Iqaluit – A team of diplomatic and consular staff from the Philippine Embassy – Ottawa enplaned to far north of the 60th parallel above the Arctic line in the largest island in Canada – Baffin Island – to conduct the first consular work in the administrative capital of the Territory of Nunavut, the City of Iqaluit.
In the City of Iqaluit, a terrain covered by centuries old soft peat moss, but concealed by snow in winter time a sparsely populated community, the land of the Inuit (formerly called Eskimos), is the adopted home to some Filipino-Canadians.
Philippine Ambassador to Canada, Petronila Garcia, led a diplomatic and consular mission to Iqaluit from 21 to 24 September 2015 as she called on territorial officials and business leaders, while overseeing the delivery of consular services to a small but growing Filipino Community in the city. Joining the Ambassador are Consul General Eric Gerardo Tamayo, and Embassy attaches Miguel Moreno and Pio Tejada.
It was the first visit to the new Territory by a Philippine Ambassador in over six years, as Ambassador Garcia was also the first Ambassador to be officially and warmly, received by the new Territorial Commissioner Nellie T. Kasugak, who had just been sworn into office after her appointment in June 2015.
Commissioner Kasugak graciously provided the Ambassador with unique insights into Inuit history and heritage as they discussed the many similarities between Inuit and Filipino culture, beliefs and practices.
The Ambassador also conducted calls and meetings with the Honourable Premier Peter Taptuna, as accompanied by Cabinet Secretary David Akeeagok. She also met with Minister for Justice, Health and Immigration Paul Okalik, as well as Finance Secretary Keith Peterson. The Ambassador also was also given updates by Mr. Jim Stevens, Assistant Deputy Minister for Transportation on the developments regarding the new airport terminal of Iqaluit. The Ambassador also met with Federal Senator Dennis Patterson.
The Ambassador expressed interest in facilitating twinning arrangements in a tête-à-tête with Her Worship Mayor Mary Wilman of Iqaluit. The Ambassador also visited the venue for the 24th Annual Nunavut Trade Show and Conference as she conferred with Baffin Region Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris West on pursuing trade and commercial transactions between the Territory and the Philippines. The engagements of the Ambassador were facilitated by the Nunavut Protocol Office headed by designer Nicole Camphaug.
Ambassador Garcia recalled how the people of Nunavut contributed over C$25,000 to the relief and recovery effort in the wake of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, making the people Nunavut among the biggest donors on a per capita basis. Bob Gabuna, nominated by the Finance Minister to the Premier of the Territory of Nunavut as Director, Governance Council, WSCC spearheaded the fund drive supported by then Mayor John Graham and the current Principal Secretary to the Premier, Ed Picco.
The Ambassador was given a vibrant Filipino welcome and support from Bob and Judy Grace Gabuna, noted lawyer Anne Crawford and Rhose Harris-Galia as other Filipinos in Iqaluit banded and gathered together to greet the visiting delegation. The nipa-hut inspired abode of the Gabuna’s served as the consular outpost for the visiting delegation as Filipinos availed themselves of the opportunity to renew their passports, re-acquire Filipino citizenship, obtain legal documents and NBI clearances, and register for overseas voting in Philippine national elections in 2016.
The Ambassador also made a pitch for the upcoming third edition of the Winter-Escapade-It’s More Fun in the Philippines Tour from 3 to 12 February 2016.
The Ambassador commended the Filipino community in Iqaluit for their contribution to Nunavut society and for working in harmony with one another and with their fellow Nunavummiut.
NOTE: Photos is courtesy of Consul General Tamayo. Details of the report is largely extracted from the file report of the same.