By Jhon Aldrin Casinas
Narra trees symbolizing the strong friendship and deeply rooted history of Marikina City and Israel were planted at the Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA) last week.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro and Israel Ambassador Rafael Harpaz, together with other city officials and administrators of PSBA, planted six Narra trees at the PSBA campus on September 25.
The mayor said it was at Mariquina Hall, where the PSBA currently stands, that former Jewish refugees who fled the Holocaust during World War II took shelter.
Former Pres. Manuel Quezon opened the countries doors to more than 1,000 Jewish refugees during the war.
“It was at Mariquina Hall, a three-hectare farm owned by President Quezon, which became the first shelter of Jewish refugees who in turn cultivated the land,” Teodoro said before planting the trees at PSBA.
In 1940s, the housing site for the Jewish refugees was then part of Marikina City.
For his part, Harpaz expressed his country’s gratitude to the Philippines, especially to Marikina, for being a “safe haven” for Jews during the war.
He also lauded Quezon for making a very brave decision of allowing Jewish refugees to enter the Philippines.
“It’s very emotional for us Israelis and Jews to be in this place. We choose leaders not to take easy decisions but to take tough decisions. For President Quezon, it was not an easy decision because of the pressure being placed on him. But he decided to take in Jewish refugees despite such,” Harpaz said. “He opened the doors for our people.”
Teodoro said that if given another chance, Marikina will once again welcome Jewish refugees with open arms.
“I can say to you now, I am proud we did not turn a blind eye. And I am proud to say that given a chance to do it all over again, we will still choose to open our doors to you,” he told the ambassador.