There is perhaps no other ambassador who loves the Philippines as much as Chilean envoy to Manila, His Excellency Roberto Mayorga. Though he was never into Foreign Service, and is in fact, a noted law economics professor, he was appointed by President Sebastián Piñera as ambassador in Manila because of his successful record in recruiting investors to the country.
The academic further believes that his posting will be his first and last in the diplomatic scene, since he is planning to go back to teaching as soon as his tenure ends in 2014.
All the same, Mayorga’s four short years in the Philippines has proven to be both challenging and enriching for him, despite the lack of economic, political and social ties between the two nations.
Friendship, hospitality, optimism and compassion—these are what Mayorga embraced in the Philippines. He was so blown away by these virtues, in fact, that he decided to establish a program that specifically studies, cultivates and protects the Filipino’s “compassionate spirit.”
Calidad Humana, which in Spanish means “strength of human character,” was a program initiated by the Chilean Embassy after Mayorga observed that today’s Filipinos are slowly losing touch of their hospitable, friendly and humble nature.
“The first time I visited the Philippines was when I was posted here in 2010. I really discovered a new world here. Perhaps you are not aware that you have one of the most compassionate peoples [in the world],” he told The Manila Times.
“But after talking with different people, we got the perception that you have erased [this uniqueness]. If you don’t take care of this sense of peaceful and open-minded humility, your friendliness, you risk losing it in the future, like what happened to other countries.”
In the past three decades, Mayorga has worked to promote Chilean business in more that 75 countries around the world. In his travels, he sadly noted that the “human sense of life” seemed to be in most countries.
“In other countries, although they have economic progress, people do not smile. People feel very empty. They have no friends, no family,” he related.
He thus found the Philippines very inspiring and refreshing and has made it his mission here to reach out to Philippine universities, civil society groups and private firms to promote the Filipino’s sense of compassion and humanity.
“You need to take care of your nice personality,” he simply put.
The ‘business’ of teaching
Mayorga has long been a professor of economic law at the Unibersidad de Chile and the Catholic University in Chile. He secured his doctorate in economic law from a prestigious university in Heidenberg, Germany, and went on to work as a visiting professor at the Washington College of Law.
There, he honed his students’ analytical skills, and later, his expertise in economic law recognized, he received a posting in Chile as chairman of a committee that regulates and promotes foreign investment and international trade.
“In this position, my work consisted of visiting countries around the world in coordination with the Chilean embassies, in order to establish contact with foreign companies. I invited investors to Chile, so I was always in contact with embassies of Chile around the world in the last 25 years. So that was my life—travel. Always travel.”
Mayorga spent six years in Germany, two years in Washington, almost four years in the Philippines, and in between, he has visited some 60 other countries, including Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Cambodia, China and Australia.
But again, through all his travels, nothing struck him as much as what he saw in the Philippines. “In the world, there is a culture of being aggressive. Here, you have a culture of kindness.”
Mayorga hopes that in the next 10 or 20 years, when he comes to visit the Philippines, he hopes to see that the program started was able to uphold and preserve what has made the Philippines truly special for him.