‘Mama Italia and mama-ma-yang Pilipino’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
âMama Italia and mama-ma-yang Pilipinoâ
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin, Italian Ambassador Mario Clemente and Papal Nuncio Reverend Archbishop Charles John Brown. An all-Filipino choir performs at the Italian National Day celebration.
Joanne Rae Ramirez

Thus said Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin reverently when he offered a toast to the Republic of Italy and his own motherland in his speech at the Italian National Day celebration, held recently at the Grand Hyatt Manila.

“So now let us raise our glasses in toast, to our mothers -- to both our mother countries -- Mama Italia and mama-ma-yang Pilipino. Whom we love not just here and now while we live but beyond and forever in our souls,”Locsin said.

Locsin extolled the similarities between the Italians and Filipinos, and added, “And we love our mothers. Our fathers, too, of course… well, case to case. But our mothers without fail and without limit, equal only to our love for our grandmothers. We are the world to them so they tell us; so it must be true.”

For his part, Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Mario Clemente said democracy was being celebrated that evening, not just the 76th anniversary of the Republic of Italy when Italians also trooped to the polls 76 years ago, but the recent democratic exercise in the Philippines as well.

“The second of June is for us, and I hope for all of us, the celebration of democracy, the celebration for the people to decide the future, to go to the polls to cast a vote. And I think it’s a very beautiful thing to imagine that we are celebrating today the very idea of democracy. And I find it very symbolic in line with the coincidence just a few days ago, (when) the Philippines celebrated the same feast of democracy. And I have to congratulate also the Filipino government for their excellent organization of the elections,” he said.

Italian Ambassador Mario Clemente and son Simon.

For many guests, it was their first face-to-face, in-person diplomatic event since the pandemic changed the world over two years ago. And though everyone wore masks, these were taken off during the prosecco toast, and the nibbles, which included the rich, luscious Italian burrata with Parma ham. It was surreal, yet joyful, seeing everyone again.

Locsin, who was with his elegant wife Louie, noted that Filipinos and Italians go back more than 75 years.

“This year, we reach a very important milestone — the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between two peoples that met even before their nations were born: Antonio Pigafetta, who chronicled the first circumnavigation of the world, and Lapu-Lapu who welcomed it in his own fashion. It did not go to well for the expedition; except for Pigafetta who survived the encounter. Not surprisingly, he was the Italian of the expedition,” quipped Locsin. Well, the members of the press are survivors, aren’t they?

“Above all we have the same virtues; which we like to think unique to both of ourselves: I start with second, personal honor. And first, honor of family. Defense of country for sure; and maybe of our governments. Always there is courage; effortless elegance and excellence; and energy when it suits us -- but never in the afternoon.

“We love things unique to us: like good food, and good food; showing affection that is always genuine, and disdain the same. There’s impeccable taste in dress except at home where we go around in our undershirts, Filipinos anyway. We have an unerring eye for beauty and a tendency to show it in the hope of a response…Well, let’s put that aside or I’ll have to hitch a ride and not to my home,” Locsin said.

Clemente paid tribute to the Filipino community in Italy, numbering over 200,000-strong.

“And most importantly, it has become a cornerstone for the well-being of our people and you are so much respected, so much loved, so much cherished.” That was music to my ears as a Filipino, that our compatriots in Italy are not only acknowledged but “cherished.”

Clemente, who welcomed guests with his statuesque wife Maria Rosaria, also expressed hope the Italian community here is appreciated as well. There are about 2,000 Italians in the Philippines.

“And a lot of them are accompanied by their Filipina spouses, because this is the characteristic of the countrymen here. They integrated well, they married Filipinos and they raised their family here,” Clemente noted.

Rustan’s chairman and Philippine Italian Association president Nedy Tantoco with the author.

Our predominantly Roman Catholic faith, and the fact that the Pope lives in the Vatican City within Italy, strengthen our ties, like rosary beads wound around two hands.

Or perhaps, the ties that bind us are the al dente spaghetti noodles that symbolically bridge the gap between the oceans that divide us. Molto Bene!

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)


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