EMBASSY OF THE PHILIPPINES RESIDENCE: RECEPTION & BRIEFING OCTOBER 12, 2011
A fortunate group of alums and guests were very
glad they came out to attend this event and learn
so much about the Philippines' culture and
economics and the long-standing relationship
with the United States
A rainy evening in DC did not deter a nearly full attendance of members and guests who registered to attend this delightful and informative evening. Greeted at the door of the historic residence on Embassy Row by two members of the Embassy staff, guests entered a broad foyer decorated with traditional Philippine artifacts and family photos of the Ambassador, his wife and five daughters.
NETWORKING AND DINING
A few steps down into a sunken salon bright with modern décor, we found a full bar, a center table set with trays of delicious hors d’oeuvres and waiters passing wine, beer, juice and more nibbles. Soon the familiar sound of Wharton alums and guests catching up, meeting new friends and laughing at the wet weather resonated.
At about 7:15 p.m., the group was ushered upstairs to the second level receiving salons. A lady pianist entertained expertly throughout the evening, playing many standards of the American Songbook on a grand piano.
In one room we found a buffet dinner had been laid. Guests enjoyed a tasty array of Philippine and Asian style items – fresh diced vegetable rolls, chicken in small rolls, Philippine sausage, roast pork, red bell pepper slices filled with crabmeat, empañadas, thin rice noodles stir fried with vegetables, and little banana crisp rolls. Waiters circulated with trays of
Tables and chairs were available for some; another beautiful salon furnished with couches and chairs for others, and the broad foyer offered benches and chairs, so that everyone could either sit or stand as desired, and yet be able to circulate and converse comfortably.
The briefing began shortly after the buffet in a separate salon that was set with rows of chairs. Another Embassy staff member was ready with a laptop and screen.
Alan Schlaifer, W’65, president of the Wharton DC Club, welcomed everyone, thanked the Ambassador and introduced Dr. Ben Arthur, WG’08. Ben is Vice President, Global Life Sciences of Ventis Partners and also functions as Vice President for International Affairs for the Wharton DC Club. He has been very instrumental in helping to continue the Club’s relationships with many embassies so that we may enjoy these reception and briefing evenings in the future.
Ben Arthur provided biographical information about the Ambassador. H.E. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., WG’70, was nominated by President Benigno Aquino to the position on November 30, 2010 and confirmed by the Commission on Appointments on February 9, 2011. His wife, Maria Victoria Jose, also hosted this reception and briefing and was credited with supervising the menu. They are the parents of five daughters. An alumnus of De La Salle University, Ambassador Cuisia earned an M.B.A. (Finance) from Wharton in 1970. In 2011, our Club honored him with the Joseph Wharton Award at our annual Award Dinner on May 17.
Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Cuisia was a commissioner of the Social Security System (SSS) in 2010. He was Central Bank governor and chairman of the Monetary Board (the equivalent of our Federal Reserve Board) and concurrently chairman of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. Board from 1990 to 1993. He was also president and CEO/administrator of the SSS and director of the Philippine National Bank.
Ambassador Cuisia has many years of experience in banking and insurance. He has been an executive in several financial institutions such as the Philippine American Life & General Insurance Company, American International Group, Far East Bank & Trust Company, and Union Bank of the Philippines. He also served on the boards of a number of the Philippines’ leading companies, including SM Prime Holdings, Phinma Corporation, Genesis Hotels and Resorts Management, and Manila Water Company.
HISTORY OF THE RESIDENCE AND VIDEO
Ambassador José L. Cuisia, Jr., welcomed everyone and gave a history of the historical residence that has now become the official ambassador’s home. The three-story sandstone mansion was built in 1904 by William Lipscombs for retired General and Mrs. Charles L. Fitzhugh. The house was once a neighbor to the homes of four U.S. Presidents – William Howard Taft, who was the first American Civil Governor of the Philippines, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Herbert C. Hoover. In 1931, Illinois Congressman Frederick Britten rented it and then purchased it in 1941.
In October, 1946, the first Philippine Ambassador to the U.S., Joaquin M. Elizalde, and his wife purchased it from the Brittens. In 1949, the Philippine Government bought the property from the Elizaldes for $130,582.78. Elizalde stayed on as Ambassador until January 1952. Since then, it has been the Official Residence of 15 succeeding Philippine Ambassadors to the U.S.
Ambassador Cuisia recognized the ministers, consuls, press officer and other staff members in attendance this evening. He said four of them would each provide a brief on issues in their respective areas of expertise. He then introduced a short video.
