Jan 17, 2011

To chew or not to Chua? To know or not to Nora?

Dear Filipino,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on various subjects and issues you discuss courageously in your blog.  I have shared your posts with some of my friends.  Those who have seen them have been impressed, and your readership I’m pretty sure has increased.  (You may want to start soliciting for advertisers – you deserve some income from this.) 

Anyway, I want to share my thoughts with you on some subjects you broached in your blog, and towards the end, ask you another "profound and complicated question."

Reading and chewing on your articles on Amy Chua have caused me mixed emotions and feelings – disgust and hatred, bordering on admiration and awe.  I have never heard of her previously, but Wikipedia has provided me enough general background about her, and it's quite impressive.  She graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School with a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, worked as a corporate law associate, taught at Duke Law School, and currently is a distinguished professor of law at Yale Law School – all these perhaps a product of her own intellect and extreme conditioning from her Chinese Filipino parents.

Since she takes her maiden name, not unlike many Western professional women, and since she seems to be into parenting and perhaps not into women’s liberation, I am not sure I know how to address her properly.  Should it be "Miss Chua" -- but she’s not single?  Or "Mrs. Chua" -- but she is not her mother?  Or "Ms. Chua" -- but she may resent that?  Therefore, I have decided to just address her as Chua.  Tells you what I know about proper etiquette in addressing women; with men, it's simpler -- just call them "Mister."

On the Vengeful Majority

As much as I like to read, mostly mysteries, spy stories, lawyer stories, some classics and literature, some autobiographies, some histories, I have never read any of Chua’s books.  And she had written 3 books:  the first book is World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability; the second book is Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance – and Why They Fall; and finally Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is currently causing a lot of controversies due to its extreme parenting method, its comparison to Western and other parenting methods, and Chua’s claim that Chinese parenting method is superior to others.  Guess these books did not belong to my list of desired topics and stories, fiction or otherwise.

Through your blog, I was able to read her essay on “Vengeful Majorities,” apparently with excerpts from her World on Fire book.  Some say this essay has been sensationalized to gain readership for her book and therefore increase its profitability – just like any other effort or action by any company or corporation with the bottom line being dollars and cents.  My money will probably not be used to buy her books, though I heard most parts of the books were intellectually written and show her knowledge of globalization and the law.

As I read that essay, I was totally shocked when she wrote very early in the essay in regards to her aunt’s murder: “For the Chinese, luck is a moral attribute, and a lucky person would never be murdered.  Like having a birth defect, or marrying a Filipino, being murdered is shameful.”  I was appalled and totally surprised by this statement and was hoping she was only being satirical and that she would recant it later.  But no such ‘luck,’ and as a matter of fact, Chua seemed to have justified the killing by saying: “But poverty by itself does not make people kill.  To poverty must be added indignity, hopelessness and grievance.”  Nothing can justify a killing, neither can one justify rudeness.

She repeated many times how her family, which belonged to the market-dominant minority in the Philippines, lived in a very exclusive, all-Chinese, luxurious, gated and guarded enclave, walled off from the Filipino masses.  And how they have bank accounts in various places in the US and had safety deposit boxes full of gold bars.  (I hope they reported their income, both foreign and local, to the Philippine Bureau of Internal Revenue.)  But then she related about her aunt stuffing her Gucci purse with free packets of ketchup when they ate at McDonald’s – sounds like petty thievery to me at a place I would never guess they dined.
Also, I don’t understand why her family’s splendid hacienda-style house in Manila in this exclusive Chinese enclave has servants' quarters where the poor, ignorant, ethnic Filipino servants sleep on a dirt floor.  When I was growing up in the Philippines, we were not rich, not even remotely close to the Chua’s wealth, but we also had some helpers and they were provided with decent accommodations and, God forbid, they never slept on the dirt floor, not that we had any.  But I digress, and rightfully so, since I seem to have noticed too many inconsistencies on her story.  Considering how intelligent Chua is, I don’t understand the inconsistencies.  Maybe I misunderstood, or perhaps I’m just getting petty. 

But can one blame my pettiness if somebody compares being married to your compatriot similar to having a birth defect?  Which reminds me how beautiful Filipinos are, of course for both sexes.  Look at how many Filipinas have been Miss Universe -- two in the last count, and an additional five Miss Philippines have been semifinalists.  How many of Chua’s Chinese were Miss Universe?  None that I know of, not even as semifinalists -- but that’s of course a cruel thing to say since I know a lot of pretty Chinese women and good-hearted Chinese Filipinos.

