An eminent career officer of the Philip- pine Department of Foreign Affairs, an ex- perienced all-rounder top brass former Ex- ecutive Director of the Office of Asia and Pacific (ASPAC) ; as well as a Philippine Representative to the ASEAN High Level Task Force that drafted the ASEAN Vision 2025.
Needless to say, her scholastic record is dot- ted with honors ad dis- tinctions graduating cum laude at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila with a Bachelor’s Degree in Asian Studies.
sador De La Vega in June 2018, the Order of Si- katuna with the Rank of Datu (Gold Cross) for her important role during the Philippine Chairmanship of ASEAN. Ambassador De La Vega is married.
She is again dear readers on a more indepth question and answer repartee.
Q1. For us all to gain a brief profile and back- ground notes of your be- ginnings could you kindly give us a brief run-down of your career highlights as an Ambassador from you previous postings to your most important distinc- tions please?
A1. Australia is my second Ambassadorial post. I first became an Ambassador in 2009 and served in Yangon, Myanmar for three years. I was in Myanmar during the most important phase in Myanmar’s history- where Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from pris- on and thereafter she ran for elections and won. She is now the State Councillor. Under my watch in Myan- mar, we tried in our modest measure to help the coun- try in its economic reform
by sharing our best practices with them. In Manila, I was appointed in 2014 to be the Philippine Representative to the ASEAN High Level Task Force responsible for draft- ing the ASEAN Vision 2025. All of us in that group agreed without reservation that our focus will be the well-being of the more than 600 million citizens of ASEAN, thus we were guided by an overall aim of a “people-centered, people oriented ASEAN”. I did not realize then that this task will eventually lead to my next assignment as Phil- ippine Director General/ As- sistant Secretary for ASEAN. During this term, I was re- sponsible for shepherding the substantive preparations for our rotational chair- manship of ASEAN in 2017, which coincided with the 50th founding anniversary of ASEAN. Thus, I and my team needed to shepherd as well our national commemorative activities for this milestone. Q2. How would you assess the over-all state of Philip- pine-Australian diplomatic relations at the moment given some rather unsettling events such as the not so
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￼Dear readers, let’s make welcome our new lady ambassador in the person of Ambassa- dor Ma. Hellen B. De La Vega
Her educational enrich- ment crosses far and wide having been a recipient of a Fellowship Program on Investments Promotion from the Belgian Gov- ernment, including, (take note) a Foreign Service Training Course under the auspices of the Austral- ian Department of For- eign Affairs and Trade so this isn’t the first time she had what we Filo-Aussies fondly refer to as fondly “Australian content and connection.”
She surely comes in our midst and brings with her a whole gamut of government ser- vice behind her including served as the As- sistant Secretary in the Office of ASEAN Affairs and the Director General of the ASEAN-Philippines National Secretariat from December 2015 to 04 September 2018. In her term, she organized and shepherded the substantive preparations for the Philip- pine hosting and Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2017 and ASEAN’s 50th Anniversary commemorative activities which were, no doubt humongous events that required Her- culean efforts. But that’s an expertise Mad- ame de la Vega wears daintily and o
Ambassador Ma. Hellen B. De La Vega
To complete and round off the equation, she was no less a Freeman Fellow at the famed John Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. obtaining a Master’s Degree on International Public Policy from the Paul Nitz School of Ad- vanced International Stud- ies.
Her past foreign service postings prior to Australia has been as Consul General in Los Angeles (twice, in 2003-2007 and then 2012 to 2014) .She was also the Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar from September 2009 to October 2012.
(also known as Arroyo Administration that spanned two terms including the other half of the ousted President Jo- seph Estrada.
It’s interesting to note that she was likewise the Deputy Chief of Mission, Minister Con- sul General at the Philippine Embassy in Beijing, People’s Republic of China under the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Before that she rose from the ranks from Third Secretary and Vice Consul in Jakarta, Indonesia (1990-‘93); then Second Secretary and Consul in Ma- drid, Spain (1994-’96); and First Sec- retary and Consul Tokyo, Japan (2001- ’03).
The Philippine Govern- ment awarded Ambas-
￼Interview by Mars Cavestany
￼Dr. Corazon Alvarez-Francisco, belongs to that van- ishing breed of Filipino professionals who escaped the Philippines and chose to resettle permanently in Aus- tralia in 1987 after realizing the political turbulence of the 1980’s and what she aptly calls living in “false sense of complacency.”
Thirty one years henceforth. Dr. Francisco, so well- loved and highly respected by her kababayans in NSW, returned to the Philippines to claim 2018 Presiden- tial Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas, “Banaag Award” from President Duterte in Malacanang Palace during the awarding ceremonies, 5th December 2018.
