Pen Strokes

April 4, 2009

An Open Letter to Chip Tsao (The War at Home)

Chip Tsao, Author of "The War at Home"

Chip Tsao, Author of "The War at Home"

Dear Mr. Chip Tsao,

I believe that washing Chinese toilets and doing Chinese laundry are decent jobs. Unlike some Filipinos, I am not insulted by the term “nation of servants”.  I believe that being of service to others is a very noteworthy endeavor. Having been an OFW myself, I have nothing but the highest regard for my countrymen who have given up a lot to be able to save their families. However, I do not believe that, just because we serve you, we should just keep our mouths shut when we are wronged! Yes, you read it right… when we are wronged!

You have errantly mixed two issues that are totally separate and should not even be considered in the same light. The issue of our domestic helpers in Hong Kong and the issue of our countries’ claims over Spratly Islands are worlds apart!

Our separate claims over Spratly Islands have been going on as far back as the early 1960s (I believe that Hong Kong was still a British colony back then). In fact, China and the Philippines are not the only claimants to these islands. I believe that Indonesia, Vietnam and even Taiwan are also trying to claim them as well. These islands were originally part of the Philippines along with Borneo back in the 1950s; but we took very little measure to guard our borders back then. This led to several different nationalities settling in Borneo and Spratly (without a passport) at that time. I think it was only in 1964, during President Ferdinand Marcos’ term, that we started a claim for both Spratly Islands and Borneo and asked the UN to intercede in our claims. The UN’s decision was to give Borneo to Indonesia and that the Spratly Islands would remain part of the Philippines. However, a possible error may have occurred in the UN’s “interpretation” of what constituted as national boarders and territorial waters, since they placed Spratly Islands in International Waters instead. Only then did China start to lay claim over the islands and thus began our problem. The UN’s suggestion was to have us settle this on our own. And this is why we are where we are right now.

So, you see, Mr. Tsao, we have a very legitimate claim over these islands! And, I don’t think that China and the Philippines will go to war over this. I believe that your article was not based on research and was merely an outburst of emotion. This brings me to my next point. The situation of the Filipino domestic helpers in your country.

Since this claim is between two sovereign governments and not between individuals who provide employment and those that provide services, why would you take it out on your personal domestic helper? Louisa (who is actually your father’s helper) had nothing to do with this situation! And why would you invite the rest of your countrymen to do the same? What right have you to treat people (Filipino, Chinese or any other race) with such scorn?  You, obviously, don’t know what you are talking about. These issues are much bigger than you and have been going on even before you were born; so I suggest that you stay out of it until you have a very clear picture of the matter! Your love for China is admirable; but your penchant towards violence is abhorrent! Chairman Mao was a very intelligent man! I doubt if he would say or write anything for the public without, first, considering the repercussions of his actions.

I know that you already “apologized” to the Filipino people. But at the same time you also insulted our intelligence by saying that you didn’t mean “it” that way and that your “English” was misinterpreted. Mr. Tsao, I believe that you meant every word you wrote on your article! You’ve been a journalist too long to make “unintentional misinterpretations” to your article. You were only forced to apologize when you felt the backlash of what you wrote. The next time you issue an apology, please let it be because you realized your mistake rather than because you were afraid of further repercussions.

Oh… just one more thing…

The “karaoke” that you say you are “obsessed” with is a Filipino invention! Perhaps, now, you can forgive us since you enjoy our invention so much!

Here is Chip’s original article:

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, 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.



  1. Whats funny is that if you look at a map of the Spratly Islands and where they actually are, THEY AREN”T EVEN CLOSE TO CHINA! They are in between Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

    So let’s make our own national caricature for you Mr. Chip. Let’s see how you like a look in the mirror at your own warts.

    Have you ever been in a line in China? If you happen to look away when your turn comes up, there will be 3 Chinese people cutting in front of you rather than saying “excuse me its your turn” like any polite person would.

    Chip’s attitude is basically an extension of that particular national trait. GRAB IT NA!!! Who cares about what is obviously right.

    And with the majority of Chinese citizens making cheap plastic junk in unsafe factories for $5 a day… A Nation of Servants indeed.

    Comment by — April 5, 2009 @ 2:30 am | Reply

  2. Well done mate!

    I found your reply to Tsao’s article while searching for his website or address so I could send him a reply. My reply was along the same lines as yours.

    The history on the spratly was very informative.

    Thanks for defending our pride and our dignity. I just wish more Filipinos would stand up for our country.


