Filipino Community in Madrid Celebrates 121st Independence Day and 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Through a Holy Mass at Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral

Figure 1. Ambassador Lhuillier delivering his remarks to the Filipino Community
Figure 2. Members of the Filipino Community filled out the entire crypts section of the Almudena Cathedral

In celebration of the 121st Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence and the 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day, Ambassador Philippe J. Lhuillier, together with the officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy in Madrid, joined over 400 members of the Filipino Community in a Holy Mass at the crypts one of Madrid’s most important landmarks, the Almudena Cathedral, on 30 June 2019. The mass was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Mark Angelo Martinez Ramos, SVD and co-celebrated by Fr. Carlos Simbajon and other Filipino priests based in Madrid.

The Mass was also held in commemoration of the 120th Anniversary of the End of the Siege of Baler, when in 1899, the 33 Spanish soldiers who were holed up in a church in Baler finally surrendered. Emilio Aguinaldo gave them safe passage, enabling them to leave for Spain without harm.

In his remarks to the Filipino Community, Ambassador Lhuillier reflected on the role of Filipinos in the story of the Los Ultimos de Filipinas, “As Filipinos, we often wonder, where are we in this story of Los Ultimos de Filipinas? What was our role? How do we find relevance in this story?

Allow me to quote, what the Spanish Chief of Staff, General Francisco Varela said during our national day celebrations: In the story of Los Ultimos de Filipinas, we must also not forget that the survival of Spanish soldiers, after surrender, was due to the decency of Filipinos. General Emilio Aguinaldo gave them safe passage, forbidding anyone from harming the Spaniards or treating them as prisoners of war, and calling them ‘friends, not enemies.’

He further said that these Spanish soldiers ‘owed their lives to Filipino benevolence.’

As Filipinos, especially as Filipinos here in Spain, it is crucial that we remember who we were in this story. We were people who fought for our country, and when we were in favorable position, we had the decency and benevolence to grant freedom to the Spaniards so that they may go back to Spain, and live the rest of their lives in the comfort of their homes and families.

This is who we are as a people, and this is the sort of Filipino decency that we must continue to show to each other and our Spanish friends.”

Ambassador Lhuillier also offered an image of the Santo Niño de Cebu, and highlighted the 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of Catholicism in the Philippines in 2021.

He futher enjoined the Filipino Community to stay united, stating, “This evening, a big part of our community is here, united in celebrating the Holy Mass. I pray that this unity continues on outside the walls of this Church, and each and every one of us cherish our beloved Filipino community, and cherish belonging to the community. ‘Tapang ng bayan, malasakit sa mamamayan,’ are principles to live by as we continue on our lives as Filipinos in Spain.”

The Mass served as the culimination of the Embassy’s activities held in the month of June to commemorate the 121st Anniversary of Philippine Independence and the 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day. Other activities held were a diplomatic reception, Independence Day flag-raising and breakfast for the Filipino Community, awarding of the Sampung Pinakamatagal na Manggagawang Pilipino sa Espanya at Andorra, the three-day Cine Festival de Filipinas, the concert of the Pundaquit Virtuosi String Orchestra at the Ateneo de Madrid, Arnis and Philippine Games at a public school in Madrid, and a wreath-laying for the 158th Birth Anniversary of Jose Rizal.

Figure 3. An all-Filipino group of priests co-celebrate the Holy Mass