(Eagle News) — The Filipinos and the French have more things in common than just their love for good food, as both share common values that make them strong as a nation.
This was what French ambassador to the Philippines Thierry Mathou stressed when he was interviewed at a news studio of Eagle Broadcasting Corp. in Quezon City which he visited on Tuesday to highlight the 70th year of bilateral relations between France and the Philippines.
He said that the French and Filipinos have so many “commonalities” that it may be no exaggeration to say the Philippines is the “only country in Asia” whose people have the “same values” as the French.
“We don’t have a common history obviously…but…I really think that…we share the same values because we all like good food, music. You people, you like to sing, to dance. It’s the same case (with the French),” he said.
The career diplomat who also specializes in Asian affairs said that it is precisely these “shared values” that serve as the basis for the “good” relationship between the two countries despite their geographical distance.
“We started in 1947, but actually we started much much earlier. I would like to remind our friends that in the 19th century, quite a few ilustrados went to France and to Paris. Of course Jose Rizal, he was in Paris, when he translated the Declaration of Human Rights in the local language. And this is the beginning of what I like to call the shared values between the Philippines and France,” he said.
“Throughout the decades and years, we had the many opportunities to exchange cultural opportunities. Now we enter a new stage of our relations,” he added.
Bilateral relations between the Philippines and France officially began in 1947, when the two countries signed a Treaty of Amity which established diplomatic relations between the two countries.
But relations between France and the Philippines actually had its roots in the 1500s or during the so-called “Age of Exploration.” In fact, when the Spanish expedition reached the Philippines, 15 Frenchmen were among its crew.
France is also the Philippines’ fourth largest trading partner in the European Union after Germany, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Trade reached $2.39 billion as of October 2014. This represented an increase of 24% from the same period in 2013.
In 2015, French President François Hollande made a two-day state visit to the Philippines, and became the first leader from the European Union to visit the country after supertyphoon Yolanda that killed more than 6,000 people in November 2013.
“Actually it was a historical visit not only because it was the first time for the French head of state to visit the Philippines but because he was the first head of state and government from Europe to visit the Philippines after Yolanda. So it was a great symbol,” Ambassador Mathou said.
To commemorate the 70th year of French-Philippine relations, Mathou announced the conduct of a French festival that he said would enable Filipinos to “feel France.”
“PhilFrance: Feel French!” began on the first day of January, and aims to highlight, through a series of all year round activities, the “different aspects” of the European country.
Mathou said the activities were organized around five clusters: arts and culture, art de vivre, youth and knowledge, entrepreneurship and high-technology, and shared advocacies.
This year, he said the highlighted advocacy was woman empowerment.
“As a matter of fact you are doing great in this country. Let’s say that it’s never enough. We have to learn from you on that and we also want to exchange (what we know),” he said.