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Diplomats leave, stories stay

Republika

BalikBayani République | Tony Alabastro

Fewer foreign residents and foreign workers with existing contracts are in Brunei, which population fell to 420,000 from estimated 453,600 following 18-month, pandemic travel restrictions, 2020 census shows.


Two weeks after Marian Jocelyn-Tirol was confirmed in September as second woman and 11th Philippine Ambassador to Brunei, her predecessor flew home during pandemic. Philippine Ambassador Christopher Montero didn’t wait for the Diplomatic Corps-hosted virtual farewell.


Charge d’Affaires Pete Raymond Delfin has been contacted on queries Montero left unanswered: Embassy’s assistance to Covid19- affected, jobless OFWs, stranded tourists, Embassy Food Assistance, vaccination and overseas voters’ registration.


Consul Delfin is 37-year-old Philippine Embassy ’s fourth Charge ‘Affaires following Consul Generals Tristan V. Enverga and Virginia H. Benavidez and Minister Ethel V. Balatbat.


ConGen Enverga opened on Aug. 10, 1983 the Philippine Consulate General in three-storey sprawling house on top of the hill, very white with lots of steps, on Jalan Kota Batu, Kampong Pintu Malim, Bandar Seri Begawan.


When President Marcos attended Brunei’s first independence cere- monies February 22, 1984, the Philippine Consulate was upgraded to Embassy.
First Philippine ambassador to Brunei Darussalam was lawyer Benjamin Domingo (March 14, 1984 – November 1, 1986).


Ambassador-lawyer Eusebio A. Abaquin (December 16, 1986-June 19,1993) transferred Philippine Embassy to Badi’ah Building, (now 55-room Badi’ah Hotel), on Mile 1 1/4, Jalan Tutong in capital.


“Our countrymen (needed) easier access to Embassy. They usually take taxi, and keep it waiting, if they don’t take the public bus, which is far and in-between,” said Abaquin.


Sickly, Ambassador Juan V. Saez (November 29,1993- September 25, 1994), former Manila Times diplomatic reporter, served 10 months; was 1989-1991ambassador to Moscow.


Dancing Ambassador – Politician Ramon A. Tirol (March 9, 1995-June 30, 1998) celebrated Proclamation of Philippine Independence’s Centennial, and had breakfast with President Fidel V. Ramos when FVR attended Sultan’s eldest, HRH Princess Rashidah’s royal wedding.


Ambassador-Politician Enrique Zaldivar (March 16,1999- March 31, 2002) hosted presidents Citizen Cory Aquino, Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo.


Virginia H. Benavidez, first Philippine woman ambassador to Brunei (April 24, 2002-June 30, 2009), relocated Embassy from Badia’h to Pehin Hapidz’s vacant Jalan Tutong residence; hosted presidents GMA and FVR to Filipino community dinners; initiated acquiring two Diplomatic Enclave lots, and buil-ding Philippine Embassy Chancery, and Cotabato’s Grand Mosque.


Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Ambassador Alexander Yano (July 28, 2009-June 30, 2010) saw our very own Chancery rise.


Ambassador Nestor Z. Ochoa, retired AFP chief of Staff, (March 25, 2011 – May 2015) hosted President Noynoy Aquino’s first visit to an ambassador’s official residence in five foreign trips. Aquino inaugurated Palafox-designed, nipa hut-inspired, LEED compliant Chancery.


Career Ambassador Meynardo L.B. Montealegre (April 21, 2015 – May 30, 2018), ninth ambassador to serve in Brunei Darussalam, was cross-posted from the Hellenic Republic with concurrent jurisdiction over Republic of Cyprus, where Ochoa transferred.


Career Ambassador Montero (May 27, 2019 – July 15, 2021), started building multipurpose center for 10-year-old Philippine Embassy Chancery, then left.


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