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Arts and Mind

Phil-Swiss, Phil-German Interaction

Recalling/making history

Leonor O. Goguingco

TWO recent events in the latter part of November, 2002, both recalled and made history: the Swiss Embassy reception celebrating 150 years of Swiss-Philippine diplomatic relations at the Peninsula Manila Hotel, and the bestowal of the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on journalist Rosalinda L. Orosa.

Because of lack of space, we can only quote the most significant portions of the speeches of H.E. Swiss Ambassador Lise Faure, the erudite Vice President of RP and Guest-ofHonor Teofisto T. Guingona Jr., H.E. German Ambassador Herbert Jess, who bestowed the medal in behalf of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, and that of awardee Ms. R.L. Orosa.

On the first occasion, paintings of Swiss scenes and landscapes by prolific and celebrated Filipino painter Manuel Baldemor and sculptural works made of wood, motherof-pearl and other Philippine materials by the ingenious Swiss Hans Brumann were on exhibit. Too, wonderful musicand-dance program was presented by the Kaliwat Company from Mindanao mostly from Davao and by the Trio Swiss Tone - flutist, accordionist and cellist.

The event was hosted by H.E. Swiss Ambassador Lise Faure, who said: "….It is a particular honor and pleasure to welcome Vice President Guingona as guest-of-honor, and I am most happy to commemorate with all of you tonight 150 years of excellent relations between Switzerland and the RP through this evening's 'Swiss-Filipino Cultural Interaction.'"

"But what are we actually celebrating today? Though not as punctually as the Swiss tradition would have it, we are celebrating 150 years of friendly and fruitful SwissPhilippine relations that began in 1851 when a decision to open a Consulate in the Philippines was taken by the Swiss Government-Manila, a few years later, our first official representation in Asia.

"These relations are made first and foremost of the historical link between our two freedom-loving national heroes, William Tell and Jose Rizal. Rizal, the universal genius and patriot translated into Tagalog Schiller's drama Wilhelm Tell who embodies the values and ideals of freedom and civil rights for which Rizal gave his life…

From the speech of VicePresident Teofisto Guingona: "I am sure you are all familiar with an outstanding landmark of the City of Manila, the Rizal Monument at Luneta by the bay.

"The Rizal Monument was the work of Richard Kissling, a Swiss sculptor who won, in a 1907 Open Competition, the commission to sculpt the monument. He executed his design in his native Switzerland, the finished monument was shipped to Manila in 1913.

"Kissling was the same sculptor who had in 1895 created the statue of William Tell, the National Hero of Switzerland, the monument stands in Altdorf, in the Swiss Canton of Uri.

"This fact is auspicious, for Rizal had a profound admiration for the Swiss People's fervent attachment to freedom and their respect for human dignity."Relations between the Philippines and Switzerland may be traced to the early 1800's when Swiss travelers, traders and missionaries ventured into East Asia.

"The Swiss Federal Council first considered establishing a Consulate in Manila in 1851, 151 years ago. The Swiss Consulate was actually opened, however 11 years later, 1862, the first Swiss Consulate in Asia. The Philippines and Switzerland established diplomatic relations on the thirtieth of August 1956, Fifty six years ago.

"Many Swiss companies have acquired stakes in several export ventures located in the Philippine Economic Zones. These enterprises have total exports amounting to almost two million US Dollars annually.

"There is also a marked increase in our exchanges of visits from various sectors of our societies.

"It is on these notes of enduring friendship that I say Mabuhay to you for the continued invigoration of the Philippine-Swiss Relations in this millennium and beyond."

From German Ambassador Herbert Jess' speech: "Twenty-seven years ago Miss Orosa had been already awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Merit in 1975 for her journalistic achievements and her outstanding coverage of German cultural presence in the Philippines. It seems that she had thereby been encouraged in her continuous efforts to give the cultural relationship between the Philippines and Germany a prominent place in her work as a writer and a journalist, so that 27 years thereafter, the Federal Republic of Germany has acknowledged once again a lifelong commitment to the arts by decorating her with one of the highest awards my country has to offer.

"Her life was indeed marked by the conviction that the arts have a role to play in our modern society. By presenting the arts as a meaningful tool to create and enhance mutual understanding among peoples and nations, she has contributed largely to mobilizing the cultural forces of our contemporary civilization, thus making the world a more humane place to live in."

Ambassador Jess also agreed with David Rockefeller III that: "Today, the arts play a very special role in allowing us to honor and celebrate that which is special and distinct in each of us while, at the same time, recognizing and appreciating - and yes, sometimes lamenting - our shared human condition."

From Awardee Orosa's response: "Years ago, Helga Kuhne, widow of Director Hubertus Kuhne, drove all morning with her adopted Filipino baby from Munich to Berlin just to see me briefly. When Helga accompanied me that morning to a department store, pushing a pram with the baby Enya in it, astonished Berliners must have assumed I was a very rich Asian tourist with a German governess caring for my little daughter. That same afternoon, Helga drove back to Munich, thus spending the whole day on the road while stopping every now and then to change the baby's diaper and feed her from milk bottles.

"When I made a personal visit to Munich, Helga insisted on my staying in her apartment. For three straight nights, despite my vigorous protestations, Helga slept on the floor with Enya, while I, like a princess, slept on the double-bed. Now I ask you, is there any difference between Filipino and German hospitality? How I wish we Filipinos could add to our virtue of hospitality, which is praised worldwide, German thoroughness, efficiency and, above all, discipline!"

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all!