Celebrating Half a Century of Friendship
BY RAGIE MAE TANO-ARELLANO
HUNGARIAN AMBASSADOR HER EXCELLENCY TITANILLA TÓTH REVEALS THAT A PROMISING FUTURE IS IN STORE FOR BOTH NATIONS AS WE CONTINUE TO FORGE STRONGER TIES.
Seven years have passed since Hungary reopened its Embassy in the Philippines, but the two countries’ friendship is much older. The official establishment of diplomatic relations between these two countries dates back to September 28, 1973.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Hungary and the Philippines, the Hungarian Embassy in Manila will host a reception showcasing “Hungarikum.” The term refers to Hungary’s special and distinctive products, traditions, or cultural elements that are considered emblematic of Hungarian identity and heritage.
EXPLORING TIES THROUGH FOOD, POETRY, AND FRIENDSHIP
The two countries are almost 6,000 miles apart and located on opposite sides of the globe, with the Philippines in Southeast Asia and Hungary in Central Europe. However, many similarities between the two nations are evident.
One common thread is our mutual affinity for festivities, which is why they will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations. During the event, not only will “Hungarikum” be featured, but also the many similarities between the two countries, which will explain why friendships are anticipated to grow.
Hungarian Ambassador to the Philippines Titanilla Tóth told LEAGUE that the famous Filipino bulalo or beef bone marrow stew, is very similar to the Hungarian broth húsleves. Ambassador Tóth is a big fan of lechon de Cebu (Cebu-style roast pig) and buko (coconut) pie from Tagaytay.
In addition to the delicious food, she is astounded by the Filipinos’ exceptional and one-of-a-kind hospitality. Her Excellency Tóth, a three-year resident of the Philippines, says, “Filipinos are always smiling; they can keep their positive aura even in times of difficulty, and their good mood soon spreads to the foreigners who visit here.”
Beyond food and hospitality, both countries have lavish, history-oriented classical poetry with many metaphors relating to nature and all other fields of interest. This similarity inspired the Ateneo de Naga University to translate 20 Hungarian poems into six Filipino regional languages and publish such into a book, “Hindi Pasisiil Ang Pagsibol (The Growth Cannot Be Subdued).”
It is as if the book contains six different books because each chapter contains a Philippine regional language translation of the 20 Hungarian nature-themed poems. This book is the centerpiece of the 50th anniversary celebration of diplomatic relations between Hungary and the Philippines. It is funded by a grant from the Hungarian Literary Fund because it coincides with the 200th birth anniversary of one of the greatest Hungarian poets, Sándor Petőfi. Ambassador Tóth hopes that Filipinos who read the poems in this book will gain a sense of Hungary’s profound appreciation for nature-related metaphors in literature.
“We wanted to enrich these special bonds through poetic metaphors and allegories to encourage reflection. Some of which, even though written by a Hungarian mind, can be perfectly applied to the heart of a Filipino. Ultimately, my hope is that everyone can take a poem or even just one line from the book,” the Hungarian ambassador shares.
FOSTERING INNOVATION AND TRADE
Through its Stipendium Hungaricum scholarship program, Hungary is committed to assisting deserving Filipino students in obtaining an international education. Since 2017, this opportunity has benefited 35 Filipino scholars annually. Ambassador Tóth expresses delight because the science and technology relations between the two countries are flourishing.
Both countries agree that technology development, the use of cutting-edge technology, and technology transfer play crucial roles in promoting economic growth and public welfare. As a result, a delegation from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) headed by Undersecretary Leah Buendia visited Hungary and met with representatives who are part of the Hungarian Joint Committee on Science and Technology that was established in 2022 between the two countries.. According to Dr. Tóth, the results of Hungary’s study into quantum technology impressed the Philippine delegation. In November 2022, the Hungarian Embassy participated in the National Science and Technology Week in the Philippines alongside two Hungarian companies from the agriculture and drone industries, and the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences (MATE), showcasing their innovations.
Hungary aspires to serve as a pivotal link between the Eastern and Western regions, using its strategic geographical position at the centre of Europe.
The implementation of the Eastern Opening Policy was initiated in 2012, with a primary emphasis on the Asian Region. Hungary is actively pursuing enhanced collaboration with the Philippines and is committed to undertaking the requisite measures aimed at fostering and strengthening bilateral trade relations. According to Ambassador Tóth, the Philippines holds a significant role in the economic strategy of the Hungarian foreign market, as it is perceived as a gateway to the Southeast Asian Region.
