She was just three days old when the Embassy took her into its custody. She was separated from her mother shortly after birth and there was no one here to look after her. That is how she became the youngest distressed Filipino we have ever assisted. Her mother was several months pregnant when she decided … Continue reading Baby Gabrielle and her Mother
Author: Elmer G. Cato
Rockets at Tripoli Central
Woke up this morning to news of another rain of rockets that struck the Tripoli Central Hospital and surrounding areas at past two in the morning. There are 15 Filipino nurses working there. They are all safe and accounted for. Before Tripoli Central, it was the Abu Salim Hospital that was struck a few days … Continue reading Rockets at Tripoli Central
Balancing Act in Tripoli
When the third civil war in Libya erupted in April 2019, the default action was for us at Tripoli PE to make recommendations for the Department of Foreign Affairs to raise the alert level. This would mean putting Libya under Alert Levels III or IV. Once we do that, travel restrictions would automatically be put … Continue reading Balancing Act in Tripoli
Close Call at Qasr bin Gashir
We were on our way back to the Embassy this afternoon after visiting our nurses at the Tripoli Central Hospital and the Al Khadra General Hospital when we received the call. It was Bari Macalawi, a member of the augmentation team from the Department of Foreign Affairs, relaying information he had just received. Bari said … Continue reading Close Call at Qasr bin Gashir
What could be happening? I asked myself as images of the bombings a few years earlier of the World Trade Center and of the Federal Building in Oklahoma crossed my mind.
The Road to Garabolli
We had reasons to be worried. For us to be able to get to Misrata, we would have to take the Coastal Highway and that highway cuts through Garabolli. And with clashes reportedly taking place there, the highway is no longer passable.
Misadventure at Mt. Pinatubo
"A US Navy SEAL is supposed to be missing in Pinatubo,” Lieutenant Miraflor told us. Apparently, the American service member, who was among those taking part in ongoing bilateral exercises in Subic, failed to return from a trek to Mount Pinatubo and was presumed missing.
Encounters with Amang
From where he was seated, Blas Fajardo Ople, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, asked me where I was being proposed for my first foreign assignment. I told him I was being groomed as Vice Consul at the Philippine Consulate General or as Third Secretary at the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Fly Dubai FZ211 bound for Baghdad was half empty compared to the flight to Jeddah that was scheduled to leave the same time from Terminal 4 of Dubai International. As the Boeing 737 taxied, the onboard entertainment system began showing "American Sniper." Quite timely, I told myself. Is it an indication of things to come? In my bag was the book "Green Zone" that Chuchay and Butch Fernandez gave as a going away present.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary
If he asked, I would tell him the story of how a few days after we repatriated the remains of the 13 overseas workers who died in the fire at the Capitol Hotel in Erbil, three Filipinas came running after us. They introduced themselves as teachers and said they just wanted to shake our hands and thank us for reuniting the victims, who they did not even know, with their families back in the Philippines: “It usually takes weeks but the Embassy was able to send them home in just seven days,” they told us. “That really means a lot to their loved ones.”
Welcome to Baghdad, Sir!
I have run all sorts of worse case scenarios in my mind before I left for Baghdad but nothing really prepared me for this. These are scenes that one would typically see in the movies but when confronted with these situations in real life, it is completely different. I have never felt so vulnerable, so helpless. I have never been so afraid. And I have never prayed so hard in my life.
No Pasarán: The Bamban Barricade & the 1986 People Power Uprising in Pampanga
By nighttime, thousands of Kapampangans have made their way to Mabalacat and have massed up along the approach to Bamban Bridge. It was a spontaneous, unprecedented display of People Power. A few hours later, President Marcos fled Malacañang. After four days, it was finally over.
Kafala: The Fight We Must Win
Kuwait was the most traumatic period in my diplomatic career. What I went through was nothing compared to what others had to go through.
“Are you sure you know what you are getting yourself into?” I could sense his hesitance in sending someone who might just as well be his son into harm’s way.
Return to Baghdad
The Embassy remained open despite the bombing of Baghdad at the height of the first Gulf War in 1991 and during the United States-led action against Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The Sole Survivor
"Sometimes it does not feel like 30 years ago. Sometimes, I can still see every detail,” Captain Pulsifer told me after I messaged him to remind him how fortunate he was for cheating death in the hands of the NPA not just once but twice.
Of Chocolates and Katyushas
It is the only grocery store in Jadriya that we declared safe enough for us to go to from time to time for a quick resupply. On this particular afternoon, I had a sudden craving for chocolate. I badly needed some. And Naqla was along the way to the Green Zone.
The Other Face of Kuwait
“It was the best meal I’ve had since I arrived for my second visit to Kuwait,” I told the woman who turned out to be the owner of the establishment. Out of curiosity I asked: “Why did you name your place Taste of Pinoy? Do you have any connections to the Philippines?”
United Against Daesh
I looked at them and saw that unspoken expression of sympathy and solidarity written in their faces. And they went even further. Talking through one of our Iraqi local hires, they told me: “We will fight and defeat Daesh wherever they are, whether here in Iraq or in the Philippines.”
Yolanda: The First Responders
Less than 36 hours later, Mammoth Medical Mission and Team Rubicon became the first foreign volunteer groups to make it to Tacloban. Thanks to Ambassador Cuisia's intervention, the two teams were able to make a difference and helped save hundreds of lives.