For the fourth year in a row, PACES together with the Philippine Embassy in Vienna made a floral offering by the twin Catalpa trees (Trompetenbaum) located on the east side of the Rathaus (City Hall) park. These two trees were planted by the city of Vienna in June 1998 — during the centennial celebration of the proclamation of Philippine independence — to recognize the contributions of Filipinos to Austrian society, particularly to its health care system.

Since then, members of the Filipino community in Vienna have paid regular visits to the Catalpa trees at the Rathaus Park to commemorate this important day of recognition for the Filipino migrant community in Austria, as well as the Filipino-Austrian descendants of the first wave of Filipino nurses in Austria.

Through the years the yearly visit — mostly taking place in or around June 12, as part of Philippine independence day celebrations — evolved from being simple, informal gatherings to a more formal and organized event. In the last four years, in fact, the annual event has drawn many leading members of the Filipino Community, officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy in Vienna, local media and celebrities and Viennese government officials and politicians.

The event, held on Sunday, 12 June 2022 in the Vienna Rathauspark, was graced by Philippine Charge d´Affaires (CDA) and interim Ambassador Irene Susan B. Natividad and senior officials of the Philippine Embassy; leaders and members of several Filipino organizations; and Austrian friends and supporters.

CDA and interim Ambassador Natividad and PACES President Marizel Rojas jointly made a floral offering at one of the twin Catalpa trees, after which they both separately addressed the participants. Other speakers included former PACES President Malou Reininger, and PACES Vice-President Franz Berner.

“I am pleased that these two trees continue to grow, look sturdy,“ Charge d‘ Affaires Natividad said. The flowers of these trees are a symbol of the flourishing relations of Austria and the Philippines

For her part, PACES President Marizel Rojas referred to the theme of the 124th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence, Kalayaan 2022: Pag-Suong sa Hamon ng Panibagong Bukas (Rise Towards the Challenge of a New Beginning).

“Now, more than ever, is a timely reminder that as individuals, as families, as organizations, as a nation we should be united in overcoming the challenges ahead of us,” Ms. Rojas said. “History has repeatedly shown that we Filipinos can overcome challenges, no matter how daunting as long as we are united.

“If we work together for a common goal, a common cause, we will prevail,” she said.

Former PACES President Malou Reininger, who was present at the 1998 tree planting, said that years from now the sight of the Catalpa tree will rekindle our love for the Philippines for generations, at the site where once upon a time, we were honored.

The program, ably emceed by Sarah Jozelle Rojas, also featured the singing of the Philippine National Anthem, a group recitation of the Panatang Makabayan (Philippine Pledge of Allegiance) in Pilipino and singing of Ako ay Pilipino led by Rodel Macatangay. After the program, the celebration continued with gatherings in the park and at a famous café across the Vienna Rathaus.

The two Catalpa trees fittingly symbolize the strong bilateral ties — diplomatic, political, economic, and cultural — between these two nations and the successful integration of Filipinos in their second home. Both the Philippines and Austria are this year — from October 2021 to October 2022 — celebrating 75 years of unbroken bilateral relations .

Group photo of the participants at the Floral offering. (Photo Credit: Hector Pascual)