When you choose public service as a career, one must be aware that it’s a public trust. As such It must be pursued with purpose and passion – the passion to serve and do the right thing at all times, even in the midst of adversity.
ConGen Quintana, a native of Quezon province, is a career diplomat with more than 15 years of government experience. She was a graduate of Political Science at the University of the Philippines where she also finished her Masteral Degree in International Studies. She obtained a diploma in International Studies at Oxford University in United Kingdom and a second masteral degree in International Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C., considered as the world’s top school in the field of international relations.
ConGen Quintana clearly implied during the interview that it was deliberate on her part to enter the government service as inspired by the example of her father who served in the government for many years, first as Prosecutor and later as an elected member of the Philippine Congress. “So this was a matter of choice for me, the only question then was which government agency to be a part of.”
From her upbringing, she has been exposed to a life being devoted to public service. “Public service is more than the usual cliché of being a servant of the people but using your government position to make a difference.” Until now, it is instilled in her heart that she entered government service to make a difference, to be a change agent.
After a short stint at the Office of the President in Malacanang, ConGen Quintana decided to take the Foreign Service Examinations which she passed with flying colors. Thus far in the course of her diplomatic career, ConGen Quintana has lived and served in four (4) countries in three different continents. Her first assignment was in Beijing, China (two years). Then she was moved to Washington, DC, U.S.A (five years). In 2009, she was part of the team that opened the Philippine Embassy in Dublin, Ireland (3 years) then in 2012, she was assigned to Muscat, Sultanate of Oman for another three-year assignment.
In all her postings, she made it a point to explore her country of assignment by travelling extensively and by making a lot of friends. In China with its vast territory, ConGen Quintana was able to travel to 13 provinces encompassing all areas of the country. There she saw the extent of China’s vaunted economic development and met local Chinese leaders as she travelled with foreign correspondents city by city.
In Washington, DC, she was able to engage with many sectors of American society, both government and non-government and still describes her time there as one of the most productive. In Dublin, it was a different kind of experience as she was involved in establishing the first resident embassy and building relations from scratch. In her spare time, she drove around the countryside visiting 31 out of 32 counties of Ireland. ”When people ask me why I skipped one, I tell them – so that I have a reason to come back.” In all these travels, she had met a lot of people along the way, local people, and built friendships that would last.
As she honed her diplomatic skills in her capacity as Minister and Consul General or deputy to the Ambassador, she was also training herself for higher position. Last January, she reached the peak of her career when the Philippine President approved her appointment to the rank of Chief of Mission. This means she is now eligible for an Ambassador designation in her next posting.
Her posting in Oman was her first in the Middle East and that added a new dimension to her diplomatic career. Because of the problems encountered by Filipino nationals in the course of their employment, consular work and assistance to nationals become critical aspects of her job. According to her, the key is to handle the cases with dispatch and compassion. Because of diplomacy, there are actually two (2) governments involved to extend help. We have to call the attention of the host government, we set up a meeting, study the problem and we propose solutions that we can agree on. What is critical also is balancing expectations with reality, determining how to meet those expectations within the parameters diplomats are allowed to operate.
ConGen Quintana pointed out that Philippine diplomacy is quite distinctive. Filipino diplomats are not only expected to foster political, economic, and cultural linkages but engage with a larger public as well, with the OFW community forming a core constituency.
In Oman, she found so much fulfillment visiting Filipinos working in different wilayats (provinces). She turns consular outreach activities into instant town- hall meetings and public forums, empowering the Filipinos with useful information and enlightening insights. She envisions a community of pro-active Filipinos anchored on the spirit of cooperation and volunteerism, achieving their maximum potentials and fulfilling their dreams.
“As you grow in this profession, the responsibilities get bigger. There was an instance in my career where I wondered how much more I could get if I am able to handle this large volume of work in the private sector and then I realize that this job is not really a means of livelihood but a calling. Something on the inside will keep me working hard to make a difference in other people’s lives.”