The Philippines has a large population of people of Chinese ancestry. As in Thailand, Chinese in the Philippines have intermarried with Filipino and largely been assimilated into the population. Chinese make up between 1 percent and 1.5 percent of the population. Chinese language instruction has been restricted since 1973. Many young Filipino-Chinese consider themselves to be more Filipino than Chinese. Hokkein, the Southern Min dialect of Fujian, has traditionally been the primary dialect of many Overseas Chinese communities in Malaysia, Singapore Indonesia, and the Philippines whereas Teochew, the Southern Min dialect of Chaozhou, is the primary dialect of the Overseas Chinese communities in Thailand.

In 1990 the approximately 600,000 ethnic Chinese made up less than 1 percent of the population. Because Manila is close to Taiwan and the mainland of China, the Philippines has for centuries attracted both Chinese traders and semipermanent residents. The Chinese have been viewed as a source of cheap labor and of capital and business enterprise. Government policy toward the Chinese has been inconsistent. Spanish, American, and Filipino regimes alternately welcomed and restricted the entry and activities of the Chinese. Most early Chinese migrants were male, resulting in a sex ratio, at one time, as high as 113 to 1, although in the 1990s it was more nearly equal, reflecting a population based more on natural increase than on immigration. [Source: Library of Congress *]

There has been a good deal of intermarriage between the Chinese and lowland Christians, although the exact amount is impossible to determine. Although many prominent Filipinos, including José Rizal, President Corazon Aquino, and Cardinal Jaime Sin have mixed Chinese ancestry, intermarriage has not necessarily led to ethnic understanding. Mestizos, over a period of years, tended to deprecate their Chinese ancestry and to identify as Filipino. The Chinese tended to regard their culture as superior and sought to maintain it by establishing a separate school system in which about half the curriculum consisted of Chinese literature, history, and language. *

Intermarriage and changing governmental policies made it difficult to define who was Chinese. The popular usage of "Chinese" included Chinese aliens, both legal and illegal, as well as those of Chinese ancestry who had become citizens. "Ethnic Chinese" was another term often used but hard to define. Mestizos could be considered either Chinese or Filipino, depending on the group with which they associated to the greatest extent. *

Research indicates that Chinese were one of the least accepted ethnic groups. The common Filipino perception of the Chinese was of rich businessmen backed by Chinese cartels who stamped out competition from other groups. There was, however, a sizable Chinese working class in the Philippines, and there was a sharp gap between rich and poor Chinese. *

Americans and Foreigners in the Philippines

In the late 1990s there were more than 100,000 Americans who have retired in the Philippines. Many are retired serviceman, who spend some time in the archipelago when they were in the service. In some towns they make up the majority of customers in some red light districts.

In the 1980s, jets planes full of Japanese men arrived in Thailand and the Philippines on per-paid sex tours that included airfare, accommodations, transfers and a local girl waiting for them in their room. Many Japanese-Filipino children produced by marriages and liaisons between Japanese men and Filipinas have worked in Japan as "entertainers," a euphemism for prostitutes. A Manila-based woman's organizations estimates that there might be as many as 65,000 Japanese-Filipino children abandoned by their fathers in the Philippines.

Koreans are the biggest expatriate community in the Philippines. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 88,000 Koreans were living in the Philippines in 2012.The Philippine Department of Tourism said more than 1.16 million Koreans entered the country in 2013

Dennis Rodman Meets His Father in the Philippines After 42 Years of Separation

Former NBA basketball Dennis Rodman's father, Philander Rodman Jr. lives in the Philippines. In the early 2000s he lived with two wives and 15 of his 27 children and said he was shooting for 30 children.

In 2012, Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports wrote: “Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman doesn't know his father well. The aptly named Philander Rodman left Dennis' mother 48 years ago, and the former Pistons, Spurs, Bulls, Lakers and Mavericks forward hadn't seen his father for 42 years. Until recently, that is, when a barnstorming team Dennis plays for stumbled into Manila in the Philippines, and Dennis surprisingly agreed to a short meeting with his father. [Source: Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don't Lie, Yahoo Sports, July 19, 2012 ***]

Associated Press: “Philander Rodman Jr., who has acknowledged fathering 29 children by 16 mothers, says he was happy and surprised that his son agreed to meet him late Wednesday. He tried to meet the basketball Hall of Famer during another game in Manila in 2006. Philander, who has been living in the Philippines for nearly 50 years, said Thursday he wanted to explain to his son that he didn't abandon his family in the United States, but they only had time for greetings and handshakes.”

Here's Dennis' take on his father, from his 1996 memoir "Bad As I Want To Be," with some cursing removed: "I never really knew my father, Philander Rodman. He was in the Air Force in New Jersey, where I was born, and when I was three we packed up and came back to Dallas where my mother is from. We did this when my father stopped coming home. My father isn't part of my life. I haven't seen him in more than thirty years, so what is there to miss? I just look at it like this: Some man brought me into this world. That doesn't mean I have a father; I don't. I could say, 'This is my father. This is my dad,' but that doesn't sound right to me. I grew up with my mother and two younger sisters, Debra and Kim. There wasn't a male role model in my life until I got to college and started getting my [act] together."

