Nepalese Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Philippines H.E. Niranjan Man Singh Basnyat may have only travelled to the country twice, but he is proud to say that his country and his personal connections with these islands go as far back as the 1960s.
“Nepal and Philippines have established diplomatic relations a long time ago, but because of many economic reasons, we do not have an embassy in Manila,” Basnyat told The Manila Times during his last visit to Manila.
Basnyat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur where he holds office as concurrent Nepalese Ambassador to Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Before setting foot in the Philippines, however, Basnyat said his first few encounters with Filipinas around the world had been memorable.
In 1987, he first met Maria Teressa Herrera, a Filipina working in Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, while they were both studying the French language in the city of Vichy. Their friendship ended in 1989 when she left for the Philippines and he flew home to Nepal. Unfortunately, they have not seen each other since.
In the 1990s another Filipina made a huge impression on him because of her religion. While working in New York at the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations, he met “Melissa” who was working for their office.
“She was with us when Pope John Paul II gave a speech [at the 50th General Assembly of the United Nations, 1995]and we were seated in front. In the UN every year, the secretary general picks one country’s name to sit in front of the general assembly, and the rest of the countries will be arranged in alphabetical order,” he recalled.
“By luck, that year, our country was given the seat just in front of the podium, and as I was going, Melissa called on me and said, ‘Sir I also want to go.’ And when the Pope came down to greet us, I could never forget what she said, ‘Oh this is the best day of my life’!”
Finally, he recalled meeting a roving ambassador for economic migrants who showed him how the Philippine government cares for its Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). Basnyat was impressed at how the official would quickly fly out to any country where a Filipino needed help.
“I met her in Macau in 2002 and she was there for the Economic Migrant Conference in United Nations. To be there means that the Philippines is very concerned about their citizens,” he reiterated.
Having formed such high regard for the Filipinas he had met, Basnyat was more than happy to be appointed ambassador to the Philippines.
“We especially like the Philippines because people here are very nice. I think it has to do with the language, we both speak English, so it is easy to communicate,” he further related.
With his hands full overseeing two other Asian countries, which employ a large number of Nepalese, the ambassador explained that they appointed an honorary consul general in the Philippines through Dr. Jose Paulo Campos.
“He is working in that capacity and has been very active. For one, he has been supporting the Nepalese especially in many cases of immigration. Dr. Campos is also very much instrumental in promoting Nepal-Philippines relationship like promoting bi-lateral economic promotions, economic diplomacy, on top of others.”
Campos, who later joined Basyat’s interview with The Manila Times, also pointed to the presence of many Nepalese students in the Philippines. “We have quite a lot of them enrolled in in medicine and aviation. There are almost 1,000 Nepali students studying here right now.”
Basnyat responded with gratitude especially since the Philippine government has provided educational grants for deserving Nepali students.
“If given the chance [to talk to officials], I will ask only two points from the Philippine government. One, please provide more scholarships to our students in the Philippines, if possible, especially to those affected by the  earthquake. We have heard that the educational system in the Philippines is as good as in the US where the entire curriculum is based,” he enthused.
“The other thing I’d ask is for help in the administrative management system—how you are managing your people outside the Philippines for employment,” Basnyat added.
Just like the Philippines, a huge number from Nepal’s 27 million-population works overseas.
“To be exact, we have 4 million workers in other countries, with the largest population (900,000 strong) working in Malaysia. The sector produces $1.5 billion in remittances, a smaller figure compared to Philippines’ $30 billion from OFWs. We believe that the Philippines has a good administrative system regarding sending their citizens for foreign employment.”
Looking forward to stronger ties between the two countries, Basnyat believes that they might just be able to convince Filipinos to choose Nepal as their next must-visit destination. He proudly related that London-based travel guidebook Rough Guides included Nepal in its 10 must-see countries for 2016.
Meanwhile, Campos, who has visited Nepal four times already, said he can attest to Rough Guides’ choice. “There are many nice places in Nepal like Pokhara Valley and Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. Getting to Nepal is like getting away from modernity.”
The natural wonders that only nature can perfect, sites that took 6,000 years to be made both spiritually and historically, and food options that combine influences from different countries, are just some of the many reason why a ten-hour travel to Nepal (including one stopover) is worth it, according to the country’s main men in the Philippines.
“Young people who are interested to go to Nepal for trekking must visit the bottom of the Himalayan Mountains. If you go in the morning, you see a clearly white mountain. But during sunset, it is like volcano, it’s golden. In the evening, you’ll see it blue because of the shadow. The mountain changes colors according to the light of the sun. It’s beautiful!” Basnyat proudly said.
He further noted a wildlife preserve called Chitwan where the one-horn rhinoceros can be found, as well as a high-end Ayurveda Center for those who prefer R&R close to nature, and the Phewa Lake in Pokhara, which gives the valley breathtaking reflections.
For those interested to experience Nepal, the diplomat happily told The Manila Times that their consular office can release 15 and 30-day visit visas, while and a good number of commercial flights now travel to his country daily.
With high hopes that there will be more Filipino tourists going to Nepal, Basnyat promised that he will also promote the Philippines to his countrymen as he continues to look forward traveling here regularly.