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Pinoy or Tsinoy, What is the Problem?

by Renato Perdon
At NSW Multicultural  function

Chiese and Filipino guests at a 2012 NSW Multicultural function

When I was a small kid, in the late fifties, in Bicol, I used to sell boiled eggs to hungry passengers of the popular Bicol Express, the southern railway line of the Philippine National Railway reaching as far as Legazpi City in Bicolandia. Everytime the Bicol Express would stop at Sipocot Railways Station, we little business minded kids became rich for a day by selling boiled eggs.

We call the boiled eggs as penoy which originated from the making of balut, a practice noted as early as the 1800s. During the Spanish period, Filipinos made penoy, balut and itlog na maalat based on the number of incubation days of the duck eggs, but I digress from the subject of pinoy.

Even during my childhood, I already heard the word Pinoy referring to Filipinos residing overseas or the way we call overseas Filipinos today as balikbayan, to make them as palatable to the hearing as possible. After all migrants are milking cow of the government, in reality. The word pinoy therefore has no meaning in the day to day living of Filipinos, but for Filipinos overseas it was an issue which even today has racial un-dertones.

The use of pinoy referring to overseas Filipinos has connection with the use of the word indio in Philippine history which means  the name applied by the Spaniards to the Christianised inhabitants of the Philippines while the Spanish residents themselves, composed of Philippine born and overseas born were regarded as insulares and peninsulares, res-pectively. The term therefore established a meaning of being part of another group, as in the case of the Pinoy overseas today. This situation alone, one can easily see the connection why Filipinos overseas were called pinoy, they were second class citizens of the country where they decided to live, notwithstanding the piece of paper they have in their possession indicating that they are already of foreign nationalities.

Here lies the resentment of being called a pinoy, by some of Filipinos overseas. For instance, the Ilocanos who first settled in Hawaii as sugarcane plantation workers were treated different from those born in Hawaii, although they might not be called then as pinoy, but the underlying name given them were of inferior or secondary citizens compared with the mainstream population. I don’t see any problem with that. In fact in my more than half a century in this world, I have meet half-breed like creoles in Latin American countries, and even in the United States. I don’t see the reason why I should resent the term.

This situation is also akin to how we address the Chinese in the Philippines when we call them Intsik, tulo laway, or singkit or the common name given to the Indian nationals as bombay, even now mainly those who engage in five six lending operation. Let us also bring to the discussion how we called the Japanese, during the Japanese period as ‘sakang.’ All these situations have racial undertones. There was a time that Philippine national newspapers were calling the Chinese Filipinos as ‘sino’ in published articles and news items involving the ethnic Chinese-Filipinos. The use of the word ‘sino’ during that period, according to Dr. Teresita Ang See was more as descriptive not as cultural. It is interesting to note that in Cebu, among the Chinese inhabitants, the ethnic Chinese call themselves as ‘lan lang’ (literally means our people) to distinguish themselves from the rest of the community. I would perhaps volunteer the situation as the same mechanism used by Filipino overseas to distinguish themselves from other ethnic groups in the community.

A few years back, I wrote a book entitled Browns Americans of Asia, describing what we are actually in modern life, particularly when we speak in English, trying our best, with an American ‘twang.’ And the addiction to movies, and other modern tastes such as in malls, music, food (McDonald, Kentucky, etc.). I received a number of nasty letters from a number of unappreciative  readers, although I thank them for buying my book and reading it, lambasting me for deriding the untarnished or whole-some image of the Filipinos in Asia. Apparently the writers’ condemning my use of the phrase ‘Brown Americans of Asia,’ is similar to the current discussion spreading around as regards the name Pinoy, and I can understand and symphatize with those agitated by the term I used or, for that matter, the word Pinoy, describing overseas Filipinos.

To illustrate about this racial undertones. In the early 1990s, Chinese Filipinos started to use the word Tsinoy to change the racial connotation of the words intsik or singkit. Actively pursuing this campaign was Tulay, a magazine published regularly for Chinese-Filipinos. The title of the magazine in itself is meaningful which is a bridge between Filipinos and Chinese-Filipinos. Countless of articles were written about Tsinoy.  One article that provided parallell explanation on the use of Pinoy referring to overseas Filipinos, the writer stated that the use by ethnic Chinese-Filipinos of the word Tsinoy referring to them is also true to any another minority ethnic group in any country who are clamouring to be admitted or recognised as part of the majority or mainstream society. We still use the derogatory term ‘kastila’ aren’t we when we refer to people of Spanish blood, even if they were already born in the Philippines. Same with Pinoy when we call them as such, it is just a descriptive reference.

Given a limited time and dearth of sources in Australia, I could not find the first use of the term Pinoy, but as I have said earlier, during my juvenile entrepreneurship in Manila while selling penoy, I know the distinction between pinoy and penoy even then, and to think that as little boys, the only foreign Filipinos to us were those coming from Manila via the Bicol Express. The word pinoy became officially part of the dictionary of the national language of the Philippines when the name Filipino was adopted in the 1987 Philippine constitution, referring to the development of a national language of the country to be called Filipino.

