Chinese Resistance Movement in the Philippines
by Norman G. Owen
The following article is a reprint of the foreword written by Norman G. Owen of the University of Hong Kong, for the book The Huaqiao Warriors: Chinese Resistance Movement in the Philippines 1942-1945 by Yung Li Yuk-wai, published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press in 1996.
Over the course of time, Filipinos have tended to stereotype and denigrate the Chinese in their midst, depicting them not just as grasping and disloyal, but as essentially cowardly: "they don't care who owns the cow as long as they get to milk it." In writing Philippine history, the Chinese immigrants and their descendants1 are acknowledged in discussions of economic development, but they tend to disappear when it comes to political history, especially those great crucibles in which the nation's identity was forged, the Revolution and the Second World War. Thus by implication the Philippine Chinese are denied a role in the formative martial events of Philippine history, and, indirectly, the political rights arising from these nationalist struggles.2
In response, some Philippine Chinese have tended to assert their community's achievements in hagiographic terms. Those Chinese who fought alongside Filipinos are depicted simply as unflawed patriots, heroic contributors to national greatness. Within the Chinese community, however, there have been divisions along ideological lines, with the pro-Nationalist (Guomindang) loyalists asserting the virtues of "their" resistance groups over those with more leftist tendencies, and vice versa. Like their Filipino counterparts they are, in effect, staking claims as to the meaning of Philippine history; in this debate, not surprisingly, historical objectivity often gets lost.
The author of this book stands outside these debates over ideology and identity; instead she tries to assess dispassionately the sources, strengths and weaknesses of the Chinese resistance movement during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines. Building on the pioneering work of the late Antonio Tan, she has profited from the opportunity to exploit additional sources in the United States and China, as well as in the Philippines. Both the documents she found in the United States National Archives and the rare publications she turned up in various Chinese libraries have considerably fleshed out the rather sketchy account of these various resistance groups, some previously known only by name. The result is a much more detailed and nuanced account of a many-faceted movement, neither inconsequential nor totally heroic.
As is usual when sources multiply, contradictions have emerged, and it is to the author's credit that she faces up squarely to these contradictions, as well as to the evidentiary gaps that remain, and has done her best to resolve them. She would be the first to acknowledge that more research remains to be done—there are further possibilities for oral history and the Japanese sources for the occupation are still largely unexplored3—but for the moment, this study represents the "state of the art" with regard to the Chinese resistance movements in the wartime Philippines.
The writer of a foreword should not, I believe, "give away" the author's findings before the readers have even reached the text, but I do not believe it will spoil it for anyone if I mention that the book shows that the organization and the actions of the Chinese resistance movement were more complex than either its celebrators or its detractors have generally acknowledge. Some Chinese fought much, some little, some hardly at all, and their motives were as mixed, as human, as anyone's, anywhere, any time. By putting flesh on these historical bones, by confronting the gaps and paradoxes offered by the available evidence, the author has written a story that should be of interest to all Filipinos, whether of Chinese ancestry or not, and also to those interested in the history of the "Overseas Chinese,"4 wherever they may be found.
August 1994 (pp. ix-xii)
1 I refer here to those who have retained “Chinese” identity. Those mestizos who are identified as “Filipino,” such as Jose Rizal, Sergio Osmeña, and Corazon Cojuanco Aquino, are generally given full credit for their accomplishments, sometimes at the expense of their Chinese ancestry.
2 One exception is the revolutionary Chinese general José Ignacio Paua (Hou Yabao). See Edgar Wickberg, The Chinese in Philippine Life, 1850-1898 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), pp.201-3.
3 See Newsletter of the Forum for the Survey of Records Concerning the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, No. 1 (August 1991),which summarizes the first five installments of this newsletter in Japanese.
4 In considering this field as a whole, scholars are increasingly using the term “Chinese overseas” (huaren) rather than “Overseas Chinese (huaqiao), which implies continued (Chinese) nationality, an implication not accepted by all those of Chinese ethnicity now dispersed around the world. For certain times and places, however—including the wartime Philippines—“Overseas Chinese” remains both accurate and convenient.
Source: "The Huaqiao Warriors: Chinese Resistance Movement in the Philippines ,1942-1945" by Yung Li Yuk-wai (Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1996)