ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 14 January) — The recent official visit by Japan Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in itself provides a showcase of good tidings that can either overwhelm or far from impress the Filipino most critical of President Rodrigo Duterte. Moreover, it can also have nuggets on culture and diplomacy.
The invitation to the President’s residence in his home city for breakfast was something the Japanese PM could not decline, with the latter looking at it as a privilege sans qualms on cost of food and drinks. Sincerity, dedication, and sheer honesty are highly important in Japanese culture. And Duterte’s invitation to Japan’s head of state nailed the deeper understanding of Japanese culture. To Abe, everything that happened during that breakfast meeting–the house tour and mosquito net included–was a demonstration of total transparency, that comes vital in any business talk with the Yen.
While we can look back at history as a “teacher” to remind us, ‘Hey, there were comfort women during World War II who had to suffer in various parts of the country,’ we cannot hold hostage the present-day personalities for the atrocities done by those who came ahead of them. Beyond the healing by time, is the rebuilding of two nations that have sought to bury the hatchet and let peace fly.
Then we consider those descendants of these Japanese early visitors who opted to stay–some finding home in Mindanao. Few found themselves being asked by the press on how they feel about the linkages and all. The intermarriages between Japanese and Filipino citizens over decades have healed the cultural conflict. So did the assistance afforded by Japan to Filipinos in multi-layered fields: regional security/defense and maritime safety especially during occurrences of disasters, agriculture, education, infrastructure, shipping, trade and investments, and certainly, technology, among others.
Filipinos have also countered that support through manpower (my brother-in-law by example works in one of Japan’s shipping companies, and we in the family have turned it into a summer destination, beyond the gorgeous sights of sakura in full bloom, English language learning, and entertainment, to name a few.
Abe did not blow up issues on Duterte’s expletives, on human rights, on narco war, and the like. (Notably, as a diplomat should, Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa refrained from making comments with the press and neither did his predecessor from election campaign period henceforth on internal affairs, or the language and whatever decorum of Philippine leaders.) It went well from arrival to departure. To Abe, being the first head of state to visit this country, it was also strengthening relations with the Chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations or ASEAN (preferably pronounced /á-se-än/) since after all, Japan has strong relations with the ASEAN.
Abe’s naming of a Philippine Eagle as Sakura was symbolic (life, wisdom, beauty of the power that the raptor holds) – -with the Philippine national bird given the name of Japan’s most popular flower. The choice of name came as a softening of one of the Philippines’ most generous donors of Overseas Development Aid.
Critics are assailing this government via social media and even mainstream media and the recent state visit cannot escape the fangs of those who want this government to fail. But at this point in time. Japan definitely has edge over other countries when it comes to relations with the Philippines — not that we are that much desired. But in a couple of years or so, the scenario could be changed by then. (Frencie L. Carreon is a journalist based in Zamboanga City)