Interview With Monlit Uichanco

Monlit Uichanco describes his experiences as a distant observer of the Cold War.

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The son of a veterinary professor, banker Monlit Uichanco considers himself outside the orbit of the Cold War. He views the Cold War as a strictly limited conflict between the US and the USSR, and does not feel that the Philippines was ever drawn into Cold War conflicts. He explains that his personal involvement in the Cold War was limited to viewing the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolding at a distance through television. He sees the division of Germany as the central driver of the Cold War. While he did encounter student activists during his time at university, he does not consider it as connected to the Cold War in any way. His final assessment is that humanity at large won the conflict, as it did not degenerate into an open military clash between the two superpowers.

When the war broke out, what were you doing? Were you in the province? How did it affect your personal life and family? Anong ginagawa mo nang magsimula ang gyera? Nasa probinsya ka ba? Paano nakaapekto ang gyera sa iyong personal na buhay at pamilya?

At least during the first 10 years of the Cold War, I was just a child growing up. Our family transferred to the UP Campus in 1952, after staying for a while at Ermita. My parents say that the first 10 years were spent rebuilding our family resources lost in WW2. From1970 upwards I was already a professional…a commercial banker and earning well.

What were the main occupations in the household? Where do you get your daily provisions? Anong karaniwang pinagkakakitaan sa inyong kabahayan? Saan kayo kumukuha ng ipangkakain?

During the Cold War my father was an instructor- and later Dean- at the UP College of Veterinary Medicine. My mom was a full-time housewife. I started to earn as a banker starting1970. Our daily provisions were salary? based.

In your personal experience how do you view/assess the events that happened during the war?

Sa iyong personal na karanasan, paano mo nakita o tinitimbang ang mga pangyayari noong gyera?

The Cold War was a period of armament and an arms race between the USA and the Soviets. It inevitably led to the Cuban missile crisis in 1961. I remember we were glued to the tv set, nervously observing the confrontation and expecting the worst. Fortunately, the Soviets blinked and a catastrophic nuclear war was averted and a period of arms détente(supposedly) ensued.

Did you see this event as something connected to a worldwide event?

Nakikita mo ba ang pangyayaring iyon na may ugnayan sa pandaigdigang pangyayari?

Yes. A divided Germany, which was the victors’ spoils of war happened during the Cold War so did the stand-off during the Cuba missile crisis which started the Soviet Union’s slow decline in power. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1972 led to the disintegration of the Soviet States and its transformation to a democratic and capitalist govt.

Did you encounter other races aside from Filipinos? What did you think of them?

May nakasalamuha ka bang ibang lahi maliban sa mga Filipino? Anong tingin mo sa kanila?

No. Sorry.

What forces have you personally encountered? (e.g. Communists guerillas, Japanese Imperial Army, U.S. forces, Korean soldiers, Bandits, Rebels) What did you think of them? What is your general feeling towards them?

Anong mga pwersa ang mga personal mong nakasalamuha? (mga komunista, sundalong Hapon, sundalong Amerikano, Koreanong sundalo, bandido, rebelde) Anong tinngin mo sa kanila? Anong pangkalahatang nararamdaman mo patungkol sa kanila?

Again, if you mean the Cold War, life was normal, and it was business as usual. All activities were unrestricted.

What did the government look like to you during the war? Did you perceive them as weak or strong? Good or bad?

Anong dating o hitsura ng gubyerno sayo noong mga panahong iyon? Mahina o malakas? Mabuti o masama

After our complete Independence from the Americans, ours have always been a democratic govt. I would say that it was during the Cold War when we enjoyed the golden years of our country. Our leaders were not only qualified, they had the political will in performing their mandate and carry out needed reforms. Our judicial system was working, and justice was meted swiftly and fairly.

What was popular during that time? What counted as entertainment?

Anong sikat noong mga panahong iyon? Alin ang papasang pampalipas oras ng mga tao?

During the Cold War, the TV, Radio the cinema, Sports events and the performing arts were the main source of amusement…and even today.

What means did you use to get the news reports? Did you have access to anything? (Newspapers, radio, television) How are you updated to the conducts of the day?

Anong mga paraan nag ginamit mo para makatanggap ng mga mensahe? Mayroon ka bang akses sa diyaryo? Radio? Telebisyon? Paano ka nasasabihan sa mga gawain para sa araw-araw?

All forms of media…TV, radio, newsprints are readily available and accessible. I get my updates from all of those. The media also is an effective preplanner. For example, if you learn from the media that a typhoon is approaching, you would prepare yourself to be ready…stock on canned goods, buy candles, store extra water etc. Or if the media reports of heavy traffic gridlocks, it would mean an alternate route for you.

What other things during that era that matters to you? What things made you forget about the war?

Anong mga bagay ang mahalaga para sayo noon maliban sa gyera? Anong mga bagay ang nagpapalimot sa iyo sa gyera?

Actually, the Cold War had very little effect here, primarily because we were not major players in the conflict. We were more concerned about “what’s news (?)” closer to home…and activities in our everyday life.

Who do you think won the war? Do you consider your efforts and the efforts of the organization a step toward achieving the peace experienced today?

Sino sa tingin mo ang nanalo sa gyera? Masasabi mo bang ang mga hakbang na ginwa ng organisasyon ay tumungo sa kapayapaang tinatamasa antin ngayon?

To my mind, HUMANITY won the Cold War…a potential catastrophic war was averted, people of a common blood separated by a concrete wall was finally reunited, and the Soviet Union disintegrated, clipping its powers in status quo with other superpowers. Peace on earth is generally prevailing.

Interviewer: Monlit Uichanco

Interviewee: Monlit Uichanco

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Transcript Notes


  1. How does Uichanco’s background shape his views of the Cold War?

  2. Given your answer to Q1, what does his repetition of the traditional historiography of the Cold War in the West suggest about the real or imagined dimensions of the Cold War in Asia?