In the year 2022, the bilateral trade volume between Hungary and the Philippines exceeded 216 million dollars, indicating a significant increase in commercial connections between the two countries. During the initial quarter of 2023, there was a notable surge of 20 percent in the volume of bilateral trade. Her Excellency expresses a strong belief in the existence of significant opportunities for further growth in bilateral commerce. They assert that fostering collaboration grounded in mutual advantages is vital in the realm of economics. The foundation of this economic relationship is reinforced by the Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation (JCEC), which serves as a platform for the evaluation and advancement of bilateral economic relations. Additionally, it facilitates highlevel discussions and the negotiation of new agreements. The fourth meeting of the JCEC was held in December 2022, during which a business forum was organized, with the participation of around 100 Filipino and Hungarian entrepreneurs. There exists an ongoing dialogue that substantiates the significant level of shared interest among entrepreneurs from both nations.
JOINING HANDS FOR SUSTAINABLE WATER SOLUTIONS
Hungary is prepared to work with the Philippines in the future to strengthen resilience to climate change’s effects, such as rising sea levels, an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events, rising temperatures, extreme rainfall, and threats to biodiversity and food security.
As a developing nation, the Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Hungary’s cutting-edge water management technologies and solutions will benefit the Philippines’ water quality, particularly in the fields of integrated river basin management, flood management, water resource management, transboundary cooperation, and water-related education.
Ambassador Tóth claims that they are willing to impart their knowledge and skills in the building of decentralised wastewater treatment facilities for small towns and residences in some regions of the Philippines, as well as the development of urban wastewater networks. They will also share how Hungarian businesses use cutting-edge technology, such as water loss analysis, to find hidden faults in pipelines and to clean and repair pipelines without having to dig. In 2020, the Hungarian government and the Hungarian Water Technology Corporation Ltd. donated an emergency water treatment unit to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD)’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which provided clean water to thousands of Catanduanes residents who had been impacted by Typhoon Rolly.
According to her, challenges with the provision of clean drinking water, the filtration of water, and waste management could be solved by the exchange of expertise between specialists from Hungary and the Philippines through conferences, exhibitions, and meetings.
Geographically, the Philippines and Hungary are distant from one another, but they share similarities in national identity, religion, and Christian cultural traditions. According to Ambassador Tóth, the relationship between the two countries has evolved into a respectful, mutually supportive partnership. Friendship can be tested at the most trying times.
During the pandemic, the Philippines had the strictest lockdown regulations, while Hungarian officials were permitted to enter the country. Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Péter Szijjártó was the first leader permitted to visit the Philippines in 2020.
“We are pleased to note that both Hungary and the Philippines successfully overcame the pandemic, and Hungary supports all means of cooperation to face the remaining challenges posed by the coronavirus,” the ambassador explains.
The Hungarian government follows President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration with sympathy, noting that it has already produced impressive results. As a result, the two governments have been able to expand their cooperation in many areas because they recognize that both the Marcos administration and the Hungarian government share a belief in democracy and national sovereignty.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) recently granted accreditation for Hungarian companies to export meat to the Philippines. “Hopefully, soon, Filipinos can experience quality Hungarian meats, including but not limited, to our famous sausages and salamis, to deepen our culinary bonds,” adds Ambassador Tóth.
The lady ambassador is pleased to report that since the reopening of the Hungarian Embassy in Manila in 2016, the two countries’ bilateral cooperation has increased rapidly and is evident every day in numerous sectors. We are currently in the most exciting period of Hungarian- Philippine relations, she confidently asserts. High-level visits and government meetings are frequent; economic and trade ties are growing quickly; and interpersonal relationships are vibrant and diverse.
Ambassador Tóth adds that the 50th anniversary of Hungary and the Philippines’ establishment of diplomatic relations is a major occasion worth commemorating in September 2023. She claims that the Philippines is already very interested in the milestone year, which she had the privilege of witnessing during their recent diplomatic interactions, cultural events, and business activities. She is confident that the focus on Hungary during the anniversary celebration will significantly help to deepen the bilateral ties and offer up new opportunities for both countries.