By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA
(© 2017 Journal GlobaLinks)
CHICAGO (JGL) — My informant (a close friend of mine from Chicago, Illinois and from Bikol region) told me that he met the incoming Consul General of the Midwest at the
Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila back in February this year while he was vacationing in the Philippines.
When the name of the new sheriff in town was mentioned to me, it almost floored me.
When I asked my informant what she said about her new assignment, the informant said the new ConGen asked updates on some prominent newspaper publishers in the Chicago community that the new ConGen could still remember right on top of her head.
But what surprised me was that the new ConGen did not bother to invite my informant to a cup of coffee or a despedida dinner before his return to Chicago so the new ConGen can get more updates of what Chicago community she would be finding in her return to her “scene of the crime.”
Her “crime” (violation of Philippine Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) was for collecting “pakimkims” (gifts) from 155 prominent community members during the baptism of her son shortly before leaving her Chicago Mission for the Middle East!
The number of godparents was like the victims of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), who reeled under the devastation felt after super typhoon Yolanda’s wake.
Ok, perhaps, the new ConGen did not need some “debriefing” from my friend as her appointment had been “signed, sealed and delivered.” But in going to the scene of battle, war generals usually send spies in advance to study the terrain of the battle! Just review Lau Tzu’s “Art of War”!
I tried to get in touch with my friend, Mr. Roy Mabasa, the foreign affairs reporter of the Manila Bulletin, and outgoing Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia, Ed Malaya, who maintained his communication with me even long after he left the Chicago Consulate when he was a lowly Consul here in Chicago, to provide me the contact information of the press and public affairs officer of DFA.
I wanted to connect to the incoming ConGen, who can provide me some answers to the scandalous questions that she left behind in Chicago when she was a lowly Consul some quarter of century ago today.
QUESTIONS FOR THE NEW CONGEN
WITH LT. GOV & SENATE PRES:
CONSUL GENERAL CALONGE is flanked by Missouri Lieutenant Governor Michael L. Parson (left) and State Senate President Pro Tempore Ron Richard right. (Photo courtesy of Missouri State Capitol)
Among my questions: Why did you invite 155 godparents to the baptism of your son before leaving your Chicago mission 23 years ago?
Did you ever regret gathering those many unsuspecting ninongs (male Godparents) and ninangs (female Godparents) who were caught by surprise by the sheer number of Godparents to the baptism of your son? Some of these Godparents told me “they went to the restrooms (comfort rooms) to reduce the amounts in their personal checks of their pakimkim (donation to the baptized parents) after realizing they were not part of the handful of Godparents they were expecting to have?
Will you encourage other Consuls to do the same thing that you did that could have landed you in the Guinness Book of Records?
Doesn’t the new ConGen realize that the new President Rodrigo Duterte in his 2nd State of the Nation (SONA) last Monday (July 24, 2017) said he does not believe in “positivist theory” that says there are redemptions among recidivists?
But Roy told me “hanapin mo sa fb si (look for) Charmaine Aviquivil (in her Facebook account), she's the one doing the chores now.” I did but I did not get a response. Nor did I get response from Ambassador Malaya, who used to promptly respond to my request even after Malaya left the Chicago Consulate. I tried to re-connect on Facebook with former Chicago Consul Adelio Angelito S. Cruz (now ConGen of Los Angeles, California) but ConGen Adel’s response to me was not responsive to my request.
I wanted to ask the new ConGen how much she collected and what she did with the “pakimkims” (gifts) she collected from 155 ninongs and ninangs during the baptism of her son, Christopher, shortly before she left here mission in Chicago sometime in 1994!
A NEWS CLIP BACK IN TIME!
In a feature written by then contributor, Mariano "Anong" Santos, (now publisher of Pinoy Newsmagazine), to a weekly Philippine Time dated May 5, 1994, entitled, "No Big Joke," This baptism is one for the books," Mr. Santos recalled an incident when the new ConGen’s husband approached him, writing, “He’s one kababayan that I’m not particularly thrilled to see. But there he was approaching me again during my recent visit at the Rizal Center.
