Survey says there are more Filipinos who trust the United States of America than China and Russia. I will not contradict this. From child to adulthood my generation and those before and after me had been conditioned that Americans are our saviors and that the chink-eyed Chinese and Japanese are the bad guys.
During my teens, even in the hinterland barangays of Cotabato, America's main propaganda outfit, the United States Information Service, distributes leaflets and other propaganda materials that would show a fierce-looking Chinese soldier wearing a cap or winter headgear with the ubiquitous red star. In another page is good-looking Uncle Sam in handshake with a brown man. The materials usually go with a bag of powder milk which we kids would eat raw but gave us a certified hard-bowel-movement.
In addition, the few families who own a radio set would love to listen to "The Voice of America". Call it cheap entertainment but children and adults in the frontier town of Midsayap, Cotabato just love to watch war movies like "The Sands of Iwo Jima", "To Hell and Back" and "Guadalcanal Diary". The heroes of course are always the Americans and our adoration for the Americanos intensifies with each movie we watched.
Our love and hero-worship for the Americans were nurtured in that ran-down movie house that is made of slabs from Talisay trees. The seats are also made of wood and the earthen flooring cools the soles of our feet. I don't know if electric fan was already invented but if ever, it has not reached Midsayap then.
In college, we heard about the great cultural revolution and the bamboo curtain that shrouded China in mystery. The western press still gave us a picture of how miserable life is in Chinese communes. Maybe. Traveling beyond that bamboo curtain is treason. We were told that traveling around China is only possible with bicycle and slow moving rickety trucks that are made in China.
That negative mindset about China and the Chinese soldiers persisted until I traveled across that vast continent in 2015 when Jess Dureza, Publisher of Mindanao Times, cannot make it, and he submitted my name as alternate. (A perk which you get from being a compadre to a famous man.) It turned out I am the only hillbilly journalist in the group of Metro Manila-based media journos.
Traveling from Shanghai to several inland provinces across China was a revelation. In one of these cities I stayed in a luxury Shangri-la Hotel Suzhou and from my room I can see the vast expanse of a city with a network of roads and skyways that snake around the metropolis. We moved from provinces and cities aboard speed trains that run 305 kph.
I went back again last year, this time leading a pack of community journalists from Davao. I thought they too should see what I was privilege to see. I was hobbled by my prejudice against China before the visit and I saw the difference between the images imbibed in my impressionable youth and the pulsating realities of China today.
The bias for America is only as intense as our prejudice and ignorance about China and Russia. But China's emerging role as an important business and investment partner or capitalist can no longer be ignored or belittled. Emasculated in its participation in world finance which is controlled by the US, Japan and Canada before, it spearheaded the creation of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. In a parallel move it unveiled another agenda of establishing political and economic connectivity around the world when it launched One Belt One Road program. OBOR bridges China with the world eloquently illustrating that a superior nation need not impose its culture or ideology to win nations. Reach out with infrastructures and financial assistance instead of weapons of mass destruction is the way with China.
We cannot be tied down to our inborn prejudices. We cannot ignore the supremacy of China. Some quarters say they are bullies. Truth is they want to help and demonstrate to the world what they can do to a neighbor — the Philippines. These days we see in China massive infrastructures, transportation facilities, airports, factories and busy and happy people. Many places in the west and the rest of the world look Jurassic compared to modern China. But until the stories of the wonders of China goes around and around the popularity of America among Filipinos will stay with us — but only for just a while.
(Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan)