Today, 22 January 2022 marks the six years since I took my oath as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO). I still distinctly remember that day when I had the oath-taking at the Department of Foreign Affairs wearing a royal blue Filipiniana gown and a rather conspicious silver necklace which I never wore again after that event. (I don’t know why I chose that design before. ^_^ You will find out by looking at the photo.) I still remember how great I felt hearing “Welcome colleagues!” from our guest of honor during the ceremony.
I celebrated this day by having a bonding time with my daughter, having a special lunch at S’Maison and buying both of us new pairs of sneakers. I chose Stan Smith Pride shoes. It was my first time to buy sports shoes with such a dainty design but I immediately liked it when I entered the store, and although, I went through the process of choosing several other designs, and almost chose another (the Peter Pan and Tinkerbell Stan Smith), my mind was set.
What then? I was telling my daughter, it’s been six (6) since I shifted careers and chose a different path from the one I loved because I felt that I reached a plateau and that my new work offered a better option economically. Added to that was the prestige of the career and the opportunity I felt it offered for me to help the country.
What has happened? Well, I was assigned in the Office of ASEAN Affairs which gave me the the opportunity to go to different countries to take part in meetings/ conferences– Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, India. Locally, I was able to visit Cebu for a meeting and a heritage tour. I had been posted in Paris, France as a Third Secretary and Vice Consul. I met great people (with brilliant minds and with a presence that uplifts the workplace), in the same way that I met those with rather “challenging” personalities.
I met and worked/coordinated with people from different government agencies for meetings/activities/projects. (One of the more memorable activities was the ASEAN Quiz Bee in 2016 where I worked with several government agencies from the questions formulation, contest guidelines, contest proper and where I met wonderful people from the Philippine Information Agency.) I also got invited to several events in schools and an LGU for talks especially when I was still with the Office of ASEAN Affairs. I also attended numerous events of the Filipino community in Paris–fiesta, anniversary, religious commemoration, fiesta, beauty pageant and so on.
I also met Filipino artists and musicians and Paris, who are all amazing in what they do. I attended some exhibits, listened to artists’ life stories and source of inspiration. There were also members of the Filipino community whose kindness and warmth were unexpected. (They are those whom I would want to meet again in the future, not on an official basis, but just to share a cup of coffee and a heartwarming conversation.)
I have handled several tasks, some of which I did well, some not because of certain reasons. I learned a lot of things and numerous lessons. I know now that in this career, having the eagerness to learn continuously, possessing strength of character, being open to new ideas, and having the skill to work with people with different personalities are vital.
Being an FSO is a demanding career. It can be physically exhausting at times. It can be mentally and emotionally draining too. So, it is necessary to sustain one’s love for the profession and willingness to serve the country. Maintaining a genuine interest in people and a belief that things will turn out well (by handling them properly) are needed to remain as enthusiastic as before in carrying out tasks and assignments.
Most importantly, even though being an FSO is a prestigious profession, it is essential to have a life outside work to be well-rounded, to maintain sanity, and to have a balanced life. As somebody said, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
Overall, it has been a great six years with its ups and downs. The work of an FSO is a dynamic career. It never runs out of surprises ands tasks to be done, but it also offers an opportunity for continuous learning and numerous travels, cultural immersion, and people-to-people engagement.