‘Empathy is the core of my commitment to serving our country’

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
âEmpathy is the core of my commitment to serving our countryâ
(From left) Italian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines president Sergio Boero, US Embassy’s Samantha Parks, Swedish Charge d’affaires Tobias Settergren, Ana Sanchez Ruiz, German Ambassador Anke Reiffenstuel, French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz, Senator Legarda, Ambassador Clemente, Maria Clemente, UK Ambassador Laure Beaufils, Singaporean Ambassador Gerard Ho Wei Hong and Spain Ambassador Miguel Utray.
STAR/ File

Her father, Antonio Legarda, was one of the first to arrive at the Italian Ambassador’s residence in Makati when Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda was recently conferred the award of “Commendatore” to the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in appreciation of her role in strengthening bilateral ties between the Philippines and Italy.

Italian Ambassador Marco Clemente and his wife Maria Rosaria Brizi Clemente welcomed Antonio to the event with a firm handshake as the latter profusely thanked them “for the honor you’re giving my daughter.”

Senator Legarda with DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo and SM’s Hans Sy.

When everybody was standing while the intimate ceremonies were being held in the presence of her friends like Rustans’ Nedy Tantoco and Tokie Enriquez and SM’s Hans Sy (who told Loren, “I’m very, very proud of you”); her colleagues at the Senate like Senators Aquilino Pimentel, Sherwin Gatchalian and Sonny Angara; government officials; and members of the diplomatic community, Loren lovingly signaled for her father to take a seat on the couch. He was tentative in the beginning but later on obeyed his daughter. He walked to the couch — the only one to be there — but did not sit. He remained standing and was the first to clap after Ambassador Clemente presented the recognition to his daughter. His face registered how happy and proud he was to witness another accomplishment of Loren.

Senator Legarda with her father, Antonio Legarda, and Ambassador Clemente and his wife Maria Rosaria Brizi Clemente.

“It made a big difference (that my dad was present). Although my friends and colleagues were present, it would not have been complete without a family member to celebrate this milestone with me,” the lady senator said.

Loren added: “My father taught us so many lessons that it is challenging to pick just one. But I think one of the best lessons I have learned from him is to have empathy for people from all walks of life. My journey in public service is greatly aided by this lesson. Serving the people is a passion fueled by empathy, especially for the underserved. Empathy is the core of my commitment to serving our country.”

“(Senator Legarda) is one of the most prominent protagonists of the Philippine political and social world,” said Ambassador Clemente when he introduced the awardee.

The title “Commendatore” is the second recognition bestowed on Legarda by the government of Italy. In 2017, the Cavaliere dell Ordine al Merito Della Repubblica Italiana (Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) was presented to her by then Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Massimo Roscigno.

“I am humbled, grateful and honored by this conferment of the “Commendatore” in the Order of Merit from the Italian Republic given by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella himself,” Loren told The STAR at the sidelines of the conferment ceremonies.

“My role in strengthening the bilateral relations between our country and Italy, which is the rationale of this award, was born out of a vision to revitalize Philippine cultural and artistic expressions and showcase them to the rest of the world. To achieve this, I saw the importance of fostering cultural exchanges with the country that hosts the world’s oldest and most prestigious global art platform, the Venice Biennale.

“In the process, our participation in the Biennale has forged and sustained a deep relationship beyond cultural exchanges with Italy,” she said.

She also underscored how culture could lead to peace and stability; thus, promoting Philippine culture has remained her passion and advocacy.

In 2015, the Philippines was able to return to the Venice Biennale after a 51-year hiatus through Legarda’s initiative, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

For his part, NCCA chairman Victorino Manalo told The STAR, “It’s very important that the public recognize how much Loren has contributed to the cultural sphere especially with her efforts to renew the participation of the Philippines to the Venice Biennale — and all the works she has done for heritage protection and for craft revitalization.”

“For the Biennale Architettura this year,” Loren said, “the Philippine Pavilion (‘Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary’) exposes the longstanding relational issues of the residents of three barangays along Estero de Tripa de Gallina (Manila’s longest creek). The neighborhoods this estero cuts through have thousands of informal settlers. As an attempt to address this unsustainable network of obstacles, the pavilion showcases a bamboo-made design solution that serves as a buoy for these relationships and engenders collaborative action in the name of resilience.”

Her dedication to her craft was acknowledged through numerous global recognitions, such as the Global Leader for Tomorrow citation given by the World Economic Forum (WEF). She is also a United Nations Environment Program Laureate, and the Global Ambassador for Disaster Risk Reduction, Climate Change and Environment of the Women Political Leaders.

In recognition of her commitment to the fight against climate change and to the promotion of Philippine culture and heritage, she was conferred the title of Chevalier (Knight) in the Ordre national de la légion d’Honneur (National Order of the French Legion of Honor) by then French President Francois Holland through former French Ambassador Thierry Mathou in 2016. In November 2022, she was recognized as an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Biodiversity Hero in Bogor, Indonesia, for her significant contributions to biodiversity efforts in the Philippines.

“I commit to supporting Philippine-Italian projects and programs, whether these be in the arts, culture, or trade and economy. It is when we ensure a sustainable exchange that we step into the unknown with hope and anticipation,” she concluded in her speech at Ambassador Clemente’s residence.

Of course, you know who gave Sen. Loren Legarda the most thunderous applause that night. *


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