Spain's Queen Sofia on Thursday traveled to the impoverished southern Philippine island of Mindanao to view firsthand several development projects funded by Madrid.
At the regional hospital here in Zamboanga, which has been equipped with $9 million in Spanish aid, the queen spoke with mothers whose children are being treated for cancer at the facility.
The Spanish aid workers "are working a lot and you can see the imprint they are leaving with the collaboration of the Filipinos. It's a marvel. It really is moving to see the fieldwork," said the queen.
Sofia was accompanied on this trip by Spanish missionary Angel Calvo, who has been working for two decades in the area to alleviate the poverty that prevails here and foster peace in Mindanao, where a bloody conflict between Christians and Muslims has been going on for about half a century.
Accompanied by Spanish Ambassador Jorge Domecq and Spain's secretary of state for international cooperation, Jesus Gracia, the queen also toured a project by Spanish NGO Manos Unidas which provides shelter for some 600 poor families.
At midday, the queen rested for a bit after lunch at the Fortaleza del Pilar, built by Spaniards in 1636.
Zamboanga, with more than 800,000 residents, is one of the cities where the Spanish heritage in The Philippines is most clearly noted and, as the queen recalled, it is known as the most Latino city in Asia.
On Friday, the queen will wrap up her trip with a visit to Santo Tomas University, the oldest such institution in Asia.
The aim of the trip is to confirm Spain's commitment to helping The Philippines with its development.
However, as Secretary Gracia told Efe, Spain's efforts to build solidarity here will have to be scaled back as the Iberian nation struggles with debt and soaring unemployment.
"It will reduce the amount of Spanish cooperation, although The Philippines will continue to be a priority," Gracia said.
Since 2007, Spain has provided an average of 25 million euros ($30.98 million) per year for cooperation projects in The Philippines, although that figure is expected to soon be reduced by half.
Spain lost control of The Philippines in 1898 as a result of its defeat in the Spanish-American War. EFE