Romantic unions among Tsinoys have always been a source of great fascination. We imagine all the drama that happen behind the curtains—the battle between old traditions and contemporary values, rich versus poor, second wife versus legal wife, arranged marriages —no small thanks to watching all seven "Mano Po" movies.
But is finding a romantic partner in the Fil-Chi universe really as dramatic as what Mother Lily fiction wants us to believe?
Find me a match
Back in the 1960s to the 1980s, matchmaking was widely practiced within the Filipino-Chinese communities, says Ganny Tan, officer in charge at Intramuros' Bahay Tsinoy.
Back then, there were two official “um lang” or matchmakers in the country, a male and a female. Chinese parents would hire an um lang (an actual career in China) to find a suitable partner for their child. Once the um lang finds a match, the parents of both parties are introduced to one another, and a marriage is arranged.
Ganny’s grandparents were matched by an um lang. “My grandpa was born in the Philippines but his wife came from China,” he says. A cousin of his also found a partner—who hails from Tarlac—by engaging an um lang. “They got married right away, arranged by the parents.”
This practice of an um lang introducing one person or one party to another is called “kai shao.” In Hokkien, it means, basically, "to introduce.” While the official matchmakers who used to initiate these introductions have long passed away, kai shao persists in the Chinese community up to this day.
Just a little shy
Ganny observes that some Tsinoy parents still kai shao their children, especially if they are not “aggressive” in looking for a partner.
“The parents will be concerned about their child if she is a female in her 30s already and doesn’t have a boyfriend yet. Her parents will look for someone to introduce to their child,” he says. “Many Tsinoys are conservative, they don’t go out to look for their own partners.”
Today, many single Fil-Chis are allowed by their parents to find, choose, and decide on a suitable lifetime partner, and the concept of kai shao has likewise evolved.
Now a single male or female of marrying age is merely introduced by parents, relatives or mutual friends to a potential mate. Perhaps it’s a little similar to the Filipino concept of “reto” wherein we set up a friend or relative to a potential match. No pressure to like the other person, and definitely no forced marriage involved.
Digital kai shao
As most things in this day and age have gone digital, so have kai shaos. In fact, there exists a private Facebook group dedicated to the sole purpose of introducing single Tsinoys, 25 to 45 years of age, to other Tsinoys looking for love.
Called Fil-Chi Kaishao, it’s an exclusive, by-invitation-only group currently 18,000 strong. The members are not only from the Philippines but from different parts of the world.
The group was launched by seven Fil-Chis—Richie Ryan Tan, Sean Esteban, Jamila Co-Chua, Wowie Zhang, Jacqueline Phoebe Zhang, Samantha Madera and Sharrie Uy—around April of last year at the height of the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Richie says the page was initially put up just for fun, to simply kai shao their single friends to other singles in the Fil-Chi community. But since many were stuck at home at that time, and most have single friends they wanted to introduce to other singles, the group quickly grew in number.
This is how introductions go in the Fil-Chi Kaishao page: a member introduces his or her friend to the group via a post—stating basic personal information such as name, age, height, educational background, place of origin, and current career or profession. Some also indicate their friend’s Chinese zodiac sign as well as their best qualities, hobbies, and other credentials. The post has to include photographs of the person—because, of course, it would be nice to connect the information to a face.
Richie showed ANCX a few sample posts from Fil-Chi Kaishao, and from there one can glean that the group fosters a friendly, lighthearted atmosphere. Members have fun amping up their friends’ bios with witty and humorous details. The bio of someone’s female friend, for example, include descriptions like, “Will never go hungry according to Feng Shui,” “Top 1 in class, 6 consecutive home school,” and “Adventurous, once cut own bangs. Meet her before she cuts it again.”
Another one flaunts a friend’s “achievements”: “Runner up for The Nation’s Sexiest Man 2019,” “Consistent winner of the Instagram Vlogger of the Year award,” and “TikTok crush ng bayan.”
The posts may have humor in them, but the basic information provided has to be legit and not misleading—these are rules. Troll accounts or accounts without profile photos are not accepted. And those applying for membership must provide answers to all questions asked by the admins. The group doesn’t tolerate bullying of any kind as well as degrading comments. They ban sexual or green statements, jokes, innuendos, gifs or photos. Respect has to be observed at all times, they remind their members. Violators will be muted and/or blocked.
"I will vouch for you"
Richie says the idea of the kai shao is to make it easier for single Fil-Chis to meet a potential partner by having a friend introduce them. “It is important that there are others who can vouch for you, as this will be helpful in finding a partner,” he adds. In other words, the members value mutual trust—that their members won’t kai shao a person who has a questionable profile or shady background.
What usually happens is a person who is interested in the featured kai shao (he or she is tagged in the post) messages the person directly or the friend who posted the information. This is why the group rules also state that the person who will post about a friend must get that friend’s consent first before posting anything. Then it’s up to the potential couple to set a date, virtual or IRL.
Since the Facebook page started, the admins already know of 10 successful matches formed through Fil-Chi Kaishao. “Some got engaged,” Richie happily tells us. Although the admins don’t really pry or meddle in the private affairs of members. They only find out if a kai shao has successfully formed a coupling through updates from common friends. In the Filipino-Chinese community it seems, people like looking out after each other, at least in the area of romance.
Like typical dates, not all kai shaos end up in Couplesville. Richie admits he himself was able to connect with someone through the group. “Ako ang unang nag-message, then we started dating. But things didn’t work out between us,” he says. Three of the group admins are married, one is dating, while Richie, 27, is still single. “Well, I’m a guy naman kaya to be honest, hindi naman ako nagmamadali,” he says with a laugh.