Jun 9, 2009

Consul Paul Raymund P. Cortes: "Dedication to Duty to the Home and the Homeland"

By Aurelio Solver Agcaoili, Ph.D.
Fil-Am Editor-in-Chief
Featured Article, Front Page

The difficult balancing act one has to keep on doing when one is a father and an officer of the Philippine Foreign Service is an expertise one can learn along the way.

But there is that innate gift one can easily see among fathers who have learned earlier to live with the challenges of life as a response to difficult experiences or as a challenge to the vast possibilities of life itself.

In Consul Paul Raymund P. Cortes, an amiable Foreign Service officer of the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu, this ability to balance the contesting roles a father has to play is a gift, nourished and nurtured by openness to life’s and its promise of grace and goodness.

An early experience of an absence—the absence of a father, the absence of a father figure, the absence of another ‘hard rock’ in the family because of the father’s abandonment of the family when Consul Cortes was just in the first grade—did not deter him from looking at the value of family and the virtue of making it stable for children to grew in, learned the first life lessons, and from there grew their wings until they can themselves fly.

Married to Yasmin L. Balajadia, a licensed optometrist in the Philippines, and herself coming from a family of optometrist before leaving behind the comfort of a familiar profession to join a peripatetic life of a consul’s wife, with two children in tow, Consul Cortes joined the foreign service in 1996 and from then on lived in various places as a result of his various postings that brought him and his young family to Europe and then eventually to Honolulu.

His solid religious upbringing at the Ateneo de Manila University, finishing his high school and then his degree in Computer Science there, paved the way for more solid understanding of the nurturing and caring aspect of fatherhood.

The Ateneo’s famous vision—of turning each student in its fold as men and women for others—was inculcated in Consul Cortes, a vision that he translates into service for others in his line work.

Graduate work at the University of the Philippines, in information sciences and in public management, provided reinforcement to his understanding of what service to others is all about.

Better known among the Ilokano—and Filipino—community in Hawai’i as the singing consul, he has become one of the more constant symbols of Philippine presence in banquets, social gatherings, fiestas, and other activities requiring diplomatic representation in the State of Hawai’i.

Father to Ralph Justin and Nathan Andre, he has remained in constant touch of that delicate dance he has to make each time, even as he plays his role to the hilt as one of the consuls at the Philippine Consulate General on Pali Highway in Honolulu.

He says that his being a father to the two boys is a non-negotiable role, always taking priority and never reduced in an either/or situation when this role is seen in the context of his other roles, both official and informal: “I take my role as a father as one of my top priorities. Being the best father for my children and the best husband that I can be for my wife.”

The ‘fathering’ of a nation, indeed, is not separate from the fathering of a home, even if we do acknowledge a gulf of difference between these roles.

The metaphors, however, serve well to make us understand the delicate dance one has to continually do when one is a diplomat for a homeland and a dedicated father of a home.

In either way, a father as a diplomat thinks ahead, always with an insight for a homeland needing representation.

In much the same way, a father of a home must also see generations ahead, with the children as a father’s investment of a future blessed with grace and the gumption to move on ahead in life.

A father thinks of a future expressed as present in the way he treats his children, the logic always that of the very logic of giving and nurturing and providing.

Fatherhood, for him, is preparing children to become responsible people, always there “while the children are to carve for their own destinies, when they are ready to assume responsibility.”

“Fatherhood is serving,” he says. “Fatherhood is becoming a guide to your children, ensuring their well-being. Fatherhood is imparting a few of life lessons, and equipping your children with the values and moral ability to discern what is good from that which is not.”

The stability of a family is what concerns Consul Cortes the most.

He looks at stability not only from the framework of the presence of parents during the crucial moments of the children but also from the framework of home life and social relationships.

Their presence to their two sons—he and Yasmin—has never been a problem; so is their stable home life.

Their life on the go—as all serving the Philippine Foreign Service as career officers like that of Consul Cortes—becomes sometimes a cause of concern but not a cause for worry.

The children gain a comparative advantage in understanding other communities, cultures, and countries. They get to be equipped with cross-cultural competencies that cannot be had when one stays only in one’s own home ground. He says that “seeing and living in different parts of the world gives them a much wider perspective of things.”

But like all children of diplomats, they can only stay for some time in a particular place, thus making them unable to develop longer and more lasting social relationships with children of their age.

Aware of this, Consul Cortes and wife Yasmin try hard to fill in the gap and the void resulting from this life style of moving.

“I would like my children to become responsible fathers themselves when they grow up,” he says, remembering the father whose presence he lost when in the first grade, and promising to himself that he would become a better father to his own children.

Asked of the parallelism between his dedication to his duty to the community of Filipinos in Hawai’i and his being a father, he says of this constant discovery of his roots, particularly that Ilokano root of his being a Filipino. Fatherhood is also the constant search for your roots, for your sense of self, for your sense of self-worth, he muses.

“My posting in Hawai’i has offered me the chance to speak Ilokano everyday, 24/7. Considering the number of Ilokanos in Hawai’i, this is not a surprise. My stint in Hawai’i made me reconnect with the Ilokano side of my being, my person,” he reflects.

His posting in Hawai’i is an eye-opener as well: “Filipinos in Hawai’i tend to be more secure about who they are as a people, making them more aware of their rights. They are less afraid to fight for what they feel is a fair and proper way of addressing their rights as immigrants.”***

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