‘Forward together’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
âForward togetherâ
Charge D’Affaires Heather Variava, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Jose V. Chan Gonzaga and Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles John Brown.
Jose Paolo Dela Cruz

All roads led to the US Embassy grounds on Roxas Boulevard last week for the Fourth of July celebration the 246th anniversary of American Independence and Philippine-American Friendship Day.

Even President Bongbong Marcos was reportedly due to attend, but had to beg off because he contracted the COVID-19 virus.

Despite a downpour — good thing there was a protective tent over the al fresco  reception area overlooking Manila Bay — the celebratory mood wasn’t dampened. In fact US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Heather Variava looked to the future with confidence.

“Every day I am awed and excited by the power and impact of the Philippine-US partnership,” she said.

She disclosed that the theme for the night’s celebration was “Forward Together.”

“Together as friends, partners and allies, the United States and the Philippines have come so far in confronting the pandemic and related challenges over the last few years. Americans and Filipinos around the world have worked hand in hand and stood united as we tackle these challenges,” Variava said.

Describing the American people as a “steadfast partner,” Variava added, “The American people have donated more than 33 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines. Just last week, we welcomed 300,000 more doses and we have more on the way. We look forward to continuing to partner with the Philippines to fight the pandemic. While COVID-19 has demanded much of our energy and resources, we have learned from the experience.”

Expressing confidence in the future, she said, “And now we move forward together to build a new future.”

Variava, as many of her predecessors have, cited, “the strong historical ties between the United States of the Philippines.”

This, she said, as well as “our shared democratic values, and our ongoing cooperation to address some of the most pressing issues of the time, make US-Philippines partnership as important today as it ever was. We are indeed safer together.

“Together, we look forward to supporting peace and security throughout the Indo Pacific region.”

Variava said the embassy and its partners in the United States are looking forward to working “closely” with “President Bongbong Marcos Jr. and his team to secure a prosperous, healthy and safe future for the peoples of both our nations and we wish the new president good health and safe recovery.”

In conclusion, she said, “The democratic norms and ideals that form the backbone of our robust ties will guide the friendship between Americans and Filipinos well into the future. Us Americans, we celebrate our nation’s founding on July 4, we reaffirm our commitment to support overseas the principles we cherish deeply at home, we firmly stand united with the Philippines and together we look forward to moving to greater heights having US-Philippine Friendship Day and happy US Independence Day.”

‘Uncle Sam’ and ‘Lady Liberty.’

For his part, Assistant Secretary Jose Chan Gonzaga, representing Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, said,  “Over the years, whether in the midst of a pandemic, or immediately after a typhoon, or when a national disaster devastates our communities, support from the United States has been substantial and sustained.”

Gonzaga emphasized that, “While the world is in flux, our alliance is also among the most enduring and the most resilient. The Philippines remains committed to our partnership and to our friendship as we jointly pursue to ensure peace and prosperity in our part of the world.”

He concluded his speech by saying, “As the President himself said in his meeting with Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff after the inauguration, ‘The Philippines has a simple foreign policy… to maintain peace. We will do everything that we need to do to make the country better, more peaceful, more prosperous and to make our relationship with other countries better. That, without a doubt, includes the United States.’”

Guests partook of traditional American food from stalls like Burger King set up in the reception area and went home with Oreo cookies and Hershey’s chocolates.

Happy Fourth of July to our American relatives and friends!

US Embassy Charge d’Affaires Heather Variava during the Fourth of July celebration at the Charles Parsons Ballroom at the US Embassy.

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


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