On The Tiger Mother

And then finally, here is Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, purporting how Chua’s Chinese method of parenting is superior to the Western method and, of course, to all other Asian countries.  Chua may be too smart to know that she may not be right the way she’s raising her children.  Reminds me of a Machiavellian pragmatism -- "the end justifies the means" -- though I don’t think I agree with it.  I cringed when her dad told her "to not ever disgrace him ever again" after she got only second prize in a national history competition, but she seemed to have justified that too.  She said she knew her father loved her and that he just wanted her to try her very best since he knew she was the best.  Imagine being the best among 6.8 billion people in the world: That’s such a prestigious honor, but really scary and so stressful – almost like Manny Pacquiao (yes, Chua, can you believe Pacquiao is an ethnic Filipino boxer?) being the greatest fighter ever in this world.

How does one maintain to be the best the world?  I’m realistic and I know I will never know.  I just want to be the best I can be.  But Chua certainly has a different outlook in life than most of us mortals.  That’s her family’s life philosophy and she certainly has the inalienable right to defend it – but then again it is her family and I’m glad not mine.  Life is too short to try to achieve perfection all the time – we need to aim for it but we should enjoy the trip.

On Our Filipino Way of Parenting

Briefly, allow me to tell you my own experience in raising two children here in America.  Like a lot of young engineers in the late 1960s, I immigrated to the US, met my future wife, got married, finished an advanced degree, and worked for a major US corporation.  We were blessed with a girl and a boy, and since we did not have extended family and since my new job moved us to a location where there was only one other Filipino family in town, we were left on our own to find the right methodology in parenting. 

Of course, we were neither experts nor very educated in parenting, but we used some of the lessons we learned from our own parents, picked up the good, and downplayed the ones we were not enthusiastic about.  Raising kids in America was more of a challenge relative to raising children in the old country.  This was a different culture and we did not have the presence of lots of relatives to provide some guidance and help.  What we tried to instill to our children was to do the best they could without threat of punishment.  We were not into extremism.  I was more like a "be happy and enjoy" guy and still am, although my wife was a little stricter but reasonable.  The way we raised our kids was to let them get into activities they liked, and we found out they excelled on things they wanted to do. Luckily, they were good kids and conscientious students too.  They also made mistakes along the way, but that was part of growing up and quite natural – and we were there to support them when they did, providing them with unconditional love, and just hoping that they would learn from their mistakes.

The girl excelled in dancing, gymnastics and piano, with no coercion from us but lots of support.  She was also an "A" student from the early stages of learning, garnered a BS in Sociology, then an MS in Medical Sciences, an MD degree, a residency, and finally a fellowship on her specialization – all at prestigious universities and institutions.  She is now a specialist surgeon in her field of expertise. 

The boy was a bit of a late bloomer, but also became an "A" student in high school through hard work.  He studied piano and saxophone but drifted to sports as he grew up.  He finished a BSME and an MBA degree also at prestigious universities, and now has a responsible job in a private corporation.  He married his college sweetheart who is also a lawyer and works for the federal government.  They have two little boys, our only two grandchildren – our pride and joy.

Our goals in raising our children were similar to those of Chua’s Chinese parents, but our approach was quite different.  Of course, we tried to instill in the kids when they were growing up to work to the best of their abilities.  Most of all, we thought we have to show that we love and will always support them and that was the most important thing in our lives and none of this ‘Chua’s Chinese disgrace’ nonsense.  In addition, since our ancestry came from a different culture and country, I urged them to be better than their American friends so they can feel equal with them (this was my own hang-up – I always knew I was just as good if not better than anybody else).  I’m not sure they understood that, but I know they are now doing well in their chosen professions and lives.

On The Philippine Economy

One has to remember that the United States really helped rebuild Japan after defeating it in World War II, while the Philippines which was an ally was not given the same treatment.  Despite this, the Philippines had the highest literacy rate in Southeast Asia during the mid-to-late 20th century.  It had an economy second only to Japan, ahead of Singapore and much better than South Korea and other neighboring countries.   It had prestigious universities where foreigners attended, taking advantage of their programs which could compete with the best of the best.  (Chua's essay reminded me of some Chinese classmates at the University of the Philippines; they did not speak Tagalog and they probably lived in the same enclave where the Chuas lived.  And though they were good students, they were not in the high percentile of our class.  I do digress again, but I’m just trying to show those critical intellectual ingrates that Filipinos can compete with anyone given the opportunity.)

