Chinese Filipino

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For the Chilean musician Chinoy, see Chinoy (musician).
Filipinos of Chinese Origin
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Total population
1.3% of the Filipino population (2005)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Bacolod, Angeles
Baguio, Davao, Iligan, Iloilo, Laguna
Lucena, Sulu, Tarlac, Vigan, Zamboanga

Hokkien, Mandarin, Cantonese, Teochew (Chao Chow), Filipino languages, English

Min Chinese, Yue Chinese, Hakka
various other Chinese dialects
Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Daoism
Related ethnic groups
Sangley, Southern Chinese
Overseas Chinese

Chinese Filipinos (simplified Chinese: 华菲; traditional Chinese: 華菲; pinyin: Huáfēi; Hokkien: Huâ-hui; Cantonese: Wàhfèi; Tagalog/Filipino: Intsik (pronounced [ɪntʃɪk]) (or "Tsinoy", pronounced [tʃɪnoɪ]) are Filipinos of Chinese descent, mostly born and raised in the Philippines.

Chinese Filipinos are one of the largest overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.[2] Sangleys—Filipinos with at least some Chinese ancestry—comprise 18-27% of the Philippine population.[3] There are roughly 1.5 million Filipinos with pure Chinese ancestry, or just 1.6% of the population.[citation needed][4]

Chinese Filipinos are well represented in all levels of Philippine society, and well integrated politically and economically. Chinese Filipinos are present within several commerce and business sectors in the Philippines and a few sources estimate companies which comprise a significant portion of the Philippine economy are owned by Chinese Filipinos, if one includes Sangleys.[5][6][7]


The term "Chinese Filipino" or Intsik may or may not be hyphenated.[8][9] The website of the organization Kaisa para sa Kaunlaran (Unity for Progress) omits the hyphen, adding that Chinese Filipino is the noun where "Chinese" is an adjective to the noun "Filipino." The Chicago Manual of Style and the APA, among others, also recommend dropping the hyphen. When used as an adjective, "Chinese Filipino" may take on a hyphenated form or may remain unchanged.[10][11][12]

There are various universally-accepted terms used in the Philippines to refer to Chinese Filipinos:[citation needed]

  • Chinese (Filipino: Tsino, Intsik; Chinese: 華人, Hoâ-jîn, Huáren) -- often refers to all Chinese people in the Philippines regardless of nationality or place of birth. To the Chinese Filipino population, the term 'Intsik' is considered a derogatory, racial slur.
  • Chinese Filipino, Filipino Chinese, or Philippine Chinese (Filipino: Tsinoy, Chinoy; Chinese: 華菲, Hoâ-hui, Huáfēi) -- refers to Chinese people with Philippine nationality, and to Chinese peoples with Chinese nationality but were born in the Philippines.
    • Lan-nang, Lán-lâng, Bân-lâm: Hokkienese (咱人, 福建人, Fújiànren) -- a Hokkien term referring to Chinese Filipinos whose ancestry is from Fujian province.
    • Keńg-tang-lâng: Cantonese (广东人, Guǎngdōngren) -- a Hokkien term referring to Chinese Filipinos whose ancestry is from Guangdong province.
  • Chinese mestizo (Filipino: Mestisong Tsino, Chinese: 華菲混血, Chhut-si or Chhut-si-ia) -- refers to people who are of mixed Chinese and indigenous Filipino ancestry. A common phenomenon in the Philippines; those with 75% Chinese ancestry are considered to be Chinese Filipino (Tsinoy), rather than Chinese mestizo.
  • Mainland Chinese, Mainlander -- refers to Chinese people with Chinese nationality and were born in China.
  • Taiwanese (Filipino: Taga-Taiwan; Chinese: 台灣人, Tâi-oân-lâng, Táiwānrén) -- refers to Chinese people with Republic of China (Taiwan) nationality and were born in Taiwan.
  • Tornatras or Torna atras -- refers to people who are of varying mixtures of Chinese, Spanish, and indigenous Filipino during the Spanish Colonial Period.

Other terms being used with reference to China include:

  • 華人 -- Hoâ-jîn or Huárén—a generic term for referring to Chinese people, without implication as to nationality
  • 華僑 -- Hoâ-kiâo or Huáqiáo—Overseas Chinese, usually China-born Chinese who have emigrated elsewhere
  • 華裔 -- Hoâ-è or Huáyì—People of Chinese ancestry who were born in, residents of and citizens of another country

During the Spanish Colonial Period, the term Sangley was used to refer to people of unmixed Chinese ancestry while the term Mestizo de Sangley was used to classify persons of mixed Chinese and indigenous Filipino ancestry; both are now out of date in terms of usage.[citation needed]

"Indigenous Filipino", or simply "Filipino", is used in this article to refer to the Austronesian inhabitants prior to the Spanish Conquest of the islands. During the Spanish Colonial Period, the term Indio was used.[citation needed]

The Chinese Filipinos has always been one of the largest ethnic groups in the country with Chinese immigrants comprising the largest group of immigrant settlers in the Philippines.[citation needed] They are one of the three major ethnic groupings in the Philippines, namely: Christian Filipinos (73% of the population-including indigenous ethnic minorities), Muslim Filipinos (5% of the population) and Chinese Filipinos (27% of the population-including Chinese mestizos).[citation needed] Today, most Chinese Filipinos are locally born.[citation needed] The rate of intermarriage between Chinese settlers and indigenous Filipinos is among the highest in Southeast Asia, exceeded only by Thailand.[citation needed] However, intermarriages occurred mostly during the Spanish colonial period because Chinese immigrants to the Philippines up to the 19th century were predominantly male.[citation needed] It was only in the 20th century that Chinese women and children came in comparable numbers. Today, Chinese Filipino male and female populations are practically equal in numbers. These Chinese mestizos, products of intermarriages during the Spanish colonial period, then often opted to marry other Chinese or Chinese mestizos .[citation needed] Generally, Chinese mestizos is a term referring to people with a one Chinese parent.

By this definition, the ethnically Chinese Filipinos comprise 1.3% (1.1 million) of the population.[13] This figure however does not include the Chinese mestizos who since Spanish times have formed a part of the middle class in Philippine society[citation needed] nor does it include Chinese immigrants from the People's Republic of China since 1949.


Early interactions[edit]

Ethnic Chinese sailed around the Philippine Islands from the 9th century onward and frequently interacted with the local Filipinos.[citation needed] Chinese and Filipino interactions initially commenced as bartering and item exchanges done on Chinese sampans.[citation needed] This is evidenced by a collection of Chinese artifacts found throughout Philippine waters, dating back right up to the 10th century.[citation needed]

Many Chinese subsequently created settlements in Luzon and in the Visayas, some of which became the biggest and most powerful barangays, or city-states in the Philippines.[citation needed] Many datus, rajahs, and lakans (indigenous rulers) in the Philippines were themselves a product of the intermarriage between the Chinese merchant-settlers and the local Filipinos.[citation needed] They eventually formed the group which is to be called Principalía during the Spanish period, and were given privileges by the Spanish colonial authorities.[citation needed]

Spanish colonial attitudes (16th century-1898)[edit]

Main article: Sangley
A Chinese mestiza in a photograph by Francisco Van Camp, c. 1875.[citation needed]

When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, there was already a significant population of Chinese migrants due to the relationship between the barangays (city-states) of the island of Luzon, and the Ming dynasty.[citation needed]

