Chinese holidays are heavy on the first day of the month. Yiyi (one-one) is New Year’s Day following the Gregorian calendar. Yiyi in the lunar calendar often falls in February so we get to celebrate New Year twice, the toots with the sun, and the dragon dance with the moon.
March focuses on good works in remembrance of PLA’s Lei Feng, the exemplar who died from a fallen telephone pole while directing a backing truck. No heroics on the battlefields here! Women’s day follows without much hope of changing patriarchy anytime soon, Mao’s "women hold half of the sky" notwithstanding.
April has tomb-dusting day, Qingming, the day of ancestors following April Fool’s Day. Wuyi (five-one), May 1 is workers’ time in this proletarian state. June 1, liuyi (six-one) has the attention on children, and this June saw the lunar duanwo (double five), the dragon boat festival. August 1, bayi (eight-one), is Peoples Liberation Army day. October 1, shiyi (ten-one), is the national day.
July 1, Chiyi (seven-one), is Gongchandang Day when the red flag with the hammer and sickle waves in the wind. Literally, "everyone together group" day, this Communist Party does not connote images of dour Lenin-Stalin straight jackets, but more of lively countryside communities. We recall that Mao Zedong ideologically broke away from Lenin-Stalin mentors in the '60s and proclaimed socialism with a Chinese face instead.
But first, we trace our bias. The colorful USAF Colonel Edward Lansdale masterminded Ramon Magsaysay’s Malacañang Palace ascendancy in 1953 and created villains out of the local insurgents, the Hukbalahap, a Filipino militant group that fought the Japanese on WWII. It was deeply into agrarian reform. This upset the landowners.
When Mao defeated Chiang Kaishek’s Kuomintang, America convulsed with the question, "Who lost China?" The questioned reflected two illusions; 1) that China’s Chiang was in the U.S. pocket, and 2) that the nationalists’ style of governance was more along America’s tradition than the socialist one of the Gongchandang.
America in the Philippines was not about to let the Huks replace the American boys in government so Lansdale’s ad copy savvy promoted Magsaysay as the poor boy who could do good on agrarian reform, while the straggling Huks were just plain no-good. The Huks were too much like other revolutionaries in the Asian mainland. Besides, Mao had the temerity to cross the Yalu and interfere in Uncle Sam’s designs on the Korean peninsula.
Part of Lansdale's tactic was a film shown to the public of the evils of organized labor in factories and agrarian unrest. Our Methodist Church’s mobile dental clinic annually visited my neck of the woods in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan, northern Luzon in the early '50s. Their nightly showing of the film conditioned me to think that commies were the sly slimes of the world! But Lansdale was wrong. Magsaysay was no reformist, and the Huks are still around agitating for land reform.
The '60s Filipino nationalism was pro-democratic but anti-American. U. S. arrogance in Vietnam grated against the intellectual grain. When China’s East is Red song was aired, it caught our imagination. Yuenan’s Uncle Ho Chi Minh replaced our affectionate ties to colonial masters.
Add giddy America of the '60s after MLK’s powerful I Have a Dream speech quickly got drenched in the gloom of JFK’s assassination, and our USIS-promoted illusion of American institutions being citadels of civil liberties and liberal learning shattered (I studied in Kentucky, Texas, and North Carolina), we lent an ear to the call to reclaim our Asian identity.
Still trusting that America had an umbrella big enough to contain the diversity of the planet, we acceded to the call without breaking ties with our host. Serendipitously, it also gave us the image of the “earthrise.” The paradigm of the global village became the basis of our personal and corporate identity ever since.
The Everyone-Together-Party this first of July paraded the cultural gifts of 56 ethnic groups within Zhongguo. Never mind that more than 80 percent of the population is of the predominant Hans! The cultural renaissance underway is getting airtime. Phoenix Legend, aka Feng Huan Chuang Qi, has one of their songs used by Houston Rockets’ cheerleaders to shake their booty. The dance tune, from a Neimenggu (Inner Mongolia) beat, is now popular on dance floors around the world!
Deng Xiaoping in the '80s led the Communist Party into a market economy with Chinese characteristics. Party Chair Hu Jintao, whose term ends this year, keeps the nation on the path toward a harmonious society with a practical eye on what works and a scientific approach to governance. To be sure, the rough edges of doctrinaire socialism remains, and diehard ideologues still command a following within the Party. But the image of the untrustworthy commies of my youth is quite different from the CCP young members who sit in my Oral English classes. Indeed, ideology is not at the core of Zhonnguo’s preoccupation. The Tao (the method, the practice, the way) is!
And the Way in food and performances in our everyone-together-party was just fine!
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Jaime R. Vergara (email@example.com) previously taught at San Vicente Elementary School on Saipan and is currently a guest lecturer at Shenyang Aerospace University in China.