Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Buona sera a tutti.
It is immensely an honor to receive the prestigious Order of Merit from the Italian Republic. I am extremely grateful to the Italian Republic, President Sergio Mattarella, to my good friend Senator Pier Ferdinando Casini, and to His Excellency Marco Clemente, and everyone else involved with this recognition.
The Philippine and Italian partnership and cooperation are essential to our two nations. We may be oceans apart, but we have much in common- our love of food, diverse culture, passion for arts, and pride in our artists. At the core, we also share the tradition of family values and close-knit communities.
And while we have economic exchanges that remain vital, it is equally important that the cultural exchange of the Philippines and Italy continue and prosper.
I have always believed that culture can lead to peace and stability, which is why my Office has helmed one of the most significant cultural exchanges with Italy- the Philippine participation at the Venice Biennale, which started in 2013. It has weathered a pandemic and has remained one of my passion projects until today.
This is the best example of how cultural exchanges are not merely a way to showcase and promote culture. Our participation in Venice has forged a deep relationship because each year we exchange ideas, we have meaningful discourses and we have new experiences together.
At the Venice Biennale, the Philippines has shown Italy, and the world, four contemporary art exhibitions and three architecture exhibitions. But more than showcasing and promoting our culture and our artists, we presented several realities — whether imagined or not– and why art and architecture sustain communities. We also discussed how the Philippines could learn from Italy when preserving architectural heritage. Our more recent project is our exhibition at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia this May 2023 titled Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary, which discusses the condition of our estuaries and our communities’ relationship with it.
In return, from Italy, we have also taken in many things: the discipline of preserving built heritage and the passion for arts and celebrations. We are inspired by how Italy supports artisans and how they, in turn, have contributed to the economy. Most importantly, we have also learned from the Italian nation how much alike we are in being resilient, of weathering tragedy and rebuilding after a crisis like the pandemic.
The world is decisively changing, shaped by the dangerous effects of climate change, technological advancements, and sharp shifts in social and individual values. The situation can be formidable and intimidating but the Philippines and Italy must face the future and create deeper partnerships that can help navigate uncharted territory. As such, 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.
A un grande future. Mabuhay, padayon, and maraming salamat. (PR/ Residence of the Italian Ambassador)