The first encounter of the Spanish authorities with the Chinese was not entirely pleasant - several Chinese pirates under the leadership of Limahong, who proceeded to besiege the newly established Spanish capital in Manila in 1574.[citation needed] He tried to capture the city of Manila in vain and was subsequently beaten by the combined Spanish and native forces under the leadership of Juan de Salcedo in 1575. Almost simultaneously, the Chinese imperial admiral Homolcong arrived in Manila where he was well received. On his departure he took with him two priests, who became the first Catholic missionaries to China from the Philippines. This visit was followed by the arrival of Chinese ships in Manila in May 1603 bearing Chinese officials with the official seal of the Ming Empire. This led to suspicion on the part of the Spaniards that the Chinese had sent a fleet to try to conquer the nearly defenseless islands. However, seeing the city as strongly defended as ever, the Chinese made no hostile moves.[citation needed] They returned to China without showing any particular motive for the journey, and without either side mentioning the apparent motive.[citation needed] Fortifications of Manila were started, with a Chinese settler in Manila named Engcang, who offered his services to the governor.[citation needed] He was refused, and a plan to massacre the Spaniards quickly spread among the Chinese inhabitants of Manila. The revolt was quickly crushed by the Spaniards, ending in a large scale massacre of the non-Catholic Chinese in Manila. Throughout the Spanish Colonial Period, the Chinese outnumbered the Spanish colonizers by ten to one, and at least I\on two occasions tried to grab the power, but their revolts were quickly put down by joint forces composed of indigenous Filipinos, Japanese, and Spanish.[14](p138)

Following the mostly unpleasant initial interaction with the Spaniards, most ethnic Chinese in Manila and in the rest of the Philippines started to focus on retail trade and service industry in order to avoid massacres and forced deportations to China. The Spanish authorities started restricting the activities of the Chinese immigrants and confined them to the Parían near Intramuros. With low chances of employment and prohibited from owning land, most of them engaged in small businesses or acted as skilled artisans to the Spanish colonial authorities. Most of the Chinese who arrived during the early Spanish period were Cantonese from "Canton, Nyngo, Chincheo, and Macau", who worked as stevedores and porters, as well as those skilled in the mechanical arts. From the mid-19th century, the Hokkienese migrants from Fujian would surpass and vastly outnumber the Cantonese migrants.[citation needed]

The Spanish authorities differentiated the Chinese immigrants into two groups: Parían (unconverted) and Binondo (converted).[citation needed] Many immigrants converted to Catholicism, and due to the lack of Chinese women, intermarried with indigenous women, and adopted Hispanized names and customs. The children of unions between indigenous Filipinos and Chinese were called Mestizos de Sangley or Chinese mestizos, while those between Spaniards and Chinese were called Tornatrás.[citation needed] The Chinese population originally occupied the Binondo area although eventually they spread all over the islands, and became traders, moneylenders, and landowners.[15]

Chinese Mestizos as Filipinos[edit]

During the waning years of Spanish colonization in the Philippines in the 19th century, the Philippines was referred to as an "Anglo-Chinese colony with a Spanish flag" in reference to the majority of the colony's trade and industry being conducted by the Chinese while exports were controlled by British merchants.[citation needed] It was during this period that the population of the Mestizos de Sangley (Chinese mestizos) greatly increased. During the Philippine Revolution of 1898, they would eventually refer to themselves as Filipino,[citation needed] which during that time referred to Spaniards born in the Philippines. The Chinese mestizos would later fan the flames of the Philippine Revolution.[citation needed] Many leaders of the Philippine Revolution themselves have substantial Chinese ancestry. These include Emilio Aguinaldo, Andrés Bonifacio, Marcelo del Pilar, Antonio Luna, Ignacio Paua, José Rizal, and Manuel Tinio.[16]

An estimated 27% of the present-day Philippine population have some Chinese ancestry stemming from this period.[citation needed]

Divided nationalism (1898–1946)[edit]

During the American colonial period, the Chinese Exclusion Act in the United States was also put into effect in the Philippines[17] Nevertheless, the Chinese were able to settle in the Philippines with the help of other Chinese Filipinos, despite strict American law enforcement, usually through "adopting" relatives from Mainland or by assuming entirely new identities with new names.

The privileged position of the Chinese as middlemen of the economy under Spanish colonial rule[18] quickly fell, as the Americans favored the principalía (educated elite) formed by Chinese mestizos and Spanish mestizos. As American rule in the Philippines started, events in Mainland China starting from the Taiping Rebellion, Chinese Civil War, and Boxer Rebellion led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty, which led thousands of Chinese from Fujian province in China to migrate en masse to the Philippines to avoid poverty, worsening famine, and political persecution. This group eventually formed the bulk of the current population of unmixed Chinese Filipinos.[16]

Formation of the Chinese Filipino identity (1946–1975)[edit]

Beginning World War II, Chinese soldiers and guerrillas joined in the fight against the Japanese Imperial Forces during the Japanese Occupation in the Philippines (1941–1945).[citation needed] On April 9, 1942, many Chinese Filipino Prisoners of War were killed by Japanese Forces during the Bataan Death March after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor in 1942.[citation needed] Chinese Filipinos were integrated in the U.S. Armed Forces of the First & Second Filipino Infantry Regiments of the United States Army.[citation needed] After the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor in 1942, when Chinese Filipinos was joined the soldiers is a military unit of the Philippine Commonwealth Army under the U.S. military command is a ground arm of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was started the battles between the Japanese Counter-Insurgencies and Allied Liberators from 1942 to 1945 to fought against the Japanese Imperial forces. Some Chinese-Filipinos joined the soldiers were integrated of the 11th, 14th, 15th, 66th & 121st Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Armed Forces in the Philippines[citation needed] - Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL) under the military unit of the Philippine Commonwealth Army started the Liberation in Northern Luzon and aided the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Abra, Mountain Province, Cagayan, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya and attacking Imperial Japanese forces. Many Chinese-Filipinos joined the guerrilla movement of the Philippine-Chinese Anti-Japanese guerrilla resistance fighter unit or Wa Chi Movement,[citation needed] the Ampaw Unit under by Colonel Chua Sy Tiao[citation needed] and the Chinese-Filipino 48th Squadron since 1942 to 1946 to attacking Japanese forces.[citation needed] Thousands of Chinese Filipino soldiers and guerrillas died of heroism in the Philippines from 1941 to 1945 during World War II.[citation needed] Thousands of Chinese Filipino Veterans are interred in the Shrine of Martyr's Freedom of the Filipino Chinese in World War II located in Manila.[citation needed] The new-found unity between the ethnic Chinese migrants and the indigenous Filipinos against a common enemy - the Japanese, served as a catalyst in the formation of a Chinese Filipino identity who started to regard the Philippines as their home.[19]

Assimilation and acculturation (1975–1987)[edit]

The election of Ferdinand Marcos to the Philippine presidency brought forth much of the changes within the Chinese Filipino community.

Following the recognition of the People's Republic of China as the sole representative of the Chinese government, and at the same time fearful of harboring Chinese nationals whose loyalty will shift to the newly recognized Communist government, Mar[citation needed]cos ordered a revision of all existing nationality laws which led to an easier acquiescence of Philippine citizenship, which most Chinese Filipinos took advantage of. This signified a major leap for the community, majority of which now owes loyalty to Manila, rather than to Taipei or Beijing.

