13th PH-Spanish Friendship Day to reaffirm ties
BALER, Aurora, Philippines — More than a century after the Philippine Revolution against the then colonial Spain, the two former rival nations have been reaping the good fruits that their historic past has bore, not only their strong cultural ties, but also stronger bilateral relations.
This is what the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day here on Tuesday eyes to celebrate. With the theme “Transitions, Trade, and Transpacific Changes,” the 13th year of the celebration will highlight the economic gains that the countries have shared, owing to their deep historical ties.
“The bilateral trade between Philippines and Spain has been on the upswing over the years, and we are optimistic that this will continue to expand,” said Senator Sonny Angara, former Aurora representative who authored the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Act, in a statement.
Citing government data, Angara said Spain is the country’s 28th largest trading partner, with a total bilateral trade of $329.6 million in 2011.
“Our deep-rooted ties with Spain gives us an enormous advantage over other countries in terms of potential trade and investment opportunities,” Angara said, noting that the Spanish government looks at the Philippines as its most important partner in the Southeast Asian region.
“The Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day commemoration has opened up opportunities for cultural and economic agreements, billions worth of investments and grants, and numerous educational programs,” he added.
Coinciding with the 116th anniversary of the historic Siege of Baler, wherein Spaniards who refused to surrender enclosed themselves in the Baler Church for 11 months, the annual event will also celebrate the valor and heroism of both Filipino and Spanish soldiers in the midst of war.
During the almost-yearlong siege, Filipino Katipuneros allowed carabaos to stray into the church grounds as source of food for the Spaniards. When the siege ended after 337 days, the Katipuneros and Baler natives greeted the surviving Spaniards with cheers.
“June 30 is a day when President Emilio Aguinaldo commended the besieged Spanish soldiers in the Church of Baler for their loyalty and gallantry,” read Republic Act No. 9187. “There is a need to remember the act of benevolence which has paved the way in bridging better relations between Philippines and Spain.”
Prior to the ceremonies, guests will be treated to an eco-heritage tour at the Baler Church and Museum, Doña Aurora Aragon House, Ermita Hill, Diguisit Rock Formation, and Lukso Lukso Islet. A cultural night will also feature performances from Spanish musicians, the Ilongot Tribe, and Belles of Baler, among others.
The ceremonies at the Municipal Plaza of Baler on Tuesday will be graced by Philippine ambassador to Spain Luis Calvo, former Senator Edgardo Angara, National Historical Commission of the Philippines chair Ma. Serena Diokno, businessmen, members of the diplomatic corps, and local and cultural officials.