Interview with H.E. Manuel M. Lopez, Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to Japan
Min-On: First of all, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Your Excellency, for supporting the recent performance of the Bayanihan, The Philippine National Folk Dance Company, in Japan, which Min-On proudly organized in collaboration with your embassy. Please give us your impressions from the Bayanihan’s performance here in Tokyo.
Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez: The Bayanihan has delighted audiences all over the world and won many prestigious awards, yet they have not performed in Japan for over 20 years. We are so happy to again realize a performance of theirs here in Tokyo, especially upon the auspicious occasion of the 60th anniversary of Philippines-Japan diplomatic relations. When planning the celebration, I told my embassy staff we must offer the very best to the Japanese public. We all thought that for us Filipinos, some kind of cultural presentation is the most ideal way to celebrate the anniversary. We then decided there isn’t a more fitting cultural group than the Bayanihan to represent the culture of the Philippines on this special occasion.
However, my staff were worried about inviting the Bayanihan to Japan, due to the difficulties in scheduling the popular group, as well as organizing and funding a large-scale production of theirs here in Tokyo. Very fortunately, Min-On helped us resolve all those difficulties, and we are deeply thankful to Min-On for their sponsorship and professionalism to make this performance a great success. We are very proud that Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado graced the commemorative occasion alongside many other distinguished guests, including ambassadors and colleagues of the diplomatic community in Tokyo, and of course, a full house audience.
Min-On: We were impressed by the diversity of the Bayanihan’s performance. Please share your thoughts on the diverse culture of the Philippines.
Ambassador: In a way, the history and diversity of Philippine culture is depicted through the Bayanihan’s dance. You may have noticed that the performance included dance from the northern region of Luzon, down to the southern region of Mindanao, which has Muslim influences, and also the region of Visayas, in between the big islands of Luzon and Mindanao. All of those regions are represented in the Bayanihan’s dance. Furthermore, there have been various cultural influences throughout our history, including Malay culture, Spanish culture and later, some American influences. All of these regional and international influences have been incorporated into our culture and shaped the Philippines of today. Personally, I value every aspect of our history. Sometimes the younger generation tends to not appreciate our heritage, and our history books and academics don’t address it enough. I like to remind all Filipinos of our past, especially the youth, including the myriad cultural influences we Filipinos have experienced through contact with different races, countries and cultures. I think we should all learn how to appreciate the diversity of our country and the real heritage of the Philippines.
Min-On: It was a great honor to have your courtesy visit to the Min-On Culture Center and Music Museum. Please share with us your impression after visiting our facilities and participating in Min-On’s cultural activities.
Ambassador: I strongly feel that Min-On is a very cohesive association. When I arrived at your Culture Center, I was touched by the warm welcome and hospitality of your staff at the entrance hall. I was deeply impressed by how kind-spirited everybody was, and I want to pay a sincere tribute to the Min-On Concert Association for their well-deserved success.
I was most impressed by your antique piano collection. I have never seen such an amazing and priceless collection of pianos in my life. When I return to my country, if I meet someone who plays the piano, I will tell them to visit your unbelievable piano collection here in Japan. Seeing your efforts to preserve those treasures of world cultural heritage, I can tell what kind of organization Min-On truly is. I was deeply impressed by everything I have experienced with the Min-On Concert Association during my time in Japan.
I am leaving my position of ambassador to Japan soon, but even after retiring from the diplomatic corps, I will commit myself in whatever capacity possible in the private sector to support the bond between the Philippines and Japan. There is already a strong bond between the two countries, but I will make an effort to forge an even stronger one.
I also want to thank the Japanese people for kindly hosting my wife and me for the last five and half years. The Japanese people have always been very friendly and accommodated us so well. The same is most likely true for all of the ambassadors who have spent time here—I think Japan is the best country to be assigned to as an ambassador. I have been very fortunate to happily fulfill my mission here. Thank you sincerely for everything.