First of all, I don’t see it as a fiasco, one reason being the unanswered question of have the ASEAN member-states prior to the meeting been made aware of the impending request from the Philippines for the bloc to act as go-between? Because if they were not, the sullen freezing of state representatives in their seats is but a natural reaction to a “sudden” request. I mean, I find it difficult to choose one over the other, on the spot, especially when both are not my enemies. Elevate this dilemma to the level of the State and there’s a lot of heavy stuff going – trade, trade, and more trade which by the way is when you’d rather – if only you could – produce everything you need or ever want than be subjected to the whims and threats of a trading partner, all because of comparative advantage. When you trace the trade exchanges over time between and among the nations in the region, I bet it’s going to look like the erratic-looking pattern on the cardiologist’s graph paper – tight, and to even try to disregard or misread one line in the pattern could mean the patient’s life. So you keep it tight, keep it close, do not disturb, keep it as it is. And so it is with the State representatives of ASEAN – a tight lipped, hands-off stance is the only way to survive anyone and still bring folks back home good trade. Seeing this as a natural reaction helps keep stress levels down.
Second, I think there’s some sort of wisdom in – almost an unspoken message behind – the silence of our neighbors. I mean, who among the bloc does not trace itself to ancient times and to surviving these including springing miraculously back from nations’ conquests of them? I think the DNA of the East Asian is inherently of ancient wisdom. What’s termed as a fiasco is actually the classic tension between the youth of today and the youth of yesterday – the former accuses the latter of its inability to really understand what’s going on. The former grows up and survives a lot of bruises and comes to odd realization that it went a roundabout way in order to come to the same truth spoken years ago by the latter. Is the Philippines the youngest in the bloc? Perhaps the lyrics “batang bata ka pa…musmos…” will strike home? That exterior silence in front of big brother is the better wisdom. At least in the diplomatic circles.
Third, let’s say it is a fiasco. Have you been abandoned or left out in the cold by persons you think will support you, to fight alone? The pain and anger from the abandonment somehow propels you to grow up fast and learn to fight your own fight, alone or with others’ support. In short, “you’re now a man, my son.” It makes you think about things that didn’t cross your mind before, like national security. Don’t people have nightmares sometimes from the possibility of shell attack and there’s nothing we can do about it except put up a human shield – what’s the use of 80M people right? At least that’s something going for the anti-RH folks – national security = 80M people as human shield, and growing. Anyway. Yes, this country, “abandoned” by its closest “allies” is learning its lesson and hopefully growing up and wiser for it.
Fourth, I mentioned in an earlier article that it’d be nice to know how cohesive ASEAN is. Now that we’re in the heart of things, it turns out cohesive has layered meanings. But overall the way I see it, ASEAN has a long way to go in terms of regional cohesiveness. It’s like family – will you just be a silent witness to a physical threat or attack on a family member? How you’d respond will depend on some things important to you – which brings us back to point one above.