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Surrounded by six nations and the Black Sea, Romania was once behind the Iron Curtain— the metaphorical political line that separated the countries in the Eastern Bloc from the West and non-communist nations. Eventually, following the revolutions of 1988-1989, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Iron Curtain fell, freeing countries like Romania to connect with the rest of the world.

“Before we freed ourselves from communism in 1989, the economy was down, people were lacking hope, lacking perspective. But the moment when we decided we wanted to be a democratic country, to be like the other Western European states; when we decided to change course in order to enjoy human rights, the rule of law, to have our dignity back... that was the moment when magically alot of energy was unleashed. It was like every citizen of Romania wanted to be part of the great transformation,” Romanian Ambassador to the Philippines Her Excellency Răduța Dana Matache shares.

“I would lie if I said that it was easy. It wasn’t easy. But then we aspired to be like the Western European countries, to share in their values which used to be our values before communism. We put all of our efforts into first joining NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), then the European Union (EU), and we had very clear objectives. Once we joined them, we realized that we are part of a circle of friends, of relationships, of organizations that are meant to help each other perform to the best that we can.”

Matache explains, “I believe thatthe Romanian Revolution was part of a worldwide movement for a better life. It wasn’t only Romania. It was also the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic, the reunification of Germany. Those were very troubled years. There was a yearning from the people for real prosperity, for a different life. We were part of a wave that swept all over the globe. And I believe the world is better for it nowadays.”

True enough, globalization took off following those movements, including the end of the Cold War in 1991. Nations allover the world connected with each other.Fortunately, the connection between Romania and the Philippines had been established long before. Romania was the first country in the Eastern Bloc which partnered with the Philippines and established diplomatic relations.For decades, we nurtured exceptionally good political, economic, and cultural relations. In 2022, our two countries celebrated50 years of diplomatic relations. Matache reveals that when relations were established, every Filipino passport holder had to change their passports: “On your passport, before establishing relations with Romania, it was written: ‘Not valid for travel in the USSR and other communist countries’ and we were a communist country at the time.”


Aside from the celebration of five decades of relations, 2022 also marked the year when regular bilateral talks resumed, after the pandemic. The bilateral dialogue really took off since then. Only in the last six months, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Romanian Minister for Foreign Affairs Luminița Odobescu held two rounds of very productive talks.

The Philippines decided to re-open the Philippine embassy in Bucharest which had been closed since 2012. Matache reveals that Romania hopes the Philippine embassy would open this year, further strengthening the ties between our nations.

The ambassador is convinced that we were always bound to get along. “Before coming here [to the Philippines], a friend of mine told me that during her 18 years working on a cruise ship, her very best friends were Filipinos. And it’s not an isolated story; I heard of the same good relationship between Filipinos and Romanians over and over again. I’m thinking of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Romania, over 2,500 of them now, and we hope their number will increase. The [OFWs] are extraordinary ambassadors of your country in Romania. Also,if you visit Romania, there is a beautiful hotel near Dracula’s Castle that has a full Filipino menu— [including] adobo, sinigang, turon and halo-halo. We, at the Embassy of Romania, want very much to be an engine of this reinvigorated relationship. We get along as people and as countries and despite the distance, we need to work together increasingly more in order for us to continue to develop and reach prosperity for our people,” she says. Beyond talks, expanding relations also means developing partnerships in certain areas— trade, education, technology, agriculture, and tourism. Romania has been pushing for university partnerships and educational opportunities.For instance, Matache visited the University of the Philippines (UP) in 2022 to express their interest in forming new academic ties.That same year, UP launched an event to celebrate the extraordinary milestone in diplomatic relations between Romania and the Philippines. High-level officials from both countries’ foreign affairs departments were present at the event which featured cultural performances by the multi-awarded group UP Singing Ambassadors and the Romanian Cultural Society.

Matache adds that Romania is doing its part in participating in the EU’s Erasmus+ program. This initiative provides chances for Filipino students to immerse in Europe for one to two years to study and learn about their culture and language. Romania also has its own program of scholarships, opened every year for applications from non-EU citizens, including Filipino students. She added that the embassy is successfully engaging with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to further publicize these opportunities to Filipino students.

