The room was filled with Filipinos who were gathered to broaden their knowledge about working abroad, through Pinoy Wise Movement. H.E. Grace Relucio Princesa, was one of the speakers. Her face showed determination and hopes to help the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), to wisely use their time, and manage to live their lives while they are away from their homeland.
H.E Grace Relucio Princesa, a Babaylan from Ligao, Albay, spoke to Filipino Life Magazine about her life as an Ambassador. She has been a diplomat and public servant for almost 30 years, and currently the Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Arab Emiratis. She sees herself as an Ambassador for God and country.
I am doing social work for the distressed and for those in need, and hopefully healing and protecting the wounded heart.
Can you give us a background of your education and your work?
I am a graduate of Foreign Service in University of the Philippines, and currently doing Master of Arts on Migration Studies in Miriam College, and MBA PHD on Development Administration in Philippine Christian University. I work as a Government Public Servant as an Ambassador of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Arab Emirates.
What does your work entail as an Ambassador of United Arab Emirates?
We have three pillars of foreign policy. I’d like to go first to the 3rd one, which is my passion–protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare and interests of Filipinos overseas, economic diplomacy, and national security; also becoming friends with the Emiratis, and the people who were there.
What inspired you to go into that position?
I wanted to be a doctor. My sister, an Egyptian, is also a doctor so my father told me to take Pharmacy instead. I went to UP and took Pharmacy, but then I was flunking my Math subjects; so I think that it wasn’t meant to be. Then I saw myself being friends with the foreigners. I love to help, so I took diagnostic test in our counseling office, and I was left with social work for Foreign Service. I took Foreign Service because I was friendly with the foreigners then in UP, but now I am doing everything. I also wanted to be a lawyer, so all of my dreams have been made possible, as an Ambassador for God and country. Now, I am doing social work for the distressed and for those in need, and hopefully healing and protecting the wounded hearts; in that way I’m still a lawyer. I also travel. I love traveling, because it’s the best education. I get to visit many places, and meet beautiful people.
What education or skills are needed to be an Ambassador?
At least a 4-year course graduate, and pass the exam. There’s a written exam, oral exam, psychological exam, and there will be a pre Civil Service exam, to see your IQ. There will also be an interview, because sometimes they only know how to write, but can’t communicate well.
There is a lack of logistics, and a need for bigger budget and logistical support, to have a wider space in the embassy, because people in there are getting crowded.
What is most challenging about what you do as an Ambassador?
Before it was my Iraq experience that was the most challenging, but now is the lack of resources, and the Filipinos’ lack of awareness in migration phenomena; like spending too much money, and lack of knowledge in maximizing the positive.
What is most rewarding about being an Ambassador?
Being an Ambassador is a responsibility, but it does have its accompanying privileges, with that you can help people. I’m here to wash the feet of the people, especially those in need, and to really serve; and I hope and pray that I am doing it. Because being an Ambassador, I have access and I can open doors, so you have to maximize that. If you are not in that position, you can’t do that. That’s why I am telling the younger diplomats to work hard because we can be able to help; I have realized it when someone cried, and thanked me. It’s really how you perceived yourself, “SINO AKO”.
I am here to wash the feet of the people, especially those in need, and to really serve.
What is a common misconception people have about you do?
They think that I’m a doctor, that I’m a lawyer, that I’m a little God, and I can do everything, but I can’t. Especially because I visit the prisoners very regularly before, they think that because you love them, you can do everything, so they ask a lot from you. They have very high expectation on you, especially if you really try your best to help. They think it’s within your capacity to do everything, but sometimes the law is there. That’s why I am saying that there are the boundaries. We can’t exceed beyond the law. That’s why I tell them that when you go to other countries, or even in our own country, drug trafficking is still a crime. In our country, it’s not immoral to be pregnant outside marriage but in the Middle East, it’s immoral. That’s what the people who go out of the country need to know, especially in the Middle East because there are lots of eyes there.
What advice would you offer to someone who’s considering this career?
Keep on studying, and understand the Philippine conditions and the work, because those are the exams. First, you have to pass the English part because if you don’t pass that part, you can’t go to the other parts like Philippine History, International Economics, and World History. Just read, and be a good student. You can be a nurse and pass; you can be an architect and pass; anybody can, as long as you finished a 4-year course, and have a high IQ. The IQ must be tempered with EQ, as well as spiritual maturity. If we will say why I’m like this, I’m studying myself, “SINO AKO”. And that’s the song—“Sino Ako”, and “Ako ay Pilipino”. That’s why God made me Glee Club president when I was in high school in Saint Agnes. Maybe that’s why we are touched because it’s not sugarcoated. It is from the heart, and from the soul as a Filipino. When there was turmoil in the Philippines, I cried. My father asked me why, and I told him that I feel sorry for our country and people, for what’s happening with us. So I said that I have to do something, and I really prepared to be an Ambassador. Really prepared, and asked; I asked for God. It is years of praying, and studying. Lastly, we need to take in mind, that if we don’t educate our kids, they will become OFWs again. It’s just a vicious cycle; they don’t know what to do. We don’t have kids who’ve been loved, because their mothers are leaving, and then it will be an empty nation—a nation with kids who have an ache in their heart, because they miss their parents.