In the vast world of foreign service, a modest but exemplary Filipino diplomat rose to the challenge of making a difference and leaving a legacy of lasting impact for the entire Filipino nation.
Atty. Henry S. Bensurto, Jr., former Philippine Consul General in San Francisco, United States, has been recognized by many as the “silent hero” who laid the foundation for the legal framework that marked the victory of the claim of the United States. Philippines v China for the West Philippine Sea before the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. The case developed by the legal team was so strong that it convinced the international tribunal to rule in favor of the Philippines in the dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea / South China Sea.
As Consul General of the Philippines in San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest
Few knew that Bensurto, the brilliant law graduate from the University of San Beda, was the main legal adviser to the Philippine legal team, formed by then foreign minister Albert Del Rosario.
In a rare interview with ConGen Henry organized by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), one could sense his strong sense of nationalism and his awareness of his patriotic responsibility to be an active agent of social transformation even when he was on mission in A strange country.
“All Filipinos, wherever they are, can make a real contribution to nation building,” said the soft-spoken, seasoned diplomat. He believes that every little work of every Filipino can contribute to the overall development of the country.
âEvery individual should love what they do, and do it as well as possible, with the highest degree of perfection. Filipinos should realize that their best efforts will certainly have an impact on society as a whole. is what we refer to as the common good, âadded the eloquent ConGen Henry.
Refine the Philippines’ legal position on the eve (midnight) of the hearings on the merits of the South China Sea arbitration
Protecting Philippine Interests in the South China Sea in ASEAN Meetings and Dialogue Partners
Explain Philippine arbitration and the position of the Philippines on the South China Sea in international forums
Speaking in measured tones, he explained that given the current grim reality of large numbers of Filipinos migrating to a foreign country, everyone should be more concerned with nationality than citizenship. âA closer look at our current demographics reveals that there are now more new generations of Filipinos all over the world. There is a felt need to go beyond the political definition of a border and be more concerned with nationality, âsaid CongÃ©n Henry.
“Being Filipino no longer just means having a Filipino passport,” said the learned diplomat. “It’s having Filipino blood, however small, that makes us connected to the Philippines,” he added.
Based on data gathered from surveys conducted by its consular office, ConGen found that the number of aging Filipinos in the first generation is now outnumbered by newer generations. This meant, he said, “there are now more Filipinos born in the United States than Filipino immigrants.”
Bedans all, in a restaurant bar in downtown San Francisco, from left to right: CFO Sec. Francisco Acosta, ConGen Henry Bensurto, Atty. Cesar Albano, the chief prosecutor of Cabanatuan Xerxes Cortel and Atty. Bang aralar
This could be the reason why in recent times there has been a significant decrease in dollar remittances and balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines compared to the last two decades. New immigrants have already sent huge sums of money and Balikbayan gifts. âIt has also become evident,â he added, âthat most of the Balikbayans who return home for vacations are older people, most in wheelchairsâ. Sadly, only a handful of young Filipinos born in the United States want to vacation in the Philippines.
For ConGen Bensurto, the situation was problematic because it had economic consequences for the Philippines. The earlier the government acted on the situation, the better for the country. The well-respected Consul General said that was the reason his office had not hesitated to forge a strong partnership with the CFO to formulate and implement short and long term plans that would affect the growing number. Filipinos abroad and rekindle their dying sense of patriotism.
Recently, the CFO and the Philippine Consulate Office reached an agreement in San Francisco for the special program Spark: Connect the Power with the slogan Pinoy Ako, Pinay Ako, Taas Noo. “The program aims to re-educate Filipinos in the foreigners on their beautiful national heritage and to be proud of it. “I always call this program love and passion for our Pinoy heritage”, explained the good Consul General. The campaign could not be done by [only] one or two groups, he said, urging all loving Filipinos in the nation to work together and use this program as a springboard for the development of similar programs.
Indeed, such a Herculean responsibility to reconnect with the Kababayans abroad falls on every Filipino patriot. ConGen Henry Bensurto, Jr. and CFO are now jointly taking the lead in achieving this essential ingredient in nation building.
It is fervently hoped that the concerted efforts of each will rekindle the fire of nationalism, as evidenced by ConGen Henry, among Filipinos overseas and that there will be other extraordinary Filipino leaders like him in decades and generations. coming up with a genuine desire to reach out to fellow Filipinos and rekindle their sense of patriotism.
(Learn more about this in Part 2 next Friday.)