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Saturday, February 28, 2009

What Happens To The Family?

When my father passed away at the relative young age of 58 years old, I was finally struck by our mortality. You see, my father seemed so strong and healthy. I can't recall him being sick for more than a few days at a time. My paternal grandparents were both past 80 years old at that time, and generally well.

After Dad died, I was struck also by a lot of things: the expenses for the wake, the funeral, and even the lot where we finally interred him. And before then, there were the expenses for his treatment. And of course, he was forced to retire early. No, he did not have any life insurance.

My father was wise enough to transfer his properties to my brothers' name before he passed on, so we didn't really have to worry about inheritance taxes. But what if the death came suddenly, and the inheritance is the form of solid assets that cannot be liquidated immediately? The burden of heirs is that they are obliged to pay a large inheritance tax. Some people even go into debt.

The older Chinese do not get life insurance or believe in it, but now I believe it's a necessity since we will all meet our maker someday. After my father died, I got a no medical life insurance since I was relatively young and healthy, even if I was still single then. I figured that if I unfortunately leave my loved ones, they are at least provided with the means to give me a good sendoff without too much financial burden on them. Now that I'm a mother myself, I have realized even more the wisdom of my decision. I now have dependents. I shudder to think what will happen to them if anything untoward happens to me.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Father's Watches

Unlike some men who wear a lot of jewelry like a gold pendant, gold rings, bracelets etc., the men in my family are not really too much into jewelry. Watches were the exception. Throughout his life, my father bought watches. He considered them as investments, especially the more known Swiss brands. He believed that these watches do not depreciate in value over time. And that it's more understated for a man to have a good-quality Swiss watch rather than tons of jewelry. I don't believe that I've seen any Victorinox Swiss Army watches in his collection but I believe it was a fairly new brand compared to the older names. He'd probably add that to his collection if he knew about that brand.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Frugal?

My grandparents lived through the second world war and my parents were raised post-war. That's why they knew the value of hard work and they value the money they earned. And they succeeded! Now, even if my grandmother is in her eighties, she tries to account for every last cent that she spends, because she is aware that her nest egg could dry up.

We live in relatively more prosperous times. This has made our generation a bit (or a lot?) more willing in indulge in "wants" rather than "needs". It does not help that technology has come up with a lot of "must-haves"! With the worldwide recession, what should we do in order to fulfill our wants but still save some for an uncertain future? I'd only buy from sales if I absolutely, definitely have to! Which is, thankfully, not that often. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Grandma's Beautiful Skin

My maternal grandmother, even when she was in her eighties, had fine, beautiful skin. She had a few fine lines, but hey, she could pass for somebody in their fifties or early sixties when in fact she was already in her eighties. That was because she took very good care of her skin, putting on moisturizers 2 times a day. I am ashamed to say that she actually had better skin than I did, even if she did have a few signs of aging.

She told me that in her time, Chinese brides usually have this facial treatment routine involving putting a special paste on the face and then threading the skin of the face. I remember seeing that procedure in some period movies and TV shows featuring beautiful women as characters. Most women, she said, only get to do that when they are about to get married. But women belonging to rich families or nobility can have it done more often.

Nowadays, brides who want to look their best undergo microdermabrasion in order to refine their skin surface. I underwent a couple of sessions, and it did make my skin look a lot better.

Well, some things never change. Like the quest for looking one's best.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boys Over Girls

Traditionally, Chinese families have always preferred having boys over having girls. That's because of the following:

  • Boys carry the family name. If they marry and have children, their children will still carry the family name. That's because, as with the majority of the world, Chinese families are patrilineal.
  • Boys are traditionally trained to become the breadwinners. The more boys in the family, the more earnings the family is supposed to have. Girls are supposed to be mainly homemakers. Of course, nowadays, many girls are already career women. But if they earn, their priorities are still their husband's family (if they're married) over their own family of origin.
  • When boys marry, they bring their wives into the family fold. When girls marry, they are married "out" and are already considered as members of the husband's family instead of the family of their origin.
  • Traditionally, only boys could inherit.
  • Women who bore sons are more favorably looked upon than women who only managed to have daughters. When a woman bears a son, people will rejoice and congratulate the couple. If it's a daughter, people will say, "That's ok, daughters are also ok, you can always try for a son next time."
  • Traditionally, only boys could aspire for higher positions and glory within the government system. They can become high officials. Of course, times have changed and these may not always be the case. But then there has never been a female prime minister in China. Come to think of it, not even the US ever had a female president. Here in the Philippines also has an imbalance of more males in government positions than females, although the current president is female.
  • Boys have are physically stronger. For farming communities and other communities that need and emphasize manual labor, this is an advantage.
The preference for boys, although more pronounced with China's one child policy basically limiting the number of kids a couple has to only one (with a lot of exemptions nowadays), is actually not just limited to Chinese. Here in the Philippines, we'd hear of men wanting sons because they want someone to carry on their name. People would also cite the same reasons as the Chinese would if they are pressed to why they want boys. Even the more progressive countries, however much they try to promote gender equality, still have that glaring preference for males.