In 1993, the National Commission on Filipino Language (NCF) issued its first dictionary called Diksyunaryo Filipino-English and defined Pinoy as a ‘term referring to Filipinos, especially those staying abroad.’ This was followed by another official dictionary issued by NCF entitled Diksyunaryo ng Wikang Filipino, commemorating the Philippine centenary celebration in 1998. On page 733 of the volume, the word Pinay is defined as ‘ang pinaikling tawag sa isang Pilipina, lalung-lalo na yaong nakatira sa ibang bansa bilang pagkakakilanlan sa kanyang nasyonalidad and on page 734 it listed Pinoy as ‘pinaikling tawag sa isang Pilipino lalung-lalo na yong nakatira sa ibang bansa bilang pagkakaki-lanlan sa kanyang nasyonalidad.’

So far, the main idea of using Pinoy is about acceptance in foreign country where Filipinos are residing, in the same way as Chinese-Filipinos would want to be recognised as part of the citizenry as Tsinoy. To further illustrate, let me quote what National Artist Virgilio Almario said about the word Tsinoy.

Inembento nitong 1992, ang ‘Tsinoy’ para sa masayang pagtawag sa Tsinong Filipino. Kuwela. Kadiwa at katugma ng ‘Pinoy.’ …

‘Nasa bingit lagi ng pagbubukod ang wika tuwing tutukuyin ang mga Tsino. Palasak pa rin ang ‘Intsik.’ Depende naman sa tono ng pagsambit  ang damdamin sa likod ng ‘singkit’ ngunit tiyakang mapang-aglahi ang ‘dilaw.’

Based on Almario treatise, the idea of using Tsinoy referring to ethnic Chinese-Filipino and Pinoy referring to overseas Filipinos is coloured with racial undertones. It is part of life, anywhere in the world, a minority group would employ ways and means to get acceptance. In Australia, even now, many Filipino women are being asked how she became migrant to the country. One can easily sense the idea behind the question indicating the belief that these Filipino women came to Australia as ‘mail-order-brides.’

So whatever the origin of the word Pinoy, let’s accept it as part of history and culture of Filipinos.Americans of Asia,’ is similar to the current discussion spreading around as regards the name Pinoy, and I can understand and symphatize with those agitated by the term I used or, for that matter, the word Pinoy, describing overseas Filipinos.

To illustrate about this racial undertones. In the early 1990s, Chinese Filipinos started to use the word Tsinoy to change the racial connotation of the words intsik or singkit. Actively pursuing this campaign was Tulay, a magazine published regularly for Chinese-Filipinos. The title of the magazine in itself is meaningful which is a bridge between Filipinos and Chinese-Filipinos. Countless of articles were written about Tsinoy.  One article that provided parallell explanation on the use of Pinoy referring to overseas Filipinos, the writer stated that the use by ethnic Chinese-Filipinos of the word Tsinoy referring to them is also true to any another minority ethnic group in any country who are clamouring to be admitted or recognised as part of the majority or mainstream society. We still use the derogatory term ‘kastila’ aren’t we when we refer to people of Spanish blood, even if they were already born in the Philippines. Same with Pinoy when we call them as such, it is just a descriptive reference.

Given a limited time and dearth of sources in Australia, I could not find the first use of the term Pinoy, but as I have said earlier, during my juvenile entrepreneurship in Manila while selling penoy, I know the distinction between pinoy and penoy even then, and to think that as little boys, the only foreign Filipinos to us were those coming from Manila via the Bicol Express. The word pinoy became officially part of the dictionary of the national language of the Philippines when the name Filipino was adopted in the 1987 Philippine constitution, referring to the development of a national language of the country to be called Filipino.

In 1993, the National Commission on Filipino Language (NCF) issued its first dictionary called Diksyunaryo Filipino-English and defined Pinoy as a ‘term referring to Filipinos, especially those staying abroad.’ This was followed by another official dictionary issued by NCF entitled Diksyunaryo ng Wikang Filipino, commemorating the Philippine centenary celebration in 1998. On page 733 of the volume, the word Pinay is defined as ‘ang pinaikling tawag sa isang Pilipina, lalung-lalo na yaong nakatira sa ibang bansa bilang pagkakakilanlan sa kanyang nasyonalidad and on page 734 it listed Pinoy as ‘pinaikling tawag sa isang Pilipino lalung-lalo na yong nakatira sa ibang bansa bilang pagkakaki-lanlan sa kanyang nasyonalidad.’

So far, the main idea of using Pinoy is about acceptance in foreign country where Filipinos are residing, in the same way as Chinese-Filipinos would want to be recognised as part of the citizenry as Tsinoy. To further illustrate, let me quote what National Artist Virgilio Almario said about the word Tsinoy.

Inembento nitong 1992, ang ‘Tsinoy’ para sa masayang pagtawag sa Tsinong Filipino. Kuwela. Kadiwa at katugma ng ‘Pinoy.’ …

‘Nasa bingit lagi ng pagbubukod ang wika tuwing tutukuyin ang mga Tsino. Palasak pa rin ang ‘Intsik.’ Depende naman sa tono ng pagsambit  ang damdamin sa likod ng ‘singkit’ ngunit tiyakang mapang-aglahi ang ‘dilaw.’

Based on Almario treatise, the idea of using Tsinoy referring to ethnic Chinese-Filipino and Pinoy referring to overseas Filipinos is coloured with racial undertones. It is part of life, anywhere in the world, a minority group would employ ways and means to get acceptance. In Australia, even now, many Filipino women are being asked how she became migrant to the country. One can easily sense the idea behind the question indicating the belief that these Filipino women came to Australia as ‘mail-order-brides.’

So whatever the origin of the word Pinoy, let’s accept it as part of history and culture of Filipinos.

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