The Philippine Embassy in Madrid, led by Ambassador Philippe J. Lhuillier and Madame Edna Lhuillier, celebrated the 121st Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence, 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day and the 120th Anniversary of the End of the Siege of Baler, with a diplomatic reception held on 12 June 2019 at the Intercontinental Madrid.
Almost 600 guests from the diplomatic corps, Spanish government, cultural institutions, the academe, business community, and Filipino and Spanish communities graced the event. Guests of Honor were the Honorable Ms. Ana María Salómon Pérez, Director General of North America, West Europe, Asia and the Pacific of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, and General Francisco Javier Varela Salas, Chief of Staff of the Spanish Army.
In his remarks, Ambassador Lhuillier underscored the strides made by the Philippine Government under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, particularly the country’s steady economic growth, infrastructure development which has seen strong participation from Spanish firms, and the passing into law of the Universal Healthcare Bill and Magna Carta for the Poor.
According to the Ambassador, “This is why, during the successful conduct of our general elections last month, our people voted overwhelmingly for administration candidates in the Philippine Senate, thereby strengthening our President’s mandate of continuing to implement real, lasting change. We also note that this election saw the largest overseas voter turnout for any midterm election in our country’s history. Within our jurisdiction in Spain, we received over 8,000 ballots, a record number.”
Ambassador Lhuillier also cited the close cultural and historical ties between the Philippines and Spain, and expressed his excitement over both countries’ preparations for the 500th Anniversary of the Arrival of Spain in the Philippines in 2021, and the Circumnavigation of the Globe by Ferdinand Magellan and Sebastian Elcano.
Director General Salómon Pérez highlighted the economic growth that the Philippines is experiencing, its remarkable record in maintaining gender balance in the work place that makes the country one of the leaders in his area in the world, and the upcoming quincentennary of the Spanish arrival in the Philippines and the circumnavigation of the globe.
To commemorate both the 17th Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day and the 120th Anniversary of the End of the Siege of Baler, General Varela spoke of the enduring resonance of the 33 heroes of Baler to Spanish peoples, and the role of Filipinos in their survival and eventual return to Spain. In 1899, the 33 remaining soldiers, often called “the last of the Philippines” (los últimos de Filipinas) who were holed up in a church in Baler, finally surrendered and were given safe passage by Emilio Aguinaldo.
General Varela stated, “Their bravery is inspiring, for Army and civilian peoples alike. Their single-minded determination to survive and hold on to the fight for Spain, is something that resonates in all of us, which is why the story of the heroes of Baler endure to this day. Yet in this story, we must also not forget that their survival, 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.’”
The evening’s very special guests also included Spanish-Peruvian Nobel Prize Winner for Literature and Miguel Cervantes Prize recipient Mario Vargas Llosa, and socialite and TV host Ms. Isabel Preysler.
Guests were entertained by a performance by a young Filipino band that sang original Filipino music, Filipino food including an ice cream cart with Filipino flavors including ube, and the presence of Filipino and Filipino-associated liquor and beer brands Fundador, Don Papa, Mahou San Miguel’s Manila beer, and wines from Filipino-owned vineyard in Spain Bodega Williams and Humbert.