It takes guts and gumption to see things differently such as what the South East Asian Games are all about.

It takes courage to have a vision and to sustain it for the 23rd time which the SEA Games have done so.

It takes daring to have an unusual way of discerning?and discerning well, seeing things as they should be seen in their truth and relevance.

It takes boldness to have an extraordinary way of perceiving the complex web of realities especially those that concern small nations, many of which are going through especially difficult circumstances of nationhood and the bigger issues relative to progress and self-determination.

It takes a powerful and living insight to see that a nation-state, an economy, and a country in this region is essentially linked with the other and that, therefore, regional cooperation is of paramount import if only to assure the next generations of their right to life and liberty?and same right to dignity and self-respect.

The South East Asian Games, now held in the Philippines for the third time, is premised on these basic issues and concerns.

We know well the history of the games.

First as the games of the South East Asian peninsula and then eventually expanding to include other countries including the Philippines, its purpose is clear?and doable, if only the leaders know how to interpret such a purpose: to help promote cooperation, understanding, and relations among the member countries now numbering 11: Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

If we go by the economies of these countries, they have a strength that no other regions do not have: in oil shipments, in petroleum output, their natural resources including timber products, and now their stake in the IT industry by their production of microprocessors.

The stakes are high in this region.

The exchange of human resources has helped boost the economies of the other countries, with the Philippines reaping many of the benefits because of the contract workers it sends to the oil wells of Brunei and Malaysia, the microprocessing plants in Singapore, the English and math teachers and other professionals in East Timor, in Vietnam, and now in Thailand.

For many centuries, Philippine trade and commerce with Indonesia and Malaysia have been borderless?and in the not so distant past, the country had served as host to Vietnamese refugees before their eventual processing for immigration on asylum and other humanitarian ground to the United States.

Geography as well as some vague sense of a shared, though not homogenous, cultural heritage, provides a link to all the SEA countries.

Fundamentally Hindu and Islamic before the Philippines and East Timor embraced Christianity as a twin to the colonization projects and programs of other developed First World countries that saw the need to lump together their search for gold and glory with the proclamation of the higher glory of (their) white and European god, the region can only celebrate in its present cultural and linguistic diversity.

It is just as well as the waters that separate the countries are at the same time the same ?highways and freeways? that have linked them up. This much the SEA countries have to acknowledge; even their ancestors had seen fit that the waters were never a hindrance to their pursuit of the good life for themselves and for their people.

With the ongoing SEA Games, we hope to see the strengthening of the ties that bind these countries, the same ties that can promise them more liberties, and a more democratic way of life.

There is much pain and suffering in geography?and there is the geography of pain and suffering as we have seen in the centuries that many of the SEA countries either or both went through the turmoil of decolonization, independence, and/or plain self-determination.

With global capital not acknowledging geography but the gospel truths of profit and its excesses, it is time that the SEA countries go back to the bargaining table.

It is time that they see for themselves what they can do to push for a more rational exchange of human and non-human resources aimed at generating wealth for their own peoples.

Not relying heavily?and in a culture of dependency?on foreign investments would be the best gift these countries can offer to their peoples.

Pub, INQ, V1N23, Dec 2005

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