Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte tells Obama to 'go to hell' (AFP
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte making it crystal clear where he
stands when it comes to choosing allies. Duterte has chosen to cozy up
to the Chinese and the Russians while stretching his country’s
long-standing ties with the United States to the breaking point.
During his recent
visit to China, Duterte intimated that going forward it would be China,
Russia and the Philippines against the world. After telling U.S.
President Barack Obama to “go to Hell,” he then said “I will breakup
with America. I would rather go to Russia and to China.” Duterte later
indicated he also wanted American troops out of the Philippines as soon
So where does this
recent turn of event, leave the tens of millions of Filipinos who grew
up knowing America as their friend? Filipinos who speak, read, write,
and even think in American English? Filipinos who identified with
American pop culture greats from Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Nat King
Cole, Elvis, Muhammad Ali, all the way to Beyonce and Taylor Swift? Will
they readily drop their American-bias for Chinese pop culture?
We think it is highly
unlikely, even far-fetched, that Filipinos will gravitate towards China,
regardless of how much Duterte and his followers want them to. Just look
at Hong Kong. It has been over twenty years since Hong Kong became part
of China, but it still retains much of its British Heritage.
In fact, if one steps
back and tries to analyze the reasons behind Duterte’s split with
America, one quickly realizes that Pinoys, not Americans are to blame.
Like Duterte, many Filipinos see themselves as “little brown brothers”
to Americans. They view themselves as inferior, and believe Americans
are taking advantage of them. And again like Duterte, they lash back
against this perceived inequity and blame the Americans for it instead
of blaming themselves.
can be heavy-handed at times. Even the British, who were once their
colonial masters, find them to be overbearing on occasion. But the
difference is that Britons see themselves as standing on equal footing
Even the Japanese who
were once America’s reviled enemy and battled Filipinos and Americans
during World War II, are now America’s closest ally in Asia. Again, the
difference is the Japanese do not see themselves as “little brown
brothers” to the Americans. Their navy stands shoulder to shoulder with
the U.S. Navy as they go on joint patrols in the South China Sea.
As Jose Rizal once
said, “there are no tyrants where there are no slaves.” And for as long
as Filipinos continue to see themselves as inferior, they will perceive
Americans as superior—whether true or not. And they will continue to
lash out against perceived injustices instead of sitting down with their
American counterparts and ironing out their differences as equals.
Maybe that day will
come after the Dutertes of this world have passed on and a new
generation of Filipinos is born. Self-assured in their abilities, these
Filipinos will see themselves as co-equal to all nationalities. They
won’t see themselves as “little brown brothers” to anyone. Maybe at that
point we as a nation will have truly “arrived.”