In relation to this, Chinese schools, which were governed by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of China (Taiwan), were transferred under the jurisdiction of the Philippine government's Department of Education. Virtually all Chinese schools were ordered closed or else to limit the time allotted for Chinese language, history, and culture subjects from 4 hours to 2 hours, and instead devote them to the study of Filipino languages and culture.[citation needed] This method of teaching persists to this very day. Marcos' policies eventually led to the formal assimilation of the Chinese Filipinos into mainstream Filipino society.[20] Following People Power Revolution (EDSA 1), the Chinese Filipinos quickly gained national spotlight as Cory Aquino, a Chinese Filipino, eventually became president.[21]

Current period (1987–present)[edit]

Corazon Aquino, the third Philippine president of Chinese ancestry

The mass nationalization of ethnic Chinese during the 1970s eventually led to the eventual assimilation of the Chinese Filipinos as an integral part of the Philippines.[citation needed]

However, there were still pressing problems that face the community. Despite President Aquino's Chinese ancestry, the initial proliferation of anti-Chinese sentiments among some Filipinos and the sudden attainment of freedom from Martial Law under President Marcos led to several crimes being committed against Chinese Filipinos. These include rampant extortion, kidnapping, and even murder.[citation needed][22][23] All these led to the formation of the first Chinese Filipino organization, Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, Inc. (Unity for Progress) by Teresita Ang-See,[24] which called for mutual understanding between the ethnic Chinese and the native Filipinos. Aquino encouraged free press and cultural harmony, a process which led to the burgeoning of the Chinese-language media.[25]

While anti-Chinese sentiments were toned down, crimes against the Chinese Filipinos, particularly kidnapping, further blossomed throughout the presidencies of Fidel Ramos (1992–1998), and Joseph Estrada (1998–2000).[citation needed] The police remained unsympathetic to the Chinese Filipinos, while many government officials were found to be accomplices.[citation needed] The combination of these factors led many Chinese Filipinos to emigrate back to China, or to either Canada or the United States.[citation needed] An increasing number of Chinese Filipinos also actively sought political seats to protect and promote Chinese interests.

The Chinese Filipinos are one of the most assimilated Overseas Chinese communities in the world today, with many ethnic Chinese openly espousing ethnocultural integration and adoption of both indigenous and Western cultural practices as is common in the Philippines.[citation needed]


Ethnicity of Chinese Filipinos, including Chinese mestizos

Virtually all Chinese in the Philippines belong to either the Hokkienese or Cantonese dialect groups of the Han Chinese ethnicity. Most Filipino-Chinese now are second or third generation, natural-born Philippine citizens who can still look back to their Chinese roots and have Chinese relatives both in China as well as in other Southeast Asian or Australasian or North American countries.

Minnan (Hokkienese) People[edit]

Chinese Filipinos who are classified as Minnan people (福建人) have ancestors who came from Fujian province and speak one of the Minnan dialects. They form the bulk of Chinese settlers in the Philippines after the Spanish Colonial Period, and settled primarily in Metro Manila and key cities in Luzon such as Angeles, Baguio, Dagupan, Ilagan, Laoag, Lucena, Tarlac, and Vigan, as well as in major Visayan and Mindanao cities such as Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iligan, Iloilo, Ormoc, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, and Zamboanga.

Minnan peoples are more popularly known as "Hokkienese", or "Fujianese" in English, or Lan-nang, Lán-lâng, Bân-lâm, Fújiànren in Chinese. The Minnan form 98.7% of all unmixed ethnic Chinese in the Philippines. Of the Minnan peoples, about 75% are from Quanzhou prefecture (specifically, Jinjiang City), 23% are from Zhangzhou prefecture, and 2% are from Xiamen City.[26] Minnan peoples started migrating to the Philippines in large numbers from the early 1800s and continue to the present, eventually outnumbering the Cantonese who had always formed the majority Chinese dialect group in the country.

The Minnan (Hokkienese) currently dominate the light industry and heavy industry, as well as the entrepreneurial and real estate sectors of the economy. Many younger Minnan people are also entering the fields of banking, computer science, engineering, finance, and medicine.

To date, most emigrants and permanent residents from Mainland China, as well as the vast majority of Taiwanese people in the Philippines are Minnan (Hokkienese) people.

Closely related to the Hokkienese people are the Teochew (潮州人: Chaozhouren). They began to migrate in small numbers to the Philippines during the Spanish Period, but were eventually absorbed by intermarriage into the mainstream Hokkienese.

Cantonese people[edit]

Chinese Filipinos who are classified as Cantonese people (廣府人) have ancestors who came from Guangdong province and speak one of the Cantonese dialects. Since the premodern era up to the end of the Spanish Colonial Period in 1898, they formed the majority of Chinese migrants to the Philippines.[citation needed] They settled down in Metro Manila, as well as in major cities of Luzon such as Angeles, Naga, and Olongapo. Many also settled in the provinces of Northern Luzon (e.g., Benguet, Cagayan, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte).

The Cantonese (Guangdongnese) people (Keńg-tang-lâng, Guǎngdōngren) form roughly 1.2% of the unmixed ethnic Chinese population of the Philippines, with large numbers of descendants originally from Taishan city, Macau, and nearby areas. Many are not as economically prosperous as the Minnan (Hokkienese). Barred from owning land during the Spanish Colonial Period, most Cantonese were into the service industry, working as artisans, barbers, herbal physicians, porters (coulis), soap makers, and tailors. They also had no qualms in intermarrying with the local Filipinos and most of their descendants are now considered Filipinos, rather than Chinese or Chinese mestizos. During the early 1800s, Chinese migration from Cantonese-speaking areas in China to the Philippines trickled to almost zero, as migrants from Hokkienese-speaking areas gradually increased, explaining the gradual decrease of the Cantonese population. Presently, they are into small-scale entrepreneurship and in education.

A sizable number of Cantonese from Macau also have Portuguese ancestry.


There are also some ethnic Chinese from nearby Asian countries and territories, most notably Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong who are naturalized Philippine citizens and have since formed part of the Chinese Filipino community. Many of them are also Hokkien speakers, with a sizeable number of Cantonese and Teochew speakers.

Temporary resident Chinese businessmen and envoys include people from Beijing, Shanghai, and other major cities and provinces throughout China.


Dialect Population[citation needed][27][28]
Hokkienese 1,044,000
Cantonese 13,000
Mandarin 550
Chinese mestizo* 486,000
  • The figure above denotes first-generation Chinese mestizos - namely, those with one Chinese, and one Filipino parent. This figure does not include those who have less than 50% Chinese ancestry, who are mostly classified as "Filipino" and probably make up 18-27% of the Philippine population.

The exact number of all ethnic Chinese in the Philippines is unknown. Various estimates have been given from the start of the Spanish Colonial Period up to the present ranging from as low as 1% to as large as 18-27%, including the Chinese mestizos and Filipinos who have Chinese ancestry. The National Statistics Office does not conduct surveys of ethnicity.[29]

According to a research report by historian Austin Craig who was commissioned by the United States on 1915 to ascertain the total number of the various races of the Philippines, the pure Chinese, referred to as Sangley, number around 20,000 (as of 1918), and that around one-third of the population of Luzon have partial Chinese ancestry. This comes with a footnote about the widespread concealing and de-emphasising of the exact number of Chinese in the Philippines.[30]

Another source dating from the Spanish Colonial Period shows the growth of the Chinese and the Chinese mestizo population to nearly 10% of the Philippine population by 1894.

Race Population (1810) Population (1850) Population (1894)
indio (i.e., indigenous Filipino) 2,395,677 4,725,000 6,768,000
mestizo de sangley (i.e., Chinese mestizo) 120,621 240,000 500,000
sangley (i.e., Unmixed Chinese) 7,000 10,000 100,000
Peninsular (i.e., Spaniard) 4,000 25,000 35,000
Total 2,527,298 5,000,000 7,403,000

[citation needed]


Languages spoken by Chinese Filipinos at home

The vast majority (74.5%) of Chinese Filipinos speak either Filipino or English as their first languages.[31] However, many Chinese Filipinos (77%) still retain the ability to understand and speak Hokkien as a second or third language.[31]

The older generation Chinese and recent arrivals from Mainland China or Taiwan largely use Hokkien, the Manila-based younger generation largely use English, and the provincial-based younger generation largely use Filipino or other Philippine regional languages.[31]

Unlike other Overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia which featured a multiplicity of dialect groups, Chinese Filipinos descend overwhelmingly from Minnan-speaking regions in Fujian province. Hence, the lingua franca of the Chinese Filipino community is Minnan, rather than Mandarin.

