MANILA, SEPTEMBER 29, 2006 (STAR) By Wilson Lee Flores - A youth is to be regarded with respect. How do you know that his future will not be equal to our present? – Confucius

Do you want to learn more about the world’s oldest continuous civilization with 5,000 years of recorded history, the dynamics behind the world’s fastest-growing major economy, the humanist teachings of Confucius, the poetry of Li Po, the military strategies of Sun Tzu, the exploits of Three Kingdoms-era heroes and other legends, the fabulous cuisines beyond dim sum and Pancit Canton, the ancient martial arts principles which inspired Jet Li, Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan? Then be a Gokongwei Scholar in China!

After pledging half of his multibillion-peso personal fortune during the August 11 dinner reception for his 80th birthday, rags-to-riches taipan John Gokongwei, Jr. recently told The Philippine STAR that he is soon launching a unique scholarship program for the best 40 to 50 Filipino college graduates, offering approximately a half million pesos or $10,000 each per year to study Chinese language, economics, culture and history in Beijing or Shanghai. He prefers to undertake this and other educational projects rather than donate to museums or churches.

Gokongwei said: "All my scholars should be non-Chinese in ethnic origin or culture, because I want more people in the Philippines to benefit from Chinese civilization. It is tragic that many in Philippine society today still misunderstand or do not appreciate the positive qualities of true Chinese culture and how the world is being changed by the inexorable rise of China as the new superpower. Those scholars to be chosen should have the potential to become future leaders. I hope the Philippines will benefit from the China economic miracle, and not be too fixated on only the West. Even the United States and Europe have many thousands of students studying at universities in China, and Western nations are now positively engaging China for mutual benefit and for world progress. The Philippines should not be left behind."

Gokongwei mentioned this new philanthropic project on September 20 to Ateneo de Manila University president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J. and Gokongwei School of Management dean Prof. Rudy Ang. In explaining why non-Chinese scholars would be chosen, Prof. Ang said: "He told us that it is already expected that we members of the ethnic Chinese minority should know and cherish our own Chinese culture, so he wants the rest of Philippine society to better understand Chinese culture and the China phenomenon."

This visionary project of Gokongwei reminds me of the late British businessman and the mining tycoon who founded the De Beers diamond giant Cecil John Rhodes. He established the Rhodes Scholarship program to help educate young Americans and other youths of the world to study at his alma mater Oxford University in his native England. Many of those Rhodes scholars eventually became leaders, such as former US President Bill Clinton, the late Senator J. William Fulbright who originated the famed Fulbright Fellowship program, German social theorist E. F. Schumacher, anti-Nazi German patriot Adam von Trott zu Solz who was executed by Hitler in 1944, Canadian ex-Prime Minister John Turner, ex-Congressman and New York University past President John Brademas, Australian ex-Prime Minister Bob Hawke, US Senator Richard Lugar, former NBA star and 2000 US presidential candidate Senator Bill Bradley, former NATO supreme commander and 2004 presidential bet General Wesley Clark, author and now CNN Chairman/CEO Walter Isaacson, among others. Gokongwei Scholars Similar To 20th-Century Us "Pensionados"? The new Gokongwei project also reminds me of the pensionado scholars of the American government starting in 1903, which allowed the brightest Filipino college students from all provinces to study in the US, which was then the rising new superpower of the world. From 1903 to 1910 alone, over 200 Filipino students (including only eight women) became pensionados to America. Even more pensionados followed. Remarkably, many of these pensionados landed among the "Who’s Who" of Philippine politics, science, medicine, law, academe and various professions.

Unlike the Spanish and Japanese colonizers who brought so much destruction to the Philippines, the American colonizers were more progressive by pioneering public schools and the pensionado project. I suggest to US President George W. Bush that he start a similar program now for the best Iraqi and Afghan youths to study in the US, so that Iraq and Afghanistan can better appreciate the dynamics of American democracy, the essence of Western civilization and the magnificence of free enterprise economics.

Can Philippine STAR readers please enlighten me as to who the other US government pensionados sent to study in American schools in the early 20th century are and what happened to them after? Perhaps your grandparents or the mayors of your towns, the founders of your provincial hospitals or the pioneer scientists in your province?

I remember University of the Philippines Regent and Melo Commission official Nelia Teodoro Gonzalez once telling me that her late father Dr. Nicanor G. Teodoro of Laguna was a pensionado who completed his master’s degree in science and doctorate degree at University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin from 1919 to 1923, then came back to become the first plant pathologist in the Philippines. The young Nicanor G. Teodoro’s journey to the US by ship took 30 days.

One pensionado whom I highly admire for his integrity and moral courage –which should shame our many so-called leaders who exemplify cynicism, moral ambivalence and excessive corruption – was the late Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos. This great man was executed by the Japanese military forces in Mindanao for refusing to cooperate with their puppet government during World War II, giving in to no excuses or alibis for compromising with evil. As a kid, he was sent as a pensionado to the United States, and studied at Santa Clara College, California, then Northwestern University in Illinois to earn his law degree, and George Washington University to finish his master’s degree.

If I’m not mistaken, the late Senator Lorenzo Tañada also studied at Harvard as a pensionado and he was the young post-war prosecutor against many in our political elite who were Japanese collaborators in World War II but who were eventually freed from jail.

Another pensionado was Dr. Conrado Benitez, who enrolled at the University of Chicago where he acquired his MA and his PhD, founded the College of Business Administration of the University of the Philippines, and became its first dean. He was also one of the founding trustees of the Philippine Women’s University, the first university for women in Asia. He was chairman and co-founder of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and trustee of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) founded by 1960 Magsaysay Awardee and Yale/Princeton alumnus Dr. James Yen of China, both of which were dedicated to uplifting the rural masses. In 1986, IIRR based in Silang, Cavite also received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding.

Will the best and the brightest Filipino college graduates who qualify for this visionary Gokongwei scholarship program be able to maximize their talents and be able to help lead the Philippines to economically, culturally and diplomatically benefit from the rise of China as the ultimate new superpower of the 21st century?

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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