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Online Newsletter Nr. 129
It is a heavy responsibility you are assuming as the Philippine Ambassador to Germany. What were the challenges you were thinking when you accepted the task? What motivates you in your work?
Before I assumed my post as Philippine Ambassador to Germany, I was Consul General at the Philippine Consulate in Frankfurt, and before that, I was Deputy Chief of Mission from 2008-2010 here in the Philippine Embassy in Berlin. So you could say that I was intimately aware of the challenges – even before I assumed post – but I saw them not just as challenges but as opportunities.
In the diplomatic profession, we often describe ourselves as loyal soldiers, working within a clear line of command, and following orders to the letter. The entire foreign service, under the new Aquino administration and Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario, was given marching orders to step up economic diplomacy efforts to help the President fulfill his covenant with the Filipino people – to ensure sustained and inclusive growth for all. So the mandate given was very clear to me.
And Germany, with foreign direct investments in the Philippines of over half a billion dollars, is a top economic post for us. By the time I assumed post as Ambassador, I had a fairly good idea about the vast potential for bilateral relations. I was aware that there is room for tremendous growth in economic relations. The priority was to seek markets for Philippine goods and services and concentrate on Philippine niches in foreign markets where possible.
What motivates me?
When your raison d'etre is clear, everything falls into place. I am a public servant with a mandate, and the mandate is bigger than myself. Part of that mandate, and in fact one of the foreign policy pillars, is to protect and provide assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). And this is the one task that I enjoy because the Filipino Community in Germany is cooperative and our kababayans are natural partners in the national development efforts of the Philippine Embassy in Berlin.
It is very sad that our former community chaplains namely: Fr. Bacareza, Fr. Flores and Fr. Adonis, unfortunately passed away due to cancer in 2011. On the contrary you are looking most of the time radiant, strong and healthy. What is your secret? Do you have a particular hobby, sport or musical pastime to de-stress?
I share your sentiments about Fr. Bacareza, Fr. Flores and Fr. Adonis. I believe that their contributions to the Filipino community are durable. And so they may have gone, but they have a place in our hearts, and a special place in heaven. It's interesting that you couch your question about my health regimen in this context because for me physical and spiritual well-being are closely intertwined. I do not follow a strict physical regimen, like diet or strict physical exercise – and I am sure you have seen me eat heartily in Filcom gatherings. But what I do have, and what keeps me grounded amidst all the pressure that this profession entails, is a spiritual regimen: setting aside quiet time for contemplation, meditation, and prayer.
On the lighter side, Berlin is the place to be. So far, what are your impressions? Given the choice, would you have opted to be in Washington, D.C., USA, or in another city, instead in Berlin?
I have lived in various cities abroad as a diplomat on official tour of duty: in Canberra, Tokyo, Vienna, and Geneva. I was also fortunate to have lived in Washington, Kuala Lumpur, and Oxford as a student. It is difficult to compare cities as each would have its special charm. I remember my first posting in Canberra quite fondly – we say in the foreign service that one always falls in love with his or her first posting. I also have happy memories of my time in England as a student. But Berlin, as my first ambassadorial post, is truly special. It is a wonderful city as well for a person who is raising daughters – within a few minutes, you can take your children to the park, or forest, or even to a lake, or go and see a cutting edge exhibit in
Regardless where, in San Francisco (USA), Madrid (Spain) or Lima (Peru), every Filipino migrant community is unique. We are influenced and identified as Berliners. In other words, free-minded if I may quote J. F. Kennedy: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” What is your evaluation of the Filipinos in Bayernallee?
Filipinos in Bayernalle are uniquely spiritual with very strong community ties. What makes the Filipino community in Berlin very strong is the ties to the church. You can see that in the profile of Filipino organizations – most are related to church activities. And there is so much joy in how we pray and celebrate Christ. Like the tourism pitch, “it's more fun in the Philippines” – we are fun-loving even in prayer. In Bayernallee, Filipinos take the time to exchange stories and share food after church service.
What was your most finest and emotional moment in your career as a diplomat?
I believe that a diplomatic life offers very interesting experiences and several 'fine and emotional' moments. But I think that the moment when you first present your credentials as ambassador is a defining one. And so in my case, it was September of last year, when I presented my Letter of Credence to then President of the Federal Republic of Germany, H. E. Christian Wulff. With him were State Secretary Harald Braun, Foreign Affairs Adviser Clemens von Goetze, and Deputy Chief of Protocol Claus Krumrei. While it's a ceremonial matter, I really felt the solemnity of the occasion and the weight of the responsibility, as you mentioned in your first question earlier. I also felt immensely proud to represent my country especially when they hoisted the Philippine flag in the Presidential Palace grounds.
In your short introduction speech last year, you ended your talk with the remark: “...your humble public servant.” Was that a hint of your modest character or simply following President Noynoy Aquino as your model?
Perhaps a little of both – but all diplomats are public servants. And like I mentioned earlier, I have a mandate from the government. It is to help the President fulfill his social contract with the people. It's not a question of modesty that I call myself a humble servant – this is what we are here for, to serve our country and our people.
What makes you laugh spontaneously?
Spontaneous laughter – it could be anything that tickles my funny bone or brings me joy. I find humor in many things – and so it's difficult to think of anything in particular. My daughters antics', especially when they were younger, always made me laugh spontaneously. Watching Filipino movies and telenovelas also warms my heart and brings a smile on my face.
Which one of your strengths are you proud of and which one of your weaknesses you need to strengthen?
I think strengths and weaknesses are often two sides of the same coin.
What do you like particularly and with whom do you want to share it?
A life well-lived and a beautiful life in the here-after – shared with my loved ones.
Give us the wisdom of your life!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” - Proverbs 3:5-6