Consul General’s Corner

Consul General’s Corner

Emil T. Fernandez

I had the pleasure of meeting many of my countrymen in Maui last month. It would be my first official engagement outside O‘ahu after assuming the position of Consul General in Honolulu late in 2021.

I arrived at The Dunes at Maui Lani before sunrise on a chilly Sunday morning to take part in the Binhi at Ani Filipino Community Center’s fundraising golf tournament, where over 140 players had signed up. I was told it was to be the largest field of golfers assembled for the annual event and the first where the Philippine Consul General would participate. I had the good fortune of being in a foursome comprised of affable personalities—Eddie Munoz, Boyet Tamayo and Jim River. Under the auspices of Alfredo Evangelista, the activity was impeccably organized. Thousands of dollars would be raised for the Center’s commendable scholarship program for deserving Filipino American students on the island.

Later that evening, I was humbled to be the guest of honor in a reception tendered by the Center, whose current president is the indefatigable Melen Agcolicol. As I noted in my remarks during the event, I was expecting no more than 50 Filipino community leaders to be present but was pleasantly surprised to be in the company of more than 200 guests. Among them were local government officials, including Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen and his Chief of Staff, Mr. Leo Caires; former Mayor Mike Victorino and his lovely wife, Joycelyn; State Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran and his ageless mother, Lydia Coloma;

Posing with Miss Barrio Fiesta Audryanah Starmer, Binhi at Ani President Melen Agcolicol and Atty. Alfredo Evangelista.
Photo Basilia Evangelista

Councilmember Shane Sinenci and his Executive Assistant, Mr. Don Atay; the Hawai‘i Governor’s Representative in Maui, Mr. Leon Bolosan; and a fellow Atenean, the esteemed Judge Artemio Baxa (retired). Attendees were treated to a sumptuous buffet spread of Philippine dishes and entertainment by seasoned cultural troupes with performances of the country’s most popular dances.

I wish to extend a special thank you to Philippine Airlines, led by its Area Manager in Honolulu Sol Solleza, for generously donating two round-trip tickets between Honolulu and Manila, which were drawn at the awarding ceremony of the golf tournament and evening reception. The lucky winners were Jim Diegel and Josie Ramos.

My golf team: Boyet Tamayo, Jim River and Eddie Munoz.
Photo: Lawrence Pascua

The visit was not complete without the courtesy call on newly elected Mayor Bissen, who warmly received me and a group of Filipino community leaders in his Wailuku office. Among those present were Jing Gumpal, President of the Maui Filipino Community Council, and Kit Zulueta, distinguished alumna of the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO). The meeting afforded us the opportunity to get to know one another better, enumerate priorities and discuss issues of importance to the community. Among other things, I highlighted the pivotal role played by the Filipino community in the island’s development, including its contribution to the local economy and cultural landscape, and invited the Mayor to visit the Philippines in the near future. We were also elated knowing that a Filipina American, the charming Sharon Banaag, serves in the Mayor’s Office as Executive Assistant.

The visit also enabled me to listen to the various concerns of our kababayans, including making consular services more accessible and better known. To this end, I have tasked Consulate personnel to participate in the Center’s Barrio Fiesta this May, where they shall man an information booth to attend to community members’ queries. Also being scheduled in the third quarter of the year is the Consulate’s outreach mission, where applicants may renew their passports, take their oaths as dual citizens, legalize documents, and register as overseas voters. More will be done to further improve services being rendered and it is incumbent upon us to work collaboratively to ensure that everyone is attended to in an efficient and timely manner.

With retired attorney Tony Ramil, Luz Ramil, Norma Cronkite, Judge (Ret.) Artemio Baxa and Ernie Cronkite.
Photo Basilia Evangelista

Also contributing to my fruitful trip were Teresita Noble of Noble Travel, Greg Peros of Maui Beach Hotel, Tante Urban of Tante’s Island Cuisine, Philip Sabado of Sabado Art Gallery and Dana Pastula of Maui Tropical Plantation. To them and countless others, I owe a big debt of gratitude for ensuring a pleasurable stay. The memory of the journey, especially the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino community of Maui, will remain with me always.

Seated next to Maui Mayor Richard T. Bissen, Jr.
Photo: Basilia Evangelista

Emil T. Fernandez is the current Consul General of the Philippines stationed in Honolulu. He graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management Economics. Prior to his appointment to Hawai‘i, Fernandez served as Deputy Consul General in Frankfurt, Germany. His other foreign assignments included Washington, D.C. (2010–2016), Santiago, Chile (2005–2008) and Caracas, Venezuela (2002–2005). In Manila, Fernandez held several important positions, including Executive Director of the Office of Asian & Pacific Affairs (2016–2018), Director for Southern Europe of the Office of European Affairs (2009–2010), Special Assistant to the Undersecretary for International Economic Relations (2008–2009) and Acting Director of the Office of ASEAN Affairs (1999–2001).