Philippine Ambassador to Israel Nathaniel “Neal” Imperial led a special two-day celebration to commemorate the 122nd Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence at the Balai Quezon, the Embassy’s cultural center, from June 11-12, 2020.
In line with the Israeli Ministry of Health’s recommendations to practice safety precautions and physical distancing, the Embassy held a scaled-down diplomatic reception, which was streamed live to other guests via the Embassy’s official Facebook page. Only three key representatives from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs were physically present during the reception, namely: Chief of State Protocol Ambassador Meron Reuben; Deputy Director-General for Asia and the Pacific Ambassador Gilad Cohen; and Deputy Director-General for International Cooperation and head of MASHAV Ambassador Gil Haskel.
Friends of the Philippines, led by Knesset Speaker MK Yariv Levin, extended their congratulations through pre-recorded video greetings. The reception featured two performances, also pre-recorded on video, namely: a stirring interpretation of Maalaala Mo Kaya (“Will You Remember?”), a Filipino love song, by award-winning soprano Ms. Francis Anne Virtudazo; and a special cover of “With a Smile”, a pop-rock ballad, by Embassy personnel, who dedicated their performance to the frontliners in the fight against COVID-19, particularly those caring for the elderly and other vulnerable populations.
During the exchange of toasts, Ambassador Imperial shared that this year’s unique celebration had been inspired by the “e-reception” with President Reuven Rivlin for Israel’s Independence Day celebration in April. Noting the challenges posed to diplomacy by the pandemic, the Ambassador admitted that “it has been difficult at times to see, or even imagine, what the way forward might look like.” He concluded, however, that the “shared values and dreams” between the Philippines and Israel will “give us the courage to move forward”, thanking Israel for its support of the Embassy’s efforts to assist Filipinos in distress and its donation of much-needed personal protective equipment (PPEs) to frontliners in the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Ambassador Reuben, Ambassador Cohen, and Ambassador Haskel responded individually to the toast, affirming Israel’s commitment to continuing to pursue strengthened relations with the Philippines. Ambassador Cohen noted that this year, Israel plans to expand its diplomatic presence in the Philippines by deploying a military attache to Manila, opening an Israeli honorary consulate in Mindanao, and possibly opening an Israeli trade and economic office in Manila.
The following day, Ambassador Neal Imperial led a flag-raising ceremony to mark the actual date of the anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine independence, accompanied by Consul General Randy Arquiza, Labor Attaché Rodolfo Gabasan, and Defense and Armed Forces Attaché Colonel Raul Villanueva. Joining them were Guardian of Saint Peter’s Church in Jaffa Fr. Carlos Santos and “Kaanib ng Bayan” Presidential Awardee in 2010 Simha “Simi” Salpeter.
The ceremony was followed by a short program starting with the reading of the messages of Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, all of which were also streamed live on the Embassy’s official Facebook page. Leaders and representatives of the Filipino community in Israel joined the program via pre-recorded videos, wishing their countrymen a happy Independence Day.
For those who were unable to join in real time, the Embassy has uploaded videos of the events to its official Facebook page, Philippine Embassy in Israel: www.facebook.com/PHInIsrael and its official YouTube channel: PHinIsrael–https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg9ZpLDZ4S0CRXy-G_gWe-w.