The Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Israel celebrated the 119th anniversary of its independence at a reception held at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv last week. The occasion also marked the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Israel.

Guests were greeted by the Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Israel, the Honorable Nathaniel Imperial and Mrs. Octavia Imperial. The government of Israel was represented by Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services Haim Katz.

Among other distinguished guests were Mark Sofer, Deputy Director General for Asia and Pacific Affairs of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben; Silvan Shalom, former Deputy Prime Minister; Menache Bar On, former Israeli ambassador to the Philippines; and members of the international diplomatic corps.

Also in attendance were religious leaders, including Msgr Marco Formica and Fr Angelo Beda Ison from the Embassy of the Holy See Embassy, and David Freeman and Barbara and Kern Wisman, representatives of the Bahai World Center in Israel.

Additional guests included prominent members of the business community and the travel and tourism industry: Dr. Eli Fischer and his daughter Sigal Bar On, CEO and chairman of the Dr. Fisher Group; Mr. Boaz Waksman, chairman of Ophir Tours Ltd.; Gideon Thaler, president and CEO of TAL Aviation; and Ms. Ariela Schmida-Doron, owner of the Jerusalem Gold Hotel.

The official ceremony commenced with the singing of the national anthems of the Republic of the Philippines and the State of Israel. Ms. Francis Anne "Princess" Rivera Virtudazo, winner of the World Class Filipino Award for the Performing Arts 2017, sang Lupang Hinirang, the national anthem of the Philippine National Anthem. Hatikva was sung by Ms. Ezra Liz Joy Ng, a 17-year old Filipina student in Israel who won third prize in The Voice Israel competition in March, 2017.


 Ambassador Imperial then addressed the reception. In his remarks, he praised the growing tourism ties between the Philippines and Israel, as well as the cooperation between the two countries in the areas of security and agriculture. The full text of the ambassador’s address is reproduced below.

Minister Haim Katz, speaking in Hebrew, then congratulated the Philippines on the occasion of their national day, recalling that the Philippines was the only Asian country that voted for the UN Partition Plan that created the State of Israel. The full text of the minister’s remarks, as read out subsequently in English by Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben, appears below.

Minister Katz presented a gift to Ambassador Imperial, the minister and the ambassador raised a toast to 60 years of enduring friendship and growing partnership between the Philippines and Israel, and then ceremoniously cut a decorative cake adorned by the flags of the Philippines and Israel in honor of the occasion.

"Princess" Rivera Virtudazo entertained guests with musical numbers, and guests were invited to view an exhibition and photos of furniture designed by award-winning Phiippine designer Kenneth Cobonpue. The exhibit was made possible through Siam Design of Israel. Other supporters of the evening’s events include the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, The Land Bank of the Philippines, Sam Movers - Mustafa and Sons, Mr. Simi Salpeter, Kaanib Ng Bayan, presidential awardee Ms. Maria Merlita Avril Mitchnik, and Mrs. Nanette Keston

A lavish buffet was catered by the Hilton’s banquet services. Among the dishes served was a Philippine noodle soup.

The staff of www.diplomacy congratulates the government, people, and embassy of the Philippines on the occasion of the 119th anniversary of its independence.

The complete text of Ambassador Imperial’s address follows:

