On the occasion of “Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor),” 09 April 2022, CDA Vida Soraya Verzosa attended an exhibition entitled “Our Heritage, Our Dignity,” that showcased the handcrafts of the residents of the Al Karama House, a government-run facility established in 1973 that supports elderly persons by providing them with accommodation, and medical and psychological care services. The event was spearheaded by the Wathiqat Wattan Foundation under the supervision of the Syrian Organization for Social Development. She also met with Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban of the Office of the Presidential Advisor. On 28 April 2022, inspired by the facility’s advocacy and its residents, CDA Verzosa and the entire Damascus PE team brought joy to the Syrian elderly residents with disabilities by hosting a Pinoy-Style Iftar dinner, as part of the celebration of the Filipino Food Month, pursuant to the Presidential Proclamation no. 469 signed in 2018, declaring April of every year as the Filipino Food Month or “Buwan ng Kalutong Pilipino.”
The Filipino food featured in the Iftar was “Bistek Tagalog,” prepared by Post’s in-house chef, Mr. Jonathan Esguerra. According to chef Esguerra, “it is a traditional and popular Filipino Food just like adobo. It is braised in soy sauce, lemon, pepper, garlic and a lot of onion. Bistek Tagalog is tasty and perfect with steamed rice.” All the overflowing food plates were enjoyed and praised by the residents, the Syrian government officials, as well as Post’s Syrian personnel who said “Bistek Tagalog” was now one of their favorite Pinoy dishes. Maria, one of the Syrian participants, said in a short interview: “I tried the Filipino food for the first time during the iftar celebration at Al Karama I just want to say that it’s very delicious, the beef steak, it’s amazing. I actually ate twice of it and also there’s this soup, I forgot the name but it’s also amazing. Seriously, I’m looking forward to tasting even more traditional Filipino food because it’s all exquisite.”
The soup that the participant was referring to was “Sopas”, a Filipino version of creamy chicken macaroni soup. Mandy (chicken and Yemeni rice), Salad, and traditional Ramadan treats like Naaem bread and Jallab juice also adorned the dining tables on this memorable evening. Right after the Adhan (Call to Prayer), CDA Verzosa and the team surprised the Al Karama residents with a soulful performance of the song “Give Thanks” by Don Moen, with live guitar accompaniment by Girlie Corpin, the Cultural Officer.
This delicious Iftar dinner not only highlights the Filipino Food Month, but also coincides with the celebration of the Christian Orthodox Easter, and the day after Laylat-Al-Qadr (Night of Power) during the Holy Month of Ramadan, when most Muslims believe that prayers are answered.
Syrian government officials graced the event, namely: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Director of Planning and International Cooperation, Mr. Mahmoud Kawaa; Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs Director in Rif Dimashq, Mrs. Dalin Faihd; Member of the Executive Office in Damascus Governorate, Mr. Bassel Mahyoub; Executive Director of Syrian Society for Social Development, Mr. Shafiq Francis; and the Director of Dar Al Karama, Mr. George Sadaa. CDA Verzosa also gave them Filipiniana gifts from Vigan, Ilocos Sur, and explained the significance of Philippine tropical textiles to the officials. Afterwards, she was invited to go on a tour of the entire facility to meet the Dar Al Karama residents who were bedridden and suffering from delicate medical conditions.
According to the Director of Dar Al Karama, the facility has about one hundred fifty (150) elderly residents and over two hundred (200) guests appreciated the unique Iftar-dinner experience.
The Philippine Embassy continues to conduct and host activities in cooperation with the Syrian government as part of the Agreement on Cultural Cooperation Between the Philippines and the Syrian Arab Republic signed in 2009. -END