Author: Gus Mercado

Public Service Announcement

When is the Houston Consulate opening for service? Will there be more Consular Outreach in Dallas, RGV, San Antonio?

 

The Office of the Honorary Consul Ethel R. Mercado receives numerous inquiries about this subject every day since the re-opening of the Houston Consulate was announced. The best information we have on it that we are free to share is at best tentative. The core members of the consular officials have already arrived in Houston and are feverishly preparing all the logistics and permits needed to open the office, which is proving to be more exhaustive and time-consuming than anticipated, as every transaction big and small must be approved not only by the DFA but also by the U.S. State Department. So the initial plan for a soft opening in late summer could be delayed. As soon as we receive official word from the DFA and the new Consul General, we will quickly inform you through this very widely circulated PSA. The message from the new Consul General to the Texas community is to please bear with them and have patience, as all efforts are in earnest towards this end.

Meanwhile, in view of the delay in the opening of the Houston Consulate, the plans for Consular Outreach in Dallas, McAllen and maybe San Antonio which had been shelved may be revisited before the end of the year to help our kababayans who need the services urgently, and for sure in 2019 as needed. Texas is geographically bigger than California whose two consulates regularly organize a dozen Outreach projects a year in the outlying cities in their jurisdiction.

Even if the Consular Outreach is discontinued as expected, the organizers Honorary Consul Ethel Mercado and the project sponsors, the original Philippine-American Chambers of Commerce of Texas (PACC Texas in Houston, Dallas and McAllen) are very happy and proud of what they have accomplished – helped more than 30,000 Filipinos in Texas and neighboring states in the last 10 years and saved them the trouble and a total cost of $15 million by not having to travel to the L.A. Consulate to secure the consular services. Texas had been without its own consulate for 27 years. And the pro-bono services given by the Honorary Consul and the Consular Outreach program are not enough to meet the growing demands of a very fast growing Filipino community.

Until further notice and at least through 2019, the Honorary Consulate in Dallas headed by Hon. Consul Ethel Mercado will continue to grant emergency passports (travel documents) for those who have to go home urgently but with expired passports. It will also continue to process SPAs, Authentication documents, Reports of Birth and Marriage, and other consular documents. Call Consular Assistant Nelia Africa for appointment:  940-728-2222 or email nafrica1@verizon.net. The Dallas office is open 5 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Requests for emergency passports are usually processed on the same day.

 

Photo: Proud to be an“Honorary Texan”, Consul General Jerril Santos wears the traditional Stetson cowboy hat, Texas bolo tie and belt buckle.

Photo: The new Consul General with Honorary Consul General Ethel Mercado, the newly-arrived Consular Staff and the Officers of PACC Texas.

     

During the newly-appointed Consul General’s initial visit to Houston, he was welcomed by the Office of the Honorary Consul and the officers of the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce which have assisted the Consulate with their consular services in Texas by sponsoring and managing the Consular Outreach for the last 10 years in Houston, Dallas and the Rio Grande Valley. The affable Consul General Jerril Santos appreciated the warm welcome and looks forward to meeting with all the Filipino organizations in the State.

Until our next PSA bulletin, Mabuhay!  (Reactions to these articles may be sent to servannounce@gmail.com or nafrica1@verizon.net) Please also send an email if you want to opt out of our future PSA bulletins.)

Most Outstanding Filipino Organization in the U.S. Celebrates a Decade of Special Achievements

 

PACC CHAMBER OFFICERS AND CONTACT INFO:

Ethel Mercado, Founding President (ermercado@verizon.net)

Gary Ilagan, State President; (gilagan@fonglegal.com)

Gus Mercado, State Executive Director; (gusmercado@verizon.net)

Myrna Carreon, Dallas Region Chair (myrnacarreon@aol.com)

Ricky Guinhawa, Houston Region Chair (rick@guinhawaphotography.com)

Merpu Roa, Rio Grande Valley Region Chair (merpu1000@gmail.com)

Roberto Sibug, San Antonio Region Chair (robertosibug@yahoo.com)

Chamber Website: www.pacctexas.org

Author: Gus Mercado. Reactions to this article may be sent to gusmercado@verizon.net or pacctx@verizon.net

 

Download the article here. Most Outstanding Filipino Organization in the U.S. Celebrates a Decade of Special Achievements

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Let us not jinx the re-opening of the Philippine Consulate in Houston

There is a word in the Filipino language that describes a disaster that happens when an upcoming event is prematurely announced or a game or an election is prematurely called. The word is “bulilyaso.” The closest translation of this into English is “jinxing it” when some stupid outsider tries to influence and poison the environment and as a result, the important event that everybody is waiting for is cancelled or executed disastrously.

