The origins of the Honorary Consul
Updated: Mar 21
By Jeffrey Cabuay, France
If you are a fan of Roman history or have watched movies or series about the Roman empire, you may have heard of the word “Consul”. You would see Roman soldiers and politicians call these highest elected political officials, consuls. In ancient Rome, senators aspire to this public office because they become the chief magistrates or leaders of the Roman Republic. There were always 2 consuls in seating at any time to balance power, and they stayed there for a year.
Throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the title was used in other European city-states in the Republic of Genoa, and during the early stages of the government of the Republic of Pisa. Napoleon Bonaparte during the First French Republic also revived this title after staging a coup against the Directory government in November 1799. He became one of the three consuls who had executive powers to rule France.
“Throughout most of southern France, a consul was an office equivalent to the échevins of the north and roughly similar to the English aldermen. The most prominent were those of Bordeaux and Toulouse, which came to be known as jurats and capitouls, respectively. The capitouls of Toulouse were granted transmittable nobility. In many other smaller towns the first consul was the equivalent of a mayor today, assisted by a variable number of secondary consuls and jurats. His main task was to levy and collect taxes.”
The Republic of Genoa, unlike ancient Rome, conferred the title of Consul to state officials, not necessarily restricted to the highest. These officials assisted the Genoese merchant sailors having difficulties with the local authorities.
In modern times, the American Heritage Dictionary defines a consul as “an official appointed by a government to reside in a foreign country and represent its interests there."
So, you might be asking now, why do they call them Honorary Consul?
In fact, according to the Vienna Convention of 1963, a consul can be divided into 2 categories – a career Consul and an Honorary Consul (noncareer Consul). The difference is the way they work and how they are renumerated. A career Consul is a government employee of the sending state and the government they represent is paying their salary. They stay for about 3-4 years overseas and then go back to their country before going out again. Honorary Consuls are called ‘honorary’ because they perform their work on an honorary basis and are not paid a fee for their services. We can sometimes see their title as ‘Consul, ad honorem’. ‘Ad honorem’ comes from the Latin term meaning ‘for the honor of’; that is, that is not seeking any material reward.
Honorary Consuls are not professional diplomats which means they do not make a living as diplomats. They have a principal profession and accept the honor to serve another country where they live and work, voluntarily.
An Honorary Consul has the task of safeguarding the interests of their sending country and their citizens residing or traveling in their consular district. Another main task is developing economic, commercial, scientific, academic, and cultural relations between countries. The Honorary Consul is, therefore, meticulously selected based on their merits and their capabilities to do these responsibilities. These individuals may not necessarily be citizens of the country they represent. “They can also be expatriates or ‘good friends’ of the state which they represent and noted for their long and conscientious service.”
The selection of an Honorary Consul begins with the sending State via the proposition of the embassy of a potential candidate. The Foreign Ministry of the sending State then approves and appoints the individual. The person officially becomes an Honorary Consul once the receiving State approves it, normally by its Head of State. It must therefore be approved by both governments.
“Apart from being a huge honor to represent the country and being a diplomat, it is not a job that is flash. It costs honorary consuls time, money, and energy with not much in return. As for me, I do it as a service to the community - Slovak and Australian. It is my way of giving back.” – Pavol Faix, Honorary Consul of Slovakia in Western Australia.
Philippine Honorary Consul for the region of Occitanie in France, Jeffrey Cabuay, feels the same way when he said that although it is indeed very demanding not only on finances and on time, for him, it is his direct service to the community. He also said that because of this position, he never loses sight of his Filipino origins.
Amidst the discussion with the Honorary Consul during his visit to France, Fr. Jake Lopez, SDB, now the Salesian rector of the aspirantate and prenovitiate in Canlubang, Laguna, said that it is like an ‘Apostolate’. A statement that made the Honorary Consul think even more about the profoundness and responsibility of the mission he has in his hands. He is hopeful that when his children see what he is doing, they will have a sense of service to the community and humanity in general.
I’m sure that the next time you see an Honorary Consul at work, you will be more appreciative of their work and the contribution they make to society.
Websites: germany.info; etymonline.com; wikipedia.org; dfa.gov.ph
Publications: Think Global, Act Local: Honorary Consuls in a Transforming Diplomatic World by Kevin Stringer; Legal status of the honorary consular officers: Theory and practice in Latvia by Janis Grasis; Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft
Who are the Philippine Honorary Consuls of France and Monaco?
The Philippine Embassy in France currently has four Honorary Consuls in the country and one Honorary Consul General in Monaco. Monaco is under the jurisdiction of the embassy in France. The Republic of the Philippines formally established diplomatic relations with the French Republic on 26 June 1947.