For Chinese mestizos, Spanish was an important commercial language at the turn of the century, but now completely replaced by English.[32]

Minnan (Philippine Hokkien)[edit]

Main article: Philippine Hokkien

Since most of the Chinese in the Philippines trace their ancestry to the southern part of Fujian province in China, Minnan, otherwise known as Hokkienese is the lingua franca of Chinese Filipinos.

The variant of Minnan or Hokkienese spoken in the Philippines, Philippine Hokkien, is called locally as lan-lang-oe, meaning, "our people's language". Philippine Hokkien is mutually intelligible with other Minnan variants in China, Taiwan, and Malaysia, and is particularly close to the variant of Minnan spoken in Quanzhou. Its unique features include the presence of loanwords (Spanish, English, and Philippine language), excessive use of colloquial words (e.g., piⁿ-chu: literally, "sick-house", instead of the Standard Minnan term pīⁿ-īⁿ: hospital; or chhia-tao: literally, "car-head", instead of the Standard Minnan term su-ki), and use of words from various variants within Minnan (such as Quanzhou, Zhangzhou, and Xiamen).

Due to the relatively small population of Chinese Filipinos who are Cantonese, most of them, especially the new generation, never learned Cantonese.


Main article: Philippine Mandarin

Mandarin is the medium of instruction of Chinese subjects in Chinese schools in the Philippines. However, since the language is rarely used outside of the classroom, most Chinese Filipinos would be hard-pressed to converse in Mandarin, much less read books using Chinese characters.

As a result of longstanding influence from the Ministry of Education of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since the early 1900s up to 2000, the Mandarin variant taught and spoken in the Philippines closely mirror that of Taiwan, while Traditional Chinese characters and the Bopomofo phonetic system are still used, instead of the Simplified characters and Pinyin phonetic system currently being used in both Mainland China and Singapore.


The vast majority of the Chinese in the Philippines are fluent in English[citation needed] - and around 30% of all Chinese Filipinos, mostly those belonging to the younger generation, use English as their first language.[citation needed]


As with English, the majority of Chinese Filipinos speak the Philippine language of the region where they live (e.g., Chinese Filipinos living in Manila speak Tagalog).[citation needed] Many Chinese Filipinos, especially those living in the provinces, speak the regional language of their area as their first language.[citation needed]


Spanish was an important language of the Chinese-Filipino, Chinese-Spanish, and Tornatras (Chinese-Spanish-Filipino) mestizos during most of the 20th century. Most of the elites of Philippine society during that time was made up of both Spanish mestizos and Chinese mestizos.[citation needed]

Many of the older generation Chinese, whether pure or mixed, can also understand some Spanish, due to its importance in commerce and industry.[citation needed]


Chinese Filipinos have a trilingual facility which they use in everyday life. During informal, as well as local business transactions, codeswitching between Minnan (Philippine Hokkien), English, and Filipino is very common and comes naturally, as a result of having to maintain command of all three language in the spheres of home, school, and greater Philippine society.[citation needed]


Part of Cebu Taoist Temple, Cebu City

The Chinese Filipinos are unique in Southeast Asia in being overwhelmingly Christian (83%).[citation needed] Almost all Chinese Filipinos, including the Chinese mestizos but excluding the recent immigrants from either Mainland China or Taiwan, had or will have their marriages in a Christian church.[citation needed]

Roman Catholicism

Majority (70%) of Christian Chinese Filipinos are Roman Catholics.[31] Many Catholic Chinese Filipinos still tend to practice the traditional Chinese religions side by side with Catholicism, due to the openness of the Roman Catholic Church in accommodating Chinese beliefs, such as ancestor veneration.

Unique within the Catholicism of Chinese Filipinos would be the religious syncretism that is found in Chinese Filipino homes. Many have Santo Nino (baby Christ) statues as well as Buddha statues or Taoist gods in their altars. It is not unheard of to venerate the blessed Virgin Mary using joss sticks and Buddhist offerings, much as one would have done for Guan Yin or Mazu.[33]


Approximately 13% of all Christian Chinese Filipinos are Protestants.[34]

Chinese Filipinos comprise a large percentage of membership in some of the largest evangelical churches in the Philippines, many of which are also founded by Chinese Filipinos, such as the Christ's Commission Fellowship, Christian Bible Church of the Philippines, Christian Gospel Center, United Evangelical Church of the Philippines, and the Youth Gospel Center.[35]

In contrast to Roman Catholicism, Protestantism forbids direct traditional Chinese practices such as ancestor veneration, but allows the use of meaning or context substitution for some practices that are not directly contradicted in the Bible (e.g., celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival with moon cakes denoting the moon as God's creation and the unity of families, rather than the traditional Chinese belief in Chang'e). Many also had ancestors already practicing Protestantism while still in China.

Unlike ethnic Filipino-dominated Protestant churches in the Philippines which have very close ties with North American organizations, most Protestant Chinese Filipino churches instead sought alliance and membership with the Chinese Congress on World Evangelization, an organization of Overseas Chinese Christian churches throughout Asia.[36]

Religions of Chinese Filipinos
Chinese Traditional Religions and Practices

A small number of Chinese Filipinos (2%) continue to practise traditional Chinese religions solely. [37] Mahayana Buddhism, specifically, Chinese Pure Land Buddhism[38] Taoism[39] and ancestor worship (including Confucianism)[40] are the traditional Chinese beliefs that continue to have adherents among the Chinese Filipinos.

Buddhist and Taoist temples can be found where the Chinese live, especially in urban areas like Manila.[41] Veneration of the Guanyin (觀音), known locally as Kuan-im either in its pure form or seen a representation of the Virgin Mary is practised by many Chinese Filipinos.

Around half (40%) of all Chinese Filipinos regardless of religion still claim to practise ancestor worship.[31] The Chinese, especially the older generations, have the tendency to go to pay respects to their ancestors at least once a year, either by going to the temple, or going to the Chinese burial grounds, often burning incense and bringing offerings like fruits and accessories made from paper.


There are 150 Chinese schools that exist throughout the Philippines, slightly more than half of which operate in Metro Manila.[42] Chinese Filipino schools have an international reputation for producing award winning students in the fields of science and mathematics, most of whom reap international awards in mathematics, computer programming, and robotics olympiads.[43]


The first school founded specifically for Chinese in the Philippines, the Anglo-Chinese school (now known as Tiong Se Academy) was opened in 1899 inside the Chinese Embassy grounds. The first curriculum called for rote memorization of the four major Confucian texts Four Books and Five Classics, as well as Western science and technology. This was followed suit by the establishment of other Chinese schools, such as the Chinese Commercial School established in Iloilo in 1912, the Chinese Patriotic School established in Manila in 1912 and also the first school for Cantonese Chinese, Saint Stephen's High School established in Manila on 1915 and was the first sectarian school for the Chinese, and Chinese National School in Cebu in 1915.[42]

Burgeoning of Chinese schools throughout the Philippines as well as in Manila occurred from the 1920s until the 1970s, with a brief interlude during World War II, when all Chinese schools were ordered closed by the Japanese, and their students were forcibly integrated with Japanese-sponsored Philippine public education. After World War II, the Philippines and the Republic of China signed the Sino-Philippine Treaty of Amity, which provided for the direct control of the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s Ministry of Education over Chinese schools throughout the archipelago.

Such situation continued until 1973, when amendments made to the Philippine Constitution effectively transferred all Chinese schools to the authority of the Republic of the Philippines' Department of Education.[42] With this, the medium of instruction was shifted from Mandarin Chinese to English. Teaching hours relegated to Chinese language and arts, which featured prominently in the pre-1973 Chinese schools, were reduced. Lessons in Chinese geography and history, which were previously subjects in their own right, were integrated with the Chinese language subjects, whereas, the teaching of Filipino and Philippine history, civics, and culture became new required subjects.

The changes in Chinese education initiated with the 1973 Philippine Constitution led to the large shifting of mother tongues and assimilation of the Chinese Filipinos to general Philippine society. The older generation Chinese Filipinos who were educated in the old curriculum used Chinese (e.g., Hokkien and Cantonese) at home, while the younger generation Chinese Filipinos are typically more comfortable using either English or Filipino, rather than Chinese, at home.


Chinese Filipino schools typically feature curriculum prescribed by the Philippine Department of Education. The limited time spent in Chinese instruction consists largely of language arts.

The three core Chinese subjects are 華語 (Mandarin: Huáyŭ; Hokkien: Hoâ-gí, English: Chinese Grammar), 綜合 (Mandarin: Zōnghé; Hokkien: Chong-ha'p; English: Chinese Composition), and 數學 (Mandarin: Shùxué; Hokkien: Sòha'k; English: Chinese Mathematics). Other schools may add other subjects such as 毛筆 (Mandarin: Máobĭ; Hokkien: Mô-pit; English: Chinese calligraphy) . Chinese history, geography, and culture are integrated in all the three core Chinese subjects - they stood as independent subjects of their own before 1973. All Chinese subjects are taught in Mandarin Chinese, and in some schools, students are prohibited from speaking English, Filipino, or even Hokkien during Chinese classes.

Schools and Universities

Many Chinese Filipino schools are largely sectarian, being founded by either Roman Catholic or Protestant Chinese missions. These include Grace Christian College (Protestant-Baptist), Hope Christian High School (Protestant-Evangelical), Immaculate Conception Academy (Roman Catholic-Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception), Jubilee Christian Academy (Protestant-Evangelical), LIGHT Christian Academy (Protestant-Evangelical), Makati Hope Academy (Protestant-Evangelical), MGC-New Life Christian Academy (Protestant-Evangelical), Saint Jude Catholic School (Roman Catholic-Society of Divine Word), Saint Stephen's High School (Protestant-Episcopalian), and Xavier School (Roman Catholic-Society of Jesus).

Major non-sectarian schools include Chiang Kai Shek College, Manila Patriotic School, Philippine Chen Kuang School, Philippine Chung Hua School, Philippine Cultural College, Tiong Se Academy.

Chiang Kai Shek College is the only college in the Philippines accredited by both the Philippine Department of Education and the Republic of China (Taiwan) Ministry of Education.

Most Chinese Filipinos attend Chinese Filipino schools until Secondary level, and then transfer to non-Chinese colleges and universities to complete their tertiary degree, due to the dearth of Chinese language tertiary institutions.

Name Format[edit]

Main article: Chinese name

Most Chinese Filipinos, particularly the younger generation, now follow the typical Western naming convention (given name, then family name), albeit with English first names coupled with Chinese surnames .[citation needed]

Historical trends in naming

Many Chinese who lived during the Spanish naming edict of 1849 eventually adopted Spanish name formats, along with a Spanish given name (e.g., Higino Que y Sia).[citation needed] For some, they adopted their entire Chinese name as a surname for the entire clan (e.g., Alberto Cojuangco from 許寰哥, Khó-hoân-ko). Chinese mestizos, as well as some Chinese who chose to completely assimilate into the Filipino or Spanish culture adopted Spanish surnames.[citation needed]

Newer Chinese migrants who came during the American Colonial Period use a combination of an adopted Spanish (or rarely, English) name together with their Chinese name (e.g., Carlos Palanca Tan Quin Lay or Vicente Lim Bon Liong).[citation needed] This trend was to continue up to the late 1970s.

As both exposure to North American media as well as the number of Chinese Filipinos educated in English increased, the use of English names among Chinese Filipinos, both common and unusual, started to increase as well. Popular names among the second generation Chinese community included English names ending in "-son" or other Chinese-sounding suffixes, such as Anderson, Emerson, Patrickson, Washington, among such others. For parents who are already third and fourth generation Chinese Filipinos, English names reflecting American popular trends are given, such as Ethan, Austin, Aidan.

It is thus not unusual to find a young Chinese Filipino named Chase Tan whose father's name is Emerson Tan and whose grandfather's name was Elpidio Tan Keng Kui, reflecting the depth of immersion into the English language as well as into the Philippine society as a whole.[citation needed]


Chinese Filipinos whose ancestors came to the Philippines from 1898 onward usually have single syllable Chinese surnames, the most common of which are Tan (陳), Ong (王), Lim (林), Go/Ngo (吳), Ng/Uy/Wong (黃), Gao/Kao (高), Chua/Cua (蔡), Sy/See/Si (施), Co (許), Lee/Dy (李), Ang/Hong/Hung (洪)and Ching/Chong (莊). Many also took on Spanish or Filipino surnames upon naturalization. Today, it can be difficult to identify who are Chinese Filipinos based on surnames alone.

A phenomenon common among Chinese migrants in Southeast Asia dating from the 1900s would be purchasing of surnames, which was particularly common during the American Colonial Period, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was applied to the Philippines. Such law led new Chinese migrants to 'purchase' the surnames of Filipinos and thus pass off as long time Filipino residents of Chinese descent, or as ethnic Filipinos. Sometimes, Chinese migrants would circumvent the Act through adoption - wherein a Chinese with Philippine nationality adopts a relative or a stranger as his own children, thereby giving the adoptee automatic Filipino citizenship - and a new surname.[citation needed]

On the other hand, most Chinese Filipinos whose ancestors came to the Philippines prior to 1898 use a Hispanicized surname (see below).

Hispanicized Surnames

Chinese Filipinos, as well as Chinese mestizos who trace their roots back to Chinese immigrants to the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Period, usually have multiple syllable Chinese surnames such as Chuacuco, Chuatoco, Ciacho (from Sia), Cojuangco, Colico, Dioquino, Dytoc, Dy-Cok, Dytioco, Gueco, Gokongwei, Kimpo/Quimpo, King/Quing, Landicho, Limcuando, Martinez, Ongpin, Pempengco, Quebengco, Siopongco, Solon (from So), Sycip, Tambengco, Tambunting, Tanbonliong, Tantoco, Tiongson, Tungol, Yuchengco, Tanciangco, Yuipco, Yupangco, Licauco, Limcaco, Ongpauco, Tancangco, Tanchanco, Teehankee, Uytengsu, and Yaptinchay among such others. These were originally full Chinese names which were transliterated into Spanish and adopted as surnames.[44]

There are also multiple syllable Chinese surnames that are Spanish transliterations of Hokkien words. Surnames like Tuazon (Eldest Grandson), Dizon (Second Grandson), Samson (Third Grandson), Singson (Fourth Grandson), Gozon (Fifth Grandson), Lacson (Sixth Grandson) are examples of transliterations of designations that use the Hokkien suffix -son (孫) used as surnames for some Chinese Filipinos who trace their ancestry from Chinese immigrants to the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Period.


Traditional Tsinoy cuisine, as Chinese Filipino home-based dishes are locally known, make use of recipes that are traditionally found in China's Fujian province and fuse them with locally available ingredients and recipes. These include unique foods such as hokkien chha-peng (Fujianese-style fried rice), si-nit mi-soa (birthday noodles), pansit canton (Fujianese-style e-fu noodles), hong ma or humba (braised pork belly), sibut (four-herb chicken soup), hototay (Fujianese egg drop soup), kiampeng (Fujianese beef fried rice), machang (glutinous rice with adobo), and taho (a dessert made of soft tofu, arnibal syrup, and pearl sago).

However, most Chinese restaurants in the Philippines, as in other places, feature Cantonese, Shanghainese, and Northern Chinese cuisines, rather than traditional Hokkienese fare. The more recent Singaporean restaurants serve a mixture of Hokkienese and other cuisines from China.


