XIAO CHUA: A GLIMPSE OF HIS HISTORY
Watch the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NljJZc1oJE
“Nasasaktan ako, umiiyak ako but I don’t stop. I never stopped. I know na hangga’t kaya ko pa, I will do it.”
Said Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua with a sense of confidence and determination in response to the harsh criticisms he received as a teacher, artist, historian and an author.
Born and raised on the soils of Tarlac, Xiao Chua was the eldest of the three children of Vilma and Charles Chua. Although having a Chinese surname, Mr. Chua claims to be a pure Filipino in heart and in mind. He is currently a History professor in De La Salle University but “rackets” [as a tour-lecturer and as a host] and extra for local TV networks such as PTV-4 and GMA back in the days, but mainly focuses now on writing columns and articles such as the “Bonifacio: Unang Pangulo.”
“I appear on television, minsan nagappear yung Xiao Time ko sa GMA news. Nagsusulat din ako sa Sunday Abante, lumalabas yung column ko doon, nagstart ako noong October. Nakaanim na ako. Kapag nacollate ko iyon makakagawa na ulit ako ng libro.” He shared. [Eventually he will have a column in the Manila Times too and finish a book with John Ray Ramos, Bayani Biographies: Andres Bonifacio.]
The Launching Pad
[As he was starting his career as a teacher and historian, Mr. Chua became a historical commentator for television. Although he gave interviews prior, his big break was in 2009, “Before June 12, nadiscover ako. Nagsusulat din noon ako sa Bulacan sa newspaper na Mabuhay”, nagsusulat ako tungkol kay Cory Aquino at sa mga nangyayari sa history. 2009 iyon, Sabi nila Ed Finlan “magaling itong batang ito ha” so sinabak kaagad ako, [kaya] naging anchor ako ng Independence Day.” said Mr. Chua smiling as he reminisces the plot twist of his life.
Apparently, people have seen his comprehensive yet clear writing of Filipino history. He has accounted all the issues of the past using stable grounds, reading and verifying the works of various authors, “Yung ibang mga nasa facebook dada ng dada wala namang katibayan, ako gusto ko laging may katibayan.” he said.
It was then on that shows like Boy Abunda’s “The Bottomline” started to contact Mr. Chua and ask him to be their guest. “Hindi naman ako magyayabang ano. Hindi talaga kilala yung ordinaryong tao kung ano yung Historian. Yung mga tricycle driver at gwardya, hindi nila alam iyan. Pero noong lumalabas ako kay Boy Abunda, pinapalagay ko Historian ako. Biglang nakikilala na. ngayon na nga kapag may gustong itanong sa lipunan, Historian kaagad yung gustong hanapin.” said Mr. Chua smiling.
Along this breakthrough, his papers such as Tortyur, and Bonifacio: Unang Pangulo have made their way to the limelight.
Life behind the lights
Being an author for non-fiction works on History means you have to be completely objective, you need to read various accounts to verify what you know and determine what should the readers know. It was all like that in the life of Mr. Chua.
“Writing is a constant struggle where your enemy is yourself kasi you have to improve and read. Hindi pwedeng yung sinulat mo ganoon pa rin. You learn, you attend symposia. Keep yourself informed” he advised.
But besides all that, Mr. Chua thinks that the hardest part of being an author is probably “getting in the groove” and finding the motivation while shutting down all distractions as well. There are times that he would get swallowed by instagram and facebook thus leading to a very unproductive day. In cases where he needed to finish a bunch of work, he would lock himself in a hotel!
However, writing is not a mundane for a person like Mr. Chua, “The worst thing in life, as I observed it is the feeling that you are useless. That you have no use anymore.” He said with a concerned look in his eyes. “You have to write for others.” he added.
But life isn’t just complete without people trying to bring others down. “Nasasaktan ako, umiiyak ako but I don’t stop. I never stopped. I know na hangga’t kaya ko pa, I will do it.” said Mr. Chua as he recalls on the days where critics would often label his works as “mababaw”, “walang kwenta” and/or “walang substance.” Mr. Chua admitted that he is emotional, balat sibuyas even but these people won’t let him down. He has a fairly strong mentality and composure “eventually nalaman ko yung English term for that – grit, and I think I have that.”
Living the dream
As a child, Mr. Chua had a dream of becoming a broadcaster “I want to reach more people but I have reached more people now that I could ever imagine. Kasi kahit hindi ako kilala as Xiao Chua, yung once in their lives nakita nila ako sa TV. They wouldn’t know na it was Xiao pero nareach ko yung tao at malalayong probinsya.”
His dreams of becoming a broadcaster may have turned out differently, but becoming an author for Mr. Chua have also allowed him to live the simple life he have always wanted “hindi ako nakikipagsabayan sa mga so called social media influencers kasi gusto ko yung chill lang ako, relatively known.” He said as smiles and scratches his head.
Mr. Chua claimed that being able to help teachers, students and the like is more than enough for him. Opportunities have knocked on his door and he is confident that he has picked the right one to let in – being an author.
People would often say that Mr. Chua brought down history to the people, but he personally never like that term. “When you say you bring down history to the people, that means you’re up there and they are down there. I do not accept that. My place is that I should be with my people.” He said humbly. “And ang term ko diyan ay yung term ni Dean Gloria Santos na namatay na, isa sa mga tinitingala ko, ‘you bring history closer to the people’. Hindi mo binababa, inilalapit mo and I think that was the role that I assumed when I started my writing career.” He added.
As the clock hits noon we were reaching the end of our interview, but one question still remains: What is the best thing about being an author? Mr. Chua, as he stares deep down his hands, smiled and said,
“Fulfillment. Happiness. That you have shared something. Lalo na kapag napublish. It’s the best thing. Monetary sana kaso I don’t see writing as a living. Writing is more of advocacy, of doing what I really want in life.”
Interview by Mickey Danielle Alegre, additional writing by Pamela de Guzman and Laisa de Guzman, 5 November 2017