Thursday, October 19, 2006

Close Encounter with our ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Yesterday I had a long interview with Antonio P. Villamor, the country's newly confirmed ambassador to Saudi Arabia. I admit I was apprehensive about the interview. I needn't have been. It was almost like having coffee with a favorite grandfather who would explain things patiently to me. Grandfather because at 72, Amba Villamor was yanked out of retirement (in peaceful Dumaguete) as he was highly recommended for the post (by no less than former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Chito Brillantes who is now our Ambassador to Canada.

It was also refreshing to meet a diplomat who understood that ambassadors should no longer hew to the traditional definition of an envoy and his/her roles. Traditional being coctails with the host government and trade delegations and etc. Perhaps it was because Amba Villamor had served as consul general in Hong Kong for four years before his retirement. He also told me he had served in various capacities in Guam, Tokyo, Micronesia and Jeddah.

I look forward to talking with Amba Villamor more. He strongly believes in backing up backchannel efforts with official ones in taking care of the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia.

Oh and did I mention that he thinks I should visit Saudi Arabia during his term -- and stay in his official residence. After all, he said, there's only me and my wife now. His one and only daughter is now a consul in Singapore.

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