THAT the United States and the Philippines are equal partners in their official friendship or alliance is more illusion than reality. The U.S. has always been many times over more powerful than the Philippines. This superiority has inexorably subsumed the terms of the two countries’ alliance, sweet rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding.

The U.S. helped us win our struggle for independence from Spain. But U.S. imperial ambitions trumped the Filipinos’ right to sovereignty in their homeland when we instead became a U. S. colony, a condition that was expedited by U.S. superior firepower that quelled whatever resistance genuine Filipino patriots put up against the new colonizer.

They also defended us against Japanese invasion and gave us our independence after the war. But the independence to this day has remained illusory because the U.S. did not liberate us, a friend and ally, from the feudal structures that were and still are at the root of our continuing political and economic powerlessness.

Instead, they democratized the Japanese nation, a vanquished enemy, by imposing a comprehensive agrarian reform that dismantled the feudalism that fueled that country’s ambitions of empire. One cannot help but surmise that the U.S. government (not to be confused with the good American people) projected the Philippines to be a satellite economy of the U.S., as we have so far been, and Japan to rise as an economic power and their equal partner in Asia which it is today.

Then along came the savage Martial Law regime that we tell ourselves today to never forget and never allow to happen again. Only U.S. national security interests could explain why the world’s acknowledged paragon of democracy propped up the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. As then U.S. President Ronald Reagan so ingloriously put it: “Marcos might be a son of a bitch but he is our son of a bitch.”

The relationship is so unequal there is no way of knowing how and when we can finally cut our apron strings from the U.S. and cease to be their “little brown brothers.” We only know that somehow, some time we have to become a truly independent state capable of determining the trajectory of our national life, including foreign relations.

It is, therefore, refreshing to have the President dare stand up for our sovereignty not only with irreverent rhetoric but with independent actions such as talking with China on the West Philippine Sea issue without using the international tribunal’s judgment on the same issue as he is externally pressured to do.

We are not equal to China either. Hence, it is equally good to see the President avoid, with an independent stand, our nation’s interest being trampled underfoot by the national interests of two superpowers.