“The Department of Foreign Affairs is not just about passports and the repatriation of Filipinos in war-torn countries or OFWs sentenced to death.”
This was how Marciano de Borja, Special Assistant of Office of the Undersecretary for Administration at the DFA began to introduce The Philippine Foreign Service: Its Beginnings exhibit to The Sunday Times Magazine.
The rich display of rare photos, documents and memorabilia, which concluded on Friday at the DFA-Office of Consular Affairs, formed part of the ongoing celebration of the 115th anniversary of the foundation of the DFA, as well as a prelude to the 150th birth anniversary of the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Apolinario Mabini.
“It can be said that the most important part of the DFA’s work is rooted in Foreign Service—how the institution has forged relationships between the Philippines and the rest of the world since its beginnings when we gained independence in 1946.”
The significance of the Philippine Foreign Service, according to de Borja who served as curator of the first-of-its-kind exhibit for the DFA, is proven by how it has grown in size around the world.
“From just four Foreign Service posts, which were all situated in the United States, we now have a presence in different parts of Asia, Europe, Australia and the Middle East,” he elaborated.
Culled from de Borja’s fascination over his chosen vocation, the career diplomat and historian took great pains in researching information, as well as sourcing materials for the exhibit both here and abroad.
He enumerated, “We have here photos, documents and memorabilia that include antique travel and consular documents, photos of prominent personalities like Elpidio Quirino, Carlos P. Romulo, Leon Ma. Guerrero, Raul Manglapus, Narciso Ramos and Luis Moreno Salcedo, among others.”
The exhibit’s ultimate goal is to spark public interest on the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs, especially among the youth, and hopefully encourage them to join the service.
“The most crucial requirement for someone to join the Foreign Service is for he or she to truly love the Philippines. For it is only through one’s love for country that a passion to represent it—not him or herself—can evolve,” de Borja emphasized.
De Borja, who has served in several capacities for the DFA, including Minister at the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York, and at the Philippine embassies in Japan, Chile and Spain, was the brainchild of the exhibit having authored a book titled FSO IV: Starting a Career in the Philippine Foreign Service. He is also currently completing another historical account on the DFA as an institution, entitled The State Department Boys: Philippine Diplomacy and Its American Heritage.
The first leg of The Philippine Foreign Service: Its Beginnings ran from July 15 to 26 at the DFA Main Building on Roxas Boulevard, with the second leg at the Office of Consular Affairs. It will take the form of a travelling exhibit to a number of universities in Metro Manila, among them the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, La Salle, University of Santo Tomas and Miriam College, to more effectively reach out to its target audience.