Tag Archives: Fujian

Relative Finder: Two heads better than one

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(From
top) Zeng Yun Hui, Zeng Bing Yuan’s sister. (Courtesy of her daughter Xue Ya Zhen.); Zeng Bing Yuan’s last photo in early 1980s. (Courtesy of Lirio Chan-Dapulag); Photograph sent by Zeng Bing Yuan to his sister in Xiamen showing his family in Bobon, Northern Samar. (Photo courtesy of Zeng Ya Zhen, Yun Hui’s daughter.); and The author (rightmost) and his family visit to Lirio Chan-Dapulag (seated, third from left) at her residence in Bobon, Northern Samar in November 2009.

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Screen grabs of the video showing the moment the descendants of Zeng Bing Yuan and his sister Zeng Yun Hui were reunited. (Shenzhen TV, Guangdong province, China, Jan. 20, 2010.); Owen Chuan (詹仙友),
Xiamen’s relative finder; featured story: Jocelyn de Torres and her Chinese Aunt Xue Yun Zhen being interviewed by a Fujian TV reporter; story covered by Xiamen Daily newspaper (廈門日報); surviving children of Zeng Yun Hui – Xue Ya Zhen, left, and Xue Yun Zhen, right – flank Conchita Chan (one of the daughters of Zeng Bing Yuan); and dinner with the families of Zeng Yun Hui’s deceased son, Xue Fu Ping, during the Chinese New Year festival in Xiamen City

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By Eduardo Chan de la Cruz Jr.

