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Yolanda survivors remembered in 2014 Viva Europa Festival

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Celebrations for the 2014 Viva Europa Festival in Manila, which showcases the best of European culture to Filipinos annually, began on Friday with events highlighting the continuing need for assistance to the victims and survivors of super typhoon Yolanda.

Six months after the strongest storm to hit land devastated the central Philippines, the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) unit called for “increased participation and cooperation to ensure continuation along the road to recovery.”

Representatives from the affected communities and humanitarian agencies, as well as EU officials said there remains an urgent need to focus on the next steps to sustain long-term recovery of Yolanda-stricken areas after the powerful typhoon struck last November 8.

“Even though significant progress has been made, millions of people are still in need of assistance, especially in terms of restoring their livelihoods and ensuring that those whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged have durable shelter to withstand the next typhoon season,” ECHO said.

The commemoration was initiated by officials of the EU Delegation to the Philippines together with its partner agencies that include ECHO, ACF International, CARE, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Organization for Migration, Plan International, and Save the Children.

“Today we celebrate the progress made by communities (devastated by Yolanda) while highlighting that there is much more work to do,” ECHO said.

The day-long photo exhibition, “The Road to Recovery: Rebuilding with Communities After typhoon Yolanda,” opened Friday at the Asian Institute of Management Conference Center in Makati City.

The exhibition showcases photographs taken throughout the period of the international humanitarian response, demonstrating the “remarkable resilience of communities and individuals.”

From hip-hop to culinary delights

At a press conference, Dr. Julian Vassallo, the EU Delegation political counselor, said other events during the festival present the “most exciting cultural kaleidoscope this summer.”

“You do not have to go to the European Union to experience its grandeur, color, gaiety, fun, culture, and heritage. From May to June, European art exhibitions, songs, concerts, and hip-hop performances will mark this year's Viva Europa 2014,” Vassallo told reporters.

“Both in the Philippines and Europe, the most important role of culture whether in the form of music, art, food, or dance is to enrich our lives and open our minds,” Vassallo said.

“But culture is also very much part of the tourism product that allows both the EU and the Philippines to attract visitors, grow businesses, and create jobs. Promoting two-way tourism between Europe and the Philippines is one focus of our Europe Day activities for 2014,” he added.

From May 20 to 23, a European children's festival dubbed “Lakbayin Natin ang EU” treats the Filipino youth to a festival of children's films, literature, storytelling, arts and crafts, and merry-making at the Museo Pambata along Roxas Boulevard in Manila.

From May 23 to 24, the Far Eastern University in Manila will host the nationwide choral contest “Musica FEUROPA” for the sixth year. It is the only choral competition in the Philippines supported by the EU and produced by the FEU President’s Committee on Culture and Admissions and External Relations Office.

Because of the success of last year's culinary festival, the EU delegation will once again showcase the rich and diverse European cuisine.

“European chefs from select hotels and restaurants, renowned for their excellent and exquisite preparations of food and drinks, will conduct demonstrations and prepare special sumptuous special meals with the finest ingredients,” said Thelma Gecolea, EU public affairs officer.

“The cuisine festival will provide Filipinos the opportunities to experience what European cuisine is all about without having to go to Europe. Grab European food and taste Europe in just a few minutes,” Gecolea said.

The annual Viva Europa celebrates the end of World War II, specifically the May 8, 1945 event when German troops in the entire European continent finally laid down their arms.

The festival is presented by the EU Cultural Group, which includes the Embassies of  EU member-states, Alliance Française, British Council, Goethe-Institut, and Instituto Cervantes de Manila.

French cinema, German design

Camille Eva Marie Conde, press attaché of the Embassy of France, said they are collaboratinng with the Alliance Française de Manille through a series of cultural events geared toward different types of Filipino audiences, while providing a venue for exchanges between French and Filipino artists.

On May 28, the Pockemon Crew pays tribute to cinema and the origins of hip-hop in New York during the 1940s through a dance performance at the SM Aura Samsung Hall.

“Speaking of cinema, the highly anticipated French Film Festival returns on June 9-15 at the Greenbelt 3 cinemas to continue its almost two decades of bringing the best of French cinema to Filipino audiences,” Conde said.

Classical music lovers will be treated to a concert by Quatuor Parisii String Quartet on June 10 at the SM Aura Samsung Hall.

Attended by more than 13,000 music-lovers last year, the “Fête de la Musique 2014” returns on June 21 twice as big with musical acts playing at two different stages: one at the A-venue Open Parking Area in Makati, and another at the Plaza Maestranza in Intramuros, Manila.

Over at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the exhibit “Brave New Worlds: My Utopia in Your Dystopia” shows a convergence of Filipino and foreign visual artists with “heavy themes on black humor and dystopic elements present in the heavily urbanized culture of today,” Conde said.

Curated by Filipino painter Manuel Ocampo, the exhibit features at least 20 artists, including four from France, who have shown a particular rising presence at the turn of the 21st century.

Meanwhile, the Goethe-Institut Philippinen together with the Yuchengco Museum and the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V. (ifa) presents “New Olds: Between Tradition and Innovation,” a design exhibition with 60 contemporary works. It will open on Friday, May 9, at the Yuchengo Museum in Makati.

“The variety and topicality of the many approaches are bundled around the themes material, construction, configuration, production, and traditional use,” the Goethe-Institut Philippinen describes the exhibit. “Forty-five designers and design teams from Germany, European countries, the USA, and the Philippines enter here into an intensive dialogue.” – YA, GMA News

Photo courtesy of the EU delegation in the Philippines
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