By Don Orozco
LOS ANGELES – By the end of the year 2020 there were two things most of the Filipino American organizations and community leaders in the West Coast region of the United States were concerned about. First was the ongoing pandemic which has wreaked havoc worldwide particularly in the State of California. Most affected too was our motherland, the Philippines.
The other concern was the departure of two of the most revered Philippine consular representatives, namely, Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr of San Francisco and Consul General Adelio Angelito S Cruz of Los Angeles. As they both end their tour of duty, the predicament that we were having was that will the replacement be as good and as effective as what was accomplished by both Bensurto and Cruz? The biggest question as-a-matter-fact was — will they be as visible and as accessible as their predecessors? As we anxiously awaited for the announcement from Manila, the Filipino American community has given the proper farewell and thanks to both deserving and respectable honorable men of the consulate.
On January 20, 2021, news went around that the new Consul General for the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco had arrived. He is Honorable Neil Frank R Ferrer. ConGen Neil Ferrer is a career diplomat with extensive experience in foreign service, including consular work, bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. Prior to his appointment he was Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs in the Department of Foreign Affairs. His main task as Consul General is to be in service to the Filipino American community not only in Northern California but in Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Northern Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington State and Wyoming.
In the meantime, in Los Angeles, the designated head of the Philippine Consulate arrived on April 6, 2021. He is Consul General Edgar Barrairo Badajos. Prior to this, he was Consul General of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. ConGen Badajos is no stranger to the US setting as he was assigned to the Philippine Consulate in New York early in his career. As Director in the Office of ASEAN Affairs, he played a significant role in negotiations related to the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in 2017. Under the Philippine Consulate Office in Los Angeles are Southern California (County of Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Kern and San Luis Obispo), Southern Nevada (Clark, Lincoln and Nye), and the entire State of Arizona. His jurisdiction has almost 2 million Filipinos.
Despite assuming office at the height of the pandemic, lockdown, and all other state regulated restrictions, both Ferrer and Badajos burst into action and buckled down to work. As soon as it was legally possible, they immediately made representations from the Department of foreign Affairs as well as from the Office of the Philippine Ambassador to the United States to increase the number of appointments set forth on a daily basis. This is to ensure that more people can be accommodated for Consular services (Passport Renewal, Dual Citizen etc.). They also opened their doors to several walk-ins. Both were able to spread their wings to various communities they cover and even initiated several out of California State outreach programs for the convenience of our Kababayans.
Both ConGen Ed Badajos of Los Angeles and ConGen Neil Ferrer of San Francisco attribute much of their success to the men and women of the Philippine Consulate General as well as their extended partners in governance. For ConGen Ed, he attributes good teamwork with the help of his Deputy Consul General Ambrosio Brian Enciso as well as the likes of Judelyn Cuaresma, Mary Grace Leano, Trade Commissioner Eric Elnar and a host of other colleagues. The same is true for ConGen Neil Ferrer. To him his transition went on very smoothly with the help coming from Deputy Consul General Raquel Solano as well as the assistance from Consul Jed Llona, Consul Dominic Imperial, Toni Van Espen Boonen, Tourism Attache Soleil Tropicales, SSS Rep Marites Marin and a host of others. ConGen Ferrer and I would agree to acknowledge and make a special mention to Consul Vanessa Bago-Llona, the special link to the Filipino Community.
More importantly, just like their predecessors they too opened their offices to everyone. At last the community no longer has their doubts. We now all know that ConGen Ferrer and ConGen Badajos have an open door policy. Both are visible and accessible. Both are smiling and welcoming. Now the Filipino American community has embraced the new faces of the Philippine government. Neil and Ed are representative of the people. The Filipino people. Thanks to Neil and Ed, Filipinos in California, the entertainment capital of the world will live happily ever after.