 

The planned re-opening of the Houston Consulate after decades of Philippine government neglect of the Filipinos in Texas and in neighboring states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and parts of New Mexico is now a very sensitive issue that all of us should hope will happen, but leave alone until it really happens. If a good thing is meant to happen, it will happen. There is no need for anybody to push or pre-empt the decision-makers for one-upmanship or any other selfish reasons they may have for interfering.

 

The closing down of the Houston Consulate during the Cory Aquino administration for political and economic reasons has caused tremendous suffering on the part of the Filipinos in our region for almost 30 years who had to travel 1,600 miles both ways to the nearest consulate in L.A. for their basic consular needs. The very old Filipinos on wheelchairs who come to our Consular Outreach project cry tears of gratitude saying: “Hulog po kayo ng langit sa amin, we can no longer survive a trip to Los Angeles!”

 

Thanks to the creation of the Honorary Consulate in Dallas and the deputizing of the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce who, working together, have helped tens of thousands of Filipinos especially in Houston in the last 9 years, this suffering of the Filipinos in our region has somewhat been mitigated. Since her appointment as a non-paid Honorary Consul with a full-time staff whose salaries she herself pays, Ethel Mercado has handled more than 2,000 cases and helped Filipinos in South, West and North Texas with their problems 6 days a week, year-round. She has also attended to the needs of numerous Filipinos in distress in different parts of the state, in prison, in hospitals or in homeless shelters, or mail-order brides who are being abused by their American husbands to name a few examples.

 

In the 9 years that the PACC Chambers of Houston, Dallas and McAllen have hosted and managed the Consular Outreach program, they have served more than 25,000 Filipinos in Texas and in neighboring states 8 times a year and saved them $12.5 million in travel costs. Former Consul General Mary Jo Aragon described this project of PACC as “community service at its finest!” Unfortunately, these sacrifices on the part of the consular officials who visit Texas 8 times a year, the untiring Chamber volunteers in the three cities and the quiet but very effective Honorary Consul Ethel Mercado are not enough. The demand for consular services is so great, for every 1,000 Filipinos that we served, another 1,500 had to be turned away. It was in fact the recorded sacrifices and hard work of the PACC volunteers for 9 years and the year-round pro-bono services of the Honorary Consul in Dallas in the last 4 to try to solve a much bigger problem that helped add much needed strength to the proposal to re-open the Houston Consulate.

 

Hence the need to re-open the Houston consulate, a project that had been extensively discussed and debated through five different administrations (Ramos, Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino and Duterte).

 

Wrong and Shameless

 

With all due respect, it is very wrong and downright shameless for one person or group of persons to claim credit for the planned re-opening of the Houston Consulate based solely on one letter that received a non-committal courtesy response from an aide to the new Secretary and on one innocuous recent visit to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

 

Claiming credit for a huge million-dollar project that one did not work for or helped approve would be a huge insult to many important people who had lobbied for many years to re-open the Houston Consulate, including former Ambassadors, former Consul-Generals and friends of the Texas Fil-Am community in Malacanang and in the DFA. It would be an insult to the careful and judicious planning and detailed due diligence by sympathetic individuals and groups who supported the cause through the years.

 

Here are the facts:

 

We tried to keep these facts under wraps for a long time for fear of being jinxed, but in view of the growing misinformation through social media perpetrated by the shameless posturers and credit grabbers, we feel an obligation to share these facts which we have known for a long time, but never talked about. Should you be interested in confirming these facts, feel free to contact any or all of our former Consul-Generals in L.A. who are now in Manila who have worked on this, or any of our former Ambassadors from Hon. Raul Rabe to Hon. Ernie Maceda to Hon. Joey Cuisia.

 

  1. The proposal to re-open the Houston Consulate started during the term in Washington DC of Ambassador Rabe 20 years ago and almost happened during the tenure of Ambassador Ernesto Maceda who was close to members of our community. The talks intensified during the term of Ambassador Joey Cuisia who was very supportive of us, and our friends the 3 former Consul-Generals in L.A. who also supported the re-opening project.

 

  1. The proposal to re-open the Consulate which was passed on from one administration to the next was actually approved during the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III, DFA Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. We were expecting the re-opening to happen two years before the election, but unfortunately, due to other priorities, the project did not get the funding that it was asking for. Secretary Del Rosario had exerted great efforts to re-include it in the 2016 budget but their term had already come to an end. As early as 2015, we itched to talk to the Fil-Am community about it to create some excitement but are glad that we bit our tongues. Otherwise, it would come out as jinxed, fake news. Mabubulilyaso. Magagalit lang ang mga tao.

