ConGen Claro Cristobal on being a diplomat: ‘Looks like serendipity’

He promises a leadership that is “inclusive, participative, and results-oriented.” Photo by Lambert Parong

He promises a leadership that is “inclusive, participative, and results-oriented.” Photo by Lambert Parong

By Cristina DC Pastor

The new Consul General in New York, Claro Cristobal, is the kind of storyteller you would want around a campfire or over a bottle of beer.

His answers go around the moon and back, his responses to reporters’ question never direct. He loves to tell stories about his life and his experience as a career diplomat of 30 years.

In a Meet and Greet with the FilAm media – which he called his first official act — he described his leadership style as “inclusive, participative, and results-oriented.”

He said he is not one to break traditions but also one “not averse to starting new things.” He is a consultative type of leader who will “listen to all stakeholders” before making a decision.

This is actually Cristobal’s fourth assignment in New York.

From 1990 to 1993, he served as Third Secretary then Second Secretary at the Philippine Mission to the United Nations. He became consul at the Philippine Consulate from 1993 to 1997. He returned to the home office in Manila where he worked with the Undersecretary for Policy. In 2000, he was back in New York where he served as Minister of the Philippine Mission until 2002. On June 30, 2018, he was appointed Consul General in New York with jurisdiction over 10 Northeast states including New York and New Jersey.

He recalled the time he was one of eight consuls under then Consul General Romeo Arguelles. Four of the consuls were given regular consular assignments, and the other four – including himself – were assigned to the investment promotion unit.

“It was the biggest number of consuls,” he said. “One consul general, eight consuls.”

A group picture with members of the FilAm media. Photo by Marivir Montebon

A group picture with members of the FilAm media. Photo by Marivir Montebon

A career diplomat, Cristobal served as Philippine ambassador to Egypt from 2011 to 2015. Before that he was consul general in Hong Kong from 2009 to 2011; and consul general in Tokyo from 2002 to 2007. From 2007 to 2009, he was the spokesperson at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

In college, he said he wanted to be a lawyer and so he studied Philosophy. At the time, he did not know what a diplomat was and what the job entailed. “I never had a sense of what a diplomat is,” he said. But he had a ‘kumpare’ who aspired to be a diplomat and was reviewing for the foreign service exam. One day, he asked Cristobal if he could help him with the review questions. He agreed reluctantly and found himself reading a lot of the books. His friend suggested ‘why not take the exams’ since he has read many of the books anyway. He did, and passed in 1984.

However, he lost his eligibility because decided he didn’t want to join the foreign service. He had one year to make up his mind. In 1986, as the government leadership changed hands from Ferdinand Marcos to Cory Aquino, he got a letter from DFA asking him to reconsider as he had already passed the exams. He did.

“In 1987, I realized bring a diplomat is a fantastic career,” he said. It’s a career that “never got me bored because every two or three years, I do something different.”

He said he never prepared for this job, but something in his life seemed to be leading him to a diplomatic career. “Looks like serendipity.”

Before joining the diplomatic service, Cristobal taught Social Sciences at the University of the Philippines in Iloilo City and was a lecturer in Economics at the De La Salle University, Manila. He also held a managerial position at Cocomark, Manila.

He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy (cum laude) and Master’s degree in Economics and completed all course requirements for a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of the Philippines. He also has a Master’s Degree in Accountancy from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He is a recipient of the Presidential Citation Award for 2009-2010 and the Gawad Mabini Award in 2007.

© The FilAm 2018

Leave a Reply