"We commemorated our independence day with meaningful events participated in by our Filipino community in Taiwan, and with the well wishes of our host officialdom and the diplomatic community there."
To commemorate the 121st anniversary of our declaration of independence last June 12, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan held a diplomatic reception at the Tsai Tsui Yeh Dance Research Institute, a historic structure built in 1925 during the era of Japan’s colonial rule over Taiwan.
Since last year, we have deviated from the traditional MECO practice of holding independence day celebrations in five-star hotels. The cut-and-dried celebrations were highlighted by toasts offered by the Deputy Minister of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and us, after speeches extolling our close economic and people-to-people relationships. We would feature Philippine cuisine, or best approximations of these, along with some entertainment, and our staff dressed in barongs and ternos.
Last year, we chose the former residence of a Taiwanese World War II hero, Gen. Sun Li Ren, also in the middle of Taipei, now converted into an art gallery and garden restaurant. But we asked our staff to come in simple Filipiniana attire, instead of spending on fabulous gowns just to present a “good” face for the country.
And last Wednesday, June 12, we held the affair at the former Japanese structure preserved in the midst of tall downtown Taipei buildings. We brought in a 12-person musical ensemble, composed of ten instrumentalists led by Mr. Bernie Pasamba along with a soprano and tenor. They held a concert where they played classical and popular music from Pilipino to international fare, including President Duterte’s signature song, “Ikaw” to the delight of our guests from the foreign diplomatic community and Taiwan officials. It was a rather casual affair where San Miguel beer flowed along with typical Filipino cocktail pica-pica. We even had a “dirty ice cream” cart, serving ube, avocado and mango flavors, courtesy of a start-up in Metro Manila called Sorbelato. No pork or lechon could be served because of strict quarantine restrictions on account of the African swine fever problem which Taiwan is strictly guarding against.
In all, despite the heavy downpour, it was an enjoyable evening. Two nights later, we hosted the leaders of the Filipino community associations in a dinner with sing-along performances by the guests who had a terrific evening celebrating our national day.
Yesterday, our Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Welfare Office (OWWA) representative in Taipei held the annual Migrant Workers’ Day at the Xingfu Shuiyang Park in New Taipei City, with no less than newly-elected Mayor Hou You Yi gracing the occasion. About seven hundred OFWs from Northern Taiwan had several activities, from a fun run to cultural presentations, highlighted by the presence of former OWWA Deputy Administrator and entertained Arnell Ignacio who delighted the crowd with his funny stand-up acts.
On said occasion, we read the President’s message to our migrant workers in Taiwan, where he thanked them for “continuing to hold in your hearts the values of a true Filipino, even while you are miles away from home.”
“Let us always remember the sacrifices of our forebears which led to the freedom that we enjoy today…use their bravery and patriotism as an inspiration as you reach for your personal goals and partake in our agenda of improving the welfare of our people and nation,” said the President in his message to our Filipino community in Taiwan.
Separately in Taichung for Central Taiwan and Kaohsiung for Southern Taiwan, Migrant Workers’ Day coincided with the commemoration of our National Day.
In all, we commemorated our independence day with meaningful events participated in by our Filipino community in Taiwan, and with the well wishes of our host officialdom and the diplomatic community there.
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We are saddened however by the news reaching us that while our people were commemorating the declaration of independence, several events in the homeland showed that there is yet so much to be done to fully enjoy the blessings of freedom and sovereignty.
The scandals hounding PhilHealth even as Congress has passed the Universal Health Care Law is indicative of how corruption has become so pervasive that it should infect even the health sector.
While millions of our people are unable to access good medical services, some physicians and medical service companies in cahoots with PhilHealth personnel and officials have become so callous as to take advantage of the institution for egregious greed. For shame.
And likewise, we hear about obvious Ponzi schemes and pyramid scams where millions in Mindanao are being gypped of hard-earned savings by “ministries” using false faith and “religion” as masquerade.
How can some people be so callous and insatiable in their greed? And why do so many, despite several scams being exposed in the past, still get fooled?
Government must bear down hard on these scams, else they will always reappear and recur in victimizing the poor and ignorant.
“Kabus padatuon”, the shibboleth used to entice people into get-rich-quick pyramid scams is nothing but crudely-designed false promise, because in truth, only hard work and grit can make the “kabus” (poor) not “datu” (rich) but at least comfortable in life.
And then, also around our national day, a fishing vessel carrying 22 Mindoro fishermen was rammed by a Chinese vessel, and if media reports are true, left to the tender mercies of ocean waves without being helped. This is contrary to international maritime practice and contrary to the norms of human relations.
Our President, who confessed that he regrets having sought the office he now holds with all the problems besetting the nation that seem to be beyond solution if not relief, is emoting a pained cri de coeur.
But we shall overcome despite all the present adversities that as a people and as a young nation we face.