Will that change over time? I think it's going to take a while.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chinese - Good in Business?

I do not know in other countries, but here in the Philippines, people are fond of categorizing the presumed skills people have based on their race.

For example, Chinese people are presumed to be good in Math and business. I guess it stems from the fact that a lot of the Chinese, especially the older migrants, engaged in some sort of business. That's because there were very few Chinese employees back then, what with the immigrants' limited education and the fact that they do not speak the language. It makes their options pretty limited, so they figured that trying out their luck in business or working at logistics jobs for other Chinese traders who have come ahead present better earning options for them so that they could send more money back home to their families.

Some of them succeeded, and they are the ones that Pinoys both admire and envy. But not all of them did, of course. There were those whose success stories are the ones being told in order to encourage more people to go into entrepreneurship instead of just waiting for available jobs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Waxing Nostalgic...

When I was a little girl, I used to tag along with my grandfather to his office. His (now defunct) company used to process steel for industrial use. His office is just a quaint 2 story structure which looks like a house-inside-a-warehouse. I used to be fascinated with their adding machines, which do not have LCD or even light screens but just have a roll of paper tape wherein whatever you add is printed and the result comes out when you pull on the lever. Everything else was strictly by hand -- record keeping, inventory, accounting, you name it, somebody does it by hand and keeps a copy of it somewhere in the office. Computers were unheard of. Telephones were the dial type. Oh, yeah, everywhere you can hear the tap-tap-tap of manual typewriters.

Nowadays, most offices are located in commercial centers, in high or mid rise buildings. You can hardly find an office who does not have even a single computer. You'd panic you don't have enough laptop memory to store all the data that you need. Telephones were push button types and everybody sports his or her own cellular phone.

Times have certainly changed...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Our Ancestral House

During the trip to our ancestral hometown, my grandparents brought us to our ancestral house, the house where my grandfather grew up. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the house is typically done in Chinese architecture. This means that the building itself takes up the whole property and there is an open space in the center (I do not know if that's considered a courtyard or a skywell). Too bad I was not able to take pictures. This is unlike typical Western architecture where the house is surrounded by a yard, which may need aluminum fence installation to enclose and define the property.

This type of architecture is supposedly good for ventilation. I love the enclosed design and I might just incorporated it into my dream house someday.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Standards of Beauty

Most people nowadays strive to achieve the model-thin figure, eating little, working out in gyms, using diet pills and even resorting to surgery. Thin is considered the standard of beauty, and models, actresses and beauty pageant contestants and winners are often shown to be tall, slender and willowy.

Historically, however, Chinese people have always viewed a bit of fat as beautiful. The older Chinese recognize that beauty comes in all forms and shapes. There was even a term for it, yanshou huanfei (燕瘦環肥), describing the beauty of two very differently-shaped women, Consort Yang Yuhuan (楊玉環), more popular known as Yáng Guìfēi (楊貴妃) and Empress Zhao Feiyan (趙飛燕), who were great beauties of their time and beloved by their emperors.

Yang Guifei was known to be overweight, yet inspite of that, she was considered one of the 4 great beauties of China.


Zhao Feiyan, on the other hand, was a slender woman. Although she was not included in the roster of the 4 great beauties, she was, however, also renowned for her great beauty.

Beauty, however, does not always spell good fortune. While they enjoyed great favors from their husbands (who happened to be emperors), palace intrigues did not make their lives easy. In the end, were they happy? Yang Guifei was blamed for An Lushan's rebellion and ultimately put to death.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mahjong

One game that has been identified with Chinese is Mahjong. While many people view it as a gambling game, it actually takes a lot of concentration, skill and just a little bit of luck. While I don't play myself, I do think it's similar in principle to "pusoy dos".

