kabayan, meet our new Ambassador!

breakfast with Ambassador Domingo

A Pancake House breakfast, Star Wars and stories about serving OFWs in the Middle East.  A treat like this helped us forget the aches and pains of a half-marathon only a few hours before on a Sunday morning back home in the Philippines.  Thanks Ambassador Gary!

IN OUR UNIVERSE of mere mortals, diplomats, seal-bearers of monarchs in ages past, are part miracle-workers, part rock stars, and part storytellers.

We say miracle-workers, as diplomats, in the midst of all adversity, try to do the impossible, witness the ambassadors who tried to forge a cessation of hostilities in the Syrian War (and did it, two days ago).  Rock stars, because, representing the best of their country wherever they go, they reject the adulation and try, with the power of words and engagement, make everyone around them look better.  Storytellers, because having gone around different realms many times over, they carry with them enough tales to fill a thousand and one nights.

It’s a tough gig, but diplomats manage to do all these with dash and verve.

Such a diplomat we met through a common friend last month back home, the top diplomat of Inang Bayan to our host New Zealand and newly confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, His Excellency Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo.  I knew next to nothing about the man,  except that he was a successful diplomat specializing in representing our country as a relevant player in global organizations.  That, and only three other factoids: that he’s an unapologetic Star Wars fanatic, played American football (?!) and once worked as a part-time deejay.  That said, here is a short Q&A between your kabayan blogger and Ambassador Gary.  It probably won’t do justice to him, but it’s better than nothing, for now :

Without using too much analysis, your post as Ambassador looks markedly different from your previous post/s, would you confirm or deny this, and in what way/s?

Well, this would be the first time I would actually be heading a Post and not just a section, and working on overall bilateral relations with a country. My previous Posts were either Multilateral – the Philippine Missions to the United Nations in Geneva and New York, or mission-specific, – the Assistance to Nationals Section of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

At the cusp of your Ambassadorship, Philippine-NZ relations are especially warm. Do you have, just off the top of your head, any ideas to enhance this? (or is this a priority at all?).

Well, of course to build on the great work of my predecessor Ambassador Gie Benavidez. Also there is the program for our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations. There are many things we can do to further the political, economic, labor, cultural and other dimensions of our relationship.  I’m also particularly keen on joint PHL-NZ humanitarian, development and peacebuilding projects for our other Oceania friends.

If you could define the thrust of your Ambassadorship in two sentences, what would they be?

To carry out my assigned mission to the best of my ability, that is to advance the PHL-NZ bilateral relationship (in its political, economic, diaspora and cultural dimensions) and the relationships with other countries under my jurisdiction (Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga). To help further empower the Pinoy / Kiwinoy Community in the country as a positive and dynamic force in New Zealand and Oceania.

What was/is, to this point the high point of your career as a diplomat / foreign service officer? The low point?

The low point? I would say there are two high points – first, being able to save the life of Ms. Violy Miranda, an OFW in Riyadh who was on death row (1999), and second, coordinating international humanitarian assistance for Supertyphoon Yolanda (2013-14). I couldn’t really say there is a low point – my DFA career has been a wonderful adventure and a chance to serve.

If you weren’t the incoming Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand, what would you be today?

I’d continue as Assistant Secretary for United Nations and International Organizations.