by Carlota Ader
For many adventurous young Filipinos who dream of traveling abroad, working as a flight steward or aboard an international cruise ship or volunteering for the Peace Corps would be at the top of most lists.
Then there are a select few who join the Philippine Consular Services hoping to fulfill their dreams of seeing the world and experiencing different cultures and customs. One of these is Emil T. Fernandez, who has been tapped to replace former Consul General Joselito A. Jimeno who has returned to Manila and is awaiting his next assignment.
Fernandez is a career diplomat. He has traveled throughout Asia, Europe, the US and South America. His previous foreign assignments include Frankfurt, Germany; Washington, DC; Santiago, Chile; and Caracas, Venezuela. In his most recent post he served as Deputy Consul General in Germany.
He has also served as Executive Director of the Office of Asian & Pacific Affairs, as Director for Southern Europe of the Office of European Affairs, Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations, and as Acting Director of the Office of ASEAN Affairs.
Consul General Fernandez earned his Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Management Economics from Ateneo University in Manila and has also completed post-graduate courses in Commercial and Trade Diplomacy, International Relations, and International Trade Law & Policy.
He was officially appointed to his new position in October 2021 at the Philippine Consulate General of Honolulu, which has jurisdiction over Hawaii and American Samoa.
Fernandez recently met with the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle for an interview. In it he shared his priorities for Hawaii’s Filipino community at his new post and took the opportunity to introduce himself to our community. The following interview has been edited for space and clarity.
Hawaii Filipino Chronicle: Congratulations on your new appointment to Hawaii! How does it feel to be here?
Consul General Emil T. Fernandez: I’m certainly excited and honored to have been appointed with this position and I’m humbled to be of service for our constituents in the state of Hawaii.
HFC: Have you been to Hawaii before?
EF: Yes on three occasions – first, when I was about 10 years old on a family vacation; second, was when Hawaii hosted the APEC Summit in 2011 during the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama; and third was during a stopover on our way to the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC. I was among consular staff who accompanied the late Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
HFC: Why is it important for the Consulate to foster a good relationship with the Filipino community?
EF: It is because the Filipino community is the Consulate’s partner when it comes to pursuing the interests of the Philippines and its people.
HFC: What skills do you have that will help you with your new assignment in Honolulu?
EF: As a career Foreign Service officer, we have special training for our positions- diplomatic skills, people skills and other skills that promote the Philippines’ cultural and economic interests.
I have a special interest in economics as I took my doctorate and MBA in Tokyo and I also had my master’s in Public Policy at the University of the Philippines. I know that this will help me with my work in Hawaii and is good for our country.
HFC: What are your top 3 priorities as new consul general?
EF: My priorities are to further improve the provisions of the consular services to our clients. Secondly, I aim to increase the level of trade here with the State of Hawaii and thirdly, I hope to continue the advocacy of my predecessor urging Filipinos to be vaccinated to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during this pandemic, and to encourage those Philippine nationals who are qualified and registered to vote to cast their ballots in order to have their say in the Philippines’ future.
HFC: Tell us about your background. Where did you come from? What college did you attend? What did you study?
EF: My parents are from Pangasinan. My father was born in Dagupan City and my mom is from Calasiao which is a city in Pangasinan. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Economics from Ateneo de Manila University in 1989.
HFC: What attracted you to work for the Department of Foreign Affairs
EF: I wanted to be able to travel, to experience other cultures and to be of service to the public, especially our kababayans.
HFC: Where was your first assignment? How did that turn out?
EF: My first assignment was in Caracas, Venezuela from 2002 to 2005. It’s a beautiful country blessed with much natural resources. However, I was there during the brief coup against Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The security and political situations were very challenging and the economy tumbled to its worst but when it was over, I made many good friendships and was able to travel around the country to see its beauty and more of its people.
HFC: Which assignment was your most memorable one?
EF: I really cannot pinpoint which assignment was most memorable because each one had its own special qualities and characteristics. After Venezuela, I was transferred to Santiago, Chile which is one of the largest cities in South America and the home of many multinational corporations. Santiago is also known for its beautiful scenery, especially the pathogenic region, emerald lakes and majestic mountains.
I spent six years in Washington, DC where I enjoyed the Smithsonian Museum and traveling to nearby states. Prior to arriving in Honolulu, I was in Frankfurt, Germany which is centrally located in Western Europe. From there, you can travel by train or short flight to other nearby countries which are also eye-openers.
HFC: What are the top concerns of Filipino nationals who live and work overseas?
EF: Their top concerns include being able to provide for their loved ones back home but during the pandemic, some were laid off because there were businesses that closed and there was no job stability.
Now, they are hoping that they can better cope with the crisis and that jobs will be more secure so that they can fulfill their obligations to support their families and others in need of help. Filipinos are known for their perseverance and willingness to work to survive and render assistance to one another.
HFC: If you could be assigned to any consulate in the world, where would you want to be?
EF: For me, I don’t have any preference. I’ll go wherever I’m needed. The Department of Foreign Affairs sends someone who matches the qualifications needed for that position, so I really have no say in where I am assigned.
HFC: What are your future plans?
EF: I have 10 more years before I reach my retirement. Until then, I want to see to it that my assignments have been productive, that we have adhered to the so-called Five Pillars of Security, promoted economic diplomacy and ensured the welfare and well-being of Filipinos overseas.
HFC: What message do you want to say to Hawaii’s Filipino community
EF: Since I began my post here, I have attended two events hosted by Filipino organizations – the Urdaneta City Community Alliance and the Knights of Rizal, Aloha Chapter.
I look forward to meeting many more Filipinos and their organizations and hearing their stories of how they have prospered. I’m honored, excited and humbled to be here in Hawaii. If the community has any questions or concerns regarding consular matters, please do not hesitate to call me and I’ll be more than happy to lend my assistance.
by Carlota Ader