Twenty-six (26) new Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) completed the Foreign Service Officers’ Cadetship Course (FSOCC), an intensive 6-month training program with the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), on 12 March 2020.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. graced the event as Guest of Honor.

Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. congratulates FSOCC Batch XXVII and advises them to be humble and ready to serve.

Key Messages to the Cadets: To Keep Learning, To Serve, and To Uphold and Protect Philippine Interests

“Being a Foreign Service Officer is a highly fulfilling service to the Filipino people,” said Secretary Locsin, as he congratulated the 26 cadets.

The Secretary reminded them of their responsibility at the frontlines of Philippine Foreign Service Posts to serve with efficiency, effectiveness, and empathy. He emphasized, “serving Filipinos abroad is an endless task that will test one’s resilience and patience.”

He stressed that these new FSOs have been set apart to dedicate their skills to the service of the Filipino people. “Diplomacy is, in fact, a vocation,” the Secretary said.

FSI Officer-in-Charge (Director-General) Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat acknowledged the hard work of the cadets. She also shared innovations in the FSOCC implemented in this batch through additional courses that would give the cadets fresh perspectives and develop the skills to better respond to new challenges and shifting paradigms.

“To be a seasoned diplomat requires knowledge, skills, and experience—in short, patience and time,” she said. She reminded the cadets to be lifelong learners, put to good use the items in their toolkit, and make a difference.

FSI Officer-in-Charge (Director-General) Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat reminds the cadets,
“Be beacons of hope, courage, and solidarity.”

Willing, Passionate, and Inspired to Serve as FSOs

Mr. Teri Adolf C. Bautista, the batch’s FSO Examination Topnotcher, responded to the messages and challenges posed to them.

He explained that the batch named themselves, Liyáb Laya. “Liyáb symbolizes the batch’s burning passion to serve our nation and the Filipino people, while laya, meaning freedom, recalls the liberty that our heroes fought and died for,” he said.

Mr. Bautista, likewise, fondly shared his memories as an overseas Filipino worker in Libya years back and how he had witnessed the service provided by the DFA to Filipino nationals during the outbreak of the Second Libyan Civil War in 2014: “The commendable work and tireless efforts of the Department to bring us home are one of the reasons that I stand here today, a newly minted Foreign Service Officer.”

Mr. Teri Adolf C. Bautista, the representative of Batch Liyáb Laya, recounts his experience as an OFW and “feeling and immense sense of pride and belonging seeing the Philippine flag” at the embassy in Tripoli.

Special Awards for Exemplary Performance

Four (4) special awards were given to recognize outstanding performers in the batch.

  • Ms. Diane Merce B. Bartolome was awarded “Best in Attendance.”
  • “PHLigree: Rediscovering the Elegance of Philippine #WearableArt” was awarded the Best Art Project Proposal. This project aims to educate and raise awareness on the cultural importance and economic potential of the Filigree craft and help preserve this indigenous technique.

The cadets’ art project proposals were crafted with guidance from the Cultural Center of the Philippines as part of the FSOCC module on Philippine Society and Culture.

(Top photos, from left): Mr. Dantes, Ms. Sarmiento, and Ms. Bartolome;
(Bottom photo) The Arts Project Proposal Group;
  • The Top 3 Foreign Policy Papers were also given recognition: Mr. Lorenz Fernand D. Dantes on a two-state approach to the peace process in the Middle East (first place); Ms. Diane Merce B. Bartolome on the implications for the Philippines of a free trade agreement in the Americas and Ms. Crystal Gale P. Dampil on updating the index of Philippine treaties (both second place); and Ms. Sheryl L. Uy on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (third place).
  • The Top 3 cadets who had outstanding performance and commitment in their 120-hour Mandarin Language Program were also recognized: Ms. Cathe Ryne Denice B. Sarmiento (first place); Mr. Armand Louis T. Dulay (second place), and Ms. Diane Merce B. Bartolome (third place).

OIC (Director-General) Vinzon-Balatbat announced that the three cadets who have excelled in Mandarin would be granted a scholarship to attend a language immersion program abroad and further their proficiency in the Mandarin language.

FSOCC Batch Liyáb Laya with DFA Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. (first row, center), FSI Officer-in-Charge (Director-General) Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat (first row, fifth from Left), the Carlos P. Romulo School of Diplomacy (CPRSD) Head (first row, fourth from Left), and the CPRSD Core Programs Section Head (first row, fifth from right).

The FSOCC: Its Objectives and New Features

The FSOCC is one of the Institute’s core training programs. It consists of 17 modules implemented annually for newly-commissioned FSOs.

The Course provided the new FSOs basic knowledge and skills on the Department’s foreign policy work on national security, economic diplomacy, assistance to Filipino nationals, and cultural diplomacy.

The Course, hence, prepares new officers—most of whom from diverse academic and professional backgrounds—for their diplomatic and consular responsibilities in the Home Office and Foreign Service Posts.

The FSOCC is designed to develop the core competencies of the new Officers through classroom lectures, seminars, web conferences, workshops, simulations, exposure trips, and group outputs.

Batch Liyáb Laya benefited from innovations introduced in the Course this year.

  • First, the Data Analytics Course equipped the cadets with statistical tools to process and make sense of big data.
  • Second, the Counterterrorism Course introduced the cadets to Islamic history and the ideological differences between devout fundamentalists and violent extremists. The cadets were also given the opportunity to interact with more experienced diplomats from Islamic Foreign Service Posts.
  • Third, the cadets attended 120 hours of Mandarin language classes after office hours, in addition to their regular Cadetship modules.
  • And fourth, the Institute’s close partnership with diplomatic missions such as the US Embassy brought occasional lectures from its seasoned diplomats to share notes of experiences and good practices, particularly on public diplomacy and political and economic reporting.

Guests who attended the event included DFA Assistant Secretaries and other Department officials; Ms. Zhou Tong Yao, the cadets’ Mandarin language professor from the University of the Philippines Diliman Confucius Institute, and Ms. Anna Marie Ablan, Assistant on Foreign Relations, representing the Office of Senator Richard J. Gordon.