MANILA, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- Philippine lawmakers are deliberating a bill to declare Chinese lunar new year a regular national holiday, along side with New Year's Day, Christmas, Independence Day and 16 others.
The House of Representatives reported over the weekend that the bill, which would strengthen the relationship between Filipinos and Chinese/Chinese-Filipinos, has passed a Committee reading and it is on its way to the plenary deliberation.
Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the bill was drafted to recognize the contributions of Chinese-Filipinos and of their rich cultural traditions. "Considering our long relations with the Chinese, many of whom have adopted the Philippines as their home, it is but just to help preserve some of their valued traditions," he said.
Chinese immigrants sailed to the Philippine archipelago long before the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish colonists in 16 century. From northern Luzon to southern Sulu, barter trade flourished. Chinese brought silk, porcelain, ornaments to exchange for tortoise shells, swallow nests and mother of pearl from the native.
Today, about 2 million Chinese immigrants settle down in the Philippines but cultural scholars said Filipinos who have Chinese ancestry could number 18 million, or 20 percent of the Philippine population. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former president Corazon Aquino and a number of the countries' wealthiest businessmen all known to have Chinese blood.
Lunar new year is the most widely celebrated holiday among Chinese communities around the world. The start of a year in the lunar calendar does not have a fixed date but usually falls in January or February. It is also the most important holiday for Chinese because it is one of the few moments that an extended family gathers.
But legalizing the lunar new year also faces hurdles as some congressmen say there are already too many holidays in the Philippines and might hurt the business productivity.
The World News, the most widely circulated Chinese-language newspaper in town, urged Chinese communities to mobilize all resources in pushing the legislation.
"As Filipino-Chinese, we aspire to have our ethnic holiday legalized as a regular one. It's important to us and now we have a chance," it said in Sunday's editorial.