It's not only a game, it's also a social affair. I remember when I was a kid, my parents would sometimes play mahjong with relatives, betting on small amounts of money (coins, usually). The gambling is not the serious portion, the main reason is for relatives and close friends to be able to spend some time with each other and enjoy a game pitting their wits against each other.

In Hong Kong, even wedding receptions are preceded by a few tables set up for mahjong while the guests wait for the entrance of the newlyweds.

It is so much identified with Chinese that it's the game being featured in the book (and later, movie) "The Joy Luck Club". But not only Chinese people enjoy this game. Would you believe that you can actually find this online? I just wonder if it's available on PS3 too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Chinese Food, Pinoy version

I grew up with parents who actually came over from China/Hongkong and were not born here in the Philippines. Not to mention that we have grandparents who we seen often. My comfort food is mostly Chinese food, because that was what my mother and my grandmothers cooked for us while we were growing up.

Since I the school I studied in during elementary and high school is mostly populated by students of Chinese parents like me, we pretty much knew Chinese food the same way.

I wondered why siopao (steamed meat buns) had these small packets of sauce, especially in restaurants. Also lumpia (spring rolls). Because we don't have sauces like these at home. And why calamansi (Philippine lime) is served together with pancit (noodles).

I attended college in a well-known university, and this time the population was more reflective of the country's population -- meaning that pure Chinese were the minority. I hang around with a few friends. I was surprised when they actually used the sauce for the siopao that they ate during snack time. They were surprised when I didn't touch my sauce at all.

It gradually made sense to me...The Pinoy has this penchant for adjusting foreign food to their taste. Like sauce on siopao, sauce on lumpia, calamansi in noodles (calamansi is actually Filipino, so you see, Chinese who came from China won't know what it is at first), etc.

It's similar to spaghetti with hotdogs and the sauce on the sweet side (Pinoys would complain that Italian style spaghetti is too sour). Pinoys do alter food in order to suit their own palate.

What do I feel about this? Well, to each his own. I still love my siopao and lumpia without the sauces (I'll just pass the sauce to my husband) and my pancit without the calamansi. It really is a matter of personal preference, and mine was shaped by traditional Chinese cooks (mom and grandmas). But don't go looking for calamansi when you go order siomai in a dimsum restaurant in HongKong, or complain that they didn't serve you the sauce. Because they won't have any. :)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Visiting China

When I first stepped foot in China, it was the mid 1980's. Barely anybody I know goes there as a tourist. While China has a lot of beautiful scenery and natural wonders, not to mention historical architecture like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, it has also been known as not being very tourist friendly. Hotels were very basic, lifke a dormitory, transportation and roads were not very developed, and in the countryside, street lights were few. The reason we went there during that time was to visit my great grandmother, who was already in her nineties at that time. They lived in a stone house in the countryside, with no running water, and no plumbing at all. Needless to say, toilets are outdoor latrines without the flushing mechanism that I was so used to. The cities were better, but not really by much.

The second and third times I went to China, I didn't go to the countryside, just to a major city. I could see that major changes have already been made. China is now much more prosperous and now looks more modern. It has also started to institute changes to make itself more attractive to tourists.

This is good news for me. I can now think about visiting the natural wonders I've been longing to see. Of course, I'll have to look for the appropriate Outdoor Gear from Marmot or North Face. A city girl like me would probably not enjoy myself as much if I didn't come well prepared for the expected trek. It would be great to see more of the land of my ancestors.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are You Romantic or Realistic?

I've always thought of myself as realistic, being Tsinay and all. A lot of people go into relationships with stars in their eyes and romance in their hearts -- and choose to be blind when there are problems. I'm not. However, I guess every girl wants even just a little romance, and it does not have to be expensive at all.




You Are A Realistic Romantic



It's easy for you to get swept away by romance...

But you've done a pretty good job keeping perspective.

You're still taken in by love poems and sunsets

You just don't fall for every dreamy pick up line!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Affordable Clear Vision

A popular online site which features Prescription eyeglasses for only $8!, Zenni Optical has always endeavored to keep quality frames and lenses at affordable prices. Would you believe that the glasses below is actually only 8 dollars?



Now, Zenni Optical in the New York Times?! In these hard times, people do all they can to save. Some spectacles are quite expensive, however. But with more affordable choices, people who need to save every penny but are dependent on glasses can say that they are Seeing Straight Without Breaking Bank.

