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The Web, the Filipinos, and Mr. Chip Tsao

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!"--I will take this literally not proverbially for the article below.

Filipinos are getting more and more equipped in using the internet. There is a necessity obviously, as millions of Filipinos are working abroad as professionals or skilled workers. Internet, aside from a more popular gadget, the mobile phone, has become a cheap medium in communicating with family members abroad. You can view your relative who's on the other side of the world in real time through webcam, and of course, it feels like you're together and the feeling of loneliness or home-sickeness if not gone is greatly diminished. This is the reason why we get news as fast as it happens though thousands of miles away. This is also the reason why when Mr. Chip Tsao published his article entitled, "The War at Home" on ( on May 27, 2009, it was pulled out on the same day because it only took a couple of hours to enrage a whole nation, the nation which he called "the nation of servants", Philippines no less.

So what did he say that sparked indignation from my fellow Filipinos, migrant workers or not; in Hong Kong, in the Philippines, or in other parts of the world? Since the editor and the publisher of the online magazine withdrew the article; I researched some more to get the article. I was so sure a Filipino would post it somewhere. I was right, so here it is. Here's what Mr. Chip Tsao wrote. I ask, "is he really just being satirical?" You tell me cos this nation of servants may have misunderstood his use of a literary device.

The War At Home
March 27th, 2009

The Russians sank a Hong Kong freighter last month, killing the seven Chinese seamen on board. We can live with that—Lenin and Stalin were once the ideological mentors of all Chinese people. The Japanese planted a flag on Diàoyú Island. That’s no big problem—we Hong Kong Chinese love Japanese cartoons, Hello Kitty, and shopping in Shinjuku, let alone our round-the-clock obsession with karaoke.

But hold on—even the Filipinos? Manila has just claimed sovereignty over the scattered rocks in the South China Sea called the Spratly Islands, complete with a blatant threat from its congress to send gunboats to the South China Sea to defend the islands from China if necessary. This is beyond reproach. The reason: there are more than 130,000 Filipina maids working as $3,580-a-month cheap labor in Hong Kong. AS A NATION OF SERVANTS (my highlight), you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.

As a patriotic Chinese man, the news has made my blood boil. I summoned Louisa, my domestic assistant who holds a degree in international politics from the University of Manila, hung a map on the wall, and gave her a harsh lecture. I sternly warned her that if she wants her wages increased next year, she had better tell every one of her compatriots in Statue Square on Sunday that the entirety of the Spratly Islands belongs to China.

Grimly, I told her that if war breaks out between the Philippines and China, I would have to end her employment and send her straight home, because I would not risk the crime of treason for sponsoring an enemy of the state by paying her to wash my toilet and clean my windows 16 hours a day. With that money, she would pay taxes to her government, and they would fund a navy to invade our motherland and deeply hurt my feelings.

Oh yes. The government of the Philippines would certainly be wrong if they think we Chinese are prepared to swallow their insult and sit back and lose a Falkland Islands War in the Far East. They may have Barack Obama and the hawkish American military behind them, but we have a hostage in each of our homes in the Mid-Levels or higher. Some of my friends told me they have already declared a state of emergency at home. Their maids have been made to shout “China, Madam/Sir” loudly whenever they hear the word “Spratly.” They say the indoctrination is working as wonderfully as when we used to shout, “Long live Chairman Mao!” at the sight of a portrait of our Great Leader during the Cultural Revolution. I’m not sure if that’s going a bit too far, at least for the time being. ( originally on HK Magazine.




jadefrank's picture


Hi Katea,

Once again, you have brought up an interesting subject. Mr. Chip Tsao has written a provocative piece, and as you mention - while seemingly sarcastic, he no doubt speaks the sentiments of some Chinese. Thank you for bringing up this issue of educated Filipino women working as maids in Hong Kong. What are your thoughts on this?

