Ramon Ramirez discusses his views of the Cold War as an intellectual current in his early life in the Philippines from the 1950s.
Born in 1944 to a clerk and his teacher wife, Ramon Ramirez grew up in a multicultural community from the 1950s, encountering Chinese businessmen and American soldiers who settled in the Philippines in his neighborhood. He became aware of the Cold War as an ideological clash between the US and the USSR only in his later years of elementary school. Though he and his peers knew of the Huk Rebellion, and later President Magsaysay’s success in securing the guerillas’ surrender, they did not immediately consider it as part of the Cold War. However, they welcomed his election as a sign that they would be protected from the Communist bloc, which was then rumored to have plans to usurp the Philippine government with Huk rebels.
Due to their Western-influenced education and exposure to American media productions, they followed American ideals and sided against the Huks, who were believed to be communists. Students were given publications with transcriptions of Voice of America broadcasts in school, and grew to admire America’s scientific and technological superiority. Children did not want to play as Axis or Communist Bloc powers, preferring to take the roles of America and other allied powers even in games. Ramirez also concedes feeling disappointment when the USSR launched the first artificial satellite ahead of the US at the time.
However, his staunchly pro-US position would change when he entered high school. He was living with a patriotic Filipino businessman who exposed him to nationalistic thought and writing in domestic tabloids, which led Ramirez to shift his views. Later in university, he read more critical works on American imperialism and discussed a variety of social issues. In retrospect, he notes that he did not personally encounter any of the military or guerrilla forces in his life, and only read about them. Ultimately, he considers the Cold War primarily as a clash between the US and USSR, and that these ideological tensions informed public opinion in the Philippines.
Interview # 2: Engr. Mon Ramirez
Occupation during the Cold War: (“1945-‐1960s”, -‐1969)
I was born in 1944, was a student from 1951 to 1966, Electrical Engineer from 1966 to 1969
Current Location (City): Quezon City Date:
Date: Sept 1, 2010
1. 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 anggyera? Nasaprobinsyakaba? Paanonakaapektoanggyerasaiyong personal nabuhay at pamilya?
1. When the CW broke out in 1945, I was only one year old and my family was living in Ligao City in Albay. They were starting a family – my father working as a clerk for a landlord and my mother was a public school teacher. They have no stories about the CW affected our family, but from their stories the CW had no effect on our family or on our townmates.
2. In your personal experience how do you view/assess the events that happened during the war?
Sa iyong personal nakaranasan, paanomonakita o tinitimbangangmgapangyayarinoonggyera?
I became aware of the CW during the later part of my elementary school years. My classmates and I were pro-‐Americans, pro-‐West because we were viewing Holywood movies and the winners were always Americans and their allies against first the Germans and Japanese, and later against the Communists in Korea in the early 50s.
We also heard stories from our family and relatives that the Russians and Red Chinese and the Hukbalahaps in the Philippines were out to take over the Philippines, ban religion (we were religious), make vetsin (seasoning like Ajinomoto now) of old people, and kill people who do not follow the laws of the land.
In Grade 5, 6 our schools were supplied with a tabloid, can’t remember the name, but it is about news for the free world led by the USA, with reprints from the Voice of America broadcasts on issues of the day, mostly the CW with the Soviet Union and Red China.
At that time, we were all solid for the now so-‐called Free World. Because there was then the local insurgency led by the PKP/HMB we elementary students of course sided with the govt and the West vs Russia, Red China and the East European communist countries.
Thus, even in games, nobody would like to play Germans, Japanese, Russian or Chinese – all wanted to be the Americans, British and the allies because they always win.
In high school, starting in 1957, I still sided with the West, which is the reason why, when the Russians set into orbit the first artificial satellite, all of us classmates at Albay High School were downhearted and sad because the Russians did it first. We were surprised that they beat the Americans in space when we though the Americans would always be ahead I anything, especially in science and technology.
Now, I happened to have my board and lodging in Legazpi City where the head of the family was a businessman who subscribed to two dailies, the Manila Times and The Manila Chronicle. He was a patriotic businessman and would like to have Filipinos dominate the dominate, not the Americans and westerners then. He sometimes would talke about the columns he read in the papers. So I began to also read the columns of I.P. Soliongco and Hernando Abaya who were critics of the American policies in the Philippines. I also came to know about Claro M. Recto and read his speeches in the the papers. Thus, my views on the CW slowly shifted from being a supporter of the West to being a critic.
