Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe that I do not want it.
Now I understand 
why the old poets of China went so far
and high 
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.
"The Old Poets of China" by Mary Oliver

The UP Asian Center is deeply saddened by the passing of Ambassador Jose Santiago “Chito” L. Sta. Romana, and would like to express our sincerest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. Ambassador Sta. Romana was Professorial Lecturer at the UP Asian Center in 2015, where he taught Politics and Governance in China.

“A Very Sad Day”

“It’s a very sad day,” shared Jaime FlorCruz, a fellow China expert and currently Professorial Lecturer at the UP Asian Center, in an email to Asian Center colleagues. “Our ambassador Chito Sta. Romana will be remembered for helping steer the often stormy bilateral relations [between the Philippines and China] with his calm and steady hands. He knew China inside out. He knew how to handle even the most prickly issues. He showed charisma and patriotic pride, which was tempered with humility and humanity. Most of all, Chito's heart had always been in the right place. Whatever he did, he kept as his overriding goal the best interest of our country and people. I know he had been guided by that mission in the 50 plus years that I've known him. I lost a dear friend. We Filipinos lost a true patriot.”
Ambassador Sta. Romana’s passing was announced 19 April 2022 in a Facebook post by the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs. A graduate of De La Salle College (DLSU), he first came to China in the early 1970s, but was forced to stay because of the political perils of Martial Law.
All in all, he lived in the country for nearly 40 years, serving as Beijing Bureau Chief of ABC News from 1989 to 2010. Fluent in Mandarin, he obtained his MA in International Relations from Tufts University in 1987, and was appointed Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China in 2016. 

Photo: Ambassador Sta. Romana in 2015 with Asian Center Students. Used with permission.

Promoting China Studies and Philippines-China Relations

In the intervening years, Ambassador Sta. Romana played a pivotal role in China Studies in the Philippines and in fostering Philippines-China relations. A founding member, later President, of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS), which was established in 1987, he was one of several Filipinos interviewed for the volume, China Studies in the Philippines: Intellectual Paths and the Formation of a Field (2019), which was co-edited by Professor Tina S. Clemente of the UP Asian Center.
The volume examines the Philippines’ leading China experts, and features the chapter, “Social Evolution and Situational Learning in Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana” by Robin Michael Garcia.
Among other publicatons, Ambassador Sta. Romana edited a 2013 issue of PACS’ Chinese Studies Journal (CSJ), Philippines-China Relations: Sailing Beyond Disputed Waters, which includes his article, “China’s Claim in the South China Sea: A Historical Burden.” Last year, he co-edited a special issue of CSJ as a tribute to Dr. Aileen Baviera (1959–2020), Professor at the UP Asian Center.

Asian Center Connections

Throughout the years, Ambassador Sta. Romana maintained formal and informal connections with the UP Asian Center. In August 2016, he delivered a presentation, “China’s Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy Implications” in a two-day symposium, "In Search of a China Strategy: Unpacking the Bilateral and Regional Dynamics of Philippines-China Relations," held at the UP Asian Center. A few months earlier, he served as a discussant in a lecture by Professor Aileen Baviera, “Domestic Stakeholders in Philippine Maritime Disputes; Impact and Influence on Foreign Policy,” which was later published in the journal, Public Policy, by the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies.

The UP Asian Center offers M.A. degrees in Asian Studies with four fields of specialization: Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia. The Center also has an M.A. program in Philippine Studies that allows students to major in Philippine society and culture, Philippine foreign relations, or Philippine development studies. The Center offers a Ph.D.  program in Philippine Studies in conjunction with the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy. For an overview of these graduate programs, click here. The Asian Center also publishes Asian Studies: Journal of Critical Perspectives on Asia, the latest issue of which can be downloaded at the journal's website. For other news and upcoming events at the Asian Center, click here.