    New Zealand

    Comment by Ramon Herrera — April 5, 2009 @ 5:50 am | Reply

  3. Ah thanks for this!

    … HK Magazine are now calling the article “satire”. It’s descends into it near the end, but the underlying assumption (that Filipinos are of a servant class and from a lower state) that would cause the article to BE satire makes that idea lose power.

    Comment by Jessica — April 6, 2009 @ 1:18 am | Reply

  4. Hi guys!

    It’s truly heartwarming that you chose to comment on my blog article. The sad thing is that it had to take a common enemy for us (Filipinos) to come together. Wouldn’t it be great if we could stick together and prioritize our countrymen and our products before any other foreigner or their products? Sigh! I wish this would come true one day!

    But if it takes an a–h-le like Chip Tsao to bring us together, I’ll take it! At least I know that when someone tries to attack our race, we still feel that we are Filipinos!


    Comment by boom8088 — April 6, 2009 @ 1:48 am | Reply

  5. He apologized because the article was written as a jab at China. He overlooked the fact that the way he wrote it can also be construed as a jab at the Philippines, but the clear intent of the article was to ridicule China because while they tolerate being bullied by people more powerful than them (Russia, Japan), they are not above bullying those who they perceive to be smaller than them.

    The sad thing is, the way he wrote it is a wee bit too realistic to be taken as satire without question. We may know now that he really meant it that way, given how most of us may have read his past works, but prior to this, who knew, right?

    Comment by Mistervader — April 6, 2009 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

    • Mistervader, you might be right. Perhaps it was a satire. I’ve read some of Chip Tsao’s articles and he has a penchant for throwing jabs at China, the US and others (the Philippines included). Perhaps he was trying to hit two birds with one stone. Perhaps…

      But as a journalist and a professional he is responsible for the words he writes. He cannot use “misinterpretation” as an excuse; especially since he chose to write in English. Anyone who reads it will think that it’s an attack on the Philippines and not China. So he has to consider the words he uses carefully. Otherwise, he should just write in Chinese.

      Comment by boom8088 — April 6, 2009 @ 4:09 pm | Reply

  6. Wow, I totally didnt get that it was supposed to be satire, but now that I reread it, I get it. You have to put yourself in the position of a Hong Kong Chinese person, who is a bit leary of China. When the speaker says “As a nation of servants, 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.” he is really setting himself up to look like a complete jerk, because hes lecturing someone who has a degree on the subject.

    It’s very hard for someone outside HK to understand that sarcasm, and I suppose he understands that now.

    BTW, I’m not pinoy, just FOP (“friend of Pinoys” lol)

    Comment by — April 9, 2009 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

  7. Thanks Mr. FOP! (LOL!)

    I guess it was sarcasm on Chip’s part. It probably would have been better portrayed as a comic strip instead of a feature article. It would also have been better if he didn’t mention the 130,000-strong OFW population in HK. It made his “satire” sound so real. But, I still believethat if he uses English and if his work caters to (even inadvertently) the international community, he should choose his words very carefully.

    Than being said, I think I’ll publish a postscript to this.


    Comment by boom8088 — April 9, 2009 @ 3:30 pm | Reply

  8. […] An Open Letter to Chip Tsao […]

    Pingback by At War: Home and Hongkong - Chat is not for Dummies — April 11, 2009 @ 9:03 pm | Reply

  9. What an obnoxious little prick this Chip Tsao (sounds like Cheap Chow) is! And he claims he is a journalist? To me, this article sounds like it’s coming from an ignorant, detestable, racist being who had nothing better to do with his time than sow seeds of hatred and bigotry. He is lucky to have a well-educated Filipino domestic helper who is most probably more intelligent than him. Let him be reminded that making Louisa work for 16 hours a day with that meagre salary is a perfect example of employer abuse and unfair labour practice. He has just implicated himself once more.

    I don’t get his sarcasm at all. Case in point – responsible journalism, i.e. conduct a thorough research on the topic before even writing about it; and review the article before publishing it to ensure it is within professional and ethical bounds. Mr. Tsao needs to get educated badly.

    Thanks, Tito Boom, for posting this. Respect begets respect. Love to all the Filipinos!!

    Comment by Jenny — July 30, 2009 @ 3:35 am | Reply

    • Hi Jenny!

      Actually, he said it was a jab at China and not the Philippines. And, if you view his past articles, it is possible that he was taking a jab at China after all.

      However, you’re right to point out that he has to review his work before he has it published. It stuck too close to home to be considered a satire. If he really wanted it to be comical, he should’ve exaggerated it a whole lot more.

      Anyway, I hope he learned his lesson now.


      PS – Thanks for posting… 🙂

      Comment by boom8088 — July 30, 2009 @ 11:53 am | Reply

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