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EXCERPT OF THE RIZAL DAY SPEECH OF SPANISH AMBASSADOR, DELFÍN COLOMÉ:

Another interesting point that I would like to touch on is the one referring to the Spanish language.

As you know, Spanish is a universal language, spoken by more than 400 million people all over the world, including those belonging to the Hispano-Filipino heritage. But here, we have again another big distortion: The story told is that in the 1987 Constitutional Convention, a lady commissioner and an admired intellectual, took the floor to demand the total abolition from the school curriculum of Spanish as a requirement. She urged dramatically: “We Filipinos must not even remember the so-called legacy of our oppressor”.

This brings me to two questions: Firstly, if that were the case, then by logic, Filipinos should abolish the Catholic religion which is, as well, a legacy from Spain! And, secondly, and more practically -– Would you like to forget the Spanish language because it is the language of the oppressor? Then, so be it. But let me add that in doing so, you will forget the very substantial elements of the heritage of World Literature – works of Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Octavio Paz, Federico Garcia Lorca, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, José Martí, and José Rizal himself!

From the intellectual point of view, I find it indeed very sad that a great number of scholars in this country are not able to read the original masterpieces of the Independence which were written in the Spanish language: the Constitution of Malolos (debated and written down in Spanish); the beautiful National Anthem composed in Spanish by the excellent poet José Palma; the works of Rizal, Mabini, Marcelo del Pilar, Paterno, and the rest of the Ilustrados. Unfortunately, this attitude could adversely affect the formation of the intellectual personality of the Filipino people and all these, by responding to some mistaken nationalistic instinct indoctrinated by a few.

I would like to beg of you to once more not look into the past but to envision the future –- always seeking and accepting that which is the best for one’s country and people. For most of you business people, the Spanish language will open doors to you. About 400 million people speak it around the world and only after Chinese and English it is the largest spoken language today. It is also the second language used on the Internet.

Do you know that in certain areas of the U.S. -– like California -– a law was passed reminding the citizens that English is the official language? And this was so because more and more people were using only the Spanish language. Do you know that in New York City alone, there are 45 radio stations in Spanish and 5 TV channels? (By the way, on my last trip to the US, I saw in some shops at the Miami International Airport posters that said: “We speak English”!) Do you think that the Japanese are pragmatic people? One million are learning Spanish!

And you Filipinos have such an advantage in learning Spanish for you have in your native languages a lot of Spanish words – more than 25% in Tagalog and almost one third in Cebuano.

On the other hand, Spain has been, for a long time, looking to the Philippines as that idyllic place in the Pacific, full of nostalgic familiarity, of old fashioned images that provide us today with some 40,000 Filipino workers in Spain who are totally integrated in our society due to their professional qualifications and sensibilities.

The very energetic and efficient Ambassador that the Philippines had in Spain -- Isabel Caro Wilson -- told me at the beginning of her duty there that she was worried because, the Spanish press wrote about the Philippines only when disasters, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions occurred or some news on shoe collections…

However, as of late, this distorted images have been happily changing. The growth of the Philippines in the last years has been truly spectacular. A growth that has been accompanied by political stability and the solidity of a democratic society.

From around the globe and, of course, form Spain, we follow with special attention that attractive process that is leading the Philippines to a successful future.

And, as I mentioned three years ago in my speech when, in early 1997, I presented my Letters of Credence to the President of the Republic, Fidel V. Ramos, Spain does not only want to be a witness but, a partner to this success.

Having all these mind, let me dear friends, encourage all of you to make possible this broad, open and symetric cooperation between the Philippines and Spain so as to build up our common future – a future consisting in making a common front internationally in the fields of trade and industry, in research and in communications.

Our common future can be based on a common defense and support in the regional organizations where we are member countries: The Philippines conveying the interest of Spain in the ASEAN and APEC; Spain supporting the interest of the Philippines in the European Union as it did recently when Spain strongly supported the Filipino position regarding the problems with carragena in Brussels.

We could, likewise, share a common future in arts, in culture, in intelligence and in every field of modern life.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, everyone of us, in our respective fields of professional responsibilities and personal commitments should strive to make a contribution so that in only a very few years, the balance sheet of our bilateral relations indicates a common success. In other words, of the common glory of our will to have worked together, to have shared again, hand in hand, as equals, our history, our friendship, our welfare.

I am sure that all Filipino friends, sensitive to these arguments because of their history, their traditions and their sentiments and also because of their very promising social and economic future, will join in this project.

I am sure that nothing would have pleased Dr. José Rizal more than this.

Thank you very much for your attention and patience.

Excerpt from a speech of former Ambassador of Spain to the Philippines, His Excellency Delfín Colomé Pujols during Rizal day last December 30, 2000. Emailed by Don Guillermo Gomez Rivera.

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