In any case, as cronyism and corruption became rampant in the Philippines, perhaps fueled by briberies from the market-dominant minority to which Chua's Chinese family belong, the Philippine economy was fleeced bone-dry and the country fell to the bottom of the economic ladder in the region.  (By the way, another important point about the poor ethnic Filipinos that Chua always and relentlessly alluded to in her writings: Don't these impoverished people provide the clientele for the Chua companies to keep them reaping all those profits which make them market dominant or shamelessly rich?)

While things are beginning to change again with Pres. Aquino, all we can really do is just try to help in any way we can, pray, and hope fervently that the country will indeed recover and be what it once was -- and perhaps even better.  And I hope the market-dominant Chinese Filipinos will also do their part.

Finally: My Profound and Complicated Question

You know, I also just want to ask: Do you personally know, and are you really friends with, Nora Aunor?  :-)

Best regards to The Filipina and your family,

Pinoy na Inhenyerong Suya Sa Tsinitang Off-putting (aka "PISST OFF")

(Source: Video48)

Thank you for your support for this blog and your comments.  Wow -- Chua must have rankled you real bad to write the above. ;-)

But to answer your question, of course, I know who Nora Aunor is!  I mean, who doesn't, right?  A true morena and Bicolana, she is an uragon actress who bested dragon ladies by topping the Ten Best Asian Actresses of the Decade poll for the 2010 Green Planet Movie Awards which was held in Los Angeles, California.  The other 9 Asian actresses who also made it to the elite list include Zhang Ziyi (China), Gong Li (China), Maggie Cheung (China), Nae Yuki (Japan), Angelica Lee (China), Hye-Soo Kim (Korea), Yaqing Jin (China), Yoon-jin Kim (Korea), and Rinko Kikuchi (Japan).

And you know what too?  Because she has made my mother and aunts very happy as her fans with her remarkable decades-long acting (and singing) career, I consider her a friend.  And until she unfriends me on Facebook, I'll proudly trumpet to the world that I'm her friend, too -- regardless if that profile of hers on FB is the real Nora or not. ;-)

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at askthepinoy@gmail.com.


Tess Crescini said...

So it is true! I heard that Chinese considers Filipinos second class citizens even in our own country. I thought it was just a rumor. lol. I also heard that when it comes to being rude nobody beats Chinese people. I guess that's true too. lmao.

Tess Crescini (via FB) said...

Great article by PISST OFF.

Anonymous said...


Congrats on raising successful kids! And thanks for writing The Filipino about this topic.


Way to go! I'm liking your blog more and more. You just need to post more often!

Katrina said...

I read some article that it is a memoir and not a help book. But she had a good way of becoming a bestseller - by antagonizing everyone. She should be thankful that she was born in the US and is enjoying a good life.

Anyway, it's pretty ironic. Considering some of these Chinese or Filipino-Chinese live like kings at the expense of some poor Filipinos who probably don't have much choices/options in their lives, to tolerate being treated like slaves. It's so sad.

In my province, it is the Chinese and some Indians("bumbay")who are the richer people, the local Pinoys are servants to these people.

Why don't they just go back to China or wherever they came from? Oh wait, that's right, over there they probably won't have the same freedom and "privileges" that they enjoy in the Philippines...

The Filipino said...

While I appreciate the comments, I think we all have to be careful not to fall into the trap of "hating" (I'm using the word to encompass many other negative feelings) these so-called market-dominant Chinese. I agree many of them probably deserve some blame for any negativity coming from the ethnic Pinoys, but we all know many of them are also very conscientious, ethical and moral (some close friends come to mind), and I don't want my blog to contribute to a poisoned atmosphere between the two groups.

Having thought longer about Chua's essay on "Vengeful Majorities," I now think she really unfairly elevated one incident -- the killing of her aunt by a lone individual -- to somehow be representative of any ethnicity-influenced tension between the Chinese and the ethnic Filipinos in the country. And even if I concede that there is some tension, I'm sure it is almost negligible and I do not believe such tension is in any way comparable to the other ethnic tensions she also mentioned in her essay: e.g., Croats vs. Serbs, Hutus vs. Tutsis, Jews vs. ethnic Russians, Chinese vs. ethnic Indonesians, etc. I mean, these tensions were much more violent and widespread, much more societally disruptive, and much, much more gruesome. Unlike the case involving her aunt, we're talking about riots, outright war and ethnic cleansing in these other examples she gave.