In college of course I learned more about US imperialism from reading many articles both in our classes and outside. One such article is “What is American Imperialis?” by Victor Perlo, and the most read book later in the 60s, “The Enemy” by Felix Greene.
3. Did you encounter other races aside from Filipinos? What did you think of them?
May nakasalamuhaka bang ibanglahimalibansamga Filipino?
During our elementary days, 1951 to 1956 I encountered mostly the local Chinese who were businessmen, a few of them came from China after the revolution there. There were also the old Spanish families who were generally liked by us kids. There was also an American, an old soldier from the PhilAm war who decided to raise his family in our town, also the son-‐in-‐law of the landlord boss of my father who was the son of an American soldier of the Philam War who married a Filipina and stayed in the province permanently. We thought of them as like us but a bit weird because of their languages, besides they were kind to kids.
Later on in college and when already working I met people of various races and related to them on equal terms. I did not dislike them, neither did I hold them superior to us Filipinos.
4. 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?
Anongmgapwersaangmga personal mongnakasalamuha? (mgakomunista, sundalongHapon, sundalongAmerikano, Koreanongsundalo, bandido, rebelde) Anongtinnginmosakanila?
I never personally encountered any of those mentioned in the list in the period of the CW which is 1945 to 1980s, but only read about them.
5. As a native of the Philippines away from Manila, what stories do you think were unique in your own experience of the war?
BilanglumakisaPilipinassalabasngMaynila, anongmgakwentoangsatinginmo ay kakaibasaiyongkaranasannggyera?
I was in the proving up to 1961 only and from then on was mostly in Manila.
As a young kid in 1953, already in Grade 3, I remember the campaign sortie of Ramon Magsaysay who was known to be an anti-‐communist fighter having successfully secured the surrender of Luis Taruc of the HMB and practically ended the communist insurgency at that time, which was allied with the Soviets. When Magsaysay campaigned in our town as the NP presidential candidate, we would sing the campaign jingle:
Mambo mambo Magsaysay
Mambo mambo Mabuhay
All democracy will die
Kung wala si Magsaysay.
Of course we were jubilant when he won because we thought we were safe from the Russians and Red Chinese. We were kids, but the old folks were also pro-‐Americans and pro-‐Magsaysay.
6. How did you continue your daily activities when the war broke out? How did you attend the church? Did you have time for friends?
Paanomoipinagpatuloyangaraw-‐arawmongbuhaynungmagsimulaanggyera? Nakakapuntaka pa bang simbahan? Nagkikitaba kayo ngmgakaibiganmo?
Since you are referring to the CW and we were in our province, everything was normal in all those activities because Bicol was not a hotbed of the insurgency, which allied the local HMB with the Russians and Chinese.
7. 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 hitsuranggubyernosayonoongmgapanahongiyon? Mahina o malakas? Mabuti o masama?
Up to our high school years, 1957-‐1961 we were not very concerned about the government but in college we found some issues worth talking about
8. 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 CW, 1945 to 1960s, we had the usual fare of entertainment: movies, radio, TV shows and similar.
9. What means did you use to get the news reports? Did you have access to anything? (News papers, radio, television) How are you updated to the conducts of the day?
Anong mga paraan ang ginamitmoparamakatanggapngmgamensahe? Mayroonka bang aksessadiyaryo? Radio? Telebisyon?
We got our news from the dailies (Manila Times, Manila Chronicle, Bulleetin, radio broadcasts, and TV reports). Sometimes we would listened to shortwave broadcast of both Voice of America and Radio Peking and Radio Australia. Internet was of course unheard of then.
10. What other things during that era that matters to you? What things made you forget about the war?
Anongmgabagayangmahalagaparasayo noon malibansagyera? Anongmgabagayangnagpapalimotsaiyosagyera?
I am an electrical engineer (UP BSEE 1966) and I have always wondered about how they did electrical engineering in Russia and China since all our textbooks were by American authors. One cannot forget about the CW because we were bombarded by both sides of so-‐ called propaganda through those years.
11. 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?
By default the Soviets lost the war because the USSR collapsed in 1991. But the conflict between the Russians and the Americans/West and between China and the Americans/West too continue to this day.
Interviewer: Lemuel Magaling
Interviewee: Ramon Ramirez
In light of Ramon Ramirez’s testimony, consider the extent to which the Cold War in the Philippines was real and/or imagined.
Discuss the role of media platforms in shaping public opinion and the political views of Filipino citizens like Ramirez.