Ma. Theresa B. Dizon-De Vega: “I'm an Accidental Diplomat”

New York - Philippine Consul General in New York, Ma. Theresa Dizon-De Vega spoke to members of the media on March 2, 2018. She will be cutting short her tour of duty, after serving for only a little over a year as head of post. She has been recalled to Manila for a new role in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It has been reported as a promotion. Consul General Dizon-De Vega declined to comment about her new capacity until it is officially announced.

Below are excerpts of Consul General De Vega’s statements during the media availability.

(Photos by Lambert Parong/Asian Herald)

"I’m an accidental diplomat. I took the foreign service examination, out of respect, out of filial duty, because a close friend of my mother's family, a retired ambassador, a career foreign service officer, she became an ambassador, she'd been pestering my mother to have me take the exam and so I just took the exam, I didn't even review I didn't even prepare." (In 1994, Ma. Theresa B. Dizon, placed 1st in the Foreign Service Officer examamination.)

“I decided to make a go of it and see, my initial plan was, I’ll probably stay for two years, I’ll see how it goes but I ended up staying.” 

“I've always been interested in history, in politics, it's always been something that I've constantly read up on, current events and culture. I think it is very important for a diplomat to have a good knowledge of culture and the arts, being a lawyer is very helpful also.”  

“I always say, after my stint in Hong Kong, I can face any assistance to nationals issue. In Hong Kong the profile is, the vast majority are what we call HSW or household service workers and there's no debate these are the most vulnerable migrant workers anywhere in the world, they are most vulnerable because it's very difficult to police, its very difficult to monitor and to observe, most of them are stay-in employees.” “And when I was posted in Hong Kong we had fewer tools at our disposal that was early 2000's late 1990's, there was no social media, it was the early years of text messaging, it was harder to really catch instances of abuse, also in terms of volume, Hong Kong is a very small place and there are 160,000 Filipinos.” 

“But of course the problems are not just labor related, they also have problems which at the very base of these problems, they're not necessarily caused by their foreign employers, sometimes some of the problems are borne out of the social disruption brought about by migration. The break-up of the traditional family unit, the imbalance between the work that's being done and the expectations back home, that's always the challenge.”

“We've had many cases where overseas Filipino workers have to pretend that they are earning this much just to be able to satisfy the needs of their families and there is also a lot of guilt involved. This is the social cost of migration, you have mothers who take care of children of foreign nationals and they can't take care of their own children and so what they cannot give in terms of day to day constant presence and affection they give through material things and sometimes it gets them into trouble - there is this dynamics, which is very important.” 

“Different countries, different communities, different professions, different profiles, different set of challenges also, but it's good. I will forever be grateful that I was posted to Hong Kong, because in terms of the volume and in terms of the service that you render, it's a different kind of service, also it prepares you for certain things.” “It was a very fulfilling posting in the sense that there are so many challenges but I must say that in Hong Kong our experience with the authorities was quite positive, they are very efficient and notification comes very quickly, they will notify you 24/7 they don't wait, they're very conscious of that, if they have a Filipino in detention they're not going to wait until the morning to inform the consulate, they will immediately call the duty phone or send a message somehow or send a fax, they will do it immediately which is very helpful for us.”

“I will miss the people, the community, the work, probably the pace. The dynamics of the community, the city. There are a lot of things we do in New York, we do a lot of community networking but we also do a lot of networking with local officials, state officials, members of Congress and the states that we represent and members of the Senate. We also deal with networking with other communities which is something endemic to New York.” “I will miss the diversity of New York. On a personal level, the access to things that I enjoy outside of work, books, film, theatre, classical music, all sorts of music actually, arts and culture, because you really get everything you need here in New York.” 

“We have this dictum in the foreign service, no one is indispensable, because we come and go and I'm sure, I'm confident that the consulate will be just as active as it has always been and more so. I think when you leave an institution and you move on to other things, you will always want your successor or the team that comes after you to do better, because otherwise you won't grow.” 

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