The sly who came in from the cold


“Sly” in our title refers to both a deceptive and secretive person, a take off from our contribution to this page last Monday on the Spy Who Came Into the Cold. We leave readers to decide which quality is more preeminent than the other in our case as gleaned from this page in the last decade!

A debate on whether one is a “sly” or not sounds like the vying perspectives of a glass half-empty or one that is half-full. We would rather focus on the glass, and yes, Virgil, I am sly. So let’s move out of the cold into the warm.

Warm is the tropics, geographically defined as that distance between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, 23 degrees apiece north and south of the equator. I write from ’Pinas where my eldest sister, her husband and her brood sans daughter who lawyers in Melbourne Down Under, decided to remain while the rest of her siblings sailed out to Honolulu Paraiso, on the southern latitude of the northern temperate zone slightly above the Tropic of Cancer!

Warm was the welcome at Ninoy International Airport, no longer infested with the leeching horde of delihensiya of bygone years, refreshingly professional sans the frequent allusions to “ang lagay ba naman” casually aired, especially among the numerous balikbayan boxes waiting to be examined that overseas workers delight in flying back home to appease the pasalubong requirements of relations back at the clan. The security personnel and luggage pushers, however, remain heavily solicitous!

I made it clear earlier to nephews and nieces and their young ‘uns that the poor uncle from China was coming but they were not to expect any pasalubongs. That reveals how badly the pocketbook was hit by the international recession and domestic inflation in China’s economy. (Boy, that sounds like a great phrase of an excuse; in fact, my monastic lifestyle precludes the accumulation of wealth I would not know how to make anyway!)

Ensconcing myself in the cold winds of Dong Bei of Manchuria, I am resigned to spending the remaining 17 years of my gallivanting trudging snow, muffed and wrapped on the lower air streams of Siberia. This trip to the tropics is intended to be my “Adios, Paalam (literally, that you know), Goodbye,” to lady Pilipinas and her fair entourage as we near the completion of our 70th year of corporeal existence and essence.

My eldest daughter of Euro-Anglo-Sino-Indo-Malay descent once unfurled her bared existential banner at an Illinois U: “Mongrels of the World, Unite!” She dabbled in French, spending a year in Provence’s Avignon, so we will forgive her “arise, ye downtrodden” version of L’Internationale!

I have no banner to unfurl; am just a regular mongrel out of Southeast Asia, now increasingly revealing a Zhinoy pedigree. “Zhinoy” is our version of the marriage of Zhongguoren and Pinoy (aka, Chinese and Pilipino mixed DNA) though like many parts of the world, the Chinese of our neighborhood knowledge are the water people of the Hakka Hans of the famed snail pit circular dwellings, like the Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster of the Yongding County in Fujian. Imaginative China has been tropical. (This might be too much geography to handle in one sitting!)

Also known as Ke Jia, the “guest people” because they were moved by the Ming Dynasty to other parts of China, they predominate in south Fujian and northeast Guangdong (including Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and much of Hainan). They’ve proven to be on the vanguard of China’s post-1912 events. 

Among their numbers are the Soong sisters Ching-ling, who married Sun Yat Sen, and Mei Ling, who married Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek of the Goumintang who fled to Taiwan; Sun Yat Sen (aka, Sun Zhong Shan in China), is father to modern China, Deng Xiaoping the smart diminutive, Lee Kuan Yew, the revered elder statesman of Singapore, and for good measure, Chow Yun-fat, the HK movie star of western acquaintance.

Chinatowns of our familiar from Calgary to Honolulu, Nauru to Peru, Kingston to London, Lahore to Singapore, Chicago to Tokyo, and many more, are peopled by Ke Jia Hakka, ever willing to up-and-go on the first sign of discord, ready to seed the planet with Sino DNA and consciousness deeply rooted in the tranquil yet eternally balancing pressure of the pivot point of life’s yin-yang.

That tradition, friendly to my own born-and-raised consciousness from northern Luzon where the Hakka Chinese is predominantly in residence, lay richly though subconsciously underneath my awareness as well. And in the natural heat of struggle to exist in space, and endless quest for meaning in time’s specific social milieu, we find comrades among tropical creatures in the land of Zhongguo’s Qin and Han.

So we revisit our warm bloodstream, awake to the choice to straddle the frozen tundra of body sense, feelings, thoughts and deeds in the icy winds of Dong Bei. But for now, we bask in the sun, seep our Laguna cocoa and cape de Batangas. This sly, warm-hearted and hot-headed, is home.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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