The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines Teodoro Locsin, Jr., and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Loren Legarda, Ambassador Philippe Lhuillier and Rector Magnifico Professor Dr. Joaquin Goyache Goñi of the Universidad Complutense Madrid launched the Extaordinary Chair of Philippine Studies (Cátedra Extraordinaria de Filipinas) at the Universidad Complutense Madrid (UCM) on 13 December 2019.
The Cátedra, which will be offered with credit to students, will offer a multidisciplinary approach in discussing Philippine culture and society. It is envisioned to provide Spanish students in the undergraduate and graduate levels with a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the Philippines. It will include conferences by experts on various fields of Philippine studies, as well as seminars, exhibits and other activities.
In his keynote address, Secretary Locsin stated, “Being an equal and sovereign state, and more importantly, a partner and a friend to Spain, the Philippines considers this a glorious day for Philippines-Spain relations. For today we mark the collaboration between the Philippine government and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid — one of the world’s oldest universities and Spain’s most prestigious academic institution.”
He added, “While Spain left an indelible mark on the Philippines and its people, conversely, we feel there remains a gap — yet to be bridged with Spain — regarding what the Philippines was and what we are today; what Spain was and it is today as well.”
He also remarked on the Complutense’s role in producing luminaries, including the Philippines’ own Jose Rizal, adding that, “Over the many years since, a significant number of Filipino students have graduated from the Universidad under the scholarship program of the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores. Filipinos have been scholars in Spain as well as of Spain. It is about time for the Spanish to formally be students of the Philippines.”
Deputy Speaker Legarda expressed her satisfaction over the fulfillment of the initial collaboration between the Embassy and her office with the establishment of the Cátedra. As former Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, her office has been responsible for the creation of similar programs in the United Kingdom, Germany and Singapore, as well as other cultural diplomacy projects such as the Hibla: Piña-seda Exhibition.
For his part, Ambassador Lhuillier underscored the importance of the program as a way for the Spanish people to have a deeper understanding of the Philippines, stating, “An understanding of our culture is an understanding of the way we do business, the way we treat each other in many aspects of our relations, our sensitivities. I hope it also paves the way for Spanish people to learn more about the 110 million Filipinos, roughly 70,000 of whom live as your neighbors here in Spain.”
He further remarked, “The promotion of our culture through the Catedra would not have been possible without the stalwart support of Secretary Locsin, and the advocacy of Deputy Speaker Legarda to promote Filipino culture abroad… I also wish to acknowledge the academics in this room that we fondly call “Filipinistas” such as Professor Dr. Miguel Luque Talavan, who has constantly contributed to the production of knowledge about the Philippines here in Spain. Finally, to the Rector Magnifico, Professor Dr. Joaquin Goyache, thank you very much for graciously hosting us, in the same way that the Complutense has warmly hosted Filipinos throughout the centuries. This Cátedra, with all your support, will keep this tradition alive for many more future Filipino and Spanish intellectuals.”
Professor Dr. Joaquin Goyache Goñi expressed his thanks to the Embassy and the Philippine Government for their commitment to the project, and conveyed his pride in the joint efforts to establish the Cátedra. As token, he gave a copy of the application form of Jose Rizal to Sec. Locsin, Deputy Speaker Legarda and Ambassador Lhuilier.
Also on hand to enumerate the Complutense’s contribution on research about the Philippines was Prof. Dr. Miguel Luque Talavan, Dean of the Department of Geography and History and a known “Filipinista.”
An exhibit alongside the signing was also displayed, focusing on the role of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in the Philippines’ nation-building exercise as well as its contribution to the production of knowledge about the country.
The Cátedra, signed during the launch, is a result of the Agreement on Academic, Scientific and Cultural Cooperation with the Universidad Complutense de Madrid signed between the Philippine Embassy and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid 08 June 2018 in Madrid.