By Rex Catubig


“INTSIK tsonga”, “Tsikwa”– are just two of the monikers they are condescendingly called, implying disdain in the way they are regarded. Which reveals our bias and cultural ignorance.

My father was privileged to enjoy a close association with the Chinese in the lumber business. I grew up and looked up to the likes of Lee Sim, Tang Kai, Tan So, Chua and other business pioneers. And in their company, I was initiated in the culinary opulence of a 15-course Lauriat.

In barrio Calmay where I spent my boyhood, we had a Chinese apothecary, eponymously referred to as “Onga”. It’s where you bought cure-all liniments and had your first taste of champoy and huamei. It’s the dream store for the barrio lasses who swore by the chalk face powder that held the secret to the Chinese porcelain complexion.

The Dagupan Chinese are purveyors of historic legacy and cultural aspiration. Innovative and enterprising, they are unarguably, the pioneer builders and developers of the city. One could not walk along downtown AB Fernandez, originally Torres Bugallon, without coming across a Chinese establishment—whether it’s a restaurant such as De Luxe and La Suerte;  a grocery like On Sieng, Lim Pan, and Lim Chang Co; hardware like Taya’s and Tan Commercial; dry goods like Ang Ka Tong and Kim Pian.  And uptown, the venerable lumber stores such as New Dagupan Lumber, Lee U Lumber, etc.

While city residents stricken with insecurity begrudge the Chinese “invasion” of Dagupan, the other side of the picture shows that without their aggressive ventures, Dagupan would not be as dynamic and prosperous as it is today.

Harking back to our history, the Chinese immigrants who evolved into Sangley Mestizos, the Chinese who married into the native populace, are credited as a potent driving force in the emergence of the middle class and the rise of nationalism in the country.

Correlating that to our city, aside from their role in the boom of business and economy, the Chinese have emerged as a political force to reckon with. Endowed with both wealth and business acumen, they are destiny ordained leaders in the evolution of Dagupan.

Unfortunately, the unbridgeable rift that has developed between the two rival camps has become a bane that threatens to subvert its growth and undermine the welfare of the Dagupenos.

Nonetheless, it’s business as usual in the Chinese community, although it is evident that among them there is a growing gap. How this will play out in the long run is the stuff of feng shui divination.

Happily, cultural bond proves stronger than the vagaries of politics. We salute the Dagupan Chinese community led by the humble yet energetic stalwarts Edward Chua Cham and William Teng, for gathering the various organizations, and rallying the joint celebration with the city of the Chinese New Year and Heritage Day.

In the year of the Rabbit, we hope to hop together on the yellow brick road towards healing in our Diamond City.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Mabuhay!

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