DISPATCHES FROM THE PHILIPPINES
Common bonds overcome cultural differences
Day 2 - Jan. 5
OUR second day in Manila began with a wreath-laying ceremony at Rizal Park, named after Philippine national hero, social reformer and physician Jose Rizal.
Following the solemn ceremony, Mayor Jose "Lito" Atienza presented me with the key to the city, but it was really a key to the heart of the people of Manila, whose gracious hospitality rivals our own aloha spirit. I was proud to accept the key on behalf of our delegation and all the people of Hawaii.
Editor's note: Gov. Linda Lingle is touring the Philippines in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Filipino immigration to Hawaii. She is writing a daily journal of her trip for the Star-Bulletin.
Mayor Atienza is no stranger to Hawaii, having lived in Honolulu in the late 1960s, where he was a folk dancer with the "Pearl of the Orient" troupe. He shared that his time in Hawaii gave him a deep sense of knowledge about the Filipino people, something he gained while living with a Hawaii Filipino family. Our Hawaii culture has had a lasting impression on Mayor Atienza, something he shares openly with the people of Manila, including his fondness for wearing aloha shirts to the office.
The mayor also joined us at the University of the City of Manila, where the student body gave us an impressive welcome, with students waving Hawaii and Philippine flags and flashing the shaka sign.
I was humbled and honored to receive an honorary doctoral degree in public management. I was especially pleased that the degree came from this particular university, because of its tuition-free policy for the best and brightest Manila students who otherwise would not have such an opportunity. It was clear by the enthusiasm of the regents, faculty and students how much they value education as a means to ensure a better future for Filipinos and the entire nation.
After a tour of the National Museum of the Philippines, we attended a luncheon hosted by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, which has been an instrumental partner in planning our centennial mission. The CFO works to promote ties between the Philippines and the 8 million Filipinos living overseas, including descendants of sakadas in Hawaii.
The CFO has several interests in maintaining bonds with overseas Filipinos, with a special focus on the Philippine economy. Overseas Filipinos remit close to $12 billion a year to their families back in the Philippines, 60 percent of which comes from Filipino Americans and other Filipinos living in the United States.
After lunch, I visited with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at Malacanang Palace. We discussed our common efforts to decentralize government to bring more decision- making authority to local governments -- the provincial level for the Philippines and the county level for Hawaii. I also thanked her for the Philippines' strong partnership with America in the global war against terror and the collaborative efforts to ensure peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region.
Following our meeting, President Arroyo and I unveiled the Hawaii Centennial commemorative stamp. As part of the centennial celebration, a national design competition was held for Filipino artists and students to interpret 100 years of Filipino immigration to Hawaii. I will share more about the winning designs in my next column.
The president took the time to shake hands and pose for photos with members of our delegation, and she took a keen interest in their backgrounds, including which provinces their families were from.
We leave Manila tomorrow and will head to Ilocos Norte after my speech at the Mandaluyong Chamber of Commerce Business Symposium and an appearance on "Wowowee," a top Philippine television show.