Monday, January 11, 2010

US Amb to the Philippines Kristie Kenney Blogs Farewell

Photo from US Embassy Manila

The US Ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney posted her “Farewell” on her blog on January 5. She departs the Philippines this month.  Her successor, former DG Ambassador Harry Thomas has yet to be confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Quick excerpt below: 
My memories of the past four years are as diverse as the Philippines themselves. I will never forget the rich cultures of Mindanao or the proud traditions of the Ifugao. I have loved the smiling face of every child our education programs have helped. The look of joy and wonder as they experience the Internet for the first time is unforgettable. Or the dedication of the teachers who serve from small rural schools to large Manila universities. (Sorry if my readers have wearied of me talking about education, but I am still the daughter and granddaughter of public school teachers. I always love helping education and those who teach.) In the Philippines, I have seen the wonders of the oceans and become dedicated to helping protect our environment. I’ve snorkeled with whale sharks, been diving in aquariums, tested jeepney emissions, talked to fishermen about sustainable fishing, seen our Peace Corp volunteers energize communities to create marine protected areas, and watched our USAID team design great programs with Philippine partners to promote clean energy and clean waters.
This will be my last blog post as the United States Ambassador to the Philippines. I thank all who were kind enough to read and comment on my blog. It has been a privilege to represent the United States in the Philippines. I thank Filipinos throughout the world for the kindness and friendship you have shared with me and so many other Americans. And I hope our paths will cross again. Let me close with an old Irish blessing that has always been a favorite of my Irish-American family:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Filipinos from all walks of life are still writing back to thank her, to wish her well, ask that she extend her tour, or send an invitation that she return to the Philippines for a visit.  Read some notes below: 

Dario O. A.| Location: Manila
I feel so grateful to have you as the US Ambassador to the Philippines. But I am more thankful that through you, we have seen the wonders of our country when most of us Filipinos have not noticed of. We have taken for granted our great grandfathers who have fought hand in hand with the Americans during the World War II. […]We have not seen our talented Artists who hold our flag whenever they are performing abroad, instead we are so pessimistic that someday they will just leave our country and stay abroad for good. It is an eye-opening to all of us Filipinos, that indeed, there is still greatness in our country amidst all negative news and dirty politics that surrounds us. But somehow, we will need people to remind us from time to time of such greatness. People like you!

Ruben S. Valenton Jr.
You redefined ambassadorship with a personal and human touch. You’ve been to different provinces, towns, villages…sharing goods, time, listening to the folks and youth.

Noel Bernardo | Location: Manila Philippines
New wikipedia definition of the word AMBASSADOR:
AMBASSADOR = Kristie A. Kenney

Agnes Mercado
my name is mrs. agnes m. mercado, a 60 yr old grandma of 5 and counting, resides at 1306 artemis st. phase 6, v villa olympia, san pedro, laguna, phils. i would like to bid you farewell, madame ambassador KRISTIE KENNEYand thank you for all the kindness and sincere love and concern, humane touch to all the filipinos.

Blogie Robillo
People in Mindanao say, “Kristie loves Mindanao,” and people in the Visayas and Luzon say the same thing about you and their own places. This is a testament to your dedication, sincerity and passion.

Sylvester | Location: Davao
…you are the coolest U.S. ambassador ever!

Kahlil | Location: Makati City
I am one of your regular readers and blog fan. Thank you for the dedicated service and commitment to further strenghten the US-Phil relations.

Mons Romulo Tantoco | Location: Pasig City, Philippines
Our profound thanks for all the kindness you have shown my family and our countrymen.

Nonoy Seneres | Location: Mindanao, Philippines
Thank you, Ambassador Kenney, for your constantly hands-on approach to doing everything and anything in the truly heartwarming way you expeditiously marshalled the USA’s available resources to assist those of us Filipinos who urgently needed food and other necessities in the aftermath of countless natural disasters such as Typhoon Ondoy.

Jose Corpus | Location: Chino Hills, CA.
Thank you so much for your kind service to both of my home countries… The US sent their very best representative and you will be missed. […]I hope the next appointed ambassador to the Philippines will be up to the task and continue the progress and unique relationship our two countries share.

Dindo Guevara | Location: Synergeia Foundation, Makati City
I remember the time when you read stories for school children in Jolo. You were also there during the distribution of books for the teachers of Sulu . You also inaugurated our school building in Paglat, Maguindanao. Let me also tell you that you have changed the lives of many of our out of school youths. I am also humbled every time I see you taking the economy class section of PAL when you go to Mindanao.

Rey Flores | Location: makati city
Never had the opportunity to meet you personally but I have always felt you are an all-time “best adopted american daughter” of the Philippines

Her fans are not limited to regular street folks.  On January 6, the Armed Forces of the Philippines presented Ambassador Kenney with a plaque expressing the AFP’s appreciation of the Ambassador’s contribution to U.S.-Philippines military cooperation. They also gave honored her with a testimonial parade at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. 

Here is an excerpt from the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s coverage of the event (AFP holds parade in honor of exiting US ambassador | January 06, 2010):
From feeding poor schoolchildren across the country, meeting with Moro rebels to dancing the "Papaya" song on a popular television game show, outgoing US Ambassador Kristie Kenney has transformed the art of diplomacy, Gen. Victor Ibrado, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philipines, said on Wednesday.

The military paid tribute, on Wednesday, to the departing first American woman ambassador to the country with a testimonial parade traditionally held in honor of a retiring officer or a head of state and rarely held for diplomats.

"Nobody in this country, not even the MILF or the communist rebels, will contest the now common knowledge that Ambassador Kenney is the most popular and best-liked ambassador, American or otherwise, in Philippine history," said Ibrado in a speech during the ceremonies.
Ibrado said Kenney managed to "soften the rough edges" of the RP-US relationship through humanitarian support and hastened the implementation of bilateral programs in the country by reaching out more to the Filipinos.

"Diplomacy never envisioned a hands-on approach... ...(S)ome bilateral undertakings fail, international relations sometimes go sour ... people don't support their government's program with a foreign state. But that changed with Ambassador Kenney," he said.

Ambassador Kenney is one of our few ambassadors who has immersed herself in new media – she blogs, tweets (2,000 fans), and is on Facebook. The US Embassy in Manila similarly is on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. But she obviously is the face of the US Embassy in the Philippines; and by using the new media tools she gave her office accessibility and as one fan puts it “a personal and human touch.”  Whereas in the past, only the well-connected may have accessed to the US ambassador, the new media made it possible for regular folks to feel connected as if they personally know the individual.             

She’ll be a tough act to follow not only because she has done gigs like Kristie Kenney does Papaya Dance | 2008 or U.S Ambassador Kenney at Wowowee | 2008, but because she always look as if she was enjoying herself whether she was visiting a school, tending to a ship visit, or traveling in the provinces.  The stint she did at Wowowee in 2008, the leading noontime variety show in the Philippines probably reached more people than any PAS material could ever do. (She has also done her farewell at Wowowee but we have yet to find a clip of that visit).         

But the real reason she’ll be a tough act to follow -- the host country has fallen in love with her! I would not be surprised if a crowd turns up to send her off at the airport.    

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