“It feels so great to be awarded for something you love doing”, so says Dr. Francisco. Follow the short but sweet and very insghtful responses to this true-blue woman of substance provides to our Q-A that charts her humble be- ginnings as a university prrofessor in Manila, widening her horizons in a new-found land in Sydney, Australia and building up a tremendously successful career now being one of the most-sought after medical experts in Australia.
Gawad ng Pangulo Presidential Awards, 5th December 2018.
Dra Corazon Francisco with her husband Engr Ferdi Francisco at Malacanang Palace during the awarding, 5th December 2018
￼￼Q-1. Let’s starts off with statistics. How many years of professional medical service did you serve in the Philip- pines before you migrated to Australia. In what year did you first arrive here?
A I had 10 years practice as an Obstetrician Gynae- cologist in Metro Manila, before migrating to Australia in 1987. As well, I left behind my being an Assistant Professor in OB-Gyn at Manila Central University, Ca- loocan campus.
Q- 2. Would you be able to share us your respectable thoughts as to why you chose to migrate and leave the Philippines and why Australia and not somewhere else in US or Europe where your people of your higher cali- bre, educational, and experiential background is much in demand and would be verily appreciated?
Receiving the plaque as Presidential Awardee.
Q-7. You are a fellow Ilocano Manang, critically speaking, how would you react to some serious criticisms about so- called Ilocano leaders in general without dropping names) who have held the leadership reigns of this and that group, one too many major organizations headed by Ilocanos one after another . On top of that historical reality, there are always wrangling and infighting for positions. I ask these with the end in view of the underlying and never-ending issue of unification which as you know rocked the boats for almost a decade between APCO and PCC involving many Ilocanos bigwigs at that? Would you like to share us your well considered thoughts on such inter-related con- cerns?
A- The main reason why we left the Philippines was the political and economic situation during the 80’s. My eyes were opened suddenly in 1983 when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated. Succeeding events showed us the true picture of the country then; that we were living in a false sense of complacency. My kids were then so young and my husband was working in Saudi Arabia. We did not want our kids to grow up in such an environment, so we decided to leave. We chose Australia because of a more family oriented lifestyle compared to America. I had the chance to visit USA and Sydney before we made the de- cision.
A- Through the PAMA, we had been conducting an- nual, free Medical, Dental and Surgical missions in various remote areas in the Philippines, for the past 11 years. For our next medical mission, we will be going to San Narciso, Zambales and Munoz, Nueva Ecija in March, 2019. We plan to continue with this project yearly and as long as we are able to.
Q- 3. If you were to assess your own personal achieve- ments what are you most proud of and happy that you’ve done it?
A- Amongst my achievements, I am very proud of having founded the Philippine Australian Medical As- sociation (PAMA), Inc., knowing very well the hardships of Filipino doctors to apply for eligibility in Australian society. I organized review classes for those anxiously preparing to take the Australian Medical Council (AMC) exams, imbuing to the members a sense of camaraderie rather than of competition. Also worth mentioning are my being the First Filipino Doctor to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practition- ers (FRACGP) in 1996 and the First Filipino Doctor in Australia to become a member of the Panel of Examin- ers for the Fellowship Exams for General Practitioners in 1996. I am also very proud of maintaining my solo practice as a GP in Quakers Hill which is now on its 26th year.
Q- 6. Let’s focus now on your Australian matters and af- fairs most especially your involvement in the Filipino com- munity. What particular groups are you most active with and why? What have you particularly contributed to the organization per se and to our fellow migrants in general which obviously became the raison de etre of your award in Malacanang?
A-Truly, I feel sad about the fact that there is too much ego fighting among us. Too much emphasis on personali- ties rather than our being Filipinos as a whole. Breaking away from the mainstay association seems to be a pattern adopted by some, due to personality disagreements. Ana- lyzing historical facts however, it is very seldom that the break-away group becomes successful.
Q- 4. At these stage of your life where you would have attained probably what holds weight in your life and existence, and with the children having grown up and achieving fantastically on their own, should you be of- fered a good post back home (for government or pri- vately perhaps) will you pack up and leave everything behind?
B. The University of the Philippines Alumni Association in Australia, NSW Chapter (UPAAA-NSW). As President of the UPAAA-NSW from 2000-2002, I initiated the student exchange program in collaboration with the University of the Philippines (UP) and two prestigious Universities in Australia - The University of New South Wales and the University of Sydney. We were able to invite Prof. Fran- cisco Nemenzo, then UP President, to visit Sydney. Under my leadership we held fund raising activities to help sup- port the computerization of UP. Alongside my husband, I coordinated and spearheaded fund raising activities in con- nection with the UPAAA-NSW Scholarship grant project, whose activities (such as The Oblation Cup Golf Tourna- ment from 2008 to 2015) generated a substantial amount of funds to support 8 indigent yet deserving tertiary students in UP.