The Honorable Haim Katz, Member of the Knesset and Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services, MFA Deputy Director General for the Asia Pacific Mark Sofer, Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben, Excellencies and members of the diplomatic corps, special guests, friends and fellow Filipinos, erev tov, magandang gabi sa inyong lahat. Together with my embassy colleagues, I would like to welcome all of you to our commemoration of the 119th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Israel.
We are very pleased to have as our guest of honor tonight a true champion for workers' rights, including migrant workers, in Israel. Thank you, Minister Katz, for being here and celebrating with us 60 years of friendship and diplomatic ties.
It is my hope that the ongoing negotiations for a labor agreement between our two countries will be successful. We expect it to create better conditions for Filipino caregivers in Israel and end once and for all the unlawful imposition of exorbitant fees that subject them to a form of debt bondage as a precondition for employment. As leading advocates for the advancement of migrant workers’ rights in the Middle East, both Israel and the Philippines, I am certain, will not fail the more than 20,000 Filipino caregivers who are helping Israeli families cope with the challenges of illness and aging.
We have often described our bilateral relationship as one based on an enduring friendship that predates the independence of both states. The challenge in the next 60 years seems to be to transform the promise of that bond into a stronger and more multi-faceted partnership.
Last May, we held the 9th Philippines-Israel Joint Commission Meeting in Jerusalem, which revealed the growing number of areas that now encompass our bilateral ties.
Intelligence-sharing and defense cooperation have become more robust. Two-way tourism continues to rise with Israel becoming the Philippines' fastest growing tourism market last year. Four days ago, I opened the 5th Philippine Tourism and Country Fair in Haifa to promote PH tourism, culture and cuisine to Israelis in the north, and the Philippines now regularly participate in the annual International Mediterranean Tourism Market in Tel Aviv.
Agricultural cooperation remains an important aspect of my country's efforts to better harness its arable land with innovation and technology from Israel. Every year, hundreds of Filipino agricultural students learn, through apprenticeship and classroom study, about Israel's innovative farm practices and techniques as part of MASHAV's Agrostudies program. This program has had the remarkable effect of boosting enrollment in agricultural colleges throughout the archipelago and reviving interest among the youth to work in the agricultural sector. Thanks to MASHAV, countless training programs for Filipinos from diverse backgrounds have also been availed of, building capacity and much-needed know-how for a developing country like the Philippines.
Allow me to give you some good news about the Philippine economy, which has again trumped expectations. After growing by an average of more than 6% in the last seven years, Philippine GDP is poised to grow by 6.5-7% this year, to once again become one of the fastest growing economies in the Asia Pacific. We hope that this consistent and strong broad-based performance will be noticed by Israel's business sector and not just by economists.
Of late, the Philippines has become an important locus of high-profile international meetings and events such as the APEC Economic Leaders and related Meetings in 2015 and the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant, which the Philippines won for the third time in 2016. We are also chairing, as well as hosting, three important summits this year – two ASEAN Summits and the East Asian Summit in November, where the leaders of ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea, the US and New Zealand will be converging in Manila to discuss and decide on matters vital to the prosperity and security of the region.
I cannot fail to mention that the Philippine Chairmanship of ASEAN this year coincides with the organization's golden anniversary. In five decades, ASEAN has become one of the most successful and stable regional organizations in the world today, having integrated its ten economies with the greater East Asian region as well as the Pacific, prevented wars and conflicts between its members, ensured peace and stability for decades, engaged its neighbors in the larger region and beyond, and served as a fulcrum for competing geopolitical and security interests. We are proud to be at the helm of ASEAN this year.
And now, I would like to invite all of you to join me and our guest of honor in raising a toast to the good health and success of the President and the Prime Minister of Israel and to the next 60 years of friendship between Israel and the Philippines. Mabuhay! Le chaim!

The complete text of Minister Katz’s address follows:

Your Excellency, Ambassador Imperial,
and Mrs. Imperial,
Distinguished Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic missions in Israel,
Honorable guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am greatly pleased and honored to represent the Government and the People of Israel in congratulating the government and people of the Philippines as they celebrate the 119th anniversary of their independence.

Israel and the Philippines have always enjoyed friendly relations with one another. One can trace the origins of these warm relations all the way back to World War II when the President of the Philippines made a concerted effort to welcome the Jews of Europe into his country during and immediately after the horrors of the Holocaust. Moreover, in 1947, the Philippines was the only country in all of Asia which supported the UN partition plan to give the Jews a state of their own.

Yet the people of the Philippines do not only care for Israelis through government action. Today there are tens of thousands of Philippino caregivers working in Israel. Many of those Israelis receiving aid from Philippino caregivers are Holocaust survivors whose pain, suffering and loss are beyond imagination. Thanks to these caregivers, citizens of the Philippines have earned a reputation in Israel for their dedication, patience, and compassion. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank all of these good, hard-working people who work - so far from their homes and their families - in order to finance their families and pay for the education of their children so that they should have a better future.

For our part, Israel is glad to be able to reciprocate this dedication and sense of service to the Philippines through MASHAV. Since the establishment of this government agency, thousands of Pilipino students have studied in MASHAV courses and seminars dealing with a wide variety of subjects, including agriculture, health, rural development, etc.

Tourism is another area in which we have seen great progress over the past years with the numbers of tourists increasing from year to year, in both directions. More and more Philippino tourists and religious pilgrims coming to the Hold Land and more and more Israelis discovering the breadth-taking beauty of the Philippine islands.

Unfortunately, in quite a different area, we have recently witnessed the struggle of the Philippines against the cruel attacks of terrorist organizations. We saw ugly pictures of Philippino citizens – most of whom are Muslims – running for their lives from areas of violence. And when these Muslims are being forced to flee during the holy month of Ramadan, no one is left indifferent.
We here in Israel are even more disturbed whenever we see religious persecution. By order of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, our embassy in Manilla has begun to examine ways in which to aid these refugees. The Foreign Ministry has already allocated a special budget for humanitarian aid to these refugees and we expect that in the next couple of days, these monies will reach those who are in need and will ease, in some way, their suffering.
As brothers in arms in the battle against terrorism, we wish the Philippino security forces success in their fight against the forces of radical Islam and we pray with you that peace will once again flourish in each and every one of the thousands of wonderful islands that make up the Philippines.

To conclude, Mr. Ambassador and Mrs. Imperial, I would like to thank you for having invited me to join in celebrating your national holiday which is also a special day for both of our countries – 60 years of diplomatic relations! We not only look back with pride for our accomplishments until now, but look ahead with hope and belief that the future will further deepen our relationship, in all the most important areas.
Mr. Ambassador, please convey our congratulations to your Government and to the Pilipino People on the anniversary of your independence. May the Philippines enjoy peace, stability, growing prosperity and success, and may the ties of friendship between our two countries continue to flourish.

Photos Silvia G Golan

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