Some basics on foreign affairs: Embassies and orders of merit

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

Part 2
LAST week we suggested that some basic knowledge on foreign affairs be added to the general education curriculum. With people’s increasing mobility these days, be it for academic purposes or otherwise, it may be useful to know, especially on the part of our young adults, how and to whom citizens of one country staying in another country could seek much-needed information or assistance from the official representative of one’s state or country.

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To give one example. There is the case of this Filipina whose dream since high school was to find employment abroad. As a licensed nurse, she was able to legitimately join her aunt in Germany. For five years, she did odd jobs as a waitress in a food chain, as a governess with a family, etc. It did not matter what type of job she did so long as she had some decent income while staying with her aunt. After staying in Germany for almost five years, she could speak Deutsch well, including a dialect. Later, learning about the triple win project—a bilateral agreement of Germany and the Philippines for several hundred nurses to work in Germany beginning March 2013—she applied for a place. Triple win stands for the sending government which is the Philippines, the receiving government which is Germany and the applicant nurse. Having been advised by an office in our country that she come home to the Philippines to apply formally for the triple win project, the young lady sought help from the Philippine Embassy in Berlin. The embassy helped her apply using Skype for the interview. Certifications from the embassy following overseas labor requirements facilitated her application, which was granted.

In last week’s column, we also wrote that governments have a way of recognizing worthwhile achievements which benefit society. Knowing this, our learners would realize that indeed there are worldwide efforts, regardless of creed and color, to aspire for understanding, peace and prosperity among all nations and that fostering such efforts are valued and given due recognition. In the diplomatic world, these recognitions are known as orders of merit, referred to as decorations. “Modern orders are usually open to all citizens of a particular country, regardless of status, sex, race or creed.” Depending on the country, nominations are made by either government officials or private citizens. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order (distinction). European countries have each their own orders of merit, so do other countries.

Bestowal on the recipient of orders, decorations and medals follows more or less similar features. With regard to those of the Federal Republic of Germany, the web cites several Filipinos who have been bestowed the Cross of the Order of Merit by the Bundesrepublik Deutschland. In November 1963, then President Diosdado Macapagal received West Germany’s Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diosdado_Macapagal>. In 1992, former Ambassador to Germany Ambassador Delia Domingo Albert was bestowed the FRDKnights Commanders Cross of the Order of Merit with Star for promoting Philippine relations with Germany as well as relations between Asean and the European Union. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Delia_Albert>

In 2005, Oscar Lopez, chair of the Lopez Group (formerly known as Benpress Holdings Corporation, one of the country’s large conglomerates covering broadcasting and cable telecommunications, power generation and distribution, banking, etc.) and co-chair of the Philippine-German Business Council since 2001, is the first ever Filipino businessman to be bestowed Germany’s Order of Merit “for his outstanding achievements as businessman and as a promoter of Philippine-German cooperation and friendship”<en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php/Oscar_Lopez> More recently, in late January, yours truly was bestowed the Cross of the Order of Merit (Verdienstkreuz am Bande) of the Federal Republic of Germany by Federal President Joachim Gauck in recognition of “outstanding achievements for the German-Philippine cooperation in the field of higher education and for the promotion of German as a foreign language in the Philippines.”

Several recent non-Filipino awardees include US Secretary of State John Kerry, with the Grand Cross 1st Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, last December, 2016. And on February 12, 2017, philosopher Baroness Onora O’Neill of Bengarve received the Knight Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit presented to her by the German Ambassador to the United Kingdom for her outstanding contribution to moral and ethical questions of trust, accountability in civic life, justice and virtue.<www.uk.diplo.de/Vertretung/unitedkingdom/en/__pr/…/BaronessONeill. html?>

The Order of Merit has also been bestowed on one whose research was deemed to be an outstanding contribution to “promoting a modern understanding of Germany and one’s engagement with the German-American and German-Jewish friendships.” Such is the case of Professor Dr. Andrei Markovits (University of Michigan at Ann Arbor) whose study of the humanities and the social sciences, fellowships and scholarships, and numerous publications—in brief, “his outstanding dedication as a scholar and a teacher, has fostered the German-American friendship and understanding.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki /Andrei_Markovits

Held usually at the Ambassador’s residence of the awarding state, the major features of a bestowal ceremony are the presentation remarks of the bestowing personality (the Ambassador of the host state) which describes the awardee’s accomplishments for which the awardee is recognized. This is followed by the acceptance speech by the awardee. In my case, German Ambassador Dr. Gordon Kricke, representing German President Joachim Gauck, gave the presentation remarks. The ambassador’s remarks were featured in the websites of the German Embassy in Manila and of the Goethe-Institut Philippinen in Makati as well as in national and local dailies.<https://www.goethe.de/ins/ph/en/spr/eng/pas/20911749.html><fb.me/5B5SzdKnA>

The author, one of the country’s most accomplished institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (the Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She attended topmost universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is journal copy editor of, and Graduate Studies professorial lecturer at, the Liceo de Cagayan University. Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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