The Consular Staff and their niceties of protocol

DIPLOMATIC service, like life, is about the important, the amusing, the humane. At one level, it is routine and technique. But at its highest level, it is an art. Often a performance art played on a world stage, the diplomats win the confidence of people they deal with.

The foreign function is a crucial support to their domestic one.

The Fil-Am Community represents and expresses collective thoughts and ideas (given the courtesy it deserves) as a way to ensure the victory of any undertaking. There is no one beneath or above anyone.

We can’t profile Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim yet, given that his term is still in its 100 day-honeymoon. The media can only wait until he gives the signal.

I am not good at recycling anecdotes. Away from the stiff protocol of the Philippine Consulate and that sterile and safe world of diplomatic finesse that trails the Consul General in all his working hours, we could only watch him—his sangfroid unruffled, smiling his exhaustion from the demands of his job. He is used to the mighty or obscure. He is all the good things you want your Consul General to be: a true person whose remarks are spontaneous and unstudied, whose sprinkled wit could charm even an unfriendly chap off his socks as observed in the countless meeting he has presided when a wildcard surfaces. He has to socialize beyond human tolerance, in order to know everyone, whether they counted or not. He is also expected to stitch together paradoxical alliances of the 500 or more Filipino Community organization here in Southern California. He is aware that in these gatherings, fierce regionalism and parochial beliefs never fail to rear its ugly head. Yet, the complete diplomat he is has a way of disarming gutter ball players, unpleasant skirmishes and ruffled feathers are soothed out with compromises within bounds of propriety and reason.  He makes everyone feel that the government that he represents understands their needs, hopes and aspirations as he listens to grief and pain, impossible demands and more than that, he must also protect and understand his staff that is vulnerable to a demanding, if not, abusive public. He is astonishingly appropriate.

There is a sweet,  energetic look—that disarming simplicity—about Deputy Consul Imelda Panolong.

How alluring she looked. The tenderness in evoking her family, her serenity and grace in handling the demands for her time with the hundreds and hundreds Fil-Am Community clubs whose events range from the sublime to mediocre. Public officials drop by inaugurals, memorials, weddings, fashion shows, beauty contests, golf tournaments, and many more events.

Los Angeles is a must stopover—the supporting role that enables the Con. Gen to play a starring role in their tandem.

Like the Consul General, Madame Panolong, is here to represent  President Benigno Aquino III for the good of the country. She is a lady of polish and attainment, hinged on the best schools and inherent goodness, and who knows the value of wisdom and balance with a mind of her own. The Deputy Consul (DCH) enjoys a popularity with the media, especially with photographers and print. She has captured us, or have we captured her?

But the spotlight is on special people quietly toiling behind the scene. The consular staff are far from being  desk and paper keepers but whose inherent qualities…truth, accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty…which they’ve  all got. Intelligence, knowledge discernment, prudence hospitality, charm, industry, courage and tact, are taken for granted…all embracing qualities in terms of public perception…diplomacy and niceties at the Philippine Consulate merges us all.

At least 500 or more people burst upon the scene Mondays to Fridays at the Rizal Community Hall. Alert and expert in their special functions, the staff provides the channel and executes subsequent courses of public service. Even as they preferred to be addressed by their first names (but doesn’t give the public the imprudence to do so) there will always be Amor, Marie, Pete, Cesar, Wilma, not to forget unsung heroes in every department, hidden away from public view. Quietly and uncomplainingly doing the best that they can, they always stand up and matter. They stay consistent in their commonsensical approach to the niceties of protocol.

At the Philippine Consulate, our consuls are there to help with accidents, deaths, emergency passports  and imprisonment. Of course, they cannot do everything asked of them—they are not travel agents, bankers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers or nannies.

But if something goes seriously wrong, they are on hand!

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