By Alona Cochon

INDEPENDENCE EVENT. Senator Jinggoy Estrada (5th from left) joins the 126th Independence Day’s culminating event, Sandiwa Fiesta sa Europa, in Milan, Italy on Sunday (June 30, 2024). Consul General Elmer Cato (6th from left) thanked Estrada for gracing the event. (Photo courtesy of Alona Cochon)

MILAN, Italy – Filipinos abroad must show to the world their unity and love for country to maintain the freedom the Philippines earned 126 years ago.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada made the call as he joined some 15,000 overseas Filipino workers who attended the weekend “Sandiwa Fiesta Sa Europa” to wrap up their one-month commemoration of the Philippines’ 126th Independence Day in Milan, Italy on Sunday.

“Sa paggunita ng ating Kalayaan ngayon araw, ipakita natin ang pagkakaisa nating mga Filipino. Ipagmalaki natin ang ating lahi, at ipakita natin sa buong mundo ang tapang at pagmamahal natin sa ating inang bayan (In commemorating our independence today, let us show the unity of Filipinos. Let’s be proud of our race, and let’s show the whole world our courage and love for our motherland),” he said in his message.

He said the Philippine government, under President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., will continue to fight challenges, including the dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

“Gaya ng paulit-ulit na pahayag ng ating Pangulo, Pangulong Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., tungkol dito, sinisiguro na hindi natin hahayaang mawalan ng saysay ang pinaglaban ng ating mga ninuno, maging ang pagkapanalo natin sa Permanent Court of Arbitration na nagdeklara na walang batayan sa international law ang nine-dash line ng China na ginagamit na dahilan para kamkamin ng ating teritoryo (Like what President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has been saying, we will not let the struggles of our ancestors lose their meaning, even our victory in the Permanent Court of Arbitration that declared that China’s nine-dash line has no basis in international law),” Estrada said.

He said the government will continue to use peaceful and diplomatic approaches to resolve the dispute in the WPS.

“Ang West Philippine Sea ay atin at ipaglalaban natin ito. Hindi lamang ito parte ng ating territory, bahagi rin ito ng pagkilalan at soberanya, kaya’t patuloy ang ating gobyerno na lumalaban para sa ating karapatan (The WPS is ours, and we will fight for it. It is not only part of our territory. It is also part of our identity and sovereignty, so our government continues to fight for our rights),” he said.

Consul General Elmer Cato also commended the unity and solidarity amongst Filipinos in Italy and other parts of Europe as shown in the month-long activities that celebrated the country’s independence.

“Narito rin tayo para dinggin ang panawagan ng ating mahal na pangulo, si President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., para magka-isa at magtulungan ang sambayanang Pilipino para maitayo natin ang isang bagong Pilipinas (We are also here to listen to the call of our President, President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., for Filipinos to unite and work together so that we can build a new Philippines),” Cato said in his message.

Organized by the Philippine Consulate General and the Kalayaan Organizing Committee (KOC) headed by Noel Carillo, the Sandiwa Fiesta sa Europa was highlighted by the performance of MassKara dancers of Bacolod City.

Other major Independence Day activities in Italy included the Kalayaan Ball held June 2, Kalayaan Run won by Michael Gonda (men’s division) and Evelyn Batongbakal (women’s division), and Mutya ng Kalayaan 2024 won by Nicole Lopez of Torino, Piemento on June 29. (With reports from Alona Cochon/PNA)