ABU DHABI //The Philippines' ambassador to the UAE marked her country's Independence Day yesterday by calling on Filipinos to unite to end poverty and a "mindset of scarcity".
"We in the UAE need to learn how to save, invest and stimulate our economy back home," said Grace Princesa, as Filipino diplomats and expatriates gathered at a flag raising ceremony at the embassy.
On June 12, the Philippines celebrates the anniversary of the first public reading of the Act of the Declaration of Independence in 1898. The theme of this year's event, which is marked around the world, is Kalayaan: Paninindigan ng Bayan, or Freedom: The People's Stand. It was chosen to highlight how freedom was achieved from the colonial rule of Spain, which had been defeated at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American war, through the resolute stand of Filipinos.
Albert del Rosario, the foreign secretary of the Philippines, said in a statement read at the ceremony that the administration of the president, Benigno Aquino, was "committed to pursue the most basic metric of freedom - freedom from poverty".
"Surely, it is what we desire as a nation," he said. "To pursue this, the government's goal is to create jobs at home so that there will be no need to look for employment abroad."
Manila's foreign affairs department is stepping up its efforts to help bring more investments into the country to provide employment to Filipinos, he said.
In an independence day video message for Filipinos abroad shown at the embassy yesterday, Mr Aquino said: "Today, Filipinos at home and all over the world are commemorating our independence. Today is also about paying tribute to all the heroes who made countless sacrifices to win and preserve our freedom." Mr Aquino also said Filipinos should free themselves from a life of poverty and prove to the world that they deserve the freedom they now enjoy.
"I believe that today, we can all agree that no matter where we are in the world, this is one we all share - a world where talent, the skill, and the virtues of the Filipino people are given the respect and attention they deserve in the global arena," he said.
Mogens Mikkelsen joined his 43-year-old Filipino wife Victoria to watch the diplomats unfurl their national flag yesterday. The couple have lived in the Emirates for decades and run a school in Abu Dhabi, but plan to eventually settle back in the Philippines.
"It's important that Filipinos understand the essence of their freedom," he said.
Nemia Abeto, 43, a Filipina housemaid who works for a Lebanese family in Abu Dhabi, has developed a strong affinity to her homeland. Her employer allows her to attend national day events.
"I've been here for 10 years," she said. "This day reminds us how we won our freedom and to show our love for our country."