Warm regards,

katea's picture

BA, BS in Domestic Work

There are many things that actually bother my mind:
1. Mr. Tsao is just one of the many who thinks that our education is not as good as theirs; that we cannot rival or equate the kind of education that they get since they live in a better economy than in my country.
2. Given this unfair notion, and I am not saying that it only happens in Hong Kong, most universities abroad require more from us when applying for a graduate school than other applicants from the neighboring countries. They (the graduate programme coordinators) hardly try to break or deconstruct this stereotype, and in turn perpetuate in this prejudice against Filipino scholars or students.
3. Poverty and the lack of better job opportunities in my country drive my fellow Filipinos to work abroad as domestic helpers. While I do know that domestic work is a decent and legal jobs, and that Filipinos who work as such can actually stomach the humiliation brought by this, still, would a Filipino degree holder choose to "scrub" the toilet than hold a position in a company or an industry if the latter would give him/her a better salary, a better standing?
4.It is also our government's incapacity to promote Filipino as artists, intellectuals, scholars, and professionals rather than "supermaids".* If our education is at par with other universities in the world, then the cycle of sending "servants" would definitely stop. Filipinos go abroad so that they can give their children a better and quality education that most of them did not get in their youth. However, when their children graduate from college, our government sends them abroad to become maids saying that we should not be squeamish about the kind of job we get since that's where we are "most marketable".

*A couple of years ago, our government made an advertisement (print and tv ads). The ad showed a Filipina dressed in "Wonderwoman" costume with toilet scrub on her left hand and laundry soap on the right hand. The caption was "the modern-day heroes". Who on their right mind would ever think of making this commercial? Our Lady President endorsed and paid for this ad. Domestic helpers undergo rigorous trainings, and they actually pay a lot for these trainings which the government is supposed to be funding.

We need to speak English properly so that we will get higher pay as domestic workers in Hong Kong or other major cities in the world. Recently, the Japanese government required all Filipinos who will be working as caregivers to be degree-holders. Caregiving is supposed to be a six-month vocational course. And what's the government's response? "Maybe, we should think about adding another year in college."

If I write about my issues no matter how good or bad, I am usually calm and settled. But when I write about issues that humiliate my country and my fellow Filipinos, my heart beats as if there are a thousand horses pounding inside my chest.

Poverty is man-made that we can undo.

Maria de Chirikof's picture

things will change

I always get so upset about such inequality like this! I can remember when a whole bunch of Filipinos moved to town and at my high school we thought they were so cool. They always dressed up and looked nice, back then the white kids were thought they should be the cool ones always dressed in jeans and t-shirts and were boring and exclusive. I always wanted to tell them that we are extremely thankful you don't try to befriend us and just because you are looking down on us does not mean we are looking up to you. It was great to have them around since they were so confident and were actually friendly if you went up to them to say a 'quick hi' to them.

It makes me smile since I think that same Mr. Tsao would probably think we (Alaskan Natives) were only worthy to be the servants of their servants (A joke in some Disney movie about how rich he was that even his servants had servants). I think there will be real change though.

We are smarter now and can see how they kept us divided and that has changed. Now instead of a small group charging the gates and failing we can instead band together and let them see that they are seriously outnumbered. They will remember that old saying 'If you can't beat them, join them' and slowly it will change.

I know what you mean about writing about your own cultures issues being harder then responding to others. I feel my blood boil and try to rewrite all my words so people can see the Truth instead of my anger about it all.

It is the same way they treat woman, that no matter how good you are you are not as good as our lowest one. That will change as we band together and see we are go through something like this and speak against it. Before, it was just one group but now it is all of us together as one and that is something they can not stand against. I wish it would happen overnight but it will happen, we have to believe that!


katea's picture

Patriotism vs Racism

I do understand, however, that Mr. Tsao is being patriotic and nationalistic; that he just wants to express his opinions about his country. Surely, he can criticise my government or laugh at the thought that "we have the nerve to defend Spratley". What I did not like is the fact that he over-emphasized his biases, his hasty generalizations, about the Filipinos being a "nation of servants". Being patriotic is not an excuse to be a racist. He certainly struck a wrong cord.

He made his public apology last night on a private TV network in his country. He said, and I quote ""The ’servant’ is a good term. A Hong Kong government official is a civil servant. We are all servants to God, right? I’m now aware that I’ve crossed the line and I offer my public apology.""

I know he is trying to be "witty", (his sharp tongue that cuts like a blade has already been sweetened by a sugar-coat) even in his apology, a style that he is known for. I know for a fact that there is a spark of truth, however offensive, even in his biases. I also know that this controversy has made him even more famous; I can imagine people waiting for his next article.

He said sorry and that's enough for me. I can only speak for myself; I don't know how other Filipinos would react. He is now aware that there are lines that cannot be crossed, as they are connected to a bomb waiting to explode.

Poverty is man-made that we can undo.

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