Of Being Consul Generl and the Real Me

By Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes

I reached one of the twin peaks of my diplomatic career a little over eighteen years after I took my oath as a Foreign Service Officer.  About 11 of us were blessed with the lucky charm of promotion into Chief of Mission rank, each of us pondering how our new responsibilities would change our worlds. I recall how one of my new batch mates jokingly counseled me to sing less than I often do as it would be deemed unbecoming. As Chief of Mission or Consul General or Ambassador, it is now incumbent to comport myself in a manner befitting the title His Excellency.

What it means to be a dignified diplomat sounds outright nebulous. It is societal sequitur, many opine, that as I was already on “top of the heap,” norms on deportment is now a tad more rigid than it was for young, uninhibited greenhorns. As junior officers, we enjoyed the liberty of spontaneity, though necessarily blanketed with prudence of course, and part of that convenience, in my case, included a lot of singing. Sadly, not anymore so!

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Singing had always been my passion. It defines me; it paints me as a unique individual. I’ve always felt happiest when I sing. Until now, it is as if I continually rediscover one of the essences of my soul whenever I serenade an audience. I am passionate about music and performing and I carried all that as I entered the Foreign Service. Though my forays into artistic pursuits and diplomacy were unplanned, their serendipitous marriage could not have been a more perfect fit. It was this unconventional side (coupled with my ever-affable wife) that brought me closer to the Filipino communities I had served, allowing me a more personal approach as I functioned as a foreign service officer.

Advised to scale down on my singing and be a “Congen,” I thought about how much of myself I must divest to be an authentic public servant. As Consul General, I play the role of my ‘kababayans’ last ray of hope, their role model, and their de facto leader. Where does authenticity lie in the context of these roles? What does being true to oneself mean for those of us in the Foreign Service?

I mull over almost two decades in the diplomatic circle and nothing is more crystal clear than affirming that there should be no difference in the manner I shared myself as a junior diplomat to the way I am expected to fit in my new role. I step up my plate, fully convinced that there is possibly no way I can confidently live up to the hype by being less than myself.

Only when I am comfortable being my true self to the community can I be an effective leader. The arsenal of genuine public service is a bottomless well if filled only with truth in character. Anything less than the authenticity of oneself jeopardizes the foundation of a sustainable public trust in someone like the Consul General.

Keeping Up With the Con Gen: Of Being Consul General and the Real Me

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CONSUL GENERAL PAUL RAYMUND CORTES

When not performing his duties as the head of the Filipino community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, or the obligations of a dutiful dad, passionate patriot Paul Raymund Cortes, mulls over how to further enrich the local Filipino community by promoting a more progressive mindset.

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