Consul General Mario L. de Leon, Jr. shares his experiences as a diplomat on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini held on July 23, 2015 at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center.

“The Mabini Sessions: A conversation with Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr.” was held to celebrate the birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center in New York on July 23, 2015.

The Consulate intends “The Mabini Sessions” to be an annual event to memorialize the birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini, the first Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

The organizers conceptualized the idea to invite Philippine diplomats, both in active service and retired, to share their experiences in the foreign service and in crafting significant Philippine foreign policy initiatives.

“The practice of diplomacy is one of constant change,” Consul Kerwin Tate stated in his welcome remarks.

He further said that this is in response to the ever-changing demands brought about by the priorities of the government and the people served by Philippine posts abroad.

The hosts of Makilala TV interviewed the consul general who served as the first guest of the Mabini Sessions.

The Makilala TV is the first Filipino-American TV talk show in Queens, N.Y. that features personalities who affect Filipino life in the New York tri-state area.

Cristina DC Pastor, founder and editor of FilAm Magazine; Jen Furer, author of “Out of Status” and founder of the blog Gotta Love Mom; and Rachelle Ocampo, a 2013 Filipino American Youth Leadership Program alumnae and a former president of Pilipino American Unity for Progress composed the panel of Makilala hosts who asked candid questions about the consul general’s career as a diplomat.

Responding to the first question on how Mabini would view the current status of Philippine independence particularly from the United States, the consul general explained that Mabini would consider that the Philippines has indeed attained independence as a self-governing body, with its own political structure and economic policy.

He further stated how good governance agenda of the current administration has propelled the economic standing of the country in the international community.

He added that the Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia that achieved self-determination just after World War II and is a founding member of the United Nations.

When asked if Mabini would have insisted on an independent foreign policy vis-à-vis China, taking into account the hero’s views on the United States, the consul general opined that Mabini would have also opted to take a multilateral track in resolving the issue with China.

The consul general pointed out that Mabini was very much ahead of his time, having thought of a Malay confederation long before the organization of ASEAN or even the MAPHILINDO.

On how influential the Department of Foreign Affairs is in crafting Philippine foreign policy, the consul general explained the respective roles of the President and the DFA in foreign policy making and implementation.

“It would not do justice to Apolinario Mabini if you call me a visionary” humbly said the consul general when he was compared to Mabini by one community leader.

“Mabini’s ideas and thoughts were prescient,” he added.

The consul general emphasized his proactive people-to-people approach with the community and its issues.

He initiated the geographic warden system in the U.S. Northeast, a system placing volunteers from the Filipino-American community in areas far from New York City who are in a position to extend emergency assistance to and access to services for kababayans in distress.

He organized the leadership management seminar for the first generation and the leadership mentoring seminar for the younger generation of Filipinos, in recognition of the increasing visibility of the community in U.S. society.

He also focused on the activities and projects that bind the Filipino-American community in his jurisdiction, and not just those of the community organizations.

Coming from private and government corporations like Wyeth, Sycip, Gorres, Velayo and Co. (SGV), and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Consul General de Leon’s experience in negotiating technical assistance and loans from official development assistance organizations sparked his interest in joining the foreign service.

It was fortunate that during the early 1980s, the DFA had a great need for officers with strong trade and economics experience.

He recounted that he was among the more than 1,000 who applied for the 1985 Foreign Service Officer examinations, and the fortunate 15 who passed in 1986.

His generation of officers have been described as the “bridge” officers of the Marcos and Cory Aquino administrations.

When one Makilala host asked him in one word to describe his work as a consul general, he simply answered “busy.”

The consul general addressed a number of interesting questions from the community following the conversation with Makilala hosts.

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