Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mental Notes

Fresh out of tutes in Chinese Strategic Thought, I go back to my little corner in the library and check Inquirer as I compulsively do whenever I go online. And what do you know this news heading jumps at me "RP-China trade volume surges to record high $30.62B in 2007."

From the same news article by a hyphenated Filipino, I learn that counting Taiwan and Hong Kong, the PRC is now our number one trading partner. GMA's foreign policy team seems on the dot as apparently she has set a record of the most number of visits a world leader has paid China. The tides are turning indeed, and this will be a Pacific century with very Chinese characteristics. Joking with my adopted family here, we say the oncoming US recession and the fact that Americans owe the Chinese is a harbinger of the times. The Chinese are by no means ready to take over the helm as the new superpower, but all projections seem to head that way. Its a not a question of "if" but "when." I knew there was a reason why I took this class. We really should stop looking so far across the ocean to determine where our future lies. The future is here. Even Australians, with a Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister, recognise this.

My Colombian-American friend G says he will steal the Philippines from Asia, because we belong with Latin America. You're Latin Asians, he says. Bizarre as this may sound, I find that this is true. I am never too comfortable with Asian Asians. I find that I am too forward, maybe too loud, too confrontational. We Filipinos know this already, that we are a mix of East and West, our WoW Philippines tourism ad even boasts the fact. But it doesn't really hit you until you are surrounded by people from the East and West and you find yourself navigating identities, cultures, attitudes and taste. Its mundane things like, the things you can talk about, the things that are taboo or not. Its the tone and volume of your voice, its the pauses between your sentences, its body language. "Racy" and "risque" things I talk about with Westerners. Literally nothing is taboo. Westerners are uber-competitive and they will argue and argue and argue to the heavens. I find this exhilarating but exhausting. When I want thoughtful give and take conversations I turn to Southeast Asians, where confrontations are avoided in a circuitous way, where people's sensibilities must be taken in consideration, when meaning can be derived not just from what passes between your lips but with context.

So, I suppose this little cultural experiment, this little slice of the world, has taught me a few things. If the East is the future, and the West the past - then we are already equipped with a culture that bridges the two.

When you are surrounded by people from all over, there's a lot of joking around, collapsing individuals with their countries. I tell G, you hate the Chinese but there's literally no avoiding them. The future is the European Union he says. That's the uppity Spaniard in you talking, I say. Key Latin American states are already forging ties with China, but don't worry, after you Hispanics have taken over the Western hemisphere, we Latin Asians will intercede on your behalf.

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