Published by Tulay Fortnightly

Chinese Filipino Digest – April 9-22, 2013         ~ Volume 25 ~ Issue No.  21

http://www.kaisa.org.ph:16080/tulay/archive/2013/040913/040913-V25N21.html

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Most of the people I have helped to find their Chinese relatives had links to rural China. Either their parents or grandparents grew up in an agricultural village, or had once lived in one.
For those unfamiliar with Tsinoys’ humble beginnings, searching for roots in China may seem daunting. Actually, it is not, specially if one has a good understanding of the language. Just get hold of old letters from the mainland; usually, the village address is on the envelopes. These villages are same-surname-villages, everybody knows everybody.
Then there are exceptions.
The family of my grandfather Zeng Wen Yi’s (曾文藝) friend is one example. His name is Leonardo Chan or Chan Ping Guan (Zeng Bing Yuan 曾炳源); he is originally from Xiamen. He settled in Bobon, Nothern Samar, a town next to my hometown.
Most  people visiting the Minnan speaking areas of Fujian province enter China at Xiamen and are familiar with this large, bustling and fast changing metropolis. Bing Yuan may not have recognized it if he were alive to see Xiamen today.
In November 2009, my China cousins came to visit us in Samar. We toured them around the residences of families in our area with the same surname as ours: Zeng (曾).
One of them was Lirio Chan-Dapulag, Bing Yuan’s granddaughter. At her house, she showed us some documents she had been keeping, documents that included letters from her grandfather’s sister, Zeng Yun Hui (曾雲惠),
from Xiamen.
As a young boy in the early 1900s, Bing Yuan accompanied his uncle to seek better life in the Philippines. He had left behind in China his sister Yun Hui.
For decades, the two stayed in close touch. Bing Yuan made sure his children recognized their Chinese kin and involved his eldest son, and Chan-Dapulag’s father, Jose (Zeng Fu Xi 曾扶西), in writing correspondence to China.
In the early 1980s, both Bing Yuan and his sister were feeble from old age, so Jose made arrangements for his grandfather’s travel back to China. But in those years, getting travel documents proved problematic. In the end, both brother and sister died without a chance to meet in person.
With the elders gone, Jose ceased writing to China. He too died in early 2000s. None of Jose’s children or their cousins knew how to reconnect with their overseas relatives but remained curious about their distant kin.
I knew it would be extremely difficult to look for Bing Yuan’s kin in a metropolis. I would have quickly given up, but it is unusual to see someone as eager as Chan-Dapulag to know her roots.
Happily, the hunt for her kin did not end in vain: it opened up an opportunity of new discoveries and a wonderful adventure for Chan-Dapulag’s family.
It was Dec. 12, 2009. How to start my search? I was stumped. I browsed the Internet and found a discussion forum http://www.askmehelpdesk.com. In it, someone in the United Kingdom was asking for help looking up Xiamen relatives.
Someone in China had responded to his inquiry, saying he had been helping foreigners find their roots in China and was willing to help. There was an email address, so I wrote to him about my unusual hobby: relative finder.
We exchanged experiences of relative searching and got to know each other: Owen Chuan (Zhan Xian You 詹仙友) an ethnic Hakka who grew up in Fujian’s mountainous region.
Hakka people are well known for very close family bonds, closer than the usual Chinese ties. Just look at their enclosed one-building villages called Fujian Tulou (福建土樓), earthen rural dwellings built between the 12th and 20th centuries. These are three to five storeys high housing up to 80 families!
Before long, Chuan and I agreed on a collaborative project: to find Chan-Dapulag’s grandaunt.
He checked the old address from the letters I gave him and found the old house in which Yun Hui stayed. But it has already stood empty for many years.
I sent Chuan scanned copies of Chan-Dapulag’s documents to give him more information to work with. Chuan contacted the police to look for the names we found in the letters as well as asked his friends in media to help broadcast our search. On Jan. 5, someone called Chuan to say he is Yun Hui’s grandson.
The following day, Chuan visited their house and found family photographs sent by Jose in the 1970s.
Shenzhen TV, one of the media groups that helped broadcast the search offered Chan-Dapulag’s family free airplane fare to China to cover the reunion they organized.
Three relatives volunteered to come: a cousin, Nelly Chan-Cruzat, from Batangas; Chan-Dapulag’s sister Jocelyn Chan-de Torres from Richmond, Canada; and her Auntie Conching (Conchita Chan, Jose’s younger sister) from Antipolo. Chan-Dapulag herself could not go; her husband was very ill then.
Not only did Chuan and I helped with the search, we ended up acting as travel agents ourselves!
He helped organize the event with the TV station while I helped the Philippine delegation put together their travel documents, such as passports, visas and letters.
Before she left I met up with Chan-Cruzat to provide her some final tips about traveling to China and lent her my handheld digital dictionary: it comes in really handy for those of us who cannot understand Chinese.
The three ladies met up in Hong Kong and traveled together to Guangzhou on Jan. 28. Chuan was also there to guide the representatives of Yun Hui’s daughters.
Too old to travel, Yun Hui herself could not be there. On the evening of Jan. 30, both families met for the first time during a live Chinese New Year show at Shenzhen TV station. The show was broadcast all over China, Hong Kong and Macau. Segments of the show were made available via Internet video upload.
The next day, relatives took the three ladies to Xiamen. There, they were treated to the weeklong Chinese New Year festivities.
As well, there were additional moments of fame when they were interviewed by the Xiamen Daily newspaper and Fujian TV.
They say time goes fast when you are having fun. With all these happening in just over two months, time’s passage might have felt more like a flash of lightning for the Chan family of Bobon!
It was a-nother wonderful moment for me to have helped reunite yet another family. It was especially moving to see this happen during the Chinese Spring Festival.
This time, it was extra special because I met Chuan, a new friend and Chinese counterpart who helped make it possible.

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Relative Finder: The missing tomb

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The author’s grandaunt Zeng Wen Juan (second from left), daughter Ang (), right, with relatives. Despite being half-Filipina,
Zeng had small feet, indicating her parents practiced feet binding. Photograph is probably taken late 1910s or early 1920s.

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(Left) Li Hao Jie and wife Zeng Wen Juan and daughter Ang; (middle & right) The couple in later years.

