Cablegate: First Veterans Day Ceremony at Baguio Residence Smash


DE RUEHML #3662/01 3190602
O 150602Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY. Ambassador visited Baguio City November 5-7 to host the
first Veterans Day Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy Residence in Baguio,
the place where Japanese forces surrendered the Philippines at the
end of World War II. In addition to honoring American and Filipino
vets in the region, Ambassador focused on deepening relations with
the Philippine Military Academy, and with leaders in the local
education, arts, and business communities. During her visit,
Ambassador also participated in USAID-supported events to increase
environmental protection, and visited a children's home that is a
Peace Corps volunteer work site in the Baguio area. The success of
these events, many of which generated significant press coverage,
demonstrates the continuing value of the Baguio Residence as a
forward base for regional outreach. END SUMMARY.

2. BACKGROUND ON BAGUIO. The U.S. Embassy Residence in Baguio City
continues to support Embassy Manila's diplomatic mission by serving
as an important programming venue. Baguio City was established in
the early 1900s as the highland summer capital of the Philippines.
The United States constructed the Baguio Residence in 1940. The
Residence later served as the site of the official surrender of
Japanese forces in the Philippines. Today, Baguio City is a major
education center, boasting five universities and the joint-services
Philippine Military Academy. Thanks to its highly educated
population, the city is also a high-tech hub, home to major U.S. and
international companies such as Texas Instruments, aviation
suppliers Moog Instruments, and call centers such as Sitel. END

Honoring U.S. and Filipino Veterans

3. The historic significance of the Baguio Residence provided the
ideal backdrop for the first-ever Veterans Day ceremony and
reception held at the Baguio Residence, on November 6. Ambassador
hosted the event with Veterans Administration officials to honor
American and Filipino vets living in the Baguio region. (A larger
Veterans Day Ceremony was held on November 11 in Manila). The day
began with a private meeting between Ambassador and two local
American veterans, brothers, who recently served in Iraq. Ambassador
then presided over the ceremony, which was attended by over 200
guests, including veterans from every conflict since World War II
(among them survivors of the WWII Bataan death march), their
families, city officials, and members of the business community.
Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Superintendent General Leopoldo
Maligalig delivered the key note speech. Active duty U.S. soldiers
and PMA cadets marched together as color guards. Fifty members of
the press attended the event, which was covered by nearly every
major Philippine daily the following day (see paragraph 9, below).
The feedback by the guests was overwhelmingly positive.

4. Ambassador concluded the Veteran-themed day by speaking at the
Philippine Military Academy to over 1,000 cadets. Her remarks
focused on the core values shared by members of the U.S. and
Philippine military, such as loyalty and integrity, and the
important role of the Philippine military.

Strengthening Community Ties

5. The Baguio Residence also provided an elegant setting for a
cultural reception hosted by Ambassador the evening of November 5.
The reception strengthened ties with leaders of the local arts and
academic communities, many of whom had not previously met the
Ambassador nor visited the Residence. Guests included distinguished
artists, filmmakers, university officials, regional officials, and
NGO leaders. Journalists covering culture for local and national
media also attended.

6. On the morning of November 7, Ambassador reached out to an
important sector of the local business community. She visited a call
center facility operated by Sitel Corporation, a U.S. company with
the distinction of being the largest employer in Baguio. Sitel
currently employs over 2,500 Filipinos at their two Baguio sites
(with 8,000 total employees nationwide), and boasts "A-list" clients
such as Sony, Expedia, and Hawaiian Airlines. Ambassador met Sitel
Philippines President Dan Reyes and toured the high-tech call
center. Ambassador then presided over the grand opening of Sitel's
employee pharmacy, which is part of a wellness initiative to make
lower priced medicines available to the company's employees.

Supporting USAID and Peace Corps Initiatives

7. Ambassador also supported efforts to protect the environment
during her trip. First, she launched National Clean Air Month at the
University of the Cordilleras. The event celebrated the commitment
made by a network of local academic institutions and youth
organizations to support sustainable development (the network was
formed as part of a USAID initiative). Next, Ambassador read an

"Ecodefender" story to over 100 enthusiastic school children, who
shared their own ideas on how to protect the environment. The Read
Along program is a successful collaboration between USAID, the U.S.
Department of Energy, the Philippine Inquirer, and the National Book
Store. While Ambassador participated in these events, the Embassy's
Foreign Commercial Service Director attended an event at Caltex, a
U.S.-owned fuel station, to promote the use of locally produced
biofuels by jeepneys, the primary mode of public transport in the

8. To raise awareness for the efforts of the U.S. Peace Corps,
Ambassador paid a visit on November 7 to the Shepherd of the Hills
Center, a local school for abandoned and neglected teenagers that is
supported by the Peace Corps. Ambassador praised the worthy mission
of the center, applauded the commitment of the Peace Corp volunteer
who works at the center, and enjoyed the high-energy dance and music
recital performed by the children (who are clearly thriving at the

Generating Positive Press

9. Members of the national and local media interviewed Ambassador at
the Cultural Reception, the Veterans Day Ceremony and Reception, the
launch of National Clean Air Month, and the Read Along event.
Positive press coverage resulted of the Veterans Day ceremony and
the Ambassador's other public events. Some media wrote about support
from the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation to help
preserve the rice terraces in Banawe, a UNESCO world-heritage site.


10. COMMENT. The success of these events -- which ranged from
outreach to the American community, to strengthening ties to the
local arts, education, business, and military community, to raising
awareness for U.S. government programs that protect the environment
and contribute to the health and wellbeing of local Filipinos --
demonstrates the continuing importance of the Baguio Residence as a
forward venue for the Mission outreach to northern Luzon. END


© Scoop Media

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