Edouard Miailhe – Bordeaux (jurisdiction: Nouvelle-Aquitaine region)
After a few years of finishing his degree in Business Administration and Finance, and his Masters in law and commerce in the wine sector, he became an executive in the financial industry. Since 2007, Honorary Consul Miailhe is the President of a family-owned vineyard, Chateau Siran, in Margaux, France - a vineyard that is the oldest in the Margaux wine appellation and has been with the family for more than 160 years. The totally renovated property has been open to the public since 2014.
He is the President of the Margaux Wine Association. He also has companies in the real estate industry in both France and the Philippines. He founded the Commanderie de Bordeaux Manila when he and his family lived in the Philippines. He is now the current President of Uplift Foundation, a microfinance foundation created in 1993 in Manila. Honorary Consul Edouard is married with 4 children. He speaks fluent French, English, and Spanish. He likes vintage cars, food, wine, and biking.
Sabine Loridant – Lille (jurisdiction: Hauts de France region)
Honorary Consul Loridant has a Master’s degree in Business and Sales and has specialized in merchandising for big brands in different industries. She was the project manager for the creation of 120 new product lines for the global construction and DIY corporation, ADEO group of companies. This is the same company where she became head of communication and marketing for Groupe ADEO’s Dexter brand. She now runs her consulting firm, Advidea Consulting, where she consults for companies needing advice for merchandising and private label strategies so that products become more visible and understandable to their consumers. This also includes improving the customer experience in micro and macro merchandising. Honorary Consul Sabine likes to travel and do photography. She speaks French, English, and Spanish and studied German at school. She also plays tennis, rides motorcycles, and pilots Sand and Land Yachts.
Jean Louis Poirier – Marseille (jurisdiction: Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region)
Immediately after his post-graduate studies in Maritime Transport and his prospection mission in China and Hong Kong, Honorary Consul Jean Louis Poirier worked for a big logistics company working in sales, then in operations. Less than 10 years later, he joined a large logistics company called Combined Logistics, as Managing Director and after several years of success, the said company was bought by a Swedish logistics giant, SAS Wilson Logistics, from which he became its CEO for South of Europe and Africa.
Since 2006, he is the founder and CEO of Logistique et Prestations de Services SAS, a holding company for 4 logistics companies specializing in niche markets to the Maghreb, such as transport of medicines, after-market car, and truck spare parts, catering and assistance to yachts and cruise ships, Oil & Gas assistance for foreign companies working in oil repairs, and much more. Amongst the many other positions he has, he is a French Foreign Trade Advisor and the Vice President of CADEFA (promoting French companies in Algeria). He is also the ambassador of the City of Marseille to other countries. Honorary Consul Jean Louis surprisingly has licenses to drive motorcycles, cars, big trucks, and even boats, and was even an alpine and acrobatic ski instructor! He likes to go boating, and scuba diving, and likes tennis and model making.
Jeffrey Augustus R. Cabuay – Toulouse (jurisdiction: Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditeranée region)
During his studies in BS Marketing Management at De La Salle University in the Philippines, Honorary Consul Jeffrey Cabuay launched his entrepreneurial adventures with friends to start an events company and continued these activities in the insurance, automotive, and defense industries after graduation. He also pursued working in the outsourcing industry during its infancy stages where he discovered global markets and clients.
An invitation to study in France made him decide on a professional hiatus. A decision that made him discover the European culture, and the French language, - and meet his future wife. He became the President of the French-Filipino association in the Occitanie region, where he used it to organize activities for the Filipino community and to promote the Philippines. This was the moment when the Philippine Ambassador to France decided to appoint him as Honorary Consul. Honorary Consul Jeffrey is the founder and Chief Experience Officer of Rope One Dynamics Consulting, a company providing services in training, marketing, digital, and design. His love for teaching and training also leads him to teach in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. He is married with 3 children and speaks Filipino, English, French, and a little Pangasinan. He is an Arnis and Karate practitioner.
David Zuellig – Monaco
Honorary Consul General David Zuellig attended Fordham University in New York and an Investment and Finance course from Credit Suisse in the same US state. His family privately owns the Zuellig Group which holds and manages long-term interests in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, insurance, specialized distribution services, industrial supplies and solutions, and property. He is Chairman of FPG Insurance and Z Healthcare Asia Holdings, Inc, and was once the Chairman of Interpharma Investments Ltd. He is also a Director for Harbor Holdings, Ltd. In Credit Suisse’s Impact Investment Fund Advisory Council, he holds the position of Senior Advisor for the Asia-Pacific region. He Chairs the Zuellig Initiatives Philantropiques in Monaco.
Once a Trustee of the Zuellig Family Foundation, he passed on this position in favor of the next generation. Named as one of Asia’s leading philanthropists, his family foundation is geared towards improving health conditions in rural communities throughout the Philippines. In March 2017, he was elected to the Board of Directors of Asia Philanthropy Circle Ltd. Honorary Consul General David received the Forbes Hero of Philanthropy in 2017. He is married to Dr. Hazel Paragua-Zuellig. His language proficiencies are in English, German, and Swiss German. He also speaks a little French and Thai.