US Ambassador to the Philippines Marykay Carlson welcomed by Dangal ng Bulacan officials led by Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Tess Lorenzo, Gloria Simbulan, Gladys Sta. Rita, Cristina Turzon through a kneeling carabao festive mood in Pulilan town on Saturday. Photo by Carmela Reyes-Estrope

PULILAN, Bulacan—United States (US) Ambassador to the Philippines Marykay Carlson was warmly welcomed with Bulacan’s culture and tradition when she visited the province for the first time and graced a forum spearheaded by multi-sectoral luminaries held in a farm here on Saturday.

A barrio fiesta mood with Pulilan’s very own kneeling carabao festival and tradition welcomed Carlson and her delegation from the US Embassy including her husband at North Polo Club in Barangay Penabatan.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Marykay Carlson speaking before a festive mood Bulakenyo businessmen and leaders in Pulilan town. Photo by Anton Catindig

The Dangal ng Bulacan Foundation, Inc. (DBFI), a non-stock, non-profit organization of the “Dangal ng Lipi” the highest honor bestowed by the Provincial Government of Bulacan (PGB) to its outstanding sons and daughters awardees from different fields of expertise initiated and hosted the forum dubbed as, “Usapang Dangal—Philippine-US Relations: The US Ambassador Speaks”.

Carlson said that the friendship, partnership and ties of the US and the Philippines are rooted from the economic the development assistants, meaningful jobs to the people in the manufacturing sector, technological innovation including environmental sustainability which improves the lives of families in the communities in the two countries.

American provides high quality jobs and strong corporate social programs and other benefits to the Filipino people, she added.

Carlson also spoke about the alliance of the US to the Philippines through education and school development scholarship programs, security, environmental protection and the shared strong values. Since 1961, she said, the US government, through its Agency International Development (AID) fund has already invested P290-Billion worth of support for Philippine development.

This includes educational and employment opportunities to more than 40,000 out of school youth and the new US-AID project providing security and protection to 1.1 million environmental biological marine terrestrial areas in the Philippines. The project aims to help improve the management of the said natural resources which are seven times larger than Metro Manila that are protected from environmental degradation.

“The US and the Philippines has a long standing vibrant people to people ties. It is very clear that the relationship between the two countries has a positive tone that is set at the very top as President Marcos is emphasizing on the economic future of the country with a close bond with the US and the US feels the same way,” Carlson said.

She announced that the President is set to visit Washington. “He is meeting President Biden in the White House. I am sure he will reaffirm the very strong friendship in the same way he did last September when the two leaders met in United Nations in New York”.

“Our friendship brought its strength from individual level connection between our people as well, which connections goes back generations. You’ve lived with that. Seventy five years ago, the US had a Fullbright Scholarship program and several others wherein thousands of Filipinos  and Americans have benefited. There are also strong family business and schools,” the US Ambassador cited in detail.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Marykay Carlson receives special mementos from Bulacan Vice Gov. Alexis Castro, Dangal ng Bulacan Foundation Inc. (DBFI) President and Vice President Gregoria Simbulan and Gladys Sta. Rita. They were joined by Bulacan Fifth District Rep. Ambrosio Cruz Jr. and Pulilan Vice Mayor Ricardo Peralta Jr. with DBFI Trustee Atty. Antonio S. Ligon. Photo by Anton Catindig

Quoting an American leader, she said, Americans have a high regard for the Filipinos “as family”.

She said there are some 300,000 US Citizens living in the Philippines and the Philippines is the only country in the world that has a veterans affairs office outside the United States. She added that there are now over 4 million Filipino-Americans in the US.

As allies in security and defense Carlson also spoke about the success and impact of the April 28 concluded Balikatan exercises and the extension of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in the country.

“The largest ever Balikatan exercises we had with 17,000 combined troops from both sides participating as national relief and response forces to disaster, this includes challenges to international order including issues about West Philippine Sea, environmental degradation, to confront any challenges that may come our way. We are not threatening others, we are protecting our people and if there will be a need for civil military operations during an emergency being the Philippines one of the most vulnerable to climate change and disasters. We are now expanding this in scale. The biggest most comprehensive complex Balikatan exercises that we just completed is a major achievement in the alliance and the extension of EDCA. The multiple projects will bring development in the areas and for military operability to work together easily to respond to threats and for the Philippines to modernize their structure that is very important to the military which will also strengthen the alliance of the two countries to respond based on democratic values.  

Carlson also spoke about the change in the landscape of the air transport system in the Philippines with the soon operation of the P745-Billion worth New Manila International Airport in Bulacan.

She said the new airport to be operational in Bulacan will be a first class transportation that will bring a very important development to the whole country.

“What we see is the centrality of transport, communication and infrastructure including digitalization. Having this first class airport where people want to fly and which will give them an easy connection.

When you fly to Manila, you get your bags in one place, you go to another for an ATM machine, go to another for the terminal, and with no other option that’s why you will do it, but if there will be an option though this first class international hub, all roads will lead to this development here in Bulacan and further in the whole country as well,” she said.

Carlson said she, her husband and two daughters were amazed with the hospitality and warmth Filipinos have shown and made them feel when she assumed her post in July last year. She is very honored and thankful with the way the people of Bulacan invited and welcomed her and that Filipinos are really more than how hospitable and caring she expected them to be.

She said she had earlier visited Boracay, Baguio,  Laoag, Pagudpud, Vigan. Ilocos, Plawan, Puerto Princesa,  Zamboanga Cebu, many areas in Metro Manila including Leyte and Zambales. She also said she had visited the Balangiga Bells in Eastern Samar.

Gregoria Simbulan, chairman of the DBFI said they will push for a possible program partnership between the PGB, the DBFI and the US Embassy that would benefit both the two countries and the province as well.

Atty. Antonio Ligon, Trustee of the DBFI, who hosted the event said Bulacan being now considered as the Philippine’s springboard of development, the attention and support from its allies, especially from the US will be relevant and will strongly benefit the province.

Vice Governor Alex Castro in behalf of Gov. Daniel Fernando including Gladys Sta.Rita, and Cristina Tuzon DBFI president and vice president respectively, other business and culture luminaries in Bulacan also welcomed Carlson in the festive-fiesta atmosphere.

Flaglets which were strung up on top the audience areas and which served as a covering from direct heat of the sun leaves a powerful whispering sound as fresh air made them wave and sway almost near the sky.  

Teenage girls and boys dressed up in old Filipniana, Saya and Filipino Barong Tagalog also perform Filipino dances through the Kundiman songs while a small parade of carabao further gave color and sweet mood to all the guests.

The Bulacan Provincial Government brass band also performed kundiman songs as Pinoy kakanin and bibingka including street foods and dishes that were available in the buffet further made the occasion a Bulakenyo feast.

Bulakenyo fashion icons from metal, jewelry and handcrafts also hand souvenir gifts to Carlson.