Homogeneity amidst Diversity: Brazil Then and Now*

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As a school requirement, we were tasked to interview a foreign embassy official. On 26 September 2012, our group was given the opportunity to meet and interview the Charge d’Affaires of the Brazilian Embassy in the Philippines, First Secretary Fabiana Garcia Kanadoglu. The Embassy of Brazil here in the Philippines is located at the 16th floor of the Liberty Center, 104 HV dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City. Upon entering the premises of the embassy, we were welcomed by Secretary Kanadoglu herself who is waiting for us patiently in her office. Our interview with her has revolved around questions with regard to the significance of diplomacy, bilateral agreements signed between the Governments of the Philippines and Brazil, promotion of Brazilian culture in the country and the present condition of the Philippines-Brazil relations, among others.

At first, we asked her if how many Brazilians are living here in the Philippines at present. She answered that at an estimate, there are around 300 Brazilians who reside here in the Philippines as tourists. She added that the majority of the Brazilians who stay here in the Philippines are church workers and missionaries while there are also some who work here as entrepreneurs and business executives. We also asked her regarding the usual problems and concerns which Brazilian nationals report at their embassy. Secretary Kanadoglu answered that the embassy has not yet received any complaints or problems from the Brazilian nationals since its establishment. There were nationals who occasionally report at their embassy but these they have done solely for consular purposes such as for inquiries concerning passport issuances and the like.

The succeeding questions thereafter geared towards the long history of relations between the Philippines and Brazil. It is interesting to note that the diplomatic relations between the Brazil and the Philippines were established as early as 1898. Our conversation with Secretary Kanadoglu proceeded as follows:

PS185 Students (PS): If history will be insinuated, one can trace the long history of relations between the Philippines and Brazil. As early as 1973, a complementary agreement has already been signed between the two countries. But at present, how do you assess the present Brazil-Philippines relations?

Secretary Kanadoglu (SK): It is good that you have asked that because our relations have long been established before that. In fact, it was right after the proclamation of the Republic of the Philippines on 1898. There were already Brazilian diplomats who have been here for the Proclamation of the Philippine Independence. But it was only in 1946 when the ties between the Philippines and Brazil were formalized. [The Philippines] opened the embassy first in Brazil on 1965 and later, on 1970, we opened the embassy here in the Philippines. Since then, there have been a lot of advances in the bilateral relations [between the two countries]. And I think we are doing it really well.

PS: In relation to that, has there been any conflict between the Philippines and Brazil in terms of its relation to one another?

SK: There is none at all. Because the Philippines and Brazil are both emerging countries, I think they both have common purpose in international relations – that is to develop. They try and go together in order to grow. Aside from our common objectives, we are also very far countries in terms of geographical distance. So that leaves a room for exploration. We have these common ties which serve as a reason why we have fruitful relations.

PS: Speaking of geography, we know that Brazil is a very huge country. In fact, it is the fifth largest country in the world in terms of territorial landmass. As such, is being a huge country an advantage or a disadvantage?

SK: It could be both. When you have a big country, you have big challenges. But when you have a bigger country and a bigger population, challenges just become bigger also. However, there are still benefits. In economic terms, bigger population entails a big internal market. Brazil-based enterprises will automatically have a market of 200 million people. Also, Brazilians speak only one language, which is Portuguese, unlike the Philippines which has a number of local dialects. The language then becomes vital in pursuing unity in Brazil. [On the contrary], being a huge country fosters challenges in the country’s defense and national equity. That is why Brazil has employed programs which strive to address these problems. There is this one program here in the Philippines, the Conditional Cash Transfer, which was patterned after the Brazilian Bolsa Familia. In this program, families will be paid a monthly allowance if they allow their kids to go to school instead of pushing them to work. The implementation of this program has been successful in Brazil.

            To continue, we also asked Secretary Kanadoglu regarding the salient provisions of the bilateral agreements signed in 2009 between former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the fields of bio-energy and agriculture. The presidents of Brazil and the Philippines pledged to avoid resorting to protectionist trade measures and vowed to take the necessary steps to implement the signed Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Agriculture and the Memorandum of Understanding on Bio-energy Cooperation. Secretary Kanadoglu, in this note, asserted that essentially, the agreements were intended to make the Philippines and Brazil work together amidst geographical distances and socio-cultural differences. Meat and poultry products dominate the largest bulk of Brazilian exports. As the exports of Brazil have risen drastically in recent history, the Philippines became interested in the programs and policies which Brazil employed in the conduct of its trade with other countries. In the field of bio-energy, the agreements were aimed to institutionalize cooperation between the two countries by ensuring an exchange of information and transfer of technology for the production of ethanol, a fuel produced from organic materials like corn, soy and sugarcane. Brazil, as Secretary Kanadoglu affirms, is the biggest producer of ethanol from sugarcane. Several industries in Brazil already opted to utilize bio-fuel in replacement of the often used fossil fuels which has long been depleting the environment in a massive scale.

Several bilateral agreements between the Philippines and Brazil were concluded recently. The current Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario went to Brazil last August 2011 to sign a bilateral pact in drug policies and a Memorandum of Understanding in technical operations and agricultural reform. In 2010, the Secretary of the Brazilian Ministry for Foreign Affairs went here in the Philippines to attend the first bilateral meeting of the Philippine-Brazilian Joint Commission which was founded to discuss economic and socio-cultural issues, concerns, policies and programs which can further lead to the strengthening of ties between the aforesaid countries. Secretary Kanadoglu affirmed that the second meeting of the Joint Commission will be happening this November 2012.

Finally, we asked the Secretary if whether or not the Brazilian Embassy hosts activities and events which seek to promote the Brazilian culture here in the Philippines. She answered in the affirmative, putting more emphasis on the pivotal role of culture in maintaining the strong ties between the Philippines and Brazil. She posited that the furtherance of culture in any state is not a policy being initiated by the government. Rather, it occurs naturally within the sphere of population which will, after all, become the recipient of these cultural exchanges. Thus, the Brazilian embassy ensures that its annual cultural programs will be effectively applied in the country. Without a bubble of doubt, the embassy has been successful in its endeavors. The prominence of bossa nova, capoiera schools and schools which offer lessons in samba all over the Philippines can attest to this.

When asked on how she finds the Philippines, Secretary Kanadgolu’s answer was simple yet profound: “I like the Philippines a lot. This country has a very nice people as the country itself is very beautiful.” Secretary Kanadoglu reiterates that Brazil and the Philippines share a lot in common. Both countries were also colonized by foreign powers – the Philippines, by Spain and Brazil, by Portugal. The majority of Brazilians and the Filipinos are Roman Catholics. Further, both countries are very culturally-diverse as they have been a product of their own distinctive histories. By and large, our interview with Secretary Kanadoglu has been an informative one. It has met our expectations and attained our objectives completely.

*An Interview with the Brazilian Embassy in the Philippines Charge d’Affaires and First Secretary Fabiana Garcia Kanadoglu

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