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Li Hao Jie’s funeral (above); the address of his tomb at the Manila Chinese Cemetery (top).

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The author and his cousin Zeng Na Na and perform ha-ha-po-pi for Granduncle Li Hao Jie in November 2010.

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By Eduardo Chan de la Cruz Jr.

Published by Tulay Fortnightly

Chinese Filipino Digest – December 4-17, 2012 ~ Volume 25 ~ Issue No. 11

http://www.kaisa.org.ph:16080/tulay/archive/2012/110612/110612-V25N11.html

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In 2010, one of our relatives in China, my cousin Zeng Na Na (曾娜娜), visited us in Samar (see Tulay April 3-23, 2012 issue). On her last day with us, she said she wanted to visit the tomb of Li Hao Jie     (李豪傑). Her father, Zeng Huan Zhang (曾焕章), specifically requested that she visit the tomb. I understood her request. Years back, I would not  have fully grasped its importance. Why was it so important to locate the tomb of someone who died almost half a century ago?

Old photographs My sister Christine brought home some very old photographs after her surprise visit to our ancestral village, Eni, in Fujian, China in May 2005 (see Tulay Feb. 7-20, 2012 issue).     Since she did not know any Chinese, the stories surrounding these photographs were lost in translation. We just knew our relatives’ neighbor gave it to her.     Among the pictures were photos of a funeral. Who died? Was I related to him? I tried to find out by visiting the tomb itself.     My search for Li’s tomb brought me for the first time to the Manila Chinese Cemetery     (華僑義山). I showed the caretakers the photos but they insisted these would not suffice since the cemetery had gone through tremendous physical changes. They needed the tomb’s exact address.     Address, I say? Why would there be an address for a dead person? They directed me to the Philippine Charitable Association on Soler Street in Manila’s Chinatown.     Inside the association’s office were shelves holding large hardbound books of identical sizes and color. Dates clearly marked their sides. I guessed these were “books of the dead.” The place was dimly lit and looked gloomy, scary even. At the front desk stood a group of elderly Chinese men and women who looked, despite their age, like great protectors of the underworld.     I felt as if I was in an inquisition during the Dark Ages. I showed my photos and said I wanted to look for the tomb. They asked in mixed Hokkien and Filipino why, how I was related to the deceased person and when the photos were taken.     I explained, but I was not sure if they understood me, because I was talking in Tagalog, that I was doing it for the dead person’s relatives in China. But I could not give them the date. And I did not know how I was related to Li. They looked at me with suspicion and denied my request.