 

  1. The master plan to re-open the Houston Consulate which was approved by the Aquino administration led by DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario finally got its budget approved during the term of President Duterte. Being a very limited budget that would pay for the office expenses but would depend on the six existing U.S. consulates to contribute manpower from their existing rosters, of course the incumbent Consul Generals strongly objected to it. As of this writing, this dilemma is still in the process of being resolved, and therefore, there is still the slight possibility that this project may not happen as scheduled in 2018. In the Philippine government, as in any other government, anything can happen, especially when it is a matter of securing big funds. It must also be noted that in addition to Houston, there are many other competing countries and cities that are also lobbying for a new consulate or the re-opening of a closed consulate. Seattle’s needs, for example, are just as critical as Houston’s if not more so.

 

  1. Although the details of the proposal are known only by a small handful of individuals in our region, we never talked about this, not even with our friends. Have you ever seen any formal announcement or press release about this by the DFA, by the Philippine Embassy or the L.A. Consulate, even during the time that we feel the project was getting closer to fruition? This is why when the itchy tongues and fingers of publicity-hungry posturers and credit-grabbers started to announce this in social media, it created quite a consternation in the Consulate and in the DFA. So, if this project ever gets jinxed again, the more than 200,000 Filipino constituents in Texas and 4 neighboring states who stand to benefit greatly from a re-opened consulate in our region will have these unscrupulous posturers and interferers to blame. We will make this known to one and all.

 

  1. One of the reasons why the first Honorary Consulate was established in Dallas and not in Houston which has a much bigger Filipino population is because of the possibility that the Houston consulate might be re-opened. But knowing from day one that her job as Honorary Consul for the entire state was an impossible one as Texas is geographically bigger than California which has two consulates and two honorary consuls, Honorary Consul Ethel has always advocated

for the appointment of a second Honorary Consul for Houston. Unfortunately, our secret vetting of potential candidates in Houston did not result in a single one who was willing to work an essentially full-time job without a salary, and on top of that, to personally be responsible for about $75,000 annual budget for staff and office expenses without help from the Philippine government. Many were excited to vie for the position, until they found out that they will be working full time pro-bono, and will be spending a lot of out-of-pocket money to do the job.

 

  1. Unbeknownst to many, after every change in administration since the consulate was closed down 27 years ago, we have always been in the forefront of mass petitions for its re-opening. We averaged 500 signatures from Texas and 4 surrounding states. We gathered about 1,000 signatures for the first petition to President Fidel V. Ramos 20 years ago. And, we can show you that my name and Ethel’s name were always on the front page of the multi-page petitions. In our petitions and personal negotiations, we have always taken the position that re-opening the Philippine Consulate was critical, and if that is not to happen for any reason (budget, politics, etc.) DFA should appoint working Honorary Consuls in Dallas, Houston and maybe a third one in deep South Texas. So, again, no one individual or group of individuals can lay claim that they were responsible for the eventual re-opening of the consulate, if and when it finally happens. To put a stop to the rumors and the shameless posturing, we have urged the government to go ahead and issue a press release, but the planning and execution will continue to be done under the radar for obvious reasons.

Respect the chain of command and you will be served promptly.

 

We will have more details on the quiet work being done by the Consulate Scoping Mission as they become available. If you have any inquiry or suggestions, we suggest you follow the chain of command. Just like any government or corporation, the Philippines follows a chain of command. And we have been told:  If you don’t respect the chain of command, the chain of command will not respect you.

 

On our request, the Philippine government may soon issue a press release on the Consulate re-opening project. Meanwhile, the Honorary Consul for Texas, Mrs. Ethel Reyes-Mercado will be happy to answer any questions or provide consular services that you may need. For those who are not aware, Hon. Consul Ethel Mercado has an office in Dallas that provides some consular services year-round, 5-6 days a week, 9am to 6pm. (See attached articles). In-between the 8 consular outreach weekends in Houston, Dallas and McAllen, the Honorary Consulate in Dallas provides emergency passports for those who have to urgently leave for the Philippines but whose Philippine passport has expired, special powers of attorney, reports of birth, reports of marriage, document authentication, application for Philippine visas for U.S. nationals, etc. She also attends to Filipinos in distress anywhere in Texas. Her office is busy all day long fielding phone calls and attending to the needs of Filipinos, many of them from Houston and South Texas. For these services, so you don’t have to go to L.A. or wait for the next outreach. You may call Hon. Consul Ethel’s office at (940) 728-2222 any day of the week and request an appointment. Emergency consular documents are usually given to you on the same day. (Please share this information with your members, constituents and circles of friends who may need the services).