However, the ambassador stresses that these programs are two-way streets. There is reciprocity in a way for each program. “Offering these opportunities is extremely important for us. Because when you take in a foreign student, it’s not only them who gain a lot. As hosts, we learn a lot about that person’s country and their culture. Also, Filipino students are native speakers of English and they help their colleagues improve their command of English.”



Aside from education, Romania is also known for being one of the trailblazers in cybersecurity. Bit defender, one of the global leaders in cybersecurity, was founded in Bucharest in 2001 and there are many other effective Romanian companies working in this area. Matache praises the software programs which have helped Romania prevent catastrophic cyberattacks in their country. In recognition of the country’s capabilities in this field, the EU has chosen Bucharest as the location of the Cyber Security Competence Agency.

These advancements in technology would not be possible if it weren’t for a political decision made more than two decades ago. In 2001, the government decided that information technology (IT) experts in software were exempt from personal income tax. Matache explains that “It doesn’t deplete the government of a lot of funds, but it helped establish that the government (and any succeeding governments) believes that IT is important. We are good in mathematics and physics, and this is why there’s a genuine love of information technology in Romania. So that’s why the government made this political winning choice. Of course, they were criticized; it’s a democracy. But at the end of the day, I think it paid off.”

“Now, I am aware of Romanian companies interested to explore opportunities here. The Philippines needs to master cybersecurity, has an important pool of IT talent and is a big market for cybersecurity training and software. We believe there is room for joint degree educational programs or other types of training on cybersecurity,” Matache reveals.

The ambassador also shares that in 2023, Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) officials had fruitful discussions with the Romania Space Agency (ROSA). For now, the details are still being finalized and the embassy is eager to share such once plans become more concrete. The PhilSA and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in cooperation with the EU launched the Copernicus Capacity Support Action Program for the Philippines (CopPhil), a space cooperation program with a budget of roughly Php610 million.

Copernicus is the European Commission (EC) and European Space Agency’s (ESA) “Earth observation flagship program” which gathers data from over 30 satellites. The information aims to help EU partner countries like the Philippines (and its

government officials) better manage “disaster mitigation, climate change adaptation, and food security strategies.”


Even the ambassador herself was drawn to technology prior to joining the Foreign Ministry as she was an electronic engineer. She explains that it was safe to be an engineer during those times, a career that was far away from the complications of politics and communist party doctrines. Then the revolution happened and as

she puts it, “Everybody wanted to contribute.”

“It was not clear [to me] how I can contribute as I was working in research for electronic switchboards. Does it help Romania? It probably does, but I wanted to do something immediately. So I took up a master’s degree in International Relations. Some of our professors were distinguished diplomats and that’s how the dream of being like them arose.”

Matache professes her love for the profession and admits she’s lucky to have joined the Foreign Ministry and to work with great colleagues. In her over 30 years of experience as a diplomat, she has been posted in Washington D.C., London, and Sweden. Each, she says, holds a particular place in her heart, stressing that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

“I was a junior diplomat when I was in Washington D.C.; my responsibilities were relatively limited. And when you are young, sky is the limit. You also have free time, which does not happen later on in a diplomatic career, so I was fortunate to be able to visit 44 states in the United States—each of them different, special.”

London, she shares, was brilliant because of the city’s vibrant atmosphere. It was a political, economic and cultural hub and the think tank community was nothing short of amazing. On the other hand, Sweden was a lot about work because it was there where she was posted as an ambassador for the first time.

“I tried to apply [in Sweden] what I learned from previous postings and from my previous ambassadors who were all outstanding diplomats. Here in the Philippines, I feel like I have it all: highly interesting work, in a region of geopolitical significance and in a rapidly developing country, all in a beautiful environment.I am happy to have the chance to work well with the Filipino officials, at both central and local level, to travel and enjoy nature and the warmth of the Filipino people.”

With her decades of experience, the ambassador believes every moment and experience shaped her as a diplomat. It is a career, she adds, where in you learn continuously from the people you meet especially since diplomats are thrown in the water when posted in a new country.

