Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr., US Ambassador Sung Kim and Dean of Diplomatic Corps Gabriele Giordano Caccia at the Fourth of July celebration in Makati Shangri-La.
Red, white & blue, stars over you…
PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - July 9, 2019 - 12:00am

“Red, white and blue, stars over you! Mama says, Papa says, ‘I love you!’”

This is the brief but catchy nursery rhyme Filipinos that were schooled by the American Thomasites recited in their childhood, and which they passed on to their children and grandchildren. I myself know it by heart.

The late Philippine Star founding publisher Max V. Soliven wrote in his widely read column By the Way in July 2006, four months before he passed away, “We remember those childhood lines, like the echo of a mantra from the past, to this day. For our national flag, too, is Red, White and Blue — and our Three Stars (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) fly over us all.”

He also wrote, “One thing we must learn from Americans is how, for all the waves of immigration and years of despair, the Americans love their flag.”

Red, white and blue, stars over you echoed like a refrain in my mind during the Fourth of July celebration last week hosted by US Ambassador and Mrs. Sung Kim at the Makati Shangri-La Rizal Ballroom. Thousands of red, white and blue stars dangled from the ceiling of the ballroom, which were also draped in red, white and blue swaths of fabric.

Stars and stripes.

It was a celebration that resonated with pomp and ceremony, yet it also exuded fun. Fun! Top Philippine government officials and diplomats shared the red carpet with Marvel comics superheroes, and I’m not sure now who got more requests for selfies. The selfies with the superheroes came with the blessings, not of the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, but of Ambassador Kim himself (who is known as the “George Clooney of the diplomatic corps”).

Two Harley Davidsons and a Wrangler jeep were at the foyer of the Rizal Ballroom and a variety of food stations, including Burger King, Cold Stone and Baskin-Robbins, were inside.  The US Embassy staff gave away loot bags heavy with Hershey’s chocolates and a pack of Tide detergent, both from all-American companies, at the end of the celebration.

And perhaps to underscore the friendship between the Philippines and the United States, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jr. was dapper in an Amerikana (coat and tie) while Ambassador Kim was debonaire in a barong Tagalog.

The program began with Locsin, Caccio and Kim walking down the red carpeted aisle to the stage, followed by Marines bearing the American Star Spangled Banner.

Kim began his speech by thanking those who joined him in the celebration of America’s 243rd year of Independence. “Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.”

 He also made special mention that July 4 is Philippine-American Friendship Day, “a unique and symbolic expression of the strong and historic bonds between us.” Filipinos used to mark July 4 as Independence Day until 1962, when President Diosdado Macapagal declared June 12 as our Independence Day (in honor of the Philippine declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite, in 1898).

“As the United States Ambassador, I can’t think of a better place than the Philippines to celebrate the importance of our diplomacy and the ties that join our nations,” he added.

Locsin, for his part,  began his speech by saying, “Better than sentiment and sentimentality is reason and logic. A country’s natural ally is always the one that is too far to get into one’s hair, yet with a reach long enough to deliver a strong punch at a common enemy. Two countries fit that bill; one far more than the other and that is the United States.”

The author with Yvette Pardo Orbeta of Wendy’s flanked by ‘Lady Liberty’ and ‘Uncle Sam.’

He described the US as “the greatest power in history; and is said to possess a marked edge over the combined military power of all other states measured in centuries. Her wealth is unprecedented and, more importantly, it is real and tangible and not the result of magical computation.”

“Fortunately, this power is committed, by the spirit of her Constitution and the anniversary we celebrate today, to freedom and independence for herself and for the rest of the world.”

Locsin said that “despite the sharp differences in our respective height: we (the Philippines and the US) both hate subservience to foreign powers; we cannot imagine living without total freedom in word, in thought, and in deed. ‘Live Free or Die’ is our motto and New Hampshire’s.”

In the end, Locsin noted,  “It is what makes us love America — she is the larger image of ourselves as we are her smaller image. And we care for her as we hope she cares for us; but in any case we always care.”

Marvel heroes Nebula, Gamora, Captain America, Thor and Spider-Man at the Fourth of July event.

 “When her great men die, we grieve as hard; when she rises magnificently to the occasion, we exult with her; and when we rise as high our limited scope notwithstanding, she exults as much for us — as I had occasion to see for myself at the Joint Houses of the US Congress assembled after EDSA,” he observed. True, true. The Philippines mourned JFK’s death as if it had lost its own. Why, it even mourned JFK Jr.’s death!

Locsin is right. We care for America as “we hope she cares for us; but in any case we always care.” Filipinos will continue to be avid NBA fans, idolize Captain America and Brad Pitt and many will continue to take the side of its former colonizer whether in fictitious battles like in Rocky, or in real life ones like valiant Filipino soldiers did in World War II.

Maybe that’s what long-standing friendship truly means. God bless America and Happy Philippine-American Friendship Day!

(People now comes out on Tuesdays and Fridays. You may e-mail me at Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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