At the tailend of the three-day Access to Knowledge Workshop held in Bangkok, one of the Filipino participants focused his reflection about the workshop on his confused identification as an Asian. He attributed the problem to a mix of foreign influences on the Philippines, starting off with Spain which first colonized the country many centuries ago.I wanted to react to his reflection immediately. But as a rule you can never question a personal opinion during the evaluation of an activity. So I just had to keep the reaction to myself.
Yes, Spain and America have hewed the mindsets of the Filipinos (I venture that the snootiness of the elite came from the former and the liberalism of the bourgeoisie from the latter) but I understand that Filipino roots came first from Indonesians and Malaysians, who helped civilize the Philippines with their knowledge particularly in trade.
The Filipino colleague must have had no exposure in a number of Asian exchanges, which must explain his confused identification. Not my case. A decade ago, I was deeply involved in many Asian exposure-exchange activities that gave me the opportunity to befriend Indonesians, Indians, Malaysians, Koreans, Vietnamese, Burmese, Thais, Japanese, Sri Lankans and even Australians and New Zealanders (those belonging to the ethnic groups). The activities then were sponsored by the Hongkong-based CCA-URM (Christian Conference of Asia-Urban Rural Mission).
Spending several days with the fellow Asians also enlightened me on their national histories an contexts. I’m sure that they too learned from their Filipino co-participants realizing that the latter were Asians as well.
My Asianness was revived by the number of Asian conferences that I attended since 2005. This time the activities focused on ICT and access to information, no longer Christian faith and community organizing as it was a decade ago. I feel that these conferences of the new millennium kind of completed my affinity with the Asian community.
With the pot-pourri of foreign influences on my lifestyle and thinking, am I Asian? Yes I definitely am.