Independence season: The busiest time of the year for our embassies abroad

It’s rather sad that June 12, our country’s Independence Day, isn’t celebrated much outside the officialdom here in the Philippines. For most Filipinos, it’s a holiday people look forward to so that they can get a break from the daily rigors of work. Abroad, however, it’s the biggest celebration Filipinos look forward to, the busiest time for embassies as they mount one event after another to cater to the Filipino community they have in the country they’re in while promoting Filipino culture to the locals.

It’s a tough act and I always love observing ambassadors and how they plan around the month of June with National Day receptions for the diplomatic community, cultural events, and activities to keep Filipino traditions alive in foreign places. Filipinos abroad also get the opportunity to get to know their kababayans in the country they’re in. The bigger the Filipino community in that country, the more work there is to be done.

I always love observing ambassadors and how they plan around the month of June with National Day receptions for the diplomatic community, cultural events, and activities to keep Filipino traditions alive in foreign places.

It is, I admit, a tiring time as spouses like myself often help out in these events. It’s a way to give back to the country we represent, after all, and a chance to dress up in our Filipiniana best. Now that we’re at home posting in Manila, I find myself missing the feverish frenzy of June in our embassies. So, forgive me if I indulge myself in telling you about this year’s celebrations abroad that have caught my eye.

Quite fitting, the theme for this year’s Independence Day celebrations is Kalayaan 2022: Pagsuong sa Hamon ng Panibagong Bukas. Almost three years into a pandemic, I think it’s safe to say that most of us are more than ready to get on with the program—pun not really intended—and move to the next chapter.

SEOUL: Friendship and dance

The Philippine Embassy in Korea, headed by Ambassador Maria Theresa Dizon-de Vega, held its first traditional diplomatic reception since the pandemic. To celebrate the occasion, 200 guests consisting of members of the diplomatic corps, Korean government officials, and key partners in various sectors came together.

Dizon-de Vega, who was previously ambassador in Berlin, is known for being quite the active head of post who organizes and tirelessly supports Filipino-led celebrations, especially this time of year. In her remarks, she discussed the sacrifice Filipino heroes made for the country’s independence and the sacrifices modern-day Filipinos continue to make every single day, especially those who work tirelessly during the pandemic and help out in the country’s recovery from it.

She also touched on the robust relationship between the Philippines and Korea, which are celebrating 73 years of diplomatic ties this year. “From our shared sacrifices during the Korean War, which are at the core of our relations, to our constantly evolving engagement in the political, security, defense, economic, cultural, labor, tourism, and people-to-people areas, ours is a bond rooted in history and yet dynamic and forward-looking,” she said.

What’s a Filipino event without cultural performances? Vocalist Yuli Leonor and cultural groups in Seoul performed at the event while some of the guests also got the chance to try dancing the tinikling on stage. A lot of fun and introduction to our culture as guests tried Filipino food, drinks, and fruit throughout the evening.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Tourism Office in Korea also started an interactive travel event at one of Korea’s newest malls, the Hyundai Seoul. It runs until June 20. In 2019, right before the pandemic, almost two million Korean tourists visited the Philippines. It was considered the highest arrival figure among all markets ever recorded in the country.

PH-JAPAN. Philippines Ambassador to Japan, H.E. Jose C. Laurel V (left) with Hon. Kiyoshi Odawara, State Minister for Foreign Affairs (right)

TOKYO: Filipino coffee in focus

The Philippine Embassy in Japan, headed by Ambassador Jose Laurel V, also held a diplomatic reception in the historic Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. During his speech, the ambassador thanked the government of Japan for supporting the wellbeing of the Filipino community, which has a population of about 300,000. He also expressed his appreciation to key players in Japanese industries for their continued engagement in the Philippines.

Even in a raging pandemic, Japanese investments to the Philippines had an astounding average annual growth from the period 2016–2019 to 2020–2021 of 45.2 percent. He added that the Philippines needs to sustain this momentum through deeper and broader cooperation with its Japanese partners.

The embassy and its attached agencies are also using the month of June to further promote one of the Philippines’ best products for import—coffee. We have, without a doubt, have some of the best beans in the world that make for strong and high-quality coffee. At the diplomatic reception attended by 300 guests, a part of the ballroom was dedicated to food and beverage from the Philippines, highlighting barako coffee. Guests had a choice of getting quick, percolator coffee or slow, pour-overs. The tourism department also brought in travel deals to help entice more tourists to visit the Philippines.

Over the weekend, Filipino coffee was also showcased at an expo at popular Ueno park, receiving export inquiries. And on June 14, the embassy also hosted a pour-over tasting event for Filipino specialty coffees at the embassy. With hope, more of the Japanese will soon get to have barako as they read in their coffee shops and as they grab a cup on the way to work.