With the increasing number of Chinese with Philippine nationality, the number of political candidates of Chinese Filipino descent also started to increase. The most significant change within Chinese Filipino political life would be the citizenship decree promulgated by former President Ferdinand Marcos which opened the gates for thousands of Chinese Filipinos to formally adopt Philippine citizenship.

Chinese Filipino political participation largely began with the People Power Revolution of 1986 which toppled the Marcos dictatorship and ushered in the Aquino presidency.The Chinese have been known to vote in blocs in favor of political candidates who are favorable to the Chinese community.

Important Philippine political leaders with Chinese ancestry include the current Philippine president, former presidents Cory Aquino, Sergio Osmeña, and Ferdinand Marcos, former senators Nikki Coseteng, Alfredo Lim, and Roseller Lim, as well as several governors, congressmen, and mayors throughout the Philippines. Many ambassadors and recent appointees to the presidential cabinet are also Chinese Filipinos like Arthur Yap.

Society and Culture[edit]

The dragon dance is still a popular tradition among Chinese Filipinos.
Welcome Arch, Manila Chinatown, Ongpin-Binondo, Manila, Filipino-Chinese Bridge of Friendship

The Chinese Filipinos are mostly business owners[according to whom?] and their life centers mostly in the family business. These mostly small or medium enterprises play a significant role in the Philippine economy. A handful of these entrepreneurs run large companies and are respected as some of the most prominent business tycoons in the Philippines.

Chinese Filipinos attribute their success in business to frugality and hard work, Confucian values and their traditional Chinese customs and traditions. They are very business-minded and entrepreneurship is highly valued and encouraged among the young. Most Chinese Filipinos are urban dwellers. An estimated 50% of the Chinese Filipinos live within Metro Manila, with the rest in the other major cities of the Philippines. In contrast with the Chinese mestizos, few Chinese are plantation owners. This is partly due to the fact that until recently when the Chinese Filipinos became Filipino citizens, the law prohibited the non-citizens, which most Chinese were, from owning land.


As with other Southeast Asian nations, the Chinese community in the Philippines has become a repository of traditional Chinese culture common to unassimilated ethnic minorities throughout the world. Whereas in mainland China many cultural traditions and customs were suppressed during the Cultural Revolution or simply regarded as old-fashioned nowadays, these traditions have remained largely untouched in the Philippines.

Many new cultural twists have evolved within the Chinese community in the Philippines, distinguishing it from other overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia. These cultural variations are highly evident during festivals such as Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival. The Chinese Filipinos have developed unique customs pertaining to weddings, birthdays, and funerary rituals.

Wedding traditions of Chinese Filipinos, regardless of religious persuasion, usually involve identification of the dates of supplication/pamamanhikan (kiu-hun), engagement (ting-hun), and wedding (kan-chhiu) adopted from Filipino customs, through feng shui based on the birthdates of the couple, as well as of their parents and grandparents. Certain customs found among Chinese Filipinos include the following: During supplication (kiu-hun), a solemn tea ceremony within the house of the groom ensues where the couple will be served tea, egg noodles (misua), and given ang-paos (red packets containing money). During the supplication ceremony, pregnant women and recently engaged couples are forbidden from attending the ceremony. Engagement (ting-hun) quickly follows, where the bride enters the ceremonial room walking backward and turned three times before being allowed to see the groom. A welcome drink consisting of red-colored juice is given to the couple, quickly followed by the exchange of gifts for both families and the Wedding tea ceremony, where the bride serves the groom's family, and vice versa. The engagement reception consists of sweet tea soup and misua, both of which symbolizes long-lasting relationship. Before the wedding, the groom is expected to provide the matrimonial bed in the future couple's new home. A baby born under the Chinese sign of the Dragon may be placed in the bed to ensure fertility. He is also tasked to deliver the wedding gown to his bride on the day prior to the wedding to the sister of the bride, as it is considered ill fortune for the groom to see the bride on that day. For the bride, she prepares an initial batch of personal belongings (ke-chheng) to the new home, all wrapped and labeled with the Chinese characters for sang-hi. On the wedding date, the bride wears a red robe emblazoned with the emblem of a dragon prior to wearing the bridal gown, to which a pair of sang-hi (English: marital happiness) coin is sewn. Before leaving her home, the bride then throws a fan bearing the Chinese characters for sang-hi toward her mother to preserve harmony within the bride's family upon her departure. Most of the wedding ceremony then follows Catholic or Protestant traditions. Post-Wedding rituals include the two single brothers or relatives of the bride giving the couple a wa-hoe set, which is a bouquet of flowers with umbrella and sewing kit, for which the bride gives an ang-pao in return. After three days, the couple then visits the bride's family, upon which a pair of sugar cane branch is given, which is a symbol of good luck and vitality among Hokkien people.[45]

Birthday traditions of Chinese Filipino involves large banquet receptions, always featuring noodles[46] and round-shaped desserts. All the relatives of the birthday celebrant are expected to wear red clothing which symbolize respect for the celebrant. Wearing clothes with a darker hue is forbidden and considered bad luck. During the reception, relatives offer ang paos (red packets containing money) to the birthday celebrant, especially if he is still unmarried. For older celebrants, boxes of egg noodles (misua) and eggs on which red paper is placed are given.

Births of babies are not celebrated and they are usually given pet names, which he keeps until he reaches first year of age. The Philippine custom of circumcision is widely practiced within the Chinese Filipino community regardless of religion, albeit at a lesser rate as compared to ethnic Filipinos .[citation needed] First birthdays are celebrated with much pomp and pageantry, and grand receptions are hosted by the child's paternal grandparents.

Funerary traditions of Chinese Filipinos mirror those found in Fujian. A unique tradition of many Chinese Filipino families is the hiring of professional mourners which is alleged to hasten the ascent of a dead relative's soul into Heaven. This belief particularly mirrors the merger of traditional Chinese beliefs with the Catholic religion.[47]

Subculture according to Acculturation

Chinese Filipinos, especially in Metro Manila, are also divided into several social types. These types are not universally accepted as a fact, but are nevertheless recognized by most Chinese Filipinos to be existent. These reflect an underlying generational gap within the community.:[48]

  • Culturally-pure Chinese—Consists of Chinese Filipinos who speaks fluent Hokkien and heavily accented Filipino and/or English. Characterized as the "traditional shop-keeper image", they hardly socialize outside the Chinese community and insist on promoting Chinese language and values over others, and acculturation as opposed to assimilation into the general Philippine community. Most of the older generation and many of the younger ones belong to this category.
  • Binondo/Camanava Chinese—Consists of Chinese Filipinos who speaks fluent Hokkien and good Filipino and/or English. Their social contacts are largely Chinese, but also maintain contacts with some Filipinos. Most of them own light or heavy industry manufacturing plants, or are into large-scale entrepreneurial trading and real estate. Most tycoons such as Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, and John Gokongwei would fall into this category, as well as most Chinese Filipinos residing in Binondo district of Manila, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela, hence the term.
  • Greenhills/Quezon City Chinese—Consists of Chinese Filipinos who prefer to speak English (or Taglish) as their first language, but poor or passable Hokkien and Mandarin. Most belong to the younger generation of Manila-based Chinese. Culturally, they are influenced by Western/Filipino thought and culture. Many enter the banking, computer science, engineering, finance, and medical professions. Many live in the Greenhills area and in the La Loma, New Manila, Sta. Mesa Heights, and Corinthian Garden districts of Quezon City, hence the term.
  • Probinsyanong Chinese—Consists of Chinese Filipinos who largely reside outside of Metro Manila. They speak Tagalog, Cebuano, or a Philippine language, but are fluent in English, and mostly poor in Hokkien. They are known by other Chinese as the probinsyanong Intsik.
Subculture according to Period of arrivals

Most of the Chinese mestizos, especially the landed gentry trace their ancestry to the Spanish era. They are the "First Chinese" or Sangley whose descendants nowadays are mostly integrated into Philippine society. Most are from Guangdong province in China, with a minority coming from Fujian. They have embraced a Hispanized Filipino culture since the 17th century. After the end of Spanish rule, their descendants, the Chinese mestizos, managed to invent a cosmopolitan mestizo culture[citation needed] coupled with an extravagant Mestizo de Sangley lifestyle, intermarrying either with ethnic Filipinos or with Spanish mestizos.

