A call for peace and friendship

Published May 13, 2022, 9:00 AM

by Carol RH Malasig

EUROPE DAY From left: NPDC Deputy executive director Jezreel Apelar, NPDC executive director Cecille Lorenzana-Romero, Mme. Nicole Weismann, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, and EU Delegation Ambassador Luc Véron

Quite serendipitously, Europe Day coincided with this year’s national elections in the Philippines. Celebrating a day early, the Delegation of the European Union in the Philippines lit up the Rizal monument in the colors of the EU flag—blue and yellow.

The musical dancing fountain at Rizal Park also lit up in the same colors with streams of water shooting upward and dancing to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” which has been adopted as the official anthem of the EU.

“We are honored and humbled to light with European colors the monument dedicated to the Philippines’ national hero Jose Rizal this evening,” said European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Véron. “Against the backdrop of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, Europe Day reminds us that peace is at the core of the European integration project. A value that we share with the Philippines. It is a wonderful symbol of the ties that bind the Philippines and the European Union.”

BLUE AND YELLOW The Rizal monument was lit up in the colors of the European Union for Europe Day (EU Delegation)

Ambassadors and embassy representatives as well as officials from local government attended the event. The list included Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, Department of Foreign Affairs Office of European Affairs assistant secretary Jaime Victor Ledda, and National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) executive director Cecil Lorenzana Romero. The NPDC handles the care, management, and rehabilitation of the Rizal and Paco parks.

In her remarks, Romero highlighted the partnership between the NPDC and the EU in mounting the event. Romulo-Puyat talked about Rizal Park’s European connection, making it the perfect venue.

“An icon of nationalism, [Rizal Park] has strong European roots. Having been built by the Spanish and given the original name of ‘Paseo de Luneta,’” she said. “Throughout the Spanish period, it became a place for recreation and socialization.”

TIME TRAVEL Guests got to ride one of the Intramuros Administration’s Tranvias (EU Delegation)

Romulo-Puyat also shared that Rizal Park, in its Noli Me Tangere Garden in particular, is also home to a very special fountain. Our national hero, Jose Rizal, used to drink from it when he was an assistant ophthalmologist in Wilhelmsfeld, Germany in 1886. The red, sandstone drinking fountain was donated to the Philippine government on Dec. 30, 1964 as a symbol of German-Filipino friendship.

The Noli Me Tangere Garden was inaugurated in June 2011 in time for Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary. A bust of Rizal’s close friend, Czech intellectual Ferdinand Blumentritt, can also be found in the garden.

The Noli Me Tangere Garden was inaugurated in June 2011 in time for Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary. A bust of Rizal’s close friend, Czech intellectual Ferdinand Blumentritt, can also be found in the garden. Blumentritt campaigned for Philippine independence and was one of Rizal’s closest confidants.

After the speeches, guests of the event also got to ride a tranvia from the Rizal Park Visitor’s Center to the Rizal Monument and back, thanks to the Intramuros Administration. In the early 20th century, the tranvia was a streetcar system, which served Manila and its surrounding areas.

UNITED EU country ambassadors and embassy representatives led by EU Delegation to the Philippines Ambassador Luc Veron, attended the event (EU Delegation)

Europe Day is held on May 9 every year to celebrate peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historic “Schuman Declaration” that set out the idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.

This declaration led to the establishment of the European Communities, now the European Union, a union of 27 European countries founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.

On May 10, the façade of De La Salle University was also lit up in blue and yellow to commemorate Europe Day. The university is an official repository of education and information materials about the European Union under its European Research and Documentation Center. DLSU is also part of the Consortium of Universities in the Philippines offering a European Studies Program.

Both events at Rizal Park and DLSU were livestreamed on the EU Delegation’s Facebook page. They can still be viewed by the public through this link