French Ambassador to Legarda: You’re an Inspiration, Always in Action

February 22, 2016

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“I prefer to use two simple words to describe your achievements and to explain why we decided to give you this honor—inspiration and action.”

These were the words of French Ambassador Thierry Mathou as he bestowed upon Senator Loren Legarda the title of Chevalier (Knight) in the Ordre national de la légion d’Honneur (National Order of the French Legion of Honor).

The Legion of Honor is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is one of the most prestigious French distinctions. Legarda was given the award for her invaluable contribution in strengthening bilateral ties between the Philippines and France, especially her commitment to the fight against climate change and to the promotion of culture and heritage.

“All your life you have been inspired by noble causes, by the necessity to promote democracy in this country, by the necessity to fight for the rights of women, of children, of indigenous peoples, by the importance of culture, and by the necessity to promote our planet, our nature, and to fight against climate change, which has become the major challenge of this century and your major advocacy,” said Mathou during the conferment ceremony held at his residence in Makati City on February 18.

“Many say that in all those moments, you became an inspiration for all your colleagues, all your friends, in the Philippines, in Asia and globally as you have been named a champion by the United Nations in the fight against climate change,” he added.

The French Ambassador also said that Legarda is “constantly in the action and action is the second best word to describe your achievements,” enumerating the Senator’s accomplishments in her three terms as a legislator, including the laws she authored; the programs she spearheaded, particularly on environmental protection, heritage preservation, and climate change adaptation; and the beliefs she upholds such as the need to redefine development.

“You have been with us all the way. A couple of years ago, you helped us organize an exhibition in Paris about the culture in this country. You have been with us in the long journey that led to the Climate Change conference in Paris last December,” he said.

Legarda supported the showcase of ancient Filipino artifacts during the Philippines: Archipelago of Exchanges exhibit at the Musée de Quai Branly in Paris in 2013.

The Senator also helped in crafting the 2015 Manila Call to Action for Climate Change, which was signed by President Francois Hollande and President Benigno Aquino III and which Legarda read side by side with French actress Marion Cotillard in Malacañang.

“Because of all that, because you share our values, France shares the same values with you, because you are an inspiration, because you are always in the action, it is a privilege of France to bestow on you the title of Knight of the Legion of Honor,” said Mathou.

In response, Legarda said, “The distinguished history of the award, and its long list of illustrious awardees leave me grateful and humbled; but more importantly, tremendously inspired to live up to the noble principles this award represents.”

“My journey as a ‘legionnaire’ has begun. I recognize that as in any award, there are responsibilities. I intend to fulfill these by serving as a vanguard of our countries’ great alliance,” Legarda concluded.

Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, whom Legarda met following the former’s release from house arrest in 2011, is also a legionnaire with the rank of Commander.

Filipinos who have previously been given the Legion of Honor award include the late President Corazon Aquino, General Carlos P. Romulo, journalists Teodoro Benigno and Max Soliven, former Speaker of the House Jose de Venecia, former Bank of the Philippine Islands President Aurelio “Gigi” Montinola III, and Film Development Council of the Philippines Chairman Briccio Santos.