Select students and professors from three Philippine universities participated in the one-week in-depth Winter Camp in China hosted by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China to the Philippines.
“We aim to promote understanding and collaboration among people,” said China Education Association for International Exchange’s (CEAIE) representative Shen Xuesong during the welcoming banquet for the Filipino delegates.
This is also the goal of the said camp participated by 18 students and three professors from the University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPD), Bicol University (BU) and Philippine Normal University (PNU).
The camp, which featured the encounters with fellow students and teachers from top Chinese universities from Dec. 7 to 14, is an initiative by Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in partnership with the CEAIE and the Chinese Ministry of Education.
“I am confident that this would be a great opportunity to further enhance our amicable ties,” Jianhua said in the invitation.
The delegates spent the week in Beijing and Xi’an discovering and appreciating Chinese culture and heritage while meeting students from esteemed universities in China. Zhang “Leo” Shangwu, attaché of the Chinese embassy accompanied the delegation.
Among the partner universities, which welcomed and gave orientation to the delegates were Peking University, Beijing Normal University, Xi’an Jiaotong University, and Xi’an International Studies University. Their international offices toured the students and professors in their respective campuses.
The all-expense-paid trip was a great opportunity to know the real China, BU’s team leader and Dean of Office of Students Services, Dr. Merlie Arbo said.
“There’s nothing wrong if we have diplomatic ties with them. But that doesn’t mean that we have to stop to standing for our rights. Although we have issues, the only remedy is for us to talk,” Arbo said. She added that BU looks forward to the Chinese embassy offering scholarships to its students and providing them a chance to participate in similar initiatives. Only UP and BU students enjoy the Chinese ambassador’s scholarship program to date.
The camp also included tours to historical scenic spots in Beijing such as the China Science and Technology Museum, Beijing National Stadium, the National Aquatics Centre, the Summer Palace, Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall, the Tian’anmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. The participants were also treated to a Peking Opera in Beijing.
On the fifth day, the delegates travelled via bullet train to Xi’an, visited Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, the Terra Cota soldiers, Shaanxi History Museum, and Xi’an City Wall of Ming Dynasty and experienced the vibrant Tang Dynasty Music and Dance.
Dr. Lourdes Portus, professor of communication and special assistant to the President of UP said that the camp is beyond just touring China. “We are also meeting some very important people”—officials of the Chinese universities. She told the University officials and students that, “the meeting and exchanges between our students are so valuable and we think that these are the highlights of the winter camp. The camp is one of the most important aspects of the academic lives of the students,” Portus said during a speech delivered at the Xi’an International Studies University.
Portus added that the opportunity is vital for universities on their way to becoming global.
“Our students here may become the future leaders of our countries. And I think this exchange will really be a contributory factor on how they will lead and will always remember China as an inspiring country,” Portus added.
CEAIE is likewise grateful for the chance to strengthen relations between Chinese and Philippine schools, said Xuesong.
“We’re very happy to see that bilateral relations between China and the Philippines are good. We also believe that the young people are the future not only of our countries but of the world,” Xuesong said.
Meanwhile, for Arianne Agustin, a senior public administration student from UP, the trip made her understand and know more about China.
“Good relationship, ‘yun yung na-establish natin (We established good relationship). Dito sa trip na to hindi ko nakita na may conflict, (In this tour, I didn’t see our conflicts)” Agustin said. “Nakita ko na open yung both sides para sa pagkakaroon ng good relationship. (I saw that both sides are open to establish good relationship).”
Moreover, Mirriam Badilla, an education major from PNU said the camp broadened her ideas on China.
“’Yung opinion with each other ay naging broader (The opinion with each other became broader). Meron tayong first-hand knowledge tungkol sa kanila at di lang sabi-sabi lang (We had first-hand knowledge about them, not just hearsays),” Badilla said.
Aside from the memorable and enjoyable experience, the camp also opened doors for understanding the Chinese culture and educating Filipinos, Agustin said.
“Gusto ko rin linawin yung ilang bagay na mali at ipaliwanag yung relationship na meron tayo at kung ano yung cultural heritage na meron sila na gusto kong ma-adapt ng Filipinos tulad ng talagang pagmamahal nila sa sariling kultura at wika, (I also want to spread awareness on the wrong beliefs about our relations with China and introduce to others their admirable pride for cultural heritage and their language)” Agustin added.
Indeed, all participants agreed that the camp made them know China better and gain insights and new perspective on Philippines-China relations more.
“We are Asians, we may be diverse in some ways, but we are almost the same. And therefore we are very glad that we are establishing a strong cooperation in academic and also cultural aspects,” Portus said. “The scenic places we visited are all windows of the heart and soul of China. All of the people we met are all epitomes of success that we may want to emulate.”
Professors Portus (UP), Arbo (BU) and Malcampo (PNU) expressed gratitude to the Chinese Ambassador and look forward to a continuing exposure of the scholars to Chinese people, events and places.