By Marifi Jara
THE NETHERLANDS–There has been a sweet festive air here following the Easter weekend. And after that, just as Pangasinan was celebrating the Pista’y Dayat and the Bangus Festival in Dagupan, there was the annual Queen’s Day (April 30) when most parts of this small country gets into the orange groove (the color of the royal family), with the red, white and blue flags proudly hung outside homes, and just as we do back home during fiestas, banderitas brighten the streets. (Then of course in the same weekend there was the excitement over the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in neighboring England, and then Pope John Paul’s beautification at the Vatican in Italy).
It has been a wonderful spring season here. People keep saying we are lucky because last year’s spring weather was not as lovely. The sun has been out and despite the wind that could get chilly, daytime temperature for the past three weeks has been hovering between 10 to 23 degrees centigrade. People appear happy to be out of their winter boots and walking, cycling about in sandals and sneakers. Flowers, one of Holland’s most important export produce, are abloom everywhere.
Then last week, on May 5, the annual celebration of Liberation Day here — much like our June 12 Independence Day — was speckled by news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. The day is in commemoration of the Second World War (particularly the end of neighbour Germany’s occupation) but it has over the years been expanded to pay tribute to all those who have suffered and died from other recent conflicts, including in Afghanistan where Dutch troops were sent.
Celebrations of all sorts, anywhere in the world, prompt different emotions in us — we get ecstatic, hit by some grief, triumphant, or just simply blissful — but always a feeling of being alive and connected to humanity.
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Speaking of the European continent, there was news last week of the Philippines and the European Union planning to pursue a free-trade agreement.
The Philippine government is organizing discussions this quarter with local industries to prepare for the talks with the EU representatives within the year.
Among the industries that have been identified by officials to possibly benefit from the pact which will open EU markets to Philippine goods is seafood and marine products and processed fruits such as mango. (The dried mangos, sadly not from Pangasinan, we brought here were a hit among family and friends!)
If I may add, I think our locally-made trinkets (necklaces, bracelets, earrings) could also do very well in the European market.
Let’s hope the talks go smoothly. An expanded export market for the Philippines is yet another reason to celebrate.
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