Last week, on Israel’s 70th anniversary, Israel and the Philippines celebrated their friendship in a “day of jubilation” at the historical urban Luneta Park in the Philippines. In addition to celebrating Israel’s rebirth as a nation, the event commemorated 60 years of bilateral relations between the Philippines and Israel.
At the Quirino Grandstand, at Ground Zero in Luneta Park, a giant flag of Israel was unfurled. The Guest of Honor, Effie Ben Matityau, the Ambassador of Israel to the Philippines, was present at the event.
According to Christopher “Kit” Layog of Barangay ni juan, a Christian Filipino NGO that participated in the ceremony, the goal of the celebration was gather all Christian denominations in the Philippines to “celebrate through praise and worship and proclaim blessing towards Israel and its people.”
Layog’s NGO is also part of a group of Filipino Christians who celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles (Sukkot), as is traditional for some Christians.
Layog said the giant friendship flag presented at the celebration “promotes our bond with the Jewish Nation of Israel.”
He told Breaking Israel News, “This celebration commemorates the Philippines’ support of the UN Resolution 181 on the partition of Palestine and the Creation of the State of Israel in 1947. The Philippines was the only Asian country to support the creation of the State of Israel.”
Diplomatic relations between the two countries began in 1957 and on February 26, 1958, both countries signed the “Treaty of Friendship,” leading to the opening of an Israeli embassy in Manila and the Filipino embassy in Tel Aviv in 1962. In 1997, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which formalized a bilateral political dialogue between the countries’ foreign ministries.
Before that, Layog said, about 1,300 Jews fled Europe during World War II and established roots in the Philippines, and have been a part of the nation’s rich history of welcoming other nations in the Philippines.
Today, the Philippines is home to a small but thriving Jewish community of roughly 200 members, while there are believed to be roughly 40,000 Filipinos living in Israel. The overwhelming majority of them are young, female, and working in Israel as caregivers for elderly, sick and severely handicapped Israelis.
The Philippines is also planning on moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem following the US embassy move in May.
“Israelis and Filipinos share common democratic values, freedoms and civil rights, which are manifested in the span of Philippines and Israel bilateral relations,” said Layog. “The Philippines has had a long open-door-policy relationship with the country of Israel, and that relationship has grown over the years as a relationship of cooperation and mutual trust.”
One of the proofs of trust, he said, is that “Filipinos are not required any visas in entering the promised land.” He further maintained that the cooperation in trade, economy, culture, technical assistance, science, academic exchanges, and tourism make the relationship vital for both countries.
The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, sent his greetings to the organizers and attendees of Israel and Philippines Friendship Celebration.
“For many years, our people have shared historical ties rooted in kindness and compassion for humanity,” said Duterte. “Bonded by mutual respect for our cultures and beneficial exchanges between our countries, we have laid the foundations for an enduring and flourishing partnership.”
He added, “our collective efforts have borne fruit and resulted to significant progress in promoting political dialogue and enhancing trade, tourism, and business between our nations. As we face the challenges ahead, we look forward to closely working with you in strengthening and developing our bilateral relations for the benefit and welfare of our peoples.”