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MANILA-A woman visiting the ruins of Fort Santiago here steps away from the portal leading to where the Japanese kept Filipino prisoners during World War II.

"We really need to be big enough to forgive and forget," says the middle-age woman, who was born after the war ended. "But forgetting is hard sometimes."

Perhaps like no other country, the Philippines' destiny has been affected by the two nations that 50 years ago were mortal enemies and today are the world's two greatest economic powers.

The Japanese attack on the Philippines began a day after Pearl Harbor was hit. When Gen. Douglas MacArthur finally returned in 1944 and recaptured the archipelago, 1 million Filipinos had been killed in the war.

Today, the country that's often been called the "poor man of Asia" is on something of an economic upswing. The economy grew 5.1% last year, and 1995 growth is forecast at 6.5%. Two of the biggest engines pushing this growth are the U.S. and Japan.

Leo P. Gonzaga was among the 250,000 Filipinos who fought a guerrilla war against Japan. In 1941, he was 19 years old; today, Mr. Gonzaga is editor in chief of Manila Inc., a Philippine business magazine.

"We are well known for forgetting and forgiving," Mr. Gonzaga says, when asked about memories that might linger from the war years. "We tend to forget."

It's impossible to ignore the economic role of Japan in the Philippines today. Government figures show the Japanese have been the country's largest foreign investors since 1981. Looking back further, the U.S. emerges as the top investor.

The U.S. and Japan are also the leading importers of goods from the Philippines and the top exporters to the Philippines.

More Americans visit the country than any other group, followed by the Japanese.

Despite the growing power of other Asian economies, Mr. Gonzaga believes that Filipinos will continue to look favorably on U.S. marketers in their country.

Past efforts to "Philippinize" advertising have failed, he says, advising that to make advertising a hit here, "All you need is Michael Jordan."

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