Pathways President and CEO Prof. Aileen Baviera, Ph.D. was among the two guest speakers in the 2nd Prof. Benito Lim Memorial Lecture Series held last July 13, 2019 at the Kaisa-Angelo King Heritage Center in Intramuros, Manila. The event was organized by the Philippine Association of Chinese Studies (PACS), Filipino-Chinese Friendship Association Inc. and Kaisa Para Sa Kanluran Inc.
In her lecture entitled “40 years of China watching from the eyes of a Filipino,” she narrated her personal journey that led her to become a China scholar. She cited how China’s Cultural Revolution and the ideology espoused by Mao Zedong animated Filipino activist youth in their struggle against the Marcos dictatorship. She recounted her first sojourn as a foreign student at Peking University in 1981-83. She described her first impressions of the capital city – broad avenues plied by public buses, government vehicles, horse-drawn carts and numerous bicycles. As China back then was just in the early stages of opening up, access to information was limited and she became informed of what was going on in China mainly through her work as a compiler of Western media news clippings for the Chicago Tribune bureau in Beijing.
Prof. Baviera underscored the importance of people-to-people exchanges in providing openings for both sides to foster mutual learning. Her work and linkages with relevant civil society groups and NGOs, such as the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS) of which she was past president, the Philippine-China Development Resource Center, the Nanjing-based Amity Foundation, and,China Association for NGO Cooperation (CANGO), diversified the lens by which she came to appreciate China studies more. She mentioned the establishment of Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress and its expanding linkages with Chinese academic and think-tank counterparts as an important contribution in further understanding China to serve Philippine interests.
She ended her talk with some advice to younger China watchers. Her first advice was to not be emotionally invested in the subject of one’s study and to uphold objectivity, citing one famous Chinese line that even Mao Zedong would repeat: “seek truth from facts.” Her second advice was to recognize China’s multiple facets which makes China watching from the Philippines a challenging endeavor. Finally, she said that if one has to take a side, it must be with the Filipino people. As China’s national power rises and its global economic and political clout increases, it will have more resources to defend its interests and more friends to support its agenda. Meanwhile, the Philippines will only have us Filipinos to protect its interests.
The other speaker in the afternoon lecture was PACS President and Miriam College international studies lecturer Prof. Rommel Banlaoi who discussed “Current Chinese migration to the Philippines: Government safety measures and security arrangements.” Before the two lectures, the film “Honor: The Legacy of Jose Abad Santos” was shown. An open forum was held after the film showing and lectures.
The Lecture Series was made to commemorate the life and work of Prof. Benito Lim, an outstanding educator, social activist, and exemplary researcher and resource person on various topics, especially on China and the Chinese. He was one of the key movers behind the establishment of formal diplomatic ties between the Republic of the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China. He was also instrumental in crafting the administrative measure that led to the mass naturalization of ethnic Chinese into Filipino citizenship in the 1970s.
Contributed by Lucio Pitlo, Research Fellow and board member, Philippine Association of Chinese Studies