“It’s like an explosion of new things. We have to adapt very quickly, see and judge the reality, and understand the historical context at the same time. I would be remiss if I say that only one moment stands out because I feel that what I do well nowadays can only be the result of having learned from a lot of people over time. And I still have a lot to learn.”

But Matache shares some experiences that were undoubtedly amazing—meeting the late Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, taking her ambassadorial oath in front of the Romanian president, and presenting her credentials at the Malacañang Palace.

“However, I can say that sometimes meeting one person that tells you one sentence, which all of a sudden illuminates everything in your head—that’s equally memorable. The most important, in my view, are the relationships that you nurture, the friendships that you make in the places where you work and, finally, that you leave something good behind.”

These experiences keep her moving forward in this career as well as the motivation that diplomats are working for a good objective. Also, a healthy sense of proportions and a sense of humor, Matache jokes, adding that if sometimes things don’t go as planned Romanians have a way of laughing at trouble: “I think we resort very often to jokes when the going gets tough. And I think we are alike with Filipinos in this regard.”

She points out that diplomats also have to be ethical with a strong moral compass, to be very adaptable and work under stress. Also, they must be respectful of the country they work in and the people they work with. Lastly, she notes that a diplomat

"I would lie if said that it was easy. It wasn't easy. But then we tried to be like the Western European countries, to share in their values which used to be our values before communism."

must be aware of the limits of their knowledge and power, while also aiming high, not for their own career, but for their home and host countries. Diplomacy, Matache underscores, is a way of life which implies accepting some sacrifices, while holding your own convictions and loving to work with people.


Despite everything, the ambassador wouldn’t have it any other way, especially now that she’s posted in the Philippines. She professes her love for the country, every place offering wonders and surprises. “There’s always so much to discover; somehow every place I have visited stole my heart: Iloilo, Cebu, Baguio, Ilocos Norte, Zambales etc. From an artistic point of view, the Dinagyang Festival, in my humble opinion, is one of the best in the world. The magnitude, the choreography and synchronism and the beauty of the performances are absolutely amazing. Recently, I also heard that Iloilo became part of the UNESCO gastronomy cities.” It then came as no surprise when the Romanian Embassy invited Tribu Silak, an award-winning Dinagyang Festival dance group, to perform at Romania’s National Day celebration last November 29, 2023.

While the celebration, Matache admits, cannot fully highlight everything that Romania has to offer, it included a Romanian carol and a performance by a pair of Filipina and Romanian sopranos. During the first part of her speech, the ambassador spoke at length in Filipino before transitioning to English, joking that she mostly did not understand the Filipino part of her speech. Still, despite the language barrier, the audience felt the heartwarming and genuine welcome. Throughout the celebration, video presentations highlighted the many beautiful destinations that Romania has to offer. Stunning beaches on the shores of the Black Sea, the Danube Delta, the Carpathian Mountains, UNESCO Heritage Sites, and more natural and cultural wonders. Matache admits that most tourists come to Romania to see its biggest attraction—Dracula’s Castle.


“Nowadays, you can even have dinner at Dracula’s Castle at midnight. The ghosts are not guaranteed, but sometimes they appear,” the ambassador quips.

Matache met with Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco and they explored different possibilities to promote the Philippines in Romania and vice versa. Recognizing the potential for enhanced cooperation, both officials agreed to work together in taking these opportunities into fruition, adding that bilateral relations is all about improving both nations—a two-way street.

The ambassador also expressed her admiration for the country’s resilience. “Filipinos maintain a positive outlook and continue to move forward with a smile. This virtue has enabled them to emerge and prosper, amidst adversity, towards their aspirations.”

“I believe that the Philippines is doing everything that should be done. Your GDP [gross domestic product] per capita will take off because you have one of the highest growths in the region and especially since you are rebuilding and consolidating a circle of friends and allies both here in the ASEAN region and far away, like the EU. If your country stays the course, I’m sure the Philippines will be one of the countries that will be spoken about more all over the world. Prosperity doesn’t come all of a sudden, it comes little by little. And from our vantage point, we are convinced that [the Philippines] is on its way there,” Matache ends.

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