Political effects of Saso’s USGA win

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

The biggest news in the Philippines last week was Filipina-Japanese golfer Yuka Saso winning the 76th USGA Women’s Open on the final day of the tournament. For golfers who woke up early for four days, it was high drama and exciting. Going to the back nine on that day, I even told my wife that it would take almost a miracle for Saso to win, so when she won in the 3rd play-off hole, it was jubilation.

Yuka Saso, is 19 years old with a Japanese father and a Filipino mother who has a Philippine and Japanese passport. She represents the Philippine in all tournaments and her major sponsor is ICTSI, a Philippine conglomerate majority owned by Ricky Razon, that operates in many major seaports in the world. In the awarding ceremony, Saso spoke in Filipino, Japanese, and English to thank her parents, her team, her sponsors and friends. And also the tournament organizers for the opportunity to win the $1,000,000 that day.

Globally, the immediate impact of Saso’s victory is international recognition and highlighting of the Philippines. Other than our reputation in beauty pageants, boxing, beautiful beaches, and lousy politicians, we have another winner. At a time when we came out as 115th out of 176 countries in the Corruption Index, our government’s confusing position in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea incursion by the Chinese, our mediocre COVID pandemic management, and the current anti-Asian sentiment in the US and Europe, Saso’s victory was positive for the country in the eyes of the international community. We went a few notches up in the global perspective and more focus on the Philippine situation, problems, and importance.

This is relevant in the current geo-political maneuvers of China to control the South China Sea and their creeping hegemony in Asia. China has always been against internationalizing and multilateral negotiations on the South China Sea issue, and wants quiet low-key bilateral negotiations with little publicity. A high-profile Philippines is not favorable to the Chinese government strategy as it will get more publicity and attention. Evil schemes are best done in secrecy.

In the broader world, the successes and contributions of Filipinos in many international events in sports, business, academic and scientific events are indications that the Filipinos and the Philippines will be important and a country of significance in the next 20 years. And these are validated by the recognitions bestowed by many countries for the services of our nurses and doctors during this worldwide pandemic, and the economic contribution of over nine million Filipinos all over the world.

In the domestic political scene, Saso’s win brings democratic focus the coming election in 11 months, from the US, China, and from countries with trade and investments in the Philippines. At stake is the continuation of a stable democratic government with adherence to the rule of law, and hopefully good governance. For the Filipino people and the Filipino electorate in particular, they want politicians and leaders they can respect and who earn the respect of the leaders and the people of other countries like what Yuka Saso has done. At present, aside from the necessary interactions with other world leaders, our politicians are not getting the regard and respect of world leaders. It would be something if our politicians and government officials would also be recognized for their excellence in governance or in specific fields of economics, ecology, and human rights advocacy.

Saso’s USGA win last week in the Olympic Club in San Francisco was a head high moment for Filipinos worldwide. It was collective joy and unity like the successful EDSA People Power Revolution. Hopefully, this will also happen after the 2022 election.

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