Speech of Rtn. Joe Assad
Speech of Rtn. Joe Assad
to the Rotary Club of Manila
November 28, 2013
Please Allow me to thank you for inviting me to speak to you today especially after last weeks illuminating speaker my good friend and brother and fellow Rotarian Mr Issam El Debs the Honorary Consul of Syria. Thats a tough act to follow. So please bear with me as i try to add to what Issam has said touching on a few points that he raised. I am also humbled by being here in front of you distinguished gentlemen as i remember in my early teens accompanying my father to the Rotary Club of Mandaluyong in the Madrid restaurant along Highway 54. He was the seargent at arms. He was also the jolliest sgt at arms cracking jokes every now and then. I remember fondly Dr. Victor Potenciano who owned the Polymedic hospital next to Madrid who my father would always sit with. He would half joke my father about getting a hair transplant. Thank God my father didn’t get one. He almost did. I would sit quietly and watch as they went thru the same rituals we are going thru today.
The laughter the friendship the camaraderie was infectious. I always found it amusing when one or two of the rotarians would fall asleep during the guest speakers speech. Especially when the person fell asleep on one of the front tables right in front of the speaker. I still find it amusing today. I think those lunches i had with my father subconsciously made me join the Rotary Club but never in my wildest dreams did i ever see myself standing and speaking in front of the Rotary Club of Manila, the oldest and most prestigious club in Asia .Needless to say, but ill say it anyway, I haven’t been able to sleep for the last few nights thinking about it as i have a fear of public speaking. Finally last night i went into a deep sleep and i dreamt I’m speaking and everybody fell asleep.
My speech today will be like a mini-skirt. Long enough to cover the essentials but short enough to hold your attention 🙂
Let me start by saying that Lebanon, the Paris of the Middle East is a democracy. The one of the oldest democracies in the middle east. Lebanon never had a dictator. Lebanon has presidential elections every six years. We never had a Khaddafi or a Saddam or a Mubarak or an Assad for that matter. But We have been occupied for hundreds of years sometimes by the Greeks The Romans The Persians The Crusaders the Ottomans the French and yes the Syrians. Bear in mind that Lebanon from north to south east to west is barely 10,000 square kilometres and Syria in comparison is 440,000 sq.kms. Lebanon is like a small province in Syria. We are about the size of Bukidnon in then Philippines.Yet sometimes the Lebanese think that they are bigger and better than all of Syria.
The Lebanese are among the worlds top migrant workers and one of the first. They are Phoenicians. Phoenicia, ancient region corresponding to modern Lebanon, with adjoining parts of modern Syria and Israel. Its inhabitants, the phoenicians, were notable merchants, traders, of the Mediterranean in the 1st millennium bc. The chief cities of Phoenicia were Sidon, Tyre, and Berot (modern Beirut).The Phoenicians built the first ships known to man.They ruled the Mediterranean Sea.1200 years before Christ. More or less 2700 yrs before Columbus took his first dip in the Mediterranean sea.
We started seriously migrating during the Ottoman Empire to escape the draft. My fathers maternal and paternal uncles the Ysraels & the Assads came to the Philippines escaping the Turkish occupation and the draft into the Turkish army.They were actually on their way to Australia but as the story goes the ship they were on had engine trouble and docked in Davao for repair. About 20 families got off the ship and made the Philippines their home. In fact when they landed in the Philippines, they had never heard of the Philippines before.
They were there adventurers in every sense of the word. At that time also Lebanon was not even a republic.The whole area was called Bilad al Sham. So it was a delightful mix of Lebanese Syrians Jordanians Palestinians who came to the Philippines and made it their home. My fathers maternal uncles, 5 brothers headed by Noah Ysrael, and their paternal uncle Salim Assad not only came to the Philippines around a 100 years ago, they brought my 10 year old father with them who had no idea where he was or why he was sent away on this long journey torn away from his mother and sisters.
That wave of migration to escape the Turkish draft in the late 1800’s is why we have today only 4-5 million Lebanese living in Lebanon and over 15 million in the diaspora. Wikipedia records there are more Lebanese in Brazil 5 m then there are in Lebanon. My family is part of the 15 million.
There are many Lebanese who are world renowned. From the poet Khalil Gibran who migrated to New York to the billionaire Mexican Carlos Slim and the stars Shakira and Salma Hayek. There was Dr. Debakey the pioneer in heart surgery. There is Carlos Ghosn the big boss of Nissan in Japan to name but a few.
In the Philippines most of us who grew up here went to school here must have been classmates with at least one of the Lebanese Filipinos.They are the families of Ysrael-Chaker-Assad-Awad-Ysmael-Bichara-Kairuz-Karam-Nassr-Jureidini-Sassine-Borgeily-Arcache-Addad-Salman-Joseph-Majul-Khodor-Maasab-Abraham-Saad-Hashim-Hemady-Kanaan-Gorayeb-Moises-Hayek-.When they came to the Philippines they all carried Turkish ID’s. Thats why the middle eastern migrants at the turn of the 19th century were known in the Philippines and the world over as Turkos not Arabo as they are called today.
My father and my uncles came here as children sent as far away as possible from the Ottoman Empire and the dreaded draft by their parents. My father was barely 10 years old my uncle Jacob was 15 and my uncle Tony who came later was 17. My father hardly had a few candies in his pocket when he arrived here. The young boys worked for their uncles and went to school in La Salle Taft Ave and worked in Tabora for their uncle Salim Assad. My father never saw or heard from his parents till he was 35 years old except for a few letters back and forth over the years.
When my father went back to Lebanon to marry my mother, he hadn’t seen his family in 25 years. When someone tells me that they are homesick with all the Skype viber email Facebook cell phones that we have today i smile and recall my father who was deprived of his childhood and the love of his parents and the land where he once belonged who probably was more homesick than anyone can be today. Thanks to the Filipino warmth and hospitality he assimilated soon enough. My father went on to become an industrialist building the United Textile Mills in Pasig along with his brother Tony. His older and wiser brother Jacob concentrated on the real estate business regretted their move. He would always tell me,”Jojo had your father and uncle Tony only stayed with me in the real estate business we could have been as big as the Ayalas today.”
The most notable of the Lebanese today in the Philippines is none other than the humble Congressman Al Francis Bichara from Bicol who is Chairman of the powerful Foreign Affairs committee in congress. He was also the natural choice and it was his destiny to be Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon in 2006 during the Israeli invasion where he helped in the evacuation of thousands of Filipina OFW’s back to the Philippines.Congressman Bichara’s sister Mary Beth also is one of the country’s best known dancers and choreographers.
There is Dawn Zulueta one of the top actresses in the Philippines today who is the daughter of Cleo Salman. Her father George was one of the original Turkos.
Another famous Lebanese during the Japanese occupation was Governor of Iloilo Fermin Caram whose family came from Zahle Lebanon and who are descendants of the great Youssef Bey Boutros Karam (also Joseph Bey) (May 15, 1823 – April 7, 1889), was a Lebanese Maronite notable who fought in the 1860 civil war and led a rebellion in 1866 against the Ottoman Empire rule in Mount Lebanon. His proclamations have been interpreted as an early expression of Lebanese nationalism.
The story is when the Americans came to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese in WW2 and were carpet bombing all major cities where there were Japanese, Fermin Caram a Lebanese/Filipino Governor saved Iloilo from destruction by instructing everyone in Iloilo to paint on the roofs of their houses NO JAPS so when the Americans flew over Iloilo. The pilot of one of the fighter planes dropped a paper wrapped in stone which said “got your message.”
That piece of paper can still be seen in the Iloilo museum. He therefore earned the title of Grand old man of Iloilo. A medical doctor by profession, his love for service went into a long and illustrious career in politics. He started as a councillor, mayor, Governor, Congressman and Constitutional Delegate which authored the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. Even after he retired from politics, he continued his medical missions and met with political leaders. His son Fermin, who was a doctorate of Law, followed in his footsteps. He became a congressman and served his constituents from 1965-1986. He counts as his scholars, Miriam Defensor and Frank Drillon. The spirit of service must be in the Karam genes, his great grand daughter, and the daughter of our very own Rody Antonino, Magnolia “Megan” Caram Antonino Nadres is presently the Congresswoman of the fourth district of Nueva Ecija.
My fathers cousins the Ysraels almost all migrated to the USA and Guam where my Uncle Alfred went on to became a US Senator and probably the biggest property developer in Guam. The family left behind is Sheila Ysrael who is a famous actress in the Philippines.
