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.