Number 64 I went home in frustration. To distract myself, I scanned the pictures to archive them. I browsed each frame on my computer closely, zooming in to understand each minute detail that showed Manila as it was 50 years ago: the fashion, streetscape, car models and even plate number’s format.     Most of it looked like a world away, except for the plate number formats. It was the same and on the lower portion there was a number: 64.     I began to inspect current plate numbers and I noticed in the same spot were stickers indicating the year a car had been registered. So, the picture must have been taken not earlier than 1964!     Eureka! I returned to the PCA with this information and, despite the insulting looks and pessimism of the staff, I insisted on looking for the name.     One of the staff, an old woman, took two large books labeled 1964 and went through each page starting from the last as arranged in sequence of the date of burial.     It was amazing to see these records and how they gave emphasis to recording a person’s burial.     Each page was made of thick paper. The deceased person’s Chinese name was written in large characters at the center of each page with details of the burial, all in Chinese characters, consuming the rest of the page.     After 15 minutes, she finished scanning the first book without finding the name. She complained it was a waste of time, but I urged her to look in the other book.     Looking irritated, she started with the second book, still complaining as she quickly glanced at each page. She finished through September, October, November and then December.     Did I really make a mistake and waste her time? We were almost done with the second book. Then I sighed with relief: we found Li Hao Jie’s name!     Back in the Chinese cemetery, I showed the address to the cemetery caretaker and he assigned it to a man. I was asked to return the next day.     It was cloudy and nearing dusk the following day when my girlfriend and I went back. The man had found the tomb.     As we followed him, I was awed to see huge mausoleums all over yet I had a creepy feeling of being stared at by other-worldly beings: almost every tomb had a picture of the deceased on it.     As we moved on, the mausoleums disappeared and the tombs became smaller. The further we went the older and more unkempt the tombs became, as if they had been abandoned.     After passing an area filled with burning coffins and paper-mache furniture, we stopped in front of a tomb whose protective roof had collapsed, weeds had grown around it, and the spot where the deceased picture would have been posted was now a spot of rust.     The tomb marker where the name was written was hard to read. I bent down and read the name: Dy Ho Kiat (in Hokkien, Li Hao Jie in Mandarin).
Relations I told my cousins I found the tomb. Later I learned that Li was our distant granduncle and from then on, if time permitted, I visited the tomb to say a prayer and have it cleaned.     Perhaps it is hard to understand from a non-Chinese’s perspective why it is important to pay homage to one’s ancestors. Even I cannot explain it properly.     According to cousin Zeng Na Na, their family, particularly her parents – Uncle Zeng Huan Zhang (曾焕章) and Aunt Du Li Hua (杜麗花) – had been taking care of the tomb of Zeng Wen Juan (曾蚊娟), my grandfather’s cousin and wife of granduncle Li.     When he came to the Philippines to earn enough support his family in China, she had stayed with my aunt and uncle in the same house my great-grandfather Zeng Xiao Mu  (曾小目) built in Eni village, Fujian province. Perhaps Uncle and Auntie witnessed grandaunt’s difficulties with her husband so far away.     In 2005, the first time I visited China, we met a distant cousin, Li’s grandson Li Liu Bin (李柳彬). I had brought the stencil I made from scratching pencil on the bust of Li Hao Jie’s tomb marker the previous year. I gave it to him, explained the tomb’s condition, and that I had already cleared some of the weeds off the tomb. “You’re a good man,” he looked at me with tears in his eyes.

Relative finder: sowing seeds

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View from the author’s aunt Hu Ming Feng’s house: a modern building which stands at the ruins of their ancestral home. The roofs of intact traditional houses in Eni village (御輦村), including the restored ancestral hall, at the middle. Restoration to the ancestral hall was
made possible through the donations of Chan families in the Philippines. Other modern buildings are visible beyond.

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The author’s uncle and his cousins from Quanzhou visit Samar Oct. 10, 2010.

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Visit of Gilbert and his mother to their granduncle in Zimao town, Jinjiang, Fujian, China.

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First video conference after the Li family was reunited. Gilbert’s granduncle, Li Mou Song, cries.

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A visit from the Philippines on May 6, 2005: the author (second from left) with (from left) his uncle, aunt, Junjun and his parents at Kaiyuan Temple, Quanzhou city, Fujian province.

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By Eduardo Chan de la Cruz Jr.

