Twenty-four new Fil-Chi ambassadors from different family backgrounds, diverse social strata and geographic origins — some from historic Binondo to the even more historic Beijing, one from Bicol Region and even one from Guam. They are: Glezlie Ong, 18; Christine Co, 22; Judielyn Chang, 21; Abegail Castor, 18; Chelsea Robato, 24; Nicole Cordoves, 22; Tola Orendain, 21; Felina Lim, 23; Sharmay Cu, 19; Jamie Reyes, 25; LA Cu, 21; and Anie Uson, 18, for Miss Chinatown.
For Mr. Chinatown, they candidates are Kurt Ong, 19; Daniela Miralles, 22; Wesley Cua, 18; Michael Tiong, 20; Mark Lim, 25; John Boo, 20; Jan Hung, 19; Timothy Yap, 22; King Choi, 23; Raven Go, 19; Cedrick Miranda, 21; and David Licauco, 20.
They all have different reasons for joining the most prestigious Fil-Chi Search on television (only in its second year).
“I can promote the Chinese heritage in a modern way where the new generation can understand it. I want to remove the stereotype that if you’re a Chinese woman, you are just in the background,” fashion student Glezlie Ong says.
“I joined because of my Chinese grandmother. I’m doing this for her. This is her wish and I want to make it come true,” model Nicole Cordoves confesses. “I am proud to say that even if I am immersed in Filipino culture, my Chinese heritage is still very much intact,” she adds.
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“Hindi kami mahiyain. Kaya makisama and can get along with any culture,” print and ramp model David Licauco wants to prove.
“I want to be a more confident person. I want to be able to express myself more. I want to be an artist,” says college student Kurt Ong.
The most common reason, of course, is to pursue a career in showbiz. “Kaming mga Fil-Chi, di lang magaling sa business, pwede rin sa show business,” fresh graduate Daniel Miralles proudly claims.
But in a world where Filipino-Chinese superstars already thrive, dominated by the likes of Kim Chiu, Enchong Dee, Xian Lim, Richard Yap and Kris Aquino, could there be room for more?
The answer, quite simply, is yes. In recent years, interest in the Fil-Chi presence in entertainment has catapulted with countless “Chinovelas,” box-office movie successes like Feng Shui and the Mano Po franchise and the clamor for Chinese-looking sweethearts and heartthrobs. It has even spawned a hit single for rocker Yeng Constatino entitled Chinito along with hits for Chinese boy bands and girl groups.
The Filipino-Chinese are changing. They are stepping out of their comfort zones and coming into the limelight. They don’t just want to be known as pioneers in business or tycoons of industry; they now want to be influencers and idols of a new generation.
But what makes this sophomore batch the ones to watch? How are they “the new Filipino-Chinese”?
DLSU student Michael Tiong says: “I represent change. This is a big step for us. The Filipino-Chinese are very conservative but in joining, I represent that we do not just rest in tradition, we are prepared to engage in change.”
Biochem student and Pharmaceutical heir Sharmay Cu explains: “The modern adds spice to conventional traditions. I am not only a dreamer but a doer. I take risks, I believe in myself and I want to inspire others to do things their own way.”
Print model Tola Orendain thinks that she embodies the best of both cultures, values and traditions. “Filipinos are, as a culture, very friendly. The Chinese are very good in business. They work perfectly with each other. I can use both these strengths in various social circles especially with the different kinds of people I meet.”
Entrepreneur Felina Lim believes that the Fil-Chi are now more open to change. “We are more embracing. We love showcasing our beautiful side while still maintaining our integrity and self-discipline.
Anie Uson, the youngest in the group, says, “I have both a Filipino and Chinese heart. There are shared and common beliefs. Instead of pointing out the differences, I focus on the similarities of the two cultures.”
Basketball champ John Boo knows that being open-minded, not conservative, and very positive about everything creates even more opportunities.
Interior designer Jamie Reyes, a returning candidate from last year, believes that a lot has improved about her. “I can promote both cultures by serving as an inspiration to young and modern Chinese women.”
Culinary arts student Jan Hung believes that the Filipino-Chinese mix very well — particularly when it comes to food. “Through food, you can taste the best of both cultures. Filipino-Chinese actually mix very well.”
Businessman King Choi cites one trait that makes him stand out from the rest: “Authenticity. Being Chinese and Filipino makes me unique. I practice traditions of both equally and speak languages of both fluently and in everyday life.”
And top model Chelsea Robato believes that being independent makes her modern. “I maintain core Chinese values of longevity and prosperity but I know I live in the modern world. I go after what I want and I don’t allow anyone to hold me back.”
And there is just no stopping them. They are the young and beautiful, the vibrant agents of change, taking the rich history of the Chinese and the heritage of Filipino ancestry, translating and communicating them into modern language, movements and action.
On the outside, nothing has changed. They still possess quiet, piercing eyes and porcelain skin; but it is their heart that has changed. Their hearts are now braver, stronger, bigger and ready for brand-new experiences. And they want to share them to influence and inspire. “Shy type” no more. And not just the men, but even more so the women: they are moving forward and taking their place in the spotlight. All for the entire world to see. Let’s watch them rise.
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The Mr. and Miss Chinatown Coronation Night airs from the Aliw Theater on Sunday, July 27 on Sunday’s Best exclusively on ABS-CBN.
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