MANILA -- With Manila having the oldest continuing Fulbright scholarship program, it is clear that the bilateral ties between the United States and the Philippines remain strong and robust, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said Friday night.
The Philippine-American Educational Foundation (PAEF) celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Fulbright program in the Philippines with a gala event at The Peninsula Manila, hosting alumni from current and original batches.
In an interview on the sides of the gala night, Kim told reporters that despite disagreements the two countries had on certain issues, both are committed to educational initiatives such as the Fullbright.
"We don't always agree on everything, sometimes we have disagreements over certain issues but we do want to make sure that initiatives like educational exchanges and programs, like Fulbright scholarship, continue regardless of what is happening politically and regardless (of) when we may have some disagreements on some issues," he said.
Kim said the educational link between the two states is "very important" and "fundamental" to the health of Manila and Washington's relationship.
"I think it reflects the strength of the relationship between our two countries (and) the fact that we have a robust program like this go so strong for 70 years, I think really it's a good reflection of the depth of ties between our two countries," he said.
Since 1948, Washington has sent more than 3,200 Filipinos to the US and more than 1,000 Americans to the Philippines under the Fulbright scholarship program.
This year, Kim said they intend to broaden the program's reach and attract more Filipinos from Mindanao to apply.
PAEF is the world's longest-continuing Fulbright Commission and the oldest international educational exchange program in the Philippines.
The governments of the US and the Philippines signed an executive agreement on March 23, 1948, establishing the Commission.
PAEF is a non-profit, bilateral organization responsible for the administration of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Programs, Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowships, Global Undergraduate Exchange Programs, and other educational exchange initiatives.
During the event, PAEF awarded 10 notable Filipino alumni as the first-ever Fulbright Philippines Hall of Fame awardees, among them National Scientist Dr. Angel Alcala, former ambassador Jose Cuisia, former senator Rene Saguisag, and Conchita Abad, the oldest Fulbright scholar, who was among the original batch of the educational exchange.
PAEF also awarded plaques of appreciation to former senator Edgardo Angara and Fulbright sponsor Washington SyCip, represented by the SyCip Foundation.
For 93-year old Abad, developer of the country's first curriculum for BS Occupational Therapy and the oldest alumnus present in the gala night, the Fulbright program served and will serve as a life-changing event for every Filipino scholar sent to America.
I owe very much to Fulbright because it was my first experience to go abroad, my first," she told reporters.
"(I saw) for the first time the Liberty Bell and (had) several visits with the American group. Before I graduated from the Philadelphia School of Occupational Therapy of the University of Pennsylvania, I was invited by Fidel Ramos who was, at that time, not yet the president, he was a cadet back then," she narrated.
"Those are the most memorable moments I had because of the Fullbright," she said.
For Cuisia, who was a Fulbright fellow in 1968, the US program is indeed an effective tool to develop bilateral ties between Filipinos and Americans.
"As you have heard, over 3,200 Filipino Fullbright scholars have gone to the US. These Filipinos are all over the US, it's not just one state, so people in the US get to understand more about our country, about our culture and about our people," he said.
"It is such an effective program in strengthening ties between two people," he added.
Angara said Filipinos must fully harness this educational opportunity since in the long term, this will serve as a valuable investment for them.
"Aside from Fulbright, we must believe in the human capital because any state at any single moment of history is prosperous or poor because they take care of human capital. Fullbright represents human capital," he said. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency