The ‘Open Doors’ monument in honor of the Philippines was recently unveiled at the Rishon Lezion Memorial Park in Israel, forging stronger ties between the two countries.
Tourism Secretary Joseph ‘Ace’ Durano, who attended the event together with Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque Jr., said “This monument commemorates the Philippines’ selfless efforts in opening the country for thousands of Jews.”
He added, “This is a remarkable milestone to further better linkages between the Philippines and Israel. We are one of the first to recognize the State of Israel, and today the warm relations between our countries continue.”
In 1939, fully understanding the crisis the Jews were facing, President Manuel L. Quezon was instrumental in making 10,000 visas earmarked for travel to the Philippines.
He declared an ‘open door’ policy, making a difference in the lives of thousands of Jews, some of which were in the event to celebrate the remarkable occasion.
Meanwhile, Jarque noted, “The warm hospitality of the Filipino people undoubtedly shed light on one of the Jewish people’s most trying times. This same characteristic has always drawn people from different cultures to Philippines.”
“Aside from the destinations, the Filipinos’ hospitable spirit continues to leave a lasting mark on others,” he said.
Reinforcing President Quezon’s open door policy were provisions for housing in Marikina in 1939, and an allotment for a farm and large settlement area in Mindanao for the Jewish refugees before the outbreak of World War II.
Such episodes were documented in a book ‘Escape to Manila’ by Frank Ephraim, a Holocaust survivor. Four years ago, this book inspired the creation of the ‘Open Doors’ monument through the initiative of the late Ambassador to Israel Antonio Modena, who died in Manila in February 2007.
In his book, Ephraim wrote, “The Philippines held out a promise of a safe haven from Nazi oppression, offering survival from mass murder of the Jewish people in Europe.”
The monument, showing modern conceptual doors, was designed by acclaimed Filipino artist Jun Yee.
According to Yee, “The rising design of the open doors represents ‘soaring in triumph.’ One cannot imagine a more fitting symbol for this occasion than the Open Doors, dramatically and contemporarily designed.”
Philippine marble tiles from Romblon were used for the monument, along with metal sheets and reinforced concrete for the base.
Jarque mentioned, “The marble tiles coming from the island of Romblon, the heartland of our country, symbolize our country’s part in Israel’s story. The Jewish community in the Philippines and in other parts of the world also supported this initiative, and it is heartening to know that our friendship with the Jewish people have emerged stronger.”