Edited by Anna Popper

June 12 marks the Independence Day of the Philippines. After fighting valiantly for freedom and recognition throughout the centuries, the Southeast Asian country, made up of more than 7600 islands, declared its independence from Spain in 1898. In 2023, the annual milestone event has been held nationwide in the spirit of the official theme: Kalayaan, Kinabukasan, Kasaysayan – Freedom. Future. History.

On the occasion of the anniversary, the Embassy of the Philippines in Budapest hosted a grand diplomatic reception topped with an extraordinary concert at the Stefania Palace, attended by senior officials of the Hungarian political and social institutions, representatives of the cultural, academic and business circles, members of the diplomatic corps and the Philippine community.

The celebration started with the opening remarks of H.E. Frank R. Cimafranca, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Hungary:

First of all, I would like to acknowledge the presence of the honourable Mr. István Jakab, Deputy Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly, and Ms. Katalin Bihari, Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

I wish to thank you all for joining us today to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence and the birth of the Filipino nation. On this occasion we remember and pay tribute to the sacrifices of our forebears in their struggle to secure the freedom we now enjoy. It is therefore our sacred duty to preserve this freedom and ensure that future generations of Filipinos can continue to enjoy it.

This year we also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Hungary, and we are pleased to note that our bilateral relations have developed significantly in recent years. Our diplomatic ties took an important turn when Hungary reopened its embassy in Manila in March 2017 and Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó visited the Philippines. In a sign of things to come, the foreign minister signed several bilateral agreements, including an agreement on economic cooperation, cultural, educational and scientific programmes, and MoUs between our foreign service institutes and chambers of commerce and industry. Two years later, then-Philippine secretary of foreign affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. returned the visit.

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, the next political consultation was held in September 2022 in Budapest and focused on cooperation in agriculture, labour, and education.

On the other hand, our legislators have built strong relations through parliamentary friendship groups, with a group of Philippine senators traveling to Budapest in October 2019 to meet their counterparts from the Hungarian Parliament. This was aptly reciprocated by the visit of a Hungarian parliamentary delegation to the Philippines in November 2021, led by the Deputy Speaker, honourable Istvan Jakab. Incidentally, the long-time head of the Parliamentary Friendship Association of the Philippines is now our senate president Juan Miguel Zubiri, who has expressed his intent to visit Hungary again in the near future.

On the economic front, Hungary has adopted the “Opening to the East Policy” and embarked on a vigorous “Eastern Partnership Programme” to foster trade and investment ties with countries in Asia, and we thank Hungary for considering the Philippines as among the most promising economies in our part of the world. To date, our two countries have conducted four joint commission on economic cooperation meetings, the last of which was held in Manila in December 2022 with the Hungarian delegation led by Deputy State Secretary Katalin Bihari. All these meetings have contributed to the development of economic relations and the opening of new areas of cooperation.

Bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture was given a boost with two successive visits to Hungary by a high-level delegation from the Philippines, paving the way for cooperation in areas such as dairy cattle genetics, water management and farm mechanization. Filipino and Hungarian agricultural experts have also visited each other’s country in recent years to observe technologies related to rice production, harvesting and marketing.

In the field of education, we are grateful for the opportunities Hungary offers to many Filipino scholars to avail of high-quality education in Hungarian universities through the Stipendium Hungaricum. The first Filipino scholar to graduate under the program earned his master’s degree from Szent Istvan University in 2018, and many more have since followed in various educational institutions. The Philippines and Hungary have also initiated cooperation in sports by signing a memorandum of understanding on sports cooperation.

But perhaps the fastest growing area in our bilateral relationship is in the field of labour. Hungary has become home to thousands of Filipinos who have found employment here in the last few years. In fact, when I arrived here two years ago to assume my duties as ambassador, there were fewer than 1,000 Filipinos in the country. Since then, the number has grown exponentially and currently stands at over 6,000. With a growing economy, Hungary needs a bigger workforce for its expanding manufacturing sector and the Philippines has stepped up to be an excellent source of skilled men and women for several companies that have established their operations in the country.

The Hungarian government has opened its doors to nationals of third countries, including the Philippines through its “Enter Hungary” program. In 2022 alone, some 90 companies have hired or announced their intention to employ Filipinos, including, among others, Master Good, Videoton, Kerocs, Citibank Europe, Continental Automotive, Flextronics, GE, Jaguar Land Rover, Knorr, Denso, Lenovo, Nokia, Samsung, Tesco, and Pepco, just to name a few. We thank Hungary for its trust in the capability of the Filipino workers and hope that we can conclude a bilateral labour agreement in the near future to further solidify our partnership.

Dear friends, on this special occasion of the 125th anniversary of Philippine independence and to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Hungary, we are fortunate to have with us today one of our country’s most talented musicians at present, a multi-awarded pianist, a great patron of the performing arts and former president of the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, in the person of Dr. Raul Sunico to entertain us with his repertoire of classical western and Filipino music. I thank dr. Sunico for gracing our National Day event and the National Commission for Culture and Arts of the Philippines for bringing him to Budapest.

In conclusion, I wish to thank my wife Lu, who is currently President of the Diplomatic Spouses of Budapest, my daughter Francesca, the entire staff of the Philippine Embassy, as well as the management and staff of Stefania Palota, without whose support and efforts this event would not have been possible. 

I would also like to thank our partners, our honorary consular officials and one of them, Consul Dragijana Petrovic from Belgrade, is here with us today. Special thanks also to the San Miguel Corporation in the Philippines for supplying San Miguel beer and Mr. Victor Gaina, our Honorary Consul in Chisinau, for the Moldovan wines from his family winery.

And last but not least, our deepest gratitude and appreciation goes to all of you, esteemed guests, Excellencies and friends, for sharing with us your precious time in celebrating this momentous event.

Thank you very much! Mabuhay!”

Following the official part of the event, the guests were invited to a reception and enjoyed the excellent gastronomy and the friendly atmosphere.

Piano Concert by Dr. Raul Sunico

The professional career of the internationally acclaimed Filipino concert pianist and music author Dr. Raul Sunico spans more than 40 years of solo performances and over 50 CD album recordings: classical, Philippine, popular, original and collaborative music. He has been also author of elementary and high school music textbooks used by the Department of Education.

Raul M. Sunico obtained his degrees in Music, Mathematics and Statistics from the University of the Philippines. He then received his Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School in New York, his Ph.D in Piano Performance from New York University, and a Doctor of Humanities degree from Far Eastern University. Beside his talent, hard work and dedication, mathematics, music and memory have greatly shaped his pianist skills.

Raul Sunico holds the singular distinction of being the only pianist in the world to perform the four piano concertos of Sergei Rachmaninoff in a single evening, and later the three piano concertos of Tchaikovsky in a similar setting.

World-class piano company Steinway & Sons conferred upon Dr. Raul Sunico the prestigious title of Steinway Artist.

At his solo concert in Budapest dedicated to the 125th anniversary of Philippine Independence, he performed selected pieces from his extensive repertoire by S. Rachmaninoff, F. Chopin, C. Debussy, F. Longas, F. Buencamino, E. Cuenco, C. de Guzman, F. Liszt and G. Gershwin. And the wonderful concert, which was played entirely without using sheet music, ended with standing ovation from the audience.

During his stay in Budapest, Dr. Raul M. Sunico conducted a masterclass at the prestigious Franz Liszt Academy of Music for selected students who were privileged to learn from this great musician.

Source: Embassy of the Philippines in Budapest