Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where did we come from?

Cua and Chua Family Association stamp and S/S

I have long wondered when and where did the first Chua arrive on this planet. From an egg? In a spaceship from Krypton? Although we are not averse to the glowing kryptonite green of the dollars. I'm almost sure the answer is not as exciting as the origin of the Wolverine, but I'm still curious.

The answer came by happenstance in June, when a member of the Chua Family Association, Mr. Jacinto, came to me and asked me to write the blurb for the Philpost bulletin, which gives the background behind the Chua stamps and souvenir sheet (see Photo above). The blurb also served as the basis for a letter to the postmaster general, to persuade him to approve the printing and issuance of the stamps.

Mr. Jacinto, like many a wealthy Chinese, bought the Jacinto surname to misdirect local bureaucrats from his Chua origin, to be able to own properties, like his big residence and a plastic factory in New Manila. We discussed ways to persuade the corrupt postmaster general appointed by the more corrupt president of the Philippines at that time, which led to the conclusion that a financial gift from the moneyed family association should be forthcoming. So the stamps were approved and the blurb was written, and the association gave me 10 sheetlets and a presentation folder of the stamps and FDCs.

2009 Chua Family Association sheetlet
I'm happily surprised that we came from such handsome and slim ancestors. Surely they are worthy of veneration. Who are they? Being a lazy Chua descendant, I just copy (and paste) and quote from my file: "Members of the Family pay reverential respect to founder Chua Tiong [the guy on the left], who is regarded as the most honored ancestor of Cua and Chua clansmen. Chua Tiong was born more than 3,000 years ago, during the Jou Dynasty. The clan also deeply respects his father, Chua Siok To [the other guy], who is recognized as the grand ancestor of all members."

What is known among the Chinese and unknown to non-Orientals is that a Chinese cannot marry anyone with the same surname. A Chua cannot marry a Chua; a Wang cannot marry a Wang, and so on.

This fact triggers memory of a high school day at Chiang Kai-shek, when on the first day of class, a teacher, perusing our class cards, asked a new classmate why his had no middle name.

The new kid said (in Chinese), "I have none."

The irritated teacher snapped, "Look, even if your mother is dead, surely she has left behind her surname."

"She's alive," he said, and asked permission to approach the teacher. After a brief whispered discussion, the boy returned to his seat. The teacher quietly accepted his card, apparently learning that it's possible to exist legally and officially without a middle name.

At recess, Philip (now I remember his name through the mist of time) explained the mystery, followed by our murmurs of "Ahhhh!" to the key to such a simple quandary. "My father and mother have the same surname."

It is still considered unusual, if not incestuous, for Chinese of same surnames to mate, no matter how many strains may have intervened since the first Chua appeared. So Philip's parents had to go through many processes and expenses to remove his middle name.

There's more: my middle name is Chan, so marrying any other Chan in this planet is like marrying a first cousin, barely acceptable and, among strict clans, a miscegenation, a cause to be disowned.

Is it hard to be Chinese? Not really; besides, I kinda like the corny jokes about Chinese names, like, a Gina's love cannot be doubted if she consents to marry a Tan. Deeper is the love of a Malou who takes as spouse a Wang.

The jokes are lost in translation if you don't know Tagalog, but that's another topic. 

The complete stamp and First Day Cover series
The red Cua Family Association stamps and FDCs followed about a month later, apparently approved by the postmaster general, who appreciated the generosity of Chua Tiong's descendants.
Invitation to the launching of the stamps


smartz said...

How nice to hear from you after such a long time. And with an interesting story. Thank you for sharing.

William Pogi Chua said...

I've been busy for a while. It's nice to be back and see you great people are still here.
Thanks for the welcome mat; I feel less alone.

Mariel said...

You are not alone :D I liked the Chinese-name jokes hehe :p

William Pogi Chua said...

Thanks, Doter, hope to see you soon. Very love, Papa Pogi.