 

Please be guided accordingly,

 

Gus Mercado

Chief of Staff to the Honorary Consul in Texas

 

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PACC Texas wins Alex Esclamado award

PACC TEXAS is Top Fil – Am Organization in the Nation!

Proudly score an other one for the Filipinos in Texas. The Philippine – American Chamber of Commerce of Texas, the main organizing sponsor of the popular U.S. Trade Missions to the Philippines and the award – winning Consular Outreach programs in Dallas and Houston that have helped more than 20,000 Filipinos in Texas and neighboring states more than $13 million in travel costs by not going to LA , was voted Most Outstanding Fil – Am Organization in the U.S . in the category of Community Service, Trade Promotion and Aid to the Philippines.

The special award, the first of its kind, was given to the Texas Chamber organization by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA) at its recent nati onal convention in San Diego last August. The award is called Alex Esclamado Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Leadership, named after the late NAFFAA founder, Philippine News publisher and community activist Alex Esclamado. Because of Esclamado’s 4 0 – year vigilance advocating equal rights and unity for Filipinos in America, some historians have described him as a modern – day Cesar Chavez. The national federation that Esclamado founded 16 years ago is now active in 50 states comprising 12 regions. Ther e are now more than 3,000 Filipino organizations in the country , representing more than 3.5 million Filipinos. Region 6 (Texas and southwest states) was headed by Gus Mercado of Dallas for 10 years and is now under the leadership of Anthony Guevara of Hous ton who led a large delegation of Texas youth leaders to the national convention .

The AE Memorial Award was received by PACC Texas State Chair Ethel Mercado and Executive Director Gus Mercado, accompanied on the stage by Texas Chamber officers including Te ss Tuazon (South Texas Region Chair), Myrna Carreon (incoming North Texas Region Chair), Anthony Guevara, Richard and Nina MacDonald, Tess Gabay, Tessie Villoria and Emilie McSweeney.

 

Shown in photo (left to right): AE Esclamado Awards judges Gloria Caoile and Rodel Rodis at the podium, Lourdes Esclamado, Rozita Lee, Loida Nicolas – Lewis, Awardees Ethel Mercado, Gus Mercado, Texas Chamber officers Tess Tuazon, Myrna Carreon, Tess Gabay, Emilie McSweeney, Tessie Villoria and Nina MacDonald. Third row: R ichard MacDonald and Anthony Guevara.

In a post – awarding interview by Media sponsor GMA7 Pinoy TV which was broadcast in the Philippines and worldwide, Ethel and Gus Mercado thanked the organizers and sponsors of the Alex Esclamado Memorial program, and recognized the officers and members of PACC Texas in Houston and Dallas for their dedication and hard work that made the special national award possible. “We wish all our volunteers could all be here tonight, because without their personal sacrifices, we would not have been here receiving these honors,” said Ethel Mercado, State President who concurrently serves as Philippine Honorary Consul – General for Texas and National Chair of the U.S. Federation of Phil – Am Chambers of Commerce (FPACC). Their Chamber F ederation’s “Operation Save Lives” national initiatives have raised close to $1 million for the victims of super – typhoon Haiyan. During their trip to the Philippines on October 17 – 27, 2014, their 50 – delegate strong Trade Mission group will be visiting Le yte and Cebu, where they adopted a neglected island of 6,000 residents for a full year of reconstruction and rehabilitation, in partnership with the ICCP Foundation, OWI and other NGOs on ground.

The Board of Judges that evaluated the many nominees and sel ected the winners included a Who’s Who in the National Fil – Am community leadership: Publisher – Columnist and former NAFFAA National Chair Greg Macabenta who created the AE Memorial Awards; foremost Good Governance advocate and billionaire – philanthropist Lo ida Nicolas – Lewis; Lawyer, Columnist and USP4GG President Rodel Rodis, award – winning Community Activist Gloria Caoile; White House AAPI Commissioner Rozita Lee; and the widow of the great Alex Esclamado, Mrs. Lourdes Mitra – Esclamado.

OUTSTANDING PROJECTS OF THE PHILIPPINE – AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Humanitarian Projects (Our Medical Mission for the typhoon and flooding victims in the Philippines treated a record 1,642 medical and dental patients in one day. Also ra ised almost $1 million for their relief and rehabilitation.

Our Trade and Investment Missions to the Philippines generated more than $40 million for the Filipino businessmen and women and boosted the Philippine economy through business partnerships, imports and exports.

Our Consular Outreach projects in Texas that you are now helping you, have already saved more than 20,000 Filipinos in Texas and neighboring states about $13 Million by not having to travel to L.A. for the consular services.