04 July 2014 - Earlier this month, the Philippines launched an exhibit to commemorate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Germany. The audio-visual exhibit, designed by Mr. Dakila Gonzales from the Philippine Tourism Office in Frankfurt, charted the shared history between Philippines and Germany, which actually originated during Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition to the Philippines in 1521. Magellan’s company not only included German sailors but the expedition was itself financed by Jakob Fugger, a well-known banker from Augsburg.
As the Spanish colonial period took hold, German trading companies began operating in the Philippines in the 1830s and Germans would soon dominate the pharmaceutical industry through such enterprises as BoticaBoie and BoticaZobel. Burgeoning commercial links spurred the German trading states of Bremen and Hamburg to establish consulates in the country. This strong German presence, which was the second largest expatriate community after the British, led to the creation of the German Reading Club (the forerunner of the current German Club) in 1880. However, people-to-people interactions were not solely one way. Dr. Jose Rizal pursued his ophthalmology training at the Charite Hospital in Berlin and he spent considerable time as well in Heidelberg, Wilhemsfeld, Dresden and Leipzig. Rizal completed Noli Mi Tangere in 1886 and through his benefactor, Maximo Viola, had the first batch of 2,000 copies of his masterpiece published at the Berliner Buchdruckerei-Aktiengesellschaft.
The post-War period would witness the resurgence of Philippine-German relations, initially through the appointment of Dr. Policronio R. de Venecia as Consul General to Hamburg in 1954. The next year, the Philippines and Germany signed a trade protocol, with President Carlos P. Garcia announcing during his State of the Nation Address that the “trade protocol with Germany includes provisions for the training of Filipino scholars and technicians in German industrial and educational institutions.” At the time, the two way trade volume was estimated at USD 50 million. Sixty years on, total trade in 2013 reached approximately USD 5.4 billion and the Philippines and Germany are pursuing an ambitious technical and vocational education and training (TVET) program under the new K-12 school system.
Several important official visits have been organized in the post-war period, including the German President and Mrs. Heinrich Lübke’s State Visit in 1963, President Corazon Aquino’s State Visit to Germany in 1989, and reciprocal visits of President Fidel Ramos in 1994 and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in 1996. Recent years have witnessed a resurgence in high-level interactions, with the visits of Vice President Jejomar Binay to Germany and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen to the Philippines in 2013.
Philippine Ambassador to Germany Maria Cleofe R. Natividad observed that people-to-people links continue to be a main driver of the Philippine-German partnership. In the late 1960s, Filipino workers, mostly nurses, began to immigrate to Germany. Decades later, a new cycle of Filipino nurses are beginning to arrive in Germany through the innovative Triple Win program, which seeks to bridge the undersupply of German healthcare professionals with the glut of qualified Filipino nurses. On the cultural front, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung is itself celebrating 50 years in the Philippines this year, with Manila being its first office in Asia. The German Football Federation (DFB) is supporting the development of the grass roots football program in the country while a young set of Filipino-Germans, led by Roland Müller, Stephan Schrock, and Patrick Reichelt, have reinforced the Philippine Azkals national football team.
After the audio-visual exhibit, the Embassy together with the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (UPAA) also launched the 91-page “Orientation Booklet for Filipinos in Germany.” The UPAA donated the first batch of the orientation booklets to the Embassy so that newly arrived Filipinos would have practical tips and information in adapting to life in Germany. An online version of the booklet is available here: http://projects.upaagermany.org/projects-germany-orient-2014.html. END