Amb. Babe Romualdez receives warm welcome from N.Y. FilAms

Ambassador Jose Manuel ‘Babe’ Romualdez with Consul General Tess Dizon De Vega during a press conference with the FilAm media. Photo by Lambert Parong/FAPCNY

Ambassador Jose Manuel ‘Babe’ Romualdez with Consul General Tess Dizon De Vega during a press conference with the FilAm media. Photo by Lambert Parong/FAPCNY

By Cristina DC Pastor

“I finished my high school here (in New York City) after I got kicked out of Ateneo.”

With that opening statement, Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel ‘Babe’ Romualdez introduced himself before the Filipino American community in the New York Tri-State, during a General Assembly on February 3.

He said he attended Forest Hills High School in Queens after he got kicked out of Ateneo when he was a sophomore student. The statement elicited laughter from his audience.

He said the 350,000 FilAms across the Northeast is a “significant number.”

Such number is visible in the success of Filipinos across all sectors of American society. He commended the FilAms who have won political positions in New Jersey, such as Rolando Lavarro of Jersey City, Salvador Deauna and Arvin Amatorio of Bergenfield, and Jonathan Wong of Mahwah. He also singled out to praise the FilAms in government service, such as Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis of the NYC Human Rights Commission; Housing Commissioner Maria Torres Springer; and Gil Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority. Filipinos have a strong sense of professionalism and community involvement, he said.

“(We) can make significant impact in this part of the world,” he said.

“Each of you here has a unique story of how you got to America,” he said. “It could be finding economic opportunities abroad, a chance to better provide for their children and families or find well-paying jobs. Others came for more specialized education and career, for others a chance to be reunited with family members.”

He said FilAms are “proud of their heritage and aware of what Filipinos have contributed and continuing to contribute to American society. In fact, you are our best ambassadors.”

He said the Philippine economic growth is the envy of its Asian neighbors.

“Growth is hitting almost 6.9 percent, and has never gone lower than 6 percent in the last several quarters,” he said. “It is one of the highest in Asia and the world.”

He disclosed how the Philippines is trying to put in place a subway system similar to what New York has.

“In five years, matatapos na yung subway system sa Metro Manila. Maybe our subway is much better than New York’s,” he said by way of a joke.

Romualdez was named ambassador by President Rodrigo Duterte in July. He presented his diplomatic credentials to President Trump four months later. Part of his jurisdiction includes the Commonwealth of Jamaica, the Republic of Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Lucia.

He was previously designated special envoy of the Philippine President to the United States.

“I was quite impressed by his charm and eloquence,” said Vivian Talambiras-Cruz, former president of the Assumption Alumnae Association. “I truly believe that he is the right man for the job. Looks like President Duterte knew what he was doing when he appointed this ambassador.”

In a press conference early in the day, Romualdez said he feels “at home” with the press.

He said he didn’t choose to be a journalist. “It just landed on my lap.” He couldn’t find a job and ended up working as a reporter for RPN 9. He eventually became the executive assistant to the Chairman of the Board of the station, and also president and CEO of People Asia magazine.

“I never regretted it,” he said, pointing out how journalism is a “most fulfilling” career. “You have a role to play.”

© The FilAm 2018

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