A Peace Corps Philippines Volunteer observes a local farmer harvesting his garden. [Image: Peace Corps / Flickr]

The United States and Philippines Celebrate 60 Years of Peace Corps Exchange

ASEAN

On October 6th, officials from the Philippines and the United States were joined virtually by hundreds of former Peace Corps volunteers to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps Philippines. The event featured remarks from senior leaders of the US Peace Corps, the US Embassy Philippines, and the Philippine government, who emphasized the mission’s cross-cultural linkages and impact since its founding in 1961.

Peace Corps Philippines is the agency’s second-oldest program. Since its inaugural year, over 9,300 volunteers have assisted Filipino communities in education, fishing, coastal resource management, and health among other sectors. At the anniversary celebration, returned volunteers reflected on the unique opportunity to integrate into Filipino communities by learning languages and living with host families while making a genuine impact. Another cross-cultural exchange initiative, Fulbright, is similarly long-lived, with the Philippines claiming the longest continuously-running program.

This milestone coincides with another: the 75th Anniversary of US-Philippine diplomatic relations. As part of celebrations, Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez and US Acting Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Sung Kim unveiled a logo honoring the longevity of the relationship that will adorn both countries’ foreign missions. Additionally, the US Embassy in the Philippines met with Filipino legislators to launch the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus, a cross-party group seeking strengthened bilateral relations. The 70th anniversary of the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty is also this year.

Just as it is abroad, US-Filipino exchange is robust across the United States. The anniversary came during Filipino American History Month, commemorating the first Filipino arrivals in America. Throughout October, Filipino culture in America was celebrated through film, food, and art festivals from California and Alaska to Virginia.

From diplomatic exchange to local street fairs, the US-Filipino connection is strong. As volunteers prepare to return to their host countries early next year after a pandemic-induced hiatus, US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires, ad interim Heather Variava stressed that Peace Corps volunteers “will continue to embody the best in our partnership and friendship with the Filipino people for many more years to come”.

Chris Cooper is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. He is a recent graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Science.