Celebrating 50 years of APCU

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

Last  Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, the Association for  Philippines-China Understanding celebrated its 50th anniversary at The Manila Hotel. As a new member of this organization, I was honored to meet more friends from the Filipino-Chinese community as well as the Chinese embassy in the Philippines, where it was very touching to be acknowledged for my Chinese roots, being part of the Lim family, as well as for the columns that I continue to write in The Philippine STAR, most especially when the original author of Roses and Thorns was my granduncle, Alejandro Roces.

More popularly known as Anding, Secretary Roces was the former Department of Education secretary and National Artist for Literature and, under the administration of president Macapagal, he was also the very first chairman of the APCU in the early 70s. I have very big shoes to fill as I always say, but I am very fortunate to have had incredible granduncles such as Tio Anding as well as my grandfather Peping (whom I miss dearly), that lived such extraordinary lives and kept so many stories alive by passing these on from one generation to the next, considering their experiences were valuable enough to add to our history.

The Association for Philippines-China Understanding or APCU is the pioneer and leading non-government organization in our country that fundamentally promotes people-to-people diplomacy, bilateral understanding and friendship between the Philippines and China through cultural, academic and visit exchanges;  sisterhood agreements between Philippine local government units (LGUs) and Chinese LGUs and economic and trade cooperation and partnership.

On June 9, 1975, APCU was both instrumental and crucial in facilitating the establishment as well as the strengthening of official diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China. As chair emeritus of APCU, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo always recalls how she helped organize and register the organization at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In those days (1974), APCU facilitated the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China as an advocacy group and as a young girl, when former president Gloria heard that secretary Alejandro Roces was organizing a trip to China in the early 70’s, she asked if she could participate. She was then invited to join the APCU.

As President, it was during her term that Philippines-China relations entered a golden age and when she made a presidential proclamation declaring every June 9th of the year as Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day. During the time of former president Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines-China relations reached new heights through bilateral ties between the two nations. Former president Duterte is also an APCU Hall of Fame awardee.

As neighbors , the relationship we have with China is very important, considering our proximity to each other’s backyards. History, on one hand, also continues to reflect our shared heritage as well as our shared values. In the month of February, APCU launched a youth essay writing contest for our Filipino youth in the hopes of further elevating bilateral ties between the Philippines and China. The goal is to be able to promote the role of young Filipino men and women in fostering and promoting Philippines-China understanding. The winners of this contest will be announced early this March and will get a chance to be part of the entourage of former president Arroyo’s trip to some provinces in China.

Building the bridge of understanding between the Philippines and China was and always will be at the forefront of APCU. In the older days, our association began as an informal group of Chinese friends who organized themselves to coordinate aid and assistance coming from the People’s Republic of China for flood victims, a crisis that seriously struck central Luzon. On the state level, China and the Philippines at that time had no existing diplomatic relations, hence cooperation between the two nations was coursed through people-to-people relations and ties.

As the APCU eventually expanded over time, more programs and projects developed, further enhancing diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China. Indeed, 50 years is a milestone for friendship between our two countries and our shared history continues to connect us from the past and into the future. Our experience with Covid for one has taught us how crisis brings friends closer, even in the middle of great adversity. After all, as the saying goes, “friendship is a sheltering tree.”

Thank you to everyone who form part of APCU and congratulations for all your accomplishments throughout the years.

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