Dream of change



Will Filipinos now long for the Chinese – instead of the American – dream?

While the axiom “the only permanent thing is change” historically began with Heraclitus, this dictum became popular with First Quarterstorm activists as the dialectics of Hegel and Marx, and the national democratic revolution patterned after that of China’s Mao Tse Tung served as inspiration to change the status quo.

Now the National Democratic Front and the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines team up with President Rodrigo Duterte in effecting “change.”

“Today, I announce my separation from the United States.” President Duterte proclaimed before business leaders in Beijing Thursday last week. Continuing, the Philippine President said, “America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow… And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Is the change in political alignment the result of a “visa denial” the Philippine Star asked? Duterte seems to have confirmed having been humiliated by being refused a US visitor visa when he was mayor of Davao.

“I will not go to America anymore. We will just be insulted there. America? I cannot go there because they won’t give me a visa.”

The Philippines has visa reciprocity regulations in place with both the United States and China. Simply put, if the United States allows the President and top government officials a visa to enter the US, then the Philippines should reciprocate in the same manner.

The US Bureau of Consular Affairs website explains that “Nonimmigrant visa applicants from certain countries/areas of authority may be required to pay a visa issuance fee after their application is approved. These fees are based on the principle of reciprocity: when a foreign government imposes fees on US citizens for certain types of visas, the United States will impose a reciprocal fee on citizens of that country*/area of authority for similar types of visas.”

The State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual states that, “Diplomats and other foreign government officials traveling to the United States to engage solely in official duties or activities on behalf of their national government must obtain A-1 or A-2 visas prior to entering the United States. They cannot travel using visitor visas or under the Visa Waiver Program.”

An exception is the head of state or government (in the case of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte) who qualifies for an A visa regardless of the purpose of travel.

Under a bilateral agreement between China and foreign countries, Philippine diplomatic or official passport holders are exempted from the visa requirement for temporary visits to China for a period not exceeding 30 days.

Would the change in alignment – from the United States to China – bring more Filipinos to China than the US? Does China allow visitors to change status within the country from tourist to student, or student to working, or student/working to permanent resident? No.

But the United States does.

A Filipino issued even just a single entry limited to one-month validity could be allowed to stay in the US for a maximum of six months. During this period of authorized stay, the Filipino may apply for change of temporary (nonimmigrant) status: from tourist to student, student to working or even from tourist to permanent resident status.

China does not allow such changes.

While Chinatown has moved from Binondo to the national level (check out who owns real estate and malls all over the country) most Filipino understand and communicate in English (carabao-style or ala horse-riding cowboy from Texas) than Mandarin or Cantonese.

While Chinese traders came to the Philippines in the 9th century and Chinese settlements were built – the most famous being the Ongpin-Binondo Chinatown – there was never a comprehensive, national immigration law that would have allowed Chinese visitors, traders, workers or businessmen to change their status until January 22, 1940, when the Second National Assembly of the Philippine Commonwealth enacted the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940 (Commonwealth Act No. 613).

CA No. 613 was signed into law by the President of the United States of America on Sept. 3, 1940, “creating the Bureau of Immigration under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President, the Commonwealth.”

The Bureau of Immigration website in its history section explains that the “bureau was given the sole authority to enforce and administer immigration and foreign nationals registration laws including the admission, registration, exclusion and deportation and repatriation of foreign nationals. It also supervises the immigration from the Philippines of foreign nationals.”

By that time, Hollywood has taken hold, American style-education reinforced the reality of pining for the American dream. During the Commonwealth period and until July 4, 1946, Filipinos were considered US nationals and no visas were required for a Filipino to enter the United States. Of course, it can be argued that as a territory, Filipinos were then already in the US, so why apply for a visa?

In the same era, China had been under different and warring dynasties, until the Republic of China was established after the fall of the Qing dynasty, then ruled from 1912 to 1949. Then the Communist Party of China took the helm.

Without a migration program and access to a “better quality of life” in China at the time, the American dream prospered as the waves of Filipino migrants settled in California, Washington State, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Hawaii.

Now, there are more than 4 million members of the Filipino American community with an average of 56,000 – 60,000 immigrants being admitted yearly in the various Family and Employment-based categories.

Filipinos have been – and in the immediate future – nurturing, chasing the American dream because their lives in the Philippines seem to be a perpetual nightmare despite changes in administration.

In the meantime, Chinese have metamorphosed from traders to taipans in the country and throughout the world. Even in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, there are more Chinatowns and Chinese economic enclaves (restaurants being the front-liner establishments) than Filipino stores.

American education, culture and English may be a cultural staple of Filipinos but their pesos and remittances are spent on malls owned by the sons and daughters of Chinese immigrants who left the turbulence engulfing China from 1949 until Mao’s death, and Deng Xiaoping changed China’s outlook from purely ideological to the practical: “It does not matter if the cat is black or white – as long as it catches mice.”

The move was from a purely socialist track to one with capitalist trimmings: private ownership, economic zones and market-economy reforms.

In a sense, the dialectic method of Marx now prevails over the Hegelian concept that “the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind and translated into forms of thought.”

It is a change from the vision of Chairman Mao, who when extolling agricultural cooperation under the Communist Party in July 1955, described the changes being carried out by the Party as “a revolution not only in the social system, the change from private to public ownership, but also in technology, the change from handicraft to large-scale modern machine production, and the two revolutions are interconnected.”

Is mind colonization the Chinese dream?

Apparently not, since merely conquering the mind would be Hegelian. To capture material things such as islands, reefs and the entire South China Sea would be paramount. The mind will follow.

In the book of the same title, which won the Eric Hoffer Book Awards, the “Chinese Dream today as portrayed in Helen’s book speaks of a changing China that is discovering consumerism, that is increasingly globalized, and at a crossroads.”

The phrase is closely associated with Xi Jinping, who marched with President Duterte during his visit to China where he announced his separation from the United States and the American dream.

The Chinese dream “has become widespread in official announcements and has become routine party lexicon as the embodiment of the political ideology of the leadership under Xi Jinping.”

The American Dream as defined by James Truslow Adams in 1931 envisions that “life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each per ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”

The dream is fueled by a set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.

To most Filipinos in the United States and hundreds of thousands more in the immigrant visa waiting list, the American Dream appears to be understandable and within grasp.

Will the separation from the US be a rallying cry for Filipinos to change beds?

Let’s see who will wake up first.


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  1. Magellan claimed Guam and the Philippines in 1521for Spain. America received both after the Spanish-American war. The Philippines chose independence and Guam is still a American territory with dollars in their pockets and US passports in their hands. I have met Filipinos in Guam that are quite happy not being independent of the USA. I think Philippines independence only helped a few that were already on top.