Imagine a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, except they’re either Chinese or Filipino with parents getting in between them not because of a grudge, but because of long-standing cultural traditions and an immense desire to protect their bloodline.
One of the hardest things we can ever go through is not having someone that we want (See my article on villainized friendzoners to see the other side of the spectrum). Whether it’s because they didn’t like us back, it wasn’t a compatible match, or because the parents came in between the two of you, either way, there’s no other feeling around that tightens the chest as if it’s the end of the world.
For those fortunate enough to not know the word ‘Great Wall’ in the context of relationships, allow me to explain. This goes to the daughters and sons of strict, traditional, and conservative Chinese families (usually living in the Philippines) who just cannot stand by having their child run off with a Filipino. And before you can say anything along the lines of racism, the Great Wall reasons for each family usually differ, and not all Chinese families have the Great Wall either. More common Great Wall reasons known to the current generation usually fall along the lines of having culture clashes that would (as my parents say) eventually lead to inter-family feuds, not wanting to (weirdly) “tarnish” the bloodline, or in my case, due to (I guess, understandably) personal trauma with past experiences.
The Great Wall phenomenon usually entails that Chinese children have to end up with or marry a fellow Chinese, and if you can’t already tell – that’s pretty hard seeing that we live in the Philippines (I know the Chinese population in the country is more than abundant now, but we still aren’t in China, so you get my point). Sometimes, the Great Wall even extends to friendships where Chinese parents prefer their children to have a majority of Chinese friends, having a little more than a smidge of distaste for those who aren’t.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some hate message to Chinese (or my) parents or just to air out dirty laundry. This is a narration of a personal experience and what we can learn from it to move forward in light of cultural inclusivity while striving to be a part of a progressive community in the changing times.
Onto juicier details, my first relationship was a secret. It was a 21st-century version of Romeo and Juliet set in the Philippines, except nobody died (Thank God) but it definitely left way more trauma than I wanted it to. We were a secret from my family for over a year, and this happened just a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. So you can imagine how it was extremely hard to keep up a secret relationship while literally being stuck in a house with your entire family who does not know about it.
Whenever I try to tell this story to my friends or new people I meet, it never fails to make their jaws drop just by the sheer amount of things I had to go through. Unfortunately, details will be privately supplied upon request (Just kidding, don’t DM me please). Let’s just say, I ended up with a snitch who created multiple Instagram accounts literally just to snitch on me to my parents who ended up with screenshots of my personal photos with my non-Chinese ex (and even just photos of me in clubs, but that’s another story) on their phone. This completely shattered my relationship with my entire family, but especially my parents. They didn’t have trust in me anymore and couldn’t let me leave the house without a gazillion questions and asking for pictures of where I am and who I’m with every 2 minutes.
The break-up was even more traumatizing with me ending up in the hospital, being ghosted then broken up with over text (while in the hospital too), and being in a state of paranoia that the snitch is following my every move, everything I do, and everywhere I go. It single-handedly took the title of the deepest, darkest time of my life – leaving me with clinically diagnosed depression, an anxiety disorder, a handful of antidepressants, and a deep sense of trauma I’d have to live with forever.
To be more accountable, yes, I was very much aware of the forbidden fruit. It has been ingrained since we were children that I, in no circumstances whatsoever, can NOT end up with a non-Chinese guy. But love (or so I thought, my ex was just… not it too, and that’s again another story) is blind and by God’s grace, I was more than blind, as if I didn’t have eyes at all. It was as if I was numb to everything except wanting this person so bad it clouded every single sense of judgment and broke every rational bone in my body. So yes, I am also accountable for everything that has happened to me.
But, there were some things I hope could have gone differently to maybe even lessen the incoming trauma that’s bound to happen anyway. I wish that when I did open up to my parents the first time, they could have listened and understood a little more. Maybe it won’t change their minds, but at least being open to it could have helped. I wish they weren’t so afraid to let me fail by myself too. I know that a parent’s job is to be protective, but there’s a line that has to be crossed when you want your children to learn from failures and experiences. I also wish that everything could have been less dramatic and traumatic because honestly, the trauma is branded into my memory and this altered (and still alters) the course of how I navigated and perceived life.
There are tons of resources out there that try to help Chinoy relationships meet their endgame, but this isn’t one of them. Yeah, you can learn Chinese traditions, the language, and compromise with understanding in hopes of being accepted. But at the end of the day, the wall is still there for a reason. And maybe I’m not asking for the Great Wall to be destroyed, but just for some out there, I hope our parents let you try to climb it anyway.
Header image courtesy of the New Orleans Museum of Art