Although Filipino Community, Inc., President Jenny Gomez Strickler is not running for reelection to the presidency next month, her office will remain at the Filipino Community Hall — as the honorary consul general of the Philippines to Alaska.
Strickler is the Philippines’ first honorary consul general to Alaska, and she believes she is the first ever honorary consul general from any country to be based in Juneau.
“The reason I’ve been trying to keep quiet about it is that last Saturday, I got an advanced copy via email of my appointment papers from the consulate in San Francisco, and all it said with the advance copy is that further instructions would be coming,” Strickler said Friday. “So I thought, ‘O.K., I’ll keep this quiet for now until I hear from them and they tell me what they want me to do.’”
Laughing, Strickler added, “Mistake to let family know, and to let just a few friends know, who got overly excited — and of course, everybody knows everybody.”
Assemblymember Jesse Kiehl let the word slip at a special meeting of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly last Monday (http://bit.ly/PfO0bM).
“I think it’s an important first to have a consular official here in the capital city,” said Kiehl, who is also a legislative staffer for Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, on Friday. “And it really reflects a tremendous amount of work on the part of several members of the Filipino community and support from really all levels of government … for this appointment.”
Strickler said she was “extremely excited” to receive the appointment after what she said was almost two years of paperwork, a background check and lots of waiting.
“I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Strickler said. “I was just going along for the ride.”
Strickler added, “The application went in, and the consulate kept sending me notes periodically saying, ‘This process is in the works; they’re still working on it.’ Then, just in the month of September, I got an email from the consulate that said my application was endorsed by the Filipino ambassador to the United States — Jose Cuisia is his name. And so once I saw that, I knew something was going to happen soon.”
The FCI’s headquarters at Filipino Community Hall will host the honorary consulate general, Strickler said, and it appears the building will be receiving some official ornamentation soon to mark the location.
“They did tell me in the official paperwork that they would send me a seal to place outside my office,” said Strickler. “The Filipino Community, Inc., here has agreed to let me establish the consulate office upstairs in their building, the building on 251 South Franklin (Street). And so the seal will be placed on that building.”
Because Strickler’s instructions from San Francisco have not yet arrived, she said she is uncertain as to what all of her duties are and how she will be expected to carry them out. But she said the gist of the position has been communicated to her, and she is excited to dive into it.
“My focus is actually to assist Filipinos in Alaska who have a need for consulate assistance,” Strickler said. That includes, she explained, both Philippine citizens and “anyone with an interest in the Philippines.”
Of her consular duties, Strickler remarked, “You know, when the cruise ships come in here, there’s a large number of Filipino workers on board the cruise ships. It’ll be to help them with any needs they may have when they stop here.”
Kiehl said honorary consuls general typically also have an active role in trade issues.
“Certainly, those are great opportunities for selling Alaska products and looking at the relationship that Alaska has with the Republic of the Philippines economically,” Kiehl added.
“Actually, it’s exciting to see what kind of trade interests I can get involved with, not only from the Filipinos living here, or what Alaska has to offer to the Philippines, but also getting to meet some of the Philippine businesspeople who may have an interest in doing business here, and to see how I can facilitate in getting the ball rolling for them,” said Strickler.
Strickler, a third-generation American, is headed to the Philippines alongside Reps. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, and Bob Herron, D-Bethel, next month for an official visit. It will be her first time in the Philippines (http://bit.ly/RbkMqK).
“The trip … will be the perfect opportunity for me to put a feeler out there about how much interest there is in commerce and trade-type activities, or what they foresee … I could help with,” Strickler said. “And my whole focus here is to promote, protect Filipino interests in the state of Alaska.”
“We have a request in to meet with the president, and we have been told that that will happen,” said Muñoz. “It will be accommodated sometime within our first couple of days in Manila.”
Muñoz said the trip to the Philippine capital of Manila and the province of Aklan will also explore commercial opportunities, including increasing Alaskan seafood exports to the Philippines, where fish is a dietary staple.
“Through tourism, we have opportunities to increase tourism opportunities both ways,” Muñoz added. “The Philippine Islands are beautiful … so there’s an opportunity to promote Philippine tourism, but also an opportunity to promote Alaskan tourism to the Philippines.”
It is fitting to have the Philippines’ honorary consul general be based in Juneau for more than one reason, in Kiehl’s view.
“When you look at the history of Southeast Alaska and the history of the Filipino-American community … the links are really, really deep here, and very, very strong,” Kiehl said. “So I think it’s very appropriate, not just because Juneau’s Alaska’s capital, but because Filipinos have played such an important role in the development of Southeast Alaska.”
• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at email@example.com.