There is also the Joseph family, traders who came from Bilad al Sham and migrated to Iraq India Singapore and finally made the Philippines their home. Most notable today among the Josephs is our very own Rotarian Robert ‘Bobby’ Lim Joseph who is a 6 year cancer survivor and role model for all Filipinos in general and a Rotarians a Paul Harris Fellow many times over,a maverick in the business world and the Philippines travel & tourism industry. He was recently honored by Cebu as honorary son for promoting Cebu & the Visayas. There is also the dynamic Ralph Joseph whose name is synonymous with wine and spirits. Another famous Joseph is Johnny Midnight Joseph who started his own Church of Man. There is also Mike Joseph who was councillor of Makati for many years and his sons Mike Jr. who was a widely loved motivational speaker and Mark Joseph the Olympic swimmer.
There is the Kairuz family headed by Alfred Kairuz who were the most famous bicycle dealers in the Philippines. Patria Bicycle was known all over the country.Today notable is Alfreds son the very loved & respected minister Perter Kairuz who is in our living rooms nightly on TV as head of the Christian 700 Club.There is also the artist painter Mike Kairuz from Ilocos and Carmen Kairuz Puentevella who is one of the most respected women in Bacolod.
There are also the Kairuzes and Nassrs of Baguio & Ilocos. There is John Nasser who is one of the countries foremost astronomers. The most famous of the Nassrs is Fred Nasser who is in his 80’s born in Vigan Ilocos who was my predecessor Honorary Consul of Lebanon in the 60’s was the only President of the Manila Polo Club who reigned for almost 10 years.
I would also like to mention my mother Maha Khoury Assad who is here with me today who came to the Philippines in 1952 as a young bride at the tender age of 16 who spoke no english who educated herself and went on to be the Honorary Consul of Lebanon in the Philippines until she left in 1974 with the family. No sooner did she set up home in Beirut, the Lebanese civil war broke out in Lebanon. Despite that she stayed and endured 15 years of war. Its important to note that during the whole 15 years we did not have one Filipino OFW casualty but my mothers only beloved brother Ghaith Khoury who was the Honorary Consul of the Philippines to Lebanon who was also in the politbureau of the right wing christian Phalangist Party was assasinated together with is wife Nora on Valentines day 1984. She adopted his three children. When the war was over she ran for a seat in Parliament in her brothers district of Byblos and she went on to be one of only 3 women elected to the Lebanese Parliament in 1992. I am fortunate to be one of the few senior citizen rotarians who still has his mother around.
There is also my aunt Abla Assad who is known in Philippine society now for the last 60 years for her beauty charm her yoga class in the Polo Club way back when yoga was not in fashion and her love for the game of bridge. She is also one the last of the Lebanese living today in Manila of my parents generation. They are almost all gone by now. I frequently get asked ‘How are you related to Abla Assad?’ and i reply proudly, She’s my aunt and I’m her favourite nephew.
There is also the most loved University of the Philippines Professor Edru Abraham whose family made Tugigarao their home and assimilated so well few people even know they are Lebanese.
There are The Adads, the Sassines the Carams and the Yareds from the Visayas who are the pillars of the community there.
There is the hugely successful property developer Consul of Djibuti Charlie Ghorayeb.
We will always fondly remember Consul of Granada Albert Awad who was also from Bilad al Sham and was another member of the Turko community prominent industrialist owning the American Wire and Cable Co. and one of the the founders of Philex Mining. All the telephone and electric wires you see hanging over all the cities and provinces in the country today are thanks to the vision of Albert Awad. He was also the oldest living Honorary Consul in the world who passed away with a mind as sharp as anyone in this room at the ripe age of 101.
There is also the ever affable youthful Luis Miguel Recto Ysmael who came from probably the greatest Lebanese family in the Philippines. Known for their Ysmael Steel factories,the Ysmaels hailed from Bikfaya and were originally Gemayels but they couldn’t pronounce Gemayel in the Philippines so they made it Ysmael. Louie Y as he is affectionally called ,with his affable and pleasant bon vivant personality is known as the King of the Nightlife for his unprecedented success in the nightclub bar and restaurant industry for the last 35 years. His father Johnny was a well known businessman and sportsman and his mother Chona Recto was the daughter of Philippine statesman Claro M. Recto. His uncle Felipe Baby Ysmael was Philippine Ambassador to Australia in the Marcos era. His aunt Louisa Ysmael Perezrubio was the head of the Makati Garden Club and Chairperson of the PBSP (Philippine Business for Social Progress).
