The rendition of the Philippine National Anthem, above, along with that of the Spanish National Anthem, raised the curtain on the June 12 festivities at the InterCon
By Marta Lasota
Photos: M. Lasota unless stated otherwise
Monday, the 12th of June, marked the 119th annual celebration of the Philippine Independence Day. Here in Spain, from all the way across the globe, this Filipino holiday was celebrated in an event hosted by the Philippine Embassy of Madrid. In the historic InterContinental hotel, located in the heart of the city, there was a long night of festivity commemorating the said historic milestone as well as another: the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day.
The Philippine Independence Day marks the anniversary of the Philippine Revolution and the subsequent termination of the Spanish colonial rule in the archipelago. The Spanish colonial era (1521-1898) ended with the Filipino revolutionary forces led by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo proclaiming the new nation’s much-sought independence on the 12th of June 1898.
Although the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day is usually observed on the 30th of June, at the InterContinental in Madrid the occasion was celebrated simultaneously with the Philippine Independence Day. Ironically, while the first celebrates the end of Spanish rule, the second commemorates the lasting relationship that came to develop between the two countries and bind them to each other over the years.
The Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day originated from the Siege of Baler (from 1st of July 1898 to 2nd of June 1899) during which the Filipino revolutionaries laid siege to a church in the town of Baler, Philippines, where colonial Spanish troops were holding out. When at long last the sadly depleted troops accepted that the Filipino-Spanish war was over and vacated the church in surrender, Emilio Aguinaldo, by then President of the young Republic of the Philippines, ordered that the Spanish holdouts be treated not as enemies of the Filipino people but as honored friends to be given safe conduct to Manila prior to their return to Spain.
It didn’t seem likely then but Aguinaldo’s chivalrous act would lay the cornerstone of the Filipino-Spanish friendly relations that was being celebrated at the InterContinental. Republic Act No. 9187, signed on February 5, 2003, officially established June 30th as the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day, profoundly strengthening relations between the former colony and the old colonial master.
Today, Spain and the Philippines have indeed developed the kind of friendship that contributes to strong economic and political ties between the erstwhile antagonists. In fact, there are now more than 150,000 Filipinos living in Spain. This large community has become an integral part of the workforce in Spain, employed in sectors from education through the large services sector to medicine. And judging by the event held in the InterContinental Hotel on Monday night, this community will continue to contribute to the prosperity of their host country.
The celebration at the InterContinental centered around the theme of Pagbabagong Sama-Samang Balikatin, or “All together for change.” Building on this theme, the ideals of unity and harmony rang clear from the beginning of the celebration through the rest of the night.
The celebration opened with a rendition of the Spanish National Anthem, the Marcha Real.
Masterfully played on the piano by a Filipino musician, the Spanish National Anthem is one of four national anthems in the entire world that holds no official lyrics. Yet its brisk melody, forever ingrained into the hearts of Spaniards, found many nodding along during the performance. Directly after, the Filipino National Anthem, Lupang Hinirang, was sung beautifully by a Filipina singer accompanied by guitar, eliciting grand applause from both the Filipinos and their guests.
Following the numbers was a speech from Fidel Sendagorta, Director for Asia of the Foreign Ministry of Spain. Sendagorta spoke of the longstanding, historical relationship between the Philippines and Spain saying that although these two do have a complex history, now is a time to look to the future.
After Sendagorta’s speech came the new Philippine Ambassador’s. His Excellency Philippe Jones Lhuillier reiterated Sendagorta’s theme, speaking about the unique Filipino-Spanish political, economic, and cultural relations. But it was his passionate emphasis on this being a bilateral partnership that made the theme of the evening, “All together for change,” to shine through. The Ambassador’s speech ended on an optimistic note for both countries: “change for the better and shared growth.”
Champagne was then served all around, to drink a toast to the future of these two great countries.
After that, sumptuous dinner was served buffet style. From rice noodles through crispy pork to spring rolls, the delicious fare consisted of typical rich Filipino flavors. An extensive table of desserts featuring cassava cake and buko salad, two sweets centered around coconut, was swarmed by the guests. And parked right beside was an iconic Philippines ice cream cart, flown all the way from the Philippines for the occasion, serving cute cones of ice cream to the delight of both the young and the old.
The celebration continued. Old as well as newly-made friends socialized, drinking from the free-flowing bar and picking up seductive sweets and tapas from laden trays that the waiters carried around ceaselessly and tirelessly.
As the festivities began to wind down, and the background music began to fade out, one could clearly see how perfectly the East-West cultures had blended on that night. With goodbyes in Spanish, Tagalog, and even in English, the atmosphere was truly one of unity. A unity exemplified by the friendship between the Philippines and Spain which transcends cultures, languages and, as was seen that night, even time and space.
Lovely Filipino women in their exquisite native costumes at the InterCon festivities
Mesdames Edna Lhuillier (right), wife of Ambassador Philippe Jones Lhuillier, and Alice Fernandez (left), wife of Minister Consul-General Emmanuel Fernandez, and two attendees
Ed’s note: Guidepost wishes to thank the Philippine Embassy in Madrid for their invitaion to Ms. Lasota, author of this article, without which it would not have been possible for her to cover the marvelous event at the InterContinental Hotel.
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