Philippines Has A 'Love-Hate Relationship' With U.S.

The U.S. relationship with the Philippines goes way back. University of Hawaii Professor Patricio Abinales, who was born in the Philippines, tells Steve Inskeep his country's love-hate relationship with the U.S. began in the late 19th century after America purchased the islands from Spain.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

American involvement in the Philippines goes much farther back than that. To look more at U.S.-Phillipine relations we turn to Patricio Abinales who grew up in the Philippines and is now a professor at the University of Hawaii. He says his country's love-hate relationship with the U.S. began in 1898. The United States kicked out colonial Spain after the Spanish-American War, but to the dismay of many Filipinos, the U.S. did not grant the country its freedom - instead ruling the islands for decades after crushing an independence movement.

PATRICIO ABINALES: There was this famous massacre where an American general basically ordered his men to kill everyone above 10 years old. That has always been one of the stories or points that critics of Philippine-American policy would point out.

INSKEEP: Did Filipinos of the early 20th century ever get used to the idea of American rule?

ABINALES: Yeah, I think so. Because after the war, the United States introduced public education. And public education changed a lot. This is a colony with, what, 200, 500 languages and for the first time English became the colonial lingua franca. People now, you know, could communicate with each other through English.

And the other thing is in 1906, very early on, the Americans introduced elections. Public education and elections counterbalance the memory of the bloody war.

INSKEEP: And then, of course, came World War II in the 1940's and the Japanese forced the Americans out in 1941, 1942. What was the occupation like, the Japanese occupation?

ABINALES: Just talking about Manila alone, the capital, most people in Manila still remember, you know, the violence that the war perpetrated. My uncle still remembers the war. He became a guerilla and fought together with American soldiers who were stranded when the Japanese invaded and MacArthur retreated. And then of course MacArthur returns and there is this positive memory of that return.

INSKEEP: I suppose I should remind people that in the 1980's there was a popular uprising against Ferdinand Marcos, a Filipino ruler who was closely allied with the United States. And he became very unpopular and was thrown out of power. Given that more recent history, what is the relationship between the Filipino government and the people in the United States today?

ABINALES: I think it's generally positive because of a number of reasons. One is the rise of China and Philippine government is very worried about tensions over the islands in the China Sea. And the second one is there is still a very big amount of good will because of the great number of Filipino-American who now go back and forth between the two countries.

INSKEEP: You mentioned China, your huge neighbor just across the water there.

ABINALES: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

INSKEEP: Are you saying that the Philippines wants a stronger alliance with the United States these days as a counterweight to the power of China?

ABINALES: Yes, I think so. We really have a weak navy, a weak army, and China has been growing strong.

INSKEEP: Might the Philippines become a permanent base for American troops, as the country was for many decades?

ABINALES: I don't think so. If the U.S. decides to return and put a permanent base in the Philippines, there's going to be widespread criticism.

INSKEEP: Could there be larger political effects from the fact that the United States military is now helping to provide aid to typhoon survivors?

ABINALES: No. I think this is very well received with the people down in this area. There will be criticism in the capital, the pundits, the academics, you know, of, you know, the return of big America. But I think at the lower, at the community level, there is gratitude.

INSKEEP: Patricio Abinales is a professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii. Thanks very much.

ABINALES: Thank you.

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