But the greatest of all Lebanese who came to the Philippines was a little old lady from Lebanon named Dona Magdalena Ysmael Hemady. The great grandmother of Louie Ysmael. There is a street in New Manila named after her. I wonder if any of you knew who she was. Not many people do. She was one of the most powerful women of her time. The Ysmael Hemady clan developed what us now Quezon City under President Quezons time and Magdalena Hemady was one if the most influential people of that era. Her son Felipe Ysmael, Louie’s grandfather was the dean of the Univ of Iloilo School of Law. In Don Magdalena’s days Presidents Quezon Quirino Laurel Osmena & Roxas all called her Nanay (mother) as the utmost form of respect.
Her claim to fame came in 1947 when Roxas was President. She was known for her business savvy but was more known for her exteme generosity. She was so generous , she donated parts of land that she owned to Camp Crame, Camp Aguinaldo, Ateneo de Manila and UP to the Philippine government. She was like the Ayalas of her generation. Dona Magdalena in those days was all powerful.
So in 1947 when she heard that the Philippines was the one of the deciding factors in the The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine or United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 Future government of Palestine by the General Assembly on November 29, 1947 to terminate the British Mandate of Palestine by August 1, 1948, and facilitate the creation of two states, one Jewish and one Arab, she stormed to Malacanang palace and walked straight into President Roxas office.
She begged and pleaded with him to vote against the creation of a Jewish state warning him that no one in the Philippines knew the Middle East better than her and that if he wanted the best advice, he better listen to her. She argued that there will be bloodshed, there will be wars. She argued that the Jews would be given a homeland somewhere else less hostile to them sooner or later, where they did not have to uproot hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and make them refugees. She pleaded for both the Arabs and the Jews saying that it would be a collective suicide for them to live there at the expense of uprooting the Palestinians and that they would be better off somewhere else for everyones sake.
President Roxas assured her that he fully understood and that he would take care of it. He then called and instructed Ambassador to the UN Carlos P Romulo to vote against resolution 181. And Carlos Romulo did. The Philippine vote was at first against the resolution on November 25 but four days later on November 29 the Philippines changed its decision and voted in favor of the Resolution, thus giving Israel the two thirds majority it needed to win the vote.
Ambassador Carlos Romulo and President Roxas had discussions in those few but very tense days between Nov. 25-29 back and forth regarding the issue but Roxas gave in and Romulo finally voted for the resolution, explaining and apologising to President Roxas that, with all due respect to our Nanay, Mr. President, and while I am with her in spirit on this decision to vote against UN Resolution 181, our Uncle Sam will be very very upset with us to say the least if we voted against it, and we don’t want to upset our Uncle at this time when we desperately need US Aid, you understand where I’m coming from don’t you Mr. President?
The plan was approved on November 29 1947 by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.
Needless to say,when she heard the news, Dona Magdalena Ysmael Hemady was furious! She hit the roof! She called President Roxas every cuss word she had in her vocabulary in Arabic English Spanish and Tagalog.
She called him on the phone: Anak! (Son) You promised me! Why did you promise me? Whats wrong with you? Are you not a man of your word? I thought you understood the situation and thought you agreed! You promised me! How could you? How could you? There’s going to be war now in the Middle East thanks to you! The blood of millions of Arabs and Jews will be on your hands! She was screaming at the top of her lungs. Do you even know the consequences of your foolhardy action? Don’t ever talk to me or call me Nanay again. And she slammed the phone on him almost breaking the cradle.
Everyone in her family and household help and neighbours in New Manila heard about the conversation and were trembling in their pants. She had just insulted and berated the President of The Philippines only like a mother could. She never forgave him for that for some time and did not greet him that Christmas. It was rumoured that he came late to her house one night in December unannounced to wish her Merry Christmas in New Manila but she instructed the trembling guards not to let him and it was said she did not celebrate that year. She went into a state of depression. She was in a state of mourning for the future of her homeland. And the word got out to the Turko Lebanese and Syrian Spanish community about the incident and it was handed down to my uncles and thats how I came to know and share with you.
