Philippines Celebrates Independence Day in Israel, Israeli Minister Congratulates New Philippine President

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14 June 2016, Tel Aviv, State of Israel –Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial led the celebration of the 118th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence with a diplomatic reception on 14 June 2016 at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv.

Addressing about 250 guests from the Israeli government, diplomatic corps, business community, and leaders of the Filipino community, Ambassador Imperial highlighted the close ties and enduring friendship between Israelis and Filipinos, who share the same love for their respective countries and who are both committed to democracy, social justice, peace and security.

Highlighting the Philippines' economic achievements, investment opportunities and positive business atmosphere, Ambassador Imperial encouraged the guests, some of whom were CEOs of Israeli companies, to visit the country and explore tourism and business opportunities there.

Ambassador Imperial stated that under the incoming administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, who won the May Presidential elections with a landslide victory, the Philippines will ensure continuity in economic policy with a strong emphasis on restoring peace and order, curbing criminality and decisively addressing graft and corruption. Israel may expect the next administration to build on the existing close ties between Israel and the Philippines, especially in the areas of tourism, agriculture, defense and counter-terrorism.

In her speech, Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel conveyed her congratulations to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, adding that Israel looks forward to advancing the special relationship between the two countries under the new administration. She also expressed deep appreciation to outgoing President Benigno Aquino III and his administration for their friendship and support.

Minister Gamliel thanked the Philippines for its "open doors" policy for Jews fleeing the Holocaust, and for its vote in favor of the United Nations Resolution in 1947 that paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel. She said that now it was Israel's turn to "open its doors" to Filipinos who come to Israel to work and to train in various fields, including in agriculture. She mentioned that more than 6,000 Filipinos have received training in Israel.

Ambassador Imperial noted that Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East where Filipino workers' contribution to society is recognized and their labor rights are protected. About 20,000 Filipinos work as caregivers in Israel.

At the end of their respective speeches, both Ambassador Imperial and Minister Gamliel raised their glasses in a toast to the vibrant relations between the Philippines and Israel.

Also present at the reception were high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including Mr. Mark Sofer Deputy Director General for the Asia Pacific and Chief of Protocol Meron Reuben

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The guests were treated to performances by X-Factor Israel champion Ms. Rose "Osang" Fostanes and Israeli singer Mr. Tal Kravitz, with their rendition of popular Filipino songs "Manila, Manila", "Anak" (Child), a song that became an international hit and was translated into at least 27 foreign languages including Hebrew, and "Dahil Sa'yo" (Because of You), a classic Filipino love song.

Embassy personnel greeted and mingled with the guests in their traditional attire, with the men dashing in their Barong Tagalog and the ladies resplendent in their Filipiniana gowns.

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The guests loved the kosher version of a Filipino traditional cuisine called batchoy, a popular noodle with chicken dish that originated in Iloilo, a province in Western Visayas. Its original ingredients were "kosherized" to cater to Israeli requirements. Mr. Steve Gargaritano, an Embassy staff who is a native of Iloilo, taught Hilton Hotel's chef how to prepare batchoy and achieve its authentic taste.

The Embassy's reception also featured an exhibition of traditional Filipino attire and handicrafts, as well as a corner devoted to Philippine tourism. The It's More Fun in the Philippines tourism videos projected continuously on screens inside the hall showed guests the many beautiful tourist attractions offered by the country.

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Tourism remains a bright spot in the bilateral cooperation between Israel and the Philippines, with Israeli tourist arrivals in the Philippines continuing its double-digit growth of 36% in the first four months of the year. In 2015, about 12,000 Israelis visited the Philippines. Israel remains a favorite pilgrimage destination of Filipinos who consider a trip to the Holy Land a reaffirmation of their Christian faith.

Flag-raising ceremony

On 12 June 2016, the Embassy held a flag-raising ceremony attended by its personnel and their families, Filipino community leaders, and friends of the Embassy. The early morning commemoration was highlighted by the simultaneous singing of the National Anthem and the raising of the Philippine Flag, followed by the reading of the messages of His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. and Foreign Affairs Secretary Jose Rene Almendras.

During the short program, the Embassy personnel and guests sang patriotic songs led by Ms. Malou Eligado, a member of the Filipino community in Israel. Traditional Filipino breakfast was served after the ceremony. --END--

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