Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Domecq faces a conundrum. While Spain and the Philippines have over 300 years of shared history and traditions, he cannot fathom why the two countries have lost touch in the years following one of the world’s most profound historical events. That is, when the Spanish government ended its colonization of Southeast Asia.
Growing up in the southern city of Jerez,
which came under Arab control for 800 years, the envoy is no stranger to mixed cultures and infused traditions. In fact, he describes himself as part Arab, part Moorish and part Jew, with a culture deeply rooted in Christianity.
A different path
A member of the Domecq family, whose name is synonymous to Spanish wines for its strong 300-year history in the trade, the ambassador confessed he never entertained the idea of going into the family business.
Gratefully, he recalled to The Manila Times, “My parents didn’t try to convince me [to join the business]when I ‘changed’ careers, because I was attracted to Foreign Service.”
Apparently, only one out of the 12 of their brood went into the wine industry, since they all managed to pursue varied callings.
“My parents always gave us the impression that we should be looking outside our possibilities,” Domecq, who is the youngest among the dozen, added.
The envoy was first a university student of Biochemistry before realizing he wanted to take up Law in another learning institution. As soon as he finished his degree, the young Domecq, then only 24 years old, took and passed the Foreign Service exam.
“From the very beginning, I wanted to become a career diplomat. I have always loved to travel, to be around new people, and to be in a new challenging situation,” he enthused. “[Foreign service] is very interesting, very enriching.”
When Domecq was posted as ambassador to Manila more than a year ago, he had known no other postings besides his duties for Madrid’s diplomatic service. While he had experience working for the United Nations, he did so within Spain’s Foreign Ministry.
Passionate as ever, he headed for Manila even if it meant he had to leave the comforts of his beloved city, his friends, as well as his two daughters.
It was also Domecq’s first time to the Philippines, and although he had worked with a number of Filipino diplomats in the past and somewhat familiar with the ties that bind both countries, he found himself pleasantly surprised that there continue to be remnants of the Spanish influence in his new home.
“This is the first time I had a direct contact with the Filipino way of life. It was very pleasant because like I always say, the best resource of this country is its people.”
A year into his post, Domecq knows more than ever that his biggest challenge is to revive the strong linkages between the Philippines and Spain.
“For too long, the Filipinos have forgotten about Spain and the Spanish have forgotten about the Filipinos. The Spaniards know more about countries in South America today. But here in the Philippines, perhaps because of the distance, the communication, the lack of direct flights, and the language, our shared pasts seem to have been lost,” he lamented.
Nevertheless, the envoy was happy to note that the interest in the Spanish language, the second most popular language in the world, is slowly increasing especially among the young Filipinos today.
This, Domecq said, is a legacy he hopes to leave once his diplomatic tour of the Philippines ends in 2014.
“We will support that movement. I hope this will make our relationship even tighter,” he continued.
Besides the revival of the Spanish language in the Philippines, Domecq admits there is so much more that needs to be done to restore the ties between Spain and the Philippines.
He is satisfied with how the political and cultural ties between the two countries have seemed to improve over the years, which leaves him with the crux of the problem: Strengthening economic relationships.
Hoping to push this “to another level,” as Domecq related, he disclosed to The Manila Times that he is now paying close attention to the balance of trade, foreign direct investments, and private-public partnership programs.
Despite the tasks that face him, he is happy to note that the Philippines and Spain neither have contentious issues to solve, nor controversies.
“We are normally on the same side of the table in all of the issues we have. And we have helped each other a lot in international organizations,” Domecq said. “We will continue to do so because the Philippines is the oldest democracy in Asia. Now with very good economic growth—the highest in Asia—political stability and being very open, I believe there is a lot that can be done here.”
Thus, to serve as ambassador to the Philippines for Domecq “is an honor, a challenge and a great luck.”
“It’s a great honor because as a Spaniard in this country, you feel very well received everywhere. It’s a big challenge because there are a lot of things to do and to try—it’s very intense work. And it is a great luck because the recognition of Spain—how the Philippines identifies with Spain—is enormous.”
Having identified so many possibilities and so much potential in his mission, Ambassador Domecq looks forward to his final stretch as envoy to the Philippines. After all, it shouldn’t be too hard to rekindle the ties among good and longtime friends.