On the day after the vote, a spate of Arab attacks left seven Jews dead and scores more wounded. Shooting, stoning, and rioting continued apace in the following days. The consulates of Poland and Sweden, both of whose governments had voted for partition, were attacked. Bombs were thrown into cafes, Molotov cocktails were hurled at shops, a synagogue was set on fire. Fighting began almost as soon as the plan was approved, beginning with the Arab Jerusalem Riots of 1947. Dona Magdalena Ysmael Hemady was right. The fighting is raging to this day.
Dona Magdalena’s prophetic words came true. Had the Philippines voted against 181 all the lives that were lost on both sides for the last 60+ years, would have been spared and we would have not witnessed the bloodshed of innocent people that we witnessed in the last 60+ years. We would have never seen the birth of Arabs fighting for the liberation of Palestine. Yasser Arafat could have become a doctor healing the sick instead of blowing up busses and bridges and innocent civilians. There would be no PLO or Hamas today. No other Arab or Islamic fighters trying to liberate Palestine either.
But the reality today is its done. Israel is a state. Israel is here and here to stay. We have to learn to accept that fact and learn to live with them and them with us. We as arabs first have to start getting along with each other first, make peace with each other first and then make peace with Israel. Israel also has to be more giving. All the Arabs are asking for is a return to the pre 67 boarders and for the almost one million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon who have been refugees since 1947 living in garbage dumps called refugee camps to return to their homeland.
Lebanon is 50% Christian (Maronite Catholic Orthodox Protestant etc) and 50% Moslem (Sunni Shia Druze Kurds Alawites etc). We have 18 different confessionals. Lebanon shares the power equally between the 3 government offices. The President is a Christian, the Prime Minister is a Sunni Moslem & the Speaker of the House is a Shiite.
The Sunni in Syria account for 60% of the population, while 13% are Shia (Alawite), 10% Christian, and 3% Druze. Assad is an Alawite/Shia being toppled by a Sunni majority with the help of other Sunni led moslem countries from the gulf.
Iraq on the other hand estimate that around 65% of Muslims are Shia, and around 35% are Sunni. Saddam was a Sunni moslem toppled by a Shia population with the help of the USA.
Egypt’s Mubarak is a Sunni who was toppled by Sunnis (moderate & radical)
Libya’s Khaddafi was a Sunni toppled by Sunnis fed up with his 40+ year rule with the help of the Gulf kings. It was personal and complicated. Khaddafi also earned the wrath of the Saudi monarch during an Arab League Conference by saying to him ” You are not a king, you were installed there by the British and are just a puppet of the Americans. I am a king. I am the King of Kings!”
Now why are the Sunnis and Shia fighting each other you ask yourself? Well it dates back over a thousand six hundred years ago.
From a historic viewpoint, with Muhammad’s death in AD 632, a bloody disagreement broke out over who should succeed him as leader of the Muslim community. Umar (Umar ibn al-Khattab), a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad’s companions, who held that Ali (Ali ibn Abi Talib), his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated his successor. None of Muhammad’s sons survived into adulthood, therefore direct hereditary succession was never an option while in most of the areas during Muslim history Sunnis have held power and Shiites have emerged as their opposition.
The Sunnis control most of the Middle East today from Algeria Tunisia Morocco Libya Egypt Palestine Yemen Jordan Syria Saudi Arabia Kuwait Qatar Oman with the exception of pockets of Shia in Syria Lebanon Bahrain.
There is a power struggle today for dominance of the Moslem religion that has been brewing for over a thousand years. The problem in Syria for the Sunnis is that Assad is not a Sunni, he is an Alawite and his heart and mind and soul is with Iraq & Iran who are Shia so the goal of the revolution is not only to end the 40 year rule of one family but to end the 40 year rule of the Alawite/Shiite minority that has ruled Syria and has formed a troika with their Shia brothers Iraq and Iran.
This does not hold well for the Sunnis. It is well known that the Syrian revolution has been funded by the gulf states. They have spent billions arming and paying the rebels up to $5000 a month. This has given birth to Jihadis coming from around the globe. There are three factions one can see who are fighting in Syria today not two most people perceive. Its not just Assad against the rebels. There are 3 groups involved in the fighting.
It’s the Assad government/army plus a few thousand Lebanese Shiite, vs the Sunni Syrian rebels fed up with 40 years of the same Assad (Alawite/Shiite) government, and third and last but not least the Sunni fundamentalist Al Qaeda Al Nusra rebels that come from Saudi Qatar Afghanistan Chechnya Jordan that are bombing both sides to add fuel to the flames.
