It was an evening of ingenious ideas. The British Embassy in Manila hosted the celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s 91st birthday at the British School Manila. With thanks to all the sponsors, the school gymnasium was transformed into a futuristic space showcasing British innovations through the decades. Her Majesty’s Ambassador Asif Ahmad welcomed guests from the government, private sector, media and the diplomatic corps.
Children from the Purple Center Foundation, an organisation backed by a British charity, signalled the start of the programme with a beautiful programme of singing, including the British and Philippine national anthems. The foundation helps impoverished children who live near the Smokey Mountain dumpsite to get a start in life through education. Afterwards, a video highlighting the many achievements of the British Embassy Manila team in recent years was shown.
The theme of the night was InGenious Britain. The Ambassador took the guests on a journey from the past to the future. In his speech, he shared his vision for how the Philippines and UK can work together to shape the future.
In my imagination, I see us arriving in a transformed Manila airport. We will use a new runway, based on the ingenious British idea. This is a single extended runway that planes use for both landing and takeoff. Our electric powered taxi will take the Laguna lakeshore highway. We will be home under an hour after leaving the airport. The jeepneys I will see on the road will still be as colourful as they are now but they will be safer and they won’t be smoke belchers. The Philippines will be a pioneer for pollution control with a visible shift to a green agenda.
We will want to connect with family and friends all over the world. We will choose whether to sign up to a British internet service provider based in the Philippines or a Filipino one. Both delivering the fastest broadband speed in the world. Perhaps, the one I will choose will have 3 dimensional virtual reality too. My favourite sports will be broadcast live through a reliable British satellite hovering over Philippine air space. The same satellite that will connect rural Philippines to the rest of the world.
In my local market, we will be overwhelmed with choice. Fresh fruits and seafood delivered in a seamless cold chain from Bicol. British beef and lamb will be available once again. In my local bar, alongside Scotch whisky, I will see British draught ale. Served at the right temperature with no ice in the glass.
From the time of the first steam locomotive, we have taken railway mania to all parts of the world. In fact, we built the first railways in the Philippines. I look forward to taking the subway from Makati to Quezon City. The new trains, supported by British technology, will be reliable. The journey will take no more than 20 minutes. I might even hear the familiar message on the platform-Mind the Gap-ingat ka.
The Ambassador’s speech underscored the strong bilateral relations of the UK and the Philippines, a partnership that is expected to flourish for many years to come. As the UK remains to be a global and outward looking nation, it commits to be open for business and a staunch partner of the Philippines in its road towards further development and prosperity.
The Ambassador closed his speech by saying:
I have set out a vision for the future. This is not a flight of fantasy. Everything I have said is reachable. All you need is belief and determination. Remember the words of John Lennon’s song Imagine. You may say that I’m a dreamer but I am not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas at Great Britain!