The largest group of Chinese in the Philippines are the "Second Chinese," who are descendants of migrants in the first half of the 20th century, between the anti-Manchu 1911 Revolution in China and the Chinese Civil War. This group accounts for most of the "full-blooded" Chinese. They are almost entirely from Fujian province.

The "Third Chinese" are the second largest group of Chinese, the recent immigrants from Mainland China, after the Chinese economic reform of the 1980s. Generally, the "Third Chinese" are the most entrepreneurial and have not totally lost their Chinese identity in its purest form and seen by some "Second Chinese" as a business threat. Meanwhile, continuing immigration from Mainland China further enlarge this group[49]

Civic organizations

Aside from their family businesses, Chinese Filipinos are active in Chinese oriented civic organizations related to education, health care, public safety, social welfare and public charity. As most Chinese Filipinos are reluctant to participate in politics and government, they have instead turned to civic organizations as their primary means of contributing to the general welfare of the Chinese community. Beyond the traditional family and clan associations, Chinese Filipinos tend to be active members of numerous alumni associations holding annual reunions for the benefit of their Chinese-Filipino secondary schools.[50]

Outside of secondary schools catering to Chinese Filipinos, some Chinese Filipino businessmen have established charitable foundations that aim to help others and at the same time minimize tax liabilities. Notable ones include the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, Metrobank Foundation, Tan Yan Kee Foundation, Angelo King Foundation, Jollibee Foundation, Alfonso Yuchengco Foundation, Cityland Foundation, etc. Some Chinese-Filipino benefactors have also contributed to the creation of several centers of scholarship in prestigious Philippine Universities, including the John Gokongwei School of Management at Ateneo de Manila, the Yuchengco Center at De La Salle University, and the Ricardo Leong Center of Chinese Studies at Ateneo de Manila. Coincidentally, both Ateneo and La Salle enroll a large number of Chinese-Filipino students. In health care, Chinese Filipinos were instrumental in establishing and building medical centers that cater for the Chinese community such as the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center, the Metropolitan Hospital, Chong Hua Hospital and the St. Luke's Medical Center,[citation needed] one of Asia's leading health care institutions. In public safety, Teresita Ang See's Kaisa, a Chinese-Filipino civil rights group, organized the Citizens Action Against Crime and the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order at the height of a wave of anti-Chinese kidnapping incidents in the early 1990s.[51] In addition to fighting crime against Chinese, Chinese Filipinos have organized volunteer fire brigades all over the country, reportedly the best in the nation.[52] that cater to the Chinese community. In the arts and culture, the Bahay Tsinoy and the Yuchengco Museum were established by Chinese Filipinos to showcase the arts, culture and history of the Chinese.[53]

Ethnic Chinese perception of Filipinos

Filipinos were initially referred to as hoan-á (番仔) by ethnic Chinese in the Philippines. It is also used in other Southeast Asian countries by Hokkien speaking ethnic Chinese to refer to peoples of Malay ancestry. The term itself means foreigner and is actually non-derogatory when it first came to use. However, it acquired a negative connotation over the years, and Southeast Asian locals prefer that ethnic Chinese refrain from using it. Most older Chinese still use the term, while younger Chinese now use the term hui-li̍p-pin lâng (菲律宾人), which directly means, "Philippine person", or simply "Filipino".

Chinese Filipinos generally perceive the government and authorities to be unsympathetic to the plight of the ethnic Chinese, especially in terms of frequent kidnapping for ransom. While the vast majority of older generation Chinese Filipinos still remember the rabid anti-Chinese taunts and the anti-Chinese raids and searches done by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Immigration, most of the third or fourth generation Chinese Filipinos generally view the Philippine people and government positively, and have largely forgotten about the historical oppression of the ethnic Chinese. They are also most likely to consider themselves as "Filipino" and support the Philippines, rather than China or Taiwan.

Some Chinese Filipinos believe racism still exists toward their community among a minority of Filipinos, who the Chinese refer to as pai-hua (排華) in the local Minnan dialect. Organizations belonging to this category include the Laspip Movement, headed by Adolfo Abadeza, as well as the Kadugong Liping Pilipino, founded by Armando Ducat, Jr..[54][verification needed]


Chinese mestizos are persons of mixed Chinese and either Spanish or indigenous Filipino ancestry. They are thought to make up as much as 25% of the country's total population. A number of Chinese mestizos have surnames that reflect their heritage, mostly two or three syllables that have Chinese roots (e.g., the full name of a Chinese ancestor) with a Hispanized phonetic spelling.

During the Spanish colonial period, the Spanish authorities encouraged the Chinese male immigrants to convert to Catholicism. Those who converted got baptized and their names Hispanized, and were allowed to intermarry with indigenous women. They and their mestizo offspring became colonial subjects of the Spanish crown, and as such were granted several privileges and afforded numerous opportunities denied to the unconverted, non-citizen Chinese. Starting as traders, they branched out into landleasing, moneylending and later, landholding.

Chinese mestizo men and women were encouraged to marry Spanish and indigenous women and men,[citation needed] by means of dowries,[citation needed] in a policy to mix the races of the Philippines so it would be impossible to expel the Spanish.[55](p86)

Trade and Industry[edit]

Binondo was the main Chinese enclave in the Philippines until World War II

Chinese Filipinos play a significant role in Philippine economy that reflects European colonial policies favoring the Chinese middlemen, which mirrors the Overseas Chinese experience and European colonial policies in the rest of Southeast Asia. Chinese Filipino entrepreneurs are particularly strong adherents to the Confucian paradigm of intrapersonal relationships, and have a proclivity to reinvest most of their business profits for expansion .[citation needed] Most conglomerates and corporations owned by Chinese Filipinos were grown from small enterprises, attesting to the group's entrepreneurial flair and talent .[citation needed][56] Despite constituting a small fraction of the country's population at 2% to 3%, the Chinese Filipinos have a disproportionate impact on both trade and industry. Many stores and restaurants, as well as factories and manufacturing firms are owned by Chinese Filipinos, who are estimated to control 50 to 60 percent of non-land share capital in the Philippines,[citation needed] and as much as 35 percent of all total sales in the Philippines are attributed to firms owned by the ethnic Chinese,[citation needed] who essentially focus largely on retail, light manufacturing, casinos and to a much lesser extent, semiconductors and chemicals, real estate, land, and property development, banking, engineering, construction, fiber, textiles, finance, consumer electronics, food, and personal computers.[citation needed][57][58][59][60][61][62] In the Philippines, ethnic Chinese are estimated to control over one-third of the 1000 largest corporations.[63] In the Philippines, Chinese entrepreneurs control 47 of the 68 locally owned public companies.[64][65] Chinese owned companies account for 66% of the sixty largest commercial entities.[66][67] The economic power of the Chinese Filipino community is portrayed by American writer Amy Chua who said that "the country's four major airlines and almost all of the country's banks, hotels, shopping malls, and major business conglomerates" are owned by the Chinese.[citation needed] In addition, they dominate "the shipping, textiles, construction, real estate, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and personal computer industries as well as the country's wholesale distribution networks and six out of the ten English-language newspapers in Manila, including the one with the largest circulation."[citation needed][60][68][69] Filipino Chinese businesses are part of the larger bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses operating in the markets of Southeast Asia that share common family and cultural ties.[70]

Retail Trade

Chinese Filipinos pioneered the "shopping mall" concept.[citation needed] Most of the Philippines' shopping malls are owned by ethnic Chinese or Chinese mestizos. These include the SM Group of Malls (SM North Edsa, SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, and The Podium) of Henry Sy, Robinsons Group of Malls (Robinsons Place Manila, Robinsons Galleria, and Robinsons Magnolia of John Gokongwei, Megaworld Corporation (Newport Mall and Eastwood City) of Andrew Tan, and Shangri-La Plaza of the Kuok family.


