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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Portugal rediscovered and defined

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“Thanks to an increasingly connected and global world, anything Filipino and Portuguese need not be strange to each other”

MY FAMILY and I arrived in Lisbon six months ago, with perspectives of Portugal in amber gray tones — not knowing exactly what it could offer us, the programs and projects we could undertake here then amorphous and undefined.

In my late 20s, my wife and I, with a child in tow, traveled all over Europe, delighting in our first diplomatic mission.

We never had the good fortune to visit Portugal, but as fate would have it, here we are now, serving the fourth of our long missions that have taken us to Eastern Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East, to places where we had never been nor set foot on.

Perhaps it is my inability to understand the universe and its ways that has led me to attribute to fate it would take us more than 25 years of diplomacy before we could glimpse mesmerizing Lisbon and taste magnificent Portugal.

As I immerse myself in its rich culture, delving into the unique details of its history, tradition, and people, I find myself wondering what could have happened if I had come to Portugal earlier.

Would fate have given me another post?

Fate and history are an awkward duo, effectively the pair of golden keys that can unlock the paradoxes we surrender our limited wisdom to.

The timelines of both the Philippines and Portugal seemed like two parallel lines that would never meet.

Six months ago, this was disproved when our lines crossed after 28 years of Filipino diplomacy.

Similarly, the parallel lines of the Philippines and Portugal were disproved with the lives of Filipino migrants fully integrated into the latter, our people slowly incorporating into their consciousness the Lusophone – (Qui parle le portugais) — traditions and culture, and the Portuguese more aware of Filipinos than ever.

Philippine history is linked to Spain, the collective consciousness of many Filipinos focused on the larger side of the Iberian Peninsula.

Their language (though spoken by only a minority in the Philippines), their wines, their Netflix series, and their people form a mindset among Filipinos.

As I understood gradually my fellow countrymen in Lisbon, appreciated the range of wines from the country’s regions, absorbed the Portuguese way of thinking and living, I reflected on what could have been, on what might have happened if Magellan had sailed under the Portuguese flag.

The study of history is often a complicated path.

The moment one realizes the fate of states, nations, and peoples depended on small details, then considered tiny and inconsequential, triggers “what could have been” and “what would have happened.”

History, we have learned, always toys with the lives of people, nations, and states.

Both Portugal and the Philippines celebrate their National Days just two days apart.

(Editor’s Note: The Philippines celebrates the proclamation of its independence on June 12 while Portugal Day on June 10 marks the death of national literary icon Luís de Camões, whose epic poem ‘Os Lusíadas’ chronicles the voyages of Portuguese explorers, symbolizing the bravery and determination defining the Portuguese spirit).

Thanks to an increasingly connected and global world, anything Filipino and Portuguese need not be strange to each other.

In the last few weeks, we had Filipino artists sharing our music at the Festival Terras das Sombras, in Mértola, in a concert at the Basilica of Estrela, in Lisbon, and showcasing our textiles and creativity at a fashion event in one of Lisbon’s finest hotels.

In celebration of Dia de Portugal, I join the Diplomatic Corps in official state festivities in Castanheira de Pera, Pedrogão Grande, and Coimbra on Northern Portugal with other official programs in Lisbon and the vibrant fiestas in the charming Alfama and Chiado districts.

Plans are being developed for more music, visual arts, and even Filipino cuisine to fill Portuga’s senses.

Strategies are being studied to bring Portuguese wines to Manila and the Portuguese people to the lush green islands of the Philippines.

Both Governments are considering more official visits between them.

Agreements are being signed between universities for even more intensive exchanges of academic professionals and partnerships in research areas.

My family, Lisbon, the Philippines, and Portugal are now intertwined in a dazzling display of a line intersecting a plane not just once or twice, but infinitely.

(The author, graduate of computer science from the Ateneo de Manila University, and a master’s degree in public management from the University of the Philippines, is Philippine ambassador to Portugal.)

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