Congratulations are in order for Team Philippines and the medal haul it has achieved in the last ten days! Every Filipino must have a deep sense of pride.
Last Thursday, we received a vibered message from BCDA president Vince Dizon, followed by a phone call from Chito Clavano, a board member and Clark president Noel Manankil.
EJ Obiena, our bet for the pole vault contest had earlier broken his pole during practice. His father ordered a replacement from the US, and the pole was in the Taoyuan airport waiting to be transshipped by air. The airline refused to take the cargo because it was too long and would not fit in the cargo hatch.
Our concerned officials asked if MECO could assist in getting it loaded as the competition would happen the day after. As we were having a board meeting, I asked my secretary, Karen Ku to call up China Airlines, and while they really could not load the pole in the regular flight, they had a cargo plane leaving that night, and EJ’s pole would be loaded.
It arrived in the wee hours, in time for the competition. EJ Obiena not only won another gold for our team; he topped the SEA Games record with a 5.45 meter vault.
Last November 28, our deputy Assistance to Nationals officer, Nestor Mayo, called me about the problem of an Afghan national who applied for an entry visa to the Philippines. Our consular office refused to give the visa because of a DFA standing order that only the embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan had authority to issue entry permits to nationals of Afghanistan.
The applicant, Ajmal Ishaqzai was an Afghan national currently residing in Taipei where he teaches qurash, a sport with similarities to judo and taekwondo. He presented his appointment paper as a referee to the 30th SEA Games, but the DFA directive would not allow MECO to issue him a visa.
Calls from a DFA protocol officer to his brother, who is a MECO officer to reconsider could not be given due course, until, as I insisted, DFA writes us a directive to exempt. On Thursday, November 29, I talked to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano about the matter, and he agreed that we could not risk approval of the entry without a specific directive from DFA.
He had the same arranged after some calls, and the Afghan national, who had been re-booking his flight to the Philippines each day since Tuesday, was finally able to enter our country on Friday, just in time for his qurash refereeing duty.
These were only two of many hitches that occurred in the course of our hosting the biggest SEA Games and were thankfully resolved just in the nick of time. One can only imagine the thousand and one major and minor problems that the organizers who were roundly upbraided in social media by nitpickers had to face up to.
In all, the games are about finished, and as a country we are all proud of what we have collectively achieved. Team Philippines, which includes every Filipino and not just the athletes and officials, achieved a marvelous feat.
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The Manila Economic and Cultural Office and its attached agencies held a Christmas party at the Howard Plaza Hotel in Taipei last Friday night, with a Filipino band that plays regularly at Taipei’s Grand Hyatt volunteering to entertain.
It was a night for celebration as the year has been a good year for MECO, not only in terms of increased visitor arrivals and more investments generated for the country from Taiwan businessmen, but also in reaching out to the 159,000 Filipino nationals temporarily residing and working here.
We thanked our staff for the services they have rendered which made all these possible, particularly in their swift response to problems of our fellows, as shown in assistance to the kin of the three Filipino fishermen who died in the Yilan bridge collapse months ago.
We take pride in these, as well as the overall goodwill generated among Taiwanese and most especially, our overseas workers in many parts of the island.
Yesterday, we hosted a Paskong Pinoy affair for our OFWs, which was held in an outdoor plaza provided by the mayor of Taoyuan City where close to 20,000 Filipinos work, about 40 minutes from the heart of the capital Taipei.
Fortunately the weather had cleared, and for the first time in a week, the sun was up after days and days of rain. The winter chill did not dampen the joys of bonding that the Filipino community experiences each year on two major occasions, the national day celebrations in June and the Christmas holidays.
Similar Paskong Pinoy celebrations were held simultaneously in Taichung and Kaohsiung where MECO has consular extension offices to serve our nationals in central and southern Taiwan.