Although the Philippines and Thailand do not share any borders, a common culture or predominant religion, the two have surprising similarities in terms of mindset and values. The countries began relations in the 13th century for Southeast Asian maritime trade and established formal relations in 1949. Since then, relations have remained friendly in aspects including trade, education, politics, diplomacy and even militarily, and in times of global change and challenge the regional partners are working hard to maintain positive and complementary exchanges.
Elite+ spoke to the ambassador of the Philippines to Thailand, Her Excellency Jocelyn S Batoon-Garcia, regarding bilateral relations and the Philippines’ preparation for the forthcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Nearing the end of her ambassadorial term here, she also spoke warmly of her impressions of her time in the Kingdom.
- What has been your view of Thailand so far?
Thailand has been simply amazing since my arrival in 2013. I find the country amazing because of so many things – from the people to food, scenic places, politics and the economy, in general.
The Thai people are so much like us in terms of physical appearance and temperament. I often get mistaken for a Thai whenever I go to the malls or the markets and even in some official functions, until I begin speaking in English or my native tongue.
Thai food never fails to delight me. There is just so much variety, especially in northern Thailand, such as in Lamphun, where I sampled a local dish that tasted like no other in the country.
The scenic places are as varied and enchanting as we probably have in my country, but I nevertheless get excited whenever I set foot in a new place. I have been to practically half of the Kingdom’s 77 provinces, and find each to be different from the last in terms of the available cultural and ecotourism sites, the local people and their customs and traditions, the food, etc. Thai politics is probably everything a foreign diplomat looking for action and challenge in his or her diplomatic career could hope for. The pace is frenetic and keeps me and my officers on our toes most of the time.
But what really amazes me is the Thai economy, which seems to have a life of its own. It just keeps on revolving despite challenges at home and abroad. I am especially impressed at how Thailand has positioned itself at the forefront of the global and regional tourism market, and the foresight of its leaders in ensuring that Thailand is prepared for the challenges and opportunities that will come along with the ASEAN Community.
- How are Thai-Philippine relations in the past and present?
Relations have been generally stable, cordial and mutually beneficial. The first recorded contact between our two countries predates the official establishment of diplomatic relations in 1949 by 494 years! Recorded history says that in March 1521, the fatal armed clash between Ferdinand Magellan and Lapu-Lapu could have been averted had Magellan listened to the advice of a merchant from Siam who tried to broker peace between the two leaders. If I am not mistaken, Siam then referred to the old Kingdom of Ayutthaya. I wouldn’t be surprised if that man from Siam, being a merchant, returned to Ayutthaya with his junk laden with goods produced by the native Cebuanos.