Address delivered by Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jorge B. Vargas over Station PIAM, Manila, December 10, 1943.
When I went to Tokyo, together with our great President Dr. Jose P. Laurel and Speaker Benigno S. Aquino, shortly before the proclamation of Philippine independence, I was deeply impressed by the nearness of our country to Japan. We had breakfast in Manila, luncheon in Taiwan, and dinner in Fu-kuoka in the mainland of Japan. Surely no clearer illustration can be given of the physical nearness of our country to Japan. But even more impressive was the spiritual nearness that we felt. We Filipinos have so much in common with the Japanese; our attitude toward visitors, our customs in the family, even our color, are so much alike that we could not help but feel at home with one another.
This nearness has always been the fundamental factor in Nippon-Philippine relations and the epochal events of the past two years following the outbreak of the Greater East Asia War have only served to emphasize it. God made the Filipinos the neighbors of the Japanese. We have been their neighbors for centuries. That is a fact from which we cannot escape and which we cannot change. It rests with us, just as much as with the Japanese, to determine whether we shall be good neighbors or bad neighbors, whether the nearness between our countries will be a cause for jealousy, fear, and conflict, or a cause for friendship, community of interests, and cooperation for the common good. It is in this respect that the War of Greater East Asia has exercised a profound influence on our relations with the Great Empire of Japan.
So long as we were under the political, economic, and cultural domination of the West, the tendency to regard our nearness to Japan as a source of danger and conflict was uppermost. The unconquered power of Japan was naturally regarded by the Occidental sovereigns of the Philippines as a menace to their domination of our country. Conversely, the Japanese were compelled to regard our country as a base from which Western imperialism could imperil, if not actually attack, their freedom and territorial integrity.
These sentiments of mutual fear and distrust produce their natural consequences. From the earliest Spanish times, the Philippines witnessed diplomatic encounters or armed clashes between Japan and the Occidental rulers of the Philippines and the slow growth of the belief that nearness to Japan was a danger and a peril. The conversion of the Philippines into a fortified link in the ABCD chain and our consequent involvement in the War of Greater East Asia was only the disastrous climax of long centuries of suspicion and hostility between Japan and our Western rulers.
Underneath this attitude of bad-neighborliness to Japan, however, there was another tendency of good-neighborliness and even kinship, which represented the true interests of the Filipinos as an Oriental people rather than Occidental subjects. Our forefathers traded peacefully with the Japanese before the corning of the Spaniards. We shared the same culture and civilization, the culture and civilization of the East. When, at the close of the last century, we rose, in revolution against Spain and afterward went to war with the United States of America, it was to neighboring Japan that we turned for help and encouragement. Japanese volunteers fought side by side with our soldiers and Japanese arms were sent to our armies on the field.
Our friendly attitude toward Japan grew apace with our increasing control of our own affairs. During our incessant preparations for independence, especially under the Commonwealth regime, we continued to turn to Japan for inspiration and assistance, as far as we could do so under the existing circumstances. For this natural and genuine tendency in Nippon-Philippine relations, the War of Greater East Asia was a powerful liberating impulse. It opened the way for the complete realization of a long-standing and natural desire among our people to be good neighbors to Japan.
I have emphasized before, and I wish to emphasize again, therefore, that the present policy of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, like that of the Philippine Executive Commission before it, does not constitute a reversal and repudiation of our past. It may be the reversal and the repudiation of policies followed in the past by the foreign rulers of the Philippines. But it is only the logical and inevitable continuation and fulfillment of our inclinations in the past, in so far as they were freely, truly, and genuinely our own.
One need not go further back in our history than the Commonwealth regime to perceive this. It was under the Commonwealth that we had the most ample form of self-government that we ever had under Western domination, and it is surely significant that under the Commonwealth our leaders turned to Japan for good-will, economic cooperation and spiritual inspiration. As far as the Filipino leaders could speak for themselves, they spoke consistently of friendship with Japan and of those great principles of inter-dependence and co-prosperity which are now the cardinal points of our foreign relations.
The leaders of the Commonwealth took even more positive steps in the economic field. In preparation for independence, and the consequent loss of the American market for Philippine export crops, they envisioned the cultivation of new markets in East Asia which would be nearer, more stable and more natural. The government took the initiative in fostering the growth of cotton for the mills of Japan, the same mills which were already clothing a great majority of the Filipinos. Measures were also taken to raise the standard of hemp and copra, great quantities of which were already exported to Japan, in expectation of closer commercial relations on a larger scale and with complete freedom over tariffs and trade arrangements. Indeed, the economic reciprocity between Japan and the Philippines was expected and designed to be so close and intimate that, upon the official advice of government advisers, and iron smelter was not established here in spite of our abundant supplies of iron ore because of the proximity of efficient Japanese plants. In brief the Filipino people under the Commonwealth were seriously and earnestly preparing to turn to the East once independence was attained.
The war of Greater East Asia and the liberation of Greater East Asia which was the fruit of Japan’s swift victories, merely hastened the realization of these desires and inclinations of the Filipino people. By removing all Western influences and restrictions and by opening the way for the proclamation and establishment of the free and independent Republic of the Philippines, the War of Greater East Asia has made it possible for our own sovereign government to put into untrammeled practice the traditional ideals of our people of friendship with all nations, and cooperation with our neighbors in East Asia, especially Japan, for the welfare and equal liberty and prosperity of all.
Every Filipino, therefore, wherever he may be, has true and abundant cause for rejoicing in the events of the past two years. The leaders of the former Commonwealth regime, in particular, should feel a singular gratification in witnessing the achievement of their most cherished ideals, plans, and policies. Our closest neighbor, the Great Japanese Empire, has done more, much more, than sign a treaty for the neutralization of an independent Philippines. Taking full advantage of the historic opportunities afforded by Divine Providence and by the brilliant successes of its arms, the Great Japanese Empire has itself established and protected our independence. A free and sovereign Republic of the Philippines, the dream of all our leaders and heroes since the earliest times, has been established. With the encouragement and active assistance of Japan, and under the far-sighted and dynamic leadership of President Jose P. Laurel, the Government of the Republic has resolutely embarked upon a course of spiritual regeneration, economic self-sufficiency, political unity, and cooperation with our brethren in East Asia on the basis of equality, reciprocity, and common prosperity.
Such a course preserves the continuity of our life as a people; it embodies our national traditions and experience and our consistent program of friendship for all nations; it consecrates the high ideals we have steadily pursued of peace, independence, justice, and prosperity. Such a course of action, therefore, deserves the whole-hearted and unstinted support of every Filipino, here and across the seas. Now as ever we the Filipino people want only to work our own destiny, in harmonious collaboration with our neighbors, sharing equally in the resources of the world without discrimination, injustice, or oppression.
We have much to be thankful for to the Great Japanese Empire but the greatest cause for gratitude is the realization which the War of Greater East Asia has brought us, that it is better for neighboring nations to be good neighbors rather than bad neighbors. Jealousy, suspicion, and fear must inevitably lead to conflict and disaster. But when two nations, placed side by side by Divine Providence, sincerely and honestly determine to work together and assist each other in a spirit of justice and benevolence there is nothing that cannot be achieved. It is my hope, and I believe the hope of all the Filipinos, that in the future the Philippines and our other neighbors in East Asia will continue to be free to cooperate in mutual trust and respect to attain, under the leadership of the Great Japanese Empire, that peace and prosperity which we all ardently desire.
Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library