Besides, let's reverse the roles in her aunt's case: If her aunt had been an ethnic Filipina who was killed by her Chinese driver because the latter couldn't take the abuse and enslavement anymore, the police would still be justified to put the same reason for the killing: "Revenge." In other words, it was revenge because of the aunt, not because the ethnic Filipino majority is somehow "vengeful."

Admittedly, things can deteriorate if the market-dominant Chinese do not change their ways, and if they do not learn to exercise more compassion and/or exhibit some form of laudable and visible societal engagement.

Like what the questioner alluded to in his long letter, they can start with taxes. I remember distinctly my reaction when I saw that the list of the biggest taxpayers did not match the list of the country's wealthiest individuals, which was of course dominated by the well-known Chinese tycoons. Why was that? Am I missing something here?

PISST OFF said...

Dear Filipino,

I apologize if my article has caused any harm to your Ask The Pilipino Blogs! or deepen the rift between a faction of the Chinese Filipino community and the mainstream Filipino people. I tried to be rational and objective on my assessment of the situation, but the feelings that the Filipino people was generally misaligned, degraded, and insulted by Chua in her essay on ‘Vengeful Majority’ which was supposedly excerpted from her book ‘World on Fire’ perhaps contributed to some emotional overtones in my article.

As most of us have many good Chinese Filipino friends (actually one of mine is the nicest person ever), I tried to be careful in distinguishing the typical Chinese Filipino from Chua’s Chinese Filipino. Again, I’m sorry that the resentment was very noticeable, but I think it was justified. I appreciate your observations on her essay and totally agree with you. My article would have been better if I had thought about the same observations and included them in the write up. I also appreciate the comments made by some of your readers on this article. It seems that we may be unified in condemning an unreasonable accusation and generalization of the Filipino race. Wouldn’t it be nice if Amy Chua apologizes for the unsavory things she had written about the Filipino people – but I am not holding my breath right now.

Please continue your selfless efforts on your blog. You are doing a great service to the Filipino people, especially to the younger generations of Filipinos who grew up in foreign countries and long for more information on their ancestry’s country, traditions, history, and various issues touched by your blogs.

donv said...

why pinoy dads are superior: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/columns/columns/view/20110120-315575/Why-Pinoy-dads-are-superior-joke-lang#


Anonymous said...

She seems to distance herself from the flips as much as she can. You can tell in her interviews with Charlie Rose and on her recent interview with the WSJ together with her husband and her daughter. Just listen to her VERY CLOSELY when it comes to stuff about her own family background or she starts mentioning her parents & where they come from.

WSJ interview:

Charlie Rose interview:

Anonymous said...

Just came across this post, and it's a year and a half too late, but I would nonetheless like to chip in my comments. First, Katrina says that it's the Chinese and Indians who are more prosperous than Pinoys in her province; so whose fault is that? Remember natives always have the "home court advantage" when it comes to the owning businesses, buying real estate, tax rates etc. But why are the dayuhan who came here with nothing much now have prosperous lives? And the Chinese don't have the same privileges in China as they do in the Philippines? Boy, you gotta crawl out of your provincial cave and go visit Shanghai, Beijing and other Chinese metropolises to see what they enjoy over there.

The blog owner himself is, like many dumbos, asking why some of the richest individuals are not the biggest taxpayers. And the answer to that is: net worth is not the same as taxable income for a particular year. If your reported earnings for a year is, say, P1 billion, you are going to definitely land on the top taxpayers list. Net worth, on the other hand, is an accumulation of your earnings and/or asset holdings in years past. They may be mostly cash, mostly real estate or stocks or other assets. It means you're rich, but either the earnings have been taxed already in prior years, or tax has not yet been paid because the land or other assets have not been sold yet (capital gains tax). Asset holdings = wealth, but it does not necesarily mean you should automatically belong to the top tax bracket. Lucio Tan can sit on his ass all year not earning anything, and he will still rank in the Top 5 richest year after year because he's already "made it."

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