“Through the camp, we aim to promote understanding and collaboration among people,” said Shen Xuesong, China Education Association for International Exchange (CEAIE) Deputy Secretary General, during the banquet for the Filipino delegates. The camp is an initiative by Zhao Jianhua, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, 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,” Ambassador Zhao said in the invitation.
The delegates, composed of 18 students and three professors from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), Bicol University (BU) and Philippine Normal University (PNU), spent the week in Beijing and Xi’an discovering and appreciating Chinese culture and heritage while meeting faculty and students from Peking University, Beijing Normal University, Xi’an Jiaotong University and Xi’an International Studies University (XISU). Representatives of the Chinese universities also toured the delegates in their respective campuses. Zhang “Leo” Shangwu, attaché of the Chinese embassy in the Philippines, accompanied the delegation.
Dr. Lourdes M. Portus, professor of communication at UPD and special assistant to the UP President, said “We also met with some university officials. The meetings and exchanges between our students are so valuable and we think these are the highlights of the winter camp. The camp is one of the most important aspects of the academic lives of the students,” during a speech delivered at XISU.
Portus added “Our students may become 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.”
The all-expense-paid trip was a great opportunity to know China from a different perspective, Prof. Ma. Merlie R. Arbo, BU’s team leader and Dean of Office of Students Services, said.
“There’s nothing wrong having diplomatic ties with them. But that doesn’t mean that we have to stop 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, National Aquatics Centre, Summer Palace, Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. The participants were also treated to a Peking Opera.
The delegates also travelled via bullet train to Xi’an, visited Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Mausoleum Site Museum, the Terra Cota soldiers, Shaanxi History Museum and Xi’an City Wall of Ming Dynasty. They also experienced the vibrant Tang Dynasty Music and Dance.
CEAIE is likewise grateful for the chance to strengthen relations between Chinese and Philippine schools, said Shen.
“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,” Shen added.
Meanwhile, for Arianne Agustin, a senior public administration student from UPD, the trip made her understand and know more about China.
“Sa trip na ito, hindi ko nakita na may conflict. Nakita ko na open ang both sides para sa pagkakaroon ng good relationship (In this tour, I didn’t see our conflicts. I saw that both sides are open to establish good relationship),” Agustin said.
Mirriam Badilla, an education major from PNU, said the camp broadened her ideas on China.
“Iyong opinion with each other ay naging broader. Meron tayong first-hand knowledge tungkol sa kanila at di sabi-sabi lang (The opinion with each other became broader. We had first-hand knowledge about them, not just hearsays),” Badilla said.
“We are Asians, we may be diverse in some ways, but we are almost the same. 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.”