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PCG to mark Phl Independence Day with short, simple ceremony

10 June 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap
While then Consul General Tony Morales was reading the president's message, protesters were massing in nearby Tamar
The combined effect of the pandemic and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong has made the Consulate to decide on having just a short and simple commemoration of the 122nd anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence this year.

Consul General Raly Tejada said the biggest event in the Philippine calendar will be marked with an hour-long gathering, 9am to 10 am, at the Consulate on Friday, Jun 12.
“Pasensiya na muna – no food and strictly ceremonial proceeding lang,” he said in a message. “Maitawid lang natin ang mahalagang araw na ito.”

There will be no big social events, like the diplomatic reception traditionally hosted by the Consulate,  or an Independence Day Ball, which has for years, been organized by the Philippine Association of Hong Kong.
 
The reception line at the Conrad was far less busy than in previous years
Nor will there be a large gathering on Chater Road  in Central, where in years past, various Filipino community organizations in Hong Kong had come together to mount a day-long, or even a month-long, celebration of Philippine Independence.

The coronavirus has upended all those traditions this year, in the same way the anti-government protests derailed much of them last year.
On Jun 12 last year, both the flag-raising and breakfast gathering at the Consulate and the diplomatic reception at the Conrad later in the evening of the same day attracted far fewer people than in previous years because of the large mass gatherings in Admiralty.

Early on that day, protesters started streaming towards the government offices in Tamar, which is just a stone’s throw away from the Consulate. The protesters succeeded in preventing the legislative council from convening to debate a controversial extradition bill, which has since been junked.
By early evening the crowd had grown so big that a few tired protesters moved into the nearby Pacific Place and turned it into their command post. This was just about the time when guests were making their way to the Conrad, which could be accessed from the mall.

As a result, only about a third of all the invited guests at the diplomatic reception turned up, and no high-ranking official from the Hong Kong government came for the usual ceremonial toast and exchange of well-wishes between the two governments.
 
Some guests at the Consulate's reception got caught in pitch battles between protesters and police

By the time the reception finished about an hour earlier than usual, the street battles between the protesters and the police were in full swing, and some of the guests found themselves walking right into the confrontation.

There is no chance of that happening this year.
Congen Tejada said that at first, he had contemplated on limiting the gathering to only within Consulate staff, but later on decided to extend an open invitation to Filipino community leaders who might want to join the commemoration.

The foremost consideration was the distancing rule that allows only a maximum of eight people to gather in public. But since the event will be held indoors and will be short, with guests being asked to wear masks, the risk of contamination is low.

The second was budgetary constraints. Tejada said all non-essential expenses have been taken off their budget, as the government has been pouring much of its resources into helping Filipinos affected by the pandemic.

Even in Manila, this year’s commemoration at Luneta Park will be considerably muted.

An announcement from the government task force against Covid-19 today said that only 10 people will be at the wreath-laying ceremony, but did not indicate who would be there to represent the government.


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