Meeting the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretaries

This short narrative that I posted four years ago, about an event that happened the day before, popped up in my social media account recently. I felt I wanted to share it again now because I feel that it is a wonderful part of my (and my batch mates’) Foreign Service Officer (FSO) journey.

2 July 2016: It felt marvelous having the chance to say personally to SFA Perfecto Yasay “Welcome to DFA, Sir!” while shaking his hand. It was one of the highlights of the week seeing everyone at the lobby, eagerly anticipating his arrival in DFA and welcoming him to the office. It felt like déjà vu; we were also at the lobby when SFA Del Rosario bid farewell and when SFA Almendras arrived.

Two weeks ago, former SFA Jose Rene Almendras spent three hours with us (new FSOs) for a “Breakout Session.” It was a fun session of art, music, practical tips in life and advice in work-life balance. He also regaled us with some stories about his work in DFA.

And three months ago, former SFA Albert Del Rosario spent an hour with us, the new FSOs. He asked us about our reason for entering foreign service, encouraged us to take advanced studies, and inspired us to serve the country in the best way we can.

The FSO Batch 2016 is indeed privileged to have this experience of meeting three Secretaries of Foreign Affairs in a span of five (5) months, witnessing and experiencing the change of national leadership, being in the foreign service at a time when we are “negotiating” our maritime disputes, intensifying our disaster preparedness efforts, lobbying issues on human trafficking, and addressing the threat of terrorism and transnational crimes, among others.

Welcoming SFA Perfecto Yasay at the DFA lobby, 1 July 2016
SFA Albert Del Rosario giving his message to FSO batches XXII and XXIII in 2016
SFA Jose Rene Almendras during the “Breakout Session” with new FSOs (2016)

Now, four years later, many things have happened.

Hon. Alan Peter Cayetano was appointed as the Secretary of Foreign Affairs in May 2017. In October 2018, Hon. Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (who I had the opportunity to meet at the Philippine Embassy in Paris in December 2019), became the new SFA. Former SFA Del Rosario, who served as the SFA from February 2011 to June 2016 and whose eloquence and calm demeanor are greatly missed, has retired but his name comes up every now and then in the news, especially in relation to the West Philippine Sea or China issues. Former SFA Perfecto Yasay (who was appointed SFA in June 2016) passed away last month. 😦 Former SFA Jose Rene Almendras now holds the position as President of Manila Water.

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