BY FRED DRUDING
They are about 8,000 miles apart, so very rarely do the worlds of South Philly and South China ever interact. So when this South Philadelphian recently got a chance to go to South China, I jumped at the opportunity.
I would be heading to Macau, China, the site of the mega-bout featuring boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, who was fighting Brandon Rios. This was no small trip: three planes to Hong Kong, then a boat into Macau. This would be my first trip to Asia, so I honestly did not know what to expect.
On paper, South Philly and South China couldn’t be more different on every level, but surprisingly, my journey made me realize our two worlds have a lot more things in common than you think.
I first realized this at the fights where there were a number of local boxers on the undercard, and although all were preliminary boxers, the amount of enthusiasm and support given was amazing, the attitude was, you’re one of us, and we’re here to support you, just as South Philadelphians get passionately behind our sports figures.
Next, I would suspect that when talking religion, most people relate China to the Buddhist faith. However, as I explored the streets of South China, I was surprised how many Catholic Churches I came across. A local explained to me how each Catholic Church is associated with a certain neighborhood in South China, just as each of our Catholic Churches are associated with certain South Philly neighborhoods.
The South Chinese like parades, and I got the opportunity to see a Dragon Parade in Macau. While I didn’t see any “Golden Slippers”, the magnificence was certainly reminiscence of South Philly’s beloved Mummers.
Although a Japanese food, the South Chinese like their sushi, especially in Hong Kong, where rivalries exist. South Philadelphians love our cheesesteaks, and need I say more, Pat’s or Geno’s?
Finally, I wasn’t going to leave South China without a visit to a local bar to have a pi jiu (Chinese for beer). The bar I visited was a family- and community-oriented business just like so many of our South Philly bars. The owners were so welcoming, if I didn’t know I was in South China; I could just as easily being sitting in the Shamrock Pub, at 2nd & Reed, they made me feel that much at home.
In conclusion, the purpose of the trip was to see Manny Pacquiao, who, after his victory, when asked what he thought about the massive international crowd that had gathered in South China to see the fight, said, “We are all Brothers and Sisters of the World”. That statement got validated locally as this South Philly “Two Streeter” now has friends on the other side of the world in South China.