Beyond prosperity and good luck
The influence of Chinese culture and traditions has long been rooted deep in our community. Even in Cagayan de Oro, some of the most influential movers of developments here come from the Filipino-Chinese community.
The annual celebration of the Chinese New Year is also not foreign to most of us here. Now that the Chinese Year of the Fire Rooster has begun, iconic red lanterns light up the city streets and parks. Numerous stalls display lucky charms and ornaments in a number of malls. More than that, the excitement and interest about what to do and what not to do for the Year of the Fire Rooster always amuse curious Filipinos.
While Chinese culture has contributed to our language, cuisine, and our way of life, more wisdom can be learned from this rich culture. In the city, some leaders in the community, academe, and business sectors come from Filipino-Chinese residents who made it all the way up on top because of the Chinese wisdom and traditions that have been passed onto them. Today, as Filipino-Chinese families gather every Chinese New Year, they not only aim to feast but more importantly to honor the contributions of their ancestors. Albert Leong, Chairman of the Philippine Bell Church who leads the celebration says that before anything else, Chinese people pray to the gods for the souls of their ancestors. Every Chinese New Year, he said that welcoming the blessings of the New Year is not as important to them as remembering and honoring their ancestors for the things they have done. “In the Chinese New Year, as we light incense for prayers in the temples, we do not only ask for blessing but we also commemorate and thank our ancestors who have passed on. There is wisdom in remembering the past when we are getting ready for the future” Leong said. Leong together with Elias Ng, overall spiritual leader and administrator of the Bell Church explained that the Bell Church, the center of the Chinese New Year Celebration, is grounded on the idea of unity. According to them, the Chinese New Year is not only about all the fireworks displays or the noise of the dragon and lion dances but also in the possibility of people existing harmoniously with each other regardless of differences in religion and race.
“As you can see, here in the Bell Church, we light incense and pray to five saints. The ones here in the altar are statues representing the various religions people believe in. From left to right, you can see the representations of Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Confucianism. This is to acknowledge that whoever you are, this temple is open for your prayers,” Ng said.
“This temple, like other temples around the country is called the “Bell Church” because bells symbolize unity. When you ring it, people from all around will be able to hear it equally. We believe that religions are only differences in beliefs but we all can live harmoniously if we chose to disregard these differences. This is the center philosophy of the Bell Church” Leong added.
As Chinese New Year is a time for festivities and well-wishing among the Chinese people, some also get excited of traditions and practices during New Year. Nida Gallardo, 56 years old with Chinese ancestry said that until today, she still looks forward to the Chinese New Year as much as Catholics get excited about the merriment of the Christmas season.
“I only have one fourth Chinese blood in me and yet I choose to actively participate in most of the Chinese practices during New Year. One of my favorites is wearing red because that color brings luck and prosperity to people,” Gallardo said.
She says that most of what we know of Chinese beliefs and traditions revolve around the Chinese people’s love for symbolism and object associations. She explains that Chinese people eat and share the “Tikoy” because of its stickiness which will bring strength to family ties. The same can be about their belief that round fruits such as grapes, oranges, and pears bring money because of their similarity with coin’s shape and that “pancit” can bring long life because of the strands’ length. Aside from these, she says that most Chinese look forward to witnessing the fireworks ceremony which not only adds to the noise of the celebration but also are believed to ward off evil spirits in the area.
Even with all the craze about the Chinese symbolism and beliefs in Feng Shui, Chinese people largely choose to believe in their own capabilities most especially in the quest to improve themselves and their positions in life, such as in business.
“Of course I believe in Feng Shui. It is not only something that is superstition but it is science. So you have to do consult someone who can do it very well or you might end up unfortunate. However, even if you do all the things the Feng Shui experts tell you to do, without personal efforts to improve yourself you will never succeed,” Leong said.
The same wisdom also comes from Juan Sia, former city councilor and owner of multiple successful businesses in the city. He said that while there is no harm in celebrating the Chinese New Year and acting in accordance to what the Feng Shui says, one must still be mindful of the efforts one does for one’s self. He says that there is no “lucky” or “unlucky” year for a person’s endeavors, it is up to the person to put into reality the things he wants in life.
“Believing in those is okay, but you must always make sure that you have the right ability and strength for your ventures. Only with believing in yourself and admitting your weaknesses and faults can you really be successful in life,” Sia said.