VIRGINIA 18 October 2018 —Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez kicked off a two-day introductory visit to the Hampton Roads in southeastern Virginia with a speech at the Awards Dinner of the First Golf Classic Tournament under the auspices of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce (PACC), at the Virginia Beach National Golf Club on 04 October 2018.
“I am told that while this is the first tournament organized by the PACC directly, this fundraising event has been around for some time already. And the Filipino American community has been raising funds in the last few years for local high school seniors aiming to attend higher education,” Ambassador Romualdez told his audience composed of the tournament players and their guests, including local personalities led by Virginia Beach Vice Mayor James Wood and City Manager Dave Hansen.
“This afternoon’s event is again a concrete manifestation of the Filipino bayanihan spirit. It is a reaffirmation of our people-to-people friendship as an important engine of Philippines-US relations,” he added.
Ambassador Romualdez was also briefed on the strong and dynamic sister city arrangement between Olongapo City in the Philippines and Virginia Beach by Carolyn Garrett and Ruth Fraser, current and former Presidents, respectively, of the Sister Cities Association of Virginia Beach.
Also at the dinner were Filipino Americans who occupied leadership positions including Virginia Beach Head City Clerk Tina Sinnen, former Virginia State Delegate Ron Villanueva, as well as local economic executives led by Ray White, Business Development Manager of the Virginia Beach Economic Development Office.
On 05 October 2018, the Ambassador graced the opening ceremonies of the annual Filipino Festival (FilFest) with the theme “Health and Wealth” in Rudee Loop, Virginia Beach, right beside the Atlantic Ocean. It featured an array of local restaurants, showcased traditional Filipino games, launched a Filipino craft beer, and highlighted a pageant show.
“I commend the efforts of Fil Fest USA in organizing this annual event that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines, and demonstrates the solidarity and bayanihanspirit of the Filipino people,” Ambassador Romualdez said in his remarks.
“The annual Fil Fest embodies what can be achieved by working together. The Philippine Government has made great strides in working hard to secure a comfortable life for all Filipinos, but there is still a long way to go. All of us recognize the vital contributions of diaspora groups and organizations, such as Fil Fest USA, that share the same commitment to serving the Filipino people both in the Philippines and abroad,” he added.
“We are very happy that despite his tight schedule, the Ambassador was not only able to strengthen economic ties between the Philippines and the Hampton Roads, but he was also able to meet the strong Filipino-American community that keeps Filipino history alive and embraces the future of such communities across the nation,” said Naomi Estaris, the local community leader who organized the Ambassador’s first visit to the region.
“Ambassador Romualdez has placed a positive footprint on moving forward. He has created a momentum for cooperation between the Philippines and Hampton Roads that we must not lose,” said former State Delegate Villanueva who has been a strong business proponent for Virginia and the Philippines.
During the same visit, Ambassador Romualdez also made a brief stop at the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, and visited the manufacturing facility of IMS Gear Virginia, which employs over a hundred Filipinos or about a third of its workforce.
“I am extremely pleased with my visit to the Hampton Roads. In fighting for freedom, peace and democracy; in creating jobs and pursuing economic prosperity; in working with one another, I firmly believe that the ties between our two countries are unbreakable, and the friendship between our two peoples is unshakeable,” Ambassador Romualdez said at the conclusion of his visit. END