MANILA – The most significant photographs of Spain and the Philippines from the last few decades marked the 70th anniversary of their bilateral diplomatic relations in Manila at a time when both countries are trying to recover their historical links.
In 1953, the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Antonio Gullon handed over scholarships to several youngsters in the country to continue with their studies in Spain.
A snapshot of that event taken by Agencia EFE opens a series of 42 pictures displayed in the headquarters of the foreign ministry in Manila that helps put faces, names and settings to the bilateral ties the countries have formed until now.
“Some photos have a strong symbolic significance while others are pleasant because they capture moments which are somewhat picturesque,” current Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Luis Calvo told EFE.
Calvo inaugurated the exhibition celebrating 70 years of bilateral diplomatic relations, which started with the signing of a friendship treaty in 1947.
The most important work, in the opinion of the ambassador, is a photograph from 2007 that captures a relaxed moment between the then-monarchs of Spain, Juan Carlos and Sofia, and the then-president of the Philippines and renowned Hispanist, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, during the latter’s visit to Madrid.
The exhibition also showcases other meetings between Philippine heads of state and former Spanish Prime Ministers Felipe Gonzalez, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Jose Maria Aznar, including a photograph of the latter riding a jeepney, the traditional bus that is decorated with brass adornments and is a popular mode of transport for people with low incomes in the Philippines.
Two recent photographs conclude the exhibition: the presentation of the credentials of the current Spanish ambassador to the Philippines to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last year in the Malacanang Palace in Manila, and another featuring the Philippine Ambassador to Spain Philippe Lhuillier and Spain’s King Felipe VI in the Royal Palace of Madrid.
“Other countries have completed 70 years of relations with the Philippines, but only Spain has had the honor of commemorating it in the headquarters of the foreign ministry, which goes on to say a lot about the relationship,” said Calvo, adding that he is optimistic about the future of the ties between Spain and the country which had been its colony for more than three centuries until 1898.
“We can do a lot in the future in sectors like the economy, finance, technology, education, culture and human development,” he said, given that the countries face the challenge of rediscovering their ties after a century of relative estrangement.