The Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies of the Foreign Service Institute organized a Mabini Dialogue titled “Shared Culture and Heritage: The Philippines-Pacific Islands Relations” on 20 July 2018 at the Ambassador Benedicto Room of the Carlos P. Romulo Library, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
Ambassador Jesus “Gary” Domingo presented an overview of the Pacific region and identified its regional contours, which include Oceania, Pasifika or Pacific Islands Countries (PIC), Austronesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, and important regional organizations. He focused on the Austronesian profile, a group of peoples with whom Filipinos share visible commonalities, such as in language and culture. The Philippines, with its rich history, reflect Spanish, Islamic, and American influences but manifest being Austronesian at its core.
Ambassador Domingo proposed that a Philippine strategy in engaging the Pacific region should be crafted and should work at the regional, national, and individual levels. Through ASEAN, the Philippines could work closely with Indonesia as friendly “stabilizing” players. He emphasized that the Pacific is a region where the Philippines can play a guiding role. The Philippines can also collaborate with Australia and New Zealand in supporting the region’s socioeconomic development. At the individual level, overseas Filipinos should make the most of sociocultural relations with Pacific Islanders for mutually beneficial activities, serving as “universal diplomats.”
Meanwhile, Professor Nestor Castro served as discussant and underscored the Philippines’s long-standing cultural connections with its Pacific neighbors. He highlighted the theories that explain the Austronesian dispersal in the region and discussed how this dispersal played a role in shaping Filipino culture, heritage, and linguistic origins. He mentioned archeological evidence supporting these theories and named pottery, rice cultivation, production of timber-made dwellings, and domestication of pigs as practices that the Philippines, among other countries in the Pacific region, has maintained. Explaining that being Austronesian meant belonging to the biggest language family in the world, he cited identical words that the Philippines and Pacific Islanders use. He also shared insights on more cultural contacts that the Philippines had with Guam, Marianas, the Caroline Islands, and Hawaii.
During the open forum, participants raised the importance of raising awareness on the shared culture between the Philippines and its Pacific neighbors and promoting a better understanding of the relations through people-to-people ties.
Officials and staff of the DFA and other government agencies, and university students attended the dialogue.