THE Italian Embassy in Manila unveiled its cultural festival, 'The embassy of Italy meets the youth of Tondo,' and the activities planned per month at San Pablo Apostol New Land Parish, Tondo, Manila on February 1.'I think it's a unique initiative to put nine events together in a festival, which has set dates and set appointments. We put a lot of effort. We hope that the public is aware of [it],' Italian Ambassador Marco Clemente said.Clemente added: 'We think that culture is an important facet of our life, especially since the youth of Tondo don't have many opportunities to be confronted, to be exposed to that kind of thing. Culture can really better their life. Culture is the thread which unites or connects this event.'This day also marked the inauguration ceremony of the Italian language course, which would run for 6 months.According to Clemente, the goal of the activities was to empower and help the young people of Tondo in the context of a festival, where members of the youth would have the opportunity to learn while having fun and contributing to their community.On March 23, the embassy would bring opera to Tondo through a performance of Giacomo Puccini's comic opera, 'Gianni Schicchi.' The opera would also coincide with the centennial commemoration of Puccini, one of Italy's greatest composers.Clemente said this would be the highlight of the festival, calling it an 'extraordinary experiment,' as they would bring the opera not to the theater house, but to the covered court of San Pablo Apostol New Land Parish; something that had not been done yet.Clemente said this would be a chance for the people of Tondo to enjoy good music.He added: 'This is the first time and, again, a challenge. It is the first time it has ever been attempted to produce live opera before in a space, which is not an opera house, and a space of people, who do not have many opportunities.'The opera would be performed by the Manila Symphony Orchestra in Italian language. Clemente said the Italian Embassy in Manila would also hire an actor to explain the opera in Filipino in order that the young audience could better understand.On April 27, the embassy would hold a sports day called 'Friendship games: A day of sport competitions,' where the embassy would organize sports in the style of the Olympic games.The embassy would hold another theater-related activity, called 'Performance and interactive workshop on Italian drama theater,' on May 23. This would help the children appreciate the Italian culture of theatrical production.Coinciding with the Festa della Repubblica or the Italian National Day, the embassy would also hold a talent show on Italian songs and dances on June 1.The culminating event of the festival would be a family day, a moment of friendship with the families of the community, on July 6.The relationship between Italy and Tondo traced back around 35 years ago when Giovanni Gentilin, an Italian priest and the founder of the Canossa-Tondo Children's Foundation Inc., set foot in Tondo with a mission to do something for the well-being of the community.The onset of this festival continued this relationship as the Italian Embassy in Manila enriched the lives of the young people by bringing these unique opportunities and cultural experiences to them.Clemente said: 'For us, it's a place of the heart. It's sort of a de facto embassy or second embassy. There has always been a strong connection between the Canossians and the embassy of Italy. We wanted to — I personally wanted also, being close to the end of my term here — leave a mark, leave a concrete memory of what our friendship has been. This is the reason why we have this festival in Tondo.'Since last year, three events have already been concluded — also in Tondo. These were the Fiesta con Gusto Italian street food festival on Nov. 18, 2023; the Christmas party with Italian panettone and pandoro on Dec. 8, 2023; and a cooking workshop on traditional Italian recipes on Jan. 30, 2024.