Article and photo by Quay Evano
Many Filipinos who watched PTV Channel 4 in the 70s and 80s will remember incoming Philippine Consulate General Gilberto Asuque and his deep baritone voice when he was reporting the top news of the day.
As a media man he covered the Malacanang before martial law was declared until the Marcos’ fled the country, between 1972 and 1986.
Asuque says he was always eying a career with the Department of Foreign Affairs. So, in 1986 he took and passed the foreign service exam, but continued to work as a newscaster for Channel 4 until 1998, when he was posted as vice consul to Australia.
“Well growing up in Bohol, nong bata ako, gusto kong maging reporter, mag media,” Asuque says. “Noong nakuha ko na ang pagkakataon na maging reporter, maging newcaster, nasa TV, sabi ko tama na iyon. Talaga naman gusto kong nasa foreign service noong araw pa. Kaya kumuha ako ng foreign service exam, pumasa naman, at nandito na ako ngayon.”
Since then, Asuque has been posted in different countries around the world. He was the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary in Lebanon from 2009 to 2011. He served as charge d’ affaires and consul general in Tel Aviv, Israel from 2006 to 2009. Prior to his appointment as the new Philippine consulate general for Alberta and Saskatchewan, he was the Deputy Chief of Mission and Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) at the Philippine Embassy in London for two years.
He says he is excited about his new post as the Philippine consulate general in Calgary, new job responsibilities and tried to learn as much as he could about the area before he came.
“You read what’s happening around, especially in the oil and gas,” Asuque says. “All of us in the foreign service will have to be updated on that. When the assignment was given for Calgary, I said it is just part of our work. Wherever the Secretary of Foreign Service and the President instruct us, we’ll go… We are here basically to serve the Filipino community and the clients of the consulate.”
For many years, Asuque focused on maritime issues for the Philippine Embassy. He was Assistant Secretary for Ocean Concerns, Minister Counsellor and Deputy Permanent Representative of the International Maritime Organization. He holds a Master of Laws in International Maritime Law (LIM) at the International Maritime Institute of the IMO; Master of Arts in Maritime Policy at the University of Greenwich, London; Bachelor of Law, College of Law at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of the East in Manila.
As for his new post, Asuque says the Calgary consulate will continue what it has done for the past two years and hopefully more. Although the office gained a few more staff members last year, he will continue asking the Department of Foreign Affairs for the necessary manpower his office needs.
“The staffing patterns of posts are dependent on the number of Filipinos that will be served,” he explains. “So, at that time, the projection was that certain volume or population of Filipinos the department saw that it was the sufficient personnel. But as the population grows, therefore there must be a corresponding increase in personnel because a person can only do so much work within eight or 16 hours if you have to.”
Asuque says he and his staff in the Philippine consulate in Calgary will continue to do as much consular outreach as possible.
“It is required by the Department of Foreign Affairs that we conduct outreach because the Filipinos cannot come to you, you have to come to them,” he says “And we will try to provide consular outreach as far as the personnel can perform. What we are really trying to do is do as much consular outreach during spring, summer and autumn and then we have to explain to kababayans for safety reasons, we have to restrict consular outreach in winter.”
Coming from London, where there is a big population of Filipinos, consulate general Asuque wasn’t really surprised the Filipino population is the largest and fastest growing ethno-cultural community in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“We have to realize that the Filipino is globally located because the Filipinos are known for their empathy for their fellow persons and they have the skills needed by economies – nurses, engineers, teachers, IT personnel, services in hotels,” he says. “Those services are essential for economies to perform like here in Calgary. Dapat ipagyabang natin na dahil sa ating mga Pilipino ang mga ekonomiya ay tumatakbo. Ang Pilipino, what we can say the factor endowment of Filipinos is manpower, services. Filipinos all over the world, our skills advantage is that we love working – that’s who we are. It is an essential component of every economy.”
Philippine Consulate General Asuque and his wife Rosali have two children and two grandchildren.