A new ConGen for New York

red line By Cristina DC Pastor

Before the month is over, a new Consul General for New York will likely be taking over. Or it could also be that one of the two sitting consuls – Kerwin Tate or Arman Talbo — is installed in an interim capacity before the actual ConGen assumes office.

Whatever the circumstances, the person taking over from Consul General Theresa Dizon-De Vega will have big shoes to fill.

In the years I have closely covered the Philippine Consulate and its interaction with the community, I have only seen two ambassadors up close – Mario de Leon Jr., and Dizon-De Vega. While that may not be enough to do an audit of diplomatic performance, let me just mention that I covered the diplomatic beat for the Manila Chronicle and have a general idea of what differentiates an honorable ambassador from a horrible one.

De Leon is an excellent diplomat, calm and deliberative, his personality best characterized as mild-mannered and easygoing. He is very approachable and can be counted on to support organizations in whatever activity they organize. I remember one of the techniques he introduced when he took over New York: a tiny mirror. He told passport officials working the windows to put a little mirror in front of them. That way, they can see if the stress of the job is showing on their faces. If it is, said De Leon, they need to take a short break to gather their wits or put on a little smile. It was a unique little trick in the name of customer service that worked.

Ambassador Mario de Leon Jr.; departing Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega

Ambassador Mario de Leon Jr.; departing Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega

Dizon-De Vega is pretty much identical as her former boss, both of them competent career ambassadors. One word that is constantly used to describe her is ‘energetic.’ Somehow, she is seen by the community as this wisp of a girl who has taken on this gargantuan responsibility for the country. One minute she’s in New York, the next she’s in Manila providing support to a new foreign secretary who is learning on the job. I’ve seen how Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano leaned on Dizon-De Vega as he was trying to recall the details of a law that just passed. She was by his side quick on her feet.

Dizon-De Vega is known for another distinction. She is social media savvy but knows how to strike a balance between in-person and digital engagement. She can be holding a press conference but also texting links to reporters asking for background information. She likes to take photos of the community in action, and most times posts them as the event is happening. Her posts are out usually as she is finishing her speech.

“How does she do that?” asks some in the community in awe of her vigorous energy. She has this brisk manner of walking like a New Yorker, but she does not mind being interrupted if you have a concern you want to raise with her.

The new ConGen need not be measured by the qualities of those who came before him or her: The decisiveness of De Leon or the cerebral attribute of Dizon De Vega. This diplomat must be his own person not fretting about the expectation of others, but mindful that he is in charge of a community of about 350,000 Filipinos across the Northeast. Kindness, being responsive to those in need, and being a good listener are qualities that will serve him well.

© The FilAm 2018

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