Dwyer wrote: “The AP went on to mention that Rodman's father currently runs something called Rodman's Rainbow Obamaburger in the Philippines; which I'm sure is about as tactful and classy an establishment as can be expected by the father of 29 children by 16 women who tried to cram two different famous names into the name of his restaurant while appearing on the restaurant's website wearing a bootleg Chicago Bulls jersey with the name "Rodman" emblazoned on the front instead of the word "CHICAGO."

After the meeting Rodman told Associated Press: ''I've been trying to meet him for years. And then last night, boom, I met him. I was really, really happy and very surprised. ''I really, really felt good,'' he said. ''It's the beginning of something new.''

Filipino Immigrants

Out migration (in millions): 1) Mexico (-6.0); 2) Bangladesh (-4.1); 3) Afghanistan (-4.1); 4) Philippines (-2.9). [Source: United Nations Population Division]

Filipinos are the forth largest ethnic group in Japan. Many are Filipinas married to Japanese men. There are an estimated 350,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong. Many are maids or domestic workers.

Alisa Krutovsky wrote in My friend’s Filipino grandfather told her mom: "The Chinese treat the Filipinos, like second-class citizens." On their recent trip to Hong Kong and Macau, they experienced it, since most of the domestics (housekeepers) are Filipino. There are a lot of Chinese-Filipinos in the Philippines, and they are very wealthy. [Source: Alisa Krutovsky,, DC International Travel Examiner, December 27, 2009]


Filipinos in the United States

Countries where the most U.S. visas are issued (visas given in 1998): 1) South Korea (619,011); 2) Brazil (575,041): 3) Mexico (548,716); 4) Taiwan (344,901); 5) China (250,503); 6) India (249,715); 7) Britain (243,921); 8) Columbia (176,438); 9) the Philippines (145,043); 10) Israel (129,580).

About 4 million Filipinos live in the United States either as citzen or temporary workers. There are not so many in New York City. There are many more or on the West Coast, particularly in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. It is estimated that there are 1.5 million Filipinos in California. There are 15 Filipino-language newspapers in San Francisco.

About 16,200 Filipinos emigrated to the United States in 1998. The top five sources of legal immigrants in the United States in 1995 were: 1) Mexico; 2) the Philippines; 3) Vietnam; 4) the Dominican Republic; and 5) China. Source of immigrants in the United States (1992): 1) Mexico (22 percent); 2) Vietnam (8 percent); 3) Philippines (6.3 percent); 4) former Soviet Union (4.5 percent); 5) Dominican Republic (4.3 percent); 6) China (4 percent); 7) India (3.8 percent); 8) El Salvador (2.7 percent); 9) Poland (2.6 percent); 10) United Kingdom (22 percent).

There is great demand for U.S. visas in the Philippines. Applicants sometimes pretend they are dentists, doctors, priests or nuns, submit high-quality fake documents and spend thousands of dollars for classes that offer tips on what to say in during the embassy interviews. In the early 1990s, 72 percent of the female immigrants to New York City from the Philippines were trained nurses.

On being Filipino-American, Tricia Capistrano wrote in Newsweek, “When I was a kid, my grandmother would get upset whenever I told her that I'd be spending the afternoon swimming in my cousin's pool, because it meant that my skin would get darker than it already was. My mom, whose nose I acquired, has one of the widest among her brothers and sisters. She taught me to pinch the bridge daily so that the arch would be higher, like my cousins. Most of her girlfriends got blond highlights and nose jobs as soon as they received their first paychecks, almost as a rite of passage. [Source: Tricia Capistrano, Newsweek, June 19, 2006 /]

“As a teenager, I tried to hang out with the mestizas, because I wanted to be popular like them. It was only when I was 22 years old and moved to New York, where people of different colors, beliefs and sexual orientations are embraced, that I learned to appreciate my brown skin, wide nose, straight, black hair and five-foot stature. Because of the self-confidence I saw in the people I met, I found everyone — in the subway, on the street, in restaurants — beautiful.” /

American-Filipino Child in the Philippines

Tricia Capistrano wrote in Newsweek, “I took my infant son on a trip to the Philippines two years ago. I walked away from him for a moment at a baby- goods store in Manila and when I returned, he was surrounded by four women in their 20s who were ogling him. "He is so cute!" they said. "So fair-skinned!" Whether we were in the mall or at church, people would gather around to look at his face. My son is mestizo, of mixed race. My husband is Caucasian with ancestors from Sweden and Slovakia. I am a brown-skinned woman from the Philippines, where many people I know have a fascination with the lighter skinned — probably because our islands were invaded so many times by whites who tried to convince us that they were better and more beautiful than us. We were under Spain's rule for nearly 400 years, the United States' for almost 50. As a result, skin-whitening products fly off the pharmacy shelves. [Source: Tricia Capistrano, Newsweek, June 19, 2006 /]

"Any plans to move back here?" my relatives ask when I visit. "I'll send Emil when he is a teenager so he can become a matinee idol and fund our retirement," I joke. Most of the country's famous actors are of mixed race, and the teen actors who are on their way up don't have to be talented, just fair-skinned and preferably of Spanish, American or Chinese descent. /

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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