It is this same group that most likely used the chemical weapons to make it look like Assad did it and they almost succeeded and the same group claimed responsibility and had been behind the bombings in Beirut in the last few months in the predominantly Shiite areas to send a message to the Shia Hizballah to stay out of the Syrian conflict, but by doing so, They are dragging Lebanon further into the abyss of the Syrian & the Arab Spring conflict.
If the Lebanese civil war which is like a tiny province in Syria lasted for 15 years and the Iraq war has been raging 10m years already since 2003 Shock and Awe, Afghanistan even longer, it is wishful thinking that the Syrian crisis will end any time soon but the peace loving Lebanese hope and pray in Lebanon the Sunnis & the Shia practice the utmost restraint and keep the precarious peace and prosperity that Lebanon has had since 1989.
On the other hand there is good news too. Real estate is booming in Lebanon. Land prices have never been higher. Everywhere you look you will see new hotels being constructed new restaurants new villas and cranes filling the skyline. Another new development is the huge gas & oil deposits that they have discovered on the Mediterranean sea that is on the coastlines of Israel Lebanon Cyprus and Syria. According to reliable sources, Lebanon could be as rich if not richer than Qatar who is the worlds largest producer of natural gas. Israel has started mining its shores, Lebanon is still deciding who to give the job to, while Syria has promised the Russians the project to mine the gas once the fighting stops. The future looks rosy indeed for everyone in the region. That is if we can only get our acts together and synergize instead of pulverise.
The news of the success of the Iranian US peace talks in Geneva which is the best news the world has heard come out of the Iran nuclear issue has been met by jubilation around the world has received mixed reactions in the Middle East. We have to support this historical initiative. We have to make peace at all cost. Nobody wins in war. If they could forgive and forget in South Africa we can do it in South Lebanon and the Middle East. We can not leave this world this way for our children to inherit the hate and intolerance we have endured for the last 60+ years. Always remember: It is never too late to make the peace.
Here is a 30 second video on the situation in the Middle East that says it all. These are the “rebels” who want to take over Syria & Lebanon. You be the judge. Do you want these ‘gentlemen’ to rule your world? I certainly don’t want them to rule mine. They claim to be Moslems but I don’t know what kind of Moslems they are. So full of hate for all religions. These people give the Moslems a bad name. Watch as he arrogantly destroys the statue of the Virgin Mary. No Moslem would do that. Mary (Mariam) is one of the most respected women in the Koran. In fact the Moslems revere and respect all the prophets that came before Mohammad. For your information in their respect for the other prophets Moslems name their children after Moses Abraham Jesus Noah. If you don’t believe me go ask the UAE Ambassador to the Philippines Moosa (Moses) Abdulwahid Al Khajah. There are 1.2 billion Moslems in the world. 99% of them are peace loving who respect all human beings of all religions.
http://youtu.be/LLZFhNcHFAo Moslem Cleric Breaks Virgin Statue
On to a happier subject: What are the similarities between the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of Lebanon?
We have so much in common we could be twins separated at birth.
1) Both are Republics that thrive on the beauty of their country and their tourism industry. Lebanon last year hit a record of 2.7 million tourists. This year the tally was expected to reach 3 million if not for the latest events.
2) Both RP & RL are the world leaders in the export of labor. The lebanese OLW’s have been migrating since the 1800’s and have for your information roughly 4-5 million population living in Lebanon and over 15 million abroad in the diaspora. The Lebanese are the original OCW’s.(Overseas Contract Workers). The RP has over 10 million overseas workers.
3) Because of our strong workforce abroad, both RP & RL have a strong remittance that is close to the $20 Billion dollars a year.
4) Both have/had a young President/Prime Minister who is the son of a former President/Prime Minister whose fathers were assassinated.
5) Both have beautiful beaches and coastline.
6) Both countries admit to having have a traffic problem but grin and bear it.
7) Both RP & RL have a Christian & Moslem population.
8) Both countries are famous for their warmth and hospitality, sociability and knowing how to have a good time.
9) Both countries have the most beautiful women in the world and the cleverest, most handsome men, of course as we can see if we look around this room.
On that note I Thank You for listening for the last 40 minutes, i hope it was interesting and informative but more than that i thank you not falling asleep. Thank You Maraming Salamat Po Merci Beacoup Shukran