It was with great pride and excitement that Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) Representative to the Philippines Gary Song-Huann Lin led the celebration of his country’s 103rd National Day in Manila on October 9. Barely a month into his appointment, Ambassador Lin headed the grand gathering, which served as his first major event in the country, where he had nothing but good things to say about the long-standing friendship between Taiwan in the Philippines.
Addressing guests from government, the diplomatic corps, as well as Filipino and Taiwanese nationals who enjoyed the interiors of the newly renovated Sofitel Grand Ballroom, the representative earnestly reflected on the different aspects of the bilateral relations of the two nations throughout history.
“Relations between our two countries have always been friendly. Our countries not have not only enjoyed longstanding and close relations, but also share common values, similar experiences of martial laws, a legacy of democratization, Austronesian culture, and geographical proximity,” the ambassador began.
“Historically, Taiwan was the transhipment center among Southeast Asia [including the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia], America [Mexico], and Japan. Geographically, we are close neighbors,” he continued.
Armed with both a Doctorate and Master degrees in History from the University of Pretoria in South Africa and the University of Manchester in England respectively, Lin’s expertise and interest in the study of the past make him perfect for his position as ambassador.
“My background in history enables me to see much deeper the importance of the relationship between two countries. So I say, historically, Taiwan and Philippines should not be seen separately. When Spanish colonizers ruled the Philippines, half of Taiwan was also under the Spanish rule. Even today, like you, we still have some Spanish heritage most evident in names like the Santiagos for instance,” he told The Manila Times in a one-on-one interview following the National Day celebration.
Before he pursued his studies internationally, Ambassador Lin first obtained his School Teacher Certificate in 1969, majoring in Education, History and Geography, at the Taiwan Provincial Normal (Teachers’) College. While teaching in Taipei from 1969 to 1976, he took up his Bachelor of Arts in Literature at the Tamkang University, which he completed in 1974.
With an impressive competency in the field of history and education, Lin was drawn into the government service, starting off as an official at the Bureau of International Cultural and Educational Relations in Taiwan’s Ministry of Education from 1978 to 1979. After a year in government, he went into the Foreign Service as officer at the Department of European Affairs for three years until 1981.
This paved the way for his now lengthy and successful career in diplomacy, serving his first assignment out of Taiwan as Third Secretary of the Taiwan Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa for four years. He moved up the ranks as Second and Third Secretary of Taiwan’s Embassy in Mbabane, Swaziland from 1984 to 1989.
After his assignment in the African region, he moved to the West Indies, first as counselor and chargé d’ affaires of their embassy in Grenada from 1989, and a year later moved to St. Lucia with the same designation, until 1992.
He returned to Taiwan after over eight years of international assignments, taking the position of deputy director-general of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in the Department of Central and South American Affairs until 1994.
After three years, he set off on another posting outside of his home country as deputy representative (deputy chief of Mission) in the South Africa Taipei Liaison Office South in Pretoria from 1998 to 2001. He then became the senior advisor to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, with the main task of handling United Nations (UN) Affairs.
His first designation as ambassador was in the Marshall Islands from 2001 to 2003, before taking another posting back in Taiwan as director-general of Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Taiwan MOFA from 2003 to 2006.
He represented TECO in Australia from 2006 to 2011, and after six years, he returned to Taiwan once again, as secretary-general of MOFA beginning 2012. Early this year, he was assigned as representative of TECO to Norway from January to September.
Immediately, he received his next posting nearer to home as TECO representative to the Philippines. Arriving in the country on September 23, he said he has settled down into his assignment what with the similarities he knew Taiwan has with the Philippines.
A tireless learner, the new envoy hopes discover more about Filipino culture first hand this time, and also act as a “bridge” to further strengthen the existing friendship.
“I’ve been here for almost a month. The Philippines is a beautiful country and the Filipino people are always very warm, courteous, and also very nice. It’s my third time here, I’ve been here twice but it was on official business. But this time, since I now work here, I can explore and further understand the culture of the Philippines,” he told The Manila Times.
“I consider myself as the bridge of two cultures and also as the promoter of our friendship—to promote investment and enhance our trade and bilateral cooperation in various aspects,” he added.
“We would like to attract more investments from Taiwan to the Philippines, and at the same time, we want to encourage more Filipinos to visit and study in Taiwan. All these are part of my goals, but of course, we also want to see more bilateral exchanges, people to people, parliamentary, academic, research, cultural, economic relations, and more NGO [non-government organizations] between two nations to work together,” he concluded.