as the politicians around me dream (or say they do) of ASEAN integration, here I am, in the early 20's, learning about the history of the region of the first time. how do we integrate, when we know so little about each other? or maybe it's just my history.

we all know the success stories in south east asia, these are well-rehearsed. i also learnt in secondary school of the glorious past civilizations in the indus valley, and the dynasties of china, and the fables by which singapore came to be named.

but i was more likely the descendant of landless peasants from the south of china, perhaps rushing to pontianak during the west kalimantan gold rush. claims have been made even, that LKY had his origins there. some even say semarang. who knows?

i think the british never really sank their tendrils into us, as they did with india, or the dutch with the east indies or the spanish with the phillipines. the stories were inspiring enough, but now i know even better ones. it was the phillipines that lit the way, with their mascot josé rizal! so this guy was apparently a polymath, poet and a freemason. why were all hyper-intelligent polymaths freemasons? perhaps it was the mensa of the times.

then it was indonesia. vietnam, but that got complicated, malaysia, singapore. i have a feeling we were the cushiest to begin with, no deep swell of anger. i think there's a well worn lesson that everyone thought that post-war, the phillipines would lead the region, being the first to achieve national conciousness and with a significant english background and ties to the US. the centre director here has been to both places, and they are highly similar. too much feuding with each other. having a sense of who they are, they dispute and argue.

so what most see as two countries of maids and nurses, but they have a glorious history we don't really understand. why do we draw our labour from them, and not other neighbouring countries who are equally impoverished? is it something in their culture? they definitely have much, much better literature.

but i am the descendant of a gold prospector, and they of friars, peasants and the feudal aristocracy. of course our fates differ.

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