Boosting ties between Korea, Philippines

labelled_map_of_the_philippines_-_provinces_and_regionsMy wife and I recently travelled to the municipality of Concepcion, Iloilo, Philippines, as part of the delegation of the Korea Heritage Society from Dec. 4 to Dec 10. The KHS was led by its chairman Choi Ha-kyung and advisory council members, at the invitation of Milliard S. Villanueva, the mayor of Concepcion.  Our visit was in response to a tourism promotion trip by Concepcion municipal officials to Seoul in September. The goodwill and friendship relationship was set up between Concepcion and the Korea Heritage Society in order to promote cultural exchanges between Korea and the Philippines. We will long remember the incredible beauty, and the rich cultural life of Concepcion and its surrounding fishing villages and islands. They exemplify the value of environmental protection and conservation.
While in Conception, we were fortunate to be able to join in the city’s most popular, annual, religious festival. With the theme of “a decade of resiliency, progress and good governance, a challenge for sustainability,” the 2018 festival took place over several days and included parades with the festival King and Queen, a carnival, and musical performances. Huge crowds of Concepcion citizens irrespective of age, gender and social standing packed into the streets and the municipal auditorium to celebrate the festival. The citizens of Concepcion created an enthusiastic and spirited atmosphere. The fiesta is an endearing Filipino tradition celebrated to express appreciation to God for the blessings bestowed on their lives and their town over the past year. Diverse events are held to commemorate the occasion that honors the town’s patron saint, Mary of the Immaculate Concepcion.  People of Concepcion believe that the intercession of their patron saint is behind the peace and progress that the municipality has received from God. It is on this faith that the local citizens strive to create a beloved community that cooperates and unites for the prosperity of their town. The Philippine-Korea cultural and friendship program was held at the municipal auditorium Dec 7. During the event, 23 members of the Korean delegation were honored with Certificates of Appreciation from the mayor of the Municipality of Concepcion.

The event was enhanced by a romantic Korean and Filipino musical concert with dances and songs. The Korean delegation offered Filipinos an opportunity to experience unique Korean culture such as traditional Korean classical music and dance. The Korean women in the delegation wore hanbok, the elegant Korean traditional dress, to demonstrate Korea’s traditional style. Pansori ― including “Sarang-ga,” “Yangsan-do” and “Jaangbu-taryeong” ― a traditional Korean genre of musical storytelling, was sung by Choi Ha-kyung and accompanied by drummer Cho Chang-yeob. It deeply moved the audience. Beautiful renditions of “You Are My Sunshine” and “Edelweiss” sung by the mixed quartet, Park Ki-an, Lee Yong-wou, Park Kea-ok and Park Kyung-ae, created a warm, familiar atmosphere. Other highlights included singing Arirang, the unique Korean folk ballad. It was sung by the Korean delegation. Everyone in the auditorium held hands and sang the song together, dancing in a circle. All were very moved by the emotional atmosphere. They transcended personal differences and became one people.

Concepcion is a developing coastal town that lacks infrastructure. However, it has great potential to boost its fishing industry and attract tourists if it can complete the rehabilitation of the three Iloilo ports to accommodate passenger ships. Tack Kee-joo is the only Korean who resides in Concepcion. He is a volunteer with the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). His efforts remind me of U.S. Peace Corp volunteers who worked in rural areas of Korea from 1966 to 1981 when Korea was still a poor, developing country by global standards.

By Choe Chong-dae, president of Dae-kwang International Co., and director of the Korean-Swedish Association.

(Korea Times)

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