MANILA, Philippines—The prestigious Real Academia Hispano Americana de Ciencias, Artes y Letras de Cadiz (Hispanic American Royal Academy of Arts, Sciences and Letters) has a new member from Asia.
Sen. Edgardo Angara is the first Asian to be appointed Corresponding Academic Member of the academy, founded in 1909 with King Alfonso XIII as it first honorary president, to promote cultural ties between Spain and the Hispanic nations of Latin America.
The academy is a corporation under Spain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is based in the historic Spanish city of Cadiz. Its current honorary president is King Juan Carlos I.
“This is a great honor not only for myself but also for our country and I thank the Royal Academy for the incomparable opportunity to be a member of their academic community,” Angara said.
He described the Royal Academy as one of Spain’s leading institutions on the humanities “endowed with the unique role of promoting linkages with Hispanic nations in America.”
According to Angara, the academy was now reaching out to Asia, primarily through the Philippines.
“We share a common heritage and a common goal—to once again become partners in economic, social and academic development,” he said.
Rekindling Spanish ties
Angara was nominated and appointed for his contributions in revitalizing and strengthening the Philippines’ relations with Spain, Mexico and other Latin American nations with which it shares a common history and heritage of being at one time related to the countries in the Iberian peninsula, particularly Spain.
The senator’s efforts to rekindle the Philippines’ historic ties with Spain and Mexico led to the institutionalization of the Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Act and the Dia del Galeon (Day of the Galleon) celebration, according to his profile.
Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day is celebrated every June 30. The first International Dia del Galeon Festival was held in September and October 2010, commemorating the importance of the galleon trade which flourished between 1565 and 1815 between Manila and Acapulco in Mexico. The Philippines played a key role in the trade route using galleons which linked Asia to Europe via Mexico.
Angara was awarded Spain’s Premio Casa Asia in 2010, the first Southeast Asian to win the foreign policy prize. He is also the Philippines’ official representative to the Unión Latina, an organization consisting of 37 member-nations speaking the neo-Latin languages.
The senator was also cited as an outstanding academic and intellectual, having served as president of the University of the Philippines, and for his advocacy of the development of education, culture and the arts.
Alicia Castellanos Escudier, treasurer and member of the Royal Academy’s board of governors, said the board approved the appointment of Angara as Corresponding Academic Member from Manila in February.
The Royal Academy has Corresponding Academic Members from Spain, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Colombia, the Czech Republic and the United States.
Angara said he will be delivering his inaugural address as Corresponding Academic Member before the Royal Academy at a date still to be set.
His responsibilities include sitting as a member of the committees overseeing the publication of the Royal Academy’s books and other publications.
Angara is one of the country’s longest-serving senators, having been elected to four consecutive six-year terms since 1987, except during a mandatory term break from 1998 to 2001. He served as president of the Senate from 1993 to 1995 during the term of President Fidel Ramos.
Angara, who served as president of the University of the Philippines from 1981 to 1987, started his political career when he was elected one of the delegates from Quezon province to the 1971 Constitutional Convention.
He served as agriculture secretary of deposed President Joseph Estrada from 1999 to January 2001, and then briefly served as Estrada’s executive secretary from Jan. 6 to 20, 2001.
A founding member of the prominent Angara, Concepcion, Cruz, Regala and Abello (Accra) law office, he was president of the Philippine Bar Association and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in the 1970s.
In 1980, he became founding president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Law Association.
The Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day Act and the Dia del Galeon were institutionalized through Angara’s efforts to revive the country’s ties with Spain and Mexico, Spain’s colony in the Americas through which it administered the then Philippine colony.
In 2010, Angara became the first Southeast Asian to be awarded Spain’s foreign policy award, Premio Casa Asia. He was also selected to receive the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques—the Commander grade of the French Republic’s Order of Academic Palms—for his contributions to promoting excellence in higher education.
The Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms) is an Order of Chivalry of France for academics and cultural and academic figures.
Born on Sept. 24, 1934, in Baler, Aurora, Angara received a law degree from UP in 1958 and his master of laws from the University of Michigan in 1964.
He has four children with his wife, the former Gloria Manalang.