By Henri Abenis-Macahilo
While finishing Computer Science at the prestigious Ateneo de Manila University, Philippine Consul General to Dubai and the Northern Emirates Paul Raymund Cortes had already psyched himself of making it big in the IT industry and working in the public sector was far from his mind.
But after he got married to the lovely Dr. Yasmin Balajadia and completed a master’s degree in Public Management from the University of the Philippines, he decided to give the first round of the series of examinations for Foreign Service officers a try and the rest, as they say, is history.
On October 31, Mr. Cortes’ six-year tour of duty in the Emirates has come to an end. He is reporting back to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) headquarters as Assistant Secretary for Migrant Workers Affairs.
During his tenure as head of mission in Dubai, Mr. Cortes worked hard to represent and protect the interest of overseas Filipinos within his jurisdiction, while maintaining the Philippines’ friendly relations with the host country.
Consul General Cortes and Madame Yasmin were also behind the success of memorable events that promoted arts and culture in Dubai and the Northern Emirates’ Filipino community, including song writing and singing competitions, art exhibits, musicals and film showings featuring talented overseas Filipinos.
His latest and perhaps the most significant project was the Dakilang Bayani Awards, wherein carefully selected OFs were honoured for their contributions to the community.
“The title Consul General comes with utmost obligation as our community look to our office as the prime resolver of issues, the limitless source of hope, and the repository of answers to all their concerns, legal, consular, moral, and even financial,” Consul General Cortes said in his interview with Illustrado magazine, the only Filipino lifestyle magazine in the gulf region.
“I am not dismissing this as an outright misperception but because I am the highest ranking government official in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, I take the role of everyone’s last resort seriously.”
With Dubai as one of the most challenging post for the Philippine mission, Mr. Cortes had his fair share of challenges and the Covid-19 pandemic was the toughest of them all.
As in other parts of the world, many Filipinos in the UAE have lost their jobs, fell ill and succumbed to the dreaded coronavirus. Mr. Cortes and staff worked tirelessly with their counterparts at the Philippine embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Philippine overseas labour offices to facilitate a series of mass repatriations and the distribution of financial assistance to the most affected.
Mr. Cortes’ profound dedication and exemplary service to the Filipino community in the emirates have been appreciated by many of his constituents, who have given him tributes during his final days in office.
Mr. Cortes’ position is filled by his former second-in-command, Deputy Consul General Renato Dueñas, Jr. who officially took over on November 01.
Henri Abenis-Macahilo is the editor-in-chief of Rights Corridor. She is also the UAE bureau chief of Philippine-based news portal, NewsLinePH.