The President of the Republic of Italy, thru His Excellency Ambassador Massimo Roscigno, bestowed upon Senator Loren Legarda the award of Cavaliere nell'Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana (Knight in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic) during ceremonies held on 13 July 2017 at the Italian Ambassador's residence in Makati City.
The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic is awarded for merit acquired by the nation in the fields of literature, the arts, economy, public service, and social, philanthropic and humanitarian activities and for long and conspicuous service in civilian and military careers.
In conferring the award, Ambassador Roscigno said, "In a way, I would like to see this as a form of thanking the Senator for bringing the Philippines back to the Venice Biennale."
"Senator Legarda was decisive in bringing again, after half a century of no participation, the Philippines to the biennale of contemporary art of Venice in 2015, as well as the biennale architecture in 2016, and again in the contemporary art biennale of this year, thus, giving a meaningful contribution to the strengthening of the bilateral relations between Italy and the Philippines," the Ambassador added.
In her acceptance speech, Legarda said, "A few years ago, I only dreamt of bringing the Philippines back to the oldest and most prestigious global art platform, the Venice Biennale. It happened in 2015 and now we are on our third consecutive participation. In the process, we not only brought renewed hope and inspiration to Filipino artists and curators, we also strengthened the cultural bond between the Philippines and Italy. But I never realized it would merit an award--the prestigious Order Merit of the Italian Republic. It is with much gratitude and great honor that I accept this award."
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and an advocate of arts and culture, is the visionary behind the Philippines' return to the Venice Biennale after a 51-year absence.
In 2015, the comeback pavilion for the Venice Art Biennale featured Tie A String Around The World, curated by Dr. Patrick Flores; while in 2016, the Philippines first participated in the Venice Architecture Biennale featuring Muhon: Traces of an Adolescent City, curated by Leandro Y. Locsin, Jr., Sudarshan Khadka, Jr. and Juan Paolo Dela Cruz of the Leandro V. Locsin Partners (LVLP).
At the current Venice Art Biennale 2017, the Philippine Pavilion is now in the Arsenale, one of the main exhibition spaces of the Venice Biennale, featuring The Spectre of Comparison curated by Joselina Cruz.
"I am truly grateful and humbled; but more importantly, tremendously inspired to live up to the noble principles this award represents. I recognize that as in any award, there are responsibilities. As a cavaliere, and in my capacity as Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, I will continuously pursue stronger cultural partnership between our two nations and tap other areas of cooperation," said Legarda.
Among those present during the conferment ceremony were Zenaida "Nedy" Tantoco and Ernest Escaler, who were both previously awarded by the Italian Republic; Ambassadors Thierry Mathou of France, Frank Jessen of the European Union, Juvencio de Jesus Martins of Timor Leste, Nicolaos Kaimenakis of Greece, Jaroslav Olsa of Czech Republic, and Bita Rasoulian of Austria; Honorary Consuls Agnes Huibonhoa, Fortune Ledesma, Evie Costa and Helen Ong; Special Envoy to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez; Senators Franklin Drilon, Sonny Angara, and Risa Hontiveros; former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, and former Senator Serge OsmeAa.
Also present were National Artists F. Sionil Jose and Virgilio Almario, who is also the Chairperson of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA); former NCCA Chairperson Felipe de Leon Jr., and artists and curators who were part of the Philippine participation in the Venice Biennale like Manny Montelibano, Leandro Locsin Jr., and Juan Paolo dela Cruz; Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation Chairman Jaime Laya, Washington SyCip, Joanne de Asis, Brillante Mendoza and other friends from the government, diplomatic corps, arts and culture community, private sector, and media.
In 2016, the French Government bestowed upon Legarda the title of Chevalier dans l'Ordre de la Legion d'Honneur (Knight in the French National Order of the Legion of Honor) for her contribution in strengthening the bilateral ties between Philippines and France, particularly her environmental and cultural advocacies.
Source: Senate of the Philippines