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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Lim: Who is the enemy?

F. Sionil Jose writes, “I know now that in the event of war with China, many of our ethnic Chinese will side with China so I will not ask any more on whose side they will be if that war breaks out…”

It is no surprise that among members of media, only Oscar Franklin Tan of The Philippine Daily Inquirer reacted with so much angst. After all, only those who come from Chinese immigrant forebears can truly understand what it is like to live in this country as second-class citizens.

In his column at The Philippine Star, F. Sionil Jose speaks of imminent war with China. “How will the Chinese come in the very near future?....They are already here…They control 60 percent of our economy. Eight of the richest Filipinos according to the Forbes list are ethnic Chinese…”

I respect F. Sionil Jose’s opinions. My 90-year old father shares the pre-war stories of Sionil. The Japanese came in subterfuge to our country. Years before war broke out, they came to take lowly jobs yet they turned out to be officers of the Japanese Imperial Army.

So I shall forgive F. Sionil Jose’s sweeping statements about Filipinos of Chinese ancestry, unjustly lumping us into the category of deep penetration agents and collaborators of enemy states. I shall put it down to war-time trauma. Still, I would hope that the country’s National Artist for Literature, instead of spreading xenophobia, would treat every Filipino with respect regardless of ethnicity.

As a people, we need to wake up from our misguided sense of nationalism. Who is the patriot? The Filipino who is descended from immigrants who provides thousands of jobs to fellow Filipinos? Or the Filipino who traces his roots to an indigenous tribe but robs his fellow Filipinos blind every day?

My friends who are of Chinese ancestry and I have never spoken of the country’s territorial dispute with China. There is nothing to speak of. We know who the big bully in the backyard is. And we stand by the Philippine flag with unwavering loyalty.

Personally, I have chosen not to visit China for many years now in symbolic protest of the territorial dispute between our countries. I have said nothing in the past but perhaps, the deafening silence must stop.

True. We, Filipinos of Chinese descent, have been at fault for staying silent in deference to the land of our ancestors but our loyalty has always been to the land of our birth. We are NOT one with China in this dispute. And we wish that all Filipinos would see beyond the slant of our eyes and the sound of our surnames to understand that we love this country as much as they do.

If we practice Chinese customs and embrace Chinese values, we do so to honor our heritage not to reject the land of our birth. It is unjust for Filipinos of Chinese descent to be looked upon with suspicion. History will bear us out that the Chinese came to trade and never to conquer or colonize.

A nation is always an amalgamation of ethnicities. And one’s loyalty is not determined by one’s ancestry but by the choice and courage of one’s convictions. It is a misguided belief to think that Filipinos of Chinese descent are the enemy.

F. Sionil Jose should note that one cannot win a war without knowing the face of the enemy.

(email: sunstarcebucolumnist@yahoo.com, twitter: http://twitter.com/melanietlim)
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