“(Our last chance encounter was at the Conrad Hilton Ballroom during President Ramos’ visit to the Windy City last fall.)
“So, we’re compadres!.” he said and followed his greetings with a handshake.
CONGEN TALKS TO LEGISLATORS:
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR MICHAEL L. PARSON and Secretary of State John Ashcroft (second from right) and other Missouri state officials hears Consul General Calonge’s brief explanation of the Philippine Consulate General’s functions during a special reception before his address. Ms. Ann Pardalos of the Missouri International Trade and Investment Office, who also served as a protocol officer is standing behind CG Calonge. Also in photo is Midwest's Philippine Deputy Consul General Romulo Victor M. Israel, Jr. (third from left). (Photo courtesy of Missouri State Capitol)
“I reluctantly extended my right hand and asked, “I don't understand. I don’t remember being a Godfather with a handshake.
“But you and my wife are both ninong and ninang or at least you are two of over twelve dozens Godparents to the son of Ambassador Gross Esca …. “
“She’s not an ambassador … “ cutting short his punning and then I added, “I think that’s personal matter.”
“Personal my foot! One hundred fifty-five of the who’s who in the Filipino American community being made ninongs and ninangs of the second ranking Filipino official in Chicago — that’s the most public you can get!” he responded with his characteristic excitement.
“So, we’re compadres’. So how’s kumare?” I asked without much enthusiasm.
“Padre, she’s a little puzzled and disappointed on why you didn’t have anything in your column about that big event.”
“Well, frankly that’s not my beat. Besides my own publisher (referring to another outlet, where Mr. Santos used to write with will not allow Mr. Santos to write this topic) is a ninong. He’s always generous on coverage of such event.”
‘He answered impatiently. “I know. I know! that’s why I’m puzzled, too!” you write political and social commentaries. Yet you keep quiet! The consulate people got you, media persons! They made you ninongs and ninangs so you’ll keep your peace. At nabakalan pa! (And extorted!)
“THAT’S NOT GOING TO VICTIMS OF PHILIPPINE NATIONAL DISASTERS!”
“Calm down now …you mean the baptism merits editorializing?” I irritably asked him.
“Well, what do you think!? One hundred fifty godparents multiply by a hundred bucks, that’s $15,000 (or $15,500 to be exact)! And THAT’S NOT GOING to the victims of Philippine National Disasters!,” he triumphantly announced.”
REPRESENTATIVE LINDELL SHUMAKE of the 5th District of Missouri (second from right), who conveyed an invitation for the Consul General to visit and speak before the Missouri House of Representatives during a Filipino community event they both attended in Boonville last year, stands with Consul General Calonge and Majority Floor Leader Mike Cierpiot (extreme right) and Majority Whip Steve Lynch (extreme left). (Photo courtesy of Missouri State Capitol).
“Oh yes! And my name is John the Baptist!”
“You media people are bunch of suckers! Some bigwigs make a compadre out of you and you all look the other way! What the consul did was the moral equivalent of extortion! Having 150 godparents has nothing to do with making a good Christian out of her baby! Down with those that exploit the holy sacraments! Down with those that exploit the holy sacraments! The innocents should not be used! That consul should be banished to Africa!”
The new ConGen may not have been banished to Africa but she was assigned to the Middle East, where she later earned her spur as an Ambassador.
As we bid goodbye to our dear outgoing Consul General Generoso D. G. Calonge, who will be honored with a Farewell Party hosted by the Cindy Flores’ Philippine American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Chicago at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Consulate at 122 South Michigan, Suite 1600, Chicago, Illinois between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16 (RSVP, Cindy Flores, 312.925.7812 or Edgar Jimenez 773.463.1047), this column is dedicated to those Consulate officials in the Chicago Philippine Consulate who have done the good (thumbs up!) and bad things (thumbs down!) around the community that they left behind.