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Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell (rightmost) presents Ambassador Jose Cuisia (2nd from the right) with the key to the city of Memphis.  Witnessing the presentation are (l-r) Memphis in May (MIM) Festival President James Holt and MIM 2012 Board Chair Calvin Anderson.

13 MAY 2012, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE. Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. was presented with the key to the city of Memphis during the Pearl of the Orient International Gala, Salute to the Philippines, which was held last May 11 at Memphis’ Peabody Hotel.  Mark Luttrell, Mayor of Tennessee’s Shelby County, said “the key would open social bridges between the people of the Philippines and Tennessee.”

In his remarks, Ambassador Cuisia noted the “connection” between Filipinos and the people of the Mid-South, who he described as among the friendliest in the U.S.  He once again expressed his appreciation to the Memphis in May (MIM) Festival’s Board of Directors for the honor of choosing the Philippines as the 2012 featured country.  He spoke of the deepening of political relations under the current Aquino and Obama administrations and invited businessmen to take advantage of complementarities that exist between the economies of the Philippines and the state of Tennessee.

Mr. Calvin Anderson, 2012 Chair of the Board of MIM, said, “the opportunity of featuring the Philippines’ arts, culture and cuisine gave the people of Tennessee and neighboring states a greater understanding and appreciation of that country.”  In particular, he cited the exchange of students from Cebu and Memphis as a “celebration of this expanded relationship.”  He also thanked the Ambassador for the Embassy’s unparalleled assistance and cooperation in ensuring a successful festival and said that, in his years of travel to honored countries in the past, none can equal the hospitality and was as enjoyable as their trip to the Philippines.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. also was among the honored guests.  He invited those in attendance to hop into some of the countries’ 7,107 islands.  “The Philippines is not just a place to see, but a place to be,” he remarked.

Samples of the Pili nut, which was launched during the Festival as a new gourmet product for the U.S. market, were distributed during the gala.  Representatives from the Department of Tourism were also on hand to give away promotional materials of their new campaign, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”

Also in attendance were members of the Filipino American community, who Ambassador Cuisia thanked for their efforts in helping run a successful Festival as volunteers and co-organizers of various events. (END)