(Editors’ note: The Midland Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Feb.7, 2010.)
In the old days, although it was a widely celebrated event in many parts of the Western hemisphere, Valentine’s Day was deemed to be a holiday peculiar only to the United States, like Halloween and Thanksgiving.
Here at home, we have an “Araw ng Patay” (Day of the Dead, observed by all Filipinos on Nov. 1, or All Saints Day) and a “Mahal na Araw” or Good Friday.
“Araw ng mga Puso” (or Day of the Hearts) was practically unheard of in the past, but as the planet shrunk smaller because of technological advances (particularly cable television), local businessmen saw an opportunity to bolster business by commercializing the 14th of February, which quickly caught fire with the young due to its romantic implications.
Soon, love messages were being conveyed through cards, text, chocolates, flowers, candle lit dinners, and heart-shaped items, with the motels getting into the act by offering discounts and other promos.
And as Valentine’s Day approaches, which day also marks the start of the Chinese New Year, you commonly hear greetings from friends and acquaintances of “Happy New Year” or “Happy Spring Festival” (Kung Hei Fat Choy) and “Happy Valentine’s”.
In yesteryears too, Filipinos were only remotely aware there was a Chinese New Year, and practically had no idea why the Chinese observed the festivity on different days and not on January first, the traditional New Year for the rest of the world.
Back then also, Chinese residents only dared to trace their roots to Taiwan, since mainland China was the party comrade of communist Russia in the Far East, and the American influence propagandized by Hollywood movies was that communism was a threat to our freedom and democracy.
But as Filipinos became more educated, they discovered that communism was not a “set the world on fire movement”, but an ideology that offered perhaps even a better alternative to democracy – at least as defined and practiced by the Americans.
And when the Chinese national basketball set foot on Philippine soil for a series of exhibition games, Filipino Chinese residents came out in full force to cheer for their countrymen, even more boisterously than the Philippine team itself.
Not that the Great Wall of China was now parted for all down, but the so-called “bamboo curtain” was now parted for all the world to see, including near-sighted Filipinos who saw every chinky-eyed fellow as a communist bogey man.
Thereafter the word “Chinoy” was coined, and not only was there an intermingling of races but also inter-marriages, since a Filipino marrying a Chinese meant security, which was not always the case, as many woefully found out later.
Today, both Filipinos and Chinese look forward to the Chinese New Year, which falls on the 14th of February this 2010, the so-called Day of Hearts and Love.
As Filipino families continue to struggle with a receding if not failing economy, they envy the business acumen and exceptional luck of the Chinoys, but the latter are not about to tell their “indolent” hosts that hard work is the key to success, whatever that means.
In many Filipino homes today, there are Chinese good luck charms hung all around, 12 round fruits on the dining table, and even “suerte” Buddha statuettes side by side with images of saints.
But like I have always opined, the best way really is to follow the original Chinese example – deport all foreigners from our land, and make a fresh start as tayo-tayo lang brown Filipinos – no Fil-Ams, no Tsinoys, no Koreans, Japanese, or other aliens.
But how do you build a great wall around 7,000 islands?