Remembering FPFVR and Taiwan-Phl relations

Last Tuesday, I covered the state funeral of the former President Fidel V. Ramos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. I was deeply touched when I saw the funeral procession and soldiers passing by and friends and subordinates paying tribute to him by his grave.

The late President Fidel V. Ramos (left) and former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF

I felt the respect Filipinos paid to the late President who was fondly called “Steady Eddie,” and I saw journalists writing about how Ramos was interacting with them. It was impressive that while the former chief executive owned so much power after becoming the President, he refrained from silencing the media even though the martial law period just ended not long ago.

I saw Ramos for the first time back in November 2019 when former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou visited the Philippines. Ramos was 91 years old at the time but still looked healthy and cheerful.

I later learned that Narciso Ramos, father of the former President was the ambassador to the Republic of China (Taiwan) before the severance of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the Philippines in 1975. After his retirement, Narciso Ramos once again served as director of the Asian Exchange Center in Taipei (de facto Filipino embassy in Taiwan) in 1982.

As a result, Ramos knew Taiwan better than most Filipinos and he had maintained good relationships with many Taiwanese. It seems to me now that Ramos passed away, the Philippines lost a great leader and Taiwan lost a precious friend.

Another former leader and friend of Taiwan lost in recent months was Shinzo Abe, former prime minister of Japan.

Many Filipinos know that Abe visited the house of then President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao in January 2017. But Abe was not only a good friend of the Philippines, he was also close to Taiwan and dubbed “the most Taiwan-friendly Japanese prime minister” by Taiwanese media.

Lots of Taiwanese remembered Abe once said, if the tension in the Taiwan Strait escalates and a war breaks out, “something happens to Taiwan means something happens to Japan.” The news of Abe’s death due to an assassination shocked and saddened hundreds of thousands of people in Taiwan.

TAIPEI 101 lit up in honor of the slain Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. | SAM YEH/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

After the slay of Abe, Taipei 101, the highest building in Taiwan, was lit up for four consecutive days reading “Mourning Prime Minister Abe,” “Taiwan’s friend for good,” “Thank you Prime Minister Abe for your support and friendship to Taiwan” in tribute to him.

In the last few days, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines held two events for humanitarian aid and cultural exchange between Taiwan and the Philippines.

The first event was the turnover ceremony of $200,000 by Taiwanese government to Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) to support the victims of the magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked Abra and other nearby provinces in July. The second was a send-off lunch for the first batch of English teachers and teaching assistants of the Taiwan Foreign English Teacher Program.

Unlike the Philippines, Taiwanese do not speak English or watch English programs every day. As a result, Taiwan has been working on the goal of improving people’s English proficiency by recruiting teachers from English-speaking countries to Taiwan to teach English and it also serves as a way for students to know more people of other cultures and expand their vision.

The famous Chinese philosopher Confucius once said: “If three people are walking together, at least one of them can be my teacher. I’ll learn from their strengths and tell myself not to repeat the mistakes they made.” That is, by meeting more people, we can improve ourselves and become a better person. And it holds true not only to the students, but to the foreign teachers who will go to Taiwan as well.

At the same time, Taiwan is offering around NT$45,000 per month to teaching assistants and NT$65,000, equivalent to P120,000 per month to English teachers. Hopefully English teachers from the Philippines and other countries can enjoy their time in Taiwan and students will be more interested in learning and speaking English by getting along with these foreign teachers.

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