The Philippines Celebrates the Anniversary of Its Independence
The 118th anniversary of the Republic of the Philippines’ proclamation of its independence fell on June 12 of this year, but it was celebrated on the evening of June 14, at a reception held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Guests were greeted by the Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Israel, the Honorable Neal Imperial and Mrs. Octavia Imperial. The government of Israel was represented by Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel.
Among the guests were Mark Sofer, Deputy Director General for Asia and Pacific Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and members of the diplomatic corps.
The official ceremony commenced with the playing of the national anthems of the Republic of the Philippines and the State of Israel.
In his address to the assembled, Ambassador Imperial noted that the Philippines has just elected a new president, ushering in a new administration that he is sure will continue to foster the good relations between the two nations. Following are excerpts of his remarks:
“It is a great honor to have with us tonight a woman minister and distinguished feminist. As an ambassador of the most gender equal country in the Asia-Pacific -- the Philippines has had two women presidents, and the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is a woman -- we share common ground with Israel in supporting the struggle for gender equality globally.
“The Filipino nation was forged in the crucible of the first successful anti-colonial revolution in Asia: 118 years ago, the Philippine flag was raised and the national anthem was sung, for the first time, in Kawit Cavite, signaling the birth of Asia's first republic. Thanks to the courage, vision and sacrifices of our national heroes, some of whom were women, the Philippines is now a stable democracy with a resilient economy.
“Together with the 27,000-strong Filipino community in Israel, we also take pride in celebrating this year, the 30th anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution. People Power, Philippines style, was a unique popular uprising that overthrew 14 years of authoritarian rule through peaceful and democratic means. This mode of peaceful political change has inspired a wave of democratization worldwide that reverberates to this day.
“Next year, Israel and the Philippines will celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations, an important milestone in the relations between our two democracies and an opportunity to build on our common thrusts, particularly in the areas of tourism and agricultural cooperation.
“In September last year, the Philippines was privileged to be the first country to be visited by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. Since his visit, tourism exchanges have seen a dramatic rise. Israelis are beginning to discover why it's more fun to visit Palawan, Cebu, Bohol and Boracay, which are some of the best island destinations in the world, according to prestigious travel magazines. Inbound tourism from Israel increased by 34% last year, while the number of Filipinos going on pilgrimage tour to the Holy Land continues to rise.
“Agricultural cooperation remains a significant component of our bilateral relations. Our minister on food security and agricultural modernization was in Israel early this year to explore how Israeli agri-tech could boost agricultural production and improve water management in the farm sector back home. MASHAV training programs for many Filipinos from diverse backgrounds are continuing, and the Philippines greatly appreciates the consistently large number of Filipino agricultural students studying and working in Israeli farms through the Granot Agrostudies Program.
“The Philippine economy is doing remarkably well. After growing by an average of more than 6% in the last six years, the economy is poised to grow by 6.5-7% this year, one of the fastest in the world. The Philippines is now widely acknowledged for its steady rise as a dynamic economic growth hub with sustainable inclusive development, a vital and responsible member of the global community committed to uphold and abide by the rule of law in defending its territorial integrity and supporting multilateral institutions.
“Under the incoming administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who won the May Presidential elections with a landslide victory, the Philippines will ensure continuity in economic policy with a strong emphasis on restoring peace and order, curbing criminality and decisively addressing graft and corruption. Israel should expect the next administration to build on the existing close ties between Israel and the Philippines, especially in the areas of tourism, agriculture, defense and counter-terrorism.
“I cannot fail to mention the almost 20,000 Filipino caregivers living and working in Israel, helping many Israeli families cope with the challenges of an aging population. They are the reason why there is so much goodwill between Israelis and Filipinos. I wish to thank the government of Israel for allowing them to work here, one of the few countries in the Middle East where our workers' contribution to society is recognized and their labor rights are protected.”
In her remarks on behalf of the government of Israel, Minister Gamliel recalled the history of relations between the Philippines and the Jewish people and the State of Israel, beginning with the initiative of former Philippine President Manuel Quezon to welcome Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and continuing with the Philippines’ vote in the United Nations in 1947 to support the creation of the Jewish state -- the only Asian nation to do so. She also noted that some 6,000 Philippine students have studied in this country in the framework of Israel’s educational outreach to the developing world. Minister Gamliel concluded her remarks with words of praise for the professionalism and dedication of Philippine caregivers assisting Israel’s elderly population.
After the remarks of the ambassador and the minister, the two joined in a ceremonial toast and in cutting a decorative cake adorned by the flags of the Philippines and Israel.
The evening’s entertainment featured Philippine vocalist Rose “Osang” Fostanes, a recent winner on the Israeli television show X-Factor, who was accompanied by Israeli musician Tal Kravitz. There was a small exhibit of Philippine crafts and clothing, and promotional tourism videos of the Philippines were screened on monitors.
A buffet was catered by the Hilton’s banquet services. Among the dishes served was a Philippine noodle soup.
Photos Courtesy of the Philippine Embassy