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Let us not forget Filipinos & Chinese fought together for freedom

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile described our neighbor China as “a potential enemy” in his recent argument with Senator Trillanes. Photo by Joseph Vidal

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. — Bible, Matthew 5:9

There never was a good war, or a bad peace.  — Benjamin Franklin

Peace is the only battle worth waging.— Albert Camus

SHENZHEN, China — This writer respects Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, but I was disturbed to read the Sept. 20 report in The Philippine STAR by Jovan Cerda that this elder politician described our neighbor China as “a potential enemy” in his recent argument with Senator Trillanes. I hope Enrile’s choice of words is just hyperbole or a literary device of exaggeration, because we in the Philippines are not like Japan or Vietnam which have past bloody wars with China in history.  

 Not only does the Philippines have no history of warfare with China in over 1,000 years of friendly and mainly commercial bilateral contacts since pre-Hispanic times, it is sad that many in our society — even we, the young generations in our ethnic Chinese minority — have forgotten that there were many times in the past that Filipinos and Chinese fought side by side for the freedom of the Philippines. Chinese revolts were among the earliest anti-colonial uprisings, and Chinese rebels also killed the seventh Spanish Governor General Gomez Perez Dasmariñas in 1593.

This oft-forgotten historical fact of Filipinos and Chinese fighting together as comrades in arms for the freedom of the Philippines — versus the Spanish colonizers and during World War II against Japanese invaders — was part of the brief speech on peaceful development in Asia which I recently delivered at an international conference of Asian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in south China on Sept. 21, the United Nations’ “International Day of Peace.”

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 In my short speech, I reminded Southeast Asia and China NGO leaders and scholars that all of us share common histories — except for Thailand — of having been victims of brutal colonial wars by the West and Japan; therefore, we should all be proactive and vigorous champions of world peace against all odds.

 We, the rising economic success stories of Southeast Asia and China, should hopefully be different from the world’s past superpowers who previously used warfare to advance their selfish national interests. Let us passionately fight for peace!

 I was the only media guest from the Philippines at the ongoing China and Southeast Asia NGOs Exchange Program due to the nomination of the Association of Young Filipino Chinese Entrepreneurs (formerly Anvil Business Club) led by chairman emeritus George T. Siy, chairman Jeffrey Ng and president Roy Chua.

 The topic of my speech and the general peace theme of the NGOs conference are especially timely, since Asia seems beclouded these days by politicos unnecessarily overblowing territorial disputes between the Philippines and China on the Spratleys, China versus Japan on the Diaoyu Islands or Senkaku Islands (taken by Japan after the 1895 Sino-Japanese War), South Korea versus Japan over the Liancourt Rocks (called Tokto by Korea and Takeshima by Japan) and Russia versus Japan over four Kuril islands. Politicians everywhere often act like hotheads, so how can we, the citizenry, promote peace over conflict and misunderstanding?

 Apart from my being a history buff (also several of my paternal ancestors fought as well as died fighting invaders here in the Philippines during World War II), one reason I keenly remember the ethnic Chinese minority’s many contributions to the Philippines’ struggle for freedom was Chinese Commercial News and China Business magazine publisher Solomon Yuyitung, who toured me around four sites with memorials to ethnic Chinese who died fighting Japanese invaders to the Philippines during World War II.

 Before that visit in April this year to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their deaths, I was only familiar with one huge memorial called the “Martyrs Hall” for 10 martyrs executed by the Japanese army in Manila, because the youngest of the 10 Chinese activists was my 34-year-old grand-uncle Dy Hoc Siu (he was my grandfather’s first cousin and my late dad’s sawmill production manager). One of the 10 martyrs was Yu Yi Tung, founding editor in chief of the Chinese Commercial News since 1919, father of famous siblings Quintin and Rizal Yuyitung who were arrested by the late President Ferdinand Marcos’ government but vigorously defended by Philippine media.

 The other eight martyrs were Go Kiu Lu, Uy Lian Ta, Sy Kaw Ki, Tan Diao Ting, So Chay An, Dy Lian Tiao, Gan Bun Cho and Chua Phai Kiong. All of them, including Yu Yi Tung and Dy Hoc Siu, were activists who opposed Japanese militarism in Asia which victimized both China and later the Philippines. 

In the Chinese Cemetery there is an imposing memorial for the Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Force, popularly known as “Wah Chi.” This memorial honors those local Chinese guerrillas who fought the Japanese invaders in Central Luzon alongside leftist Filipino guerrillas of the Hukbalahap or Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon.

 By the way, ex-Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon of the Philippine National Red Cross was a history major in college and was surprised when I mentioned to him that local Chinese guerrillas during World War II assassinated many of the collaborators in our community who agreed to cooperate with the Japanese invaders, no matter how prominent or well-intentioned some of the collaborators were. For the guerrillas, it was a question of principle.  

 Among the World War II memorials in the Chinese Cemetery was the one which honors the memory of eight diplomats of the pre-war Chinese consulate in Manila whom the Japanese invaders illegally executed in 1942 two days after the executions of the 10 martyrs. Those murders of diplomats and non-combatants were violations of international law. 

In another area of the Chinese Cemetery, there is a huge, somber and imposing memorial for the Philippine Chinese Anti-Japanese Guerrilla Force, popularly known as “Wah Chi” (sometimes spelled  “Wha Chi”). This memorial honors those local Chinese guerrillas who fought the Japanese invaders in Central Luzon alongside leftist Filipino guerrillas of the Hukbalahap or Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon (People’s Anti-Japanese Army). The late Huk leader Luis Taruc told me many years ago that “the Wah Chi guerrillas were among the most courageous and ferocious in fighting the Japanese invaders.”

Behind the Martyrs’ Hall were several memorials which pay eternal homage to the numerous Chinese, Filipino and American guerrillas who fought and died in the Philippines against Japanese invaders. Many have forgotten that, not so very long ago, the Philippines, China and America used to be allies during those darkest years of World War II — a perilous era which also showcased great heroism, youth idealism and so many tales of inspiring self-sacrifice.

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