Diplomatic habits  

POINT OF VIEW - Giorgio Guglielmino - The Philippine Star

There are countries that do not allow their ambassadors, once their period of assignment in a particular country is over, to return there before at least one year has elapsed. The reason is not to overlap two ambassadors, not to create confusion and to let the new ambassador create his own contacts and in his own way enter the local society.

Italy is not one of these countries but nevertheless, once my assignment in the Philippines was over, I decided to stay away for a year before returning – as a tourist – to Manila. Therefore, after having left Manila in August 2021 I returned for a few weeks in August 2022, very curious to see what effect the country would have on me. Even a little worried. In fact, I feared that perhaps I might be somehow disappointed.

But no! Returning to Manila was such a pleasant feeling that it left me happy as a child. I found the streets, the grocery store in San Antonio where the shop assistants cheered me, I reviewed my favorite galleries, my restaurants.

But above all I spent time and chatted with the friends I had left: I cooked at Isa Lorenzo’s house, I dined with Ben Chan, I chatted (and some gossips were made ...) with Margarita Fores, I had lunch at Blackbird with Hugo Bunzl as we used to do every week, I saw Nedy Tantoco and Lisa Periquet, Trickie Lopa and Jaime de Leon. In short, a bit of my world made up of a few diplomats and many Filipinos. It really was like coming home, and it’s a home I want to go back to again.

At this point – speaking of wanting to return – another sort of diplomatic tradition comes to mind. In this case it is a tradition that some countries maintain towards the foreign diplomats who have served in their capitals. There are, in fact, countries that grant facilities to former foreign diplomats who have served as ambassadors in these countries.

What kind of facilities? Nothing particularly special but if the former ambassador decides to retire in that particular country where he served, there is an automatism in the granting of the residence permit and some tax cuts.

What does the country earn? In addition to showing some gratitude if the former ambassador has worked to bring the two countries closer, the country certainly earns it in advertising by triggering word of mouth among more people than one might believe and piquing the curiosity of all those who will think, “Oh, but if the ex-ambassador has moved back to that country for life, it means that it must be really beautiful and hospitable!”

I don’t know if the Philippines has ever thought of taking such an approach. But if they do, I want to be the first former ambassador to move here!

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Giorgio Guglielmino is the former Italian ambassador to the Philippines.

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