By Violi Calvert
The Filipino Australian joins the Filipino-Australian community in paying tributes to the Hon Anne Jalando-on Louis, who has served well and inspired the Filipino-Australian community in New South Wales for a record of six years and four months in her role as its 17th Consul General.
ConGen Anne or ConGen, as she is fondly referred to by the Filipino-Australian community, takes with her the hearts and respect of everyone she has had interacted with. Her inspiring leadership and approachable personality have underpinned a very successful tour of duty that she can be proud of.
ConGen live interview at Radio Tagumpay
Despite ConGen’s hectic schedule as she winds down her role and attends several farewell events, she joined Radio Tagumpay [Triple H 100.1FM] on its live broadcast on July 31.
Thereafter, she happily agreed to have an interview a few days later for TFA readers. We are glad to share below her responses to a few questions.
VC: Looking back at the six years or so, you have accomplished a lot, but what do you hold most dear in your heart in terms of what you have achieved?
ConGen: There are several things that I feel very much privileged and thankful that I was able to accomplish during my six years here. One of them is that I am happy that the Consulate was able to facilitate a visit by the former Premier Barry O’Farrell to the Philippines. I believe it was the first time that an incumbent Premier of a state in Australia. One of the results of that visit is the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Philippine Public Private Partnership Center and then known Infrastracture NSW sharing of information regarding PPP. As you know, the state of NSW has more than 20 years experience of implementing PPP projects, whereas in the Philippines we are just starting in the last 5-6 years. We had exchange of information. We have learned from the NSW expertise; there is a number of experts have gone to Manila to speak with our stakeholders with regards to PPP projects and how they are to be undertaken. At the same time we have delegation from the Philippines of both government and private officials have come to New South Wales to dialogue about PPP and that is continuing. We have been building on what has been achieved.
We have instituted here some improvements in the delivery of Consular service to our clients at the Consulate and endeavour to undertake mobile consular outreach missions that will bring consular services to the ground especially where there is a big concentration of Filipino population in various parts of New South Wales. I am happy that these were undertaken during my watch,
I am also happy that we have contributed to making it possible to hold the first Philippine Christmas Festival in Tumbalong Park [at Darling Harbour] which was a team work. I am happy that the Consulate was able to play a role in undertaking that event.
I am also pleased with the holding, just more recently, of the Bayanihan Philippine Arts Project which is a collaboration between six cultural institutions across New South Wales; namely the Art Gallery of NSW, the Blacktown Arts Centre, the Mosman Art Gallery, Campbelltown Arts Centre, the Peacock Art Gallery in Auburn and the Museum Galleries of NSW. These showcase the Philippines culture and arts which is still continuing at the moment.
We have had also quite a number of projects and activities. These include Habol Ilonggo Fashion Parade which featured the works of four fashion designers from Iloilo. In the previous years we also highlighted activities whether it was cultural, tourism promotion as well as our economic diplomacy initiative. These are some of the activities and initiatives under my term which I am glad we were able to institute.
VC: On the flip side, what would you consider to be the biggest challenges or difficulties you faced during your term?
ConGen: They are more on the practical side. I have always been constrained with the lack of time. I wish I could have done more. There were other activities I would like to have done but we seemed to have been constrained by the time we have. The challenges in organising activities could be time and limited resources.
Sure, there were challenges but I don’t think they were insurmountable so we were able to undertake most of our projects and activities. I believe in the end that we were able to organise activities within the constraints fairly well.
VC: Looking back, are there things you think you could have done differently?
ConGen: Maybe we could done more on the economic front. One of the things we wanted to do is to promote trade, business and investment relations with New South Wales. I was hoping to have an exchange of business delegations from both sides. Of course this happened with the accompanying business delegation when former President Benigno Aquino III visited Sydney in October 2012. After that, we also wanted to have had exchanges of visits. There were business groups that came but they came individually not as a delegation which we would have wanted. We wanted to bring a delegation from New South Wales to explore the Philippines as a business destination. I would have wanted that.
In terms of the Filipino community, there is an activity or initiative I wanted to do but perhaps this could be done by the succeeding team that will follow me at the Consulate. It will be part of my recommendations.
VC: Are you able to talk about your immediate role when you get back in the Philippines or what you want to be in the next five years/ten years?
ConGen: Normally when we get back in Manila after a posting overseas, we are assigned in an office, At the moment, I am not sure which office I will be serving in but definitely that will be my role in the next two years before I become eligible to be posted again. So the next five years will find me in another posting; but the nature of our job in the service is that we cannot predict where that will be or in what capacity that we will be serving. I am hoping that I would advance also in my career. I guess that this is a natural anticipation and expectation of everyone who is working. This year I will be fifty years old, in the next years I will be 60. I am guessing that I will still be in the Service, actively working.
VC: For us to benefit further from the length of your service here in Sydney, from your interaction with the community, what would you consider are the strengths and weaknesses of the Filipino-Australian community?
ConGen – Well, I think the Filipino-Australian community has a lot of strong characteristics. First of all, there is a wealth of talents, of expertise, of knowledge; more of a collective pool, There is much to be gained and there is much the community can contribute with a collective pool of really valuable assets that can be tapped. That can be maximised if everyone works together and if everyone is concerted in a certain effort. What I find, what could be a weakness; we have to be realistic and recognise that there is division in the community which makes it hard sometimes to organise and to build the community. I guess there is work to be done to bringing the community together, to bringing cohesion so that the community as one united voice could really become an influence so that the interests and welfare of the community can be promoted; also that there could be a united front especiay in dealing with local government and with other players in the local society. I think we would be better heard if there is only one strong voice.
VC: What advice would you give to the community?
ConGen: I hope that everyone eventually can come together, especially our leaders in the community who have big responsibilities, together with the positions they assume. As they perform their functions as community leaders, there is also accountability. So I hope everyone can rise over personal interests, and put collective interests above all. In so doing, they become a stronger voice especially when they are making representations with the government and other stakeholders.