‘Calidad humana’ and exporting the Filipino smile

Chilean ambassador and his wife embark on goodwill project to affirm Filipino warmth

AT HOME IN THIS GLOBAL CORNER. Ambassador Roberto Mayorga and his wife, Paulina. All photos by Mark Demayo

MANILA, Philippines – Chilean Ambassador to Manila Roberto Mayorga and his wife Paulina Silva-Mayorga have been to 65 countries. But now they find the Philippines as having a special place in their heart.

As part of a foreign investment and trade committee back in their home country, the couple, sometimes with their children accompanying them, traveled around the world to promote business opportunities in their home country. He was later on offered to head Chile’s Embassy here in Manila. He said this stint has been nothing short of rewarding.

ABODE. The Chilean ambassador's residence in South Forbes

“Only when you visit a lot of countries, that’s when you can compare. And I could say that the Philippines is one of the friendliest countries in the world,” Ambassador Mayorga said during an interview at their residence.

He and Paulina find the Filipino spirit to be very special. “In general, people in different social levels are so friendly and hospitable. This kind of resilience you need to face situations in a positive and constructive way. Always trying to support each other. It’s very special.”

Mayorga notes how even in the face of tragedy, Filipinos still opt to smile, lifting the spirits of the whole community. These things make the Filipino people a perfect example of calidad humana.

Exporting smiles

Calidad humana is loosely translated in English as human compassion. For Ambassador Mayorga, calidad humana does not necessarily mean happiness but rather how people can have a positive and constructive attitude toward the happy and sad moments in their lives.

Mayorga said the best way Filipinos exhibit this trait is through their sincere smiles, which are an effective communication tool understood by the whole world. And in an effort to preserve this favorite facet of his about the Filipino, Mayorga came up with the idea of promoting the Filipino smile to the whole world.

CALIDAD HUMANA. Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario speaks at the launch of 'Smiles for the World'

During Chile’s National Day Celebration at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on September 18, Mayorga launched ‘Smiles for the World,’ which he fondly called a calidad humana project. 

Through a photo contest, they gathered photos of Filipino smiles and acts of calidad humana. After receiving countless entries, Mayorga, Paulina and their team came up with this video:

The video will be played on television screens installed in Philippine posts abroad to help promote the Philippines and its people. “It’s something that your people can export aside from the agriculture and other products,” Mayorga said. 

Amid the Philippine economy’s growth, Mayorga said one thing the people must not forget is their innate calidad humana. “Sometimes, when a country’s economy improves and they get richer, they lose it,” he said. “The Filipinos should hold on to this because as your economy gets richer, you should still be able to hold on to your culture and keep human relationships intact.”

Historic ties

When they first moved here in 2010 for Mayorga’s 4-year term as ambassador, the couple was faced with a challenge: to strengthen the relationship between two countries that basically lack political, economic, and social engagement.

This, despite Chile and the Philippines sharing the same narrative in their colonial and modern history, and the popularity of Chilean poets among the Filipino literary community – notably Pablo Neruda.

Soon enough, the couple was able to widen the exchanges between the two countries, particularly in the industries of geothermal energy and mining.

Another thing the couple focused on is cultural diplomacy. In the past two years, they organized a poetry-writing contest and an exhibit of the works of famous Chilean painter Claudio Bravo, who painted Manila’s elite during the 1960s – among them, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, at the time very popular symbols in mod-swinging Manila.

Mayorga said such areas of diplomacy contribute to nurturing human relationships between countries which can be deemed equally important in political and economic relations.

READ: Claudio Bravo exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum

Life in the Philippines

A challenge for every traveler is how to make each destination feel like home. This was not a problem for the Mayorgas who found the Philippines a country next to home because of its accommodating people.

Paulina also brought along photographs and mementos of the Mayorga family.

MEMENTOS. Photos of Paulina's 6 children on display at the ambassador's residence

The Mayorgas still miss their family despite being at home here. Paulina returns to Chile from time to time, to see their kids, or sometimes the children come to the Philippines for a vacation. The eldest is now in his 30s and the youngest is 22. 

VISIT. The couple's two oldest children in Manila for a vacation

Paulina, who started painting 5 years ago, has decorated their walls with her works – all done in Manila. She shares how her painting helps her cope with missing her children when they are far from her. “I painted those swans wherein I used very dark colors because I was sad. But when the children are able to visit, I start painting with so many colors again.”

MEMORIES. Paulina's paintings and their collection of souvenirs from other countries

Paulina remembers a favorite quote by the painter Bravo. “When Caludio Bravo went to Manila, he said, ‘Here, I have discovered color!”

The Chilean couple affirms that insight, as they have rediscovered color, not only in its basic sense, but also through the people and culture of the Philippines. – Rappler.com

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