From small trade cooperatives clustered by hometown, the Chinese Filipinos would go on to establish and incorporate the largest banking institutions in the Philippines.[71] Majority of the country's principal banks are owned by Chinese Filipinos, such as the Allied Banking Corporation, Banco de Oro group, China Banking Corporation (Chinabank), East West Banking Corporation, Metrobank group, Philippine Trust Company (Philtrust Bank), Rizal Commercial Banking group, Security Bank Corporation (Security Bank), United Coconut Planters Bank.[citation needed][72] Also, 40% of the Philippines' national corporate equity is owned by the ethnic Chinese.[citation needed][73]

Food Industry

Small and medium-sized factories engaged in food processing, as well as the production of liquor and tobacco. 80 of all 163, as well as 15% of distilleries Philippine companies involved in the food industry are shown to be owned by ethnic Chinese.[citation needed] Chinese Filipino entrepreneurs were also the first to capitalize and invest in oil processing industry, which increased the national production of vegetable oils, butter, soap, grease, and copra cakes as fertilizers for rice fields and sugar plantations.[citation needed][74][75]

The Filipino fast food chain, Jollibee was founded by a Chinese-Filipino entrepreneur and continues to remains as one the of most famous fast food outlets in the Philippines.

Almost all restaurants serving Chinese cuisine in the Philippines are owned by Chinese Filipinos. Meanwhile, the Chinese have also entered the fastfood business, such as McDonald's (franchised by George Ty, Chowking, Greenwich Pizza, Mang Inasal, Red Ribbon, and the China-based Yonghe Dawang (永和大王).


About 85% of the lumber sector and 10% of the timber industry are owned by the Chinese Filipinos. Several lumber businesses have been implicated in illegal logging and deaths due to landslides arising from environmental degradation.[76][77]


The Chinese Filipinos pioneered the shipping industry in the Philippines,[citation needed] which eventually became a major transportation as a means of transporting goods cheaply and quickly between islands. Important shipping magnates owned by the ethnic Chinese include Cokaliong Shipping Lines, Gothong Lines, Lite Shipping Corporation, Sulpicio Lines which was associated with recent tragedy that lead to deaths of hundreds, and Trans-Asia Shipping Lines.[71]

Likewise, Chinese Filipinos own most of the major airlines of the Philippines, including the flagship carrier Philippine Airlines, AirphilExpress, Cebu Pacific, South East Asian Airlines, and Zest Air.

Manufacturing and Real Estate

Majority of Philippine companies that produce textiles, plastic products, footwear, glass, as well as heavy industry products like metals, steel, industrial chemicals, semiconductors, and personal computers are owned by the Chinese. Of the 500 real estate firms in the Philippines, 120 are Chinese-owned and mostly specialize in real estate and construction and are concentrated in Metro-Manila. By 1986, Chinese Filipino entrepreneurs controlled 45 percent of the nations top 120 domestic manufacturing companies. These companies were mainly involved in tobacco and cigarettes, textiles, and rubber footwear.[74][75]

Future Trends[edit]

Most of the younger generations of pure Chinese Filipinos are descendants of Chinese who migrated during the 1800s onward - this group retains much of Chinese culture, customs, and work ethic (though not necessarily language), whereas almost all Chinese mestizos are descendants of Chinese who migrated even before the Spanish colonial period, and have been integrated and assimilated into the general Philippine society as a whole.

There are four trends that the Chinese Filipinos would probably undertake within a generation or so - Assimilation and Integration, as in the case of Chinese Thais who eventually lost their Chinese-ness and adopted Thai culture and language as their own; Separation, which means translates to the propagation of the status quo and reminiscent of most Chinese Malaysians; Returning to the Ancestral land, which is the current phenomenon of Overseas Chinese returning to China; and Emigration to North America and Australasia, as in the case of some Chinese Malaysians and many Chinese Vietnamese.

During the 1970s, Fr. Charles McCarthy, an expert in Philippine-Chinese relations, observed that "the peculiarly Chinese content of the Philippine-Chinese subculture is further diluted in succeeding generations", and he made a prediction that "the time will probably come, and it may not be far off, when, in this sense, there will no more 'Chinese' in the Philippines".

Integration and Assimilation

Assimilation is defined as the adoption of the cultural norms of the dominant or host culture, while Integration is defined as the adoption of the cultural norms of the dominant or host culture while maintaining their culture of origin.

As of the present day, due to the effects of globalization in the Philippines, there has been a marked tendency to assimilate to Filipino lifestyles influenced by the US, among ethnic Chinese. This is especially true for younger Chinese Filipinos living in Metro Manila[78] who are gradually shifting to English as their preferred language, thus identifying more with North American culture, at the same time speaking Chinese among themselves. Similarly, as the cultural divide between Chinese Filipinos and other Filipinos erode, there is a steady increase of intermarriages with ethnic Filipinos, with their children completely identifying with the Filipino culture and way of life. Assimilation is gradually taking place in the Philippines, albeit at a slower rate as compared to Thailand.[79]

On the other hand, the largest Chinese Filipino organization, the Kaisa para sa Kaunlaran openly espouses eventual integration but not assimilation of the Chinese Filipinos with the rest of Philippine society and clamors for maintaining Chinese language education and traditions.

Meanwhile, the general Philippine public is largely neutral regarding the role of the Chinese Filipinos in the Philippines, and many have embraced Chinese Filipinos as fellow Philippine citizens and even encouraged them to assimilate and participate in the formation of the Philippines' destiny.


Separation is defined as the rejection the dominant or host culture in favor of preserving their culture of origin, often characterized by the presence of ethnic enclaves. The current Chinese Filipino community is better described as a "separated community" in reference to the general Philippine society at large, and this is the present status quo.

The recent rapid economic growth of both China and Taiwan as well as the successful business acumen of Overseas Chinese have fueled among many Chinese Filipinos a sense of "Chinese pride" through immersion and regaining interest in Chinese culture, customs, values, and language while remaining in the Philippines.

Despite the community's inherent ethnocentrism - there are no active proponents for political separation, such as autonomy or even independence, from the Philippines, partly due to the small size of the community relative to the general Philippine population, and the scattered distribution of the community throughout the archipelago, with only half residing in Metro Manila.

Returning to the Ancestral Land

Many Chinese-Filipino entrepreneurs and professionals have flocked to their ancestral homeland to partake of business and employment opportunities opened up by China's emergence as a global economic superpower.[80]

As above, the fast economic growth of China and the increasing popularity of Chinese culture has also helped fan pro-China patriotism among a majority of Chinese Filipinos who espouse ai guo ai xiang sentiments (love of ancestral country and hometown).

Emigration to North America and Australasia

During the 1990s to the early 2000s, Philippine economic difficulties and more liberal immigration policies in destination countries have led to well-to-do Chinese Filipino families to acquire North American or Australasian passports and send their children abroad to attend prestigious North America or Australasian Universities.[81] Many of these children are opting to remain after graduation to start professional careers in North America or Australasia, like their Chinese brethren from other parts of Asia.

Many Philippine-educated Chinese Filipinos from middle-class families are also migrating to North America and Australasia for economic advantages. Those who have family businesses regularly commute between North America (or Australasia) and the Philippines. In this way, they follow the well-known pattern of other Chinese immigrants to North America who lead "astronaut" lifestyles: family in North America, business in Asia.[82]

With the increase in political stability and economic growth in Asia, this trend is becoming significantly less popular for Chinese Filipinos.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]