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20 January 2007

Goodwill ambassador

“DON'T WORRY, you're not the only one who won't be voting in May,” reassured the voice on the other end of the telephone line this morning. She was referring to this year’s legislative elections in the Philippines, and I was telling her my regrets at being unable to meet the voting registration deadline for overseas Filipinos. I was masking my irritation at not having received any embassy advisory on the registration schedules—and at the fact that my twenty-year record of participating in Philippine general elections would be broken this time—by trying to sound calm and diplomatic. The other voice on the phone, after all, belonged to a diplomatic agent. She was Mrs. Laura del Rosario, Philippine Ambassador to India.

She called me up. More accurately, she responded to my phone call earlier today to the embassy’s duty officer, in which I made my disappointments very clear. “Like you, I will miss the polls,” she explained, “because I will move to Hanoi in March and it will be too late to register myself in that place.” This was enough to placate me. Simply put, if the official representative of my country’s government misses the vote, then why am I fretting?

“There are 439 Filipinos registered in the embassy. 439! Isn't that interesting?”Her voice was warm, maternal, and engaging. It was almost like talking to a former high school teacher. She spoke about recent events that the embassy hosted, and gave me names of Filipinos I could—and must—connect with in Mumbai and Hyderabad. “There are 439 Filipinos registered in the embassy, and most of them are wives of Indians. 439! Isn’t that interesting?” It is interesting and remarkable, considering that there are over 10 million overseas Filipinos worldwide (making us the third most internationally mobile nationality after the Chinese and the Indians). India seems to vanish from the map every time a Filipino decides to leave the Philippines and chooses a country of destination.

I promised Ambassador del Rosario that I would try to meet the embassy staff the next time I visited Delhi. The ambassador may no longer be in India by then, but the refreshing conversation with her this morning leaves me with a pleasant memory of her goodwill and the confidence that the Philippines is being represented very well in the diplomatic circle.

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