Guam Philippine Consul General Bayani Mercado has moved to the highest appointment of his diplomatic career and is now the Philippine ambassador to Norway, according to the online media,guampdn.com
Mercado left island late September 2011 on a 27-hour plane ride to Oslo, Norway, where he is now the Philippine ambassador. While a new consul general has yet to be appointed to Guam, Consul Tomas Edgar Q. Auxilian was expected to arrive this week to helm the consulate on Guam until a consul general is appointed.
Mercado leaves Guam after having been stationed on island three times as consul general — from February 2002 to October 2003, June 2007 to November 2008, and most recently from last April to last month.
With a total of 54 months of service on the island, Mercado says he is quite ready to take on the new role of becoming an ambassador of the Philippines to Norway.
“I enjoyed being consul general here on Guam,” says Mercado, who is from Biññan, Laguna. “I’m proud of the Filipino community here, who have shown to be a productive group. For example, whenever there is a natural disaster, they are among the first to assist their countrymen back home.”
Mercado says his experience with the host government of Guam was always positive as the local leaders are “very hospitable and friendly.” Guam presented a challenge for Mercado in as far resources, but he says it was always encouraging to see how the community would pull together.
“Sometimes, we lack resources to help the community but the lack of resources are offset with the assistance of the community,” he says.
Sitting as the Philippine consul general to Guam brought Mercado many experiences.
“Back in June 2002, I welcomed former Philippine President Fidel Ramos to Guam, two chief justices of the Philippine Supreme Court — Chief Justice Reynato Puno in 2007 and Chief Justice Renato Corona last year — and CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida,” Mercado says.
Back in 2008, Mercado also welcomed 300 Philippine mayors on island, who all attended a Pacific Island Mayors League convention here on Guam.
“I’m definitely going to miss all the friends I made here,” he says.
Mercado is accustomed to moving as he’s also spent time as consul general in Vancouver, Canada for six years, several years as an ambassador to the United Nations and a total of 12 more years in New York. While he’s excited about his new role, it’s tough to leave the island not only because of the friendships he’s made here but it’s proximity to his homeland.
“This year, I got to visit my dad four times,” Mercado says of his father, now in his 80s.
“But I may now only be able to see him once a year with this new assignment.”
Albert del Rosario, the Philippine secretary of foreign affairs, had previously asked Mercado about the Europe-based duty years before Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed Mercado’s assignment to Norway in April.
“Any diplomat would like to be an ambassador because that is the top of the career,” Mercado says.
“I had the opportunity to be an ambassador in 2001. But because my mother was dying, I chose to be consul general in Guam instead, because it was closer to home.”
Every time a diplomat is sent out on duty, he or she is given a six-year term, according to Mercado.
“With 17 months done here on Guam, the balance of six years may be my stay in Norway or in another country,” he says.
As a consul general, jurisdiction is limited on the local government.
For example, back in 2003 when he was stationed to New York, his jurisdiction covered New York, Connecticut and the rest of the eastern seaboard.
As an ambassador, Mercado will represent the Philippines stationed in the foreign capital of Oslo, Norway.
“I’m taking on a wider horizon of responsibilities,” Mercado says. “I will not only be the ambassador to Norway but also to Iceland and Denmark.”
There are about 15,000 Filipinos in Norway on land, with 20,000 more Filipinos serving as sailors aboard Norwegian flag vessels. Prior to his departure, Mercado was given a legislative certificate, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Rodriguez Jr., and a certificate of appreciation from the Filipino Community of Guam for his outstanding and dedicated service to the people of Guam.
Leah Beth Naholowaa, president of the Filipino Community of Guam, offered Mercado her thanks for his camaraderie and support for all Filipino communities on Guam. Mercado says there were many friendships and accomplishments he’ll look back on fondly of his time on Guam.
In 2007 he organized the first of what became twice yearly immigration seminars for newly arrived Filipinos on Guam. Mercado plans to institute the same program in Norway.
As a Filipino who regards Guam as his “second home,” Mercado says he wants to see the island prosper, which is why he hopes the local government succeeds in its bid for the China and Russia visa-waiver programs.
“Guam is truly my second home and I still have seven years to retire,” Mercado says. “Who knows, when Guam is vacant, I might be destined here again. I never felt like a foreigner here on Guam.
“Additionally, I hope this island continues to be a paradise, as it has been to me.”