2019: Hope must go on

Our nation faced many challenges and tragedies in 2018. Yet, it is human nature to find reason to stay optimistic.
So, let me start off my first Beats & Bytes for 2019 on a positive note. Allow me to highlight the activities and events of the organizations I am involved in: the Kaisa Heritage Center, Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, Philippine Association for Chinese Studies, Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order, Philippine National Police Foundation, People’s Law Enforcement Board-Manila and the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas.
This Jan. 19 marks the 20th anniversary of the Kaisa Heritage Center (KHC), which houses Bahay Tsinoy – Museum of the Chinese in Philippine Life, Kaisa Research Center and Data Bank, the office of Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran and the Chinben See Memorial Library. The KHC is inside the Kaisa-Angelo King Heritage Center building at Anda and Cabildo streets in Intramuros, Manila, which also houses the Awat Keng Auditorium and seminar rooms and halls donated by the families of Benito Cu-Uy-Gam, Jimmy Ongking, Antonio Roxas Chua, Tan Eng Gee, Pao Shi Tien, Teh Siu Yong Limpe and Chang Han Sui. An elevator was added by Yao Ka Pho.
The 20th anniversary celebration was launched last November with the exhibit of the works of internationally renowned artists Hau Chiok and Sy Chiu Hua and some of their equally accomplished students.
On Jan.19, Kaisa will launch “From the Perch of an Accidental China Hand,” an exhibit of photos, posters and memorabilia of Filipino journalist Jaime FlorCruz, marking 40 years of his life in China. Many of the items collected during the Cultural Revolution period may not have been seen before by our expected audience. The exhibit opens to the public on Jan. 20 and will run until Feb. 17.
FlorCruz wrote for Time magazine and later became CNN’s Beijing bureau chief. Earlier, he was a correspondent for Newsweek magazine. Considered the dean of the foreign press corps in Beijing, he is fluent in English, Filipino and Mandarin. He is the longest serving correspondent in Beijing, marking the milestones of China’s leaders from Mao Zedong to Xi Jinping.
Last August, Kaisa launched the fifth volume of my book, Chinese in the Philippines: Problems and Perspectives, a collection of my latest conference papers. The second edition of The Ties that Bind: The Saga of the Sultan of Sulu in China was also launched. A section on the anniversary activities commemorating the 600th year of the visit of the Sultan of Sulu in China in 1417 has been added to the second edition. The books sell for P350 and P150, respectively. Do email us at kaisa.org.ph@gmail.com or call 526-6796 to order copies.
We are working on a book on the founding of Pagkakaisa Sa Pag-unlad (1970-1976) and its evolution to the Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran (1987 to present), and the organizations’ impact on mainstream society. Some of the pioneers have been interviewed, and Dr. Theresa Cariño has been designated to write the book with funding from some Pagkakaisa members.
Kaisa continues with its outreach activities, giving medicine to indigent patients at the Philippine General Hospital (a project since 1998), relief goods to victims of calamities, gift packs to an Aeta community in Tarlac.
The end of October saw us fast-tracking relief operations for upland families in Benguet displaced by Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut). Funding came from the Hong Kong government through The Amity Foundation, Philippines Hong Kong Chambers of Commerce and the Chinese-Filipino community calamity fund. Many of the displaced families are small-scale miners and vegetable farmers who lost their income due to massive landslides that claimed many lives.
I was in Melbourne, Australia in October for the 2018 ISSCO (International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas) conference, exploring the theme on the rise of China and its impact on various Chinese overseas communities.
The conference closing’s plenary roundtable on the topic brought out problems arising from new Chinese immigrants, new policies on Chinese overseas, China’s assertiveness and the Chinese government’s interference in the internal politics of some countries. Australia and New Zealand raised the recent controversy on China’s support of some politicians.
In preparation for the Melbourne conference, the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS) held a focus group discussion on the new Chinese immigrants and the Chinese in the Philippines (see Tulay, Oct. 2-15, 2018). PACS will open the Carlos Chan Lecture Series on Feb. 9 with Teresita Ang See and Meah Ang See as speakers (see p. 24 for the announcement).
The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order continues its anti-crime efforts and assistance to victims of crime. Sadly, this still consumes a lot of time, energy and sanity. Recent cases involve Chinese nationals in casino-related kidnapping incidents. Victims are kidnapped and often beaten and tortured by fellow Chinese nationals when they cannot pay gambling debts.
However, because of the big ransom payments, the cases have evolved to include incidents that are not gambling-related. The Chinese Embassy is helpless in convincing its citizens to file cases and put the culprits behind bars. It gives frequent warnings to Chinese nationals about the casino-kidnapping and how the victims suffer if they cannot pay their debts. Sadly, the warnings are not heeded.
The extrajudicial killings (EJK) of drug suspects, opposition leaders and human rights advocates continue. I have seen and spoken to orphans of EJK victims. Many have no support to go back to school and may become potential criminals. Nongovernment organizations and the church do their best to help. Kaisa has agreed to help at least 10 of the poorest orphans to go back to school this year.
Like the United States, which suffers from the Trumpian “me only” policies, we endure leaders whose self-serving priorities focus on charter change, challenging the opposition and threatening journalists.
The removal of the comfort women statue (the first and only one in the Philippines) last April gave rise to a new group I have become deeply involved with: flowers4lolas campaign.
The Philippines is the only country which succumbed to Japanese pressure. Our government cannot spare even a tiny square meter of space to honor our own comfort women, yet gives hectares of land for the Japanese to honor their soldiers who killed, maimed, tortured, raped our people.
A positive outcome of the statue removal is it gave rise to many activities that raised greater awareness about the comfort women issue. Last Christmas, we visited the surviving comfort women and gave gift packs and cash to each one.
We continue to hope that 2019 will be better. But these hopes are tempered by an inflation of 6 to 7 percent. The poor suffer more because of the high cost of basic necessities. We have the longest running insurgencies (communist and Muslim) in Southeast Asia because of the extreme poverty and injustices the masses suffer – fodder that enable insurgents to continue to recruit even young people. However, my faith in the resilience of fellow Filipinos remains strong. We always rise to the challenges and hopefully we will once more overcome.
Hope springs eternal. With this first column comes my best wishes that this new year be meaningful, productive and successful for us all.

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