Yellow Peril by Tze Ming Mok


Pinoy ahoy

The traditionally English-speaking Chinese groups - Singaporeans, Malaysians, NZBCs, Hongkies - have been long trotted out as the identifiable, homogenous yellow face of 'Asian/migrant' advocacy. That's why it's so heartening to hear the Filipinos making serious noise on the six-month work permit issue.

They've scored three hits in the Herald in the last few weeks: in this feisty op-ed by a Pinoy advocate, a folksy mention in Lincoln's column, and today's news article on the (thankfully) quick review of this awfully stupid policy.

The article mentions a petition to Government signed by 1300 Filipinos to reinstate the 2-year work permit period. 1300 Filipinos is nearly 8% of the entire resident Filipino population. That's an impressive degree of mobilisation. Despite various forms of political craziness in the Philippines, it's a place where civil society movements are politically organised and are a normal fact of life, even if normal life can be variously crazy. It's not surprising that as their population increases, Filipinos are taking the opportunity to make their voices heard, nor that they have articulate advocates and vocal vox-poppers with something to say in fluent, kind of American-sounding English. Mainstream journalists bored of the same old people should be looking forward to more of that.

Every new strand helps in breaking the Commonwealth-educated-Chinese stranglehold on public 'Asian-ness' - given that the Chinese are on our way down. After slapping in the new 2006 Census ethnicity figures into this table, we can confirm, as suspected, that while the Chinese are up 40,000 in raw numbers, we are down - down! - from 44% of the Asian population in 2001 to 41% today. Indians rose from 26% to 29%, and South Asians collectively rose from 30.5% to 33.4% of the Asian population. Indigenous South East Asian ethnic groups (ie not counting Southeast Asian Chinese who proudly write in 'Malaysian Chinese' etc...) dipped slightly from 13% to 12.3% of total Asians, because of the expected chunky 40K increases in Chinese and Indians. However, Filipinos consolidated at 4.7% of all Asians, roundly beating out the Japanese for fourth biggest Asian ethnic group, and leading the SEA pack by a country mile.

And so, the yellow:sepia 'Asian' ratio continues to shift, down from about 55:45 yellow to sepia, to around 53:46 (the leftover 1% is increasingly confused). In line with my plea here last year, please, somebody, notice.

Taking Shortland St as the national arbiter of multicultural awareness, I am also informed that there were plans afoot to introduce a Filipina nurse character. Awesome! Except that they couldn't get the cute NZ-born Chinese actress they wanted to cast, to sound or pass as 'Filipina'. Really? Now the word is that the character will instead be a 'Hong Kong'-born nurse. Because we have soooo many of those. An appreciated attempt, I suppose, but I didn't notice that there was any obvious topical DHB-buzz about the demographic trend of all those nurses and caregivers arriving from ...Hong Kong. Apparently, this character, instead of having to do a fake Cantonese accent badly, will do a British accent, which is realistic enough for a Hongky. You would think though, that the actress could have just done an American accent, and played mestizo Chinese Filipina, considering there are about 1.5 million Chinese Filipinos in the Philippines... Oh well, I suppose it's better than... nothing? Over to the Pinoys on this one.

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