Love in the Tsinoy Family



I may be wrong, but this is from my observation of the typical Tsinoy family, specifically mine. We are not as showy in our love as Pinoys are. We do not hug or kiss as often, especially if we have already grown out of the "cutie" stage. I only saw my dad give my mom flowers perhaps once in a few years' time. I've kissed my friends on the cheek more often than I do my own mother. Not because I don't love her, because I do, but because we're just not used to be so showy. But then, love doesn't have to be for show, does it?

Because of this, sometimes we Tsinoys are thought of as being unaffectionate, to say the least.

Despite the fact that we're a little uncomfortable with physically showing our love in ways that the typical Pinoy or the typical Westerner would, we do love each other, although we don't shout it out vocally or physically. It's just that sometimes it's a little hard for others to understand how we could love each other and be so "un-physical" about it.

These are what I observed from my elders, on how they show their love, the traditional way.
  • Chinese men work hard to provide for their family, even if it means working long hours 7 days a week. Even if it means long absences from home.
  • Chinese wives put their husband's families before their own. She is expected to serve her father-in-law and mother-in-law before thinking of her own father and mother. (That's why in traditional families, they literally "lose" a child when a daughter marries.) She is also expected to manage the household, whether or not she is working outside the home. In case her husband passes away, she remains faithful to his memory and avoids a second marriage.
  • Chinese parents try to ensure good marriages for their children by trying to do a background check on prospective mates for their children.
  • Chinese children respect their parents. Even if they don't agree with their parent's wishes, they follow all the reasonable requests.
  • Chinese respect their ancestors by praying to them and offering food offerings, incense sticks and "paper money" to them.
  • Chinese parents provide homes for their sons and daughters-in-law as well as their families.
  • Chinese are frugal sometimes to the point of stinginess, in order to leave more resources for the family to enjoy and to later inherit.
  • After giving birth, the daughter-in-law is asked to take a complete rest from her chores and is given a special diet in order to regain her strength and her health.
If you are a non-Chinese, you would probably not find "love" in any of these gestures and would still conclude that Chinese people are so strict with tradition and so unloving. But these are precisely some of the ways that we show our love. Of course, times evolve, and some of these may not apply anymore. Modern Tsinays like me even chafe at the restrictions and have proceeded to break some of the expected behavior. Marrying a non-Chinese is one of them. But unlike what Pinoys think, my family didn't disown me and still accepted me, because I am family and they love me...come what may.
---------
This is my contribution to The Blog Rounds: Love Edition hosted by Em Dy.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Opium War

The Opium War was a way for the Westerners to get a foothold and territories in China back in the Ching Dynasty. They got the Chinese hooked on expensive and addictive opium, which not only drained the financial resources of the Chinese, but also kept a lot of them under the haze of drug addiction. As there were no drug treatment centers at that time, those who are hooked are eventually permanently hooked, unless a family member or friend would be able to withstand the intense suffering of the addict as he goes through his withdrawal symptoms.

People really don't learn from history's mistakes, and keep making the mistake of falling into the drug trap.

Are You More Yin or Yang?




You Are More Yin



Feminine

Devoted

Forgiving

Fall

Winter

Afternoon

Moon

Time

Passive

Metal

Honey

Lectures and Conventions

When we were still in med school, we used to rely on "notes" made by classmates (I was one of them, by the way) who patiently wrote down, as fast as they can, whatever the lecturer was saying and writing down. They then rewrote the notes, making them more readable and photocopied them for everybody's use. Really tedious, but it was great work. You see, most of the important stuff were in the lectures. Reading the books, while complete, takes a lot of time and the little after school time we have just don't give us the luxury of reading about all the subjects that we have to.

Now the process seems to be getting easier. If I were in the same situation, I would probably just recorded it (tried it before, but it wasn't too clear on cassette) and we would just paid somebody to do the Transcription. More time for study, less time to use up on doing the notes!

Now, we go more to conventions and sometimes we do have the same problem of trying to take down notes while the speaker tries to fit his talk in about 10 minutes. It's pretty frustrating most of the time! I ended up not taking down notes at all so that I could just listen to the speaker, and even then I don't remember everything. I think that maybe the Academy should think about having somebody transcribe the lectures and distribute them to all active members.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Survey For Asians

Most of the past surveys concentrated on things, persons and events that are mostly American. No wonder, because Dneero IS an American company (unless I'm mistaken) and most of the conversation starters were more interested in their part of the world. And whether we like it or not, the USA is still the most influential country in the world at this time.

Finally, there's a survey that caters mostly to Asians. That's a start. With a region as large and as diverse as Asia, it's pretty hard to ignore.