RUSSIA—Honorary consul to Russia Armi Lopez-Garcia received the prestigious "Order of Friendship" from Russian President Vladimir Putin in a ceremony held in the Grand Kremlin Palace on Monday.
Garcia, a Cebu-based entrepreneur and chairperson of Philippine-Russian Business Assembly, is the first Filipino to receive the award given to outstanding Russians and foreigners for their contributions in strengthening friendship and cooperation between nations.
“I felt like I was in cloud nine because we were told that maybe it was not President Vladimir Putin who will be giving the award but it came to us as a surprise that he will be giving the award. It was really a great honor not only for me for also the Filipino people," she told ABS-CBN News.
For over 2 decades, Garcia has been an advocate in promoting business, culture, and ties between the Philippines and the Russian federation.
She works with the Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Trade and Industry(DTI) to promote Philippine products and tourism.
Her endeavor involves helping the cacao industry become a major player in the international market.
"The challenge is really to have more engagement with the local government unit (LGU) and to engage with all different agencies. I am so happy that the DOT has already seen the light," Garcia said.
According to her, the Filipino hospitality is seen as a driving force in attracting Russians to conduct business in the Philippines.
"Wherever I do the "Meet Russia Program," it is always followed by an influx of Russian tourist because the hospitality industry players are already aware the culture and they know on how to take good care of the Russian," she added.
Both countries, Garcia said, are also similar in many ways.
"Filipinos don't really know much about the Russians and their culture when in fact they're very warm-hearted like us. We shared the same culture and values and this is the basic message that I want to relay to Filipinos," she said.