Anton Miguel de Vera, Austria
Chargé D’ Affaires Irene Susan B. Natividad, Philippine Embassy Vienna
On the 19th of May 2022, I had the pleasure and opportunity to speak to Mrs. Irene Susan B. Natividad. Highly ranked as Chief of Mission I in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippines, and now the new Chargé D’ Affaires, ad interim (CDA) and Acting Permanent Representative—the head representative or the person in-charge for a period of time—of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines in Vienna, Austria. Since 1993, CDA Natividad has been working in the DFA for 29 years.
At this opportune moment, CDA Natividad and I discussed her story with the DFA and the field of Filipino diplomacy. Sharing her experience upon entering the DFA, her memories in previous posts (Embassies/Missions), and her current thoughts and aspirations in her current post in Austria. From there, I was able to take notes from her words about the different aspects of being a Filipino diplomat.
Before joining the DFA, CDA Natividad worked in a law firm as Assistant Lawyer and handled complaints and defense of clients before the courts.
Soon afterwards, CDA Natividad took the Foreign Service Officer Examination (FSO) and joined the DFA. She decided to join the DFA as she had always been fascinated with International Law. Joining the DFA gave her the chance to be exposed to it. Because of her law background, she took on assignments in the Office of Legal Affairs where she became the Head of the Treaties Division and dealt with bilateral and multilateral agreements. She rose to become the Assistant Secretary for the office.
The foreign service felt like an “entirely different” experience from law practice initially, she said. But CDA Natividad realized that the skills she learned from practising law helped her transition to her job in the Foreign Affairs. Apart from legal affairs, CDA Natividad also worked as a Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for Administration in the DFA, and prior to arriving in Vienna, she was the Chief of Staff and Chief Coordinator of the Office of the Secretary in the DFA.
Prior to Austria, CDA Natividad worked in many parts of the world as a Filipino diplomat. Her first assigned post was in Ottawa, Canada as Third Secretary and Vice-Consul. Her second assignment was in Honolulu, Hawaii, as Consul and followed afterwards by a posting in Singapore. Most notably, she was the Deputy Permanent Representative to the Philippine Mission to the UN in New York, USA, and was also the Consul General in Milan, Italy.
When asked about what were some of her memorable experiences in any of those posts, she answered that each posting provided unique and good experiences for her. Her post in Ottawa, Canada for instance, was enjoyable. As a young officer, it was an exciting time for her to live in another country. It was a good place to raise her children. Canada had a safe environment with various activities for kids all-year round. “The work itself was not too heavy”, she commented, “providing balance between work and home life”.
(Image of the Consular Desk Service at the Philippine Embassy in Vienna, Austria)
Her time in other posts also gave her opportunities and some proved to be challenging at times. In the Consulates in Honolulu and Milan she did her best to help Filipinos who are distressed abroad and in need of emergency assistance by maintaining good relationships with the host country and recognizing its laws. Her assignments in Singapore and New York provided her the exposure to multilateral work and how important it was to reach out to others and make compromises for a common goal.
From her time in each post, CDA Natividad acknowledges that there will always be ways to improve the service they provide for our kababayans abroad, making it easier and more comfortable for them. During her time in Milan as Consul General, for example, she opened the Consulate on select Sundays of each month to help many kababayans in need of passport renewals or authentication services, so they did not need to take a leave from work. In a similar manner, she also instituted several outreach missions (like most Philippine Embassies elsewhere) outside of Milan for consular services, bringing Embassy services “closer” to kababayans living far from Milan.
CDA Natividad also organised an annual Filipino Community General Assembly in Milan and she hopes to do the same in Vienna. This will allow the Philippine Embassy to interact with Filipino community leaders, discuss issues and what has been done or needs to be done to address issues, and plan projects for the year with them. From her first meeting with the community, the Philippine Embassy was able to provide general updates and responses to the community’s concerns on the then forthcoming elections in the Philippines and the voting system.
At the end of our discussion, CDA Natividad was able to share her thoughts on what to expect during her post here as the Charge D’Affaires,a.i. and Acting Permanent Representative of the Embassy and the Permanent Mission in Vienna, Austria. CDA Natividad looks forward to meeting more of her kapwa kababayans here in Austria. She also looks forward to the Embassy’s participation in community projects, such as the parade and the Barrio Fiesta (an annual Filipino Festival held in Vienna during the summer) and other projects.. She sees the Filipino community associations here in Vienna as partners.
Afterall, she says, “We all strive for the same goal which is to help our kababayans and promote our country’ By the end of her posting here in Vienna, she hopes that she would have accomplished her objective of working with and for the Filipino community and assisting its members, and that she an reflect on these experiences as something personally fulfilling and good.
This article would not have been possible without the assistance of the Embassy and Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines in Vienna, Austria. Maraming Salamat po!