Where is Congen Elmer Cato?

‘I hope to be back after being cleared by my doctor.’ Facebook photo

By Cristina DC Pastor

While he appears to be ghosting the Filipino community of New York, Consul General Elmer Cato has broken his silence addressing speculations about his nearly month-long absence.

He said he is still in a Pampanga hospital recovering from “stress-related gastro issues.” He was advised to rest for two weeks, and said he is “hoping to be back” in NYC after he is cleared by his doctor.

“I will see my doctor again this week if am okay to go back,” he said when reached by The FilAm. 

For almost a month now, the Philippine Consulate in New York has been without its Consul General. Cato’s absence became even more striking when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was in New York for a six-day visit highlighted by a speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 20. He left on September 24 after meetings with the Filipino community, world leaders and business titans and following a presentation, marked by protests, before the Asia Society.

“Where is Congen? We were looking for him with the president,” asked a community leader from New Jersey. “We don’t know,” has been the standard reply from people in the consulate. 

Marcos’s visit was organized largely out of the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. led by Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez with the consulate in New York providing muted protocol support. Right now, the acting head in New York is Deputy Consul General Arman Talbo whose tenure is ending on October 15. The officers after Talbo are Consul Ricarte Abejuela III, Vice Consul Tanya Faye Ramiro, and Vice Consul Paolo Marco Mapula, based on the consulate directory.

President Marcos Jr. speaks before the UN General Assembly on September 20. RTVM video
Flowers sent to his Pampanga hospital from consulate officers and staff. Facebook photo

Cato said he wouldn’t dignify “rumors” and “hearsay” about his absence. He maintained he hopes to be back once he receives his doctor’s clearance.

His disappearance has raised more questions than answers.

On September 11, Cato bid New York goodbye on Facebook. “See you in a few days, New York. I just have some urgent matters to attend to back home.”

Five days later, he posted that he was “not really feeling well last night and so I went to see my doctor today. He had me admitted. I hope and pray it’s nothing serious.” Hospital is the Sacred Heart Medical Center in Angeles City in Pampanga. More than 180 people wrote on his Facebook wall wishing him well and sending him “prayers for a quick recovery.” His Facebook page contains no health updates after that.

Said one reliable source, “This is the first I heard that a Congen is asked to come home for consultations weeks before the President comes to visit. Usually when the sovereign goes to your place, you stay there to welcome him. This is very strange.”

Whatever the reason for the prolonged absence is not clear to the community. Speculations persist. There is talk about some of Cato’s projects that come with high-profile fundraising; there is also talk about his politics. The consulate had no reaction when contacted by The FilAm.

Another community leader said Cato came to his position with a fresh burst of energy. He has so many “great ideas,” and his proposal for a community center, for example, was well received.

The Philippine Embassy has no comment.

© The FilAm 2022

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