Envoy receives Austrian Presidential Award

Community News & Features Sep 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm


AMBASSADOR Lacanlale (left) receives the medal, sash and button symbolic of the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria conferred by Austrian Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer.  Presenting the award is Austrian Ambassador to Bangkok Dr. Johannes Peterlik.

AMBASSADOR Lacanlale (left) receives the medal, sash and button symbolic of the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria conferred by Austrian Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer. Presenting the award is Austrian Ambassador to Bangkok Dr. Johannes Peterlik.

It is not every diplomat who gets decorated with a prestigious award from no less than the head of state of the host country. In fact it is unusual. However, Linglingay Fonacier Lacanlale, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand at present, is a rarity in diplomatic circles. She was conferred by Austrian President Dr. Heinz Fischer with one of the highest presidential awards in Austria, where Lacanlale served prior to her present post.

It was apparently a great honor for a member of the Philippine diplomatic corps to be decorated with the award, that the Department of Foreign Affairs issued a press announcement Sept. 1, 2010 on its official website:

“Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Linglingay F. Lacanlale was conferred the Großes Goldenes Ehrenzeichen am Bande fuer Verdienste um die Republik Österreich (Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold with Sash for Services to the Republic of Austria) by Austrian Federal President Dr. Heinz Fischer last June 18.

“The award was presented to Ambassador Lacanlale by Austrian Ambassador to Bangkok Dr. Johannes Peterlik during her courtesy call on the latter last August 16.

“During the call, the Ambassador conveyed her gratitude to President Fischer and to the Austrian people for the honor bestowed on her through Ambassador Peterlik.

“The award is one of Austria’s highest Presidential Awards conferred by the Austrian President to both Austrian and foreign leading figures who have rendered special service to Austria.

“The Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria was established by the Austrian National Assembly in 1952.

“Since 1999, only five individuals have been conferred the said award.

“They are Austria’s Ambassador to Germany Ursula Seiler-Albring (1999), Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Austria Omar Mohammed Kurdi (2005), Ecuadorian Ambassador to Austria Patricio Palacios Cevallos (2007), International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Emeritus Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei (2009), and Thai Ambassador to Austria Adisak Panupong (2010).

“Before becoming Ambassador to Thailand, Ambasssador Lacanlale served as Ambassador to Austria from February 2006 to May 2010. During her assignment, Ambassador Lacanlale vigorously promoted Philippine-Austrian relations particularly in the cultural and economic fields.”

Reached in Bangkok by The Philippine Reporter for an interview via email about her award, Lacanlale graciously obliged to respond to the following questions:

What was your reaction to the award?

Lacanlale: I was pleasantly surprised but very honored to have been given the decoration.

TPR: Was this great honor totally unexpected?

Lacanlale: Yes.

TPR: What may have prompted it, from your perspective?

Lacanlale: I think it might have been the well-organized program which I helped arrange for the Austrian economic mission, headed by then Austrian Federal Minister Bartenstein, which went to Manila in 2008. I was able to arrange a courtesy call on then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and meetings in Malacanang with Secretaries of Departments which were working on projects with the Austrian government. It was a successful visit because the Minister met with no less than his counterparts. The meetings were all held in Malacanang which saved them the trouble of travelling from one office to another. I was able to do these largely with the tremendous help and cooperation of the people I had worked with and met while I was working for the President, especially the late Malou Frostrom who was then the Appointments Secretary of the President. Without them, I would not have been able to do it.

Your family and friends must be very proud of you. This must have been a highlight in your career, or were there more fulfilling or just as fulfilling awards in the past?

Lacanlale: It is certainly an important feather in my cap just as the Presidential Award I received from President Arroyo in recognition of my service in the Office of the President as Chief of Protocol and Presidential Assistant for Foreign Affairs.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job? What are its most satisfying moments?

Lacanlale: One is to be able to bring together the Filipino community to support activities and programmes that would help the Philippines. Another is to find opportunities in the host country that the Philippines can tap to help promote its development agenda. Satisfying moments are those when you see the Filipino community inspired by and supporting the Embassy’s programmes and initiatives and being able to open doors that would lead to concrete programmes and results.

TPR: What prompted you to choose foreign service as your career?

Lacanlale: I wanted to travel and I thought that taking up foreign service in the university was my ticket to do this. But it was also because I wanted stability and continuity in my career and the foreign service provided me this.

TPR: How do you balance career and other aspects of your life (family, community, social life)?

Lacanlale: It has not been easy but I truly feel blessed that I have a husband who has been very supportive and who has been with me all the way. I would not be where I am if it were not for him.

TPR: What are the most prevalent issues affecting Filipino nationals in the diaspora? How has been your experience dealing with them, whether as consul general or ambassador?

Lacanlale: When you have a big Filipino community, personality differences will always surface which could lead to divisions. Staying neutral and objective and finding common denominators to encourage cooperation always help. Loneliness is also a common problem among our overseas workers. Being a good listener helps to make them feel that they are not completely alone even if we cannot solve their problems.

It is said that a diplomat’s expected role is to defend one’s government right or wrong. Is this ever true?

Lacanlale: I think it is the responsibility of a diplomat to explain the rationale behind her government’s policies/actions, to recognize mistakes if they are made and to help look for solutions.

TPR: If you were to give advice to a young person aspiring to become a successful diplomat what would you tell him or her?

Lacanlale: I think one very important advice I can give is to have good inter-personal relations. In my long years in the foreign service, I have learned that treating your staff in a kind but firm way produces better results. I also advice them to have an open mind and be willing to learn and not be afraid to make mistakes.

Before she assumed her present post as Ambassador to Thailand, Lacanlale already had an illustrous foreign service career encompassing more than three decades. Her resume tells it all:

At the time she served as Ambassador to Austria, Lacanlale was also the non-resident Ambassador to Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia, and Philippine Permanent Representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN Office in Vienna (UNOV), and the Preparatory Commission to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT ) from June 2006 up to May 2010.

She served in different capacities in the Philippine Foreign Service, among them, as Second Secretary then First Secretary at the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York (1985-1986). From 1986 to 1993 she was First Secretary and Consul General then Counsellor and Consul General at the Philippine Embassy in Vienna, Austria, and alternate Permanent Representative to the UN agencies in Vienna. From 1997 to 1999, she was assigned to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in New York as Deputy Permanent Representative and Minister. And from 1999 up to 2003, she was the Consul General at the Philippine Consulate General in New York.

Lacanlale began her career in the Department of Foreign Affairs as Principal Assistant at the ASEAN National Coordinating Agency of the Philippines (1979-1980), eventually rising from the ranks to become Acting Chief of the American Economic Affairs Division (1981-1983), and later Acting Director of the Economic, Social, Cultural and Humanitarian Affairs at the Office of United Nations and Other International Organizations (1983-1985).

From 1994 to1997, following her return from her foreign assignment in Austria, she served as Chief of Staff of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Until her appointment as Philippine Ambassador to Austria, Ambassador Lacanlale concurrently served as Chief of Protocol and Presidential Assistant for Foreign Affairs in the Office of the President from November 2003 to January 2006. She is a recipient of the Presidential Award.

Lacanlale is a graduate of the prestigious University of the Philippines Preparatory School. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Service from the University of the Philippines and holds a Masters Degree in Diplomacy and World Affairs from Occidental College in Los Angeles, California.

The Ambassador is is married to Agerico O. Lacanlale. They are blessed with four children.