Israel-Philippines Relations Remain Strong With Improv
BY EDWIN ALLAN DIAZ
Israeli improvisational theater trio Duda returned to the Philippines for a show dedicated to the late Susan “Toots” V. Ople, who passed away on August 22 at the age of 61.
Duda’s Improv Performance on the OFWs in Israel” honored Ople, the former secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), last September 6, 2023 at the RCBC Plaza in Makati City.
Attendees included family and friends of Ople, DMW officials, members of the diplomatic community, government officials, and relatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Israel.
“You mentioned that you are friends of Filipinos and migrant workers. I really could feel the sincerity of that friendship because you didn’t have to honor my mom this way,” expressed Susanne Laurie Osorio, Ople’s daughter, to Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Ilan Fluss during the event.
Osorio added Duda’s Improv was a fitting tribute to Ople, who was a comedy and improv fan.
IMPROV IN THE PHILIPPINES
Duda is a three-piece improvisational theater (improv) group from Israel, composed of Matan Goren, Elad Yishav, and Tal Zolti.
Improvisation is best described as unscripted live theater. The plot, characters, and dialogue are all enacted impromptu by the performers.
During their performance, Duda invited volunteers from the audience to act alongside them. They would give the act beforehand to the participants, but the scene would be on the spot.
The scenes were playful and comedic retellings of the stories of the OFW community in Israel. Duda interacted and listened to their stories before coming to the Philippines.
Zolti is an actress and stand-up comedian who hosts the podcast “Talk of Shame.” Goren is a playwright known for the comedic play “Trampoline.” Yishay, who accompanies the two on piano and percussion, is a classical musician who has performed for ensembles in Israel.
The following day, Duda performed at the Manila Improv Festival at the Ayala Malls Circuit Makati. One of the biggest improv festivals in Asia, it was the trio’s second time to join, the first one being in 2019.
Duda also visited White Cross Orphanage in San Juan City and held an improv workshop at Makati Medical Center on September 8. They were joined by medical practitioners and members of the Philippine Navy (PN).
“To their exceptional improvisational talents, they take us on an artistic journey that resonates deeply through the lives and experiences of the OFWs in Israel. A journey filled with laughter, empathy, and profound understanding,” said Ambassador Fluss in his opening message.
Ople was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., as the first chief of the DMW since it was created in 2023, to protect the rights and promote the welfare of OFWs. She also founded the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Center. It is a non-governmental organization that offers OFWs assistance, livelihood training, and prevents exploitation and human trafficking.
The Ople Center was named after Ople’s father, former Senate President and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Blas F. Ople.
Fluss said he was honored to have witnessed her unwavering commitment and compassionate leadership to the OFWs firsthand, always championing their rights.“Secretary Ople’s life was dedicated to advocating for OFWs. In my close collaboration with her, I had the privilege of witnessing her unwavering commitment and compassionate leadership. Her unique blend of pragmatism and empathy made her a formidable advocate for OFWs.”
Around 27,000 to 30,000 OFWs in Israel work as caregivers and in the hotel and service industries. The Israel Embassy in Manila is working closely with the Philippines and DMW to ensure OFWs’ rights are respected and protected. This is especially crucial today, as the DFA has issued a mandatory evacuation of Filipinos from Gaza due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.
All OFWs have annual leave with pay, medical insurance, a pension fund, and social rights as dictated by Israel’s labor law, according to its embassy.
“We collectively honor the OFWs, we honor the former Secretary Susan Ople, and all those tirelessly working for the welfare and the good of OFWs, recognizing their invaluable contribution to society and the economy,” Fluss said.
The Philippines is one of Israel’s closest allies.
In 1937, President Manuel L. Quezon’s “Open Door Policy” saved 1,300 Jews from the Holocaust. Through Proclamation No. 173, Quezon allowed Jews to seek refuge in the archipelago, regardless of their social status.
In 1947, the Philippines cast a vote in support of the establishment of the State of Israel via United Nations Resolution No. 181. It divided Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem being established as an independent entity.
Israel and the Philippines opened their embassies in Metro Manila and Tel Aviv, respectively, in 1962, four years after signing the Treaty of Friendship. Article I of the bilateral agreement states, “There shall be perpetual peace and firm and lasting friendship between the Republic of the Philippines and the State of Israel and between their peoples.”
Other bilateral agreements include “Cooperation on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy,” “Abolition of Transit and Visitor’s Visa,” and “Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation.”
Fluss acknowledged the warm and friendly relations of both countries that span decades of cultural collaboration and colorful heritage.
“Cultural collaboration has played a pivotal role in reinforcing this bond. Through a rich tapestry of cultural exchanges, we have deepened our understanding of each other’s heritage and fostered a sense of unity and camaraderie.”
The ambassador added, “Culture is the bridge that connects our hearts and minds.”