Published by Tulay Fortnightly

Chinese Filipino Digest – April 3-23, 2012 ~ Volume 24 ~ Issue No.21

http://www.kaisa.org.ph:16080/tulay/archive/2012/040312/040312-V24N21.html

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The first time I set eyes on my Chinese relations was in May 2005. We met in China. My parents and several Philippine relatives were with me.
My 80-year-old uncle, Benito Lim (林崢嶸), probably the last remaining Chinese immigrant of his generation to settle in our town, was inspired by my successful attempt to retrace our roots, and volunteered to come along as our interpreter.
Throughout our long journey towards Fujian, Uncle Benito would periodically dial a number on his mobile phone, only to hang up in disappointment. Later, on the way to our hometown in Chidian (池店鎮), my aunt, Celia Chan-Lim (曾絲惹), told me uncle had been trying to contact his cousins at an old phone number he had, unsuccessfully. My Chinese cousin, Zeng Na Na (曾娜娜), and her husband, Li Hai Bo (李海波), a policeman, fetched us at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport.
Born in a village near the famous ancient bridge in Louyang in the late 1920s, Uncle Benito bade farewell to his cousins and left their village when he was around 12. He would not see them again until nearly 70 years later. He journeyed for several days on foot with his stepmother, Ching Shiok Thiu, towards Quanzhou City.  From there, they traveled to the ports of Xiamen. At the time, ships were not allowed to dock at port because Xiamen was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army. They took a small boat to board a nearby ship bound for the Philippines. Uncle and his mother were to join his father, Lim Chin Hoc, in Manila, who had earlier migrated there.
At our hotel in Quanzhou, we asked our police cousin name to help Uncle Benito.  After contacting several other people, he gave the phone to uncle. It was one of his cousins!
A few minutes later, the cousins arrived at the hotel lobby. It was strange to see Uncle Benito, a normally very stern and silent man, wearing a huge smile on his face. During the entire visit, Uncle Benito was usually in deep discussions with his oldest cousin.
Back in the Philippines a year after, uncle asked me to meet up in Manila. When we met, he introduced me to a middle-aged man named Aurelio Lim (林少雄), his cousin from Mindanao. Aurelio was to leave for China that week to meet his half-brother: uncle’s oldest cousin whom we met in Quanzhou in 2005!
Indeed it was a series of fortunate events, a “pay-it-forward” situation. Seeing these reunions reminded me of the immense joy I felt when I found my own relatives and when we finally met in person. It was then that I decided to start helping family and friends retrace their ancestry in China, to become a relative finder.
My first assignment was Gilbert Lee Mendova, a high school classmate in Samar and  married to the cousin of my girlfriend Sierra Ty. During one of Sierra’s family gatherings, he chanced upon Sierra’s family albums, including pictures of her family visits to China.
Gilbert recounted that his deceased maternal grandfather, Li Mou Ming, is Chinese; but his family has no contact with their relatives in China. Li left China before he was 10, accompanied by his uncle who had earlier migrated to the Philippines. Li settled in Catubig, Northern Samar, opened a small business and started sending money home to his younger brothers. After a while, he returned to China. But life in China was difficult, and he returned to the Philippines in order to continue supporting his brothers. He never returned home to China after that.
Sierra told him about my successful search for my Chinese relations and he got interested. He told us his mother had been keeping old letters from China as my mother did. I asked for copies of the letters, and with the help of Tsinoy friends, we identified the sender and the village.
I immediately wrote a letter, hoping the same strategy I used before would work again.
Because I work in the information industry, I used the Internet. With Google Maps, I located Gilbert’s ancestral hometown in Zimao County, which is near Chidian County where my cousins live.
I also made use of known couriers, such as FedEx Philippines, to deliver my letter. Although expensive, the courier makes it a point that letters reach their destinations. I can even keep track of progress online. And, they don’t give up.
Through this tracking mechanism I learned the courier could not locate the address. Perhaps it has changed, as China has undergone so many changes. Because I had given them my cousin Xie He Ping’s (謝和平)
address as an alternative, it landed in the hands of my relatives and not in a dead-mail section.
A month later, in December 2009, I was in Intramuros watching the Grand Marian procession when my phone buzzed. It was a message from my Chinese cousin neighbor Xie Nan Shan (謝南珊). They found the brother of Gilbert’s grandfather; he’s 90 and still alive!
I myself have never met my granduncle and grandaunt in China; they passed away in the 1990s. So I was happy for Gilbert, that he had this chance to meet his granduncle in person. I was doubly glad to know I helped make this happen.
This is the second in a series by the author, who chronicles his efforts to trace relatives – his and others – in China. An account of his first attempt was published in Tulay, Feb. 7, 2012 issue. – Ed.