the nuances of tradition and making an effort to interact with the family, Nicole noticed that her boyfriend was on good terms with even her gwakong (read: maternal grandfather), who wasn’t fluent in either English or Tagalog. It made her appreciate her partner even more.
Nicole happily concludes, “If the guy does decide na ‘even though, babe, you have this Great Wall, I’m going to conquer it with you, I’m going to prove to your family that I am going to take care of you, that I can provide for you, that I will fight for you, that I will stand by your side,’ [then] that guy is worth it.”
2. Most of the time, your parents want what is best for you.
At the end of the day, your life is your own, but there’s no denying that your family is an important part of it. Although your parents may differ in opinion in regard to your relationships, there is often a crucial point that makes them believe the way they do. It’s important to keep that in mind.
On interracial relationships, for example, it certainly isn’t wrong for parents to point out how hard it may be for people of two different cultures to live together. Some differences in beliefs and values may truly make it more difficult for partners to agree with one another.
“It was explained to me na mas madali kasi hindi mo na kailangan i-explain ‘yung mga cultures. Hindi mo kailangan turuan. From my experience having dated someone who is not Chinese and then with my own long-term [Chinese] girlfriend, may punto. Mas madali,” comments radio DJ Stan Sy.
“It always goes back down to the intention of the families,” says vlogger Janeena Chan. “Parents are always going to be extra protective of their children, so let’s not take that into a negative light. In terms of my generation, I can only speak for my truth and the stories I hear, [but] it really is up to the person at the end of the day.
“In case there are certain walls that have to be climbed, I think that goes for most cultures, too.”
3. You are responsible for your own decisions.
Perhaps the most difficult part of pursuing an interracial relationship is the uncertainty of things not working out. Maybe it’s the lack of family approval, not being able to understand one another, a lack of communication, or an incompatibility. It can be an accumulation of all of these things or none of those at all.
But what’s important is that you own up to the decisions you yourself have made.
“When you choose to find a partner [who] is not a fellow Chinoy, be responsible about it. Don’t blame your parents. Don’t blame anybody. Because love is universal. It’s not about race or culture. It’s about [the] compatibility of both individuals. If you are experiencing the Great Wall, make a choice. Make a decision,” says kaysiao.com founder Glenda Cura.
“What choice do you want to make? Do you want to follow your parents, or do you want to follow yourself? Ano ‘yung mas matimbang?”
That isn’t, of course, to say that you must throw the other side away in an ultimate pick-one-or-the-other decision. Compromises may happen. However, how you choose to go about it is up to you. You are responsible for your own happiness.
Don’t miss the replay of this week’s episode of Chinese by Blood, Filipino by Heart this evening, September 11, at 6:30 PM. Catch the next episode on Sunday at 8 PM. Both episodes will air on CNN Philippines.