Regionalism is not good too. We should always remem- ber that we are Filipinos, and we represent our country as a whole, not just a part of it.
Q- 9. Is retirement something you have considered sooner or later? How do you wish to spend your time in retire- ment?
A- No. I have reached the stage where I would rather spend the rest of my life with my family and 2 lovely grandchildren.
Q-5. Talking of home, please highlight as to your own prioritizing, the help/aid or personal achievements you have extended or shared to our kababayans as a medical practitioner? Have or are these one off or continuing? Any project ideas brewing at the moment that most ex- cites and challenges you as far as helping our Mother country is concerned?
C. The Timek Iti La Union Association, (TILAUNA), Inc. I was one of the 7 founders in 2002 and became President in 2013 to 2017. I realigned the association into its goals particularly the Scholarship program, camaraderie and re- connection with La Union. In 2017, we participated in the outreach program of the Philippine Consulate General in Sydney which provided the Filipinos in Grafton, NSW and surrounding communities to obtain dual citizenship and to
Q-10. My usual goodbye note is to request you for a gen- eral parting message to our readers throughout Australia. Take it away Madam... Agyaman nac unay...
A- To be awarded for something that I love doing is great! So that my advice to the readers of PCHN, is to persevere in what you are doing, if you deem it good for the com- munity. Instil peace, joy, love and harmony among one an- other to achieve stability while we enjoy our lives in our adopted country.
A-A. The Philippine Australian Medical Association (PAMA), where I was the Founder and the Founding Presi- dent. In the early nineties, I helped struggling Filipino doc- tors to pass their AMC Exams, the requirement to obtain licensure to practice medicine here. The pitiful plight of the Filipino migrant doctors then, so inspired me. Some were working as clerks, factory workers, technicians, gasoline attendant, nurses, etc. They obtained their licensure one by one and redeemed their dignity as doctors.
Q-8. Would you care to comment about our intrinsic cul- tural traits, customs, mores, and traditional habits and manner of thinking and doing things that you yourself is not happy about and that which you may believe are pre- cisely the blemish, curse, if not the all-time deterrent to our growth and total development as Filipino-Australians? A- Crab mentality is a bad trait among us. We should recognize, support and praise the achievements of others rather than downgrade it.
process other consular documents.
A- No permanent retirement for me. For as long as God allows me, I will maintain my present state: part time gen- eral practitioner, enjoying family life especially with my grandchildren.
Stay healthy and wise! A very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to all!!!
(Photo) Wikipedia File: Mioss Universe 2018 TV Photographers by Peak Hora
Catriona Gray, made history by becoming the first Filipi- na-Australian to win both Miss World Philippines in 2016 missing the crown but still landing 1st runner up only to reclaim a much-deserved bigger title as Miss Universe Philippines and recently bagging the stiffly contested 2018 Miss Universe crown.
Ms Gray truly made the entire Philippines proud when she sashayed on the global stage and showcased the genu- ine qualities defining a Filipina beauty: confidence, grace, intelligence and strength in the face of tough challenges,” Duterte said in a statement from the presidential palace.
This is the 4th global honour for the Philippines, re- echoing the Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margie Moran (1993) two in a close row win what with Pia Wurtzbach figuring prominently in 2015 after a long 42 years wait and followed closely by Catriona Gray only 3 years after.
“In her success, Miss Philippines has shown to the world that women in our country have the ability to turn dreams into reality through passion, diligence, determination and hard work.”
President Duterte’s congratulatory letter sums up what everyone feels for our latest queen.
Filo-Aussies are happily reminded that Ms. Gray first captured our hearts as the Little Miss Philippines in 1999 where she then competed in the famous “Eat Bulaga” TV show competition of the same title representing the Filo community in Australia.
FILO GROUPS CELEBRATE X-MAS
Year in, year out the entire Filipino-Australian commu- enous practices possible and feasible either through food and reportage submitted by paramount community or-
nity throughout Australia celebrate Christmas and New preparations, costuming, family rituals and all the various Year in every conceivably imaginative way whilst captur- stages of carousing and merrymaking. Spread through- ing and adhering to whatever age-old traditional or indig- out this December Christmas issue are various coverage
ganizations from Sydney to Canberra to Melbourne to Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Tasmania. Read on and Seasons greetings everyone! (Mars Cavestany)