Viva Europa 2021: Sama-Sama Together

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

Do you remember this lovely evening? You were with a friend at this concert. What was it again – jazz, Mahler, folk, rock? After that, you had a beer and you were still transported and yet totally immersed in the moment. Do you remember the friend who told you about this movie she had just watched and loved? The next day you rushed to the theater and called your friend.

Do you remember this novel you were carrying from the park bench to the bus and to your bed beyond sensible hours? The printed words painfully harbored by the writer were transforming in vivid images and emotions in front of your eyes. This memorable concert, this movie and this book but also this painting we discovered in that museum define a part of who we are, not only our tastes and affinities but our culture. Culture is about all these friendly encounters and conversations.

Viva Europa 2021 is our invitation to such encounters and conversations. It highlights the best of European poetry, music, arts and crafts, film, cycling and space science. Traditionally held from April to June, Viva Europa now spans more than a decade to celebrate the founding of the EU and the friendship between the EU and the Philippines. Through the years, it has become our platform for European artists to interact and to engage in a cultural conversation with their Filipino counterparts. It also became a concrete manifestation of our cultural cooperation within the EU community and with local cultural stakeholders in the Philippines.

Viva Europa has managed to stay on for more than 10 years now in the country because of the collective efforts and cooperation of the EU Delegation with the EU community and partners.

The embassies of Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Austria and Poland; Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Dela Salle University, Far Eastern University and the Cultural Center of the Philippines have joined the EU Delegation this year. The result is an exciting array of online cultural events for Filipinos of all ages.  Moreover, what is unique in this festival is that it features the diversity of European cultures. This diversity is our richness and what makes Viva Europa inherently distinctive.

Culture is not the icing on the cake of diplomacy. It fosters cooperation. Cultural cooperation counters stereotypes and nurtures dialogue, open-mindedness, dignity and mutual respect. It is also a means to deliver important social and economic benefits both within and outside the EU. Culture is an essential element of our foreign policy.

Viva Europa successes

Children always have a special place in the EU and even more now as the hardest hit segment of the population due to COVID-19. “Lakbayin natin ang EU” or “Journey to the EU” was initiated with the Museo Pambata to enable children to experience European culture, heritage and arts even if they do not have to travel to Europe. Before the pandemic, European diplomats and staff would go to the museum on Roxas Boulevard, Manila to provide a rich cultural program of arts, crafts, literature and film for Filipino children.

During the pre-pandemic years, Inshallah Montero and Satuye Collins Lambey have become regular hosts in what was then a week-long “Lakbayin natin ang EU” festival. Both have appreciated the exposure. Inshallah is an awarded filmmaker pursuing her Master’s degree in filmmaking as an Erasmus Doc Nomads student in Portugal. Satuye graduated cum laude with a BS in Music Business Management and pursued his music career by performing and exhibiting his music in Berlin.

Kid performers in Lakbayin natin ang EU, Gabriel Lazaro and Jacques Dufourt, are now successful artists and musicians, having graduated from Berkeley School of Music and from the University of the Philippines.

The Musica FEUropa choral festival, meanwhile, has become a stepping-stone for chorale groups to participate in international competitions and to reap awards for the country.

Immersed in Philippine culture

For someone who is eager to learn more about Philippine culture, one of my first stops arriving in the Philippines was at the La Solidaridad Bookshop in Manila.  Getting acquainted with Philippine literature is one of the best ways to get soaked up in Philippine culture. I became, to say the least, a bit emotional getting up close and personal with the writer of “The Rosales Saga” whose novels I read with intense interest. Reading up on his literary collections has given me a deeper insight into the history and complexities of culture in this country.

Nick Joaquin is another writer I have admired. “The Woman Who Had Two Navels” has made me probe deeper into the Filipino psyche as I was transported into the world of a delusional woman who was trapped into two cultural worlds, that of the Spanish and the American.

I have also enjoyed reading the works of young contemporary writers, from Randy Ribay to FH Batacan. And I know I still have to read more and when this pandemic is over, I will surely watch a Philippine concert, visit a museum and engage in conversations with Philippine artists.

Culture is just a meaningful conversation but it makes us understand each other better. It traces back our roots. It gives us a foresight to our future. It makes us better human beings.  We just need to come and work together and respect each other’s cultural uniqueness.

Culture, after all, binds us. It is the true meaning of “Sama-Sama Together.”

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Luc Veron is head of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines.


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