Roots

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President Duterte keynoted the Boao Forum for Asia this week in Hainan, the southernmost province of China. It was his third visit to the Chinese mainland since winning the presidential election almost two years ago.

Last May, the President attended the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing. Prior to that, he embarked on a state visit to China in October 2016.

In an interview with state-run media CCTV, he said “my grandfather was Chinese,” adding that there are about two million ethnic Chinese living and working in the Philippines. The South China Morning Post reported that “Duterte has previously said his Chinese grandfather was from Xiamen in Fujian province.”

Xiamen was formerly called Amoy, and Fujian used to be known as Fookien province. That’s where my paternal great-grandmother and my maternal great-grandfather came from and where most Chinoys trace their ancestry. The language there is called Hokkien, which spread to ethnic Chinese communities in the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

Our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, has roots in Jinjiang City, also in Fujian, where the biggest Rizal Park outside the Philippines is located and on which stands the Rizal Monument that is taller than the one in Luneta.

Chinese blood runs in the veins of many Filipinos, and according to the CCTV interview, President Duterte estimated that 25% of the Philippine population is of Chinese descent. Majority, however, are of Malay origin, as were many of my forebears who settled in the Visayas.

On the other hand, I also have ancestors from Spain’s Basque provinces and Italy’s Lombardy region, but that’s another story. Does this multiracial mix qualify me to be Eurasian?

p: wjg

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