Words & photos by the Philippine Consulate in Frankfurt
The Philippine Government’s representative in Frankfurt, Consul General Evelyn Austria-Garcia, is bidding Germany farewell after a productive three-year stint. The veteran diplomat led a group of consular officials, who re-opened the Philippine mission in 2018 with seven federal states under its jurisdiction. Then Senator Loren Legarda, who currently serves as Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives, initiated the move to re-establish the consular post, citing the city’s standing as an economic center and the importance of better serving the needs of overseas Filipinos, given its strategic location in Western Europe.
Deputy Speaker Legarda cutting the ceremonial ribbon to open the Rizal exhibit, which coincided with the Consulate’s Philippine Independence Day reception in 2019. Assisting her are Ambassador Ma. Theresa Dizon-de Vega and Consul General Austria-Garcia. Consul General Austria-Garcia and National Museum Assistant Director Ana Maria Theresa Labrador
Welcoming members of Filipino-German community, consular corps, academe and business sector to the Hibla exhibit. (Photo courtesy of Frankfurt PCG)
The Consul General then welcomed the new assignment, as the region’s relations with the Philippines was replete with opportunities in the cultural and economic realm. Moreover, the challenge of uplifting the well-being of our kababayans persisted, as Southern Germany was home to approximately 70 percent of the country’s total Filipino-German population.
Consul General Austria-Garcia’s duties officially began with the presentation of her credentials in Wiesbaden in November 2018. This would be followed by her round of introductory calls on officials of the host city and states under the Consulate’s jurisdiction. In addition to establishing relations with key public officials, she also enhanced networks with groups such as the ASEAN Heads of Post in Frankfurt, Women Consul Generals, International Women’s Club, and German-Asian Business Circle. On security-related concerns, the Consulate organized several fora that were intended to create awareness of the Philippine Government’s peace initiatives.
(Click photos L-R) Upon her arrival, Consul General Austria-Garcia met with key officials of city and state governments, including (left to right), Mr. Eduard Hechler, Director of International Affairs of the Frankfurt City Government, Ms. Heike Raab, State Secretary of Rhineland-Palatinate, Dr. Stephan Holthoff-Pfortner, Minister for Federal & European Affairs and International Affairs of the State of North Rhine Westphalia, Mr. Jurgen Lennartz, State Secretary of Saarland, Dr. Alfred Ruhrmaier, Chief of Protocol, and Dr. Bernd Foster, Director for International Relations, of the Bavarian State Chancellery. (Photos courtesy of Frankfurt PCG)
In the people-to-people arena, activities were organized to showcase various facets of Philippine culture. They included exhibits, such as the Hibla textile and Pagari Marawi jewelry shows, lectures on Jose Rizal and the performing arts, and concerts by the Pundaquit Virtuoso and MusicArtes. Through a donation by Dr. Fritz Hack Ullmer, the Consulate was also fortunate to have procured rare furniture items used by Dr. Rizal during his stay in Wilhemsfeld, which were subsequently put on display. Also forged were agreements with Ruhr University of Bochum (RUB) to create a Philippine Studies program and Ateneo Professor Dr. Stephanie Coo for research on Philippine materials in European museums. Several of these projects, including Hibla, the RUB agreement and Dr. Coo’s research grant, were initiated and made possible through the invaluable support of Deputy Speaker Legarda for which the Consulate is thankful.
Dr. Fritz Hack Ullmer, great grandson of Pastor Karl Ullmer who served as Rizal’s benefactor in Wilhemsfeld, delivers a lecture on the Philippine national hero’s stay in Germany. Rare Rizaliana items from the collection of Dr. Ullmer’s family were displayed at the Consulate’s exhibition area. (Photos courtesy of Frankfurt PCG)
In the economic front, the Consulate supported the participation of Philippine delegates to several trade fairs, pursued tourism promotion activities in close collaboration with the Philippine Department of Tourism Office (PDOT) in Frankfurt, and provided assistance to selected roadshows, such as those representing the construction and energy sectors. Among the Consul General’s key initiatives was the “Investment in and Recruitment from the Philippines” roadshow held in Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich, which was convened in collaboration with the Management Association of the Philippines. Also benefiting from Deputy Speaker Legarda’s patronage were the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in Berlin and PDOT-Frankfurt, whose funding for their trade and tourism promotion activities, respectively, were generously augmented by Deputy Speaker Legarda.
An economic roadshow was organized by the Consulate involving representatives of the Management Association of the Philippines in the cities of Frankfurt (left photo above), Stuttgart and Munich (right photo above). With the theme, “Shaping a Competitive Future,” the activity aimed to entice attendees to consider the Philippines as a viable investment destination and source of talent, and apprise them of the positive strides in the country’s economy. (Photos courtesy of Frankfurt PCG)
The Filipino community under the Consulate’s jurisdiction were unanimous in expressing their delight with the Foreign Service Post’s re-opening. During the past two and a half years, over 18,000 consular services were rendered, including those during outreach missions. ATN cases involving the repatriation of individuals, welfare visits, labor and immigration assistance were also extended. Moreover, seminars apprising Filipinos of their rights and relevant programs of government agencies were held both in-person and online.
Consul General Austria-Garcia delivers a presentation on the services of the Consulate during a forum for members of the Filipino-German community. (Photo courtesy of Frankfurt PCG)
2020 and the first half of 2021 would be unlike any period the world had experienced. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic would be felt in every facet of our lives, including the operations of the Consulate. Many of the activities planned would have to be scaled back owing to the German Government’s lockdown measures. Notwithstanding the precarious health environment, the Consulate soldiered on with its responsibilities and adapted with increased use of the digital platform. Measures were likewise instituted at the Consulate to prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19.
In a parting message to her constituents, Consul General Austria-Garcia said, “It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to Frankfurt, which had become my second home. As I think back to the presentation of my credentials in November 2018, I recall with great pride at being appointed to such a vital post. I had heard of the culture of excellence that seemed to pervade German industry and the people’s admirable qualities of being sensible, hardworking and law-abiding. But I could never have imagined the amazing journey ahead. When I depart, I will take with me incredible memories. I will leave optimistic about the future of relations between the Philippines and the federal states we covered. Whether watching the Bundesliga, meeting German spouses of Filipinos, or visiting charming towns, I have been awed by this progressive country and the breadth of our partnership. I am truly grateful to Deputy Speaker Legarda for her relentless backing and to the hardworking and competent officers and staff of the Consulate, who I had the honor of working with. It has been a privilege to serve in Frankfurt and I bid my German friends, vielen Dank und auf Wiedersehen!”
Consul General Austria-Garcia will indeed be missed by the community, as she leaves an indelible footprint of service. R&W