While the Filipino and American forces struggled to hold their positions in Bataan from January to April 1942 in the defense of the Philippines against the Japanese invasion, they were subjected to the heat of the sun, hunger and incessant attacks from the Imperial Japanese soldiers. But the attack was not only physical but psychological and ideological as well.
Here is one flier I found at the archival collections of Jorge Vargas. It’s one of those fliers the Imperial Japanese threw at the Filipino and American soldiers holding the lines in Bataan at the time. It contains the best summary of the logic behind the Japanese propaganda called the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Using their knowledge of Philippine history, the Japanese would use the familiar but somehow truthful rhetoric of European and American imperialism in Asia and its effect on the still-born Philippine independence of June 1898. While we do not deny the evils of colonization and imperialism in Asia done by Western powers, we should also not deny that many have also ridden the bandwagon of a “unified Asia” or the “Asia for the Asians” for their own ends. Anyone advocating a concept of a ‘unified Asia’ against the ‘West’ should take heed of this history lesson. The world is not as simple as dividing its hemispheres of East vs. West, of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ Especially in the historical context of the Philippines. There are extremes to avoid. There are dichotomies too simplistic to be real.
By fighting the oppressors, the Empire of Japan (of the early 20th century) had become an oppressor itself. And the Philippines was caught in the middle.