The video was a fast-moving colorful pastiche in travelog style of places of interest, beaches, cultural events and the natural splendor that is the Philippines. There are 7,100 islands, mostly of volcanic origin. A ‘tropical rainforest climate’ country, it is home to two million species of wildlife, some found only in the Philippines. The video depicted a broad mixture of highlights from festivals, marketplaces, cities, villages, and pristine sea shores.
Philippines-U.S. A Mature Alliance Forged by History and Common Ideals
1. Bilateral Relations with the U.S.
Emil T. Fernandez
First Secretary and Consul
Mr. Fernandez provided some historical perspective on the relationship of the Philippines with the U.S. In 1521 the Spaniards arrived. In 1898 the Philippines declared independence from Spain and formed their first republic in 1899.
However, the U.S. purchased the Philippines from Spain in 1898 for $20 million in the Treaty of Paris. After the Philippine-American war, the islands were administered by the U.S. as an ‘insular area’. In 1935, they were granted Commonwealth status. The Japanese invaded and occupied from 1942-1945. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines attained independence. The Philippines serves as the gateway to the rest of Asia for the U.S. They are a democracy and have a bicameral congress. The official languages are Filipino and English.
2. Political and Security Relations
Maria Andrelita Austria
Minister for Political Affairs
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations on July 4, 1946, Philippine American relations have been enduring, dynamic and mutually beneficial.
In addition to the Embassy, the Philippines maintains six consulate generals around the U.S., mainly in areas with significant Filipino-American populations.
The Philippines and the US are strong partners in defense and security. The U.S. is the Philippines’ only treaty ally, and one of the U.S.’ two treaty allies in Southeast Asia. The Philippines is also a major non-NATO ally of the U.S. The U.S. and the Philippines have a mutual defense treaty, and are key partners in anti-terrorism and maritime security.
3. Economic Relations
Angelito A. Nayan
Second Secretary & Consul; Economic Officer
Bilateral trade and investment cooperation is a dynamic dimension of the Philippines-U.S. partnership. The Philippines and the United States meet regularly under the auspices of a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
In 2010, the Philippines was the 30th largest U.S. trading partner, with two-way goods trade amounting to US$15.4 billion. The strategic opportunities to invest in the Philippines are guided by the “Four Rights” principles of the Aquino administration: “Right projects, Right cost, Right quality, and Right on time.”
The Philippine Government's Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) program focuses on high-impact infrastructure projects to support facilities for tourism, agriculture, social services and growth centers; and provides incentives to stimulate private resources.
4. Philippine Interests in the U.S. Congress
Ariel Rodelas Peñaranda
Minister for Legislative Affairs & Consul
There are approximately three million-plus people of Philippine descent in the U.S. They are mainly located in California, Hawaii, Chicago, New York, Virginia and Maryland, Guam and Saipan. Their interests have been supported by their respective legislators especially by Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Harry Reid (D-NV). A number of bills that come before both Houses, both passed and pending, directly affect their lives, such as issues involving Filipino veterans of World War II, immigration reform, and health care.
The Filipino American community is also supportive of bills promoting the strategic alliance and economic relations between the U.S. and the Philippines. The most important bill currently being supported by the Filipino American community is the Save Our Industries Act (S. 1244 and H.R. 2387) which would allow job creation in the textile industry of the U.S. and the apparel industry of the Philippines. Among other pending bills include the commemoration of Mutual Defense Treaty and the return of two church bells to the Philippines. There is a United States-Philippines Friendship Caucus made up of 63 members from the U.S. House, led by Congressmen Bob Filner (D-CA) and Brian Bilbray (R-CA).
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
A question-and-answer forum ensued with Ambassador Cuisia tackling questions concerning the Philippines’ fiscal situation, legislative process, relationship with China, entrepreneurship, agribusiness, healthcare and education.
Alan Schlaifer thanked the Ambassador and all the speakers. Several rounds of applause were given for all the speakers, as well as the hospitality of the Ambassador’s wife.
At that point, we were all surprised by waiters bearing trays of ice cream cones filled with delicious homemade vanilla and coconut ice cream. This particular evening was rated by many of the alums as one of the very best among all the many embassy evenings we have been privileged to enjoy.
On behalf of the Club, Alan gave a gift to Ambassador:
A book from Wharton School Publishing – The Power of Impossible Thinking: Transform the Business of Your Life and the Life of Your Business
Yoram (Jerry) Wind (Wharton Lauder Professor and Director, SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management),
Colin Crook (Wharton Senior Advisor, Wharton Fellows and Former CTO, Citigroup), & Robert Gunther (Former Wharton director of development communications)
Wharton Club members and guests then continued to enjoy the hospitality of our hosts. The beautiful piano music continued in the background. All of us left with fond memories of an enchanting and stimulating evening.